Tag Archives: Passover

Gluten-Free Oat Matzo 2013

oat matza2

Gluten-free oat matzo for Passover

This Passover brings more gluten-free matzo choices than ever, which is a welcome relief from a few short years ago when you had to hunt to find any gluten-free options.

Gluten-free matzo falls into two categories. The first is gluten-free oat matzo, which is expensive and tastes like cardboard, but is the ritually correct type of matzo to include in a Passover seder. During the Passover seder, the Hamotzi blessing should be recited over matzo made from one of five grains (wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats), so gluten-free oat matzo qualifies.

The other type of gluten-free matzo is much more tasty (good enough to eat year-round as a crispy flatbread cracker) and much cheaper, but is made primarily from potato starch and tapioca starch. These “matzo-style squares” don’t meet ritual requirements, because they don’t contain wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats, so the box states “not a replacement for seder matzo” or “not for sacramental purposes.”  Yehuda has produced matzo-style squares since 2011, and Manischewitz has come out with its own version this year. (For more information, Tablet magazine published an interesting discussion of the merits of gluten-free matzo.)

Gluten-Free Oat Matzo

In this post, I focus on gluten-free oat matzo. Stay tuned for my post later this week about “matzo-style squares.” (Update: Posted 3/8. “Gluten-Free Matzo for Passover Part 2.”)

A few years ago, oat matzo was the only kind of gluten-free matzo on the market, and it cost about $35-$40/box. Now, prices have come down to about $20-$25/box. There are two versions: machine-made matzas, which are square, and handmade matzas, which are round and are kneaded and baked by hand.

Lakewood Matzah uses certified gluten-free oats that are grown, cleaned and ground in a gluten-free environment. The oat matzo is certified gluten-free by the GFCO, making it a safe choice for celiacs. Their matzo comes in two versions: Gluten Free Oat Machine (Square) Matzoh, $25.99 per lb, with nine matzos per pound, and Gluten Free Oat Hand (Round) Matzoh, $25.99 for three hand matzohs (at least half a pound).

Gluten-Free Oat Matzos. Rabbi Kestenbaum’s gluten-free oat matzos were the first, and for many years the only, gluten-free matzos on the market. Based in London, Kestenbaum has been making them for more than 20 years. This year, for the first time, his Gluten-Free Oat Matzos are certified by the GFCO, making them a safe choice for celiacs. They cost about $29.99 per pound.

Click to read our Q&A interview with Lakewood Matzoh

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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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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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Colorful Quinoa Salad

quinoa salad

Colorful Quinoa Salad

Now, I love overcooked Jewish food as much as any good Jew. I look forward to Passover seders full of Eastern European food that my family has made for generations: brisket, turkey, gefilte fish, kugel, tzimmes. But I have to admit that after a few days of all that heavy stuff, I’m ready for some lighter fare for the rest of Passover, an eight-day holiday.

Quinoa has been a more recent addition to our Passover repertoire. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an ancient South American grain that’s high in protein and nutrition. Grown in the Andes mountains in South America, quinoa bears no relation to chametz grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt), making quinoa kosher for Passover and gluten-free.

Ancient Harvest says that its quinoa is grown in the high Andean Altiplano regions of Bolivia at 12,000+ foot elevations where the arid conditions will not support traditional gluten-bearing grain production. So there’s no possibility of cross-contamination in the fields.

The ancient Incas revered quinoa as sacred. It’s not only high in protein, calcium and iron, but it’s a complete protein, since it contains all eight essential amino acids.

I make the following gluten-free Colorful Quinoa Salad during the year, but it can also be a refreshing addition to a Passover table. Chock full of healthy quinoa and antioxidant-rich veggies, fruit and nuts, it’s particularly good to pull out for a brunch buffet, since you can make it in advance and serve it at room temperature. The recipe is adapted from “Let’s Dish,” a cookbook from my kids’ school.

Click for Colorful Quinoa Salad 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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Filed under Jewish holidays, Recipes, soups/chili

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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Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Meringues

gluten-free meringues

Chocoloate Chip and Double Chocolate Meringues

There’s something wintry about meringue cookies. They look like pure white mini snowballs that seem so right for the season. It’s actually better to make meringues in winter. The air is dry, which helps keep meringues crisp.

With winter hopefully ending soon (bright sun is streaming through my window and the temps in Chicago have been above freezing), it’s time to sneak in a batch of meringues before it’s too late.

Meringues are a great dessert to make for guests, as they are naturally gluten-free. My kids’ friends wolf down these sugary treats, taking extras home with them. Meringues also make great Passover treats, since all the ingredients are kosher for Passover.

Though I do like the look of snowy white meringues, I recently needed a chocolate fix (no surprise there). So in addition to adding chocolate chips to the meringues, I also added cocoa powder to half the batch to make double chocolate meringue cookies.

To shape the meringues, I drop spoonfuls of the mixture on a cookie sheet, because that’s the easiest thing to do. If you want to be fancy (my kids’ favorite word), omit the chocolate chips and pipe the meringues into prettier shapes using a pastry bag.

You’ll want to dry out the meringues, so keep the heat low and slow. I bake them at 250 for one hour; some recipes say to leave meringues in a turned-off oven overnight. If the temperature gets much higher than 250, your meringues will turn tan, which might be a good look for you but not for your meringues.

Click for Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Meringues recipe

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