Monday, December 15, 2008

Quick Quip: Muncha Muncha Muncha On Envirokidz Gorilla Munch

Savannah’s Natural Food Store- Brighter Day Natural Foods- recently had a 30th Birthday Party which included a marvelous tasting fair. I love going to events like this when I know there will be gluten-free goodies for me to munch on so I don’t have to eat before I go! I happily took any of the free-samples that were gluten-free home to try whenever the snack bug took over. Some of the samples I had tried before but one that was new to be was the Envirokidz Organic Gorilla Munch. I do not have children and have graduated from child-like cereals but I thought I would give it a try.

Envirokidz Organic is a division of Nature’s Path and their focus is on organic foods- not gluten free food. Don’t fret though, many of their products are gluten free including “Amazon Frosted Flakes”, “Gorilla Munch” (similar to KIX), “Koala Krisp” (similar to Rice Krispies), “Leapin Lemurs: Peanut Butter and Chocolate” and “Peanut Butter Panda Puffs”. How fun are those names? What I think is so cool is that they offer a line of products that gluten-free kids can eat and still have fun with, learn about endangered animals and safely enjoy. Also 1% of all sales are donated to endangered species, habitat conservation and environmental education for kids.

So they have fun cereal names appealing to kids, they have organic and gluten free food and they give back to the “greater good” but does their food taste good to adults? Honestly, its not all that shabby! The Gorilla Munch is made or organic corn meal, organic evaporated cane juice and sea salt making it nice and simple. The use of the cane juice makes the cereal sweet but not disgustingly sweet like many of the children’s cereals on the market. My only complaint was that the “munches” stick to your teeth a bit. Other than that- this is a great option for both kids and parents to enjoy- and give back with!

Gluten Free Maven Tip of the Day:
Check each Envirokidz product to ensure it is gluten-free since it is not a gluten-free only company

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rice Chex is now Gluten- Free!

One of the most difficult things about being a celiac, gluten-free and/or wheat-free is the inability to get “mainstream” food. I have to shop at at least two, usually three, different markets to get the “basics” and don’t even get me started on the cost of a gluten – free diet. My roommate Cameron will come home with almost the same one-bag of groceries as I do- pasta, vegetables, rice, some canned goods from our local grocery store and have a receipt for $20. I will have the same amount of goods with a receipt for almost $60. It is next to impossible to find any recipes for gluten-free foods on websites like and restaurants catering to us are rarely reviewed in the New York Times. But as Bob Dylan crooned long ago “times they are a changing”.The “mainstream” food community is starting to catch on that those of us with food allergies are not only a profitable group but a passionate, loyal and tightly woven one.

I frequently have conversations with gluten gluttons where they make statements like “oh well at Whole Foods they have like a whole row of shelves for you guys so you get a lot of food” or “what about Rice Krispies? That doesn’t have wheat – so easy to eat like you have to”. Yes, Whole Foods does a phenomenal job at stocking gluten-free foods but look around you get a whole store to linger and taste your way through- I get a few shelves. And Rice Krispies is one of many American cereals, which despite the name, includes wheat in the ingredient list.
Happily though mainstream food manufacturers, publications and the like are starting to pick up on the gluten-free lifestyle. My friend Amy chatted me the other day saying “Chex Mix is Gluten Free now!” I checked out the claim today at the grocery store. Of course Wheat Chex is not gluten- free and the Corn Chex cereal as a barley coating, but, Rice Chex proudly boasts on their side panel “Rice Chex cereal is now Gluten-Free”. They even have a page on their website with gluten- free recipes. This is a great resource for those who are not gluten-free but are having a party with gluten-free guests. Thank you General Mills for putting this out there and helping awareness!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gluten- Free Baker makes Cincinatti Newspaper!

This is a fabulous article about a gluten- free entrepeneur and living a gluten- free life. I love that newspapers and media are starting to pay more attention to us!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quick Quip: Marys Gone Crackers!

I have always been a cracker person. I am a huge fan of cheese and crackers- I could probably eat them for every meal just about every day. One Thanksgiving my grandfather’s crazy third wife served us all cheese and crackers for Thanksgiving dinner. Everybody was furious- except for me I was happy as a clam. I again was as happy as a clam when I discovered Mary’s Gone Crackers Crackers. They are no regular lame cracker that needs cheese, dip or some other accompaniment to add flavor. Mary’s crackers easily stand by themselves on the flavor front. They offer their cracker in five flavors including original, caraway, black pepper ( my fav), herb (my #2) and onion. The mix of multiple gluten-free flours and seeds are what make this cracker so wonderful- all of the flavors play off of each other- brown rice, flax seeds, sesame seeds, amaranth, millet, quinoa and more. And- everything is organic- even better!
Mary’s has recently added “Sticks and Twigs” to their line of products – a pretzel like version of their cracker available in chipotle tomato (my fav), sea salt and curry. They are a great snack to throw in your purse or car and have as a quick snack while running errands or when hunger hits.
In my opinion Mary’s Gone Crackers crackers are a must- have in any gluten- free cabinet. Even if you are not gluten-free these crackers are heads and tails above any other cracker I have tasted. Check out ordering information, store locations and more on their website at

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quick Quip: Bakery On Main Granola

When I first found out I had to follow a strict gluten-free diet I was a little bit dense. There were so many foods that I just didn’t realize had gluten in them, gluten derivatives or cross- contamination. So when I would get sick I was very confused to say the least. Granola was one such food. Even when I would read the ingredients label and it “seemed” fine I would get sick- then I would go on the website and see that it was not gluten- free. At least I knew WHY I was getting sick but I was still annoyed. Now I have found one granola that is deliciously gluten free- Bakery On Main Gourmet Naturals.

I was so used to just passing up granola that I didn’t even think to try Bakery On Main, even though it is advertised as “gluten free”, when I used to pass it in the grocery stores in Brooklyn. I was so over granola. But recently my boss sent me a gluten- free gift basket with granola and my fear of granola melted away. Bakery on Main is better than any granola I remember in my gluten days. My favorite Bakery on Main “flavor” is Cranberry Orange Cashew Granola. Their mix of ingredients is dead on- just enough crunchiness and sweetness to fill you up in the morning before you go on your way. Being full after breakfast is always a challenge for me- but not when I have a bowl of this granola. Their base for the granola is corn and rice and their flavors include “Cranberry Orange Cashew”, “Rainforest”, “ Apple Raisin Walnut”, “Maple Cranberry” and “Extreme Fruit and Nut”. Even if you are not gluten- free this is some fabulous granola! Delish!

For a list of Bakery on Main’s gluten free products (which are also casein and dairy free) along with store locations, coupons and recipes check out their website:
Photo from Bakery-On-Main.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Not long before I moved from Brooklyn to Savannah, I was sitting in my doctor’s office getting my asthma checked out and was complaining about these little divots on my tongue. Seeing a doctor in New York City is a whole new trip of crazy to begin with- the most surprising part to me was how they will sit with you in their office and talk about your medical history, why you are there, etc. and then take you into an exam room and then back in the office you go. So, my doctor and I were comfortably sitting in his office chairs talking about these tiny divots (aphthous ulcers) he examined in the exam room and after I replied I had had them for a little over a year he replied in his thick Ghanaian accent “Oh no! That is much, much too long lets fix this!”. My point exactly doc. He decides to check me out for B12 deficiency with a blood test and sent me to the blood lady to drain some blood. I bid my adieu and went off to the blood lady.

About 2 minutes later he comes running into the blood room and said “Lindsey, Lindsey I forgot to tell you!” my heart sunk, I thought for sure I had some rare disease and had about 4 days to live but instead he exclaimed “You have the most beautiful cholesterol I have ever seen in my life!”. Sweet! It is true- beauty is not only skin deep - in my case cholesterol deep as well. It turns out he had never seen anybody with as low of cholesterol as I had and I walked out of his office that day my head just a little higher and my swagger just a littler more swaggin.

It has long been engrained in me, along with buying non-fat and low-fat products, to also watch foods that would raise my cholesterol such as butter, eggs, etc. My parents don’t suffer from high cholesterol but watching my cholesterol intake was something I always did and never knew why. Well not anymore! I embrace butter, eggs, cheese, oils and all that good cholesterol-y stuff with a hearty hug. Well maybe not a hearty hug but I let them slip into my diet a lot more frequently than I did before. The two following recipes for potato quiche are perfect examples of my “cholesterol to the wind” attitude I have embraced in the past few months- lucky for me now that I am in the south and everything is cooked in butter, oil and fat. So while the recipes are not cholesterol – free they are naturally gluten free and phenomenally delicious.

Potatoes are one of the most versatile foods out there and gluten- free. I love just about everything potato- mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, potatoes au gratin, potato soup and the list can go on and on. That list now includes my potato quiches. I was never a big fan of quiche- I always got sick and thought it was the eggs when in reality it was the gluten in the crust. I frequently think of recipes and how to make new creations as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep at night and for weeks have been pondering a quiche with potato crust. I just kept getting caught up with the baking of the potatoes for the crust. So, I called my mother and asked for her advice and she mentioned a Potatoes Anna dish she used to make. From my mother’s recipe and flipping through cookbooks and online sites the following recipes came to be. What is so awesome about these dishes are there versatility – I eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner… much like the Pennsylvania prayer “Potatoes served at breakfast, At dinner served again; Potatoes served at supper, Forever and Amen!”

So pull up the B-52’s “ My Own Private Idaho” and pay homage to the state that gives us some fabulous gluten free food!

Simple Potato Quiche
4 tbsp butter
4 Idaho Potatoes
6 Eggs
½ can diced tomatoes or 1 large tomato diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and Pepper as needed
Diced leftover squash and zucchini (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2) Melt butter on oven in small sauce pan or in microwave- proof dish in microwave (optional: a couple of dashes of salt)
3) Slice potatoes about 1/8 of an inch thick using sharp knife or mandolin
1) Brush pie pan bottom and side with melted butter and place one layer of potatoes on bottom of pan. Brush top of potatoes with butter and layer additional potatoes over first layer trying to cover all “holes” made by the potatoes. Brush the second layer of potatoes with butter as well.
2) Place potatoes in oven for 15 minutes
3) While potatoes are baking break eggs in medium size bowl and whisk with fork
4) Mix tomatoes (drain if using canned), cheese and squash and zucchini into egg mixture (egg mixture will be very thick). Add pepper (optional)
5) Take potatoes out of the oven and add egg mixture. Add the rest of the potatoes in circular motion on top of egg mixture. Brush remaining butter on top of potatoes.
6) Place potato quiche back in oven for 45 minutes.
7) Let cool for 5-10 minutes and eat alone or with greens salad.
Serves 6 or 1 for a few days

Italian Potato Quiche
3 tbsp butter
2 Idaho Potatoes
¼ small yellow onion diced
2 small off the vine tomatoes diced
3 eggs
1 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
1 tsp Italian blend spice
1 clove garlic minced or jarred minced garlic (Spice World in produce section of most groceries)
Salt and Pepper as needed Olive Oil as needed

Steps 1-3 same as simple potato quiche

4) Brush 7X5X1.5 pan with butter and place one layer of potato

on bottom. Place in oven.
5) In sauté pan swirl olive oil and sauté onion and garlic on high
(one fork full if using jarred) until onion is translucent. Add
tomatoes and sauté until tender. Place heat on low.
6) Break eggs in bowl and whisk with fork.
7) Add cheese, Italian spices and tomato/onion mixture to eggs. Add Pepper (optional)
8) Take potatoes out of oven and add egg mixture (will be
thick). Add the rest of the potatoes on top of egg mixture and
brush with the rest of the butter.
9) Bake for 30 minutes.
10) Let cool for 5-10 minutes before eating.

Serves 2 or 1 for 3 meals!

These are two options of many you can make with the potato quiche. The key steps are really 1-3. If you are a pork eater (which I am not) you can add bacon or ham to either of the quiches. You can also make a Spanish quiche sautéing peppers and onions. Your imagination is your “potato” if you will!

And of course the aphthous ulcers were just one more sign of my
celiacs. Go figure!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Delicious Fall Salads

When I was in high school I absolutely loved fall- new school supplies, High School Football games, changing leaves and crisp, cool weather. I grew up in St. Louis where by the end of August you are praying for any type of relief from the heat and humidity. Fall was always a welcome respite as we grabbed our pea coats and headed on out to Homecoming bonfires and parades.

With fall always came my mother’s delicious havarti, apple and walnut salad that we would eat alone or accompanying Thanksgiving dinner. The salad was perfect for fall in just about every way- the sweet crispness of the apples, tartness of the cranberries, sharp creaminess of the havarti and the crunchy woodiness of the walnuts. Flavors that mirrored what mother-nature was doing preparing for winter- crisp winds paired with strong sunshine that warms up your face.The salad was a mix and contradiction of flavors- just like the season.

Now that I am in Savannah, fall is just rolling in off the coast and we are having our first few crisp days as the leaves begin to change. I was beginning to crave my mother’s salad again and was inspired to create a new fall salad as well that takes advantage of the “harvest” vegetables and garnishes that are plentiful during the season- red potatoes, green beans, apples and nuts. My mother’s salad was even better than I remembered it with the oil- based poppyseed dressing dancing along my tongue.

In my new salad I was going for the same contrast in flavors that my mother achieved in her salad. I brought together red potatoes, tomatoes, green beans and goat cheese all dressed up with olive oil, seasonings and an simple red wine (gluten- free of course!) vinaigrette. I’m not a fish eater at all but fresh tuna would probably be divine with this harvest salad.

Gluten Free Maven’s Tip of the Day:
ALWAYS check that your dressing is gluten-free. Many times gluten is hidden in the ingredients and additives in salad dressings. Annie’s Naturals has a stellar selection of gluten-free dressings.

Havarti, Apple and Walnut Salad with Poppyseed Dressing
½ bag mixed greens (or fresh from farmers market )
1 Fugi Apple
Havarti Cheese
Chopped Walnuts
Dried Cranberries (optional)
Poppyseed Dressing (Maple Grove Farms of Vermont Fat Free Poppyseed Dressing is Gluten Free)
1) Dice Fugi apple and havarti cheese
2) In medium size bowl mix mixed greens, apple, cheese walnuts and cranberries with poppyseed dressing

Roasted Vegetable Salad
5-6 petite red potatoes
¼ lb fresh green beans
1 medium tomato
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Seasoning (Italian, Mrs. Dash- any gluten free seasoning)
Goat Cheese
½ bag mixed greens
Red Wine and Olive Oil Vinaigrette (Annie’s Naturals is Gluten Free)

1) Boil water for green beans
2) Turn oven on broil
3) Trim green beans, quarter potatoes and dice tomatoes
4) Throw green beans in water
5) In small bowl poor in a few “glugs” of olive oil and a couple of “shakes” of seasoning
6) Toss potatoes in olive oil mixture
7) Throw potatoes in broiling pan and place in oven for five minutes
8) Toss green beans and tomato in olive oil mixture
9) After 5 minutes add beans and tomato to broiling pan for approx. 4 min
10) In medium size bowl mix mixed greens and goat cheese
11) Remove vegetables from oven and mix in with greens and cheese. Add Red Wine and Olive oil vinaigrette and serve

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giving Black Beans and Rice another chance

Almost two years ago two great friends of mine from college, Dana and Josiah, got married in Dana’s hometown of New Orleans. I had never visited “The Big Easy” and was intrigued and interested in experiencing Bourbon Street, eating Creole food and drinking at any time of the day. This was before I had figured out why I was constantly sick, suffering from migraines, gaining weight seemingly overnight and still craving wheat at every turn.

To say the least, I enjoyed New Orleans immensely and took advantage of the fabulous food and drink constantly available including pasta, cornbread, wedding cake, beer and daiquiris- yes I think every morsel I put in my mouth was completely gluten-fied. I arrived on Thursday and by Sunday, when I was at Dana’s parents house enjoying the post- wedding lazy day dinner, I was sicker than a dog. I just chalked it up to not having the same liver I did in college and partook in an amazing dinner of rice and beans. Everybody at the dinner knew it was my first time in New Orleans and had a fun time ribbing me on finally eating the “real thing” and when I spent a noticeably long time in the bathroom, giving me a hard time for not being able to digest the “real thing”. I was mortified- I had failed my New Orleans initiation- I couldn’t even hold on rice and beans- major bummer. I swore off rice and beans- we were over after they embarrassed me so.

That was in November, a few months later was when I found out gluten was the culprit of my sickness, migraines and weight gain and finally pieced together “AH! That’s why I was so sick- it wasn’t the spices in the Creole food but the gluten in the food that made me so painfully ill!”But I still hadn’t forgiven rice and beans. That took a bit longer.

My mother is a do- gooder, tree hugging suburban hippie. Being cut of that “cloth” she and her friends have gone on many service trips around the world including Central and South America. While building housing, providing medical care and teaching basic home skills my mother and her friends ate a lot of rice and beans. When I say a lot I mean a lot- beans and rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you so much as say “rice and beans” to one of her friends she does a small dry heave and leaves the room. To say rice and beans are a staple in that part of the world is a bit of an understatement. Due to the abundance in crops of beans and the relative affordability of the dish rice and beans can be found in Cuba, Brazil, Nicaragua and everywhere in between. With my mothers experience in Central and Southern America and her flirtations with vegetarianism over the years she has been a big proponent of me adding beans and rice to my diet and constantly touts their nutritional value, especially since I have been following a gluten free diet.

Recently, after reading Jeremy Jackson’s essay “Beans and Me” in “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone” edited by Jenni Ferrari- Adler, I had an uncontrollable urge to following my mother’s guidance. Jackson writes about his decade long “friendship” with black beans throughout college, grad school and while teaching at his alma mater. He speaks lovingly of the sister dish of the dish I swore off of after my uncomfortable New Orleans rendezvous - despite my mother’s urgings. Jackson writes, “Of all the beans I have loved in my lifetime- and there have been many- no bean stands above the black bean. The black bean reigns supreme. The black bean has the key to my heart. The black bean and me go way back.” His relationship with black beans seemed a lot healthier than mine. I decided that every dish deserves a second chance and that I would follow my mothers advice and try out black beans and rice again . They may not have been the real “New Orleans thing” but they were darn good. Even if you aren’t gluten- free this is a fabulous flavorful, filling and easy dish to make in the fall.

Black Beans and Rice for the Solitary Celiac (and leftovers)
2 cups water
1 cup white rice
Swirl of Olive Oil
About 1 tbl spoon Garlic ( I always have a jar of chopped garlic onhand to quickly add to recipes or use 2 small cloves fresh garlic)
½ small white onion, diced
¼ red pepper, diced
1 can Goya Black Beans undrained and ¼ can of water (canned is fastest but you can use dry and soak overnight at well)
A few shakes of the following to taste:
Chili powder or similar seasoning (which has cayenne an oregano but I like adding more of those two)
1. Boil water for rice. When water comes to a rumbling boil add rice and turn down to medium heat
2. While rice is cooking, swirl olive oil around pan and cover bottom of pan with olive oil. Add diced garlic, onion and red pepper and sauté until onion is translucent
3. Add can of black beans with juice and ¼ can of water. Saute on medium heat
4. While beans are sautéing and add spices to taste
5. Enjoy aromas
6. Simmer beans for about 20 minutes or until there is substantial bean “gravy”
7. Serve piping hot beans over rice
You can visibly see the heat rising from the plate as the bean gravy dirties the white rice. Black beans and rice is the perfect example of contradictions or opposites working together: black and white, spicy and bland. It is like the culinary version of Will Smith’s song Miami “black, white, Cuban and asian”- all flavors and colors mixing together for an aromatic, filling, affordable and easy dish for all to enjoy- gluten free or gluten lover.

Gluten Free Maven's Product Tip of the Day:
Check out Goya's Nutrition Page for all of the Gluten-Free products! A fabulous tip for the gluten- free cook!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Macaroni and Cheese delights

I was not the most original kid in the world when it came to my culinary tastes. I liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (no crust please), plain cheese pizza and good ol' Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I don't know if I ever knew that macaroni and cheese could come out of anything but a blue box. When Kraft started expanding their line-up of mac and cheese offerings from the regular macaroni half- circle pasta to twists, shapes and shells with creamy, gooey Velveeta cheese smeared over them- WOAH! I thought I had hit the big time in expanding my culinary repertoire. Then again I was only 10 and it was the early 90's so you can't fault me too much.

As with all things- I changed and so did the landscape of macaroni and cheese in America. I'm not sure my sister, who are a generation younger than I, have ever seen macaroni and cheese out of a blue box. Food tastes in America have changed drastically over the past 20 years as we have become more socially, organically and economically aware. My sisters now crave Annie's mac and cheese in fun Arthur the Aardvark shapes. I, on the other hand, have come to find out that macaroni and cheese comes in all shapes and sizes and, with the discovery of my gluten allergy, in pasta not made with wheat flour but rather rice, quinoa and other exotic grain flours.

When I first found out I couldn't eat pasta I had a bit of a breakdown- my diet was mostly pasta based. So instead of trying to find alternative ways to cook I looked to directly substitute what I had already been eating- sometimes with great success and other times with some difficulty. Luckily for me there are many gluten free alternatives to the “American classic” of macaroni and cheese. In the two years since I discovered wheat was a memory of the past I have expanding my cooking talents and culinary tastes, but there are days when I still just want to whip up a quick box of mac and cheese! Where did this nationwide obsession with mac and cheese that I inherited come from and why was it so important that I replace it in my new gluten free diet?

Many food historians credit Mary Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's daughter, with inventing a macaroni and parmesan dish that serves as a forefather to our current pasta and cheddar dish. More than likely Jefferson himself brought the dish back after his travels in Italy. Then, in 1937 amid economic troubles and war, Kraft macaroni and cheese sold a record 8 million boxed dinners. During World War Two the popularity of Kraft macaroni soared tenfold and proved to be a filling meat substitute that was also affordable- costing families only one ration coupon per box. Now Kraft dominates the macaroni and cheese aisle with dozens of different types of products including Macaroni and Cheese Deluxe, Back to Nature Macaroni and Cheese, Bistro Deluxe Creamy Portabello Mushroom, Easy Mac (a college freshman staple) and Original Macaroni and Cheese available in various shapes including Spider Man, Scooby Doo and Sponge Bob Square Pants.

Macaroni and Cheese has also played a big role in African- American kitchens throughout American culinary history. Joseph C Phillips, an actor based in Los Angeles, commented on the importance of macaroni and cheese in his life on the NPR show “News and Notes”. He describes becoming enraged when he saw his children were eating “powdered orange gook” (the same gook I loved as a suburban child in the 80s and 90s). He describes good macaroni and cheese dishes as “elbow macaroni with creamy custard like cheddar cheese sauce covered with a crusty layer of cheese and butter and breadcrumbs”. That sounds a heck of a lot better than the “powdered orange gook” of my childhood. Mom- what were you doing to me? Didn't you love me? Or did you love my low cholesterol more?

As I ventured out to find quality gluten-free macaroni and cheese I tried many varieties- powdered and boxed, frozen and creamed and homemade. Many of the products I tried out are readily available in most nationwide grocery stores in the “organic” food section or at your local natural food store. Macaroni and cheese has come a long way since the Jefferson family was making it with Parmesan cheese but I think they would get a kick out of the dish becoming an American classic- even for the Gluten intolerant.

Annies Rice Macaroni and Cheese (Boxed)

Annie's Rice Macaroni and Cheese is most like the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese products of my childhood. And although some may call it “powdered orange gook” there are days I just want that “powdered orange gook” darn it! I had a lot of good memories with that kind of macaroni and cheese and although my tastes have expanded there are times I like to have a walk down memory lane with boxed macaroni and cheese- powdered cheese and all!

I was thrilled when I first found that Annie's made a rice version of their very popular boxed macaroni and cheese. I was so thrilled that I failed to read the directions- after all I had been making macaroni and cheese for almost 25 years when I was diagnosed- I don't need to read directions anymore. As most recently diagnosed celiacs will tell you rice pasta cooks a bit differently than wheat pasta. Also, Annies has you make the cheese sauce in a measuring cup with the milk before pouring it over the hot, drained macaroni. Good call Annie- this prevents the lumping of powdered product all over your pasta. It helps to read the directions and I suggest you do so if you are new to gluten free cooking.

After I nailed down how to cook the box the way Annie intended- I was satisfied. The pasta cooks up al dente and the cheese mixture is able to spread over the pasta without clumping up. I am a cheese lover though so I wish that Annie's provided more cheese for the sauce especially because not all of the sauce gets on the macaroni pasta from the measuring cup. The cheese sauce lacks a lot of favor but, I truly don't remember much “BAM” flavor in my childhood macaroni so I don't fault Annie's too much for their lack of taste. It would be fun if Annie made some of her kid friendly versions- with shapes of Arthur and friends- gluten-free as well for children who avoid gluten. Overall, I think Annie's is a nice stand-by for a quick lunch or light dinner with a salad or sandwich. I almost always have a box or two in my pantry.

Amy's Rice Macaroni and Cheese (Frozen Meal)

Amy's has been offering a rather extensive collection of vegetarian frozen meals and more to Americans since 1987. Amy's has started expanding their repertoire within the past few years to include gluten-free, lactose- free and many other special diet products. Amy's Rice Macaroni and Cheese was one of the first gluten-free alternatives I turned to when I was diagnosed. It's quick and easy- a college celiac's alternative to Easy Mac (though more expensive). After 4 minutes in the microwave you have an al dente macaroni and cheese treat! The pasta is reminiscent of wheat flour pasta and does not have the grainy texture that some gluten-free pastas have. The creamy cheese has a surprising nutty taste that leaves you wanting more- and Amy anticipated this by not skimping on the cheese at all. Usually after I have had one of my Amy's meals I have cheese left over in my paper microwave container. There is only a slight powder after taste to the cheese but it is barely noticeable. Amy's has done a great job at developing a tasty macaroni and cheese dish for those of us who are unable to eat gluten and wheat.

Glutino Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese 3-Cheese Blend (Frozen Meal)

Both Annie's and Amy's are food producers who do not specialize in food for people with allergies, but, Glutino, as the name suggests, specializes in food specifically for those who can not eat gluten. Glutino is a company based in Quebec whose product can be found in grocery and health food stores as well as directly through Glutino's website.

Most Glutino products knock my socks off but my socks stayed firmly on after making their 3-cheese macaroni and cheese. I cooked per the package directions but when I first took the box out of the microwave I found that I had macaroni and cheese soup. I microwaved it a bit longer and while I still had some “soup” it was better. Additionally, the noodles were not cooked evenly some being too hard and others too soft, the cheese was visibly oily and for a frozen meal the cheese was too powdery for my liking. Not my favorite of all of the macaroni and cheese's that I have sampled but I don't count Glutino out either- I am typically pleased with their products so after some time passes I may give their macaroni and cheese another shot hoping that it has gone through some serious product development.

Carol Fenster's Macaroni and Cheese (Homemade)

My mother sent me Carol Fenster's “Gluten Free Quick and Easy” cookbook while I was living in New York and I started using her recipes almost immediately. I typically use cookbook recipes as a jumping off point to learn how to make things that I don't normally make- like béchamel sauce. I have made this recipe a couple of times and have always made a few substitutions. Below is her recipe with my changes.

1 bag gluten free macaroni (I used Tinkayada)
3 cups skim milk
¼ cup rice flour (Uncle Bobs) and then as needed to thicken
2 table spoons unsalted butter
1 ½ cup smoked Gouda
1 ½ cup yellow sharp cheddar
a few squirts of dijon mustard
a few shakes of salt
a few shakes of paprika
1. Prepare pasta
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an over proof 2- quart dish
3. Place all except ¼ cup of milk into heavy pan over medium heat. Stir the rice flour into the remaining milk until smooth and mix into pan. Add butter and mix continuously. Continue whisking and adding rice flour as needed to thicken.
Note: Add rice flour 1/8 or ¼ cup at a time. Milk mixture will be half as thick as regular milk. You should still be able to whisk through the mixture easily.
4. Remove pan from heat and whisk in mustard, cheeses and salt until cheese is melted. Then pour over drained pasta in pot and transfer to baking dish
5. Bake 25-30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

You can really use any kind of cheese. I just happen to be a huge smoked Gouda fan so I mixed the smoked Gouda and sharp cheddar. The smokiness of the Gouda is just enough to make you happy to be alive. Homemade mac and cheese is great because you get the crusty cheese top and creamy underneath that warms you from the inside. This dish is great alone or paired with gluten free fried chicken or a tomato and greens salad. I think if Joseph C. Phillips had to eat gluten- free he would be most pleased with this dish- its delish! This dish is great alone or paired with gluten free fried chicken or a tomato and greens salad.