A wheat-free Christmas

IMG_20151210_084218466I have decided that I can’t eat Betsy’s delicious Christmas cookies anymore.

I’ve always passed on the Elna’s Tarts that so many family members love, because of their heavy doses of butter, sugar and flour. I’ve said “No thanks” to the pecan crescents and the cutout sugar cookies. I’ve restricted my Christmas consumption to the butter-free gingerbread men, but this year I’m giving them up, too.

My system just doesn’t process wheat flour very well.  I had a diagnosis of celiac disease when I was a boy, but I never paid it much attention as an adult. Eating a banana a day seemed to ward off stomach aches.

IMG_20151209_142721834But this year I decided to cut back on my wheat intake, and in this post I described how I found a recipe for buckwheat granola (which is very good). I also made “improvised bars,” in which I threw together some walnuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, oil, honey, applesauce and spelt flour and put it in the oven to see what would happen. It was OK, but crumbly. I added an egg and more spelt flour and the bars turned out better.

Today I went back to the Internet looking for wheat-free cookie recipes, but most of them call for esoteric stuff I don’t have, like almond flour or rice flour. Then I found these excellent concoctions, which are shown in the photo at the top of this post:


1 cup peanut butter

3/4 cup brown sugar (I used only 1/2 cup)

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1 egg

1 t vanilla

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

What could be simpler? I just mashed the ingredients together, and spooned the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I baked them for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Betsy said they are sensational. They taste a little like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Betsy makes a wonderful Christmas bread every year, with nuts and apricots. I’m going to try to excuse myself from partaking of it this Christmas.

I’ve been making low-wheat sourdough bread for a few months, using millet, buckwheat, spelt and soy flour. I’ve restricted the wheat flour content to a quarter to a half of the total. But today I’m experimenting with making three loaves that are almost wheat-free (the only wheat flour is a half cup in the sourdough starter). I added some cornmeal to the mix and used lots of spelt flour.

The dough is rising as I’m writing this, so I can’t tell you how it turned out. But that’s part of the fun of veering off from what recipes call for; you never know what you’re going to get.

As for those Elna’s Tarts, I’m sure that none of them will be going to waste.

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3 thoughts on “A wheat-free Christmas

  1. Nick & Betsy,
    Harold alerted me to your article on Facebook. Turns out that eating gluten is a big issue for me.
    Celiac is an intolerance to GLUTEN = wheat, rye & barley. So is gluten interopathy and gluten sensitivity. I now know I should also have been diagnosed with gluten interopathy as a kid. But in my family, that was always thought as my sister’s problem.
    My sister almost died at 6 mo old, not thriving, then began to starve, in 1948. Admitted to Kaiser Oakland, no one knew what was going on until a new doctor from Johns Hopkins suggested celiac. She lived, but on a very strict diet.
    When I found out about this problem 5 years ago, I was stunned to read the long list of chronic medical issues that can occur, many of which I had; irritable bowl syndrom, irregular (all my life), anxiety & panic attacks, among others. I was on meds for panic attacks for over 12 years. No more.
    I read that the only way to find out if you have gluten interopathy is go on a strict glute-free diet for 6 months to a year. The test is unstable, better tests for celiac. My life has changed. I had to go off meds, too expensive. But no more trouble with any of the above mentioned symptoms and more. Living with anxiety and panic does not lend itself to good self esteem. And my emotions are no longer intensely uncontrollably overwhelming.
    My entire life would have been so very different had any doctor diagnosed me with this. American doctors are only beginning to look into this. Turns out that siblings of a celiac usually also have an intolerance to gluten, but not all kids in the family necessarily. And it can be genetic. It can also be ethnic; Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, mostly the northern countries. Ireland use to give a subsidy to those who had to buy the expensive gluten-free foods. My paternal great grandparents were immigrants from Sweden.
    According to the research, kids don’t grow out of this either. That includes my sister, another story. And, you can’t eat just little amounts of gluten. Spelt is gluten.
    If I eat even a minor amount of gluten now, I wake at 3 am to an uncomfortable stomach. Depending on how much, painful cramping will set in. I have landed in the emergency room with the cramping. The doctor there told me, once given up, you can tolerate less and less if this is a real issue for you Once it was 3 small slices of pepperoni on a pizza, another time it was soy sauce; I had to check the lists often in the beginning and still do occasionally.
    Please research this for yourself. Celiac.com is an excellent web site to learn about this issue. They not only have lists of foods that are okay & not okay, but delve into and post articles about the latest research pro and con. It’s been invaluable to me. I hope it helps you if this is truly an issue for you.
    Cherri Nelson

  2. King Arthur Flour has a great gluten-free multi-purpose flour that can be found in some supermarkets. I’ve seen it stocked at Stop & Shop. You might look out for it and try.

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