Recipe: Grilled Eggplant with Gluten Free Couscous and Greek Yogurt Dressing

Sometimes…it’s fun to ignore those magical CSA bin vegetables and go off the beaten path.  Besides, while I love having fresh and local produce delivered to my door, I also love the fun and buzz of the local’s farmer’s market.  And that’s exactly what my roommate and I did this week.  While we have some great bin ingredients, there was an amazing recipe in the October 2014 issue of Vegetarian Times…and the only ingredient I currently had in the home was the couscous.

Don’t panic.  This is gluten-free couscous that came in my Cuisine Cube this month.  I was pretty stoked about that and really wanted to use it right away.  So, that same day as I was flipping through the Vegetarian Times magazine (that had also just arrived)…one dish stood out, as it utilized couscous.  When Cathy read the magazine after me, she also spotted it.  So, that Saturday morning, we went out to a large farmer’s market in Louisville and picked up the necessary ingredients to make this dish.

I prepped most of it last night, so today, the only thing I needed to do to complete the dish was slice and grill the eggplant.  Simple…

Recipe: Grilled Eggplant with Gluten Free Couscous and Greek Yogurt Dressing

Grilled Eggplant with Gluten Free Couscous and Greek Yogurt Dressing

Grilled Eggplant with Gluten Free Couscous and Greek Yogurt Dressing

Servings: 4
Time: Prep 30 minutes; Cook 10 minutes

Ingredients for salad:

  • 2/3 cup couscous (I used a gluten-free brand)
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds, divided
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, diced (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar

Ingredients for dressing:

  • 7 ounces low-fat plain Greek yogurt (or dairy-free yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup chopped Persian cucumber
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic

Ingredients for eggplant:

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 small Italian eggplants, each but on the bias into 6 slices

Directions:

To make the salad: Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Stir in couscous.  Cover pan, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes.  Transfer to bowl and cool for 10 minutes.

Stir 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds and remaining ingredients into couscous, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Chill for 1 hour, or overnight.

To make the dressing: Purée all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

To make eggplant: Preheat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.  Whisk together oil and mint in a small bowl.  Brush eggplant slices with mint oil and season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Grill slices 4 minutes per side, or until tender and nicely grill-marked.

Divide salad among plates.  Top each serving with 3 eggplant slices, 1 tablespoon of remaining pomegranate seeds, and 2 tablespoons of the dressing.

Serve any remaining dressing on the side.

~*~*~

I made only one minor change.  Instead of making the mint oil, I instead added a hit of cayenne pepper, cumin, and garlic powder to the olive oil instead, then brushed that over each slice of eggplant and grilled it.  It worked out perfectly.  And the mint dressing is so light and fresh that it really just brings everything together on the plate.  I highly recommend this hot and cold salad.  It’s simple and easy and beyond delicious for sure!  I can’t wait to make it again.

Product Review: Molina di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous

Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous

Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous

Product: Molina di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous – $3.00+

There was a time…back before I was diagnosed as a Celiac…when I used to make numerous dishes with a grain known as couscous.  But, as couscous is made from the semolina of hard wheat…so any couscous dish I started to ignore or substitute quinoa.  It worked…but it wasn’t the same.

You cannot imagine my excitement when I opened up this month’s Cuisine Cube and found a box of Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous.  I was beyond thrilled.  Seriously, I might have done a happy dance in my office.  Okay…I did do a happy dance.  And with that being said, I was already making plans in my head to recreate some of my favorite couscous dishes with this little box.  My roommate immediately said, “BREAKFAST COUSCOUS!”  Which, is definitely going to happen.  But…it just so happened that I ended up making a salad first with this product.

It was this month’s issue of Vegetarian Times, highlighting hot and cold salads.  And the one that really, really caught her attention was one of Grilled Eggplant with Couscous and Greek Yogurt Dressing.  We looked over the ingredients and they all seemed within reason to pick up at the local farmer’s market (as none of the ingredients were in the CSA bin this week), so I made a pact…if we could find the ingredients, I would cook up the dish.  Because now…I could absolutely use couscous in a dish that asked for it.

The shopping was a success and last night, I found myself prepping most of the ingredients for our dinner tonight.  I cooked up the couscous, seeded the pomegranate, diced the cucumbers, chopped the green onion, and chopped the mint leaves.  I blended together the yogurt dressing ingredients, after a quick run to the store for the actual yogurt itself.  It was the one ingredient we forgot about.  HA!  Not bad.

Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous (cooked)

Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous (cooked)

I have to say…the couscous is easy enough to cook.  I actually didn’t follow the ingredients on the box.  I went off the instructions in Vegetarian Times for the cooking of the whole-wheat couscous they used in the original recipe.  So, instead of 2/3 cup of couscous with 2/3 cup of boiling water, I used the 2/3 cup of couscous and 1 cup of boiling water, letting it cook for 5 minutes.  Usually the said amount of boiling water and the same ratio of couscous would sit for 2 minutes, then the box says to add oil or butter and cook for 3 more minutes over a slow flame.  The way I did it worked just as well, and when the 5 minutes was up, I emptied the pan of couscous into a bowl to cool for 10 minutes.  Then I added the pomegranate seeds and the remaining ingredients, seasoning with olive oil and white wine vinegar.  I let it chill overnight in the fridge.

After work today, my roomie and I returned home and I set out to grill the eggplant and piece the dish together.  That’s what I did.  I plated the couscous salad, then topped it with the grilled eggplant, gave a drizzle of the Greek yogurt dressing and topped it off with a few more pomegranate seeds.  It looked amazing.  And it tasted just as good!

Now, my roommate said her least favorite part of the dish was the couscous, but to me, it was one of the highlights.  Maybe it was because I haven’t had it in a long time.  But I did nothing special to season this couscous, as I used to hit up the regular couscous with cayenne while it steamed.  I left this one plain, as I was adding enough flavors via the fresh ingredients and the oil and vinegar…and a touch of salt to season.  I thought the texture was clearly different.  This was a lighter, smoother, not as gritty couscous, but it was the perfect ingredient for this dish.  In fact, I can’t wait to try it in my “Breakfast Couscous” later on this week.

The grains of the Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous were finer and smoother than regular couscous.  However, this is not to say that it was mush.  Anything but that.  In fact, the grains were still very noticeable on the palate and tongue.  I found that it really blended well with all the fresh vegetables and ingredients that were placed on top of it.  It was perfection…quinoa wouldn’t have been the same.  The couscous was perfect.  And it tasted brilliant.

I was beyond impressed!

So, I bet you’re wondering what a gluten-free couscous is made from.  Simple.  One ingredient is all that is listed on Molino di Nicoli’s Web site – corn flour.  Yes, the Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous is simply corn flour.  That explains the different texture from regular couscous…but ultimately still delicious.  It felt more like grits than couscous…but…it will do.  Different…but close enough in my eyes.

As far as nutrition goes…well…let me see if I can figure this out.  A serving size of Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous is 50 grams, which is about 1/4 of a cup.  This serving will provide you with 177 calories and 0.5 grams of fat.  You will be consuming 0.002 mg sodium (yes…that is the actual measurement) and 0.3 grams of sugar.  A serving provides you with 1.3 grams of fiber and 3.8 grams of protein.  It’s not too filling, but you won’t fell starved an hour later either.  Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous is gluten-free and cholesterol free.

I will be savoring this couscous for as long as I can, as I have a few more dishes I want to make with it.  But tonight’s meal was a success.  It was the perfect base for the grilled eggplant and the light and lively dressing that brought everything together.  Beyond happy.  It’s not exactly couscous, but when you’re gluten-free…this is close enough.  Close enough…and really, really good!

Thank you, once again, Cuisine Cube.  Because of you…I’m one happy couscous eating girl again!

Grilled Eggplant with Greek Yogurt Dressing over a Gluten Free Couscous Salad using Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous

Grilled Eggplant with Greek Yogurt Dressing over a Gluten Free Couscous Salad using Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous

 

Product Review: Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese

Udi's Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese

Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese

Product: Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese – $6.99+

You know…there are certain names that I commonly trust in the gluten-free food world.  And, with the exception of a couple of things (holy and small bread loaves and the original cinnamon roll recipe), one name that I have always been able to trust to serve me up something not only delicious but a close equivalent to the “real” and glutinous food is Udi’s.  After all, they were the game changer when it came to bread.  I hate really small bread slices though, so I normally don’t purchase their loaves.  I do, however, always have Udi’s Gluten Free Bagels in my freezer.  Never had a better gluten-free bagel, for sure!

So, imagine my glee when I found out that Udi’s Gluten Free was introducing some frozen meals to the market.  And while these new products usually take forever and a day to reach my area, that wasn’t the case with these.  I can find them in most of my natural food stores.  The one I have, however, I purchased out of town and returned to my freezer in a cooler.  That’s how I roll when I’m a gluten-free girl on the go!

And by on the go…I mean I drive to a lot of places that have items I don’t always see in my area.  The road is my home a lot of the time.

But when I am home…when I have a rough day or am just tired…cooking something from scratch isn’t always an option.  BAH.  That was the case tonight.  I consulted my roommate and she asked if there was anything in our crisper drawer that was in dire need of being used up.  I listed off a couple of things that we had until Thursday to use.  Since there was no real rush…she said to just grab something out of the freezer…either the gluten-free pizza or the mac and cheese.  The pizza is from my local gluten-free bakery…and we almost went that way.  But…when I said it was the pizza or splitting the mac and cheese and having it with the gluten-free and vegan garlic bread still in the freezer…she immediately wanted the mac and cheese meal because the bread was the tipping point.  HA!  She loves her bread.  And, yes, she only eats gluten-free bread.  She’s awesome like that.

So, after getting home, I tossed the gluten free and vegan garlic bread into the oven to toast.  And as that was about to finish up, I pulled out the mac and cheese meal I knew we had in the freezer.  Actually…what we had one box of the Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese in the freezer.  Close enough to mac and cheese.  I brought it back from The Raisin Rack in Columbus, Ohio, and was keeping it around for an evening such as this.  Lots to do, and not enough time to spend a long time in the kitchen.  This was easy.  This took a total of 7 minutes to cook.  I loved that.

Udi's Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese (cooked)

Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese (cooked)

Simple preparation.  Remove tray from box and cut a whole in the plastic that surrounds it.  Place in the microwave for 2 minutes.  After those two minutes are up, remove the plastic and stir.  Place back in the microwave for another 2 minutes and 45 seconds.  Allow to sit for 2 minutes before serving.  I did that…then split the tray between the two of us.

I settled in to an episode of Chopped on Food Network and took my first bite.

And was highly disappointed.  While the actual dish itself is loaded with rich and creamy unnaturally orange cheese…it didn’t actually live up to its looks.  In fact, while it looked like something I could have cooked up, the first bite was just…bland.  BLAND!  Penne & Cheese should not be bland.  Gluten free should most definitely not be bland.  I was just…so let down.  While I could see the black pepper scattered through the cheese sauce, the cheese sauce really lacked flavor.  And, with most cases of microwave pasta…some of the noodles didn’t cook to soft goodness and were left sort of crunchy and crisp.  BOOOOO!!  This just left me feeling deflated because I love mac and cheese…but this was just…no good.  Not one bit.  When I eat something, I want it to taste like something.  I want seasoning.  I don’t care if it’s a frozen dish or something that comes out of a professional kitchen, it has to taste good!  Or…taste like…something.

The Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese is made from gluten free penne pasta (made from corn flour and rice flour), pasteurized milk, water, cheddar cheese, butter, cheese flavor, monterey jack cheese, rice starch, flavor, citrus fiber, kosher salt, black pepper, annatto extract, and mustard flour.

As for nutrition information, the Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese serves 1 person per container.  My roommate and I split it.  I’m sort of glad we did…

Anyway, one serving (about 1 cup) will serve up 430 calories and 13 grams of fat.  You will be consuming 90 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, and 4 grams of sugar.  In addition, you will take in 3 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein.  You’ll feel full…but you won’t feel like you actually tasted anything.

It’s too bad that this dish was so bland.  I was really let down.  Udi’s is usually so spot-on with their products, but this one just left me feeling cheated out of what should have been a delicious meal.  I think I’ll stick to my homemade mac and cheese from here on.

Half a serving of Udi's Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese

Half a serving of Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese

Product Review: Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen Original Soft Pretzel Bites

Tonya's Gluten Free Kitchen Original Soft Pretzel Bites

Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen Original Soft Pretzel Bites

Product: Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen Original Soft Pretzel Bites – $9.99+

There was a time in my life, when I worked retail at the mall, that at least one of my meals consisted of a soft pretzel from Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.  Because, really, there is nothing quite like feasting on a soft pretzel with that delicious buttery and salty flavor.  Mmmm…

Don’t make me crave…

Or, actually…go ahead.

Because, with a little help from The Raisin Rack in Columbus, Ohio, I was introduced to the most amazing and fantastic convenience gluten-free soft pretzels ever.  Now, they aren’t my local bakery’s soft pretzels (which they offer only in July and September…on Wednesdays only), which are freakin’ fantastic.  But for something that I can dig out of my freezer and feast on whenever I want…well…these are where it is at, my friends!  Just…trust me!

On one of my many trips to Columbus, Ohio, and one of my many stops at The Raisin Rack, I have snatched up some items that I can’t find anywhere else around where I live (and I shop at 5-6 different stores each week).  I often crave soft pretzels (especially when Annie May’s Sweet Café in Louisville, KY, isn’t doing Soft Pretzel Wednesday), as is bound to happen each time I go to a shopping mall and have to walk by Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.  Because…they flood the mall with their delicious smelling pretzels…and I can’t have them.  Not one.  Not even a sample.  It’s sheer torture.  TORTURE!

But…now I know…there can be pretzels whenever I want.  When those weird cravings hit.

Because of Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen!

Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen was created when Tonya and her daughter were diagnosed with celiac disease.  Tonya began searching for gluten-free bakery foods that tasted up to par with their gluten equivalents.  After many disappointments and a lot of frustration, she set out to create her own recipes.  She started simply by baking in her home kitchen for friends and family and even fellow Celiacs in Central Pennsylvania.  Soon, they expanded to selling to local grocery and health food stores.  Then they outgrew the home kitchen in 2010 and opened up a gluten-free bakery in Newmanstown, Pennsylvania.  Tonya and her company believe that quality and taste do not need to be sacrificed in order to make something gluten-free.  They take great care, using a dedicated gluten-free facility to make their products, to ensure that everything they churn out is of the highest standards.

I can get on board with that.

So, after a day of grocery shopping and walking around the farmer’s market and shopping malls, I wasn’t really feeling standing around in the kitchen and cooking something for dinner.  So, I opened up the freezer and decided that what this day called for was…soft pretzels.  And, yes, I happened to have a box of Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen Original Soft Pretzel Bites in my freezer.  I opened up the package and laid out the bites on a baking sheet to cook up.  I patted each bite down with water and gave them a light sprinkle of the enclosed pretzel salt.  Then, they were placed in a  pre-heated oven to allow to cook.  These can be done in the microwave, but to get crustier pretzels, the oven is the way to go.  And I like that initial crispy outside with the doughy and soft middle.  As my oven never heats right, the normal 5-7 minutes these would cook was actually 9-10 minutes for me.  I left them in for 9 minutes.  And when I removed them from the oven…they looked like pretzel perfection…and smelled like the buttery good aroma that comes from Auntie Anne’s.

My mouth was watering.

I split the entire box with my roommate (this was dinner…not a snack) and served them with some vegan cream cheese for dipping.  Because, seriously, soft pretzels and cream cheese are a match made in heaven.  Delicious heaven.

I served up my roommate’s plate first.  And as I was just getting back to the kitchen, she had already taken a bite and said, “OH MY GOD!”  I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing, so I had to ask.  She told me to take a bite and look at the center.  I did just as she said.

OH MY GOD!

Seriously…OH MY GOD!

The Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen Original Soft Pretzel Bites are JUST like the Auntie Anne’s Pretzels I ate almost every day I worked in retail.  Holy goodness.  The pretzels themselves are rich and buttery on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  The inner part of the pretzel are a thick white middle…nothing that looks dense or heavy or packed with bubbles of air.  They were perfection.  Soft…gorgeous centers surrounded by the golden crust with the dash of salt on the top.  Yeah…these were fantastic.  These were light and buttery and amazing.  AMAZING!!  These made me happy on so many different levels.

So, let’s talk ingredients.  At Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen, they believe in using all-natural ingredients.  And these amazing Original Soft Pretzel Bites are made from rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca flour, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, potato flour, baking soda, xanthan gum, yeast, and salt.  They are all-natural, gluten-free and wheat-free.

As far as nutrition goes…well…they aren’t bad.  Not at all.  A serving of Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen Original Soft Pretzel Bites is 5 of the little pretzel nubs.  Now…I ate half the box and I feel no shame.  HA!  A serving contains 220 calories and 8 grams of fat.  One serving would also provide 35 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, and 7 grams of sugar.  Also, you will be consuming 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein.

The Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen Soft Pretzel Bites are something that I intend to keep in my kitchen freezer forever.  For LIFE.  They are that good.  They are so worth keeping on hand for those nights where you just want something that doesn’t resemble the food you eat all week.  Maybe you want snack food for dinner.  Maybe you’re having a party and need some finger food.  These are the perfect treat and the perfect item to keep on hand.  Even gluten eaters couldn’t tell these were gluten-free.  SO GOOD!

Soft pretzels…whenever I want them…that taste great…that are just as good as the “real” thing?

Tonya’s Gluten Free Kitchen delivers with these Original Soft Pretzel Bites.  Oh yes…it doesn’t get better than this!

Product Review: Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi

Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi

Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi

Product: Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi – $3.99+

I blame Ireland.  Honestly.  I blame Ireland for making me love gnocchi so much.

On my final trip there, which happened to be just a couple of months before the Celiac diagnosis, I was at The Tea Room at The Clarence Hotel…feasting on one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life…

Gnocchi.

Potato and Sage Gnocchi at that.  Seriously…it was sex on a plate.  And the chef was kind enough to share the recipe with me, but the version that my friends and I made at home wasn’t quite the same as the one we had in Ireland.  But, let me tell you…this really, really, really made me fall in love with those potato pockets of pasta goodness.

So…it was Ireland and not Italy that introduced me to the pillowy goodness of gnocchi.  And I have been in love ever since.

And then…I had to go gluten-free.  Before that happened completely, I was able to feast on a couple more gnocchi meals from different restaurants…all of which were divine…and reminded me of why I fell in love with gnocchi in the first place.  I was enamored.

Since then, I have had a couple of varieties of gluten-free gnocchi.  Some have been good.  Some have been…okay.  And I think one didn’t even impress me at all.  So, I figured what did I have to lose when it came to testing out the shelf-stable (not frozen or refrigerated) variety made by Delallo, who have also put out some gluten-free pastas.  I have tried them…and they are really good.  So, I had some high hopes for the gnocchi.

Tonight…I got to cook it up and test it out.

Nothing is easier to make.  Put 4 quarts of water into pot and bring to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt and then pour in the gluten-free gnocchi.  Bring water back up to a boil by covering the pot and cook for about two minutes.  Once they are floating, drain and then add to the sauce.  Allow to cook for 2 more minutes in the sauce (of your choice) to marry the flavors together.  Then serve.

I cooked the Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi in a Squash and Pumpkin Pasta Sauce.  For real.  It smelled fantastic.  And once I added the pasta to let it all cook together, my mouth was nigh on watering.  I served it up in two bowls with a slice of my local gluten free bakery (Annie May’s Sweet Café) vegan garlic bread.  Amazing.  Simply divine.

And I’m not just talking about the vegan garlic bread.  The Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi cooked up to perfection.  They were soft and creamy, little perfect Italian dumplings without the wheat.  These are soft pillows of delicious goodness that didn’t stick together or get gummy.  In fact, they were pretty much perfect, which was more than I could have asked for!  According to Delallo, the Gluten Free Gnocchi is crafted with over 85% potato, bringing the absolute perfect texture of traditional gnocchi.  I couldn’t agree more.  I already want to rush out to the store and purchase some more…try it with other sauces…devour, devour, devour!

Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi is made from rehydrated potatoes, rice flour, potato starch, salt, lactic acid, and sorbic acid (as a preservative).  This pasta is non-GMO, cholesterol free, fat free, gluten-free, sheat free, and made in a dedicated gluten-free facility in Italy.  Yes…in Italy.  These gluten-free gnocchi are imported.

So, what about the nutritional aspect of this pasta?  It’s not bad.  The Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi serving is 1 cup of the pasta.  This serving dishes up 250 calories and absolutely no fat at all.  This serving has 760 mg sodium and only 1 gram of sugar.  The sodium is higher than I normally would like, but the sugar is very low.  This pasta has 2 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.  Not bad at all for pasta!!  Especially gluten-free.

LOVE.  That’s what the Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi is made with and of.  LOVE.  Lots and lots of gluten-free love.  And I am forever going to make a point to keep this in my kitchen pantry.  When it doesn’t take long to cook up, it makes for a relatively quick meal to prepare and then eat.  And I love convenient.  Delallo definitely hit it out of the park this time.  Delicious!

Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi with Organic Squash and Pumpkin Pasta Sauce and Gluten-Free and Vegan Garlic Bread

Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi with Organic Squash and Pumpkin Pasta Sauce and Gluten-Free and Vegan Garlic Bread

Product Review: Glutino Gluten Free Hazelnut Wafer Bites

Glutino Gluten Free Hazelnut Wafer Bites

Glutino Gluten Free Hazelnut Wafer Bites

Product: Glutino Gluten Free Hazelnut Wafer Bites – $5.99+

Remember those wafer cookies that ever child grows up eating?  Those ones that come in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry?  You know…thin wafer cookies with that thin layer of sugary cream in between layers?  Remember those?  I do…because I loved them.  The strawberry were my favorite.  Always my favorite.

Granted, I’m sure those cookies were (and still are…except I can’t eat them anymore and haven’t since I was a child, regardless) loaded with a plethora of artificial ingredients.  They were simple, but delicious.

Fast forward to three years since my Celiac diagnosis.  While gluten free snacks are everywhere, sometimes finding good ones are difficult.  And don’t get me started on how most gluten free products out on the market are snack foods.  As in cookies, chips, crackers, etc.  Which, is all fine and good.  Because, as we all know…I am a snacker…but I’m also an athlete who does try to keep snacks on the healthier scale.

That being said, this doesn’t mean I ban snack foods from my life.  In fact, I like to indulge every now and again.  And dessert is a necessity in my life.  I grew up having a cookie or a scoop of ice cream after dinner.  My family loves our dessert.  Honestly.  And nothing will ever change that.  However, I try to either make my own desserts or really choose my treats carefully.

I admit…I didn’t use any methodical choice when I picked up a bag of the Glutino Gluten Free Hazelnut Wafer Cookies.  Nope.  I didn’t even look at ingredients.  They just intrigued me.  They were like…a grown-up, bite-size version of those sugar wafer cookies I grew up loving!  And I didn’t care, as I put them in my shopping basket, whether they were good for me or not.  These were cookies I simply just…wanted!

Cookie monster, remember?

So, tonight, after having a roasted vegetable sandwich for dinner, I pulled out the bag of Glutino Gluten Free Hazelnut Wafer Cookies for dessert.  I was really excited about them and my anticipation was evident as the bag pretty much ripped as I attempted to open them!  HA!  This cookie monster wanted her treat.  I got out my kitchen scale and placed a handful on a paper towel, weighing out a serving.  I might love my sweets, but I always eat them in moderation and stick to that serving size.  It was the perfect amount.

These little bite-size wafer cookies are light and flavorful and fantastic.  They are the epitome of the sugar wafer cookies I grew up on…better in that instead these vanilla cookies have a chocolate hazelnut cream layer.  And these layers are repeated, making them repetitively delicious.  Honestly.  The thin layer of cream is just enough to kick up the sweetness level of what would otherwise be a relatively bland vanilla wafer cookie.  Absolutely amazing.  They were light, so they didn’t leave you feeling guilty or guiltily stuffed.  And, most importantly, they were delicious.  A grown-up version of those cookies you ate as a child.  Each bite-size cookie offered up the right hit of flavor and sweetness without being too much all at once.  These cookies are layered in love.

So, let’s talk about the ingredients, shall we?  Glutino Gluten Free Hazelnut Wafer Bites are made from potato starch, cane sugar, coconut oil, hazelnut paste, cocoa powder, soy oil, soy lecithin, salt, ammonium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate, and natural flavor.  These cookies are gluten-free and cholesterol free.

But how sinful are they?  For cookies…not bad at all.  A serving of the Glutino Gluten Free Hazelnut Wafer Bites is 30 grams (which the box says is 7 cookies, but it is actually more!).  This serving of little bite-size wafer cookies will serve you 150 calories and 7 grams of fat.  This serving also dishes up 45 mg sodium and 9 grams of sugar.  And finally, you will be taking in less than 1 gram of fiber and less than 1 gram of protein.  Like I said…they won’t fill you up…except with awesome cookie goodness.

Oh, it’s safe to say that this cookie monster definitely indulged and enjoyed dessert tonight.  Glutino hasn’t had a miss yet with one of their products for as much as I have tried them.  And this is only a good thing, my friends.  They are certainly doing something right.  Because, everything so far has been oh…so good!  Another perfectly indulgent item!  One that I’d buy again in a heartbeat!

Product Review: Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix

Product: Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix – $10.99

I want to give another quick shout-out to my friend (all the way back through middle school!), Rebecca Fifield, who not only is just an all-around fantastic person, but is also a consultant for Tastefully Simple.  She was kind enough to send me a batch of the original four gluten-free mixes that Tastefully Simple were putting out on the market.  I have one more to go, and this one isn’t one of them.

The product I am  reviewing today, the Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix, actually is part of their second round of gluten-free mix offerings, which also brought about a Gluten-Free Coconut Lime Cake Mix.  Actually, I am just now realizing that Tastefully Simple sneaked out two more mixes while I wasn’t looking…a Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix and a Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Pancake Mix.  I think I know what I’ll be ordering soon!

Anyway…when Tastefully Simple first released second round of products (Coconut Lime Cake Mix and the Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix), I was determined to buy at least one of them.  I would have purchased both, except I was already planning on buying more of the Gluten-Free Beer Bread Mix.  Hey…that stuff is awesome.  So after a little back and forth with myself…I finally chose the Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix for this time around.

And last night…I baked it up.

One of the things that makes Tastefully Simple products so appealing is how…simple…they are to make.  Normally, they require the addition of 2-3 items, all of which get stirred together and then popped into the oven to bake.  Seriously…that easy.  I love something that won’t take up too much of my time in the kitchen.  Let’s face it…I may love to cook and bake, but I’m a busy girl and I value my time.

As it was, the Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix only requires 2 cups of chopped apples (and, hey, my CSA bin gave me apples this week!), 2 eggs (or egg replacer if you are vegan), and 1 cup of chopped walnuts (which are optional, but I always add nuts!).  So, I poured the mix into a mixing bowl, chopped up two large Gala apples, broke two eggs into the bowl, and then added the walnuts.  I stirred the contents until everything was combined and no powdery mix remained in the bowl.  This took a couple of minutes because the only liquid in the bowl came from the two eggs, and for a moment I didn’t think it was going to come together.  I will never doubt again, because it all mixed in beautifully.  I poured the batter into a greased baking pan and threw it into the oven to bake.  This normally takes about 45-55 minutes.  Surprisingly, my old oven perfectly baked the cake in 45 minutes.

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix (baked and fresh from the oven)

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix (baked and fresh from the oven)

First of all, the Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Cinnamon Apple Cake smells AMAZING as it is baking.  We’re in the midst of September, and autumn is coming.  This made my entire apartment smell like fall.  For real!  When it came out of the oven, it took everything in my power to let it cool down before I sliced it up and tried it for myself.  I’m not good with self control, but somehow…I managed.

The end result?!  One of the most fantastic, moist, and flavorful cakes I have ever had.  This is no joke.  Not one bit.  The apples provide a nice hit of sweetness and texture.  The top of the cake gets this nice crust on it, which crumbles as you slice into it.  It was a beautiful thing.  And the cake itself…aside from being moist, this cake tastes like a flavorful and delicious coffee cake.  It has this rich flavor to it, with the cinnamon adding a sweet spice to it that I love and my taste buds crave.  I was so surprised with how moist this cake was.  I was a bit concerned about it, but I should have known to trust Tastefully Simple.  I might be addicted to this cake.  Self control is definitely being exercised as I have an entire cake now.  It sure does taste like autumn around here.

So, let’s take a look at the ingredients.  The Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix is made from sugar, rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sodium bicarbonate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, salt, cinnamon, and xanthan gum.  It is cholesterol free, gluten free and kosher.

The Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Cinnamon Apple Cake Mix isn’t bad for a cake.  Remember though, this is for the mix only, but even after everything is added in, the calories and fat all stay in check.  A serving of the mix is 1/4 cup, and the mix itself makes 9 servings.  This serving will give you 190 calories.  It is fat-free and cholesterol free (until you add the eggs, of course!).  The mix has only 260 mg sodium and a whopping 29 grams of sugar.  But…it’s cake.  It’s going to be sugary!  The mix itself has no fiber and only 1 gram of protein.

Not bad at all for nutrition of a cake, that’s for sure.  I honestly was so pleasantly surprised by this cake.  I think it’s going to become a pantry staple in my apartment.  Because…wow…I am beyond impressed.

Now, I know you’re dying to try it!  You must be.  And you should be.  So, head over to Rebecca Fifield‘s page and place an order.  I promise…you won’t be disappointed.

A slice of Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Cake (serving size)

A slice of Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Cake (serving size)

Product Review: Glutino Gluten Free Original English Muffins

Glutino Gluten Free Original English Muffins

Glutino Gluten Free Original English Muffins

Product: Glutino Gluten Free Original English Muffins – $5.29+

Some mornings, it’s easy to decide what to make for breakfast.  Other mornings, I have way too much going on to make something great and elaborate.  These are the mornings that the gluten-free toast and gluten-free bagels usually rear their heads.  And yes, I am certainly aware of the “good carbs vs. bad carbs” argument when it comes to breakfast foods and how you start your day.  But…with a strict budget and, honestly, the need for something quick that doesn’t take a lot of time some mornings…I have to do what fits into my mornings.

I don’t feel guilty about it.  An egg scramble isn’t hard, but to not overcook the eggs, it can take awhile.  Where as something like a gluten-free bagel or a couple slices of gluten-free toast can toast up while I take a quick shower, having just returned home from my early morning spin class or from doing laps in the pool.  Regardless…some mornings, it’s what has to be done.

So, this morning, despite having some gluten-free bagels in my freezer, I reached for something that I had been wanting to try for a very long time.

And if you read the subject of this post, you already know that I’m talking about Glutino’s Gluten Free Original English Muffins.

After my local Whole Foods stopped carrying the LivWell brand of English Muffins that I fell in love with…and since Katz Gluten Free requires an online order…it was nice to be able to duck into one of my local grocery stores/natural food stores and pick these up out of the freezer section.  I did a bit of a double-take, I admit, when I first purchased them, as they are a bit of a yellow-orange color in the packaging.  Odd.  But, it didn’t deter me from buying them.  Nope.  So, purchase made, they found their way to my freezer, I found myself out of town and using up other products that needed using…until this morning.

After that morning spin class I previously mentioned, I drove home, turned on the oven and put the two Glutino Gluten Free Original English Muffins onto a baking sheet.  I had left them in a Ziploc bag to thaw while I was gone.  I handed my roommate her bowl of cereal, put the English Muffins into the oven and went to take a quick shower.  They could cook without me needing to babysit them.  I was all about that for sure!  Makes for an easy breakfast that can be done while I am doing something else.  I love to be able to multitask.

So, after I was dressed and ready for work, I made my way back out to the kitchen, where the Glutino Gluten Free Original English Muffins were still happily toasting away.  I pulled down some plates and got out the Earth Balance spread and some blueberry jam (made from real fruit only!).  I checked on the English muffins and they were almost to that perfect golden toasty color.  So, I got out the butter knife and then grabbed the hot pad holder to remove them from the oven.  They looked perfect.  I slathered each half of the Glutino Original English Muffins with Earth Balance spread and then…topped that with the most perfect schmear of blueberry jam.  It looked heavenly and I was already anticipating my very first bite.

I picked up my plate and settled in for breakfast.  I lifted the English muffin and took my very first bite.

I was anticipating something that was heavy and dense and just…not what an English muffin should be.  But I was wrong.  I was definitely wrong.  The Glutino Gluten Free Original English Muffins actually were quite light.  The toasted areas had this nice crispiness to them, but the inner layer was soft and light.  I loved that it wasn’t dense.  I loved that it felt like I was eating a normal English muffin.  In fact, the powdery cornmeal dusted on top helped add to that illusion too.  I was loving every bite.  And it paired so well with the classic toppings of butter and jam.  It was pure breakfast perfection.  And now that they were toasted, that strange color didn’t look so scary anymore.  I happily noshed away on my entire English muffin, wanting to savor, but not wanting it to get cold either.  I found the perfect balance, enjoying every bite and commenting on just how surprised I was by the taste and texture.  These were, for sure, a winner!

The Glutino Gluten Free Original English Muffins are made from water, corn starch, tapioca starch, skim milk powder, corn flour, egg whites, can sugar, canola oil, salt, cellulose gum, yeast, baking powder, gluconon-delta-lactone, pectin, sodium bicarbonate, sodium alginate, modified cellulose, corn meal, iron, nacin, tracalcium phosphate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, and riboflavin.  Yes…I am aware of how chemically some of those ingredients sound.  And that word modified is a bit of a bother.  It’s sad…because, if you’re like me and actually care about that sort of thing…it sort of lessens my excitement for these breakfast treats.

A serving of the Glutino Gluten Free Original English Muffins is one English muffin.  This one English muffin will provide your body with 170 calories and 1.5 grams of fat.  I think that’s freakin’ fantastic.  A serving also provides 440 mg sodium and 7 grams of sugar.  Not bad for a bready breakfast item.  These English muffins are also cholesterol free.  And, finally, this serving will give you less than 1 gram of filling fiber and only 4 grams of protein.  So, this is why I paired it with a bowl of cereal…because otherwise, I’d be starving within an hour.  It will not leave you feeling full for very long, that’s for sure.

Regardless, I am a huge fan of the Glutino Gluten Free Original English Muffins.  Great flavor, great taste, great texture…which means I’ll treat myself to them every now and again.  Because, on some mornings, sometimes the only thing you want is an English muffin.  And when, normally, due to Celiac or gluten intolerance, this isn’t something that can happen on a regular basis…this is a nice treat indeed.  I highly recommend these English muffins.  In fact, I even think people who can eat Thomas’ English Muffins would appreciate these as well.  There…I said it.

Put it to the test.  For me…no need.  I’m in love.  I’m in love all over again with breakfast.  Thank you, once more, for another fantastic product, Glutino.  Thank you.

Product Review: My Dad’s Cookies Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits

My Dad's Cookies Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits

My Dad’s Cookies Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits

Product: My Dad’s Cookies Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits – $7.99+

Yep…I found another version of the My Dad’s Cookies brand of gluten free cookies at my local grocery store, Lucky’s.  I’ve been more than pleased with the flavor and texture of these gluten-free delights.  For sure.  So, it seems, as long as they have cookies that I haven’t tried yet, I’ll keep going back for more.  Why?  Because, it seems, I must EAT. ALL. THE. COOKIES.

What started off with buying the Gluten Free Black and White Cookies has turned into a bit of a cookie obsession for me.  No joke.  The My Dad’s Cookies brand are not a gluten free brand that I had heard of prior to visiting Lucky’s…but now that I know of them, and know how good they are…well…I’m a bit unstoppable.  For sure.

So, after trying the Gluten Free Black and White Cookies, the Gluten Free Vanilla Grahams, the Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies, and the Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Biscotti…I went in with a much smaller selection this time around.  I keep hoping they’ll restock the Lemon Cookies, but that hasn’t happened just yet.  So, from the meager selection remaining, my roomie and I went through the stacks of what was left.  And after much deliberation between us, we opted for the My Dad’s Cookies Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits.

Cinnamon cookies.

Mmmm…two of my favorite things.  Cinnamon.  And cookies.  How can this be a bad thing?

Tonight, I found out.   And the answer…it can’t be a bad thing.

My roommate and I often get a little creative with our cookies and with the My Dad’s Cookies Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits, we thought…S’mores.  Nothing beats a delicious s’more, right?  It’s even better when I can make it vegetarian (no marshmallows here…just Fluff) with some dark chocolate.  Oh yeah.  But, I still wanted the cookie to be the star, so I made sure I balanced the campfire favorite flavors to perfection.

The result?

The My Dad’s Cookies Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits were cookie perfection.  The biscuits themselves were sturdy enough to hold up to the additions I sandwiched between them.  They didn’t crumble like gluten free graham crackers do and the fluff and dark chocolate squares stayed in place thanks to the sturdiness of these cookies.  The texture was perfection.  Crispy, but without crumbling, these cookies were a great blend of sweet and spice.  The cinnamon adds this nice hint of flavor to the cookies.  They reminded me of the crispy bottom of sugar cookies and snickerdoodles.  Nothing wrong with that combination, for sure.  It was one amazing dessert, for sure.  And the My Dad’s Cookies Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits made these “no way I’m camping to have s’mores” dessert sheer perfection tonight.  These are love.

My Dad’s Cookies Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits are made from a gluten free flour blend (tapioca, brown rice, white rice, soy, potato starch, and xanthan gum), sugar, water, organic palm oil, cinnamon, agave syrup, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  These cookies are gluten-free, dairy free, nut free, vegan, cholesterol free, and kosher.

As far as nutrition goes, for cookies, these stats aren’t half bad.  A serving of My Dad’s Cookies Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits is 4 cookies.  These 4 cookies will serve up 150 calories and 6 grams of fat.  These cookies also provide 50 mg sodium and 9 grams of sugar.  Not too bad for 4 cookies!  And, finally, you’ll be consuming 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  A sweet treat that won’t fill you up…but it is full of flavor for sure!

My Dad’s Cookies is definitely baking up gluten free deliciousness in cookie form.  And these cookies are no exception.  I’ve been really enjoying exploring the different varieties I can find at the store.  The Gluten Free Cinnamon Biscuits were just the right cookie at the right time.  They make a great treat on their own, or doctor them up.  Whatever you choose.  But don’t miss out on these!

Product Review: Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Almond-Based Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Almond-Based Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Almond-Based Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product: Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Almond-Based Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert – $5.99+

I was on a mission one afternoon.  I needed to pick up a few supplies at the grocery store.  As I was leaving, my roommate told me to splurge a little and pick out a product that I have been wanting to try, but haven’t found a way to justify it.  Within reason.  Which, knocked out a few options…but I wasn’t without a few choices.

It was a hot summer afternoon, and I found myself wandering around the tiny, but stocked, natural foods area.  I ducked over to the freezers and let my eyes peruse some of the options inside.

And then…I saw what could be one of the most epic dessert options in the gluten-free and dairy-free world – Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato.

Gelato…that is dairy free?  You bet your lactose-intolerance!  The Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato is an almond-based non-dairy frozen dessert.  Yes!  You read that right…almond-based.  Mmmm…almond milk!  And, it just happened to be one of my favorite flavors in the entire world – salted caramel.  SOLD!  And, it definitely fell into the ‘within reason’ addendum my roomie threw into the deal.  Happily, I took it to the register, checked out, and came home to store it in the freezer.

That was a little while ago…but I had some cookies and bread and other delicious frozen treats to work through first.  I have a system.  But tonight, on a story, thundering evening, after eating some gluten-free and vegan mac and cheese…I chose the Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato for dessert.

I dished up two servings of the frozen treat.  In fact, certain that the Dream frozen treats would act like coconut milk based treats, I allowed the gelato to sit out on the counter while my roommate and I shoveled our main course into our faces.  Okay…we might have been a little daintier than that, but we were hungry and Annie May’s Sweet Café in Louisville makes some of the best mac and cheese out there for someone like me, with multiple food allergies.

It was the right move.  After we finished eating and rinsed the dishes, I got out a 1/2 measuring cup and some bowls and got to work on dishing up dessert.  Gelato is usually rich and creamy.  While the Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato is definitely rich, the creamy nature gets a bit lost in the almond milk base.  Much like coconut milk, it is a little harder and tends to break apart instead of just slipping onto the spoon.  But it was delicious…and that was the important thing.

Oh…my sweet Italian dessert.  Holy goodness.  This was one fantastic, sweet treat.  This frozen dessert combines a hint of saltiness with a rich, smooth caramel flavor.  The result is a decadent and delicious dessert that is created without the use of dairy.  The almond base lends a nice, slightly nutty flavor and gives it a thick texture.  Not creamy like I associate with gelato, but still rich and smooth.  The dessert melted on my tongue and I savored each burst of flavor.  This had just the right amount of caramel flavor and the right hit of salt to make it one of the most perfect frozen desserts in my freezer.  It was so hard to keep to that serving size.

So, let’s get down to the bones of it…

The Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Almond-Based Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert is made from filtered water, evaporated cane syrup, almonds, tapioca maltodextrin, expeller pressed oil, brown rice syrup, and contains 2% or less of natural flavors, cocoa butter, soy protein, sea salt, potato starch, guar gum, carrageenan, carob bean gum, sunflower lecithin, soy lecithin, caramel color.  This gelato is cholesterol free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and kosher.

As far as nutrition information goes, a serving of the Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Almond-Based Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert is 1/2 cup.  There are 4 servings in the pint.  A serving of the gelato will provide you with 140 calories and 6 grams of fat.  In addition, you will take in 115 mg sodium and 15 grams of sugar.  That is definitely a lot of sugar, but this is a gelato.  Finally, you will be consuming only 1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of protein.  Not filling…but totally delicious!

I was blown away by the amazing flavor, rich texture, and the sweet and salty nature Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Almond-Based Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert.  Each bite was an icy, decadent treat, for sure.  It was so tempting to just polish off the pint, but this means I have one more evening with this dessert.  Tomorrow will sure be delicious.  If you haven’t tried Dream’s frozen desserts, I highly recommend starting off with the Sea Salt Caramel Gelato.  It’s a new favorite.  Definitely.

A serving of Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Almond-Based Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

A serving of Dream Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Almond-Based Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert