Gluten Free Mac ‘n Cheese: Christmas Party at the Horse Barn


Well, isn’t that post title truly an example of words that you’d never expect to see together! My daughters ride horses, and so when the trainer holds a Christmas party, it just seems to make sense to have it at the barn!

As those who are gluten intolerant can appreciate, one can never be confident that foods at a holiday party are going to be safe to eat. I have entertained for decades, (oh, I hope that doesn’t date me too much!) and I can say with confidence that most parties tend to be rather unfriendly environments for those who cannot do wheat or gluten. (*2014 update: Things are slowly becoming more GF friendly!) Whether it’s potluck or cocktail party, there are loads of crackers, breads, pasta, tortillas, and hidden flour in many dips, chips and casseroles. I cannot emphasize this point enough: a potluck table is a dangerous place for those GF. We discovered quite belatedly, that the lovely ‘Stewed Apples’ a woman brought contained hidden gluten in it. After asking her for the recipe, she said she used Stouffers as the base. Here I was thinking to myself, stewed apples, cinnamon and dried cranberries, how can that have gluten? Shortly thereafter, my daughter had a reaction and I went online to check. Guess what? Stouffers Harvest Apples has wheat in it. Who’da thunk? You’d think the two of us would have learned better by now!

Back to the point, when you have dietary issues, it’s smart offer to bring something, and I tend to bring/send both a main dish as well as a dessert that is safe. I want my daughter to be able to enjoy herself. It’s hard enough being a teenager where pizza parties reign, and having to sit by and watch while they eat, so I make the extra effort to always send something for her to enjoy. Plus, I ensure it’s tasty enough that my daughter isn’t the only one digging in.

Today with temperatures being in the 20’s here, I decided to bring Macaroni & Cheese. One of my favorite versions is from the Cook’s Illustrated Family Cookbook. You can trust from Cook’s that the recipe will turn out the way they describe.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a pantry cook. I do my shopping weekly and pretty much make something based on what is either in my fridge and/or pantry. Then I proceed to modify the recipe based on what I have on hand. Today, I had on hand some sharp cheddar, jack cheese, a little havarti and swiss. Altogether it was close to the amount of cheese called for in the recipe. I used lactose free milk and substituted the pasta for my favorite brand of GF noodles – Tinkyada (Penne) Noodles. The Tinkyada holds up magnificently in cooking and just refuses to get soggy. Use whatever brand works for you, but make sure to not over cook the noodles and rinse them fully, or when you bake them in the cheese sauce you’ll end up with cheese flavored wallpaper paste, most certainly not the desired result.

*This will look ‘loose’ when you put it in the oven. That is ok, it will tighten up while baking. Do not add more noodles or it will turn out dry.

This has been a regular favorite in our family. I hope you enjoy it also.

Macaroni & Cheese (gluten free)

8 tbsp Unsalted Butter (you will use 2 tbsp melted to toss with the breadcrumbs)

2 cups Breadcrumbs (I pulse GF bread in a food processor to make my own)

1 lb Macaroni Noodles (We use GF)

1 Garlic Clove, minced or put through a press

1 tsp Dried Mustard, reconstituted in 1 tsp water

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

6 tbsp Gluten Free Flour (You can use regular wheat flour, I use Pamelas GF Artisan Flour)

3.5 cups Whole Milk (I used lactose free, please use whole or add cream to make your low-fat whole. This is mac n cheese for goodness sake, it’s not a diet dish!)

1.75 cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth

1 lb colby cheese & 8 ounces of extra sharp cheddar (I used what I had on hand, see above. I really feel it’s up to you. If this were not for a potluck, I’d have added pepper jack!)

Preheat your oven to 400 deg

Mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and set aside.

Boil your pasta till a dente. Drain, and rinse thoroughly. While the pasta is cooking (I’m all about time efficiency. Turn the oven on, get the water boiling, and start your sauce…)

To make the cheese sauce:

1. Melt the 6 tbsp of butter, add the garlic, mustard and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about a minute.
2. Add the flour, whisking till smooth and well combined. I cook it about a minute to make sure there is no ‘flour’ taste.
3. Slowly add the milk and chicken broth, whisking constantly to keep from clumping. Cook it about 6 minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and add your cheese, still whisking to keep from clumping. 4. Add your well drained noodles, and gently fold together until well combined. (Don’t panic if it seems overly soupy. I have done exactly that, trying to spoon off some of the ‘excess’, only to have a dry dish in the end. Leave it and it will remain creamy and yummy if you don’t panic!)

Pour in to a 13×9 baking dish, top with the buttered bread crumb and bake for about 25-30 mins until bubbly and topping is well-browned.

Let sit for 10 minutes before enjoying. And then…..ENJOY!

ps) This may not be the most artistic photo, but I took it at the barn with my smart phone. As you can see, it had been 1/2 devoured and we came late after most had already eaten. Yes, it really is that good! One more tip: I have a gel pack that is microwavable which I put under the casserole dish to keep it hot. If you can find one and live in a climate like mine, I highly recommend. No power source needed!)

Front Door Poinsettia in a Basket

Front Door Poinsettia in a Basket

I’m just not one to spend money on what I would choose to call ‘frivolous’ expenditures. In the summertime, I have a garden full of perennials to keep my home full of flower arrangements, but winter time is a chance for me to be a little more creative in my penny pinching.

Our local craft supply store is always putting things on clearance, and these poinsettias were just the thing for my front door. I have lots of various pines and evergreens on my property, so with a little decorators foam, my rod iron hanging basket and pruning sheers, I came up with this. My outside wreaths and swags are contemporary in nature, silver balls, white and silver ribbon, mini-ornament balls. I am quite pleased with the way it turned out, and for the cost of a fancy cup of coffee, I have a beautiful (and freeze-safe) front door welcoming arrangement.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Stars


Well, the wizards of WordPress have some major serious glitches to resolve.
My lovely daughter was making these from the recipe on this website and we realized there were a couple of confusing points. So I went in to edit -and BLAMMO….POOF, IT WAS ALL GONE!

(Here is my daughter following my recipe, which needed modifications)


Oh heck, I’ll add another shameless plug for my cutie pie!


After many, MANY moments of not so happiness, here I am reposting my recipe.

BTW, these are AWESOME cookies. We make them every single Christmas.
The recipe is plentiful, so if you are looking for a cookie for a cookie exchange, this is your ‘go to’. They hold up well, you can make them well in advance. They are fun to play with. The traditional is made with a Hershey’s Kiss, but this year we used Rolo’s and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (the little ones).

I’m sure my original post had all kinds of wonderful, lovely sentimental reminiscing, but tonight? I just want to get this up so that my readers can also have access to this amazing recipe!

Preheat the Oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare a Sheetpan with a silpat, or parchment paper.
Have cookie cooling racks ready.

Peanut Butter ‘Stars’

1.5 C Creamy Peanut Butter
1 stick Butter Flavor Crisco Shortening (1 cup)
2.5 C Brown Sugar (dark or light. we prefer dark)
6 Tbsp Buttermilk (nut milk is an ok substitute)
2 Tbsp Vanilla (yes, that much!)
2 Eggs
3.5 C All-purpose Gluten Free Flour (My favorite is Pamela’s Artisan Flour)
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp Baking Soda
Hersheys Kisses and/or Rolos, Reeses bits.
Sugar in a pan to roll the dough in.
*I like to add sparkling sugar to the white cane sugar for extra sparkle.

Makes: A lot.

Cream together the Peanut Butter, Crisco, and Sugar together. Add the Eggs, Vanilla and Eggs, then the Buttermilk.
Combine and blend together the dry ingredients.
Slowly add the dry to the wet ingredients.
This is gluten free flour so no worries about toughness. Make sure it is well blended.

(This photo is in the near-end part of the process…when I realized my website deleted my post! But it gives you the idea of the texture)


From the dough, take about 1 generous tablespoon of the dough (approx 1+ inch), roll it into a ball. (this part is flexible, mine run between 1-2 tbsp in size) Then dredge in a pan filled with sugar.

Place on a sheet pan, lined with a silpat, and bake for about 10-12 minutes. They will begin to crack, but will still be moist inside.

While they are still warm, sink a Hershey’s Kiss in the middle.


Allow to cool for a few minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.
These store amazingly in an airtight container for over a week. Just be sure the chocolate is well set before packing away.

Please do me a favor.
If there is something that doesn’t make sense, comment below. This was a fly by the pants recipe. I wanted to get it up because Gluten Free is tough and this is DELISH.
But to make my recipes better, I need feedback!