Challenge Accepted: Mac & Cheese Doughnuts


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. 

Tuesday Reviews-Day: San-J Tamari Lite

Tuesday Revews-Day

San-J Tamari Lite


Sounds very much like a made-up word, but in the food world we know it as the fifth taste behind the more commonly recognized tastes of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Umami is best described as the mouth-filling savory quality that you get from mushrooms, oysters, and soy sauce among other things. This savory flavor is responsible for quite a lot of taste-satisfaction, but most soy sauces are made of 50% wheat and 50% soybeans, and are seen as unsafe for those looking to avoid gluten for whatever reason.

For the record, this article at references testing that showed naturally-fermented soy sauces contain less than the 20ppm limit for a product to be considered gluten-free, and even under the 5ppm detection limit. Ergo, very little gluten is found in your average soy sauce and therefore isn’t too much of a worry. That said, it’s unknown how many of the fructans from the wheat survive the fermentation process, but it must be pretty low as soy sauce is not one of the items banned on a Low-FODMAP diet, just limited.

In the interest of better safe than sorry, the alternative to soy sauce is tamari: fermented in the same tradition as soy sauce but from 100% soybeans. And this year San-J has released a Tamari Lite with 50% less sodium than regular tamari sauce. Nothing wrong with cutting some sodium, right? I was sent a sample bottle of San-J’s Tamari Lite and we’ve been using it in place of the San-J Tamari (Black Label) that we usually buy and have noticed absolutely no chance in our food’s flavor.

With everyone looking for simple ways of improving their health with a minimum of inconvenience, I see this as a definite step in the right direction. And since soy and tamari sauces are so wonderful at adding flavor to a dish–be it Asian-inspired or otherwise–having a lower sodium option that has 200 years of tradition and quality behind it is hard to say no to.

Thanksgiving is this week and the gap between it and Christmas feels very small this year. Since I know everyone is looking for snack recipes that travel well (either for pot-lucks, informal gifts, or appetizer options), I thought this recipe that came with my Tamari Lite sample might just fill a need.

Asian Spiced Nuts

1 large egg white
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon San-J Tamari Lite 50% Less Sodium Gluten Free Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons 5 spice powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
4 cups raw pecan halves
1/4 cup white sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.

Whisk the egg white in a large mixing bowl until very foamy. Whisk in the sugar, San-J Tamari Lite 50% Less Sodium Gluten Free Soy Sauce, 5 spice powder, and cayenne pepper until full combined. Add the pecan halves and sesame seeds and stir to coat. Place the pecans on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Cook for 10 minutes; stir the nuts and then cook for another 5 minutes. Let cool.


***In case you didn’t catch it the other two times I said it, I was sent a bottle of San-J Tamari Lite for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own and no other compensation has been exchanged for this post. Any factual errors are mine, too, so apologies if I got something wrong. As for the gluten-free study, always consider the source and make the best choices along with your doctor and/or nutritionist for your personal situation.***

Low-FODMAP Seeded Chicken Salad


jwalker_nb_seededchickensalad_crackersA lot of living with a medically-necessary restricted diet, is finding ways to enjoy our favorite foods in ways that fit our new needs. Some ingredients post more challenges than others, it’s true, but often it’s just a matter of knowing your ingredients.

Chicken salad–either as a salad topping, sandwich filling, or snack with crackers–used to be one of my favorite things to whip up for picnics or a weekend lunch. My preferred version’s not-so-secret ingredient used diced apples for their bright flavor and crunchy texture. Sometimes I’d also add walnuts, but not often. Since apples are ingredient-non-grata on a Low-FODMAP diet (they’re naturally high in fructose, fructans, and polyols), I needed to tweak my go-to recipe. And while walnuts are fine, in limited quantities, they don’t show up in our home very often due to Todd’s dislike of them.

Low-FODMAP Seeded Chicken Salad

1 celery stalk, small dice (~ 1/2 cup)
3 green onion tops, sliced (~ 2 Tbsp)
1/2 cup red seedless grapes, halved
2 Tbsp hulled sunflower seeds
1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded chicken breast
1/3 – 1/2 cup mayonnaise
salt & pepper to taste

Combine everything in a large bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Serve atop mixed greens or with crackers. Makes about 2.5 cups.

Make sure that your mayonnaise is low-FODMAP–many include onion or garlic for flavor and if you’re sensitive to fructans this could be an issue for you. Hellmann’s seems to be a reliable choice (we buy the olive oil variety) but you need to always check the labels as formulas can change. Of course you can also make your own mayo or even substitute a lactose-free Greek-style yogurt for some or all of it.

You may not need a lot of additional salt if your sunflower seeds can fill that role, and the grapes add a touch of sweetness.

You may not need a lot of additional salt if your sunflower seeds can fill that role, and the grapes add a touch of sweetness.

To make this a quick recipe, I like to keep a few 13 oz. cans of chicken breast (water-packed) on hand. Drain the chicken and then break up the meat with your fingers and it’s perfect for a dish like this where you want the chicken distributed throughout the salad and not in chunks.

Artisan Nut Thins Group

When we have friends coming over it’s nice to put a bowl of this out with crackers. Wheat-free crackers often leave something to be desired, however, so I was pleased to receive samples of Blue Diamond’s Artisan Nut Thins to try with it. The crackers have a shiny look to them, are very crisp (almost brittle), but the flavors are quite tasty. I served up the chicken salad as a snack with some of the Sesame Seed, Flax Seed, and Multi-Seed Nut Thins and all seemed to go over very well. My favorite is probably the Flax Seed variety, though they’re all tasty.


(Keep in mind that Nut Thins from Blue Diamond are primarily almond flour, and almonds have recently been found to be higher in FODMAPs than originally thought. Because of this you need to gauge your own sensitivity to almond products, including Nut Thins.)

Review | Ultimate Nachos



***This is a sponsored post. I was provided a copy of Ultimate Nachos by Lee Frank and Rachel Anderson for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own and no additional compensation has been received. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…***

Who doesn’t like nachos?

(That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. If you truly do not like nachos I’m not sure you should say anything, it might well color the way I think of you. No, really, just keep that to yourself.)

In case you didn’t catch that, I love nachos. They are fantastic snacks to munch on in a group setting and a fantastic light supper if you’re more in the mood for grazing. Of course, one of the downsides to nachos is the tendency of some to pile each item in a layer, leaving the bottom-most chips mostly or completely naked, but with a little forethought you can avoid that, too.

While the authors of Ultimate Nachos obviously have a high respect for a well-crafted plate of nachos, they seem to carefully walk the line of acceptable components and creativity. They eschew round chips (though I have no personal issue with those) and (rightly-so) the day-glow glop poured on them at convenience stores and movie theaters. On the other plate, they have salsas with fruit, guac with bacon, and nachos with a waffle-chip base! But it’s not all chips and toppings, the authors also include nacho-inspired beverages and desserts and everything is wonderfully photographed; designed to make your mouth water.

Nachos were originally created by Piedras Negras in Coahuila, Mexico, in 1943 for some customers who arrived after the kitchen was already closed. These Nachos Especiales were the utmost in simplicity: corn tortialla chips, shredded Longhorn cheddar cheese, and some pickled jalapeno slices. My, how things have progressed!

Sunny Side Nachos: sausage, chips, a fried egg and plenty of cheese!

Sunny Side Nachos: sausage, chips, a fried egg and plenty of cheese!

One night we tried out a breakfast option: Sunny Side Nachos (p 53). Breakfast casserole meets nachos in a wonderfully gooey combination of cheese and sausage. This would certainly make a sumptuous feast for a Cinco de Mayo brunch!

Not a true nacho per se, these Irish Nachos were still very tasty!

Not a true nacho per se, these Irish Nachos were still very tasty!

We had a friend over one night and cooked up a pan of their Irish Nachos (p 92) for an evening repast. With such a name you’d almost expect corned beef brisket and cabbage on these nachos, but instead it’s bacon and waffle-cut potatoes that make these “Irish.” (By the by, the Reuben Nachos (p 45) do use corned beef and sauerkraut, so if that’s what you’re hankering for, it’s there.) These actually resemble my own Stacked Spuds, which is a take-off of a restaurant appetizer in a now-defunct steakhouse chain, but there’s nothing wrong with that–great minds and all that.

The wonder that is the Chicken Chorizo Nachos--as decadent as they are delicious!

The wonder that is the Chicken Chorizo Nachos–as decadent as they are delicious!

We rounded out our nacho tour with their Chicken Chorizo Nachos (p 78) that also makes use of the Easy Pickled Red Cabbage (p 122) and Avocado-Horseradish Crema (p 120) from the Extras chapter in the back of the book (just past the Desserts and Drinks chapters). Of the three nacho recipes we’ve sampled (so far) these were the kind you just wanted to keep eating even at the risk of becoming ill from too much of a good thing. Seriously, the richness of the chorizo and crema tempered by the tang of the picked cabbage was just such an amazing combination it was hard to stop!

One of the great things about most nacho concoctions, though, is that they are naturally gluten-free, often vegetarian-friendly, and if you’re careful with the ingredients can easily fit into a Low-FODMAP lifestyle. So the next time you’re looking for inspiration to feed your friends or just your yourself something different, Ultimate Nachos is not a bad place to start.

Have a delicious day!

Low-FODMAP Pineapple Salsa


I was expecting company last week and had meant to do some baking but the week had just gone from hectic to all-out-insane and I just couldn’t summon the will to turn on the oven. Still, I wanted to offer my guests something so I figured I’d just pick up some nice cheese on the way home and call it done.

Until, that is, I got a hankering for something a little more tropical and came up with this:


Low-FODMAP Pineapple Salsa

1 c diced tomatoes
1 c diced pineapples
1/2 c sliced green onion tops
1/4 c chopped cilantro*
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until ready to serve. Good for about 3 days or so.

If you like more heat in your salsa you can, by all means, add a diced jalapeno or other peppers to the mix. Not knowing the heat tolerance of my guests and wanting something a bit on the milder side I left it out. And if you’re in a hurry, many of these items can be found in your local grocery store already chopped and ready to go!

I served it with tortilla chips, of course, but the leftovers made amazing nachos with a bit of shredded cheese and some avocado crema on top!

*Cilatro or Culantro?

When I was picking up said supplies, I needed some cilantro but didn’t really want to buy an entire bunch as I knew most of it would likely go to waste. Dried wasn’t really an option for this sort of preparation, so I was looking among the smaller packages up on the top shelf and found a pouch of Culantro which I mistook for cilantro until I noticed the leaves were actually long, flat blades about an inch wide or so. The packaging mentioned that it had the same flavor as culantro but was hardier–making it a better crop for gardens and a better staple in the fridge.

Preparing this for the salsa I noticed the same taste and flavor as cilantro but the texture was incredibly different. It was more of  a crisp leaf that shattered almost as much as it sliced, and had a crunchiness almost like bay leaves. Still, sliced thin enough and once it’s macerated a bit with the pineapple et al. it’s perfectly fine.