Strawberry Rhubarb Scones {gluten + dairy-free} and Celiac Awareness Month

I was listening to an interview a few days ago with a nutritionist who was immediately asked, “So you’re a nutritionist. What diet are you on?”

Before she responded, I visibly cringed because let’s face it, most of us who work within the nutrition world follow a style of eating that is a type of diet. The reason for this varies but is usually because many of us that spend our days helping others with food and health came to it because we struggled ourselves.

And that’s true of myself as well.

The individual on the podcast quickly and proudly clarified that she has no food restrictions and isn’t on a diet. Had I been a nutritionist more than a decade ago when I first began to realize I was being called and pulled in this direction, I would have said the same. At that point, is was very helpful for me to eat the full spectrum of foods and to not have any restrictions, as is true for many individuals.

But then a lot more health challenges came along and here I am, a veteran of a gluten-free (and dairy-free, mostly vegetarian) diet. My journey was and continues to be one of a food as medicine approach. But I’m certainly not the type of person that believes everyone needs to prescribe to my way of eating. We’re all so different with life circumstances, genetics, preferences, and yes, food choices or dietary restrictions as a way to remain in balance with our health.

Celiac Disease Awareness

May happens to be Celiac Awareness Month, and as an individual that has had to eat strictly gluten-free for the last eight years, the better part of those years has been in educating others about what it means to live with a food restriction that when contaminated with even a little gluten, leaves longer-term symptoms than ‘just’ having a stomachache for a day or so.

What that means is also different for each person. 80 percent of individuals with celiac disease have difficulty remaining gluten-free, 70 percent are still exposed to gluten while on a strict gluten-free diet, half of all children with celiac are anxious about eating, many individuals have symptoms of depression, and nearly all have sacrificed major life experiences such as not being able to travel widely, enjoy a meal out with friends, enjoy the full experience of a wedding or birthday celebration and the like.

For me, it means I rarely eat out because I react to most restaurant meals unless it’s made in a strict gluten-free kitchen. Pizza, bakeries, gastropubs, and the like that serve a traditionally floury mix of foods and/or have one grill, fryer, or oven are generally the worst — ethnic cuisines that tend to be gluten-free by their nature are less risky. This is similar when eating in the homes of friends or family. (Wheat) flour in the kitchen tends to mean it floats and ends up in foods and surfaces you wouldn’t think about unless you have to.

On the flip side, there are many options to live fairly comfortably with a gluten-free lifestyle these days. More restaurants are beginning to understand the major issue of cross-contamination. Usually these restaurants have a family history and they’re the ones to trust because they take it seriously.

And gluten-free flours and baked goods are much more plentiful in the last several years.

But that doesn’t always mean we should be eating them.

What do you mean? I have to eat gluten-free because of celiac or similar and you want to take away my GF baked goods too?

Inherently, most gluten-free baked products have a lot of “junk” ingredients in them, ie starches, gums, and excess sugar (hello boxed gluten-free cake mix whose main ingredient is sugar). What most of these ingredients turn into in the body is a simple sugar, and sugar is extremely inflammatory, especially for individuals with an autoimmune disorder–which means the body tends to be really good at making inflammation a regular event. Not so good for daily comfort, being pain-free, having a positive mood, or long-term health.

So while I’m not a proponent of too many gluten-free baked goods — especially if they’re made with lots of refined flours, starches, gums, and sugars, I tend to be of the mindset that fresh baked bread, cake, cookies, and pastries and even the kind that are actually just not that good for you, can make their way into a Celiac friendly diet. Though maybe as just sometimes foods rather than everyday.

Depending on your personal health needs, of course. See last week — Are You Eating Enough for Your Activity Level? — as an example.

And while this is a celiac disease and gluten-focused article, I’m fully aware that other restrictive diets due to food allergies and/or medical necessity can be just as or more challenging to navigate. Despite this, my goal as a food as medicine eater and nutritionist is always to increase the diversity of our daily food choices, rather than limit them.

Strawberry Rhubarb Scones, makes 8
These are the Irish style of scones, so they’re usually made round, low in sugar or without, and delicious sliced in half and eaten with a little cream (traditional), yogurt, or honey.

I’ve made these with vegan butter here (Melt Plant Based Butter Sticks), but unrefined extra virgin coconut oil and Kerrygold butter also work well . Freeze your butter or oil and then grate it into the flour mixture. If you have no reason for avoiding true dairy butter, opt for that instead and choose a good brand, like Kerrygold. 
The addition of sugar and vanilla are optional because I left them out in my first try of this recipe and found them still delicious. You’ll know by now I tend to be acclimated to eating very little sugar so keep that in mind.

160 g oatmeal
110 g buckwheat groats
10 g arrowroot starch or cornstarch
25 g sugar (optional)
4 teaspoons / 20 g baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
60 g / 4 Tbs. frozen grated butter or coconut oil
¾ cup chopped strawberries
1/3 cup finely chopped rhubarb
2/3 cup cold non-dairy milk
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)

  • Preheat oven to a very hot 475°F
  • In a spice grinder or food processor, mill the oatmeal and buckwheat until they’re ground into a fine flour.
  • Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  • Rub the frozen grated butter or oil into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces.
  • Stir in the chopped strawberries and rhubarb.
  • Add the milk and vanilla at once and stir until it just forms a sticky dough. They will seem a touch wet, but they will end up more tender this way!
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve a layered effect in your scones, knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. Scones require a light hand so be gentle and err on working the dough less.
  • Pat or roll out the dough into a 12 inch by 8 inch rectangle or circle that’s a little more than 1-inch thick. Cut or separate it into eight equal portions and gently form into rounds.
  • Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish and bake in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes (check at 10 minutes so as to not overbake!) until the scones are well risen and are lightly colored on the tops.
  • Immediately place the pan onto a cooling rack and serve while still warm, or gently reheated.

Other Seasonal Strawberry Recipes:
Strawberry Tabbouleh
Strawberry, Asparagus + Radish Flatbread
Strawberry Cardamom Lassi
Berry Bran Muffins
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pistachio Rhubarb + Candied Ginger Loaf

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If you search google for pistachio and rhubarb, just about a gazillion delicious recipes pop up. The two ingredients are a classic pairing. But so are strawberries and rhubarb, orange and rhubarb, honey and rhubarb, rhubarb and rose, and of course, ginger and rhubarb. Personally I love them all as well as rhubarb just on its own.

When we moved into our house in early 2016, the first plant to go in the ground was rhubarb. And as a two-person household with four healthy plants, we get to enjoy a lot of it. And by we I mean one of us absolutely loves it in ever-y-thing, and one of us thinks he doesn’t.

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The Recipe Redux asked us to make a healthy-ish recipe to celebrate spring celebrations–something like baby or bridal showers, graduations, and the like. As I’m writing this, it is commencement day for my master of science degree in clinical nutrition, and since I decided not to make the trip back across the country to actually partake in it, celebrating at home with my longest run since Boston and this rhubarb loaf will do quite nicely.

Before we get there, let me tell you a little interesting nutritional tidbit about rhubarb and its oxalic acid content.

Many people know that rhubarb leaves are poisonous and can cause harm if ingested. It’s why they’re never sold with the leaves on. What most don’t know is that they are toxic because they contain a lot of oxalic acid which the stalks also contain, though not as much. Spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard are also high in oxalic acid, which is why for some they can have that puckery-weird mouthfeel that also presents in unsweetened rhubarb. Interestingly, rhubarb is high in calcium, which spinach and Sweet chard has a bit of as well but the oxalate content interferes with absorption, so much so that when I worked for the Linus Pauling Institute, the researchers there said not to expect to get any calcium from a meal with lots of rhubarb, spinach, or Swiss chard. Other sources are a little more lenient on this topic (1, 2). Though there is nutritional debate on the idea, oxalic acid may also interfere with absorption of the iron content from spinach–which for this or other reasons is not at all a ‘good source’ of iron because of its absorption rate despite myths that it is in the plant-based community and beyond.

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Now, out of the nutritional weeds and into reality. So what is wrong with eating lots and lots of high oxalate-containing foods? Other than needing to get your calcium elsewhere, certain people can develop kidney stones if they consume too much. Otherwise, those leafy greens and rhubarb are packed with lots of other nutrients we need. And this is a good time to remind us all that eating a diverse variety of whole as-close-to-nature-made foods is best for health.

With all that new knowledge circulating in our brains, let’s have a slice of tea cake / loaf and celebrate. Because I’m no longer a grad student, it’s rhubarb season, is May the best month, and the sun rises early and sets late these days making more time for play.

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Whatever your cause for celebration, this is a nice little loaf for an occasion. It’s not overly sweet, not too rich, but has just enough punches of sweetness from the candied ginger and roundness of flavor to make it all come together well. Combined with the pinks and greens in the loaf from the pistachios and rhubarb (more so if you have pinker rhubarb stalks than mine), it’s delicious and in my opinion, a good way to celebrate this classic pairing of rhubarb, pistachios, ginger, and because I couldn’t resist, a bit of orange!

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Pistachio Rhubarb + Candied Ginger Loaf, makes one large loaf of about 10 slices

1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
1/2 cup (110 g) coconut oil
1 cup (110 g) non-dairy yogurt
2 Tbs. ground flax + 6 Tbs. water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbs. orange juice and zest from 1 orange
2 cups (230 g) chopped rhubarb
1 cup (120 g) chickpea flour
2/3 cup (70 g) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (30 g) arrowroot starch
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (50 g) pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup (30 g) candied ginger pieces, diced small

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a large 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
  • In a small dish combine the flax seeds and water to form a slurry. Allow to sit and thicken up for about 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, flax slurry, yogurt, vanilla, orange juice and zest, and rhubarb. In another bowl, combine the flours, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold in the chopped pistachios and ginger pieces.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking. A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean once its done.
  • Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan. Cool completely before serving, and as usual with this type of loaf recipe, the flavors generally combine and improve on the day after baking.

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  1. Weil, A. (2008). Avoid Vegetables with Oxalic Acid?
  2. WH Foods. (n.d.). Can you tell me about oxalates, including the foods that contain them and how are they related to nutrition and health?

Honey-Roasted Rhubarb and Favorites, Lately

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Hey friends, it’s been a hot minute. I’ve recently had an epiphany about ‘keeping the main thing the main thing,’ and for me right now, that’s successfully taking care of myself through peak weeks of marathon training, and then balancing summer term of grad school with my newish job, in that order. Everything else has been largely set aside for now unless it fits into the above. Which means I’ve made variations of chocolate walnut banana bread for three weeks in a row as end of the week baking therapy, made a lot of lovely but quick meals, taken significantly more restful moments and reincorporated naps into my life, but also haven’t done much else or shared here.

Below are a few favorites from the last couple weeks and months, and a lovely quick recipe for honey-roasted rhubarb, which tastes great as an add-in to a seasonal green salad, stirred through morning porridge, or simply spooned alongside some nice yogurt.

 

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to read: 
Plant Spirit Totems by Bloom Post
Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh
Long days but learning so much in all my classes

to eat, drink, and imbibe:
Ginger-Turmeric Kombucha
Strawberries, and cardamom. also, rhubarb.
Flower Essences by Sophia Rose

to listen: 
Medicine Stories Podcast, but especially the episode with Sajah Popham (#17)
Lauren and Jesse’s new podcast, which is great for all sorts of life advice, but especially for athletes with questions.
Nicole Antoinette’s discussion with pro-runner Collier Lawrence. So much good stuff including goals, suicide prevention, and more.
A good pathophysiology review of the (lots of science!) involved in depression, for all you fellow science nerds.

to pause in awe and simply take in:
Early morning sunshine, through the leaves
Gifts from a lifetime friend who lives on the other side of the world

 

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Honey-Roasted Rhubarb
When adding the finished rhubarb to a seasonal salad, I find it goes great with a mix of delicate and hardier greens, and alongside early season snow or snap peas, pea shoots, toasted walnuts or hazelnuts, and a light vinaigrette dressing. That’s just one variation of how this can be incorporated into a savory meal, and partly why I tend to err on the side of less honey, to let rhubarb’s natural sour-tart flavor shine through. 

1 lb. rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch slices
1-2 Tbs. honey, as preferred

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Scatter the rhubarb in a single layer in a large baking tray, then drizzle over the honey, and gently mix it all together.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender, giving it a stir halfway through. The rhubarb pieces should keep their shape rather than cook all the way down.
  • Leave to cool slightly before serving.