Gluten-Free Halloween Candy

trick or treat

Now that we live in a very neighborhoody area of Chicago, my kids really look forward to trick-or-treating. But there is a big Halloween hassle factor. I could do without all the extra sweets and the frustration of figuring out what candy is gluten free and what is not, let alone dealing with food at Halloween parties.

When my daughter was younger, we tried to trade her Halloween candy for a toy. She welcomed the toy, but a day later she was crying for the candy because she didn’t really get the concept that “trading in” meant permanently giving up the candy. These days, she’s pretty amenable to disposing of gluten-containing candies or trading them with her non-celiac sister. She knows she has much more candy than she’ll ever eat anyway.

I get frustrated with candy companies that refuse to print gluten-free lists and instead tell customers to look on the label. I’m sorry, but when we are trick-or-treating or getting a birthday goodie bag with candy, the individual pieces of candy usually don’t have a full ingredient list. I wish these companies would serve their customers, instead of their corporate lawyers.

When searching the Web to find out if a candy is gluten-free, make sure you are looking at gluten-free lists from the most recent year, as ingredients do change. The best source of information is always the candy label — even if you have to go to the drug store to look up labels. Also, be sure to check labeling to see if items are made in shared facilities or on shared equipment as items containing gluten. For instance, Brach’s candies, Palmer chocolates and Russell Stover chocolates all say that their candies are produced in facilities that handle wheat.

These blogs have thorough lists of gluten-free and allergy-free candy. I am grateful for their research.

Gluten-Free Candy Lists:
Sure Foods Living Allergen-Free and Gluten-Free Halloween Candy List 2011
Sure Foods Living Gluten-Free Halloween Candy Quick List 2011
Jen Cafferty at GFreeLife’s 2011 Halloween Gluten Free Candy List
Celiac Family: Safe Gluten-Free Halloween Candy (2010)
2012 Update: Check out the extensive 2012 Gluten-Free Halloween Candy List from the awesome Jen Cafferty at gfreelife.com.

Here is my own shorter list of items that are NOT gluten-free. This is not an exhaustive list, and there are other candies that are also NOT gluten-free. But I find this list to be useful, as you can steer your child away from selecting the following candies from a trick-or-treat bowl. Of course, you still need to check every piece of candy to make sure it IS gluten-free, but here are some candies you should definitely keep away from.

Click for my list of candy that is NOT gluten-free

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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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The Last Pie of Summer

strawberry rhubarb crumble

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble: Even Easier Than Pie

One of the best parts of summer is fruit that bursts with juice, dripping with sunshine. Or a fresh pie, with fruit that becomes even sweeter and more fragrant with baking. But, to tell you the truth, I’ve always been intimidated by pie crust, let alone gluten-free pie crust. So this summer I took a classic strawberry rhubarb pie and turned it into a gluten-free strawberry rhubarb crumble, with no crust and a sweet crisp topping that everyone loves. Plus, if you substitute margarine (I like Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks) instead of butter, it easily becomes a delicious, would-never-believe-it vegan, gluten-free dessert.

The crumble topping uses pure gluten-free oats. For a discussion on gluten-free oats, please see a story I wrote, Feel Your Oats, for Living Without magazine, a great magazine for people who are gluten-free or have food sensitivities.

Click for the recipe for Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

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Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!

My oldest daughter created this 4th of July dessert with Grandma while I was napping on the couch. Yogurt, topped with red, white and blue fruit and trimmed with gluten-free brownie crumbs. A future chef!

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The perfect summer birthday dessert: gluten-free ice cream cake

gluten-free birthday cake

gluten-free ice cream cake

Ideal for a summer birthday, this gluten-free ice cream cake is an easy favorite.

We welcomed summer this year with a crafty birthday party for our 7-year-old in our back yard, topped off with a delectable homemade ice cream cake — gluten free, of course.

At the party, the kids enjoyed making bottlecap magnets, sock puppets and pet rocks. They also enjoyed eating the ice cream cake, a gluten-free adaptation of my mom’s recipe. With a crushed cookie crust, Heath bars, ice cream and chocolate sauce, it’s a dessert that’s easy to make and even easier to devour.

My mom makes the cake with a combo of chocolate and coffee ice cream, but for the kids I went with chocolate and chocolate chip. Feel free to use your favorite flavors. I buy Breyers ice cream, as the company says it labels if gluten is present. For the cookie base, I use Mi-Del’s Gluten-Free Arrowroot Cookies, which are staples in our house. (Mom uses Nilla wafers, but those are NOT gluten-free.) Please be aware that Heath bars contain almonds, so if a guest has a nut allergy, skip the Heath bars and simply use a cookie base.

The cake can easily be made a week ahead of time (and definitely needs to be made at least one day ahead of time), saving you pre-party prep. Decorations can be kept simple, with some candles on a stick and themed cake toppers.

Click for Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cake recipe

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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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