Weaning Ourselves from Wheat

It’s kind of nice to divert your attention from stress-producing to smile-producing events, and our family has been doing a good job of this recently. From watching basketball finals (way to go, Dubs! You’re amazing, Steph! Be sure to try our Lamb Kheema in a Hurry Curry recipe!) to an amazing taco tour in Mexico City (let us know if you want to go on it and our daughter, Sara, will send you the info) to playing soccer in support of charitable causes (way to go, Travis!), the kids and grandkids have been having fun. Andy has been having fun too, studying – and talking a lot about – nutria and other “weird” species. Read all about that in today’s Andy’s Corner. It’s hysterical…definitely a contender for Best Blog of the Year! 🙂 My “fun” has been a little less exciting. I’ve been obsessing over wheat.

Playing soccer at the gorgeous Brooklyn Bridge Park – in support of PlaySoccer2Give and the Homeless World Cup Foundation

More about my kind of fun: it’s reading and researching about food – and then trying out recipes – at least when I’m not out in the garden having fun by using my pickaxe and lopper to dig up and cut back everything – often in the most brutal manner. Just getting my aggressions out so I can smile more 🙂 🙂 :). I’ve found that pounding on a piece of chicken for our chicken-fried-chicken (recipe to come) also releases pent-up frustration and brings a relaxed smile.

And now more about wheat. I’m always on the look-out for tasty and easy recipes, but I have to admit that when I see a recipe that begins “GLUTEN FREE,” I quickly pass on it. But a few recent news articles that caught my attention made me realize that gluten-free foods might be what’s up and coming! And not just for the gluten intolerant.

Wheat being harvested in Colorado. According to our Weld County farmer, this year the wind and drought caused him to lose his dry land wheat crop.

Though Kansas produces the most wheat in the U.S., Colorado (aka “the Homeland”) is among the top 10 wheat-producing states. On a global scale, China is the largest wheat-producer, with India a distant second. Even more relevant to today’s news, Russia and Ukraine provide 30% of the world’s wheat. Check out this WaPo article.

But it’s not only the supply issue. It’s also that wheat and corn and rice crops could be severely impacted by climate change. Even if you’re not worried about the supply issue and the resultant rapidly-rising costs, you might worry about how your health is impacted by a wheat-loaded diet. And you should.

We know that wheat (except for buckwheat) contains gluten. And, yes, some of us have gluten intolerance (here’s an enlightening article from Harvard about the “ifs, ands or buts” about gluten and gluten intolerance). It’s the gluten that’s needed for those moderate to highly-processed foods which the experts are screaming “BAD FOR YOU!!!!!” Are you ready to give up your morning croissant? Your BLT toasted white-bread sandwich for lunch? Your beef and bean burrito for dinner? What about that bourbon-filled flour-heavy 86-Proof Chocolate Cake? And – geeeeeez OMG NOOOOO! – maybe even your noodles and pasta?

Actually, I’m more concerned about the lack of fiber in the heavily-refined white flour. Returning once more to the Homeland and the HomeCity university, Colorado State University, researchers there note that dietary fiber has a number of health benefits — it prevents constipation, lowers blood cholesterol and might help you lose weight. Woohoo! I’m INTO fiber.

So I got to thinking about what sounds sweet and yummy that doesn’t have flour in it – and maybe even has some fiber benefits.

We’ve already posted some d-lish wheat-free desserts: Sweet Potato Pone, Halvah, Huguenot Torte, Almond Crackle Cookies, and Brown Butter Mochiko Muffins. If you want wheat-free AND high fiber, look for desserts like the pone with its sweet potatoes, and the halvah with its tahini, and the cookies with their almonds.

There’s a cute little deli in downtown Sonoma run by a creative Italian chef, Andrea Marino. It’s called Salumeria Ovello. We were lucky enough to taste – or should I say inhale – his Brutti ma Buoni cookies when a friend served them recently. If you don’t know Italian – that names means “ugly but good.” And, yes, they’re wheatless (or that obligatory description: gluten-free). The hazelnuts add fiber. Replicating them was not easy, but I finally found a simple recipe for these yummy-but-ugly cookies to share. And the real plus? They don’t even have butter, so you’ve saved the planet that way too. A little less greenhouse gas production!

Another sweet choice for a wheat-less, dairy-free, fiber-filled dessert is Chocolate Coconut Macaroons, and I’ve included a recipe for them too. You can up the ante with the chocolate by adding chocolate chips in addition to the cocoa powder, but I prefer the cookies sans chips.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, fiber-filled Brutti ma Buoni cookies
Gluten-free, dairy-free, fiber-filled Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Brutti ma Buoni - Ugly But Good Cookies

Adapted from Food & Wine

  • 1 1/2 c hazelnuts (8 oz)
  • 1 1/2 c confectioners sugar (aka powdered sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt (less if using any other kind)
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten (better yet – 2 small egg whites, lightly beaten; 1 just barely adds enough liquid)
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the hazelnuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 12 minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and the skins blister. Transfer the hazelnuts to a kitchen towel and let cool, then rub them together to remove their skins.

In a food processor, blend the hazelnuts with the confectioners sugar and salt until finely chopped (don’t over blend; you don’t want hazelnut flour!). Mix in the beaten egg white and vanilla.

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon tablespoon-size mounds of the hazelnut dough onto the prepared baking sheet 1 inch apart.

Bake the cookies in the center of the oven for about 13 minutes. They will be very lightly browned. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet before serving.

Cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container – or can be frozen.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

  • Servings: about 24 small cookies
  • Print

If chocolate is your thing, you can stir in 1/2 c of semisweet chocolate chips before baking, but we think the cookies are plenty chocolatey as is.

  • 2 1/4 c shredded, unsweetened coconut (take note: unsweetened!)
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted through a wire strainer
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Stir together the coconut, sugar, sifted cocoa power and salt; mix the vanilla into the egg whites and then stir that into the coconut mixture.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out and form round cookie balls (if your hands are ever-so-slightly damp, the dough won’t stick).  Place the balls about 1″ apart on the cookie sheets.  The cookies will not spread, so don’t worry about that.  

Bake for 20 minutes.  Don’t be concerned if the cookies seem a little soft when you take them out of the oven; they will set up as they cool.  After cooling on the pan for 5 minutes, transfer to a wire rack to completely cool.

The macaroons will keep in an air-tight container for several days and will freeze well.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.


  1. Janet says:

    Wheat isn’t too hard for me to leave alone (rarely eat bread and don’t mind the Banza chickpea pasta), but CORN! I don’t need the kernels but am not sure I could live without tortillas!


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