Gluten-Free Boxed Dinner Dress-Up: Chili Cheeseburger Mac

Do you ever find yourself missing those helpful boxed dinners that allow you to get dinner together in about a half hour with super minimal effort? I sure do. On rare occasions, I have seen gluten-free versions of these in stores, but they always cost at least twice as much as their gluten-filled counterparts, and turned out not tasting quite as good as I remember.

In an effort to recreate a gluten-free version one of those boxed dinners, I decided to dress up a popular, and less expensive, gluten-free boxed dinner: Annie’s Creamy Deluxe Rice Pasta Dinner. So if you cannot find any of the gluten-free versions of those helpful boxed dinners, or don’t want to spend the extra money on one of them, give this version of Chili Cheeseburger Mac a whirl.

wpid-IMAG0475.jpgI can find this at many of my local grocery stores, including Walmart and Target. It reminds me of the delicious shells and cheese dinner I used to enjoy in my pre-GF days; however, this version is made with all natural ingredients and tastes like real cheese – because it IS real cheese!

Gluten-Free Boxed Dinner Dress-Up: Chili Cheeseburger Mac

1 box Annie’s Deluxe Rice Pasta Dinner
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup fat-free milk
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
pinch pepper

To begin, you need to cook your pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Then add the pasta. Stir immediately. The water will become cloudy – that’s normal.


Never follow the package directions when cooking gluten-free pasta. I usually just start with 6-7 minutes on the timer and check the pasta every minute after that until it’s done. Gluten-free pasta can go from done to mush in a minute, so be careful. Also, the water tends to foam up quite a bit, so stir frequently and turn down your heat as necessary.

While your pasta is cooking, brown the ground beef or turkey in a large skillet with the chopped onion; drain. (If you decide to use turkey, you’ll need to adjust the points appropriately.)


When the pasta is done, pour it into a colander and return the pot to the stove. The sauce packet included is only enough for the noodles, and we want to add more sauce for the meat! So here’s where you’re going to make more sauce.

Measure out your milk into a large measuring cup. Whisk in the cornstarch and other spices. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the pot that you cooked your noodles in and heat over medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a flat or regular whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. This is when it will thicken. At this point, you can whisk in the cheese sauce from the packet. Continue to heat until the mixture reaches your preferred consistency. If you prefer it a little cheesier, feel free to add a handful of cheddar cheese or another cheese of your choice and stir until melted. This will also help thicken the sauce a bit if you so desire. Once the sauce has thickened to your liking, remove from the heat.

If your noodles have since cooled down and started to stick together, run some hot water over them in the colander to loosen them up. Pour the noodles and the meat mixture into the cheese mix and stir until well-combined.

Serve with a leafy green salad and warm gluten-free rolls or cornbread. This is wonderful when reheated for leftovers the next day – I can personally attest to that!

(Serves 4 at 11 pts+/serving)



Gluten-Free Pancakes with Better Batter Pancake & Biscuit Mix

Because we slept in quite late this morning, Tim and I started the first day of the new year with a delicious brunch. So I thought I’d share with you a great idea for brunch: pancakes!


Remember when I went to the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo last Spring? Well, I finally tested out the Better Batter Pancake & Biscuit Mix I got while I was there. You can order this boxed mix online through the Better Batter site or Amazon, or you can see if your local specialty store has it.

The great thing about this mix is that you can throw together a batch of pancakes super quick. You need only add milk or water and an egg (optional), mix it up, and cook.

The mix itself is a little on the clumpier side as you can see. I recommend whisking it or sifting it to get you started.


This is the tricky part. When you add your milk/water and egg, the consistency will vary. Depending on whether you like thicker or thinner pancake batter, you’ll need to keep adding liquid until you reach what you’re looking for. A thicker batter can result in fluffier pancakes, which I would recommend. A thinner batter spreads more on the griddle, but the middle of the pancakes was a little doughier and didn’t cook completely through (most likely due to the increased amount of liquid). This picture will show you a batter that’s on the thicker side.


I love using an electric griddle to cook pancakes. You can usually make about six at a time, as opposed to one or two at a time in a frying pan. I usually spray the hot griddle with a bit of cooking spray, which prevents the pancakes from sticking and makes them easy to flip. I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour the batter on the griddle, then I use the bottom of the cup to sort of spread out the batter a little and form them into circles…or shapes that somewhat resemble circles….


Cook the pancakes for a few minutes on each side. The amount of time depends on the thickness of your batter. Unlike the gluten-filled pancakes of our pre-GF days, these pancakes will not form a lot of, if any, air bubbles as they cook, so you’ll have to depend more on color as an indicator. Using a thin spatula (here’s my favorite spatula to use for pancakes on the griddle!), gently lift up a little edge of the first pancake you poured to check whether it has turned a golden brown. Once it has, flip the pancakes in the order that you poured them. Press down a very little bit with your spatula on each pancake – if you press down too much, your pancakes will lose their fluffiness!


One batch of the mix as directed makes about six four-inch pancakes, which feeds two in our house. But more importantly, they taste very good! In my opinion, a made-from-scratch mix has a better taste if you have the time, but if you want pancakes in a hurry and/or don’t care for measuring out all different types of flours, this is for sure the way to go.


Happy New Year!


Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Fall is coming, fall is coming! I’m so excited about fall. It’s my favorite season. I love the leaves, the crisp breezes, the smells, and of course, the great American tradition of Sunday night football!

These classy stuffed mushrooms are the perfect way to dress up your appetizer table during football season. They’re a nice change-up from the traditional chips and dip.

When purchasing your mushrooms, choose a variety with a larger cap because they’re easier to stuff. I was able to find large button mushrooms that lent themselves well to this recipe. You might also consider using Crimini mushrooms for a more full-bodied flavor, or if you want to go all out, you can even go with mini Portobellos.

The first step in preparing this dish is to make sure your mushrooms are clean. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a time-consuming process, but it’s necessary. Gently wipe each mushroom with a damp towel to remove any dirt. Don’t submerge mushrooms in water or run them under water – they absorb water like a sponge! To remove the stems, hold the cap in one hand, grasp the stem with your other hand, and gently rock it back and forth until it breaks away from the cap.

Feel free to prepare these mushrooms ahead of time: cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake them. Just increase the baking time by a couple of minutes.

Happy football season!

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
adapted from allrecipes.com

1 tablespoon butter
about 24 fresh mushrooms
about 2 pieces of gluten-free bread
2 green onions, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine or white cooking wine
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup (2 4-oz cans) cooked crab meat, well-drained
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
5-6 dashes of hot sauce, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Evenly coat the bottom of a large baking sheet (11×15) with 1 tablespoon of butter. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems; set aside the stems. Place the mushroom caps stem side up on the prepared baking sheet.

Place the gluten-free bread in a food processor and process into crumbs. You should end up with about 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs. Pour the bread crumbs into a small bowl. In the empty food processor, place the reserved mushroom stems and green onions. (You may choose to use only half the mushroom stems for a less intense flavor.) Process until mixture is thoroughly minced.

In a medium sauce pan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in the mushroom stem and green onion mixture and cook until soft, about three minutes. Add the white wine and scrape up any bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients until well-blended.

Using two teaspoons, generously stuff the mushroom caps with the filling. Bake for about 20 minutes until filling has browned slightly and mushrooms are dark and soft. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 servings (3 points+/serving).


Pork Tenderloin with Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce

Another family birthday, another excuse to cook an exquisite meal.

Have you ever tried gorgonzola cheese? It’s a type of blue cheese, but a much milder one. And as evidenced by this recipe, it makes an absolutely delicious sauce. There’s a big debate among the gluten-free community about whether or not blue cheeses are safe to eat. The truth is that it depends on how it’s made. A Google search brings up results on both sides of the argument, but there’s recent evidence that suggests blue cheese is safe for a gluten-free diet. Just be sure to check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain wheat.

For this crowd-pleasing dish (ask my family if you want proof of that claim), I began by coating the pork tenderloin with this garlic peppercorn spice rub, some salt, and a little bit of our favorite roasted garlic olive oil. I wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and let them sit in the fridge overnight. You can use your favorite spice rub for this recipe (use about 1 tablespoon of spice rub per tenderloin), or you can use the spice rub recipe below that’s similar to the one I used.

The best preparation for tenderloins is the oven. (Save the slow cooker for a tougher cut of meat.) However, before placing them in the oven, they must be seared. Don’t skip this important step! Searing the meat creates a thin layer of crust that adds a ton of delicious flavor and creates a nice contrast against the juicy, tender meat inside. Secondly, don’t skip the resting period after you remove the meat from the oven. This allows the juices to be sucked back into the meat. If you skip the resting period and cut into the tenderloin too early, those lovely juices will be all over your cutting board instead of in your tenderloin. No bueno.

I made this for my dad’s birthday dinner and it was a huge hit. I served it alongside mashed potatoes and a broccoli/cauliflower mix, both of which tasted amazing with the cheese sauce. I hope you share this beautiful dish with your family like I shared it with mine!

Pork Tenderloin with Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce
adapted from Taste of Home

Spice Rub
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons crushed black peppercorns
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 pork tenderloins (about 1 1/2 pounds total), trimmed of visible fat
olive oil

Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sweet rice flour or white rice flour
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup dry white wine or white cooking wine
1/4 cup gluten-free, fat-free chicken broth
1 cup (4 oz) gluten-free Gorgonzola cheese crumbles

additional Gorgonzola cheese crumbles for garnish if desired
fresh or dried parsley for garnish if desired

In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the spice rub. Lightly drizzle the tops of each tenderloin with olive oil and, using clean hands, rub over the meat until evenly coated. Sprinkle about half of the spice rub onto the tops of the tenderloins and rub the mixture into the meat. Flip the tenderloins over and repeat the process, using the rest of the spice rub. Tightly wrap each tenderloin individually in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a large roasting pan or baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. (If you don’t have a non-stick skillet, drizzle the pan with olive oil.) Place one tenderloin into the pan for about 30 seconds to one minute on each side to sear the meat. Continue to rotate the tenderloin to sear the sides as well. You might have to hold the meat in place with tongs to sear the sides. Place the tenderloin on the prepared roasting pan. Repeat with the second tenderloin. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10-20 minutes until a thermometer reads 145 degrees. Place the tenderloins on a cutting board to rest for about 5-10 minutes.

While the pork is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. Over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until well-combined and a beige paste forms (this is called a roux). Very slowly whisk in the half and half, wine, and chicken broth. Continue whisking until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue whisking for about a minute or until thickened. Lower the heat to medium low and stir in the cheese, reserving some additional crumbles for garnish if desired. Continue to whisk until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Diagonally slice the tenderloins against the grain of the meat to form about 1-inch thick medallions. Transfer the pork to a serving platter. Spoon the sauce over the pork and garnish with reserved cheese crumbles and parsley if desired.

Makes 6 servings (8 points+/serving).


Barefoot Contessa’s Outrageous Brownies: Made Gluten-Free!

Here I go with chocolate again. But what’s wrong with that? NOTHING.

I’m that person who bakes things for the sole reason of taking them into work for big meetings. I also like to bring dessert whenever we go to someone else’s place for dinner. If I didn’t give away so much of what I bake, Tim and I would require wheelbarrows to get around.

These brownies are no exception. One morning I happened to catch the episode of Barefoot Contessa where she made these. She was using a ginormous bowl and poured the batter into a ginormous pan. She kept reiterating that this recipe made a *lot* of brownies. Perfect! I always need to bring two batches of baked goods to work so everyone gets their fair share (and for my coworkers, a fair share is at least two per person!).

The only modifications this recipe needed to make it gluten-free was the substitution of a gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose flour. I simply used Better Batter Gluten-Free Flour. Since this recipe calls for such a small amount of flour, the finished product had no hint of graininess like gluten-free baked goods can sometimes have. The small amount of flour also made these brownies fudgy without being too dense. Because of the coffee, they aren’t overly sweet. The coffee actually works to bring out the taste of the chocolate.

My only other modification was due to a complete brain fart on my part. When composing my shopping list, I didn’t see the second ingredient, unsweetened chocolate, so I didn’t buy any. When baking time came, I had a momentary freak-out, but then I remembered that I had unsweetened cocoa powder in my pantry. I mixed 3/4 cup of it into my dry ingredients instead and it worked like a charm. So if you don’t have unsweetened chocolate, feel free to make that substitution!

You’ll also notice from the picture above that I omitted the nuts. That was purely because of personal preference. I also cut them into smaller squares so I had many more brownies to go around and to reduce the amount of points per serving.

Head on over to foodnetwork.com for the recipe, and don’t forget to make the flour substitution. Enjoy!

Original recipe, incuding the walnuts, cut into 2-inch squares yields 54 servings at 7 points+ per serving. Excluding the walnuts reduces them to 6 points+ per serving.


Gluten-Free Smothered Pork Chops

As you transition over to eating and cooking gluten-free, you’ll quicly discover that oftentimes you’ll have to do without one of the classic “convenience” foods: canned soup.

Thank goodness we have Progresso. Many of their soups are gluten-free, and those are clearly labeled as such. Check out this section on Gluten Freely where you can buy any of Progresso’s gluten-free soups.

I was pleased as punch to see that their french onion soup was gluten-free. Yum! So the next time I saw a can at my grocery store, I snatched it off the shelf. Then I went hunting for a recipe in which I could use it. I was sure I could make some kind of gravy with it. Sure enough, I stumbled upon this recipe for smothered pork chops, again from Gluten Freely. (LOVE that site – check it out if you haven’t already!)

I happened to have some mashed potatoes left over in my fridge that night, so I served the chops alongside them instead of the rice called for in the original recipe. The onion gravy went very well with them. I also used boneless pork chops instead of bone-in, so the cooking time was reduced dramatically. Cooking times for pork chops vary based on thickness. To give you a starting point, one-inch thick chops take about 4-5 minutes per side over medium-high heat. Just be sure that your sauce cooks long enough to thicken up.

Head on over to Gluten Freely for the recipe!

Made using lean, trimmed boneless pork chops, the recipe comes out to be 10 points+ per serving and serves 4. This point total is for the pork chops and gravy only – it excludes the rice from the original recipe, and the mashed potatoes pictured above.


Review: EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs

Okay, so you know why it’s awesome to be a kid? Because you get to eat delicious stuff like this!

Well, I’m not gonna lie: I’m not a kid, and I still eat this cereal. I’m a sucker for sugary cereals. They remind me of my childhood when I used to eat a bowl of cereal every single morning before school. I had my routine: the bowl balanced precariously on the arm of the couch while I scarfed down spoonful after spoonful of delicious sugary cereal and watched someone who WASN’T ME play the Grand Prize Game on the Bozo Show. No one EVER won that game. It was probably because they always picked kids from the audience who were so young they had only just learned to throw something about two days ago. I was SO convinced that I could win that game if given the chance. I mean how hard could it be?! Geeze.

Anyway, this cereal was the first gluten-free product I bought after my diagnosis. A day or two after I was diagnosed, I woke up with a migraine and had to call in sick to work. When I woke up again a few hours later, my migraine had not yet subsidided due to hunger. I dragged myself into the kitchen in search of some relief. Unfortunately, Tim and I had not yet had the chance to go shopping to restock our now-empty cupboards and fridge because of the gluten-purging we had just done. I didn’t have anything I could eat quickly without having to take time and effort to prepare it. I needed something I could just eat as it was.

Luckily, my nearest grocery store is just around the corner. Not even bothering to change out of my pajama pants, I drove over to the store and stumbled over to their gluten-free section. A box of EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs was the first thing I saw that sounded good. I grabbed it and quickly headed to the checkout.

I distinctly remember my first bite of that cereal. The pure and absolute joy I felt was a result of two things: the fact that it tasted just like that sugary peanut butter cereal I used to eat as a kid, and the fact that I was as ravenous as a freakin’ hungry mountain lion.

This cereal is delicious. Delicious enough that I don’t care that I’m an adult eating a cereal that’s marketed to kids. The great thing about this cereal is that it doesn’t taste quite as sugary sweet as it’s name-brand counterpart. Plus, it’s an organic, all-natural cereal that you can feel better about eating yourself or giving to your kids.

One 3/4 cup serving is 3 points+.

Mmmmmmmmmmm…peanut butter……..