(No wheat, dairy, cane sugar or egg; little if any gluten)
Children can prepare these simple, quick and long lasting cookies. In taste these are similar to oat-based muesli bars and to commercial (and more expensive) Brazil Nut Oaties and Brazil Nut Buttons.
Oats were once thought to contain a type of protein called gluten. This is difficult for some people to break down efficiently, which leads to a wide range of physical, cognitive and mood problems (see also TIPS page for Your Gut). Especially affected are those with Coeliac Disease. Their immune systems produce gluten antibodies, which attack the gut and prevent it from absorbing critical nutrients such as Iron and Calcium (TIPS). See HEALTH STORE for my report: How to Thwart Invaders and Build Strong Immunity.
Oats’ reputation has had a polish. Now scientists state that the only gluten in oats is due to trace contamination from commonly being processed with other gluten-grains: wheat, rye and barley. Several studies published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition report that the health of most (but not all) Coeliacs benefited with daily intake of oats, even over 12 weeks exposure. One large Swedish study was of coeliac and non-coeliac participants who achieved increased levels of bilirubin. This is a significant blood test marker. Low levels indicate damage to the endothelial gut lining, as well as higher risks for cardiovascular disease.
However, each individual food may contain hundreds of constituents. If someone is intolerant to most members of a botanical or food family then there may be many factors – other proteins or starches, not just gluten – which are not tolerated. Clinically, the symptom and disease associations I see most frequently with poor tolerance to the gluten-containing grains are: constipation (especially if other factors such as low fibre and water are not involved); bowel cancer; serious depression; and kidney disease.
Gluten-sensitive people should discuss oats with their health practitioner before experimenting. Or to clarify your status, obtain a lab test from this office. In Europe and North America guaranteed gluten-free oats are available. New Zealand companies are about to follow. Some local health stores stock US oats with no contamination; look for Bob’s Red Mill brand.
Thanks to my nutrition student Rosanne for her initial work on this recipe.
½ cup finely chopped dates, prunes or figs
6 Tbsp honey*
6 Tbsp tahini*
1½ tsp cinnamon*
1 tsp natural vanilla extract*
½ tsp sea salt
1½ cups rolled oats*
1½ cups ground walnuts, almonds or brazils (or a mixture)
1½ cups coconut
In a heat-proof bowl, soak the dried fruit in boiling water for 15 minutes or more to completely soften. Drain.
Sir in honey, tahini, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Add any options as below. Mix thoroughly.
Stir in oats, nuts and coconut. Combine well. Firmly press 1 heaped tablespoon amounts into a round shape. Place on lightly oiled baking trays (the cookies won’t spread). Bake at 170°C (340°F) for 10-12 minutes until golden not browned, and barely firm. Cookies will firm upon cooling. Place on a wire rack until completely cool. Store in an airtight container.
Shopping and Preparation Tips* and Variations
• If your honey is hard, add it on its own to the dates when just drained and still warm; this will melt the honey.
• Tahini: (sesame seed paste; used to make hummus) is available in supermarkets. Its consistency should be like runny peanut butter. Sometimes there is a hard layer at the bottom of the jar. Stir to mix before measuring.
• Other or additional spices may be added such as ginger, cloves, nutmeg or mixed spice.
• If a small amount of cane sugar is fine then add ¼ cup: chopped candied ginger; or chopped craisins (dried cranberries; available in supermarkets); or chopped dark chocolate (some 70% cocoa types have no dairy eg Whittaker’s Dark Ghana). To avoid cane sugar use chopped raw chocolate (from health stores).
• Experiment by replacing oats with other mild tasting flaked grains.
• Vanilla: use real vanilla, often termed extract (as opposed to faux essence, often labelled ‘vanillin’) and one without artificial additives. Good brands available locally and overseas are: Heilala Vanilla and Equagold. These are in most supermarkets and health stores.