Everyone loves coming home to a hot delicious meal on the table. But, for so many of us, making that happen is a challenge. And during the holiday season, when gift-giving and holiday planning eats into our already full schedules, the prospect of getting a healthy dinner together after a long day at work can seem almost insurmountable.
It’s easy for most to resort to fast food, take-out or prepared food options. But, when you’re gluten-sensitive, or suffering from a condition like Celiac disease, those "easy" solutions can prove to be relatively complex.
Fortunately, there are solutions. And one of them is right in our own backyard.
Pairdd is a Milwaukee-based meal delivery service that specializes in home delivery of healthy ready-to-make gluten-free meals like steak tacos with cilantro rice, grilled flank steak and zucchini with Cheddar jalapeno biscuits, lasagna soup, and homemade barbeque chicken and sausage pizza. For $30 or less, you can get everything you need to create an easy meal for up to four people delivered right to your doorstep.
"We take the hassle out of gluten-free meal preparation by identifying taste-tested recipes, providing step-by-step instructions for how to prepare delicious gluten-free meals in your own kitchen, and making sure you have the right ingredients by doing the grocery shopping for you," says Casey Lanto, co-founder of Pairdd.
"Pairdd customers receive everything they need to cook a recipe, and it's more convenient and affordable than if they had to buy all the ingredients."
In researching the needs of the Milwaukee market, Lanto and her team found that Milwaukee is filled with a growing number of individuals with gluten intolerances and Celiac disease who are faced with myriad challenges in establishing a gluten-free lifestyle.
First, there’s the matter of reading labels – which is a daunting prospect for anyone new to the world of gluten-free cooking. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to disclose gluten on food labels (only wheat), so determining if any given product contains gluten takes some detective work unless that product is specifically labeled "gluten-free."
Then, there’s the matter of the affordability gap when transitioning to gluten-free foods, which tend to be more expensive than their gluten-filled counterparts. Case-in-point: while a loaf of regular bread will set you back by less than $4, gluten-free varieties tend to run between $5-7 per loaf.
Consumers also reported feeling like there is a great deal of risk involved in spending money to try new foods. After all, there are fairly extensive variations among gluten-free products, and much uncertainty regarding whether or not a specific product will actually taste good.
"We were surprised to see when we met people who were first diagnosed that a main complaint was that things didn’t taste good," Lanto remarks. "But, we’ve been really excited to find recipes that really do taste good and that completely eliminate the gluten."
In an effort to glean a variety of delicious recipes, Pairdd staff looked to area experts like Chef Van Luu of Prodigal, local businesses like Molly’s Gluten Free Bakery and Cocina De Leon, and food bloggers, including Sarah Nielsen of Celiac in the City, for ideas and recipe concepts.
In fact, when Lanto approached me this summer, asking if I’d partner with them to provide a few delicious gluten-free recipes for their boxes, I found it difficult to turn her down. We met for coffee to chat about the company back in July, and I sent her back to her office with two or three recipes I thought might work for them.
Lanto took the recipes back to the test kitchen, where they made my recipes and taste-tested them with both gluten-free and non-gluten-free eaters. The recipes that met with unanimous approval were passed along to production, which included a photo shoot of the finished dish, as well as production of detailed cards with step-by-step instructions for recreating the recipe.
In August, she sent me a prototype box with my recipe for gluten-free Buffalo macaroni and cheese. And I’ve got to admit I was impressed.
All the vegetables were peeled, the ingredients pre-measured... the box was a perfect solution for a busy weeknight when even serious cooks like myself are tempted to order takeout. Best of all, the directions were simple enough that my husband was able to take all the ingredients out of the box and pull together dinner in a flash.
Lanto tells me that ease-of-use was one of the main goals when creating the Pairdd boxes.
"There’s also a number of people who are using this as a leaping off point for learning to cook," she tells me. "One of our most loyal customers is now cooking on her own and learning new techniques and she is really happy because she’s able to provide for her family more by cooking at home."
In addition to providing an easy option for cooks of all skill levels, Pairdd is also offering consumers the chance to sample tried-and-true recipes and test-drive some of the best gluten-free ingredients available.
"We’re giving people the option to try out products that exist," she explains. "Like the Williams-Sonoma cup-for-cup flour, before they spend the $20 on it. We’re constantly getting feedback from customers, and that’s great. It keeps us energized and makes us feel like we’re really giving value to them."
Pairdd’s business is growing. In just four months, the business is averaging about 20 boxes per week, and they now offer shipping throughout Wisconsin, thanks to the support of Fed-Ex and a service called Periship that specializes in shipping perishable food items.
And the company has plans to expand to other markets.
"One of the big things on our list right now is making connections and moving into the Madison market," says Lanto. "So, we’re starting those conversations with restaurants in the area that are interested."
Placing an order with Pairdd is easy. Just look through the list of the recipes on the Pairdd web site, choose the ones that appeal to you, and schedule a delivery. Orders placed by midnight Sunday arrive at the customer's door on Tuesday. Customers can check the menu each week before ordering or register for Pairdd's weekly recipe subscription. With a weekly recipe subscription, customers will receive two featured Pairdd meals each week at a discounted rate. Meals are good for up to five days, and will serve 2-4 people depending on the recipe.
Curious? Go on and test them out. OnMilwaukee readers can enjoy 30 percent off a single recipe or 50 percent off the first four weeks of subscription using coupon code ONMKE at checkout on pairdd.com until the end of the year.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.