The Fix for Gluten-Free Macaroni Salad!

Nibbles

You might think that making macaroni salad gluten-free or Low-FODMAP is as simple as swapping out the wheat noodles for one of the many readily available rice, corn, or quinoa-based options out there? Alas, it’s not quite that simple, since the non-wheat pastas tend to be very “thirsty” and slurp up all the moisture from the delectable dressing while it sits in the fridge. Sure, it’s okay right after you make it, but give it a single night and you have some dry distant cousin of pasta salad.

In the past I’ve opted to add more dressing to the leftovers or warm up the pasta salad in the microwave (sprinkle a little water on it, like you would rice or any other noodles). It’s okay, but it’s not the same as tucking into leftover macaroni salad the day after the cookout. No where close.

So this past Memorial Day I decided to try something different, thinking back to my days at the plantation and making tea sandwiches.

When you make a tea sandwich, it’s customary to spread a bit of butter on the “inside” of the slices of bread. This prevents the bread from becoming soggy as it sits on the tea tray (or in the fridge if you’re making them in advance). So I figured that, instead of the scant amount of oil I might toss the cooked pasta with to prevent it from sticking, I’d add a generous pour or three of olive oil to the pasta in the collander and let it get good and slick before combining it with the rest of the ingredients. Maybe, just maybe, that coating of oil would act as just enough of a barrier to keep the macaroni salad dressing from disappearing?

I’m happy to report that it worked like a charm! And not just for a single day, but for an entire week! (I made a lot of salad. I always seem to over-prepare for holiday meals, even when it’s just the two of us.)

You can see how the cookout came together on this week’s View from the Countertop video:

Direct link for the feed readers: Let the Cookout Season Begin!

As for the recipe… I threw a lot of things together, namely several partial bags of different pastas in the pantry, but below is my best guess for proportions and procedure.

I could have just eaten the pasta salad and been perfectly happy...

I could have just eaten the pasta salad and been perfectly happy…

Gluten Free Macaroni Salad

About 16 servings

16 oz gluten-free pasta
2-3 bell peppers, diced*
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1-2 cups frozen green peas*
Olive oil
1/2 bunch green onions, greens sliced
3 celery ribs, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 hard boiled eggs, diced (optional)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 Tbsp horseradish-mustard
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, sprinkle in salt and add pasta, followed by peppers, carrots, and green peas. Cook until pasta is al dente (usually around 10 minutes). Drain pasta and vegetables and rinse with cold water to halt the cooking process and cool them down. Toss with a generous amount of olive oil, enough to evenly coat everything, and allow the excess to drain.

In a large bowl, combine the dressing ingredients (mayo through salt and pepper) and mix until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding more mustard and vinegar if you like a more tangy dressing or a bit more sugar if you prefer it just on the sweet side.

Add the pasta mixture and the rest of the vegetables (and the chopped eggs, if you’re using them) to the dressing and stir to combine. Check once again that the seasoning is correct before serving, chilled.

Keeps for one week, in the fridge, if it lasts that long.

*To make this lower in FODMAPs, avoid green bell peppers and limit or omit the green peas. The amount is definitely fine for maintenance-level, like I do, especially since the quantities per serving end up pretty small, but always use your best judgement and consider your own tolerance levels. 

It did keep for a week–I ate the last of it on Sunday afternoon, though I will say one of the pastas I used (my bet is on the corn variety over the brown rice ones) started to get pretty stiff on Friday. (I took a small container with me to work each day as my breakfast, purely for research’s sake, of course.) But the dressing didn’t get soaked up or dry out, so my mission was definitely accomplished in a very tasty manner.

What did the rest of our menu look like?

This week's menu!

This week’s menu!

Monday (Memorial Day): Grilled Sausages and Hot Dogs, Corn on the Cob, Macaroni Salad
It was all so goo, and we both over-prepared. Todd offered to pick up the sausages, etc. and he came home with 3 types of Johnsonville brats (Cheddar, Chili Cheese, and New Orleans/Andouille) along with a massive pack of all-beef franks. We grilled about half of them and put the rest in the freezer for another day. The only negative was that the beef hotdogs were really salty compared to everything else–maybe if I’d eaten mine on a bun it would have tempered it a bit, who knows?

Tuesday: Leftovers!
Monday’s mean was so good and so plentiful, and I was so tired by the time Todd got home from work, that we opted for a leftover night.

Wednesday: Hawaiian Chicken Thighs and Hawaiian Luau Rice
At some point last week we got to talking about the chicken legs from Todd’s birthday party and I decided to make them again. The marinade (from The Girl Who Ate Everything) is super-simple and then you just toss them on the grill until done. The rice was a recipe (from Bam’s Kitchen) I’d pinned while planning the party but opted not to make, and I’m kinda glad I didn’t. What with the ham and pineapple and coconut and macadamia nuts, you’d think this would be a fabulous side dish. Sadly, it was lackluster at best. It called for absolutely no salt (I guess the ham and chicken bullion were supposed to cover that base, but they fell far short) and needed a lot of doctoring. A couple days later I had some with one of the chicken thighs chopped up in it and added a dose of soy sauce to the bowl and that perked it right up. So be forewarned and try it with a little extra sauce.

Thursday: Roast Beef Wraps and Carrot Soup
A cooler take on the soup and sandwich dinner, both of these recipes came from The No-Cook, No-Bake Cookbook that I reviewed a couple years ago. The wraps were fairly straightforward (I might have added some cheese, if anything) but got a flavor boost from an Asian-inspired sauce while the cold carrot soup was a bit of a sweet and spicy surprise. Todd isn’t quite as much of a fan of the cold soups as I am, but with the temperature (and humidity) already soaring, I think there’s a good chance more of the no-cook recipes will be used this summer. I’m keeping it handy, at any rate.

Beef, chicken, and pork pan pizza with extra cheese. A worthy splurge, indeed!

Beef, chicken, and pork pan pizza with extra cheese. A worthy splurge, indeed!

Friday: Pizza
So sad that the day I’m home I cop out and we get pizza, right? I know, I know, but I was feeling kinda off all day, almost hungover even though it’d been several days since having any booze, and then the thunder started mid-afternoon and I realized the change in barometric pressure was wreaking havoc on my sinuses. Mystery solved! While we usually will opt for Domino’s, since they have a decent gluten-free crust and deliver, I really didn’t want it that night. I was craving the crispy, chewy, classic pan pizza from Pizza Hut so that’s what we got. Did I pay for it later? A little bit, but it was worth it.

Saturday: Zoodles with Meat Sauce and Goat Cheese
Friday was always meant to be a pizza night, I’d just been planning to make the zucchini-crust pizza that’s making the facebook rounds right now. Since I didn’t, though, I had these zucchini needing to be used, so zoodles it was. The goat cheese was also from that recipe, and if you haven’t melted a little goat cheese into your tomato sauce, please do. It’s so worth it and really amps up the flavor. I also made some quickie cheese toast using leftover hot dog buns.

Sunday: Cheese-Stuffed BBQ Meatloaf, Green Beans, Sweet Potatoes
Classic Sunday dinner of meatloaf and potatoes, courtesy of the freezer. I really do love this meatloaf with its layer of cheese in the center and barbecue sauce on top. This recipe is from The Virtuous Wife, though I sub rolled oats for the bread crumbs and don’t bother with the plastic wrap layer–I just put the frozen packet in the loaf pan to defrost and open up the top of the foil before baking. If I’m careful enough, the loaf pan stays clean!

And that was our week!

In addition to the macaroni salad video I linked above, I also put up a simple video about the Low-FODMAP diet and why I make some of the choices that I do. You can find it here: Low-Food-Wha?! on YouTube

On the Plate: 9.21.15-9.27.15

Nibbles

Avoid the dreaded “What’s for dinner?” by coming up with a menu for each week. It simplifies grocery shopping and makes it easier to get dinner on the table each night when you have a plan in place.

On the Plate 92715

Monday: Pork and Pepper Curry over Rice with Green Beans A simple, light curry that comes together quickly. I like to make my own curry powder blend (many of the commercial blends have onion or garlic powder in them, making them High-FODMAP).

Tuesday: Cabbage Roll Soup from SimplyStacie.net Tuesdays are often sloggy days at work, so being able to put everything for this soup into the slow cooker in the morning and add the rice when I get home? Perfection! And the leftovers were even better later in the week for lunch! I did simplify things a little bit  by using a jars of Rao’s Sensitive Formula Marinara since I had it in the pantry. It’s made without onion or garlic, making it Low-FODMAP. I also did not cook the rice separately–that defeats the benefit of the one-pot meal, in my eyes–so I just added it to the slow cooker along with a little extra water, switched it from low to high, and left it for another hour.

Wednesday: Dijon-Pretzel Crusted Chicken Breasts with Salad This was one of my favorite meals this week, and (again) super simple. I crushed a cup or so of gluten-free pretzels in the food processor for the crust. Then I mixed up some Dijon mustard, olive oil (part regular, part garlic-infused), and some white wine vinegar into a sauce. Placed the salt & peppered chicken breasts in a baking dish, spread the mustard mixture over them and then topped with the crushed pretzels. Bake at 375F for 30-45 minutes (until thickest part of the chicken has  reached 165F) and done!

Thursday: Asian-Style BBQ Ribs with Coleslaw from WholeFoodBellies.com Another slow-cooker meal, I skipped the layer of onions in the crock pot and added 1/2 cup of water before setting the ribs to slow cook throughout the day (you really should never use a slow-cooker without at least 1/4 cup of liquid inside). I decided to serve the sauce on the side and it ended up being a lot less messy than drenching the ribs in them completely. But for lunches I went ahead and removed all the bones and poured on the sauce, a la pulled pork.

Friday & Saturday: Dining Out If we go out two nights in a row, it usually means we’re out of town. This time was a fluke. First, a friend invited us out for “Therapeutic Sushi” for Saturday, so we shifted our plans for that. Then, when I got home Friday after work there was a bit of a problem in the kitchen. A problem that required Todd to solve, and by the time he got home I was over the whole idea of cooking. So the Fish Taco Nachos I’d planned for Friday will hold until the following week, and we went to Barbarito’s instead.

Sunday: Chicken & Rice Casserole This was my other favorite meal of the week–excellent comfort food! Any search will find you several recipes for chicken and rice, most of which involve a can of cream of something soup. I have attitude about ‘cream of’ soups–they’re something I prefer not to use and I couldn’t even tell you the last time I purchased one. Even before I went Low-FODMAP to control my IBS symptoms, I was interested in ways of working around them (see my Scratch-Made Green Bean Casserole recipe for a perfect example), but now it’s to control what ingredients are in my food.

But when you substitute ingredients, you have to keep in mind all of the attributes you’re trying to replace. In the case of cream of something soups, there’s a certain fat content and richness, along with some thickening power. So I had a flash of inspiration and decided to see if a can of coconut milk (not the lite stuff!), seasoned as I would any other chicken dish, would work. Not only did it work, it was probably the best chicken and rice I’ve ever had! And now that we know this will work reasonably well, Todd’s happy because it means he doesn’t have to pass up on those canned soup-based recipes that sound good out of deference to my dietary needs and preferences.

See something you liked? I hope I’ve given you some ideas for upcoming suppers and that you have an amazing week!

 

Convenience Comes at a Small Price

Nibbles

While we were finding amazing deals on dining room furniture, we also came across a couple of bread makers for $8 each.

Now, making bread from scratch isn’t hard. It isn’t even all that time-consuming. Which is why I could never justify the $70 or more for one in the past, even though my gadget-loving self has wanted one for quite some time. Finding one for a handful of singles was just too much temptation without very much in the way of risk.

I don’t make an inordinate amount of bread at home–not for lack of love, I just generally buy it when the occasion arises. After going Low-FODMAP, those occasions had become fewer and farther between. Unfortunately, finding a commercially-available bread that is Low-FODMAP tends to leave a lot to be desired. Making good gluten-free bread has not been the most successful kitchen experiments, though my rigged proof box did help quite a bit in that arena. Still, maybe an all-in-one machine would do the trick.

First try--good, but small

First try–good, but small

For the first run I used a recipe from Celiac in the City and my usual flour blend. Because I’d read so many dire warnings in the bread machine’s manual about over-filling the pan, I did make some adjustments to the basic recipe to keep it at the ingredient quantities the manual gave as their preferred basic ratios. I needn’t have worried, though, as the finished “loaf” didn’t even fill up half the pan!

Lack of loft aside, the bread was very tasty. It was dense, of course, but definitely lacked the sawdust tendencies of some gf baking. I stored the finished, sliced loaf in the fridge (baked goods, esp. those without preservatives, don’t do well in this house once the temperature starts to climb) overnight but the next day at lunch the slices were still good and moist.

While some bread maker’s have gluten-free settings, this one does not but the tips I’d read suggested using the “rapid rise” option if the machine gave one, as it’s cuts down on a bit of the handling. Since gf doughs tend to be super-fragile anyway, I figured that was the safest course, and also chose the light crust setting just to be on the safe side.

A bit bigger this time, but still dense. Still tasty, though!

A bit bigger this time, but still dense. Still tasty, though!

For the second trial I decided to use the same recipe but this time not alter the quantities. I stuck with the rapid rise cycle, but used a slightly different flour blend since I was out of some of the components of my house mix. Not quite a controlled experiment, but this isn’t a laboratory, is it?

The thing to be aware of with bread machines is how the ingredients need to be loaded-in. In my case, all liquids go in first, then the flour op top in such a way that it creates a lid on the liquids. The yeast gets poured into a depression in the center of the flour-layer, and then any butter or shortening gets placed in the corners. Since my test recipe uses olive oil, the first batch I poured the oil into the 4 corners of the pan, but for the second go-round I decided to just mix it in with the water and eggs.

Obviously we weren’t in danger of overflowing the pan, but the danger with the slightly larger loaf is whether or not the full loaf will bake in the given time. This one was a bit on the edge of done after the programmed time but at least was a little larger. Still dense, still tasty, and thumps hollow on the bottom, but if you wanted a darker crust or needed to get it a little more baked through, popping it into the oven for a bit is supposed to do the trick. I didn’t find it necessary for this one, though.

Each loaf has featured a really shaggy top–something that can happen with the non-machine gluten-free breads and something I’ll need to work on. Could use just a bit more liquid or some other tweaking to work well, but I’m encouraged. I’ll be making croutons with the remains of the first loaf and using the second loaf for sandwiches later this week.

* * *

I also picked up a Glutino bread mix that, while not being completely Low-FODMAP (pea protein and whey are the potentially troublesome ingredients, but once you’re past the Elimination and Challenge phases, it might be worth trying) does have the benefit of being all-in-one. And, of course, since gluten isn’t a FODMAP, one could always add some vital wheat gluten into the mix to add texture and whatnot, but I haven’t gotten that far, yet.

I think the next loaf on the list will be an old favorite: chocolate orange bread. I haven’t made it in ages, especially not since ditching the wheat, but I’ve been craving it lately. Even if it turns out dense like these, it’ll be great for chocolate bread pudding!

Menus For An Average Week

Nibbles

I’ve been making weekly menus since I first got married in 1995. I couldn’t fathom going to the grocery store and not knowing what I’d need for the week or how other people did just that. It’s somewhat ironic that the menus fell by the wayside while I was in culinary school, but understandable when you consider that I worked until 5pm and usually ate a Lunchable or some such in the car on the way to classes that started at 5:30pm and went to 10:30 or 11 at night, four days a week.

With so many ingredients on the no-list due to their high FODMAP content, it was a bit of an adjustment when we first started cooking this way and I still get asked exactly what we eat, as if the restrictions are abject deprivation. While I do miss asparagus and broccoli from time to time (for instance), I think we do okay keeping a variety of foods in rotation so that we don’t get bored with any one ingredient or flavor combination.

So here’s what the last week looked like.

Monday: Chicken Florentine with Whipped Sweet Potatoes

jvanderbeek_weekofmeals-1

We had a partial package of gluten-free spaghetti in the pantry so I added that just to round out the meal, and added a couple of parsnips in with the sweet potatoes. Florentine on a menu, of course, just means “with spinach” so what else you add is completely up to you, but some cherry tomatoes cooked just til bursting adds some nice color to the dish.

Tuesday: Dinner with friends at Momo’s

On the first Tuesday of each month we get together with folks from the TNG (Tallahassee Nerds & Geeks) meetup group at a local pizza place for “Beer & Cheer.” Momo’s in known for their incredible pizzas, with slices as big as your head, but thankfully they have a good salad selection. I forgot to grab a picture, but I ordered their Buffalo Chicken Salad with oil and vinegar dressing while Todd got a calzone and cheese sticks.

Wednesday: Pineapple Pork with Brown Rice and Green Beans

jvanderbeek_weekofmeals-2

The combination of Todd working late and some extra vegetables leftover in the crisper turned the brown rice into Fried Brown Rice (though I didn’t add a scrambled egg into this batch) with Sweet and Sour Pork (the sauce made with water, gluten-free soy sauce, a big of raw sugar and thickened with an arrowroot slurry). The pork was dredged with rice flour and seasoned with 5-Spice Powder and it really made all the difference.

Thursday: Corn Chowder

jvanderbeek_weekofmeals-3

I had a commitment after work, so this was the perfect night for a slow-cooker soup so supper would be ready when we got home. Quick enough to prepare on the stove under normal circumstances, it works just as well in the Crock-Pot.

Friday: Dinner out at Old Mexico Restaurant

jvanderbeek_weekofmeals-6

We don’t normally go out twice in one week unless our schedules are abnormally hectic, but since we were headed up to Thomasville to spend the night at the new house and get some projects done and the kitchen is bare, we use this as an excuse to try out some of the local restaurants to find our new regular haunts. I ordered the Chiles Rellenos and, yes, they are battered and fried and this means I knowingly ate wheat products.

Hypocritical of me? Not really. The thing about the Low-FODMAP diet/protocol/whatever you want to call it is that it’s not meant to be super-restrictive forever. It’s good to re-challenge foods over time and, sometimes, you just want what you want. My outlook on it is that if I follow a Low-FODMAP diet 99% of the time, the few times I “splurge” with a High-FODMAP option, I won’t generally have as severe of a reaction as I would if I were constantly eating High-FODMAP since the effects are cumulative. Did I have a small reaction after this dinner? Yes. Did I regret it? Not in the least. It’s about choices, and this was the choice I made and planned for this week.

Saturday: Dutch Baby Pancakes with Strawberries and Sausage

jvanderbeek_weekofmeals-4

Breakfast for dinner is a favorite of ours and usually fits into our menus each week. Todd’s fond of omelets and hashbrowns on his breakfast nights while I tend towards the breadier options. These were made using my go-to Low-FODMAP flour blend and they cooked up just fine with the substitution–something you’re never sure of unitl you try it. Saturday was a particularly good night for these since they (the Dutch babies) don’t keep well and we didn’t need to worry about having leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

Sunday: Shrimp & Orzo with Minted Carrots

jvanderbeek_weekofmeals-5

There was much rejoicing in our home when we found a wheat-free orzo pasta on the grocery store shelves. We love it so much that we frequently keep a spare bag in the pantry just in case the next time we look for it, it’s gone. We’re devoted to our orzo and this shrimp dish is a favorite from the pre-FODMAP-awareness days–making it with rice just isn’t the same.

Planning our menus in advance helps us keep from having back-to-back chicken or beef nights, usually allows for a vegetarian options, and almost always includes a shrimp or fish dish. We get variety with the convenience of not having to stop for “just one more thing” each night or dread coming home to cook each night.

And now you know it’s not all Daring Bakers and Mac & Cheese doughnuts up in here.

Challenge Accepted: Mac & Cheese Doughnuts

Nibbles

The Internet is full of strange and wonderful things, my friends.

This isn’t exactly earth-shattering news, but there are a lot of people doing a lot of “interesting” things, and the ‘net allows us to catch a glimpse. Of course the vastness of the web is too much for even the most devoted digital subject, so it helps that our friends link us to various things, thus saving us the trouble of having to plumb the binary depths ourselves.

Such was the case when a friend linked me to some Mind-Blowing Mac & Cheese Donuts that I felt missed the mark. For one thing, there was no dough in those ‘nuts; they were simply thrice-cooked box mac & cheese, pressed into the customary shape. My feeling on the matter (which I expressed to said friend) is that if we’re going to propose something as questionable as mac & cheese doughnuts, it should live up to the promise of the name!

And that’s when she all-but dared me to do it.

While I originally contemplated a traditional ring-shaped doughnut with cheese-filled pasta in the dough and then topped with a cheese sauce (no, not powder from the box mixes), for the sake of ease, I scaled back for this first* try and decided a filled doughnut might actually work better and allow the filling to retain some of it’s dignity. After all, this is humble food we’re talking about, no need to go into deep deconstruction.

Homemade Mac & Cheese

Homemade Mac & Cheese

First, I included my homemade mac & cheese in that week’s dinner menu and purposefully made extra to hold over for the weekend. It’s a variation (no bacon in this one) of my Bacon and 3-Cheese Macaroni from What to Feed Your Raiding Party that depends on the basics of good pasta (in this case, brown rice pasta) topped with a multiple-cheese and egg-enriched bechamel (made with lactose-free milk to keep things relatively Low-FODMAP). It may not bear the neon orange of the commercial mixes, but such is our “sacrifice.”

For the doughnut I decided to try the Glazed Yeast-Raised Doughnut recipe from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring. By setting up my makeshift proof box I did achieve some lift to the dough but it was more out than up, so the finished product more resembled Fry Bread than anything else, but we made it work.

As the doughnuts came out of the oil, I topped them with a sprinkle of cheese (quattro-formagi blend, in this case) to allow it to melt a little before the doughnuts fully cooled.

While all that was going on, I took out a hunk of the chilled mac & cheese and sliced it up into smaller bits before reheating with a splash of milk. Since the doughnuts didn’t achieve the height I was looking for, I skipped the pastry bag with filling tip and just split the doughnuts and spooned the filling into them.

Mac & Cheese Doughnuts... because I could!

Mac & Cheese Doughnuts… because I could!

Todd was my initial taste-tester and he proclaimed them tasty enough to go back for seconds. The leftovers reheated perfectly with just a quick zap in the microwave (15 seconds was plenty) and made for a good mid-afternoon snack.

Does the world really need  a Mac & Cheese Doughnut? No more than we needed mac & cheese pizza or other doubled-carb dishes, but sometimes it’s nice to try something just because, you know?

*No telling if I’ll actually try this again, though I am still on the hunt for the perfect gluten-free doughnut recipe.