October 14 is National Dessert Day. This unique holiday celebrates indulging in the sweets. For many people, dessert is the best part of the meal. Over the years, sweet after dinner treats transformed from simple candied fruits and nuts to more elaborate concoctions. Today anything from store bought cookies to made from scratch pastries to a fancy mousse tower qualifies as dessert.
To participate in this special day, celebrants are encouraged to enjoy a sweet treat.
I decided to seize the opportunity to make a vegan, gluten free treat that didn’t require a lot of prep time.
I found this delightfully simple dessert on Pinterest. Check out the original recipe HERE. With a couple of slight alterations, I made these easy no bake peanut butter chocolate bars in minutes.
Check out my contribution to National Dessert Day!
Easy No Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
This quick and easy recipe is perfect for an occasional snack. Using just six ingredients, these bars are vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free and dairy free. And the ingredients are common, in my kitchen. I typically have them on hand.
The peanut butter base combines pure maple syrup, gluten free flour, vanilla and creamy peanut butter. I use a sugar free peanut butter, Crazy Richard’s 100% Peanuts. It’s found in the jelly section at Wal-Mart and health conscious grocery stores.
Any gluten free flour will work. I normally use gluten free oat flour. However, I happened to have on hand a one-for-one gluten free flour so I used that. This brand is Cup4Cup Multipurpose Flour gluten free. A cup of this four replaces a cup of regular flour.
And pure maple syrup makes an excellent substitute for sugar. Tonight I used the Natural Grocer’s house brand.
The topping is unsweetened cocoa powder, coconut oil and pure maple syrup.
1 1/2cupscreamy peanut butterI used no sugar added
1cupgluten free flour such as oat
1/2cuppure maple syrup
1/3cuppure maple syrup
1/4cupcoconut oil, melted
Line a square pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl combine peanut butter, gluten free flour, pure maple syrup and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Press into prepared pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, pure maple syrup and melted coconut oil. Pour topping over peanut butter base, smoothing with a knife.
Chill in freezer for 15 minutes to set. Score and cut with a knife. Store left overs in a covered container in the refrigerator. Makes 12 - 16 bars.
Keyword Bars, Chocolate, Gluten Free, No Bake, Peanut Butter, Vegan
The Taste Test
These bars took 10 minutes to prep. I popped them into the freezer and then prepared dinner. So easy!
After dinner, while a cup of peppermint tea steeped, I cut bars to sample. This simple recipe yields a delicious dessert, perfect with my cup of hot tea.
The bars have the consistency of fudge and they are just as rich. One bar satisfies completely. I enjoyed celebrating National Dessert Day with a wonderful treat that does not include guilt or unwanted foods.
I don’t indulge in dessert often. When I do, this is exactly what I want, a simple treat without sugar, dairy, gluten and eggs.
I won’t wait until next October and National Dessert Day, to make these easy no bake peanut butter chocolate bars again!
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These vegan snickerdoodle cookies are full of flavor and healthy ingredients. And they make an excellent snack or simple dessert. I so appreciate Anthony William, who creates and offers a steady stream of delicious, easy to follow recipes. The cookies came together quickly, just in time for afternoon tea.
Vegan Snickerdoodle Cookies
This recipe is dairy, refined sugar, gluten and egg free. Walnuts can be left out, for a nut free bread.
Vegan Snickerdoodle Cookies
This easy to prepare cookie recipe is full of flavor and healthy ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine sugar and cinnamon for coating and set aside.
Combine almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Add lemon juice, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla and stir well, to form a dough. If mixture is too wet, add more flour.
Form dough into walnut sized balls and roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture. Place on parchment paper. Flatten balls of dough with palm of hand or bottom of a glass.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until slightly brown on bottom.
Arrowroot starch may be substituted for coconut flour. Gluten free oat flour may be substituted for almond flour.
Keyword Vegan Snickerdoodle Cookies
Savoring a couple of warm snickerdoodle cookies, with a steaming cup of hot herbal tea, the treat reminded me of shortbread cookies. Crisp with a softer center, and not too sweet, this cookie provides the perfect excuse to take a break and enjoy the moment.
I like that the recipe makes a small batch of cookies. It can easily be doubled. However, twelve cookies seems just right. I’m not tempted to overdo. Instead, two cookies with tea satisfies my desire for a snack.
Serve these vegan snickerdoodle cookies for an afternoon break, pack into a lunchbox or finish an evening meal with a hint of sweetness. They are perfect.
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Avoiding gluten doesn’t mean I don’t ever bake or cook with flour. It means I use gluten free flours, and fortunately, there is a wide variety to choose from. They don’t all have the same properties, and most are not interchangeable with wheat flour, one on one. Knowing what flours to use, for which purposes, and how much to use, prevents baking flops and catastrophes. And trust me, I’ve had a few of those.
One thing I learned early in my plant based journey is that it’s best to use a combination of gluten free flours, for the best end results.
Below are great gluten free options, and the best ways to use them.
Gluten Free Flours
The flours can be divided into three categories: starches, medium density flours and heavy density flours. It’s best to use a combination of the three, and to experiment occasionally to see which blend suits your baking needs the best.
Arrowroot flour is a very fine flour that is derived from the arrowroot plant. It is also called arrowroot starch or arrowroot powder. The flour resembles corn or potato starch.
Best used as a thickener, in place of corn starch, it can be substituted 1:1 for other starches. Arrowroot flour is helpful when combined with other gluten free flours as it helps the dough and finished product to hold together.
Use up to 25% of arrowroot flour in a mix of gluten free flours.
Different from potato flour, this starch adds wonderful moisture to baked goods.
Best used for all types of baked goods.
Use up to 25% of potato starch in a mix of gluten free flours.
Also known as cassava flour, this product is made from the dried roots of the cassava plant. It is also known as tapioca starch, and should be used in combination with other gluten free flours.
Best used for mixing in gluten free flour blends and thickening soups, sauces and fillings.
Tapioca flour can be substituted for corn or potato starch. Use no more than 25% when combining with other gluten free flours.
Medium Density Gluten Free Flours
This flour is closest in texture and taste to traditional wheat flour. It is high in antioxidants and in many instances, can be used as a 1:1 substitution for regular flour.
Best used for muffins, breads, pancakes, cookies and cakes.
Swap sorghum flour 1:1 for wheat flour or use up to 50% in gluten free mix.
This grain has a nutty flavor. However, as a flour it can be slightly bitter. Use sparingly in a mixture of other gluten free flours, to add protein.
Best used for biscuits, flatbreads, herbed breads or muffins.
Only use 25%, or less, in a mix of gluten free flours.
This flour is made by grinding oats. You can grind your own gluten free oats, in a blender or food processor. Otherwise, make sure the package states that this is a gluten free product. Oats are naturally gluten free, however, they are often cultivated and processed with wheat products, leading to cross contamination.
Best used for breads, muffins, cookies, cakes, crusts, fruit crisps and scones.
Use up to 50% of oat flour in a gluten free mix.
This mild adaptable grain is rich in magnesium and also completely gluten free. Millet flour adds a crumbly texture to breads and muffins.
Best for breads, muffins, cookies, cakes and crusts.
Use up to 25% of millet flour in a gluten free mix.
Beans can be ground into flour, just as grains can. All are naturally rich in protein and fiber. Available varieties include chickpea, or garbanzo, black bean, white bean, lentil and fava. Bean flours have a robust flavor and can leave an aftertaste, so experiment with these. I use garbanzo flour most often, of the bean flours.
Use bean flours in sweet treats such as pancakes, muffins or zucchini bread.
Up to 25% of a gluten free mix can be comprised of bean flours.
Heavy Density Gluten Free Flours
This product is made from raw, blanched almonds that have been ground to a fine flour. Almond flour, and other nut based flours such as hazelnut, walnut or seed flours, add a punch of protein and a slightly nutty taste to baked goods.
Almond flour is best used for cookies, cakes, muffins, pancakes and crumbles.
Use up to 25% almond flour in a mix of gluten free flours.
This flour, made from ground buckwheat, is 100% gluten free, and has a rich nutty flavor.
Best used for muffins, cookies, pancakes, waffles and breads.
Use up to 50% of this flour, in a gluten free mix.
This very dense flour is created from dried coconut. It is the most fibrous of all gluten free flours, which means it soaks up liquids. Plan to use at least 1/4 cup of extra liquid in recipes, when using coconut flour, or use a different flour. My mother had several failed recipes, before figuring out that coconut flour absorbed too much of the liquids, resulting in a dry and crumbly baked good.
Coconut flour is best used for pancakes, cookies, waffles and crusts.
You can use 1/4 cup of coconut flour, in place of 1 cup of other gluten free flours. You’ll still need to add at least ¼ cup of extra liquids.
Brown Rice Flour
This flour is made from rice that still contains the germ and bran from the rice grain. It is an excellent gluten free flour, suitable for a multitude of uses. White rice flour is available as well. It qualifies as a medium density flour.
Best used for all gluten free baking and cooking, thickener for soups, sauces and fillings.
Use up to 50% in gluten free mixes.
Creating a Gluten Free Flour Blend
When creating a blend of gluten free flours, to bake with, use a mix of starches, medium textured flour and heavy textured flours, for great texture and flavor.
I typically use a blend of oat flour, almond or brown rice flour, and arrowroot or tapioca starch. In a recipe that calls for 2 1/2 cups of flour, I use 1 cup of oat flour, 1 cup of almond or brown rice flour, and 1/2 cup of arrowroot or tapioca starch. Some gluten free bakers use a 2:1 mix of flours to starches. For every cup of flour, they mix in 1/2 cup of starch.
Create this blend of gluten free flours, to have on hand, ready for use:
3 cups sorghum flour
3 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups potato starch
1 1/2 cups arrowroot powder
Combine all ingredients well and store in the fridge. Makes 9 cups.
Or try out Bob’s Red Mill packaged flours. They have a 1:1 gluten free flour blend that can be used in place of wheat flour, without having to mix your own. I’ve used Bob’s several times, with excellent results. This company also packages many of the above mentioned flours individually.
Most grocery stores carry gluten free flours. Natural Grocers carries a large assortment of bulk packaged flours under their own brand, plus the Bob’s Red Mill brand.
Creating Healthy Treats
I don’t bake nearly as often as I used to. After eliminating dairy products, eggs, sugar and gluten from my diet, I at first thought baked goods were a thing of the past. Occasionally, however, I prepare a special treat, such as the wild blueberry scones, or wonderful chocolate wacky cupcakes, all prepared without dairy, eggs, refined sugar…I use organic coconut sugar or 100% pure maple syrup…and with gluten free flours.
These goodies are special treats, indeed.
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Gluten intolerance? I never gave those words a thought.
In fact, I used to say, a bit smugly too, that I could live on soup, bread and Diet Pepsi. Those three favorites were the foundation of my poor diet. And for years, I attempted to live by that motto. I gave up the Diet Pepsi first, more than a dozen years ago, and experienced an immediate improvement in my health. Soup can stay, minus dairy products and unhealthy toppings. Bread, though? I love it and thought I could not live without bread. I craved it, from gooey cinnamon rolls to thick slices of sandwich bread to pizza crust to those big soft pretzels.
What I did not realize, until I switched to a plant based lifestyle, was that bread did not love me. In particular, gluten did not do my body any good. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, eating a typical American diet that relied on white bread as a staple. Never once did I consider that my digestive problems and skin rashes might be caused by a substance found in wheat products.
Maybe you haven’t considered that possibility either. Here are eight common symptoms of gluten intolerance.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, rye and spelt, which is a form of wheat. Oats can be contaminated by gluten grains, so if eating them, look for the words “gluten free” on the package. Some people do not have an allergic reaction to gluten. Those that do experience inflammation, especially in the digestive system. Gluten compromises the immune system and can trigger diseases such as Celiac Disease, Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, colitis and a host of other disorders throughout the body.
8 Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
Digestive distress tops the list of gluten intolerance symptoms. Disorders include upset stomach, bloating after a gluten heavy meal, abdominal pain and discomfort, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, gastric ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and Crohn’s disease. Celiac disease, considered an autoimmune disease, is a severe form of gluten intolerance. It can adversely affect the digestive tract, damaging it. Bloating, which is a feeling of fullness after eating a meal, is one of the most common symptoms of a sensitivity to gluten.
Headaches, and especially frequent migraines, are another indicator of gluten intolerance. Those who are sensitive to gluten may be more prone to headaches than others.
Irritability, depression and anxiety can be very debilitating and can be accompanied by feelings of sadness, despair or hopelessness. Surprisingly, those with a gluten intolerance are more susceptible to depression compared to those without the sensitivity. One possibility is that gluten creates changes in the gut microbiota, increasing bad bacteria and decreasing good bacteria. This change may affect the central nervous system, increasing the risk of depression.
Muscle cramps and bone and joint pain can be a result of inflammation, caused by gluten. This pain can be widespread throughout the body and accompanied by tiredness and extreme fatigue.
Tingling or numbness in arms and legs is common in those with diabetes or B12 deficiency. It can also affect those with a sensitivity, perhaps because of a reaction to certain antibodies in gluten.
Brain fog refers to a feeling of not being able to think clearly. It has been described as forgetfulness or mental fatigue or feeling foggy headed. Such a condition is a common symptom of gluten intolerance.
Skin rashes and disorders are another common ailment among those who are sensitive to gluten. These tiny blisters or bumps are often found on the upper arms, elbows, knees and torso. A gluten free diet can clear rashes up and also help other skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
Canker sores in the mouth or digestive tract are another symptom of gluten intolerance. Chronic mouth sores are almost always an indication of sensitivity and a condition that can be greatly improved or eliminated completely on a gluten free diet.
Healing a Gluten Intolerance
The first step toward healing sounds simple but can be difficult for people who love their bread, like I did. Stop eating grain products that include gluten. This involves more than passing on the bread. Gluten can be found in pastas, desserts such as pie, cookies, cake and doughnuts, cereals, pancakes, waffles, bagels, gravies, sauces, soups and the bread coating on veggies. Anything made from wheat, barley, rye, spelt and sometimes oats has gluten lurking in it.
Surprisingly, gluten can be found in foods that are not easily identified as a grain product. It becomes very important to read labels. I checked out the label above, for veggie burgers. They appeared to be a healthy choice. However, listed in the ingredients are wheat and gluten…and several other things that I do not eat. Eliminating gluten from the diet involves awareness and determination.
The rewards are great though. I had most of the symptoms listed above and have had them my whole life. They ranged from minor to troublesome and I never connected them to the same source…gluten. In my quest to eliminate inflammation in my body, I decided to stop eating gluten products and see if it made a difference. The change in my health was amazing. The rash I’d had on my upper arms since childhood disappeared. My gut healed, indigestion stopped, pain and swelling in my joints went away. I stopped getting mouth sores and headaches, and my irritable bowel syndrome cleared up.
I’d suggest keeping a food diary and then begin eliminating gluten laden products from your diet, a few items at a time. Read labels. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Look for “gluten free” substitutions. I enjoy pasta still. It’s just made from brown rice instead of wheat. There are many gluten free products available in grocery stores. Typically these items are grouped together in their own section. I bake using almond or oat flour that is gluten free. Check the labels of gluten free products too, however. Those crackers or that cereal that is gluten free may contain sugar or other surprise ingredients.
Gluten free bread is available, often in the frozen food section. You know what though? Since changing my diet I don’t crave bread anymore. I rarely eat a gluten free roll or slice of bread. And I don’t miss it. I can live on healthy soups, fruits, veggies and water…and really live, while experiencing optimal health and well being.
Find gluten free recipes on Pinterest, or check out this plant based gluten free cookbook!
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I’m always on the lookout for healthy treats. It’s not easy because I have tough criteria. The snack can’t contain gluten, refined sugar, eggs or dairy products. Thankfully, such recipes do exist. For Try This Tuesday, I tried out a quick and recipe for 3 ingredient chocolate cookies.
This recipe comes from Listotic. Check out her website HERE
3 Ingredient Chocolate Cookies
2 large very ripe bananas
1 cup quick rolled oats, gluten free
2 tablespoons unsweetened cacao powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash bananas in a bowl. Add oats and cacao powder and stir until cookie dough like consistency is reached. Depending on size of the bananas, you may need less oats. Start with 3/4 of a cup and add more to make a dough that holds its shape. Optional: add in a handful of unsweetened coconut flakes, dark chocolate chips sweetened with stevia, dried fruit or nuts.
Drop by spoonfuls on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Use fingers or a fork to mash down dough, forming a cookie shape. Bake 10 – 12 minutes. Enjoy warm from the oven. Makes 12 – 15 cookies.
These were so easy to make and turned out well! The cookies hold their shape during baking and have a wonderful texture and chocolate flavor without being too sweet. I like how versatile the recipe is. I added a handful of unsweetened coconut flakes to this batch. I’ll try adding nuts or dark chocolate chips sweetened with stevia next time.
I sampled two warm, fresh from the oven cookies with my afternoon tea. This is what I love, hot tea made from herbs plucked from my garden, and light, wholesome snacks that contribute to health, rather than complicate it. I’ll be experimenting with different versions of this basic recipe!