Spent on Spelt

Display of spelt at my local Winter Farmers Market on Saturday

Display of spelt at my local Winter Farmers Market on Saturday

Last week Wednesday night I happened to watch Not My Mama’s Meals as it aired (1/9/13) rather than recorded as I normally do.  I was actually at the laptop going through emails and messing around on Facebook, but I perked up when I heard Bobby say he was going to Babycakes NYC.  My knowledge of Babycakes NYC and owner, Erin McKenna, up to that point was she did gluten-free baked goods and I owned her cookbook, Babycakes Covers the Classics.

I got excited because I thought, Hey, gluten-free baked goods on a national cooking show.  Plus, as one of the owners of The Lady & Sons in Savannah, Georgia, known for their Southern cooking  (Chaz and I can personally vouch for that Southern cooking) I thought Bobby was bringing a little bit of our gluten-free lives to the world.

Erin started off by introducing herself and saying, “We specialize in gluten-free and vegan baked goods.”  Again, that internal YES went off in my head.  They chit-chatted for a minute, then she took Bobby back into the kitchen and had a big plastic container of flour on the counter that said, SPELT.

Wait, something’s not right.

“I like to use spelt flour.” She tells Bobby.

Wait, spelt isn’t gluten-free.

“It acts a lot like wheat.” She explains.


“People like me with a wheat-intolerance have an okay time with it.” She adds.

Are you KIDDING me?

I started posting on Facebook and had a conversation with Shirley and Johnna about it.  It would seem Erin’s first cookbook wasn’t entirely gluten-free and contained recipes with spelt flour.  I had to run to the dining room and grab the one I have off the shelf to check it.  Babycakes Covers the Classics is the second book and all the recipes are gluten-free.  No spelt flour, but she has conversions in the book for converting from the gluten-free flour to spelt flour.  On page 19, Erin writes, “As most of you might know by now, spelt is a distant cousin to wheat that many wheat sensitive folks, including me, don’t have a problem digesting.”

Two things.  First, she says on Not My Mama’s Meals that many have an “okay” time with it.  Okay doesn’t mean great or that no one reacts to it.  In fact, I would bet that many people with wheat intolerance, gluten-intolerance, or Celiac are reacting but not having digestive symptoms.  Remember that wheat can affect other body systems other than our digestive system.  It affects our neural, respiratory, circulatory, reproductive, endocrine, and integumentary (skin, hair, fat, and nails) systems.  I certainly had multiple symptoms affecting each of those systems.  Second, she says spelt is a distant cousin to wheat.  Spelt is in the same Triticum family with wheat.  Dr. Stephen Wangen has a great graphic in his book, Healthier Without Wheat, on pages 26 and 27 that puts wheat and spelt in the same immediate family.  He states later on in the book on page 99, “…it should be pointed out that spelt is extremely closely related to wheat and may not be an acceptable alternative.”  Again he says, “Spelt, although a different grain, is an extremely close genetic relative of wheat and my not be acceptable for those who cannot tolerate wheat.  Little research has been done on this issue, so proceed cautiously.” (p.131)

Some people might read Dr. Wangen’s words to mean it is okay to have spelt.  No.  It means it is your choice to make a responsible decision or not.  From the Celiac Sprue Association, “Spelt is a subspecies of wheat. The genus-species of modern bread wheat is simply ‘Triticum aestivum.’ Spelt wheat is a subspecies belonging to, ‘Triticum aestivum speltoides.’ Thus, there is no basis to say spelt is different from ‘wheat.’ The proteins in spelt are essentially identical to those in modern bread wheat; only the amounts are slightly different.”  Wheat itself is capable of producing over 23,000 unique proteins.  That is not a typo folks.  Over twenty-three thousand unique proteins.  From what I could find on wheat intolerance, it is not really known what it is in wheat that causes the wheat intolerance reactions.  Having over 23,000 unique proteins can make it difficult to pinpoint.

There are many similar symptoms for wheat intolerance that are similar to gluten intolerance, Celiac, and other food allergies or sensitivities.

  • stomach bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence
  • headaches, memory loss, behavioral difficulties, depression, irritability, anxiety
  • frequent infections/colds/flus, mouth ulcers
  • stiff joints, prone to allergies, arthritis, colitis, thyroiditis
  • psoriasis, eczema, itching flaky skin
  • food cravings
  • chronic fatigue
  • heart palpitations

Also, like those of us with Celiac or gluten-intolerance, the symptoms being exposed to wheat for people with wheat intolerance is not always immediate.  In fact, from the sites I went to and the books that I have addressing wheat intolerance, the majority of them pointed out that most of the time the symptoms have delayed onset of up to 3 days later.  So an “okay” time with spelt for those with wheat intolerance is not okay after all. People may just not be reacting to it immediately.

There is also damage being done on the inside that you may not realize if you are non-symptomatic.  This is for anyone with a food intolerance, not just wheat or gluten intolerance.  Many of us are walking around with leaky guts which is what leads to most cases of food sensitivity and is also triggered by food reactions.  I am going to take a bit from a great book called Get Well & Stay Well: Optimal Health through Transformational Medicine, by Steve Amoils, M.D. and Sandi Amoils, M.D., for anyone not familiar with leaky gut and why it is important.

“In order to absorb our food, we start breaking it down in the mouth as we chew and mix it with saliva and then in the stomach with acid.  Digestion continues with the addition of enzymes by our digestive tract, and then the action of the flora in our food. But the final step in digestion is the absorption of the microscopic food particles as they diffuse into our bloodstream through the tiny junctions or pores between the cells that line our intestines.  From there, these particles are transported to the liver for further processing before they are sent out to the cells to finally be used as fuel.

When looking for the steps in the process where function breaks down, permeability turns out to be a major piece of the puzzle.  Normally, the ports in our gut allow only small molecules to pass through.  However, if the body is under stress, these pores can expand and open too wide, allowing larger molecules that haven’t been completely broken down to pass through and enter the bloodstream.  Increased gut permeability can happen under a lot of different circumstances: infection, intense physical stress, shock, surgery, injury, or food poisoning are all common examples.  It can also occur with excessive alcohol consumption, radiation therapy, excessive sugar consumption, anti-inflammatory medications, nutrient deficiencies, premature birth, and whole food exposure before the age of four months.” (pages 104-105)

When food molecules pass through the larger pores our immune system sees the food as foreign invaders making us sick and then attacks the food molecules setting off an immune and inflammatory response.  It’s not surprising for me that the different triggers for leaky gut are shared with triggers and cumulative events for adrenal fatigue.  Food intolerances are a common symptom of adrenal fatigue and if our adrenals are not working right, we open ourselves up to even more illness in our lives.  I see food intolerances as going hand-in-hand with adrenal fatigue.  You can’t get better if you aren’t treating both of them at the same time and a lot of that is dependent on the food you choose to eat.   “Food intolerance weakens the body, especially the lining of the stomach and intestines, which means that the body expends more energy than normal to assimilate and metabolize foods.  Then, the already stressed adrenals are unable to maintain the energy supply to the body.”  (page 330, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome: Reclaim Your Energy and Vitality with Clinically Proven Natural Programs, Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H., Dorine Lam, R.D., M.S., M.P.H.)

I know I haven’t written too much about my adrenal fatigue.  If you are still puzzled about what it is, here is a nutshell.  Our adrenals are responsible for making the stress hormones, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol.  They also make our sex hormones.  When our bodies are undergoing constant stress emotionally, mentally, and physically, it is cortisol that is flooding our bodies.  Adrenal fatigue is most often cumulative and can be triggered by any of the above mentioned triggers for leaky gut.  For me, years of accumulated stressors that I never recovered from hit me even harder when my cousin took his life last September.   Even after my diagnosis and making efforts to consciously manage stressors, the physical stress of my job was too taxing for my adrenals to make a full recovery.  I was also dealing with adding eggs to my list of foods to avoid.  Easy enough to avoid for the most part, but stressful as I was missing having eggs for breakfast in the morning. When our adrenals are taxed there is even more fatigue, difficulty waking and getting out of bed in the morning, feeling tired most of the day, difficulty getting to sleep at night, waking throughout the night, heart palpitations, compromised immune system, increased inflammation, increased irritability and decreased tolerance to things you once handled without problems, increased PMS symptoms, brain fog, loss of memory, weight gain around your midsection, decreased ability to manage stress, craving salty and sweet foods, craving protein, positional hypotension, depression, decreased libido (when your adrenals are too busy pumping out cortisol, it has no energy to produce sex hormones because it is in life saving mode), and lack of enjoyment of life.  Continually eating the foods we are intolerant to when we have leaky gut just continues to stress our adrenals.  Avoiding the foods we need to is what is need to heal leaky gut and to help support the adrenals.

Choosing what we eat has a cascade effect on our health that is negative or positive.   My body cannot recover and heal if I keep sneaking cheese or have an egg over leftovers for breakfast.  I cannot heal my leaky gut and over-worked adrenals if my body stays in a constant state of stress like it was before.  It is up to me to be responsible for my choices if I want to continue my journey towards healthy living.  You are also responsible for your choices.  You can choose foods that will heal you and keep you healthy and avoid the foods that does untold silent damage to your body or you can keep eating those damaging foods and remain sick.

Check out Shirley Braden’s Spin on Spelt at gluten-free easily. 

Mashed Rutabagas

Mashed RutabagaI blogged about Christmas Eve’s I spent with one of my aunties and her family and the lefse I learned to make from them back in 2011 after I converted the lefse recipe so I could make the traditional Christmas Eve meal again.  Since then, I haven’t even mentioned the rest of the meal or shared those recipes with you.

I had to share the mashed rutabagas because who else makes them? I never hear anyone else talk about mashed rutabagas, let alone this unassuming root vegetable from Sweden from which they are made.  Maybe the neep has gotten a bad rap for releasing cyanide which then turns into thiocyante which can be a thyroid disruptor and cause goiters.  Maybe people can’t get past the bitterness of the root and don’t try to play with it.  Maybe no one ever made them rutabagas and so they pass by them in the grocery store without notice.  The horror!

Potential thyroid issues aside, I love rutabagas.  Not quite like I love potatoes.  But I definitely start wanting them once Winter rolls around.  I attribute that to the miraculous phenomenon that occurs when you practice eating what is in season.  You want it when it is in season and then the rest of the year, you’re too busy with other produce to think about your Winter love affair.  And all those cruciferous vegetables that I was told not to eat because of my thyroid?  I still eat them in moderation and mostly in season.  This is why I’m okay with eating rutabagas a few times a year.

I may make these once more this season and then patiently wait until December rolls around again while I enjoy the bounty of the Spring, Summer, and Fall seasons.

Mashed Rutabagas – serves 8

4 rutabagas, peeled and diced




1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (I use the soy-free)

Place the rutabagas in a large pot and cover with water and a healthy pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and then simmer on a low boil for one hour.  The rutabagas will be fork tender long before an hour is up, but you want to keep cooking them until you don’t smell so much of the bitterness and they are a bright orange.  Drain the rutabagas and return to the pot of you are using stainless steel or to a large bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste, olive oil, and Earth Balance (if you can have dairy, use butter, or if you want to avoid all types of butter, use 1/2 cup olive oil).  Mash together well.  Stir the rutabagas with a spoon when you are done mashing to ensure everything has blended well.

This post is linked to Wellness Weekend at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs by Ricki Heller. 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)

rutabaga, Sharon Newport on the Levee, Pass The Plate 010Converting recipes can be a big challenge.  I started converting this recipe before Christmas in 2011.  I was wanting a good cookie after going dairy-free and I was missing making the Grandma Brown’s (Dawn’s grandmother) chocolate chip cookies.  Dawn and her mom shared the recipe with me long ago and there was always something comforting about visiting Dawn and making these cookies with her.  Fast forward to a little over a month ago when Heather of Gluten-Free Cat (link is for the cookies she sent me) emailed me asking if I wanted to participate in BeBetsy’s Pass the Plate even though I already had a lot going on with work.

I had to sit on it for a bit before I responded.  I probably should have said no.  I probably should have let her pass it on to someone else.  I probably should have just focused on me.  But I didn’t.  I said, yes.  With the craziness of work and putting in my two-week notice, the general holiday craziness, and trying to get myself on track to really recover from this adrenal fatigue I really didn’t need something extra to do.  Then I thought about my friends who are breast cancer survivors and a friend who is battling breast cancer right now.  I felt compelled to do this no matter what else I had going on.  KitchenAid is donating $5 to the Komen Foundation each time these plates are passed.

The plates.  Oh my goodness, the plates!  They were designed by Jacques Pepin.  Isn’t it gorgeous? rutabaga, Sharon Newport on the Levee, Pass The Plate 027

The cookies took many conversion attempts because I was trying different egg replacers and different all-purpose gluten-free flours.  I finally hit the jackpot with the attempt that I should have done first but I know some people who are gluten-free who have problems with the brand of flour I used.  I was trying to find one that is fairly readily available.  For those of you who have difficulty with Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free products, I did this for you!  However, the other two brands I tried along with different egg-replacers resulted in a cookie that was too grainy.  Grainy cookies will not do.  If this recipe hadn’t worked, my next attempt was going to be flourless.  I will try it in the future, but right now, I’m a bit cookie’d out.  As it is, I packed as many of the cookies into the container to ship to Johnna as I could.  My SIL has already requested the remainder of the cookies.  Thank goodness!

A few other notes about these cookies before I give you the recipe.  Dawn, Mom, and I all agree that Black Walnut extract is what makes these cookies versus using Vanilla extract.  Vanilla can be used, but Black Walnut extract is definitely our preference.  For the chocolate chunks I chopped up some Lindt 85% Special Dark Chocolate bar because I prefer dark chocolate and this particular bar has no dairy or soy.  I did use up some Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate chips but they were too sweet for me even using less than I would normally use.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies – about 2 dozen

1/4 cup palm shortening

1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (I used the soy-free), room temperature

1 cup palm sugar (I pulsed mine a little in my spice grinder)

1 tablespoon flax meal

3 tablespoons filtered water

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free flour (King Arther and 1-2-3 Gluten-Free brands made the cookie grainy)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup gluten-free rolled oats

1 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips (use 1/3 to 1/2 cup if they are mini chunks or chips)

1 teaspoon black walnut extract (or vanilla)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.  If this is your first time baking gluten-free cookies, please don’t skip lining your cookie sheets.  You’ll thank me later.  Cream together shortening, Earth Balance, and palm sugar.  Mix together flax meal and water and set aside.  If you are doing egg-free for the first time, this is called a flax egg.  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir up the flax egg again and add to the creamed butter and sugar.  Mix well.  Add in flour and mix well again.  If you are using a stand mixer, take the bowl out and add in the rolled oats and chocolate, mixing together by hand with a spoon or spatula.  Add in the extract and stir well.  Drop by tablespoonfuls (I used a tablespoon sized ice cream scoop for uniformity) onto the lined cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Leave on the sheets when you take them out of the oven and let them sit for 2-3 minutes more to help them set better.  Remove from the cookie sheets to a rack to cool.

rutabaga, Sharon Newport on the Levee, Pass The Plate 026

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesday at The Gluten-Free Homemaker and to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free