“Is it just me or has every other person you’ve met lately gone gluten-free?” asks Chef Jen Wanous. “Tons of people seem to be giving up bread and pasta, and it’s not just because they want to cut out the carbs. But before we all hop on board the gluten-free train, let’s back up for a second to cover some of the basics.”
What is gluten? “Gluten is the common name for the proteins found in all forms of wheat,” chef Jen explains. “Gluten brings structure, elasticity and a chewy texture to products. This includes wheat, spelt, rye and barley.”
What is celiac disease? “CD is an autoimmune disease that attacks normal tissues when gluten is eaten,” she says. “If you are having adverse gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and/or low energy, then it’s time to talk to your doctor about celiac disease.”
What to do if you suspect you are gluten sensitive or intolerant? “Read up on where gluten lurks and take out all forms of gluten in your diet for two to four weeks,” she explains. “Carefully note how you feel. If you see improvements, then you better get on board the gluten-free train!” See this link for details on diagnosis.
“When planning a gluten-free diet, you have to be vigilant with all the processed products you eat,” chef Jen says. “Just because something says it is ‘wheat free’ doesn’t always mean that it is gluten-free because it might have spelt, rye or barley. Things can get tricky because gluten pops up in unexpected products, such as soy sauce, ice cream, ketchup, supplements and beer, just to name a few. However, if you keep things simple and plan ahead, these lifestyle and diet modifications will not seem quite so daunting. Below is a recipe for gluten-free chocolate brownies. Gooey and rich, you and your friends will want more of this treat.”
Gluten-Free Brownies Topped with Sea Salt
Makes 12+ servings
- 3 cups walnuts
- Hearty pinch of salt
- 24 dates, pitted and chopped
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons agave or maple syrup
- Coarse sea salt for topping
- In a food processor, add the salt and walnuts until finely ground. Add the dates, cocoa powder, vanilla and syrup until well combined (about 1 minute).
- Press mixture into a pan and refrigerate until chilled.
- Top each piece with a pinch of coarse sea salt.
- Cover with plastic wrap to store.