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Oat bran power bar recipe & giveaway

My last post was about iron-deficiency anemia, celiac disease, and iron-rich foods. It came with a heavy dose of red blood cell biology and those of you willing to wade through it, not unsubscribe, and leave a comment at the end were rewarded with an opportunity to win a copy of The Gluten-Free Edge, my sports nutrition book co-written with Peter Bronski.

And the winner is (drum roll, please)—Jennifer R! Thank you all for participating and congratulations to Jennifer.

Since it’s the season for giving, I’m going to keep the giveaway streak going (see details below).

I thought I’d follow up my anemia post with a gluten-free, iron-packed, power-bar recipe that I developed as a homemade alternative to store-bought energy bars. This one is a take-off on an almond meal version featured in the recipe section of The Gluten-Free Edge and is proof that vegetarians (even vegans) can get the iron and protein they need if they do it right.

Gluten-free oat bran power bar (makes 16 servings)
What you need

1/2 cup oat bran (I used Montana Gluten-Free Oat Bran, see details below)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
1 cup dried, unsulphured apricots, chopped
1/3 cup certified gluten-free oats (I get mine from MT GF Processors or GF Prairie)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (make sure they’re gluten-free)
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted, plus some to grease the pan
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

What you do

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (I used a dark-colored metal baking pan).
2. Place the oat bran, the cinnamon, and the sea salt in a food processor and pulse until well mixed.
3. Add the walnuts, almonds, apricots, and oats and pulse several times, until the nuts and apricots are in small chunks but not completely ground. Add the chocolate chips and pulse a few times, leaving larger chunks.
4. In a bowl big enough to hold all the ingredients, whisk together the honey, egg, melted coconut oil, and vanilla. Whisk for 1 minute to ensure the ingredients are well mixed.
5. Add the dry (pulsed) ingredients to the wet ingredients and mash together with a fork. Use your hands if you have to and make sure everything is mixed together.
6. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan. Cover with parchment paper and, using your hands, press and flatten evenly. You can also use a flat spatula to even out the mixture. Remove the parchment paper.
7. Place pan on center rack of the oven and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill before cutting into bars. Store bars in an airtight container in the fridge, or wrap individually and freeze.

These bars are power-packed with nutrition and great for athletes. They’re high in carbohydrates (great workout fuel), high in protein (for recovery), and super high in iron (building blocks for RBCs, see prior post). The iron is mainly from the oat bran. The bars are also high in fat (another source of workout fuel), but the fat is from healthy sources, so don’t fret. Because of the high fat content, they aren’t low calorie, but if you need a boost while out hiking, biking, or during a mid-afternoon work slump, these power bars will serve you well.

PER SERVING (1 bar): 225 calories; 14 g fat; 22 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 3 g fiber
NUTRITION BONUS: 1 bar provides 30% of the RDA of iron

Would you like a 3-pound bag of this nourishing Montana Gluten-Free Oat Bran? It’s grown out west by awesome big sky farmers and is minimally “processed” in a dedicated, state-of-the-art, gluten-free facility. The oat bran is dry milled, with no heat applied during preparation or packaging. It’s good stuff, non-GMO, is tested and certified gluten-free, and is a great way to boost the nutritional value of GF baked goods. Most GF baked goods are low in iron and other nutrients. Tossing in some oat bran solves that problem.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on how you’d use the oat bran. Be creative—I’m curious. Make sure you include your email address where prompted. I’ll pick the winner via Good luck and happy baking!

Peace, love, and oat bran!
PS I’m not employed in any way by MT GF Processors or GF Prairie. No one asked me to blog about the products or do giveaways. I’m not paid to do it. I buy my own products and endorse the farmers and product developers whom I believe are doing it right. There’s been an explosion in the GF market and a lot of the stuff has the nutritional value of ground styrofoam. It’s junk food. I want the good guys to be successful. We need to support this “grass roots” movement. Our health and the health of the environment depend on it.

Go hug a farmer!

Gluten-free oatmeal and teff power porridge

Pete Bronski, founder with wife Kelli of the blog No Gluten No Problem, is an endurance athlete, friend, colleague, and co-author of our new book (May release date), The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life. Check here for pre-order details. And when we say, an Active Gluten-Free Life, we mean everyone on the planet, not just super-heros.

After long hours (days, weeks, months) of researching, writing, rewriting, and interviewing gluten-free athletes and athletes who choose to be gluten-free, Pete is back logging long hours trail running and I’m back at Mary Jane telemark skiing. I’m also in the process of losing the 5 pounds I gained while writing and creating high-octane recipes for the book. Aahh, the irony of writing a book on sports nutrition (weight gain and a slide in fitness).

It was worth it and I’m incredibly grateful for the experience, but now I’m on a mission to revive myself. My eating habits weren’t bad while writing the book, but I sat on my bum for way too many hours and my exercise routine, active lifestyle, and yoga practice suffered. That’s not something I want to make a habit of.

I’ve found that the best way to kick-start my day and boost my energy levels is to eat a power-packed breakfast. That means a combination of high-quality carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing healthy, gluten-free breakfast ideas for an active lifestyle. All will be vegetarian, nutrient-dense, and delicious.

First up: gluten-free power porridge with whole-grain oats and teff—perfect before heading out for a day of skiing or hiking (or in Pete’s case, mega-distance trail running).

But before I get to the recipe, I’d be remiss if I didn’t do a little “compare and contrast” of oats. Oats are not all the same, as fast-food, mega-giant McDonald’s demonstrated last year with the unveiling of their “Oats with the Most” fruit and maple oatmeal bowl. After reading the ingredient label and nutrition information, I’m thinking the tag line should read, “Oats with the Most additional and unnecessary low-quality, junk-food additives.”

McDonald’s Oatmeal Bowl contains the following ingredients: Oatmeal—whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, modified food starch, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color; Diced Apples—apples, calcium ascorbate; Cranberry Raisin Blend—Sweetened dried cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California rasins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide as a preservative (contains sulfites); Light Cream—milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan.

What the heck is datem?

I’m so glad you asked.

DATEM (directly from Wikipedia): Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Ester of Mono- and Diglycerides is an emulsifier used to strengthen dough by building a strong gluten network. It is also known as E472e and is often derived from genetically modified soya bean oil.

First off, if it’s called E472e, it’s not food (not to mention its other name). Really? We need a dough strengthener in our oatmeal?

Aside from the fact that this oatmeal is contaminated with gluten, it’s filled with a boat-load of unhealthy ingredients. Leave it to McDonald’s to completely ruin what should be a healthy breakfast.

Now, let’s take a look at the ingredient list on my bag of Montana Gluten-Free OatmealIngredients: whole grain rolled oats. Period. Wow, the oats are the ingredient. It’s the same thing with my bag of teff. Ingredients: whole grain teff. What a concept. The food is also the ingredient.

To be fair, the McDonald’s ingredient label included everything in the pre-made bowl of oatmeal. Yes it comes with the apples, cranberry raisin blend, and light cream infused into the oatmeal (don’t even ask). Unfortunately, you can’t pull through the drive-up window, order the Oatmeal Bowl and say, “Hold the  E472e, the barley malt extract, the caramel color, the multiple sugars, the modified food starch, the calcium ascorbate, the sulfur dioxide, the sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, and the carrageenan.”

To insure that my “compare and contrast” playing field is level, I’ll include the same detailed nutrition information on my porridge at the end of the recipe.

Gluten-free oatmeal and teff power porridge
(photo above–Montana GF Processor’s raw oats and Bob’s Red Mill raw teff)

what you need
1 and 1/4 cup water
dash of salt
1/2 cup certified gluten-free whole grain rolled oats
2 tablespoons whole grain teff
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 small apple, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon raisins (or a mix of raisins and dried cranberries)
honey or maple syrup (to make it vegan, used maple syrup)
coconut milk or other milk

what you do
1. Bring water and salt to a boil.
2. Slowly add oats and teff, stir well, and turn heat to low. Add vanilla, cinnamon, apples, raisins, and cranberries (if using).
3. Cook on low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove from heat when liquid is absorbed and serve with a drizzle of honey (or maple syrup) and milk of choice. I like light coconut milk with it, but any nut milk will do.

PER SERVING (Oatmeal Teff Porridge): 3.2 g fat; 78 g carbohydrate; 11 g protein; 10 g fiber
Nutrition Bonus: excellent source of iron

PER SERVING (McDonald’s Oatmeal): 4.5 g fat; 57 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 5 g fiber
Nutrition Time Bomb: additives, preservatives, dyes

Note: Some people with gluten intolerance have an immune response to oats, even certified gluten-free oats. If you choose to try oats, start slowly (1/3 cup) to see if you react. Oats also contain a lot of fiber, which is a good thing, but may cause gastrointestinal stress if you’re not used to it. Check with your healthcare provider if you’re unsure about adding oats to your diet.

Peace, love, and power porridge. Stay tuned for more healthy breakfast ideas for an active gluten-free life!


gluten-free toasted oat bread

Update: The winner of a package of this awesome bread mix is Sherri. Lucky girl!

Who loves the golden-brown, crusty edges of a freshly baked loaf of bread?

That would be me.

Who prefers the soft, warm, sweet smelling center?

That part is good, but nothing like the crumbly texture and delicate taste of the crust.

Which do you crave? The crust or center? I’m curious, so let’s take a vote.

Leave your answer in the comment section below. You might be the lucky winner of a package of Montana Gluten-Free PrOatina Toasted Oat Bread Mix. There’s no right or wrong answer, although people do seem to have a definite preference for one or the other. I have a serious weakness for the crust, but I know others who are hopelessly addicted to the center. The winner will be randomly chosen by my 5 year old neighbor. It’s worth a comment; this bread is awesome.

Before I launch into this post, I have a disclosure to make. While I love my Montana Gluten-Free farmer friends, I don’t get paid to say nice things about them. I order my toasted oat bread mix online (check here) and pay full price like everyone else. The package I’ll be sending the winner was part of my recently purchased half-case of bread mix. My intention is simply to support the farmers who are doing it right. We get to vote with our forks (or bread pans in this case) and I vote for healthy, sustainable, gluten-free food choices. This is literally a “grass roots” movement and the more we know about what’s in our food supply and where it comes from, the better off we are.

Yes, I love this bread. Yes, I love these farmers. But here’s the deal. I have to be mindful about how much bread I eat. Baked goods are an occasional treat, so if I’m going to eat bread, I don’t want to waste my time, money, or my calories on the low grade stuff. Aside from being the best loaf of gluten-free (or not gluten-free) bread EVER, this toasted oat flour is a good source of protein and fiber and even contains some calcium and iron.

And here’s the kicker about the crust, which is absolutely divine on this bread. Check out that photo above. I made this loaf yesterday. Does that crust look incredible or what? My weakness is the end piece—still warm from the oven, slathered with real butter. Enough so that it drips down my chin with the first bite. Slurp.

Excuse me. I need to do a taste test. I’ll be back shortly. I have to make sure I’m not exaggerating. You know, for the sake of accurate reporting.

Okay, just as I thought. No exaggeration. It’s that good.

Back to the science behind the crust. I’m not sure how this translates to gluten-free oat bread, but a group of researchers in Germany found that the crust of a conventional bread mixture contained a unique, crust-only antioxidant that didn’t exist in the original flour. This health-promoting compound was eight times more abundant in the crust than in the rest of the bread. Pronyl-lysine is the high-powered antioxidant. It magically appears during the baking process. Magically as in a chemical reaction between certain amino acids and sugar in the presence of heat. A Maillard style love affair. An auspicious pairing that several studies have found increases the level of specific enzymes that are protective against cancer. How cool is that? Cancer fighting bread crust!

Luckily I’m already smitten with the crust. No need to force myself to increase my pronyl-lysine intake.

So, what is it? Crust or center? Be honest. Leave your answer below. Who knows? You might be eating your own loaf of this bread soon.

Peace, love and toasted oat bread crusts!
Cook’s Notes: I made the above loaf in the oven. No kneading necessary. This is my favorite way to make this bread. It’s easy and not terribly time-consuming. The crust comes out perfect. I’ve also made it in my old bread machine, which does NOT have a GF setting. GF bread doesn’t need to be kneaded and I can’t avoid that setting on my old machine, so it goes through the kneading cycle. The bread still comes out tasting great, it just doesn’t have this beautiful crust on it. My advice–make it in the oven or in a bread machine with a no knead setting. No matter how you do it, it’s a dynamite loaf of bread.

farmers food and focus groups

I have a thing for farm-fresh food.

I was in San Diego last weekend, attending the Celiac Sprue Association’s national conference. These conferences usually feature one or two celiac rock stars from the medical community. This year was no different as Dr. Peter Green from Columbia University was the keynote speaker. Yes, he’s brilliant, charming, knows his way around intestinal micro-villi, and is one of the top celiac researchers in the world. Plus, he has an Australian accent. Total swoon-potential, if you’re into that kind of thing.


I’m into farmers.

No disrespect to the docs, but it’s the farmers who rock my world. Good nutrition is about good agriculture. Our health and the health of the environment depends on what happens out in the field. It’s all linked. We can talk about medical advances, pathology, and pharmaceuticals until the cows come home (sticking with my farm theme), but it’s the quality of the food we eat that holds the promise to better health.

While in San Diego, I reconnected with some farmer friends (I admit, I’m an ag groupie) from Montana and bought some Toasted Oat Bread Mix to experiment with. Yesterday I baked a loaf of whole grain, toasted oat bread and, I’m not kidding, the smell drifting from my kitchen window was intoxicating. The UPS guy asked me to marry him.

I used pastured eggs from Grant Family Farms, the toasted oat mix from the Montana farmers, and local Madhava honey to make the bread. Once cooled, I used fresh, organic pears from my Grant Farms fruit share and smoked gouda cheese. I ended up with the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich ever. In fact, this is the best loaf of bread I’ve ever made and that includes the whole wheat bread (little did I know) I made from scratch back in my hippie-girl days.

gluten-free grilled cheese sandwich (gourmet comfort food)
2 slices toasted oat bread (I made the mix in my breadmaker)
sliced pear (not-quite-ripe is best)
thin slices of smoked gouda cheese

Melt butter in a sauté pan on low-medium heat. Make sure it doesn’t burn. Assemble sandwich and grill in sizzling butter on both sides. You might have to put a lid (askew so it doesn’t get moist) on the pan to fully melt the cheese. Sniff, slice and drool.

Other gluten-free grilled cheese ideas—
• Peaches, raw cheddar, thinly sliced almonds
• Goat cheese, figs, sliced pears
• Roasted green chiles, tomatoes, colby cheese

For more on Montana Gluten-Free Products, check here.

For more information on oats and to be included in a focus group on oats, please read on.

If you have celiac disease and are unsure about adding oats to your diet, take part in the nationwide focus group on oats (check with your doctor first to make sure this is appropriate for you). Click here for details. If you fit the criteria, you’ll get a free (yes, free) bag of Montana GF PrOatina oats to try. Deb from the blog NotEvenACrumb has joined forces with the Montana farmers to help conduct a survey determining the gluten-free community’s tolerance to PrOatina, the farmers’ trademark oat product. I have no problem with oats and, as a nutritionist, feel they are a wonderful addition to the gluten-free diet. If you want to experiment with GF oats, start slowly so you don’t confuse too much fiber with a sensitivity to the oats. Montana GF products are certified gluten-free and processed in a dedicated facility. Their products are also free of dairy, corn, soy, nuts, and are GMO-free. Check here for details.

Disclosure: I’m thankful for farmers and appreciate and respect their hard work. I like knowing where my food comes from and I support the farmers who are doing it right. This is about passion and the future of our food supply, it’s not about money. I get nothing if you click any of these links, not even a free pear or a loaf of bread. This is not about that, it’s about supporting the people who are growing our food. We need to do that. They deserve it.

If you want to try a loaf of toasted oat bread, you can get the mix here. This is my new favorite bread mix. It’s wonderful. Seriously. Go, try it now and be prepared to be flirted with if your windows are open.

Peace, love and grilled cheese sandwiches on toasted oat bread. What’s your favorite?

gluten-free scotch irish oat cakes

As is often the case, I’m a day (10 days?) late and a dollar (more than a dollar, but who’s counting?) short. It was my intention to post this recipe on St. Patrick’s Day, but my good intentions got blasted by real life. And snow. And spring skiing.

These tasty treats should actually be called gluten-free, Scotch-Irish, wild-west, Montana oat cakes. I know that’s a mouthful, but so are these hearty little cakes. I’m always on the lookout for bread substitutes and this recipe hit the spot.

First, let’s deal with the controversial “oats” question. Should people with gluten intolerance eat oats? Maybe, maybe not. Here’s my take on it, but remember I’m a celiac-specializing nutritionist, not a celiac-specializing lab researcher/doctor. I do have celiac, so that makes me a bit of an expert in my own little bio-world, but everyone is different. What works for me, may not work for you.

Current research shows that pure, uncontaminated oats in moderate amounts are safe for most people with celiac disease. The key word here is “most.” Some people don’t tolerate oats at all and others, not used to the high fiber load, experience digestive problems while getting used to them. Check with your health care professional first and then start with a small dose (1/4 cup before cooking). Try a bowl of gluten-free, hot oatmeal once or twice the first week and see how you do.

Oats are a high-fiber, nutrient-dense, hearty cereal grain. They contain a specific fiber called beta-glucan, which studies show helps lower cholesterol and enhance immune function. Most Americans don’t get nearly the fiber they need and oats are a great way to boost intake. They’re also high in vitamins, minerals, are packed with bioavailable antioxidants (Journal of Nutrition) and they also help maintain blood sugar levels. They’re perfect for people with diabetes or metabolic disorders and are rich in manganese, selenium, tryptophan, phosphorus, thiamin and protein. Plus, they taste good. I love oats, absolutely love them.

Blah, blah, blah. I don’t want to bog you down with geek talk, but trust me, oats can be a healthy addition to anyone’s diet (almost anyone). As I said above, proceed with caution if you’re gluten intolerant.

I found several recipes for oat cakes and most were very similar. I tested three and found this one, taken from Vegetarian Times Magazine, worked the best. I “tweaked” it just a touch.

gluten-free Scotch-Irish wild west Montana oat cakes
what you need

1 cup + 2 tablespoons gluten-free oat flour (more for shaping the cakes) *
2 cups gluten-free, old-fashioned oats *
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup Earth Balance “butter” or “shortening”

what you do
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Oil a baking sheet. You can also use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (which I used).
2. Mix together oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
3. Place oat flour in a large mixing bowl. Cut in Earth Balance and mix with fingers until crumbly.*
4. Add oat mixture and then buttermilk to the oat flour/Earth Balance combination and combine until well blended.
5. Using an ice-cream scoop (or about that amount), work the mixture into a flat patty about 1/4 inch thick. You may need to dust your work surface or your hands to shape and flatten out the “cake.” Work with them and add a tiny touch more flour if you think they’re too wet to shape properly. Be careful though, you want them moist. My pre-baked patties ended up about the size of a rice cake, but a lot thinner.
6. Place them on the prepared baking sheet about an inch or two apart. Bake on center rack for 15 minutes and then rotate the pan for even baking. Continue baking for another 5 to 15 minutes. I baked mine for almost 30 minutes, but the original recipe called for 15 to 20 minutes. They should be a nice, light golden brown.
7. Cool on a wire rack.
8. Serve with peanut butter and honey or jelly, just like you would a rice cake. YUM! They make a perfect “holder” for all kinds of good things (almond butter, cheese, etc.). Be creative!

* I use Montana Gluten-Free Processors pure and uncontaminated oat products. They’re tested and certified GF and kosher. Check here for details.

* One of the best ways to mix butter or shortening into flour is to freeze it first and shred it into the flour mix with a cheese grater. I always have butter and shortening on hand in the freezer and ready to shred. It also works great in pie crusts and crumble toppings.

Cheers and happy late St. Patrick’s Day!

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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