GF Mac & Cheese Review

Everybody loves Mac & Cheese… well, not my mom…. Mom doesn’t even really like pasta…or Mexican food…. Okay, so I’m not sure where she came from…. But normal people like Mac & Cheese.  I LOVE Mac & Cheese.  It’s one of the things that I really missed when I went gluten free.  Of course, as with many things now there are gluten free versions available.  And as with most gluten free foods, there are some really good ones and some really awful ones…..

One of my Yoga students who has been slowly going GF asked if I could recommend a good Mac & Cheese.  I named off a few that I had tried and liked, but she got me to thinking…… Time for a Gluten Free Mac & Cheese Taste Test!

Mac n Cheese, Gluten Free, Review

I actually followed the directions on the box, so you should get the same results when you make these at home.

Horizon – Boiled for 8 minutes.  Added 1/4 cup Milk and 2 TBSP Butter.

Annie’s Organic – Boiled for 10 minutes.  Added 3 TBSP Milk & 2 TBSP Butter.

Simply Balanced (Target Brand)- Boiled for 10 minutes.  Added 3 TBSP Milk & 2 TBSP Butter.

Wildtree Kid’s Cheeze Blend (directions) & Barilla Pasta – Boiled for 7 minutes.  Added 1/4 c. Cheeze Blend & 1/4 c. Milk.


 

Brian’s friends were over for their weekly game night, so I decided to use them as guinea pigs.  (Poor things, huh?) These guys aren’t Gluten Free… (except on Game Night when I try out new recipes on them) so I figured they wouldn’t have the “good enough for Gluten Free” mindset.

Gluten Free, Mac n Cheese, Review

I gave them each a plate full of Mac & Cheese and told them to write down their favorites and any comments they thought would be helpful….

There were some mixed reviews, but the consensus was that the Horizon Mac & Cheese was the favorite.  It was the creamiest and the noodles were a little softer without being squishy.

Annie’s and Simply Balanced tied in a close second.  The noodles were more firm and the cheese had a sharper flavor than the Horizon.

The Wildtree Kid’s Cheeze Blend was the least favorite.  No complaints against the Barilla noodles… or even the taste of the Cheeze Blend… just that there wasn’t enough taste/cheese.  If I were to make it again, I would probably add a couple of tablespoons of butter and up the amount of the Cheeze Blend… 1/2 a cup?  I’d just have to eyeball it a bit. The flavor was good…. there just wasn’t enough.  (I followed Wildtree’s recipe on the bottle.)

All of the guys said that they couldn’t tell that these were Gluten Free pastas.

So the results of the test are: Mac & Cheese is good…. pretty much no matter what.  If I was going to make a recommendation on one to buy…. I would say that usually the Simply Balanced is the cheapest (at Target).  It has a slightly sharper flavor, so if you’re a sharp cheddar fan, go for this one.  Annie’s is really very similar, so grab that one if you don’t shop at Target.

I think I liked the Horizon the best… the cheese was a bit creamier and had a more mild flavor.

The Barilla noodles were good (and I realize that I should buy them more!) but the WildTree Kid’s Cheez Blend Sauce just wasn’t ‘cheezie’ enough.  The flavor was good, but I’d need to experiment with it a bit more to get the mix right.

Winner: Mac & Cheese!

 

Detox Day 3: Shaken

Day Three of the 10-Day Grain Detox Challenge:

I finally found one of the breakfast shakes in the Wheat Belly 10 Grain Detox book that I sorta, kinda like.  I wouldn’t call it yummy… but it’s not bad.

IMG_7902Brian couldn’t make it through the Mocha Coconut Shake on day one.  In retrospect, it might not have been so god-awful if we hadn’t used the raw potato and pumpkin seeds. (Sounds awesome, huh?)  You have the choice of raw potato or green banana to introduce prebiotics into your poor, grain abused tummy.  (Not the same thing as probiotics… we’re taking those in pills.) Since Brian isn’t a fan of bananas we made his shake with the potato… and it tasted like dirt… There’s just nothing nice to say about it.  It was a Dirt Shake.

I had the Tropical Storm shake on the first day.  I
used the green banana and the overall taste wasIMG_7904 much improved by the pineapple chunks.  On Day 2 & 3 we switched the pumpkin seeds for sunflower seeds and that really helped eliminate the grainy texture.

Day Two Brian got up early and grabbed breakfast before I could make him another tasty shake.  It was just eggs, so it was totally on the detox plan, but I was sad not to have a Shake Buddy.

Today is our 8 Year First-Date Anniversary, so I made us shakes in fancy glasses with pretty straws…. and forgot that despite the fact that I was on my third day of shakes (and I use IMG_7920Coconut Oil all the time) that this was only Brian’s first shake….. and that maybe 1/4 cup of coconut oil might cause him a bit of stomach discomfort…. Happy Anniversary!
I’m pretty sure he hates me now.
At any rate…. Day Three… we’ve made it this far… more or less (don’t ask Brian’s opinion on the whole thing right now).

We’ve gotten a strange Mid-February heat wave, so we’re making the most of it by grilling some steaks tonight.  Woo Hoo, Carnivores!

 

 

Chicken Salad Rollups

Ever so often our local grocery store has a special on whole fryer chickens and I like to grab two or three.  I used to put them into the freezer, but I never remembered to drag them out in time to thaw.  Now I’ve started baking and shredding them as soon as I get home from the store.  They really are the best when I have time to leave them in the crockpot all day and let them cook slowly, but they’re still delicious after a few hours in the oven.  I store the shredded chicken in the freezer until I’m ready to use it.  The shredded chicken thaws SO much faster than a whole chicken!

I recently made Chicken Alfredo Spaghetti Squash Boats and had some shredded chicken left over.  Since I’m always trying to find new things for lunches, I thought I’d give chicken salad a try.

I am really pleased with how this recipe turned out.  I used the Blue Owl’s Crunchy Chicken Salad recipe for inspiration (I am so completely addicted to it!), but made a couple of my own additions.  I started with Wildtree’s Dill Dip (sour cream, mayonnaise & dill dip blend), I’m not sure that the sour cream added a whole lot to the flavor.  I really enjoy the combo on the Dill-icious Chicken Bites, but here I think it would be fine to go with just mayo and skip the sour cream all together.   I also added the dried cranberries (Blue Owl uses pickle relish).  Don’t skip the lemon juice…. it just adds the perfect little bite…. or the pecans… they add a little crunchy texture.

Chicken Salad Rollups

Ingredients FullSizeRender (1)

  • 3 c. Chicken, shredded
  • 1/4 c. Sour Cream
  • 1/4 c. Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 1/4 c. Pecans, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Wildtree Dill Dip Blend
  • 2 tsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 c. Dried Cranberries
  • Bib Lettuce

Directions:

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients, except the lettuce. (You may prefer to add more or less mayonnaise… I don’t like a whole lot. Just enough to make everything stick together.)

Use the bib lettuce like a tortilla to roll the chicken salad up.

Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Salmon Cakes

Salmon CakesWhen I tell people that I’m Gluten Free I often get this look… like they just know that all I eat is tofu and bean sprouts.  Just this morning one of my friends told me “Oh, my family would never eat that stuff.”  Um…. What “stuff” do you think I’m eating?!

Seriously people!  It’s not bad…. actually, unless you know that I’m Gluten Free….. you probably wouldn’t realize that I’d fed you a gluten free meal.

I don’t like to use a bunch of weird ingredients to replace flour… for the most part I just don’t make things that call for flour.  There are plenty of other recipes out there that don’t require flour at all…. and really, the recipes that call for flour are usually high calorie, high carb…. bad for you all around.

There are so many other kinds of foods in the world…. quit thinking that you have to replace or find substitutes for all the wheat filled foods!

Sure, I like to use Cup4Cup and make cornbread ever so often…. cupcakes sometimes….. but most of the time I don’t need to use flour replacements…. I just don’t need the flour at all.  Or bread crumbs!  Honestly, I never used bread crumbs much anyway…. If a recipe calls for breadcrumbs/crackers as a topping I’ll use crushed cornflakes now, but I just never felt the need to add useless fillers to my food.

When Brian first introduced me to Salmon Cakes (I’d never had them before) he used seasoned bread crumbs.  So when I started making them for us I kept experimenting…. bread crumbs were gone, eggs and different seasonings came and went and reappeared…. I wasn’t getting super results.  I often ended up with crumbly, dry Salmon Cakes.  One day when I was making Dill-icious Chicken Bites it occurred to me that the Dill Dip would be just perfect in the Salmon Cakes too.

I am so hooked on Wildtree’s Dill Dip Blend!  I really hadn’t expected to really care for it… I’m just not big on dip…. but I’m finding so many other uses for the Dill Dip and I’m just loving it!

 

Salmon Cakes

Ingredients 

Directions

In a small bowl, combine mayonaise, sour cream and Dill Dip Blend.

In another small bowl, beat the egg and then add the drained salmon.  Next, add most of the dill dip mixture to the salmon.  You want the mixture to be moist, but not runny.  You should be able to shape it into patties that hold together.  (I usually have a tablespoon or two of dip left over.  Use the remaining dip to serve with your salmon cakes.)

Using just enough grapeseed oil to cover the bottom of your skillet, (we’re talking a thin coating so that the cakes don’t stick… not a layer for frying….think tablespoons….) heat the oil and then add the salmon cakes.  Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, covering the pan while they’re cooking.

Serve topped with a dollop of the remaining Dill Dip. Yum!

Gluten Free Thin Crust Pizza

Most times, I’m perfectly happy with our Cauliflower Pizza…. but sometimes I just want a real pizza.  One that tastes and feels like pizza.

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We have tried a number of frozen and prepackaged gluten-free crusts, but most have that grainy/sandy texture common in gluten-free replacements.

There are a few restaurants that we’ve visited that make a good gluten free pizza crust, but many seem to buy their crusts from the same place.  They’re okay…. but they still have that obvious gluten free texture.  PI Pizzeria makes a killer gluten free pizza, but they’re a bit of a drive for us.

Brian began experimenting with our new favorite gluten free flour replacement, Cup4Cup.  Cup4Cup IMG_8399behaves like regular flour and doesn’t have that grainy texture of many gf flours.  So far I’ve been able to use Cup4Cup in a number of recipes without mishap.  It isn’t as inexpensive as regular flour, but since we don’t make a lot of our old flour filled recipes anymore it balances out.

Normally when I write these recipes I tell you that you can use your favorite spices or oils… that you don’t have to use the Wildtree products that I suggest… that they’re just suggestions.  Well, for this recipe, I’m going to strongly suggest using the Wildtree Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil.  Practically insist.  It’s only two teaspoons, but the flavor really comes through in the crust.  Oh!  And the smell as it bakes.. OMG.  Trust me.  Invest in the Roasted Garlic Grapeseed oil.  There are a ton of uses and you will never regret the purchase.

IMG_8402Brian says I should mention his technique for pressing out the dough as well.  First plop the dough in the center of a greased pizza pan.  Next, using the edge of your hand and a rolling motion, press the dough to the edges of the pan.  It will be very thin, almost see-through.

IMG_8405Bake the crust for ten minutes.  It will have large cracks and be slightly browned on the top.  Next top the crust will all the yummy, delicious pizza toppings you adore.

Gluten Free Thin Crust PizzaIMG_8416

Ingredients 

Crust

Sauce

Toppings

  • Mozzarella
  • Anything else you like!

Directions 

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, combine water, honey and yeast.  Let bloom, 5-10 minutes.  Add oil, salt and flour, stir until combined.

The dough should not be too sticky or too dry.  (Think: slightly gummy, but not sticking to your fingers.) Cover and let rise 20 – 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400º.

Lightly grease a pizza pan with olive oil.  Place dough in the center of the pizza pan and using the side of your hand (see photos) gently press the dough to the edges of pan.  Curst will be very thin, almost see-through.  Bake pizza crust for 10 minutes.

Top crust with sauce, cheese and toppings.  Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

Spaghetti (Squash) & Meatballs

Brian and I hosted our second Gluten Free Living: Diner & Discovery party last night.  My friend, Kim opened her (amazing) shop, Eclipse Holistic Fusion to us for the evening.  It was so much fun!IMG_8382

It is exciting to be able to share all the things we’ve learned over the past two years of living Gluten Free.  We’ve learned so much about our health and the influence that food has on us.  We always knew that it was important to eat healthy… but what exactly is “healthy”… and how do you know if what you’re eating is doing you any good?  I’d always thought that I had a fairly healthy diet… I just thought that I ate too much… or maybe it was the sugar?  That donut couldn’t have been causing my headaches.  A slice of bread wouldn’t make my knees ache… or cause my insomnia….. right?

Wrong!  Sometimes now I want to run up to people and slap the bagel right out of their hands.  “That thing will kill you!”

Mom keeps warning me that I sound like a televangelist… “Be gone foul flour!”

I just struggled for so long and felt so bad…. I would have never believed that wheat (and gluten) was causing so many of my health problems… until I was so bad that I was willing to try nearly anything.  I eliminated wheat and suddenly I was on the road back to healthy…. after years of trying and struggling.  For a generation that was raised on “healthy whole grains” it sounds insane….. “Healthy Whole Grains” were killing me.

photo 1 2Now I have the opportunity to share my experiences and help others find their way back to health too.  Hopefully, through these classes we’ll be able to help others transition to a wheat-free life easier.  Sharing favorite GF products and restaurants… travel tips and new cooking techniques…. how to incorporate more healthy fats and oils into our diets… healthy sweets!

In class I am pushing people to try things that they wouldn’t expect to enjoy.  Last night we started with guacamole for our appetizer.  There are healthy fats in the avocado that make you feel more satisfied… I’ve become hooked on guacamole.  (One avocado and 2 tsp of Wildtree’s Guacamole Seasoning… YUM!) Several people admitted that they hadn’t expected to like guacamole…. but they did like it!

Salads in a Jar and How to Roast a Spaghetti Squash demonstrations followed.  Neither recipe is difficult, but both were things that we’d all heard of or considered, but hadn’t tried for one reason or another…. I shared my tips and tricks and hopefully saved the others from making some of the same blunders that I made in the beginning.

An Avocado Brownie doesn’t sound delicious…. but it sure tastes delicious!  It was easy to convince everyone to try the brownie… The coconut oil in their hot tea?   Enh…?  Peer pressure can be a good thing sometimes.  No one quite believed me that it would taste good and not like a hot cup of grease…. but if everyone else was going to try it…. and darned if I wasn’t right!  A teaspoon of coconut oil in your coffee or hot tea is a yummy way to get a bit of extra fat into your diet and help balance blood sugar, improve your metabolism and a whole bunch of other goodness! (Check out what Dr. Oz says about coconut oil.)

For our main dish we had Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs.  Who knew that a squash could be substituted for our beloved/evil pasta… be be just as good, if not yummier?  My class!  They know first hand now!

Spaghetti (Squash) & Meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs 

  • 1 lb Ground Turkey (or Hamburger)
  • 1 lb Pork Sausage
  • 1 Onion, small, chopped
  • 2 Tbs Garlic, diced
  • 2 tsp Wildtree’s Garam Masala Blend
  • Red wine or beef/chicken stock

Sauce

Squash

See how to roast a spaghetti squash HERE.

Directions

In a large bowl combine all of the meatball ingredients until thoroughly mixed.  Roll mixture into 1 – 2 inch balls.  Add meatballs into a hot pan. (Make sure meatballs are not piled on top of one another.  They should all be touching the pan and have room to roll around. You will most likely have to cook them in 3 to 4 batches.)  Add 1/4 cup wine or stock to the pan and cover.  Allow meatballs to cook 7-10 minutes, giving the pan a good shake to roll the meatballs around every few minutes.

Meanwhile combine the crushed tomatoes and Wildtree’s Hearty Spaghetti Sauce Blend in a sauce pan and allow to simmer at least 20 minutes.  (Longer if desired.)

Top the spaghetti squash with the sauce and meatballs… and cheese!

Freeze the extra meatballs to use later.

Grandma’s Stuffed Peppers: Redo

IMG_8337

We’ve had some crazy busy weeks lately and I don’t see things slowing down until late September… (hopefully).

Since I’m not always sure when Brian or I will be getting home each evening, I’ve been using the crock-pot a lot lately.

As I’ve admitted before… I’m a little freaked out by crock-pots.  I just don’t trust them not to burst into flames and burn down the countryside…. Brian thinks I’m ridiculous. Before we got married he lived off of crock-pot meals. He swears that crock-pots are perfectly safe….. I’m not entirely convinced….I still clear everything off the counter before using the crock-pot, but I have to admit it is really nice to come home to the smell of a delicious dinner.

So the other day when I stopped at the fruit stand and they had a huge pile of beautiful, green peppers…. I swear I heard Grandma’s voice…  It’s moments like these that I miss Grandma horribly and then feel so blessed to have had the time that we did.

In my family, Stuffed Peppers are either loved or hated… there is no in-between.  My Aunt Sheila and I love them… so when Grandma would make Stuffed Peppers Sheila and I would get a call to come over for dinner.  I have lied and told Grandma that I hadn’t made dinner yet… taken dinner out of the oven and gone to Grandma’s for Stuffed Peppers.  Of course, Grandma has passed, I’ve gone Gluten Free and Sheila has turned vegetarian (and almost gluten-free)….. things have changed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have my beloved Stuffed Peppers… they just have to change a little too.

Brian was lucky enough to have had Grandma’s Stuffed Peppers a time or two… I’m not sure if he was as excited about the Peppers as I was or if it was the mashed potatoes that he loved so much.  Grandma always made mashed potatoes with stuffed peppers… I’m not sure why, considering that we topped the peppers with a tomato sauce….. but it just worked.

I always think of Stuffed Peppers as an Autumn type meal,  but summer is really the prime time for garden fresh peppers and tomatoes.  I had a bunch of tomatoes from my garden that I needed to do something with….. I don’t know why I plant them.  I always end up with more tomatoes than I know what to do with, but every spring I am compelled to buy tomato plants.  I decided to make my own homemade spaghetti sauce using Wildtree’s Hearty Spaghetti Sauce seasonings.  OMG!  It was sooooo good!

I make a few changes from Grandma’s original recipe.  I add pork sausage, where Grandma just used hamburger… I often use turkey instead of hamburger too.  I also use Wildtree’s Garam Masala Blend… it sounds a little odd, (Ingredients: Organic Cinnamon, Organic Cardamom, Organic Cumin, Organic Coriander, Organic Black Pepper, Organic Cayenne Pepper, Organic Nutmeg, Organic Cloves, Organic Turmeric) but the flavors go together just perfect.

 

 Grandma’s Stuffed Peppers: The New Way

Ingredients:

Stuffed Peppers

  •  1 lb – Ground Turkey (or Hamburger)
  • 1 lb – Pork Sausage
  • 1 – Onion, chopped (small)
  • ½ c. – Celery, chopped
  • 1 t – Garlic, chopped
  • 1 t – Wildtree’s Garam Masala Blend
  • 1 c – Rice
  • 6 – Green Peppers
  • Salt & Pepper

Spaghetti Sauce

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together; roll into balls and stuff into the peppers.

Meanwhile, dice the tomatoes and onion.  In a medium sauce pan, combine the onion, tomatoes, garlic and seasonings.  Allow sauce to simmer at least 20 minutes.  (Or longer if desired.)

Bake at 350* for 1 ½ hours.

Or place in a crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  If you use the crock pot you could add the spaghetti sauce to the crockpot and allow it to cook with the peppers all day.