Gluten-free Christmas gingerbread cookies (Lebkuchen)
I made these delicious gingerbread cookies for a Xmas party and they disappeared fast!!! The dough for these needs to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. I made the dough on day one, baked it on day two and the cookies were perfection still on day three and four.
Makes around 40 210g plain gluten-free (GF) flour blend (I use equal parts of oat, millet and sorghum flour but any good, unrefined, gluten-free blend works). 140g ground almonds 1 rounded tsp GF baking powder 1 level tsp of bicarbonate of soda (bread soda) 1 level tsp ground allspice 1 rounded + 1 level tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon 1 rounded tsp ground ginger 1 level tsp mixed spice 1 orange (fine zest only, organic if possible) 250g honey 80g butter (if dairy sensitive, use clarified butter) 1 tbs lemon juice
Coating: 150g 85% cocoa dark chocolate (or minimum 70%)
1.In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix together the flour, almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate, spices and fine zest of 1 orange. 2.Weigh the honey and butter into a small saucepan and set over a gentle heat, stirring until the butter and honey have just melted. 3.Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and the lemon juice and mix until thoroughly blended and even. 4.Set aside to cool, folding occasionally with a wooden spoon. 5.Once cold, tip the dough into an airtight container and cover tightly with a lid (a bowl and clingfilm will do too). Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. 6.Prepare a couple of large baking trays by lining with greaseproof/silicon baking paper (batch-bake if needed). 7.Once the dough is firm, pull off small pieces and roll into balls the size of a walnut. 8.Place on the baking trays with room to spread between each ball. Place back in the fridge to keep them firm until ready to bake. 9.Heat oven to 160C and bake until just starting to darken in colour. The original recipe says 13-15 minutes but in my oven this took 10 minutes for a perfect texture. 10. Allow to cool completely on the baking trays. 11. Break the chocolate into squares and melt in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Make sure the water does NOT touch the base of the bowl or the chocolate can turn gritty. Once chocolate is melted, turn off the heat. 12.Dip each biscuit in melted chocolate until its half coated and allow to set on trays lined with greaseproof/silicon baking paper.
Why these are better for you: The absence of refined sugar and (if you use wholemeal gluten free flours) refined grains in these mean they don’t produce the immune-suppression and inflammation caused by standard cookies. The almonds contain protein which means these don’t upset your blood sugar (and your weight, mood and immunity). The absence of gluten also means that your small intestine is not damaged by eating these. HOWEVER, it’s a good idea to remember though that eating a lot of honey and grains is not as healthy as living mostly off quality protein and vegetables. So these are treats, not everyday staples.
Naturally gluten-free and grain-free, I really like these. This recipe is from Raman Prasad’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet Cookbook. The SC diet can be magical for getting people with inflammatory bowel conditions into remission while they start to work on the underlying causes. But the recipes in it are pretty tasty for anyone.
1.Preheat oven to 180C (165C fan). Grease 2 baking sheets. 2.Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until the dough is dry enough and not stick to work with. All more almond flour/ground almonds I needed. 3.On the baking sheet, form 4-5 cm circular mounds with the dough and press down to flatten into a cookie shape. 4.Bake 10-15 mins until the edged turn golden.
Why this is better for you: These biscuits are naturally grain-free, which is great news for anyone struggling with Crohn’s, colitis or who may be on the SC diet during a IBS/SIBO recovery protocol. These are also high in protein (almonds) and much lower in sugars (honey) so they don’t cause blood sugar peaks and troughs. A word of warning though, these are treats, not everyday foods. This is because nuts, when roasted, no longer contain healthy oils. So eating too many of these is not good for your metabolism.
This is my all-time favourite potato salad. A far cry from the claggy, low-grade ones made with health-sabotaging refined oil. Amazingly, cold potatoes have very different health-giving properties from warm or hot. For the reason why, scroll to the bottom. Some people like to use waxy potatoes. Personally I prefer floury ones which partly break up. Serving size isn’t enormous as you’ll want to save space for masses of low carb veg and some quality protein to keep you fuller longer.
4 medium size potatoes (about 500g in all), scrubbed (no need to peel) and quartered
1/4 white/red onion, sliced thinly
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Large handful (3 tbs) chopped fresh parsley or dill
Freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch salt
Liberal amounts of extra virgin olive oil
1. Boil the potatoes till cooked. Drain.
2. In a bowl combine hot potatoes, onion, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, salt, a few good grinds of black pepper.
3. If you like your onions not to have any “heat” add the lemon juice now.
4. Just before serving add the herbs and if you like, most extra virgin olive oil to taste.
Why this is good for you: Cooked and cooled potatoes are a rich source of resistant starch. This magical starch feeds beneficial bacteria in your bowel that aid all aspects of your health. Resistant disappears if you reheat the potatoes and reappears when they are cold. Cooked, cooled rice is another good source of resistant starch. Herbs are a great source of antioxidants to calm inflammation and reduce the growth of unhelpful gut bacteria. Even a dessertspoon of cooked cooled rice or potatoes feeds friendly bacteria. Large amounts of high carb foods like grains, rice and potatoes are counter-productive as their high sugar levels promote overgrowths of unhelpful bugs. If you limit starchy carbs to no more than 1/4 your lunch and dinner plate you’ll be doing great!!
Zinc is a critical nutrient for digestion and healing your gut. Zinc is responsible for over 300 processes in your body and affects everything – taste, smell, mood, healing, repair, digestion, immunity. Your body needs zinc in order to make digestive juices in your stomach to break down protein and help prevent ALL digestive disorders. Your gut needs zinc to do its normal minute-by-minute repairs your whole life long. Zinc is crucial.
When you eat grains, especially wheat (bread, pasta, cereals) at meals, substances called phytates lock onto zinc. The phytates and zinc form a large molecule that your body can’t absorb or use. Soaking your porridge overnight or switching to sourdough bread are great ways to REDUCE the phytate content of grains. Minimising eating wheat pasta at dinner and instead of increasing the vegetables is another great tweak.
Zinc deficiency is linked to gastritis, acid reflux, psoriasis, Crohn’s, colitis, and many more health issues.
Vitamin D and vitamin A are essential partners in your immune and digestive health. Vitamin A affects the immune system. Over 70% of your immune cells live in your bowel. Here, antibodies spend their time doing surveillance work. Checking everything that floats by and identifying it as friend or foe. Autoimmune conditions (e.g. IBD, hypothyroidism) are where your immune system attacks your own body.
The availability of vitamin A in your food is a key factor in a tolerant immune system. This is an immune system that leaves harmless substances alone and yet has the capacity to see off threats (infections). Immune tolerance is the essence of good health. Vitamin A is the key to your ability to consume a wide range of food and yet not react adversely.
When I say vitamin A I mean retinol (stored form), retinal and retinoic acid (active forms). BETA CAROTENE IS NOT VITAMIN A. Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A found in red/orange fruit and veg. 41% of the UK female population have a genetic variation meaning they can’t convert beta carotene to vitamin A. Anybody who is overweight, taking steroids, on a high grain or low-fat diet, or is hypothyroid will additionally be unable to convert beta carotene to vitamin A.
Vitamin A is critical for the repair and function of your bowel lining, preventing it from becoming leaky. When cells are deprived of vitamin A, energy production declines and you will suffer fatigue.
When you are low in vitamin A, your body makes more inflammatory compounds and your immune system starts to go haywire. You need vitamin A to manufacture an important antibody called secretory IgA to protect you against infections. Particularly infections in your airways and your gut.
What about toxicity?
If you are low in vitamin D (below 100nmol/L) vitamin A supplementation can be counter-productive as they work together. Some people may get enough from their diet if they regularly eat organ meats such as the liver. The Council for Responsible Nutrition in their 2004 report noted a long history of safe use of vitamin A supplementation at a dose of 10,000iu. I would only use this high-level dosing for very particular reasons and for a specific period of time.
Pregnant women are well-advised to avoid supplementing retinol but to eat organ meats at least once a week. This is a whole other area for exploration.
There’s nothing like home-made hummus for flavour. It’s super-easy to do and if you like it, make a big batch and freeze some for the future.
1 mugful of cooked chickpeas (or haricot, cannellini, butter or broad beans) – keep some of the cooking water if you have cooked your own
400g tin of no added sugar chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1½-3 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of ½ – 1 lemon
1 heaped dessertspoonful tahini (health stores/Asian shops. Raw tahini such as Carly’s brand is best)
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 rounded tsp ground coriander
1 rounded tsp ground cumin
Generous pinch or two of Himalayan/Atlantic Sea Salt
Optional extras (see below)
Blitz everything together in your food processor or mini food processor until mixed. You may need a bit more liquid (lemon juice or olive oil) to get everything mixing well.
Add extra lemon juice/olive oil to taste. If the mix is too thick add a a bit of chickpea cooking water or plain water and blitz again.
Blitz in one or two of the following if you like:
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, parsley or chives,
3-4 tomatoes you have roasted or cooked under the grill till soft
A teaspoon of spicy harissa paste (from ethnic shops) or ½ teasp chilli powder
A teaspoon of sun dried tomato paste from the jar
A teaspoon of black olive tapenade
2-3 roasted red peppers (available in jars from ethnic shops)
Grinding your own cumin or coriander with a spice grinder gives a dramatically more flavoursome spice. This is because ground spices, when stored, lose some of their health-giving, aromatic oils. Always store your ground spices in an airtight container in a dark place.
Why this is good for you:
Most shop-bought hummus is made using cheap, refined (toxic) oils instead of the traditional extra virgin olive oil which is a superfood. It stands to reason that making your own is head and shoulders above anything else in quality and freshness.
This is one of my favourite tasty things to recommend to clients because it’s quick and easy. And makes a difference. Because of my background in looking at the science of herbs, spices, and their health effects I was excited to see the ingredients.
Every herb and spice contains components that make your gut an unfriendly place for bad bugs. And a friendly place for the good guys! This has enormous repercussions on your overall digestive health and inflammation levels all over your body. Plus the fermentation process amplifies the effects of the ingredients. It’s sweetened with delicious plump sultanas which feed the beneficial gut bug akkermansia mucinophilia. This clever little bacterium is critically important for restoring or maintaining gut health. For information on stockists go to www.spoonfulbotanical.com.
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Autoimmunity includes conditions as diverse as psoriasis, Crohns, ulcerative colitis, hypothyroidism and vasculitis.
Know the best way to keep your autoimmune condition going? Or to set up an autoimmune condition? Eat gluten. Often. Yes, even in non-coeliacs and people who are NOT sensitive to gluten at all, regular consumption of gluten is a risk factor. Numerous peer-reviewed studies published in prestigious scientific journals confirm this finding. And yet it is little known.
Part of the reason gluten can trigger autoimmunity is that it damages YOUR gut. You must have a damaged gut in order to have an autoimmune condition.
And yet this isn’t common knowledge. Why? In my opinion, there are three reasons:
On average it takes the latest, proven scientific findings 25 years to percolate into medical practice
Medical schools teach only half-day nutrition during a student’s 6 years of study.
Medical schools do not include modules on how to critically assess scientific research.
Rakhimova, Esslinger et al. In vitro differentiation of human monocytes into dendritic cells by a peptic-tryptic digest of gliadin is independent of genetic predisposition and the presence of celiac disease. J Clin Immunol 2009 Jan;29(1):29-37.