Cart Smarts: Give a gift in a jar

When my youngest brother emailed me, asking for the agenda for our Christmas get-together, I hit reply and sent him the menu.

Wait, I thought. He wants to know what we're doing, not what we're eating. Maybe it's my career and the fact that I work in a grocery store, but I am sure most people can agree — food is the focus during the holidays.

The challenge, however, lies in the fact that 15 million Americans live with food allergies. In addition, an estimated 3 million Americans have celiac disease and 15 million consider themselves vegetarians. For those individuals, the holidays can be a stressful and frustrating time of year, when they struggle to feel safe and included.

But luckily, with some planning and a few substitutions, it's realistic to create a safe and suitable menu for all of your holiday guests.

Working in the grocery store, I answer questions on a daily basis about how to adapt recipes to make them safe for certain individuals. The majority of the questions this time of year are centered on gluten-free cooking and baking.


Fortunately, more and more companies are creating gluten-free versions of popular holiday staples. There are now GF options for stuffing cubes, pie crust, gravy and baking flour. In fact, there is now a GF flour that measures cup-for-cup like wheat flour, which means you can adapt your favorite family recipes into a comparable GF version.

Some of the newest products to hit the shelves are coconut and almond flour. Both are lower in carbohydrates than wheat flour and high in fiber, plus they are safe to use for those following a gluten-free diet. Even if you don't need to follow a GF diet, almond and coconut flour can be used in baking to create a unique flavor and texture, while lowering carbs and increasing fiber.

If you would like to learn more about planning a gluten-free holiday meal, I invite you to attend my Gluten-Free Gala this week at Hy-Vee North. Stop in between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday for free samples of gluten-free foods.


Chocolate coconut delight bars

4 eggs

3/4 cup coconut milk

2 teaspoons almond extract


3/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup blanched almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

3/4 cup chunked dark chocolate, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk, almond extract and coconut sugar. In a smaller bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, salt and baking soda. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients with a handheld mixer. Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chunks.


Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Pour batter into dish, then sprinkle shredded coconut and remaining chocolate chunks on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool for 1 hour. Serve.

Makes 16 servings (1 bar each)

Nutrition facts per serving: 170 calories; 8 g total fat; 4 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 45 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrates; 16 g sugar; 3 g protein; 3 g fiber; 105 mg sodium

Source: Elana's Pantry

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