My interest in gluten-free baking was piqued a few years ago when some new friends over for dinner lamented the fact that there was little they could eat due to their gluten intolerance. They especially missed sharing cookies and cakes with others after dinner and on special occasions. I did some research on celiac disease; it is a lifelong, genetically determined autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. When a person who has celiac disease eats gluten (the common name for a protein found in specific grains like wheat, rye and barley), the individual’s immune system responds by attacking the small intestine and inhibiting the absorption of important nutrients into the body. This toxic reaction is not only very painful but, if left untreated, can be life-threatening.
Celiac disease is not the same as a wheat allergy (a common food allergy that a person can grow out of), but the treatment for both is the same: to avoid eating any food containing gluten. That is much easier said than done since wheat is hidden in so many consumer products. An amazing three million Americans suffer from celiac disease, about 1% of the healthy population. That may seem like a trivial amount until you consider that that same number would fill a staggering 4,400 Boeing 747s or 936 cruise ships! The average time to diagnose the disease is about four years so many more are suffering its effects without even knowing it.
I wanted to help my friends and all of those who were shut out of the sweet world of desserts. I decided to create a line of vegan, gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free cookies that would be healthy and tasty and could be enjoyed by all. I started experimenting with all kinds of gluten-free flours. Among others, I tried amaranth, buckwheat, chickpea, millet, quinoa and sorghum but after many trial batches of cookies, I found that a combination of brown rice and tapioca flours gave the best consistency and taste. I decided to cut out the dairy for all those who were also lactose-intolerant and found that unrefined expeller pressed organic extra virgin coconut oil worked well as a butter substitute. I chose organic pistachios and almonds for my cookies. The almonds are not blanched so they are higher in nutrients; I keep the skins on for added fiber and a more natural taste. I don’t grind the nuts too fine so they deliver an extra crunch and aroma to the cookies. Instead of refined sugars I use organic brown sugar or, for the sugar-free cookies, xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar substitute with no aftertaste. I boosted the flavor even more with orange blossom water, cinnamon and cardamom for an exotic note.
The result is a new vegan, gluten-free cookie line – Nut Just a Cookie™ (Order Here); these new cookies are bite-sized and delicious. There are two flavors: pistachio and almond. Each is available four ways: plain or chocolate-dipped; made with organic brown sugar or sugar-free. They can be enjoyed anytime with coffee or tea, just plain or sprinkled with powdered sugar. They can be crumbled on yogurt at the start of your day with fresh berries or enjoyed as an afternoon snack. They make a great crunchy topping for ice cream. Although my cookies are high in nutrition and taste, they are small and don’t fill you up like ordinary cookies made with wheat flour, refined sugar, butter and/or cream and in many cases, artificial ingredients. Many customers have commented that after eating a few of my cookies they are satisfied; they feel full of energy without feeling sluggish. That’s because I use only natural ingredients. Cookies make excellent travel companions; easy to stash in your bag when you’re on the go. They are the perfect snack to take along on a hike, to pack in a lunch or to enjoy while out with friends. Keep them in your desk drawer to enjoy when you feel hungry and you don’t want to make another trip to the vending machine. Why not try a box today? As the sign in my living room says “Life is Short – Eat Cookies!”