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I have some news and a recipe to share. Our household has been wheat-free/gluten free, for the most part, for about a month. I say for the most part because we are not imposing the whole [corn] enchilada on our teen daughter. She goes to school with a sandwich a couple times a week and we haven’t dumped the pop tarts or cookies in the cupboard in case she or visiting friends want some. But Chris and I, we’ve been pretty seriously sans-wheat for a while now and will be keeping to it for the present.

Why? Neither of us has been diagnosed with celiac or anything but we have been frustrated by the difficulty we’ve encountered in losing weight and certain other discomforts/ailments that when taken together are a big drag. After doing some research, my husband brought home the idea of trying to eliminate wheat from the diet and I agreed it was worth trying. The arguments in the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis were compelling enough to motivate me to try to make it work long term. Chris has more of the issues described in the book than I do, but I will tell you that the changes I’ve noticed so far for me have been interesting. Positive. The biggest, most noticeable being that I don’t have as big an appetite. I don’t have low blood sugar swings. More lately, I eat food because it’s time to eat. I’m not snacking as I cook dinner or starting to think about lunch from 11:15 at my desk and when noon approaches, attack lunch like the cookie monster. For me, this is big. It probably means my blood sugar is more even-keeled with this change to my diet.

So we’re going to give this noble experiment three to six months and see how we do. It never hurts to change one’s eating perspective. I didn’t think I could walk away from bread but I haven’t had any in several weeks and it’s been less of a big deal than I thought. (There’s some Newcastle in the fridge that has been calling me, though. That’s been a little harder to resist. Though I have so far.) I can satisfy the desire for pasta with rice noodles from Vietnamese or Thai restaurants. And nobody said I have to give up guacamole and chips – I should just acknowledge corn chips as a big, occasional treat but they are not off limits.

But then there’s Baked Goods. Sometimes you just gotta have them and I’m not going to be fooled or accepting of some sub-par fake starchy muffin or dry oaty cookie. Sorry, but it’s true. I felt like I couldn’t jump in with full commitment to this new path if I didn’t know for sure that there were some options that would be better than good enough. This lemon bar is it.

I made this recipe at the beginning of the week and there is no need to apologize for it or make allowances for it as a poor cousin to the real thing (as I did with my first attempt at chocolate chip cookies without wheat – those still need work). The source of the original recipe for these lemon bars is the King Arthur Flour website. From reading the comments of other users, I made some modifications reflected here. (It’s always best to read those comments. Someone said that the topping was too runny and ought to be cooked like a lemon curd in a double boiler. I did that, and added an extra yolk. The result worked very well. ) We thought the bars were especially good the next day, a little chilly right out of the refrigerator.

This almond meal crust will be a good base for us for other bars or fruit or cream pies and such. Trader Joe’s sells the almond meal in two pound bags. And hey, come Passover time, those who keep Kosher for Passover can be excited for such a good, fulfilling dessert option.

Stay tuned for more of our wheat-free adventures!

lemon bar with an almond shortbread crust

LEMON BARS WITH ALMOND FLOUR CRUST

CRUST
2 cups almond flour (ground almonds)
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, diced
FILLING
2 large eggs, plus one egg yolk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice (juice of two lemons)
2 tablespoons gluten-free cornstarch (optional)
pinch of salt

Instructions
1. ) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ square pan or 9″ round pan.
2. ) To make the crust: Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl, whisking to blend. Add the cold butter, working it in with your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture is evenly combined and crumbly.
3. ) Dump the mixture into the prepared pan, shake to distribute, and press the crust into the bottom and about 1/2″ up the sides of the pan.
4. ) Bake the crust until it’s light golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
5. ) While the crust is baking, whisk together the filling ingredients. Heat the filling ingredients over a double boiler. (I didn’t use the cornstarch and didn’t miss it. We may try it another time.) Cook filling in this manner, stirring frequently, for about ten minutes, or until it starts to thicken and color dulls a bit. (It just starts to look more lemon curd-y.)
6. ) Remove the crust from the oven and pour the filling over the hot crust. Return the squares to the oven and bake them for 14 to 18 minutes, until the filling appears set.
7. ) Remove the squares from the oven, and allow them to cool in the pan before cutting. Cover the squares, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
8. Yield: 16 squares.

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