I’m thinking I may have over-done my anti-sugar tirade, so to make amends, I thought I’d post a gluten-free recipe of mine that is sweetly decadent AND healthy. In moderation, anyway. This is a recipe I posted in the beginning of my blogging days, but I felt it deserved a reprise. And you all know, there’s nothing like chocolate to soothe the soul. Or placate feisty hormones.
I’m sure you’ve also heard the good news that cocoa in small doses is actually quite good for us (more on that later). Yippee, hallelujah, and pass the dark chocolate.
But first, a bit about a conference I just attended — the national CSA (Celac Sprue Association) conference in beautiful (but flat) La Vista, Nebraska. Although I did hear that nearby Omaha is a fun city, I had no time to explore as I spent all my time in lecture halls.
CSA is a non-profit organization of “celiacs helping celiacs” and is a great resource for people struggling with a new diagnosis or those having trouble conforming to a gluten-free diet. Check out their website if you want more information about celiac disease, product listings, label reading, recipes, awareness, or how to find a local support group. CSA is a valuable resource — take advantage of what they have to offer and help support the cause.
Here’s a short list of the topics discussed at the conference (Harvesting Knowledge of Celiac Disease). I’ll spare you the sciency details, but if there’s anything you’d like more information about, please let me know and I’ll expand on that.
The topics listed below were discussed during a continuing education workshop for dietitians.
• Pathogenesis of celiac disease
• Celiac spectrum
• Pediatrics, breast feeding, introduction of gluten to infants
• Medical nutrition therapy for celiac disease
• Nutrient assessment, deficiencies, and nutrient intervention
• Theories for a gluten-free AND casein-free diet
• Autoimmunity and associated disorders
• Managing medical nutrition therapy as a dietitian
• GF diets for acute and residential care facilities
• Label confusion
My next list includes topics discussed during 3 days of information and updates by the medical, science, and support communities. There are a few eccentric and a touch “out there” doctors and scientists in this field. Thankfully so! Most of our top celiac experts are from other countries — Joseph Murray, M.D. (Mayo Clinic) is from Ireland; Peter Green, M.D. (Columbia University) is from Australia; Alessio Fasano, M.D. (University of Maryland) is from Italy; Stephano Guandalini, M.D. (University of Chicago) is from Italy; and Dr. David Sands, plant pathologist and biotech frontiersman is from Montana. Oh wait, Montana just seems like another country, but nonetheless, Dr. Sands is definitely part of this “out there” group of doctors and scientists making a huge difference in the world of celiac disease research and education. Too bad whoever named this disease didn’t come up with something a little cooler than the name celiac sprue. Maybe these guys could get more funding for their research if it all sounded a bit more glamorous — although not easy to do when you’re talking about gas, bloating, and intestinal distress. Things are changing though, our little GF community is even becoming somewhat trendy.
The above highlighted links are to each doctor and the celiac disease centers they are involved with. All are valuable resources. An additional link to information about Dr. Fasano’s research can be found here.
• Celiac disease — a spectrum disease with varied outcomes and challenges
• Sorghum and grain production research
• Review etiology of celiac disease and updates on research
• Healthier grains through biotechnology
• Celiac disease and how it affects family members
• Faith, personal beliefs, and celiac disease
• The search for celiac disease oral therapies
• Improving gluten-free foods
• Developing lifestyle skills
• Clinical trials for therapeutic pharmaceuticals
Lee Tobin, director of the Whole Foods Market GF Bakehouse, demonstrated techniques for preparing an assortment of GF grain recipes. He was the mad scientist of food preparation as he had several things cooking at once. I love watching chefs work their magic and Lee is no exception. I’ll post one of his recipes once I have (hopefully) permission to do so. His acorn squash with cranberry apple quinoa, braised chicken with millet skillet (cute name), New Mexican pozole, and Greek kasha salad were all amazing. Good gluten-free food — and healthy, too. That’s the best kind!
Now on to the important stuff — chocolate.
Several studies indicate pure, natural cocoa to be high in flavonoids (phytochemicals), which are powerful antioxidants that may help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. According to the food chemistry geeks at Cornell University, the antioxidant content of cocoa was almost 2 times higher than red wine, 2 to 3 times higher than green tea, and 4 to 5 times higher than black tea. Other studies show cocoa reduces blood clotting and may also stabilize arterial plaque. If you check the Dagoba Chocolate (my favorite kind) website, you’ll find a long list of health benefits.
But before you run out to the supermarket and load up on Mars Bars and Snickers, keep in mind, the research studies touting the benefits of chocolate were conducted using pure, natural cocoa (or cacao if you’re talking about the plant), so stick close to the source. Processed candy bars are not only unhealthy in general, but often contain gluten and other allergens. So skip the packaged cocoa drinks and additive-filled candy bars and buy the good stuff or make your own treats (see recipe below). My favorite source for cocoa powder for my recipes is Dagoba, but there are other good choices as well.
Chocolate as a health food? Sound too good to be true? Don’t question it, just enjoy it! But enjoy the right kind in the right amounts (that “M” word again).
Melissa’s scrumptious cocoa fondue
what you need
• 1/2 cup almond butter
• 10 mejool dates (pitted)
• 3/4 cup water
• 3/4 cups Dagoba cacao powder
• 3 tablespoons coconut milk
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
what you do
• this is another one of my “launching pad” recipes that I made up; adjust as your heart desires
• place all ingredients in a food processor
• blend until desired consistency (you may want to add more coconut milk or water)
• serve with fresh strawberries, Fuji apple slices, pears, or even jicama (be creative)
*This makes a lot; store covered in the refrigerator.
Dip and enjoy!
In good health,