Recipe: Husband Mac & Cheese

Do you know who was not only a legendary singer and dresser, but also, apparently, an outrageously good cook?  Liberace.

The other day, husband and I both had a yen for mac & cheese.  Best mac & cheese recipe?  The mac & cheese recipe from the Joy of Liberace.  No joke.

I wanted to make the recipe a little special for husband, so I the used the Joy of Liberace as a jumping off point.

Here is the result, Husband Mac & Cheese:

1 lb gluten-free macaroni

4 cups milk

3 ½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Easiest way to shred your Costco block of cheese? Try your food processor. It should come with a handy attachment. I use it for parm too, just use your knife to cut it into manageable pieces.

½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1 Tbsp butter or olive oil

6 rashers of bacon

4 Tbsp of the reserved fat from the bacon

½ onion

one broccoli stalk chopped

¼ cup


potato chips

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350º F / 180ºC.

2. Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions.  Drain into a colander and let stand.  Set the big pot to the side, you may want to use it later.

3. Melt a tablespoon butter and/or olive oil (enough to barely coat the bottom of the pan) in a large skillet, over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook until crisp.  Put the cooked rashers on paper towel to drain off excess grease.  Cut into small pieces. Set the rendered bacon fat aside.

If you want the bacon really crispy, use a cast iron skillet.

4.  If your skillet isn’t large enough to hold the sauce, transfer about 4 Tbsp of the rendered bacon fat to the pasta pot.  Set the pan over medium-low heat.

Making the roux into sauce!

5. Add the cornstarch.  Whisk until well combined.  Add the milk, about 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking constantly.  The roux will thin out.  A word to the wise from ruining many white sauces, just take your time.  If you add the milk too quickly, the sauce won’t set up properly and remain really thin.

6. Add the onion and broccoli.  Continue to cook until the mixture is thick and bubbly.  If the milk starts to bubble, but does not thicken, then add another tablespoon of cornstarch.

7. Add the cheeses.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper.  Add the macaroni and bacon.  Stir.

8. Butter a large pan.  Pour in the macaroni and cheese.  You may think the potato chips are weird, but they taste way better than breadcrumbs.

9. Crush the potato chips.  Sprinkle over the macaroni and cheese.  Dust with paprika.

10. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until bubbly.

Tasted as good as it looks.

A Tale of Two Dutch Ovens (via local kitchen)

Love this posting.

A Tale of Two Dutch Ovens The hullabaloo of the holidays is behind us and a foot of snow is blanketing the hillsides here in New York. It's the perfect time for soups, stews, long, slow braises that keep the kitchen warm and smelling delightful all day long, right? Well, maybe you already have your trusty Dutch oven all primed for a long & snowy winter. Or maybe Santa left one for you under the tree (or beside the menorah or the Kwanzaa table). Or maybe, just maybe, y … Read More

via local kitchen

Alcohol Part I: Wines and Ciders

In gluten-free spheres, alcohol seems to be disputed territory.  My doctor and the nutritionist I saw when first diagnosed both told me different things: one indicated that grain alcohol (except for malts and beers) would be ok and the other said never to touch the stuff.

Alcohol is tricky not just because of the difference in medical opinion around the subject, but also because of the manufacturing guidelines around alcohol: in many cases manufacturers do not clearly disclose ingredients or their processes. I often find myself standing in the aisle of the local packie trying to figure out what is in that vodka: is it potato-based vodka or wheat-based vodka? How is orange liquor made and will it make me sick?

I have done some research on the subject, emailing companies and compiling lists. Here is what I have found.  This is the kind of thing that is really all about personal thresholds.  Some celiacs can have wheat-grain vodka and be fine and others…not so much.

Since this is going to take a while, I am going to post in parts.


Wine is easy: it’s gluten-free. So are its friends, champagne and prosecco.

Exceptions: Sparkling wine coolers, ala Bartles & Jaymes, the 1980’s drink sensation.

Make sure you check the label or marketing information for indicators that barley is used

in the manufacturing process, generally, “malt”.

If you are looking for a nice local winery, I would visit the Nashoba Winery.  They have a variety of wines and hard liquors that they make on site with local fruits.

Hard Apple Cider:

Hard ciders are the apple / fruit version of beer.   Generally, ciders are gluten-free: made from fermented apples without barley (malt) or wheat.  Note of caution: if you stay away from yeast, do check with the manufacturer; some brands do use yeast.

Even though I have yet to find an apple or pear cider that has gluten, still check the label for indications that the cider may be malted.

I love:



Other great options, which I have confirmed are gluten-free:


Wyder’s Cider – which makes a few fruit ciders – all g/f


Original Sin

The nice folks at Green Mountain Beverage, brewers of Woodchuck & Wyder’s, which also imports Strongbow informed me that they can certify that Woodchuck & Wyder’s, as they are made in a gluten-free facility in Vermont. Strongbow is made in the UK.  While the recipe does not contain gluten and they perform routine checks, Green Mountain cannot make promises about the production facility in the UK.

Cookbooks: Babycakes

When I discovered Babycakes in NYC, I cheered!  I bought this book as soon as it came out.  I have a few vegan friends and like being able to bake for glutards and vegans in one fell, tasty swoop.


  • The recipes produce tasty baked goods with a pleasing texture.  Pretty amazing feat considering the lack of gluten, refined sugars and animal products.
  • This book really focuses on healthful eating.  Babycakes uses a lot of coconut and bean flours to help us g/f bakers get some much needed fiber.  Combine the fiber with the low-glycemic sweetner, agave nectar and you have a healthy, filling breakfast or snack.
  • I sometimes find that bean flour overwhelms the taste of the baked goods, but the combination of ingredients keeps this from happening.
  • Nothing comes out overly sweet.


  • This book touts itself as being gluten-free, but frequently uses spelt flour, which does contain gluten and is not suitable for celiacs or other gluten allergies. Babycakes says that they have procedures to avoid cross-contamination between products with spelt and those that are truly gluten-free.  I don’t mind the inclusion of spelt, but I wish that Babycakes had also provided a truly gluten-free alternative/substitute.  In order to really take advantage of lots of the receipes, I have had to experiment a lot in order to find suitable replacements.  I buy gluten-free cookbooks to avoid this process.
  • Several ingredients frequently used in this book are relatively pricey.  The price of agave nectar has come down a lot recently, but a small jar of coconut oil is more expensive than anything else I have seen on the baking aisle.  I tried to buy this at the local Super 88, however, the coconut oil purchased there tasted literally like vomit.  I had to brush my teeth 3 times to get rid of the taste.  Lesson learned: don’t cheap on the coconut oil.  It’s not good.

This is certainly great inspiration, but given the amount of recipes containing gluten, it won’t be your go to reference guide.  I still love you, Babycakes and plan to visit you every time  I am able!

Restaurant Review: Charlie’s Kitchen

A Harvard Square institution, Charlie’s Kitchen is a mix between a great neighborhood dive bar and 50’s diner.  With its red leather booths and unassuming façade, it’s a great old school venue.

Given the Hub’s general reputation for rudeness, particularly in old school neighborhood joints, Charlie’s is the kind of place where one might be concerned that they would be mocked for placing an order with caveats and conditions.  Luckily and as usual, my neuroses were completely unfounded.  The waitress was nice and helpful.

Over the summer, I had been to Charlie’s and had Anheuser Busch’s Redbridge, a gluten-free beer.  I ordered the same last week.  The waitress checked the whole restaurant, even the upstairs dining area, but they were out.  Luckily, they had a few ciders available.

When I placed my order, the waitress was really great, she told me what was ok and asked questions when not sure.

I ordered a blue cheese and bacon burger sans bun. The burger was a little on the dry side, but that may have been my fault.  I ordered it medium-well.  The bacon was beautiful, really crispy.  It went well with the blue cheese, but I do wish they had thrown the cheese under the broiler for a second to get it bubbly.  It makes a difference.

The waitress mentioned that the fries were just fresh potato, but cooked in the same fryer as gluten products.   I had caught glimpses of fries coming out of the kitchen and saw the fries were really light.   Personally, I find if something is light, golden brown, it means the fryer oil is changed frequently enough that I will not get sick.  I took a chance and it was worth it.  Charlie’s has those little, skinny crispy fries.  Like the ones at McDonald’s, when they just come out of the fryer, but better.

If you don’t want to take the chance on the fries, they seem to have a variety of other sides to choose from and will substitute without mockery or derision.

Charlie’s is worth the visit just for the atmosphere and wait staff.  It’s a great place and I hope to go back soon.

g/f friendly: 3 out of 5

taste and quality of food: 4 out of 5

Restaurant Review: Mexico Lindo

Mexico Lindo is located in Melrose, right on the main drag.  It has certain charms, but also certain drawbacks.   I was intrigued when my friend told me that they have margaritas the size of a sink basin and a Mariachi band on Wednesdays.

Mexico Lindo is almost always packed.  It’s got a good vibe.  The space is brightly painted with lots of murals.  The windows are covered with tapestries, which makes the restaurant look a little shady from the street.  The service is pretty mediocre.

The chips and salsa are delicious. The margaritas are tasty, cheap and served in cactus glasses.  Since I have had trouble with margarita mixes in the past (some mixes contain barley), I was happy to find one that doesn’t leave me feeling like Freddy Krueger is wending his way through my intestinal tract. 

They have a really extensive menu.  I would love more of it: however, the wait-staff has told me they can only suggest the fajitas (veggie, chicken or beef) with corn tortillas for a gluten allergy.  I am not sure if everything there really is made with some form of gluten or they just do not fully understand gluten allergies. I have to be honest, sometimes my husband offers to take me here and I decline if I am not in the mood to explain my food allergy over and over / be really on guard throughout the meal.

Actually, when considering my experiences here, fajitas are the best choice: it’s basically grilled meat/veggies and some rice, beans, salad garnish, sour cream and guacamole.  A few times, they have brought flour tortillas instead of the requested corn: luckily, I can smell the difference (weird, right?).  The food itself is tasty, I like their refried beans and the seasoning they use on the chicken, onion and peppers.  The only big drawback, the food is greasy, like Philly cheesesteak greasy.

I would recommend being vigilant when dining here with a food allergy. Ask a lot of questions and make sure you check they have brought corn tortillas.

Regardless, the fajitas are delicious.  And so are the ‘ritas.

g/f friendly: 2 out of 5

taste and quality of food: 3 out of 5

Receipe: A Vegan & Gluten-Free Apple Tart That Does Not Taste Like Cardboard

My office team had an afternoon potluck for our holiday party. Hey, I work for a non-profit.  No fancy dinners or alcohol for us.  Whah whah.   There is another gluten-free person and a vegan on the team, so I opted to make something that would be both vegan and gluten-free.

This tart is so good you will not realize that it is both gluten-free and vegan.  My husband tried some of the excess crust that I baked off to check that the crust did not take like cat food.  He liked it. Husband doesn’t mind the gluten-free business so much: he likes seeing me not looking like a pallid zombie, but losing diary too?  He was just a little unsure that a tasty dessert can be made sans gluten and animal products. But this crust worked out just fine; he didn’t even realize it was vegan.  It tastes like a sugar cookie.

If you are just learning to bake gluten-free,  tart crust is an easy thing to start with because the dough does not have to rise.  It is expected to be a little dense and flaky, which makes it easier to get the correct texture sans gluten and dairy.


11” Tart pan

Large baking sheet, preferably rimmed

Food processor


1/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup rice flour – either white or brown

1/4 cup sorghum flour or coconut flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour / starch (they are the same thing), cornstarch could also be used

8 Tbsp cold, vegan butter cut into large pieces*

1 tsp xanthan gum

* I use Nature’s Promise and just measure it out of the tub with a tablespoon.  There are a lot of vegan butter products available, including Crisco, but beware of ingredients like “natural flavoring” or “hydrogenated oil”, which may contain gluten, Crisco certifies that if their products are both gluten-free and casein-free.  Check Only Sometimes Clever’s blog post about Crisco.

Tart filling:

About 6 large apples peeled and thinly sliced, I used pink ladies and macintosh

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp melted vegan butter or canola oil

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp clove

2 Tbsp cornstarch


Trader Joe’s Cranberry Apple Butter, about 1/3 – 1/2 a jar

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 °F / 180 °C.  Make sure a rack is on the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

2. Grease and flour the tart pan.  I use a pastry brush to spread out a little canola oil and then dust with rice flour.

Left: prepping the pan Middle: the texture of the flour mixture Right: flour mix pressed into the pan

3 In the food processor, combine the sugar, starch, flour and xanthan gum.  Pulse.

4. One tablespoon at a time, drop in the vegan butter.  Pulse briefly between each addition.  The mixture will start to come together and resemble coarse cornmeal.

5. Put the flour mixture into the tart pan.  Using the bottom of a glass as a tool, press the flour mixture into the bottom of the pan.  The glass will help you to get a smoother bottom for your tart and press the flour in more firmly.

6. Blind bake the crust for 10 -15 minutes in the oven, just long enough for it to start to brown.  Remove from oven and place on cooling rack.  I usually put the pan on a larger rimmed baking sheet, just in case any juices leak through and creating a smoky, gooey mess on the bottom of the oven.

7. Peel and thinly slice the apples.

8. In a large bowl, combine the spices, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and butter.  Add the apples and toss to coat.

Left: coating the apple slices Right: the tart in the oven, I forgot to glaze at first, so I took a picture and then immediately removed from the oven to correct myself

9. Getting as fancy-pants or plain as you like, arrange the apple slices in the tart pan.  I try to arrange the first layer around the outer edge, then stick the broken up pieces of apple in the center of the pan.  I then do a circle of apples on top, just to make it look pretty.

10. Using a pastry brush, gently daub the Trader Joe’s Cranberry-Apple Butter on the top of the fruit.  This is my quick and easy replacement gelée, that jelly like stuff you normally see on top of tarts, which keeps the fruit in place and adds sheen / prevents discoloration.  The cranberry apple butter won’t keep the apples in place, but it will help to keep them from becoming shriveled during baking or discoloring afterwards.

11. Bake for 60 minutes.

Mmmm. Tasty.

This is best when stored in the fridge.  It should last up to a week.

Product Review: Whole Foods Prairie Bread

I recently came across this bread in the freezer section of Whole Foods.  I had been looking for a more nutty bread, as an alternative to Trader Joe’s truly wonderful gluten-free French rolls.

It is a bit tough when eaten cold (defrosted, but not otherwise warmed up), like most gluten-free breads.  I won’t take any points off for that.

Toasted or otherwise warmed, this bread has a nice nutty flavor: it is full of pumpkin and poppy seeds.  The bread makes a great sandwich.  Watch out, I find it incredibly filling, so it is a good thing the bread slices are a little on the small side.

A loaf of prairie bread is six dollars, which seems like a lot, but you do get about 16 slices of bread.  The slices are small, but like most whole-grain breads, it’s quite filling.  As far as gluten-free breads go, this is a good deal.