Easy Gluten-Free Desserts
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 2 million people suffer from celiac disease in the U.S. alone. This condition of the small intestines prevents proper absorption of nutrients from foods, and is triggered by eating or drinking things containing gluten.
Though there is no cure, removing gluten from the diet will bring about recovery and healing in most people. So becoming knowledgeable about which foods and beverages to avoid is critical. And nowhere is this more true than in the area of desserts, where wheat and other flours have traditionally played a big part.
But it's not all about deprivation or what you can't have. There are lots of delicious substitutions you can make in your diet that will satisfy your stomach and sweet tooth!
Step One: Avoid Foods With Gluten
Here's a list of dessert-type foods that will lead to more damage from celiac disease:
- Durum Flour
- Graham Flour
This list is foods to avoid unless they are labeled "Gluten-Free" (more on that later):
- Packaged cookies
- Packaged cereals & oats
- Cakes & pies
- Food additives such as malt flavoring and modified food starch)
For a more complete list of "trigger" foods go to the Mayo Clinic website.
Step Two: Find "Good" Gluten-Free Foods
Now comes the fun part - seeing the yummy options that you have to choose from for dessert. Buying some ready-made items is certainly convenient.
Many grocery stores make it easy for you by labeling pre-packaged foods as gluten free (20 or less parts per million of product). And companies themselves are announcing if specific products contain gluten - you just may need to check ingredient lists to find it.
If cookies are your favorite treat, companies like Pamela's, Dr. Schar or Enjoy Life make them in a variety of favorite kinds. From Breyer's to Ben & Jerry's to Haagen- Dazs, you'll find gluten-free ice cream flavors to please any taste. Or try some gelato instead.
When you feel like making a cake, Hodgson Mill, Jules, and even Betty Crocker can provide a mix, and you can use many pre-made frostings knowing they are safe. The organic food aisle will probably reveal muffin and cookie mix choices as well.
Step Three: Stock Your Kitchen With Gluten-Free Ingredients
It's always good to have some fresh ingredients on hand. You can use them to enhance something store-bought, or to mix and match and make your own creation.
Start with some basics (some or all of the following):
- Nuts or seeds, unprocessed (check the label to make sure they are raw)
- Fruits (fresh, frozen or canned) - peaches, apples, berries, etc
- Dried fruits - raisins, apricots, cranberries, etc
- Organic corn tortilla strips - Fresh Gourmet or Green Mountain brands for example
- Greek yogurt
- Organic Peanut Butter
- Chocolate sauce - including Hershey's or Walden Farms brands
- Cereals - Chex (except the Wheat or Multigrain variety), Cocoa or Fruity Pebbles
- Candy - Hershey bars (plain), M&Ms, Dots, Gummi Bears
Also buy some gluten-free flour, such as King Arthur, and baking powder, like Rumford for any baking you do.
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Recipe: Gluten-Free Graham Crackers
When I thought about desserts, graham crackers came to mind right away. They are such a favorite treat and so versatile. But graham flour is a "don't". So I wondered if I could find a way to make them that used substitutions but yielded a similar result.
After a search, I came across a gluten-free graham cracker recipe that worked well. I couldn't find xanthan gum, which is used as a thickener. So my crackers ended up a little more like shortbread because of that. And I decided not to add cinnamon to the first batch - I wanted to taste them in their 'original' form.
I was delighted. Then I did a taste test: a cracker from the latest store-bought box vs one just made. They were amazingly alike, both in taste and texture. But homemade won the contest - fresher and without not only the graham flour, but the preservatives.
Great "Graham" Ideas
If you make a batch of graham crackers, you'll have enough to enjoy them in lots of combinations. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.
The traditional summer treat can now be gluten free! Slip a square of Hershey bar (plain milk chocolate is the best) onto a cracker, then add a roasted marshmallow (for example, Jet Puff brand). If rain hits, melt them in your microwave for about 15 seconds. Then, top with another cracker.
One of my father-in-law's favorite desserts starts with a graham cracker in the bottom of a bowl. On top of that goes a scoop of vanilla ice cream, some canned peaches, and about 2 tbsp of reserved juice from the can. For an extra kick, pour a little rum over the top too!
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