Gluten-Free Kitchen Confidential

Recently, I was fortunate to speak at the Celiac Awareness Tour Chicago. My talk was about “gluten-free kitchen confidential” — tips for keeping gluten-free at home and away.

I had many tips and thoughts to share, but here are the headlines:

  • BYOF — Bring Your Own Food. Always be prepared with safe gluten-free food, whether for school, sightseeing, plane trips or dinner parties.
  • Make sure gluten-free kids always have a great-looking, great-tasting gluten-free treat to bring to birthday parties or other occasions. It doesn’t always have to match what the other kids are having, but it should look tempting!
  • Focus on whole, healthy, naturally gluten-free foods such as meat, chicken, fish, fruit, veggies, dairy and eggs. Focus on all the good things that you can eat, not on what you cannot eat.
  • When in doubt, leave it out. Don’t eat something unless you are 100% sure it is gluten-free. Also, if a restaurant doesn’t seem to fully understand your gluten-free requests, then leave. The risk is simply not worth it.

If you have questions about the gluten-free diet, please feel free to email me or post a comment any time. If it’s a more involved request, I also do gluten-free consulting — see the “Consulting” tab at the top of the page.

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A New Take on Gluten-Free S’mores

smores-edit

Gluten-free s’mores with chocolate chip cookies, marshmallows and peanut butter cups.

A couple of weeks ago, we took the kids camping for the first time. Everything went surprisingly well, especially sleeping together like four sardines tucked into a tiny tent. The highlight, of course, was campfire cooking. We enjoyed hot dogs, corn on the cob, baked potatoes and baked beans. (Camping has a healthy image, but really, is all that unrefrigerated, smoky, burnt food good for you?) No surprise, but the campfire desserts were our favorites, especially our chocolate-chip-studded banana boats and warm, chocolaty gluten-free s’mores.

Kinnikinnick’s S’moreables are good gluten-free graham cracker substitutes (for tips on making s’mores in your kitchen, rather than the campfire, see my Please, Sir, I Want S’mores post). But, honestly, the S’moreables are a little small and fragile when sandwiched around a jumbo marshmallow.

Inspired by a Time Out Chicago Kids article on alternate s’mores, my older daughter came up with some creative new ideas for gluten-free s’mores. My favorite, pictured above, was a circular s’mores sandwich, with a flame-kissed kosher marshmallow and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup sandwiched between two Enjoy Life Gluten-Free Crunchy Chocolate Chip cookies. It was the perfect combo of oozy marshmallow, melty peanut butter and chocolate, and substantial chocolate chip cookies. (I have to say, I’m not a fan of the small, soft-baked Enjoy Life cookies that go stale quickly, but I like their new, big crunchy gluten-free cookies.)

And about those banana boats … based on a suggestion from our Girl Scouts leader, we made a vertical slit in a banana and its peel, stuffed some chocolate chips and marshmallows into the slit, and put it on the grate above the campfire to cook. (Or wrap the stuffed banana in tin foil and put in the coals.)

Now that’s what I call a successful camping trip.

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Smoky, Spicy Black Bean Chili

black bean chili, vegan and gluten-free

Spicy vegetarian black bean chili, gluten-free of course.

In Chicago, it’s almost the end of chili season, when we turn from heartier soups and chilis to lighter summer fare. In winter, this vegetarian black bean chili is one of our favorite gluten-free meals. With plenty of toasted cumin, chipotle chili powder and smoked paprika, the flavors are strong and smoky, lingering long on your tongue with a spicy spike. I’ve made this several times and have dialed down the heat until I got to this version — spicy but not numbingly so. The recipe was inspired by “Lisa’s Superior Vegetarian Black Bean Chili,” a recipe handed down from a co-worker 20 years ago. This gluten-free black bean chili makes a satisfying entree, accompanied by a side of gluten-free cornbread.

Once a few years ago, I toasted the cumin in our toaster oven at a higher temperature and for a longer time than I now recommend (the amount listed in the following recipe is fine). The cumin started smoking ferociously. When I opened the toaster oven’s door, pungent smoke curled outward, singeing our noses and throats and setting off the smoke alarm. I handed my kids baby wipes, told them to put the wipes over their faces and yelled at them to go out into the hall. We all left our apartment, leaving the windows open (killing the plants by the windows, because it was a freezing wintry day) and went to a museum and out to dinner so we could vacate the apartment. At the museum, we quickly noticed that everyone was looking at us funny. That’s probably because the pungent burnt cumin scent lingered on our clothing and smelled like the worst-ever stinky feet.

Lesson learned: Toast spices at low temperatures and watch them carefully!

Smoky, Spicy Black Bean Chili

(gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan)
By Gluten-Free Nosh
Printable recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin (don’t skip this!)
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed (or 2 cans black beans and 1 can cannellini beans, as in photo)
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed whole tomatoes

For serving (optional):

  • Cilantro
  • Green onions, chopped
  • Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt or soy yogurt

Method:

  1. Heat cumin, chipotle chile powder and smoked paprika in a small skillet over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until spices are fragrant; stir constantly to make sure spices don’t smoke or burn. Set aside.
  2. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions become soft and translucent. Add salt and spices and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in black beans and crushed tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn heat down to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  4. Serve hot with side dishes of cilantro, green onions and Greek yogurt. Leftovers taste great and freeze well.

Yield: About 8 to 10 servings

 

This post is linked to Slightly Indluglent Tuesdays.

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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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Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

peanut butter cups

Homemade peanut butter cups -- naturally gluten-free!

Recently, I made gluten-free Girl Scouts Tagalong cookies, or peanut butter pattties. We had leftover peanut butter filling, so my daughters and I decided to make homemade peanut butter cups, like miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups — naturally gluten-free and naturally delicious!

My friend Chris had sent me a recipe for homemade chocolate candy cups, with a choice of either a peanut butter or peppermint filling, and I realized we could adapt her recipe using our leftovers. I had previously bought some mini baking cups (like miniature cupcake liners) at the dollar store, so we had all the ingredients on hand for this easy gluten-free chocolate candy.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups, Gluten-Free

(gluten-free, dairy-free)
By Gluten-Free Nosh
Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I used processed peanut butter, not natural peanut butter)
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, powdered sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips or dairy-free chocolate chips
  • mini baking cups or candy cup liners, about 1.25-inches in diameter

Method:

  1. Place mini baking cups in a mini muffin tin. (Note: It is fine if the mini baking cups are smaller than the muffin tin compartments.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix peanut butter, powdered sugar and a pinch of salt until well combined. Use your hands to roll peanut butter mixture into 1/2-inch balls; roll balls quickly so your hands don’t get sticky. Set balls aside on a plate.
  3. Place chocolate chips in a large bowl. Heat in the microwave for 1 minute on half-power (such as power level 5). Stir chocolate thoroughly. If not melted, pop bowl in the microwave for subsequent 30-second intervals, stirring until chocolate is melted.
  4. Place a dollop of melted chocolate in the bottom of the mini baking cups, so the chocolate covers the bottom of the cup. Drop peanut butter balls in the middle of the mini baking cups. Spoon dollops of melted chocolate on top of the peanut butter balls. The melted chocolate should surround the sides and top of the peanut butter balls, evenly covering the peanut butter and leaving a smooth chocolate top.
  5. Stick the mini muffin tin in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, so the chocolate hardens. Enjoy your homemade candy!

Yield: I’m sorry — I forgot to note the yield, but it probably makes around 20 to 24 mini peanut butter cups.

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Gluten-Free Tagalongs, or Peanut Butter Patties

gluten-free tagalongs

Gluten-free version of Tagalong Girl Scout cookies

My daughters always have fun selling Girl Scout cookies – who can resist two enthusiastic, cute kids? I’m impressed that they sold 58 boxes each. But above all, I’m impressed that my younger daughter never complains that she can’t eat Girl Scout cookies, because they’re not gluten-free. This year, we decided to make our own gluten-free version of Tagalongs, or Peanut Butter Patties, so all of us could enjoy them.

Tagalongs were one of the girls’ top sellers this year – behind Thin Mints, of course. Tagalongs are a rich treat: a shortbread cookie topped with a peanut butter layer and enrobed in chocolate. Last year, we made gluten-free Thin Mints, so this year we decided to tackle Tagalongs. It’s a labor-intensive process — first you make the shortbread cookie dough and chill it, then bake the cookies, prepare the peanut butter topping, dip it all in melted chocolate and let it cool — but the results are worth the hassle.

My 10-year-old, who can eat gluten and who has quite a discerning palate, dubbed our homemade gluten-free Tagalongs better than the real deal. “The peanut butter is more peanut buttery, and the chocolate is more chocolaty,” she declared. My mother-in-law agreed.

On a side note, my friend Melissa (Hi, Melissa!) was upset that the cookies are called Tagalongs instead of Peanut Butter Patties. Apparently, there are two companies that bake Girl Scout cookies, and Little Brownie Bakers calls them Tagalongs, while ABC Bakers calls them Peanut Butter Patties. Glad we resolved that mystery. Next year, maybe we’ll tackle making a gluten-free Samoa!

Update 3/27/12: If you have leftover peanut butter mixture, use it to make mini gluten-free peanut butter cups, like mini Reese’s cups. See recipe for Homemade Peanut Butter Cups.

Click for Gluten-Free Tagalongs recipe

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Mint Fudge: The Easiest Gluten-Free Dessert Ever

gluten-free mint fudge

Gluten-free fudge is easy to make without any special ingredients.

Fudge seems rich and decadent, the kind of special-occasion sweet you might have during the holidays, or on a summer trip to the shore. I couldn’t believe how simple this recipe was and how many raves it elicited. Plus, fudge is the easiest gluten-free dessert ever. It has no flour, and no special gluten-free ingredients, so just about anyone can make it for their gluten-free guests. Another fudge fact: The recipe is egg-free, making it a good treat for friends who are allergic to eggs.

My kids had fun making this fudge, as the recipe doesn’t require any stovetop cooking (just the microwave). There was quite a lot of squabbling about whose turn it was to stir the chocolate, but we’re used to refereeing those arguments on a daily basis. My kids love mint, so we made mint chip fudge. But if you’re not a fan of mint, use 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract instead of the peppermint extract, and use white chocolate chips or chopped nuts instead of the mint chips.

No matter how you make it (or who stirs it the longest), the dense chocolate flavor will have you clamoring for more. Cut the pieces small, so you won’t feel guilty for having more than one. You know you will.

Gluten-Free Mint Fudge

(gluten-free, egg-free)
By Gluten-Free Nosh
printable recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (18 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 cup mint chips (I used Andes creme de menthe baking chips, found at Target)

Method:

  1. Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or waxed paper, and set aside.
  2. Place chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl (no plastic!), and heat for 2 minutes on half power. Stir the chocolate well. If there are still lumps of chocolate, heat for an additional 30 seconds or 1 minute on half power and stir until smooth.
  3. Mix in sweetened condensed milk and peppermint extract, until combined. Add mint chips and stir until chips are evenly incorporated.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan. Pat it smooth using a square of waxed paper. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Remove fudge from pan, and cut into 1-inch squares.

Yield: 64 small pieces

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