Recipe: Gluten-free coconut nutty cookies by Susan Hart

May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Celiac disease (CD) is an auto-immune disorder that affects 1 in 133 persons. Another 19 million persons, or 6 percent of the U.S. population, suffer from some degree of gluten sensitivity. CD can be difficult to diagnose.

There may be obvious intestinal distress, or no symptoms at all, but left unaddressed it can set the stage for greater occurrence of depression, diabetes, lymphoma, infertility, neuropathy, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, certain cancers, and failure to thrive in children.

The disease is rapidly becoming more prevalent, but only 5 to 7 percent of affected persons have been diagnosed. The average age of diagnosis is 60. My children were lucky enough to be diagnosed in their teens. The more years someone with gluten sensitivity can avoid the ravages inflicted by ingesting the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley, the better they will feel, and it will be easier to stave off some of the silent, long-term effects listed above. There’s no medical cure for CD, so gluten must be cut from the diet.

A few years ago, I taught gluten-free cooking classes through TMCC. At the last class, two of the attendees brought their 4-year-old daughters, who had been recently diagnosed with CD. We brought step-ladders and aprons to the class. The girls were amazing! They were curious and wanted to participate in every step of the food process, tasting and asking questions along the way. I gave each girl a copy of the book, “Eating Gluten-Free With Emily,” which I hoped would help them feel less “different” when they were with their peers.

I hope diagnosing CD in children will progress soon, since “Celiac disease is now five times more common than it was 50 years ago, and that’s not just the result of better diagnoses.” — Joseph Murray, M.D., in The New York Times.

I know it’s a topic of discussion for the 2015 Celiac Disease Foundation National Conference in Pasadena this weekend. It seems most urgent we should be vigilant on behalf of our children to stem the effects of this auto-immune disease, but first we need to know they have it!

Here is a kid-friendly recipe from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Coconut Nutty Cookies

From Tina Turbin

1 cup coconut oil

6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup agave nectar

2 cups gluten-free flour mix

1/4 cup flax meal

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, applesauce, salt, vanilla and agave nectar. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, flax meal, baking soda and xanthan gum.

Using a rubber spatula, carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until a grainy dough is formed. Gently fold in the chopped nuts until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, in portions one inch in diameter, spacing them one inch apart. Gently press each with the back of a spoon to spread them slightly.

Bake the cookies on the center rack of the oven for 15 minutes, rotating the sheets 180 degrees after nine minutes. The finished cookies will be crisp on the edges and soft in the center.

Let the cookies stand on the sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Carson City’s gluten-free discussion group meets every other month. The next meeting will be held on Monday, May 11. Please email Susan at for details.


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