Friday, June 10, 2011

Stomach Problems that led to Delicious Cookies!

If you've known me for say more than a year, or if you've ever had a meal with me, you probably know a little bit about my stomach issues.  If not, then the shortish version of the story is this:

Since about the middle of high school, I've had tummy aches.  It got to the point where one of my Besties didn't want to eat with me anymore because she knew that I would immediately complain about my stomach – this put a damper on our friendship slightly since the two main activities we did (and still do) together are eat and shop.  But, yes, I was vocal and, ok I'll admit it, probably very annoying about it. 

Over the years, the intensity of the stomach aches have varied.  There were times, particularly in college, when I hardly noticed them.  And then there were times when it was unbearable.  And over the past year or so, they had become much more frequent and much more intense.  I was sick all the time and afraid to eat – one night I cried in Boyfriend's arms because I was so hungry but so afraid to eat anything.

About this time I was interviewing for my new job and Big Computer Company so I thought that the discomfort might be stress related.  And then I got the job and nothing changed and it started effecting my work.  So, I started making appointments: I saw my general physician, an allegorist, a dietitian.  We ran tests (they were inconclusive), I kept a food journal (it wasn't very useful), and finally we decided to start cutting things out.

And that's when we finally discovered the root of the problem: Gluten.

I know, I know.  It seems like everyone is suddenly Gluten Intolerant.  And this works towards my advantage because suddenly there are Gluten Free products all over.  I don't have Celiac Disease (thank god), but my body definitely cannot handle gluten the way it used to when I little and lived on Goldfish Crackers.  One thing we've wondered is if it isn't the genetically modified wheat products that are causing the problem... Whatever it is, I haven't had a stomach ache since cutting it out of my diet.

Meanwhile, I met a new friend at the Hip Hop Class I was taking here and, as luck would have it, he works just down the hall from me.  Matthew is awesome at making anything anyone says waaay more awkward than intended.  He's also crazy allergic to nuts of all kinds – he has to test food on his arms first and he once gave me his EpiPen and then promptly took it away because I was "too excited" at the prospect of having to use it.  As a result of this allergy (and other friends) he's done a lot of allergy-free shopping and cooking.  He picked up some allergy-free (no nuts, gluten, dairy, etc) energy bars and trail mix and left some at my desk for me to try.  And he made me a gluten-free variation of this amazing cookie recipe.

I decided it was time to repay the favor and since I still had the tupperware that Matthew had given me the cookies in, I thought I should return it to home equally full of cookies.  So, my goal was to make a delicious batch of cookies that both he and I could eat: gluten-free and nut-free.  And, man, I need to work on my cooking pictures (maybe using more than Instamatic) and I'll have to remember to take pics at each step instead of getting distracted by licking the beaters...

Gluten Free Sunflower Butter Cookies!!

It's a pretty basic and easy recipe, and obviously you don't have to make it gluten-free either.  Sunflower butter is exactly what it sounds like, a peanut butter substitute made of sunflower seeds.  I think it tastes awesome.

Here's what you need:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sunflower butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten-free flour blend/flour of choice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Mix the sugars and butter together until it's all creamy.  I do this in a kitchen-aid while I'm getting the rest of the stuff ready.


2. Add the sunflower butter and the egg.  Mix until it's totally combined.

I always like to remind people here that you can pretty much mix the wet ingredients till your heart's content.  It's only when we add dry ingredients, that you run the risk of over-mixing.

3. In a smaller bowl add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. 

I used the Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour blend, but I could have used just soy or rice flour or whatever – the Red Mill brand is easy to find and easy to use, so there's that. If you're making the gluten-free variety, and you have it on hand, you'll want to add Xanthan Gum at this point too.  You can get a big bag of Bob's Red Mill brand Xanthan Gum and since you need so little at a time, it'll last forever.  On the other hand, when I don't have any around, the flour blend works pretty well without it.

4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones until they are fully combined, but don't over mix! 

5.  Put the dough into some plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for a few hours. This'll harden the batter up and let all the ingredients meld together.  If I can, I even try to make the dough the day before and let it hang out over night.

6. Have some wine while you wait. 

This one was an impulse buy near the checkout and I was sold on the fact that it's called Red Velvet.  It was OK considering I make all my wine based choices based on labels (I think that's how wine should be listed in restaurants, too...)

7. Preheat the oven to 350〫while you get your cookie trays ready.  I always like to use parchment paper so that a) the cookies don't stick and b) I don't have trays to wash.

8. Roll your dough into small balls and place as good intervals on the tray – they expand!  You can also do the fancy fork marks if you like.  I did this, but mine didn't really show in the end...

9.  They take a little longer to cook than regular peanut butter cookies. About 15 mins for chewy cookies, 20 for harder ones.

Let cool and enjoy.  I ate like 20 already.  Good thing I've been running. :)

*adapted from this putter butter cookie recipe.

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