Food Allergy Awareness Milestones
This year as spring unfolds, I’m reminded that life is full of milestones – another graduation in the family, another wedding, another big birthday. Those of us with food allergies or sensitivities share other kinds of benchmarks: the day of our first major reaction, the day we were diagnosed, the first time we finally felt that we controlled our condition versus it controlling us.
In the 1990s when I was diagnosed with celiac disease and went gluten free, I lived on dry rice cakes and wheat-free corn bread. If I dined out, I ordered a plain hamburger patty or grilled fish and baked potato. The only way to get any product variety was to order by mail.
But the past ten years have seen major milestones in the allergy-free food arena. For those of us with a gluten intolerance, it’s been a virtual gluten revolution. Today, I can easily find gluten-free bagels, English muffins, pizza, granola bars, ravioli. Just about anything I want is available gluten free. My grocery store devotes an entire section to gluten-free and dairy-free foods. When I visit most restaurants, the waiters don’t even flinch when I mention my dietary restrictions.
One big change has been the mainstream introduction of a wide array of gluten-free flours that offer substantial nutritional benefits. New favorite alternative flours include millet, Montina, mesquite, teff, quinoa, amaranth, coconut, flax meal, bean, sorghum, brown rice, oat and chestnut. These flours make our old, tried-and-true standards (tapioca, rice, potato starch and cornstarch) look like a bunch of empty carbs in comparison.
Two of the current darlings of alternative flours—mesquite and Montina —pack the most fiber. Fiber offers real health benefits, especially for people with blood sugar issues and high cholesterol. Mesquite flour, made from the mesquite tree, contains a whopping 46.1 grams of fiber per cup. Montina, also known as Indian rice grass, isn’t far behind with 36 grams.
Here’s a snack bar I developed in celebration of this happy trend. It contains Montina, mesquite flour and gluten-free oats, another fiber-rich newcomer to the special diet scene.
So enjoy! There’s never been a healthier time to eat gluten free.
Milestone Snack Bars
MAKES 24 BARS
Here’s a wholesome bar that’s packed with fiber and nutrients. Enjoy it as a quick breakfast food or snack.
1⅓ cups gluten-free rolled oats or 1 cup quinoa flakes
½ cup millet flour or sorghum flour
½ cup Montina or sorghum flour
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons white or brown rice flour
½ cup tapioca starch or cornstarch
⅓ cup mesquite flour or teff flour
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1⅔ cups light brown sugar, not packed
⅔ cup canola oil or other vegetable oil
4 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
⅔ cup raisins, soaked in warm water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.
2. In large bowl, combine dry ingredients (first 12 listed).
3. In medium bowl, combine vegetable oil, eggs, maple syrup and vanilla.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix with a fork or wooden spoon until blended.
5. Drain raisins, reserving ¼ cup liquid. Fold raisins into batter. Add reserved liquid, a little at a time until batter is smooth. Batter will be thick.
6. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden.
7. Cool on wire rack. Cut into bars or squares. To store, wrap and freeze. LW