Kale is the preeminent hottie celeb in veggie land; a leafy, tall, barefaced beauty, loaded with chlorophyll (no botox needed here) and ready to kick some free radical ass. Poor broccoli has all but been forgotten, even though this cruciferous superfood is a cancer fighting cross fitter with stalks of muscle and a thick head of green bushy hair to boot. In fact, a friend of mine recently read an article about how broccoli producers are trying to formulate new marketing strategies to bring broccoli’s sexy back. Food trends are crazy, and now that I’m the the ripe old age of 30, I can reflect with a haughty chuckle, the numerous foods that have enjoyed their 10 seconds of fame, and have since faded to obscurity i.e agave nectar, acai berries, veggie dogs, and anything made by Kashi.
One trend, however, that’s here to stay, involves those foods lucky enough to bear a shiny label that reads “Gluten Free”. Like its good friend (and liar) “All Natural”, gluten free foods are the newest paved road to immortality and visions of unicorns (unless, like me, you already live with one). I nearly wept when my blood test results came back declaring an allergy to wheat, thus ostracizing me with scarlet “GF” letters, and throwing me into a breadless basket of wheat haters. I love bread. No, I don’t think you understand–like, really, LOVE bread. If I don’t start my day with a sprouted whole wheat onion & poppyseed bagel toasted with herbed cashew cream cheese, I feel as though my soul is being slowly sucked away by a dementor (if you don’t know what a dementor is, then we’ll never be friends, however, for the sake of sharing important information, a dementor is a creature from the Harry Potter series that sucks all the happiness from your body until you die).
I can’t do the green smoothie thing, or the granola thing, or the quinoa oatmeal thing, or the miso soup thing. Breakfast is about comfort, and in my opinion, the definition of comfort is a warm, toasted bagel that makes you want to spend the day in sweatpants on the couch with as many animals as you can fit.
The point is, I have a wheat allergy. The problem is, I love bread. The solution was obvious, but it took me awhile before I could embrace my new cooking journey i.e. purchase weirdo flours like sorghum, and weep while tossing out bags of sprouted whole wheat.
Herbed Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuits
1 cup arrowroot starch
1/3 cup coconut flour
2/3 cup sorghum flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
Handful of freshly chopped parsley or herbs of choosing
2 flax “eggs” (2 T ground flax seed + 6 T lukewarm water)
2/3 cup unsweetened soymilk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 425. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, including herbs, and stir to combine. Mix the soymilk and vinegar in a separate bowl and allow to curdle for a few minutes to create your buttermilk. Meanwhile, whisk together flax “eggs” until gelatinous. Cut coconut oil into dry mixture using a fork, adding in teaspoon sized chunks until the 1/4 cup is fully used up and mixture is crumbly. Add “buttermilk” and flax “eggs” to mixture, and stir until ingredients are combined. Do not knead. Using your hands, spread dough out on to a clean surface until roughly 1 inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter to make 12 circular biscuits. Bake for 15 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Makes 12 biscuits, or enough to feed a small herd of wheat hating unicorns.
So I recently found out that I have a wheat allergy. My initial reaction was calm and something along the lines of: %#*&$@#?!, immediately followed by an intense craving for bagels and beer. Look, I’ve been vegan for over ten years, and have found it to be the easiest, best decision of my life (besides marrying my husband and adopting the most amazing creature in the world, Toast). But giving up wheat? Not easy. I love carbs, and have always defended them when naysayers put them down as being fattening and bad for you. Granted, I am talking about sprouted whole grains here, but still, wheat has always been a big part of my life. And I was happy with that.
To rewind a bit, I went to a new naturopath and he ordered a lot of bloodwork. Translation: 12 tubes of blood drained from my body…even the evil nurse who pricked me with the giant needle was taken aback by the order, and said “oh my god this is so much blood!” I looked away and tried to keep my rubber-tubed left arm straight while staring hard at some sickeningly sweet print of a bunch of roses. God I hate hospital art. It’s like they think they can brainwash you into thinking that you’re actually having a good time, surrounded by soft, pretty things like flowers and puppies. I’d rather see a print of a medieval hospital dismembering patients without anesthesia…at least then I could feel lucky about my situation.
Interestingly, I do not have Celiac Disease, just a plain old wheat allergy. What does that mean? It means I can eat rye, oats, and other things that gluten free people can’t. So there. I thought this would make me feel better, but it totally doesn’t. However, on the bright side, I will now be dedicating myself to creating the greatest and healthiest wheat free bread in the world. That post will come soon, I hope. In the meantime, my unicorn friends will be scarfing down sprouted whole grain bagels while I cry myself to sleep.
Now that you’ve found out that you can’t eat wheat, why not gorge on some high protein, springtime dishes? This lentil salad is bursting with flavor, and features a beautiful spring vegetable that makes your pee smell like roses. Poor asparagus gets a bad rap, but this smelly veggie is bursting with folic acid, antioxidants, fiber, and B vitamins!
1 cup french or black lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 bunch fresh asparagus, woody ends snapped off
1 cup chopped red radishes
1/4 cup diced red onion
Sea salt & pepper to taste
For the dressing:
Handful of fresh mint
Handful of fresh parsley
2 T red wine vinegar
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp sweetener such as coconut nectar or raw agave
1/2 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls of arugula or spinach
Bring lentils and 3 cups or so of water to a boil, then simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes, or until al dente. Do not overcook the lentils or your salad will be mushy! For the salad, blanch asparagus in a saute pan filled with salted, gently boiling water for 1 minute. Shock in an ice bath to keep crisp, or just run under very cold water. Set aside. Toss dressing ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture comes together, but still has texture. To serve, dress lentils, radish and red onion with vinaigrette and lay asparagus shoots over top. Makes enough for 2-4 unicorns with spring fever.
Lately I’ve noticed when I tell people I’m vegan, they ask me if I can eat wheat (they also tend to ask me other, equally amusing questions…translation: I know you’re vegan but do you eat fish, are you from Brooklyn, is your dog vegan, are you buddhist, do you just eat salads all the time, do you eat bread, are you one of those people that forages for their own mushrooms, do you ride a bicycle, do you eat raw, do all vegans have unicorn friends.) <– last question’s reply is a resounding no, I am unique in that regard.
Brief side note for the confused: A fish is any member of a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals that lack limbs with digits. Fish are abundant in most bodies of water. They can be found in nearly all aquatic environments, from high mountain streams (e.g., char and gudgeon) to the abyssal and evenhadal depths of the deepest oceans (e.g., gulpers and anglerfish).
Sorry, but fish are sentient beings too. And no, I do not eat them. Now back to wheat…
In the last year, I haven’t been able to get through a conversation without the word “gluten-free” sneaking its way in. Everyone from vegans to electricians to soccer moms have read or heard about Celiac Disease, and the resulting demonization of those innocent looking waves of grain. So what’s the deal? Is all wheat bad?
In a kernel (pun intended), it’s more complicated than “good” versus “bad”. Wheat is a grain made up of three parts: the starchy insides (endosperm), the nutrient-rich embryo (germ), and the hard fiber-rich outer shell (bran). Together they make up the wheat kernel. When you consume foods made with white flour, you’re eating the endosperm, which is a highly processed starch that spikes your blood sugar, causes weight gain, inflammation, and tempers your hunger for a hot minute. Processed wheat should be avoided entirely, period. This is not a new concept, and most people already know that whole grains are nutritionally superior to processed flours. But are whole grains much better for you? It depends. If you are part of the 1% of Americans who have an autoimmune response to the protein found in wheat called gluten, then avoidance of all wheat containing foods is essential. But for the rest of us, some studies are suggesting that wheat consumption is damaging to everyone’s health. Wheat is inflammatory, causes weight gain, spikes blood sugar levels, and may become addictive due to the opiate effects of the protein Gliadin on brain receptors. Some medical professionals, like Dr. William Davis, author of the bestseller Wheat Belly, believes that wheat is the culprit behind a myriad of illnesses including autoimmune diseases, diabetes, migraine headaches, and more, and should be universally avoided.
Solution? Eliminate wheat from your diet for 3 weeks and see how you feel. There is also a blood test for Celiac Disease, but even if that comes back negative, you may still have a sensitivity to wheat. Now before you go buy every packaged good that says “gluten-free” on it, remember that gluten free products are usually made with highly processed starches like potato, tapioca and cornstarch. Yeah, they don’t have gluten in them, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you! It’s the same thing as going vegetarian and gorging on veggie dogs! Instead, stick to a diet that’s rich in vegetables, beans, quinoa, millet, and other plant-based proteins. While you’re at it, make your diet completely anti-inflammatory and cut out that sweet devilish pair: dairy and sugar. See my post on why sugar is evil here.
So to answer the original question, yes, I do eat wheat, but I’m very picky. I only eat sprouted whole grain breads because the sprouting process breaks down the phytic acid (which blocks absorption of certain nutrients), and increases the digestibility of the grain. If you have a slight sensitivity to wheat you may find, as I have, that sprouted whole grains are much easier to digest and don’t leave you feeling like a giant fog monster blew over your face.
Now that you’ve decided to cut out wheat, why not treat yourself to an indulgent spring brunch of crepes? Yup, that’s right, you can still eat crepes without ingesting a single kernel of wheat, dairy or sugar. Hooray for the happy coupling of health and deliciousness!
For the crepes:
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt + fresh black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups chickpea (garbanzo) flour
1 T dried italian seasoning or 2 T chopped fresh herbs
For the filling:
1 block extra firm, preferably locally made, tofu, crumbled by hand
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cups diced button or cremini mushrooms
1/2 bunch of collard greens, kale or leafy green of choice, stems removed and shredded into small pieces
1/2 red pepper, diced
Small handful of cilantro, chopped
Dash of the following: garlic powder, turmeric, paprika & cumin
1-2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T tamari
Small handful of nutritional yeast
Fresh pepper to taste
In a mixing bowl, combine crepe ingredients and whisk until emulsified. The mixture should be slightly thinner in consistency than pancake batter. Set aside. In a large cast iron pan or saute pan, heat oil over a medium flame. Add onions and tofu and allow to cook, untouched, for 4 minutes. Flip and add collards, peppers, and mushrooms. Add a few shakes of turmeric, paprika, cumin and garlic powder. Deglaze with apple cider vinegar and tamari. Stir and incorporate scramble, then top with cilantro and nutritional yeast. In a crepe pan, heat a little refined coconut oil over a medium flame. Ladle about 1/2 cup of batter into the center of the pan and tilt to spread into a thin circle. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes or so, then flip and brown on the other side. Set aside on a plate and cover while you finish with the rest of the batter, adding coconut oil as needed. To serve, cover half of each crepe with filling and fold it closed. Top with hot sauce if desired. Makes enough for 4 unicorns with wheat bellies.