The Fix for Gluten-Free Macaroni Salad!


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

A Dessert Fit for a Long Weekend: Blueberry Poke ‘n Pour Cake


Do you know when your least productive time of the day is?

Mine is definitely mid-afternoon, especially when I’m at home (at the office it’s a bit easier to stay focused, thankfully). Saturdays and Sundays around 2 o’clock, if I’m not already embroiled in a big project, there’s no sense starting anything new, at least not until the sun goes down.

Fortunately I’m aware of this, and can combat it in little ways. It’s a great time to go run errands (something else that kills my productivity), catch up on my RSS feeds, or even do some cleaning. This Saturday, though, I decided to bake.

I’d seen the Cooking Panda video about a poke cake and it reminded me of the Poke ‘n Pour cakes I grew up with. It’s basically the same thing, though I still contend that the order of the video’s layers is just not using the ingredients to their full potential, so I made my own cake and decided to video it, too!

Direct link for the feed readers: Blueberry Poke ‘n Pour Cake

The cake base is a Betty Crocker gluten-free yellow cake mix, prepared according to the box instructions. I don’t go gaga over the cake on its own, but when doctored up (with pineapple juice for the luau upside down cakelets or as a base for a banana chocolate chip quick bread) it’s a convenient thing to have on hand, and I try to keep one in the pantry for these sorts of spur-of-the-moment bakes.

The blueberry layer is a simple cooked mix of frozen blueberry (maybe 2 cups?), 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, a couple tablespoons of cornstarch, and a sprinkle each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves–not enough to feel like a fall pie, but just enough to add interest. Set it on medium-low, stir it occasionally, and let it cook until the syrup is thickened.

I had a partial block of cream cheese in the freezer (they say not to freeze it, but for applications like this it’s totally fine), so I defrosted the 3 or so ounces in the microwave (take it out of the foil packaging, first!), then stirred in enough powdered sugar and vanilla to taste right. Just your basic cream cheese frosting.

The custard, though, that I’m pretty proud of and I want you to have the recipe in case you’ve ever had issue with cooked pudding not coming together (like what happened with my banana pudding for the luau). A simple vanilla pudding doesn’t usually include eggs, that more of a custard thing, but a custard doesn’t usually contain any sort of flour or starch–that’s the pudding side. Plus, the eggs that the custard uses have been separated, generally you only use the yolks. I didn’t have a ready use for egg whites coming up, I didn’t want to waste them, and I knew that if I cooked it right, the protein in the egg whites would lend stability to my custard. I also doubled the sugar and used a free hand with the vanilla (I always do, it’s hard to overdo adding vanilla).

Foolproof Vanilla Pudding

2 cups milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

  1. Scald the milk in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat.
  2. While the milk is heating, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla in a metal mixing bowl.
  3. Adding a little at a time, whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Don’t rush it–if you heat up the eggs too quickly the whites will start to cook and you’ll need to strain your custard.
  4. Fill the now-empty pot with hot water to a depth of 1 inch and return to the stove. Bring it to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Place the heatproof bowl over the simmering water and cook the pudding, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Yeilds ~3 cups

The recipe was adapted from a couple of recipes found in The Kitchen Companion by Polly Clingerman.

It’s a simple recipe, the trick is in the technique. The double-boiler method is what keeps the egg whites from cooking too fast and ruining the texture (seriously, though, run it through a fine mesh sieve if you need to, all will not be lost). I remember a time when double boilers were a standard part of a pots and pan set, but I seldom see them anymore. Even in a pro kitchen, the metal bowl over a pot is what’s used more often than not. Just make sure that the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl when they’re nested together, and that the level of what’s in the bowl isn’t over where the bowl and the sides of the pot meet. (If that happens you just have to make sure to scraps the sides of the bowl more often as the touch-point of the two pieces will be hotter than anywhere else and the custard will cook quicker there.)

Describing it takes longer than actually doing it. Give it a try, you’ll see what I mean.

While a poke-n-pour cake is best served at room temperature (cold cake can be a bit dense, even with this preparation), it’s still a good idea to chill it for a few hours to let everything set up nicely.


I was very pleased with how this cake turned out. Of course it wasn’t the Jell-o and Cool Whip-filled version of my youth, but a slightly more grown-up version. If I were to make the cake from scratch in the future, I think I’d use a basic sponge cake, letting the berry mixture serve the purpose of the sugar syrup that is usually brushed over a sponge cake before filling and layering. Like I said in my video, had I planned this out instead of just jumping in, I would have split the cake and added a layer of strawberries prepared the same way. You could also use cherries, peaches, even spiced apples could go nicely. Anything you can find in the pie filling aisle (but make it yourself, it’s so much better than canned).

I hope you have a great Memorial Day and enjoy the time with whomever you’re spending it with. It’ll just be Todd, Duncan, and I today, but I’m certainly not complaining. This dessert will go great with the hot dogs, corn on the cob, and macaroni salad we’ll be cooking today.

AlcoHOLidays | Memorial Day | Kilbeggan Waterwheel



***This post has been sponsored by Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey; a sample was received in consideration for Tuesday’s review as well as today’s recipe share. Other than that, no further compensation has been received and the opinions expressed below are entirely that of the author. No further affiliation with Kilbeggan Distillery is being claimed. And now with that out of the way…***

Memorial Day. Unofficial start to summer. Reason for barbecues and pool parties across the nation. Last 3-day-weekend until Labor Day. Excuse for car lots to piggy-back yet another tent sale with the waving of the red, white, and blue.

‘Oh, yeah, and military stuff, too.’

At least that’s what it appears to mean to most.

Starting after the Civil War, Decoration Day has a fuzzy beginning with several cities claiming first rights–though decorating soldiers’ graves goes back farther than our War Between the States–on both the North and South sides of history. The dates observed were varied, as well, with May 30th being the common date in the North and, gradually, the rest of the country. It wasn’t until that 1967 act that normalized a bunch of holidays into their nearest Mondays, creating those beloved 3-day weekends, that Memorial Day shifted from May 30th to the last Monday in May (though it took a few years to be put into practice).

Granted, if you’ve never lost a friend or family member while they served in the Armed Forces, chances are this holiday might have less personal significance to you, but as a nation it’s a time when we attempt to honor those who died in service and a sense of nationalism overall. For some, this means visiting a relative’s grave and placing a flag or flowers thereupon. Others volunteer to beautify all service-member graves, relatives or not, as a show of thanks for their sacrifice. While others might be more inclined to reminisce with those nearest, some solemnly, others more in the style of an Irish wake.

Or at least that’s how I’m going to segue into today’s cocktail, contributed by Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey.

Kilbeggan Waterwheel
Recipe By Darren McGettigan, resident mixologist at Bar Beoga of the Menlo Park Hotel

1 1/4 ounces Kilbeggan® Irish Whiskey
2 1/2 ounces Pressed Apple Juice
1 1/4 ounces Pressed Pineapple Juice
6 Fresh Blueberries
1 Dash of Cherry Bitters
1 Bar Spoon of White Sugar
additional blueberries for garnish

In a Boston shaker, add blueberries and sugar, muddle hard. Fill the shaker with ice, and add all other ingredients. Shake well, and double strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with blueberries on a cocktail pick.

I can easily see this multiplied in a frosty pitcher to serve to your barbecue guests both on Memorial Day as well as the rest of your summer events. I’d skip the straining, obviously, and leave the bits of blueberries to float around for color, or freeze some blueberries to use as “ice cubes” to keep the drinks cool without further diluting it.

However you choose to observe this national holiday, please remember to do so responsibly and to use a designated driver or call a cab rather than risk some other sort of memorial being required. If you catch my drift.


Grill Mastery


Ah, yes, weather permitting (and even sometimes not), thousands (millions?) of grills across the country will be fired up to char something with family and friends.

My first tip for the grilling-minded is for barbecue chicken and it comes from Mom. She takes leg quarters and marinates them in Italian dressing (straight from the bottle into a large baggie and if you can let it sit overnight in the fridge, even better), to start, and then pre-cooks them a bit in the microwave. Now, don’t shriek, it’s actually an excellent idea since it’s SO tough to get the chicken to cook evenly on the grill without one part getting over cooked or it taking forty forevers. So you par-cook the legs in the microwave and THEN put them on the grill to finish cooking and get that lovely caramelized finish and a good brush with the barbecue sauce of choice.

Did you know that chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees? Now you do. Get out those meat thermometers and make sure the fleshiest bit is up to temperature before serving yourself or your guests. Pork should also always be cooked fully (no pink!) to reduce the risk of trichinosis. Beef and lamb can be cooked anywhere from 140 (rare) to 170 (well done) without too much worry (though why you’d want well-done lamb is beyond me!).

Most recipes suggest throwing out the marinade once it’s been used but you can actually use it for a sauce IF you bring it to a boil and keep it boiling for several minutes (5 is a good number) to “cook” any of the raw meat juices that are in there.

Finally, a true tale of grilling no matter what. It was my high school graduation party and the house was pretty full of guests. The plan had been to grill but the weather was atrocious: rainy and grey. But, the show must go on so Mom changed into her swimsuit and shorts and went outside with an umbrella to tend the grill as needed. Of course, if you’ve got the grill lid in one hand and tongs in the other, how are you going to hold the umbrella? In your cleavage, of course.

So don’t let a little water dampen your party this Memorial Day weekend.