Gluten-free Christmas gingerbread cookies (lebkuchen)

Gluten-free Christmas gingerbread cookies (lebkuchen)

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.  

Gretl’s gingerbread cookies biscuits (SC Diet)

Gretl’s gingerbread cookies biscuits (SC Diet)

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.

Makes 40-50 cookies.

112g (8 tbs) melted butter
1 large egg
1 tsp water
80g (1/4 cup) honey
1 level tsp ground allspice
2 rounded tsp ground ginger
1 level tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
1 heaped dsp peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
1 rounded teaspoon bread soda (also called baking soda/bicarbonate)
330g (3 cups) almond flour/ground almonds

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. 

Fantastic Irish product lowers inflammation AND soothes your gut

Fantastic Irish product lowers inflammation AND soothes your gut

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.

Need help? Book your FREE quarter-hour call.

Phone + 353 87 981666 or email anna@annacollins.ie NOW.

Tofu and French beans with chraimeh sauce

Tofu and French beans with chraimeh sauce

This is my current favourite way to use tofu or tempeh.  I adapted it from Ottolenghi’s more complex recipe.  My husband is a tofu-hater so when he disappears for a few days I always cook this.  Keep in mind that unfermented soya products contain digestion-blocking proteins that damage your gut.   So DO make sure to buy the fermented forms for this dish: tempeh or fermented tofu (it will say on the pack).

If you don’t have a small-bowl food processor, chop the chili finely, crush the garlic and use a pestle and mortar to bash the caraway seeds about as much as you can before mixing with the other spices and oil.

For 2
This is gorgeous served with cauliflower/broccoli “rice”, konjac noodles or brown basmati rice.

350g trimmed French (or use runner beans cut in 6cm bits)
Salt and black pepper
200g non-GMO tempeh or fermented tofu, cut into bite size cubes
A few sprigs of dill (small handful), destalked and roughly chopped
Small handful fresh coriander, destalked and roughly chopped

For the sauce:
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 green or red chili, deseeded (optional)
2 slightly rounded tsp sweet paprika
1 tbs caraway seeds
1.5 tsp ground cumin
½ level tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
2 tbs + a little extra avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs tomato puree
250ml water or leftover vegetable-steaming water (full of nutrients!)
Optional: 1 heaped tsp honey or non-toxic sweetener e.g. Dr Coy’s Stevia Erylite or xylitol (from good health stores)
2 limes
Black pepper
Himalayan or sea salt

  1. For the sauce put the garlic, spices, chili and 2 tbs oil in the small bowl of the food processer and blitz to a thick paste.  You might need a touch more oil to bring it together.
  2. Heat a pan on a medium heat and add a teaspoon more of avocado/olive oil and stir fry the garlic-spice mix for 30 seconds.
  3. Then add the tomato puree, 250ml water and bring to the boil.
  4. Stir in the honey or non-toxic sweetener, lime juice, generous pinch (1/4 a level tsp) salt and a few good grinds of black pepper.
  5. Add the tempeh, turn down the heat, cover and simmer while you prep the green veg.
  6. Steam the French/runner beans for around 2-3 minutes until the colour changes very slightly and they are softened but still have a bit of crunch.
  7. Finally, just before serving, stir the herbs into the tofu and sauce, pile on top of your rice and enjoy.

Serve with:
Low carb:  Cauliflower or broccoli rice https://www.annacollins.ie/cauliflower-rice/ or konjac noodles from Asian stores.
Medium carb: brown basmati rice cooked with a generous pinch of turmeric

Why this is good for you:
Spices are a powerhouse of antioxidants that help rebalance your gut bacteria in favour of the good guys.  The good guys helps digest your food, repair and maintain your gut lining every minute of every day, and reduce inflammation in you.  This has massive implications for your immune system, your gut health and even your mood.  Yes, anxiety/depression states always involve brain inflammation.  Type the name of just one spice into medline (the scientific journal resource) and you’ll find hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies. 

Yoghurt chicken curry

Yoghurt chicken curry

This is another fantastic and quick recipe by Chetna Makan.  Again I’ve taken out the toxic refined cooking oil and swapped in the better-for-you coconut oil.  I’ve also added onions to bulk it up and add even more goodness for your long-term health.  I’ve increased the quantity of sauce too, as I love sauce.

For 2
200ml natural full fat yoghurt (for SC diet use home made full fat kefir or 24-hour SCD yoghurt)
1/2 level tsp Himalayan/sea salt
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ level tsp chilli or (the milder) cayenne
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
300g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3cm pieces
1 onion, finely sliced or chopped
1 tbs virgin coconut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
20g fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped (a handful of whole coriander will give you enough).

1.Mix the yoghurt/kefir, salt, spices and garlic in a bowl. Add the chicken pieces, turn until well coated, then leave to marinate while you prepare the curry base.  If you are planning ahead you can marinate these in the fridge overnight too.
2.Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and cumin seeds, a splash (about 1 tbs) of water, cover with a lid or plate and cook over a medium heat for five minutes,until softened, translucent but not brown.
3.Add the tomatoes, then the marinated chicken and any excess marinade, mix well, then bring to a boil, cover and cook over a medium to low heat for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with the coriander.

Serve with :
Low carb/SC diet: 2 cups broccoli rice per person or 1 cup cauliflower rice and 1 cup steamed greens per person.

Medium carb (SC diet-friendly):  Steamed runner/green beans/green peas and squash/pumpkin wedges
I love this recipe https://www.annacollins.ie/indian-spiced-butternut-squash-or-pumpkin/

Medium carb (NOT for SC diet): 2 cups steamed runner/green beans + 1/2 cup boiled brown basmati rice per person

Quick black eyed bean & mushroom curry

Quick black eyed bean & mushroom curry

This is DELICIOUS, and simple and fast at 15 mins cook time.  Had it for dinner last week and SO enjoyed its warming aromatic spices.  I  swapped out the refined cooking oil in the original recipe by Chetna Makan for healthier virgin coconut oil which doesn’t mess with your metabolism.  If you don’t like coconut oil you could also use avocado oil or at a push light olive oil.  The first 2 oils are healthier.

You’ll find tinned no-added-sugar black eyed beans in health stores and Asian shops.

Serves 4 (I like to make this quantity to have some yummy leftovers for the freezer)

2 tbs virgin coconut oil
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 big garlic cloves, peeled and grated or crushed
2½cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
400g tin chopped tomatoes
½ level tsp salt
¼-½ level tsp chilli powder or the milder cayenne (if you don’t like heat, leave out)
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
300g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced (white button mushrooms will do)
400ml tin full -fat coconut milk (organic brands, especially if you have any digestive issues at all)
2 x 400g tins black-eyed beans, drained and rinsed (or make your own – soak overnight 200g black eyed beans and boil hard until tender).

1.Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions, 2 tbs oil and a tablespoon of water.  Cover with a plate or lid (or tinfoil) and cook on medium heat until softened, translucent and no longer crunchy.
2.Add the garlic and ginger, cook for a minute, then pour in the tomatoes and cook on a low to medium heat for five minutes.
3.Stir in the salt and ground spices, followed by all the remaining ingredients, stir well and bring to a boil.
4.Cover, then leave to cook on a medium heat for 15 minutes. (If you have more time, cook it over over a lower heat for 30-40 minutes.).

Serve warm with:

SC Diet: squash wedges sprinkled with curry powder and roasted in the oven + 2 cups steamed greens per person – nice ones are broccoli, runner/green beans or cabbage/spring greens.
Medium carb: ½ cup cooked brown basmati rice (avoid for SC diet)  + 2 cups steamed greens per person – nice ones are broccoli, runner/green beans or cabbage/spring greens.
Low carb (SC diet-friendly): broccoli rice or cauliflower rice (available frozen in supermarkets).  Super simple how to cook instructions at https://www.annacollins.ie/cauliflower-rice/

Why this is good for you:
Beans are a good source of protein while spices are powerful anti-inflammatories.  Spices modify your gut bacteria in favour of the good, useful ones that control every  (and I mean every) aspect of your health.  Spices are more antioxidant gram for gram than any fruit or vegetable.  Small quantities pack a powerful punch.  Did you know that 1g turmeric twice a day is shown to reduce acid reflux (heartburn).  Herbs and spices now have thousands (or maybe tens of thousands) of scientific studies confirming their actions on the human body.  Whats not to like?  A more interesting range of flavours in your meals AND massive benefits to your present and future health – digestive, mental, immune and so much more…

No-bake chocolate coconut cookies

No-bake chocolate coconut cookies

I can’t remember the cookbook these come from but my thanks to the amazing Emily and Patrick at Madawaska who produced these gorgeous bites using gluten-free oats. They didn’t last long. If you have the time and like a nuttier flavour, you can toast the oatflakes first like they did.  I don’t bother. People really love these and they are super-easy. I did replace the bad-for-your-health margarine in the original recipe for a far healthier virgin coconut oil though.

Using non-dairy milks in these gives a much longer shelf-life in the fridge. The best plant milks have no toxic emulsifiers (carageenen, polysorbate-80, sodium carboxymethylcellulose) and no added sugar.

Makes 36 (enough to feed a small army!)

2½ rounded tbs cocoa powder
¾ cup maple syrup
¼ cup unsweetened non dairy milk (e.g. almond, coconut, hemp)
1/3 tsp vanilla extract (avoid vanilla “essence” unless you are OK eating gluten)
¼ cup virgin coconut oil
1½ cups fine gluten-free oatflakes (you can use normal porridge oatflakes if you eat gluten)
¼ cup no-added-sugar almond or hazelnut butter (if you are in peak health with no autoimmune conditions then no-added-sugar smooth peanut butter is OK to use)
1¾ cups dessicated coconut (divided into 1 cup and ¾ cup)

1. Mix the cocoa and syrup together in a saucepan, add the milk vanilla and coconut oil. Heat gently until liquified and stir to mix well, scraping the sides, being sure not to let it boil or burn. Cool mixture.
2.In a separate bowl combine oats, peanut butter together using your hands. Pour in tht cocoa mixture and add 1 cup coconut. Mix well with your hands.
3.Roll dough into 2.5cm balls. If the mix is too wet you can add more oatmeal or roll the balls into the remaining coconut. They will be somewhat sticky but will harden as they cool. Put on a try and store in the fridge.

Tip:
I wanted to make them stick really well together so added some more oatflakes I had whizzed to a flour in my mini food processor. Oat flour is stickier than oatflakes. I probably didn’t need to do this but liked the result.

Why these are better for you:
Although these contain carbohydrate (sugars) from oats and maple syrup they are healthy when you eat them in moderation. Raw cocoa is full of antioxidants. Virgin coconut oil is a great source of easy to digest medium chain triglycerides that can be burned by your body directly for energy instead of being stored as fat.
Oats contain soluble fibre that feeds beneficial bacteria. Maple syrup is essentially sugar, but it does contain some minerals – unlike refined sugar, which is just empty calories. The protein from peanut butter and the fat from coconut keeps you fuller for longer, reducing the tendency to binge you can get from eating low fat low protein high sugar products.
Cocoa is a spice with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers – hurray!!
Like gluten grains, peanuts are high in “lectins” – proteins that are hard to digest and can overstimulate your immune system if you have an autoimmune condition (e.g. hypothyroidism, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, arthritis),

Vegan “Parmesan”

Vegan “Parmesan”

If you’re dairy sensitive, one of the things you might miss is a sprinkle of Parmesan here and there. I LOVE this recipe for vegan Parmesan from Angela Elliot’s raw vegan cookbook “Alive in 5”. One of my favourite uses is on top of garlic braised asparagus. I soften 2-3 sliced cloves of garlic on a pan with a tbs extra virgin olive oil and same amount of water until softened. Then I add a bunch of asparagus, cover with a lid/plate, and gently cook for a few minutes until the asparagus has gone bright green. This means it’s done. Dish up and sprinkle with the “Parmesan”. Yum!!!

1 cup raw pine nuts (or half and half pine nuts and hemp hearts, which are more economical than pine nuts and give a creamy texture)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast powder/flakes
1/2 a level teaspoon of Himalayan salt
1 level tsp dried oregano.

Combine the nuts/hemp hearts, yeast, salt and oregano in a mini food processor or electric coffee grinder and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Keep this in an airtight glass jar in the fridge until you need it.

THE best Christmas cranberry sauce

THE best Christmas cranberry sauce

This is a FANTASTIC cranberry sauce and I normally don’t like cranberry sauce. The original is FULL of sugar, which you’ll know from my many social media posts and newsletters, lowers your immunity and makes you inflamed. So here I swap it for xylitol or erhtyritol. This will keep in the fridge for a week or the freezer for a month. If you want to make this more than a week in advance without freezing, sterilize your jars and lids by boiling for a few minutes. Lift out carefully and place on a (not cold!) surface. Pour the cranberry sauce in while hot and put on the lids.

1 cup (230ml) port
6 cups cranberries
1/2-1 1/2 cups erythritol (such as Dr Coys stevia erylite) or xylitol from health shops – add 1/2 cup initially and if you want more sweetness once the cranberries have popped, add more.
2 tablespoons finely chopped or finely grated orange zest (approx 2 medium oranges, organic if possible)
Splash of cointreau (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whole Spices Try 6 star anise, mace, 8 cloves, 1 blade of mace (or 1/2 teaspoon ground), 1 cinnamon stick
A pinch of ground nutmeg

If there is any one of the spices you don’t like leave out, but the mace and star anise are non negotiable

1.Large pot, add port and (if using) cointreau and bring to the boil.
2.Add cranberries and let cook, stir till they begin to pop, add 1/2 cup erythritol/xylitol, salt, preferred spices and orange zest.
3.Stir till erythritol/xylitol dissolves, cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. More cooking releases more pectin which helps set the sauce.
4.Give it a big stir and leave to cool then into jamjars and away you go.

Why this is better for you:
Cutting the sugar helps your body take a break from its inflammatory and immunity-upsetting effects. Sugar causes your lymphocytes (infection-fighting white blood cells) to become lethargic for several hours. that means your immune defences are down. Did you know that cranberries feed a friendly bacteria in your gut called akkermansia mucinophilia. This clever little creature trims and helps maintain the healthy mucus layer inside you, helping bowel health. And bowel health is essential for EVERYTHING – from getting into remission from autoimmune conditions, to getting improved digestive health, skin, immunity and even mental health. Spices are a powerhouse of antioxidant power – they help reduce inflamation AND lower disease-causing microorganisms inside your gut and systemically.

Sauteed liver with orange & sage

Sauteed liver with orange & sage

This is one of the ONLY ways I enjoy eating liver and it IS delicious provided you don’t let it overcook and go tough.  If you have someone in your house who struggles with acne this could be a game changer for them.  Liver is high in preformed vitamin A (retinol), which can have miraculous effects on reducing those micro-skin infections known as acne.  Read more about health benefits at the end of this post.  P.S. Don’t be tempted to use dried sage – it just won’t be nice.  Nigel Slater says dried sage belongs in the bin, and I agree.

For 2
300g lambs liver
20g rice flour/gluten-free oat flour
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt
1 heaped tbs (2 heaped dsp) chopped fresh sage
2 tbs chopped parsley to garnish
200g onions, sliced or roughly chopped
2 oranges, organic if possible
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

To serve:
4 cups of broccoli florets, peas, green beans or runner beans
Optional: some diced steamed Swede turnip of some (low carb) konjac/shiritake noodles (these are available in Asian shops and are also sold as “zero noodles” in some health store chains).  Alternatively use rice noodles or 100% buckwheat noodles.

  1. Mix 1 tbs chopped sage, the flour, a generous pinch of salt and about 1/4 level tsp black pepper together in a largish bowl.
  2. Cut liver into thin strips about 5cm long and toss in the flour
  3. Roughly chop the onions.
  4. Using a serrated knife, peel, halve and slice one orange.
  5. Zest the other orange and squeeze the juice.
  6. Heat the oil in frying pan, add onions and cook, stirring for 4-5 mins until softened. Remove the onions from pan and reserve.
  7. Add the liver to the pan.  Toss over a high heat for a further 3-4 mins until slightly browned and still very pink in the middle (it will keep cooking as you add in the rest of the ingredients).
  8. Reduce the heat, stir in the rind and juice of the remaining 1 orange and the onions and allow to heat thoroughly for 1 min.
  9. Serve immediately garnished with the prepared orange slices and chopped sage/parsley.

Why this is good for you: or your skin health and immune system.
Vitamin A (liver is the richest natural source) helps vitamin D work in your body to enhance your immunity to infections. Whether its flu, covid, the common cold or acne – they are all infections.  Liver, or other rich sources of vitamin A can be a game changer for you if you have acne.  A note of caution: don’t take supplements of retinol (animal source vitamin A) if you are likely to become pregnant or are already pregnant.  It’s perfectly safe for baby if you eat liver once a week though.

Did you know that people with hypothyroidism have altered vitamin A metabolism.  These folk may need to eat liver or a supplement of retinol (active vitamin A) to have skin that heals normally and isn’t dry and flaky.  Liver is a rich in choline, an essential nutrient that has largely fallen out of our eating patterns since we moved away from organ meats.  Choline deficiency causes non alcoholic fatty liver disease and muscle damage too.  Organic eggs contain a little choline and raw nuts/seeds contain some but organ meats like liver and kidneys are by far the richest source.  Liver is rich in iron too  and the vitamin A helps your body use the iron properly – how clever is that!!