Category Archives: Jewish holidays

Gluten-Free Passover Foods 2012

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(Update 3/14/13: For my 2013 gluten-free Passover list, click here.)

Passover, an eight-day holiday that celebrates when the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt, seems to be a great gluten-free holiday. On Passover, we cannot eat any leavened bread — basically, no wheat, rye, barley, spelt or oats. Sounds great so far, right? But here’s the rub: On Passover, we eat matzo, which is made from wheat. Many Passover foods are made with matzo meal, so you need to read labels carefully to avoid matzo meal. Still, Passover is a great opportunity to stock up on some gluten-free foods that are hard to find year-round.

Gluten-free Passover foods are either marked as “gluten free” or as “non-gebrokts” (which means it does not contain matzo meal and is therefore gluten-free). While there are many gluten-free Passover products, many of them are expensive, don’t taste great and don’t have much nutritional value. That’s due to Passover prohibitions against other foods such as rice, corn and soy, which means that most Passover products rely on potato starch and lack in taste and nutrition.

I used to buy bags of gluten-free products during Passover, but I don’t do that as much anymore. (Well, that’s what I say, but my grocery bills and pantry indicate otherwise.) I skip most of the Passover cookies and cake mixes, as well as the Passover noodles, waffles and pizza made with potato flour; they’re simply not worth the poor taste and the expense.

If you can find a grocery store with a large kosher section, or a dedicated kosher grocery store, look for these gluten-free, kosher for Passover products that have made it into my grocery cart. (These represent my personal opinion. I am not compensated for reviews, nor did I accept free samples.)

Click for printable gluten-free Passover shopping list

Continue reading my gluten-free Passover shopping list.

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As Sweet as Honey

honey cake, gluten-free

Gluten-free honey cake provides a sweet start to the new year.

For Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, we greet each other with “Shana Tovah Umetukah” – wishes for a happy and sweet new year. To symbolize sweetness, many families serve honey cake, a traditional Rosh Hashanah dessert. Which, as usual, leaves me searching for a great-tasting gluten-free alternative.

Fortunately, this year I made a moist gluten-free, dairy-free honey cake spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg for my honey-child. (Cue Martha & The Vandellas’ “Honey Chile” and Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey.”)

For inspiration, I started with Marcy Goldman’s vaunted “Majestic and Moist New Year’s Honey Cake” from “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking.” I used gluten-free flour, subbed some applesauce and increased the orange juice to keep the cake moist and sweet. Buckwheat flour — a dark, strong gluten-free flour that’s high in protein, fiber and magnesium — works well here, complementing the complex flavors in the cake. Interestingly, buckwheat is not related to wheat but is a member of the rhubarb family.

Have a sweet new year!
Click for Gluten-Free Honey Cake recipe

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A is for Apple Cake

Jewish Apple Cake, gluten-free

A traditional Rosh Hashanah dessert: Jewish apple cake.
I love this photo, taken in my living room!

Shanah Tovah! Best wishes for a happy Rosh Hashanah and a sweet new year. We’re getting this new year off to a tasty start, with a gluten-free version of traditional Jewish apple cake.

My mother is famous for her Jewish apple cake, laced with apples that she plucks from the trees in her back yard. I’ve always wondered, though, what makes the apple cake “Jewish.” Really, I didn’t know that cakes could have a religion. The answer seems to be that the cake is made with vegetable oil and orange juice, instead of butter and milk, thus making it pareve (neither dairy nor meat). Apple cake is also a favorite dessert for Rosh Hashanah, when we eat apples dipped in honey to symbolize hopes for a sweet new year.

Mom’s recipe worked surprisingly well in its gluten-free version. I substituted gluten-free flours, added xanthan gum (a binder for GF baking) and left the rest of the recipe intact. The cake is moist and bursts with the flavors of apples and cinnamon.

Click for the recipe for Gluten-Free Jewish Apple Cake

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GF Matzo: Better Than the Real Deal

Saying something “tastes better than matzo” is not normally the strongest compliment. After all, matzo is somewhat dry and tasteless. But when a gluten-free product tastes better than the real deal, it’s cause for celebration.

New this year, Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares have a lighter, more tender taste that traditional matzo. With a hint of salt, they taste similar to a thin, flaky flatbread or cracker. We opened a box so we could taste the product, and since then my kids have been begging for more. Seriously. And it’s not even Passover yet.

During the eight-day holiday of Passover, we do not eat grains that can ferment and become leavened. Interestingly, those grains are wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt — the same glulten-containing grains that people with celiac disease must not eat. However, in another twist, matzo must be made from one of those five grains, though the flour must come into contact with water for less than 18 minutes so it doesn’t rise.

For the past few years, we’ve bought gluten-free oat matzo. It was expensive ($25 to $35 a box) and tasted only slightly better than the actual box.

The new Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares aren’t halachically (according to Jewish law) a replacement for matzo at the seder, since they are made from potato starch and tapioca starch, instead of wheat or oats. That’s why they are called “matzo style” instead of just “matzo.” But they taste better than gluten-free oat matzo and, at $5 to $7 a box, they are priced better too.

If you would like to buy gluten-free oat matzo that meets seder requirements, try Lakewood Matzoh or Gluten-Free Oat Matzos. Last year, Gluten-Free Oat Matzos had problems with cross-contamination at the factory, resulting in 80 ppm of gluten. This year, they say they’ve tested the oat matzo repeatedly and it was less than 5ppm. (A gluten-free product should be under 20ppm, under proposed FDA guidelines.)

I can’t find a link to buy the Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares online, but I bought them at a Chicago-area Jewel-Osco that carries kosher food. Happy Passover!

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Noshin’ on hamantaschen

hamantaschen, gluten-free

Gluten-free, dairy-free hamantaschen

Name a Jewish holiday, and there’s usually a special food associated with it. That’s certainly the case with Purim, which is coming up this weekend. I made gluten-free, dairy-free hamantaschen – triangular, jelly-filled cookies — using the recipe I posted last year.

I found the recipe so easy to work with last year, but a bit more difficult to cut out the circles this year. It helped when I chilled the dough in the freezer then liberally sprinkled rice flour on the wax paper when I was rolling out the dough. Go figure. There is so much that goes into baking — the smallest changes in ingredients, temperature, etc., end up making a big difference.

My kids love shaping the hamantaschen and doing a “magic” trick: taking the circles of dough and turning them into triangular cookies. They also love thinking of crazy fillings to put in the hamantaschen. This year we tried marshmallows, white chocolate chips, Nutella and mint M&Ms, along with apricot and raspberry jam. I actually like the traditional prune and poppy seed fillings, but I did not have the ingredients on hand.

Check out this cute, short video of my older daughter shaping hamantaschen, and turning circles into triangles. Yes, she really does say to “gently, carefully, tenderly” fold up the dough!

The full recipe is posted here.

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Gluten-Free Potato Latkes

Gluten-Free Potato Latkes

Gluten-Free Potato Latkes

Happy Hanukkah!

Sorry that I’ve been neglecting this blog, but things have been busy and it seems there’s always something to do. In the past few months, we sold our condo (thankfully!), moved into a new (well, a rehabbed 100-year-old) house in Chicago, transitioned to a new neighborhood after 20 years in the old ‘hood, and changed our daughters to a new school.

Things are settling down now, and we are enjoying Hanukkah in our new home. And while Hanukkah may mean candles, dreidels and gifts to the kids, it means potato latkes to me.

Many homemade and store-bought latkes contain flour or matza meal. However, since the amount of flour is small, it’s pretty easy to adapt latkes to be gluten-free. If you’re looking to buy latkes, Kineret frozen potato latkes do not contain gluten.

This year, my family concurred that my latkes were the best ever. I used three russet potatoes and one sweet potato, which added a golden orange color and hint of sweetness. After I grated the potatoes, I let them sit in a colander to drain extra liquid. And I used potato starch instead of flour. Don’t listen to people who claim you have to hand-grate the potatoes; a food processor works just fine.

Even if your arteries harden at the sight of a thick layer of oil in a frying pan, don’t be stingy with the oil. To make the latkes brown and crisp, you need a generous layer of oil covering the bottom of the pan. Keep the pan hot to prevent the latkes from absorbing too much oil, but not so hot that you set off the smoke alarm.

Enjoy the remaining days of Hanukkah!

Click for Gluten-Free Potato Latkes recipe

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Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup

gluten-free matzo ball soup

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup

If you could put comfort in a bowl, you’d end up with matzo ball soup. Chicken soup is legendary. This “Jewish penicillin” can conquer the common cold and, if you believe your Bubbe, can cure any hurt or illness. Add fluffy matzo balls and it’s the stuff family legends are made of.

When our family first went gluten-free, we mourned the lack of matzo ball soup. Chicken soup with rice just wouldn’t suffice. I tried to make gluten-free matzo balls from scratch, but instead of matzo balls we ended up with matzo lumps.

But when Passover rolled around, I found salvation. Salvation in a box.

Matzo balls contain, of course, matzo, which is made from wheat. However, some kosher for Passover brands of matzo ball mix are made from potato starch instead of matzo meal. That’s because some observant Jews don’t mix matzo with water during Passover, to prevent any possibility of it rising. Passover food that does not contain matzo is labeled non-gebrokts. (Gebrokts literally means “broken,” referring to matzo that is broken up and mixed with water.)

As Passover approaches, you can find several brands of gluten-free matzo meal. I buy four or five boxes to last well into the year. My favorite gluten-free matzo ball mixes are Paskesz Pesach Crumbs and Lieber’s Knaidel mix. (Paskesz’ gluten-free “Matzo Ball Mix” sounds like it would be great, but it produces knaidlach that are gummy instead of yummy.) Update: I’ve decided that Lieber’s Knaidel Mix makes the best gluten-free matzo balls. The recipe below follows the instructions for the Paskesz mix, so if using Lieber’s follow the directions on the box.

You’ll end up with perfectly round cream-colored balls that are fluffy on the outside, yet ever-so-slightly dense at the core (which, in my opinion, is a good thing). We’ve served them to gluten-eating friends who’ve asked for seconds and thirds.

To make the matzo balls, I use the recipe on the side of the box with just a few small changes. The recipe below uses Pesach Crumbs, because I can usually find those year-round in our kosher grocery store.

Some matzo ball tips: After you’ve made the matzo ball mixture, be sure to refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Then enlist your kids to help roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls. However, be gentle: The more you roll the balls, the denser they will be. Set aside all the balls onto a plate. When they all are rolled and ready, drop the balls into a pot of boiling water, so they all cook for the same amount of time. Use a large pot, so the matzo balls have room to fluff up and not crowd their neighbors.

Click for Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup recipe

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Gluten-Free Passover Foods

gluten-free passover foods

Gluten-free Passover foods

Update: For 2012 gluten-free Passover foods, see my recent blog post. The 2010 post is below.

On Passover, we recall how the Israelites were slaves in ancient Egypt. To remember the unleavened bread they ate when they left Egypt, we don’t eat certain grains during the eight days of Passover. That means wheat, rye, barley and oats are prohibited (other than the grain used to make matzah).

As a result, many kosher for Passover foods are also gluten-free. Check to make sure the labels say “kosher for Passover” and that the ingredients do not contain any form of matzah (which can be labeled as matzah, matzah meal, cake meal or farfel — all of which contain wheat). Many Passover foods are now marked “gluten free.” Some are marked with the Yiddish word “non-gebrokts,” which means that the food does not contain matzah and is therefore gluten-free.

While Passover is a good time to stock up on some sweets and traditional Jewish foods, don’t go overboard. Because many grains are prohibited on Passover, prepared foods are often lacking in nutrition and taste. Skip the Passover cake mixes, cereals and pasta, as they are usually disappointing. In my family, the worst insult is to say that something “tastes like Passover,” meaning it is as dry as the Sinai desert.

I find it’s useful to have a gluten-free Passover shopping list, so I thought I would share mine. Please note that I am not compensated for these recommendations in any way. Also, this is not an exhaustive survey of all gluten-free Passover products. And even though I recommend specific products, always read labels to make sure foods are gluten-free.

Click for my gluten-free Passover shopping list.

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Gluten-Free Hamantaschen

hamantaschen1

Shaping the hamantaschen

hamantaschen2

Baked hamantaschen

Purim is a joyous Jewish holiday in which we celebrate how Queen Esther helped outsmart and thwart the evil Haman, who had plotted to destroy all the Jews in ancient Shushan (in Prussia). We celebrate by reading the Megillah (Scroll of Esther) and drowning out Haman’s name with noisemakers. We also dress in costumes, play games at Purim carnivals and eat hamantaschen, which are triangular fruit-filled cookies shaped like Haman’s tri-cornered hat.

In past years, I’ve struggled with making gluten-free hamantaschen. One year I had so many failed batches that I laid down and cried. This year, I once again set out to make gluten-free hamantaschen for Purim, so my daughter could have treats to bring to her class parties and family celebrations.

I originally wanted the recipe to include ancient gluten-free grains like quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat, because they have significantly more protein and fiber than standard gluten-free flours. But no go. The taste was too strong and color too dark. That was two batches down, plus one batch that ended up on the kitchen floor when the parchment paper slid off the cookie sheet. D’oh.

I’m glad I kept trying. The dairy-free version below has a delicate taste without a gluten-free grittiness. The brown rice flour and sorghum subtly add extra protein and fiber, and the fruit filling provides the perfect sweetness.

If you’re unfamiliar with hamantaschen, they are somewhat similar to the Central European kolache (or is it kolachki?), in that they are cookies with fruit centers. Traditional hamantaschen fillings are prune, poppyseed and apricot, but you can fill them with anything, including any kind of fruit preserves, chocolate chips, M&Ms or Nutella.

For a short video on how to shape the hamantaschen, see my Noshin’ on Hamantaschen post.

On Purim, we eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy!

Click for the recipe

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Tu B’Shevat Orange and Walnut Salad

tu b'shevat orange walnut salad

Tu B'Shevat Orange and Walnut Salad

Next week is the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, which is the New Year of the trees. On this holiday, trees are counted as another year older. Also, in Israel (certainly not in Chicago), trees are beginning their new fruit-bearing cycle.

We celebrate Tu B’Shevat by eating fruit and planting trees.

In school, my 8-year-old was assigned to learn about orange trees. As part of that, she asked me to create a gluten-free recipe with oranges.

The following Tu B’Shevat Orange and Walnut Salad is sticky sweet, which is why she liked it, though the sweetness is offset by tangy fresh lime and ginger. It can be served as a side salad accompanying a savory chicken entree or nestled on a bed of greens.

Click for the recipe

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