Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels

 Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels – $8.50

I’ve been burned by gluten-free products in the past.  You hear about them via the Internet and you either find them at your local store (grocery or natural food) and you take them home and try them out and you find out all the hype was just hype.  It sucks.  You’re out a good meal/snack and money.

So, imagine how it felt for me to pour some money into a company that found me via my Twitter feed, when I was talking about the new Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Bagels (plain and everything).  They reached out to me, and didn’t say they had a better product, just that if I enjoyed those, I’d love theirs.  They did it twice…and with me…this shows persistence and a great belief in the product they have.  I had already made my way over to their page upon the first contact and was intrigued by what I found.  The second time, they had me convinced I just needed to pull the trigger and place an order.

And this is where my love affair with Sweet Note Bakery and their New York style gluten free bagels began…

Sweet Note began in 2012, when founder and president, Michelle MacDonald, stepped up to a challenge.  She had been baking ever since she was a child and was very passionate about it.  When her grandfather and sister were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, she took the first steps on her entrepreneurial journey.  Her family really missed a good New York Style bagel.  (Hey…I can’t blame them…I know this feeling all too well). So with a lot of experimentation and trial and error, MacDonald perfected the recipe, getting huge approval from her family (also bagel lovers).  Gluten-free bagels that taste good?!  It was a reality.  Sweet Note Bakery’s vision is to make gluten-free options more readily accessible.  Those of us who live with Celiac understand how isolating this disease can be, when you can’t have a meal while out with friends and family, be it at a restaurant or a ballpark, or wherever your adventures take you.  MacDonald wanted to change that…one gluten-free bagel at a time.

No buyer’s remorse happened either after I checked out of their online store.  A couple of days later, a box arrived bearing my bagels.  I made room for them in my packed freezer until it was time to crack into them.  So far, they have wowed me with the Plain, Everything, and Cinnamon Raisin varieties.  These are all commonly found as flavored with other gluten-free bagels on the market…

But Sweet Note really knows how to sweeten the deal.  And this chocoholic jumped at the chance to try their latest flavor…

Chocolate Swirl.

Chocolate for breakfast?  Hell yes!  In fact, I am no stranger to incorporating sweet chocolate into my breakfast.  I’ve made chocolate gluten-free hot cereal.  My mom grew up making chocolate chip pancakes for my friends and I.  And sometimes, I throw chocolate chips into my overnight oats or my breakfast parfait.  We all deserve a little something sweet sometimes.

Per instructions on the packaging, in order to get your bagels done right, do NOT ever let them thaw to room temperature.  This goes against how I prepare anything gluten-free from my freezer, but there is a reason for this.  So…do it.  Pop these into your microwave for about 1 minute, until they are soft.  Cool slightly, and then the slice and toast.  If you’re like me and you don’t own a toaster, pop them in an oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.  They come out perfect.

Let me tell you, this bagel has everything working for it.  Everything.  It satisfies your sweet tooth without taking it too far.  I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate for breakfast?  The best part is…the Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels keep the chocolate subtle so that it doesn’t become more of a doughnut or cake, than a bagel.  It is smoothly swirled into the bagel, creating this gorgeous pattern when you slice into the breakfast treat itself.  And, let me tell you, nothing makes your morning better than the aroma of chocolate as it toasts in the oven (or toaster if you have one…I don’t!).  My mouth was watering as it was being thawed in the microwave for a minute.  This is more than a bagel.  This is everything you want in a breakfast – savory and sweet – crunchy and chewy.  Amazing.  Just all-around amazing.

Want to know what else is amazing?  The old-school style that these gluten-free bagels are produced in.  They hit that traditional New York Style, not only in size, but in texture too!  And, yes, I am 100% certain these are gluten free!!  You wouldn’t believe it to taste it for yourself, but it’s on the packaging and a big part of the business.  The authentic nature of all of the gluten-free bagels from Sweet Note Bakery is that they take you back to the classic 3-inch size of the traditional bagel.  No mega-bagel here.  You don’t need it.  Instead of a 6-inch monstrosity, you’re chowing down on real, natural ingredients that will leave you feeling full and content.  Trust me.  And, with the way these are constructed, you get an amazing crispy outer crust and that warm, chewy middle that New York bagels are known for.  Sweet Note, you’re doing it all right.

And by adding chocolate to create your very own (and unlike any other gluten-free bagel on the market) Chocolate Swirl Bagel, you’re taking it to the next level.  All of us with a sweet tooth, or who enjoy a little treat in the morning, are dancing a happy dance.  I happened to top off my Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels with some of my own homemade strawberry jam.  Let me tell you…it was magical.  Yep.  I said magical.  Because if you love chocolate-covered strawberries, imagine how amazing strawberry covered chocolate is.  Yep…it’s amazing.  And these bagels were the perfect vehicle to showcase my own hard work in the kitchen with fresh, local berries.  Ah, the joys of being a foodie.

Now, let’s talk ingredients for a moment, shall we?  The Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels are made from water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, vanilla extract, salt, chocolate chips (evaporated cane juice, natural chocolate liquor (non-alcoholic), and non-dairy cocoa butter).  As always, these bagels are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, and peanut & tree nut free.  The Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels are a little more expensive because they have to go the extra mile to add allergen-free chocolate to the mix.  It’s worth it.  Vegan, gluten-free goodness in every delicious bite.  Trust me…you don’t want to miss out.  This little bagel company is going places.  BIG places.

As far as nutirtion goes, for bagels, this hits the sweet spot.  A serving is 1 bagel (4.5 ounces or 128 grams).  There are four servings per package.  This one serving will give you 310 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 22 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium, 4 grams fiber, 18 grams sugars, and 4 grams of protein.  See why you’ll feel full?  Fiber-rich and packed with protein.  Gotta love it!

Trust me, if you can’t find these in stores in your area, pop over to Sweet Note Bakery’s Web site and place an order.  They need to be in your gluten-free life, stat!!  And then, talk to your local natural food store, or Whole Foods, about stocking these.  They would sell like hotcakes (or bagels) in an instant.  Trust me.  These are not to be missed.  Sweet Note Bakery offers eight (8) different varieties of their NY style bagels: plain, everything, cinnamon raisin, sesame, poppy, chocolate swirl, snickerdoodle, and pumpkin spice.  Their Web site says a Spinach Garlic is in the works.  HELLO!!  Want that.  So, if you are a bagel lover like me…and gluten-free bagels have left you feeling cheated…get the real deal.  And, if you like a little treat in the morning, twist up tradition with the Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels.  They are not to be missed.

And this, sadly, concludes my stash in the freezer…so I guess it’s time to try out the other four flavors!

Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels topped off with my own homemade strawberry jam

Sweet Note Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Bagels topped off with my own homemade strawberry jam

Product Review: gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour + Recipe Bonus

gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour

gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour

Product: gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour – $8.42+

I have had this fun and passing relationship with the famous (in the gluten-free community, anyway) Jules Shepard, formerly known as Jules Gluten Free, now know as gfJules.  When I had to go gluten-free three years ago, one of the first people I encountered through social media was none other than Jules Gluten Free.  She was funny and knowledgeable, and she had these elusive product mixes (from all-purpose flour to bread mixes to cookie mixes to cake mixes to pizza crust mixes) that nowhere in my area carried.  At one point, she was presenting in Lexington, Kentucky, and I had intended to drive down and see her presentation…until the Sherman-Minton bridge here in Louisville was closed indefinitely due to a large crack in the weight bearing portion…making going anywhere from the Indiana side of the river a real nightmare.

finally met gfJules last year, at a Gluten Free Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I bought her cookbook.  We talked.  We laughed.  We took a picture together.  It was awesome.  And it was like meeting a celebrity, to be honest.  I have followed her Facebook page, saw her through the very public break from her partners in the company that she founded, Nearly Normal Cooking, and had grandiose plans to find and purchase her flour at some point.  Or a mix.  I didn’t care.

Until December 2014, that had yet to happen.

But then, my Holiday 2014 (December) Cuisine Cube arrived in the mail with loads of holiday goodness just ready to be explored and used.  For those of you who may be new to some of my blogging, let me quickly tell you a little about Cuisine Cube!

Cuisine Cube is a subscription service that delivers 5-6 gluten-free, full-size products to your door for as little as $34.99/month. Inside the cube, you will discover full-size products (not sample sizes) that are made by local and smaller, artisan companies, rather than those that you can find at the average grocery store.  It has introduced me to so many new and delightful products.  Each box contains a breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert product…and then, sometimes, an extra bonus item.  Who doesn’t love a little something extra, right?   Keep in mind, however, that Cuisine Cube has gone through some changes as of May.  No longer do they strictly only offer gluten-free cubes.  In addition to their gluten-free option, they now also offer Artisan and Vegan cubes as well.  The Artisan cube means that you have no food allergies and foods that contain common food allergens will be included.  The Vegan cubes contain products that are dairy and animal free.  And, they still have the Gluten Free cubes, which will have products that contain no gluten or wheat.  So, if you’re really interested in being introduced to the smaller, lesser-known, artisan companies, give Cuisine Cube a try!

So…here I was…in December and inside my cube was a 1.5 ounce box of gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour.  With this item, Cuisine Cube also provided a recipe card for Baguettes.  I don’t have a baguette pan, so I tucked this box into my pantry to use…and then got distracted by the open bags of Better Batter and Cup4Cup in my pantry.  It happens.  But it shouldn’t.  This product never should have gone untouched for that long.  But, before I tell you why, let me first tell you a little bit about Jules Shepard.

Jules Shepard was diagnosed in 1999 as a Celiac.  She didn’t see this diagnosis as the end of the world though.  In fact, the former attorney was unwilling to accept the dry, gritty, vacuous foods that were the norm for the gluten-free diet back then. After two years of hard work in her kitchen, Shepard perfected an all-purpose gluten free flour blend that allowed her to continue to do something she loved – bake!  Even she never would have guessed that this one thing would eventually set her apart in the gluten-free community as a leader, inspiration, and advocate.  She perfected her ‘acts-just-like-wheat-flour’ blend, and word spread in her circles.  People began to beg her to make her 5-flour blend for them.  She introduced this flour to the gluten-free community at large in 2008, with her former company, Jules Gluten Free, but it is now developed and available exclusively through her new company, gfJules, which began in March 2014.  From there, her journey has only become more amazing…and her products remain top of the line!

I can vouch for that, mind you, as I was preparing a dessert for a birthday party at the office (and 4th of July celebration) this week.  I have delicious local blueberries that my friend, Harry, picked for me.  I love blueberries, and always am happy to receive a bunch of his harvest.  With all these amazingly fresh berries on hand, it occurred to me that I could make a festive and (hopefully) delicious blueberry cobbler.  Because my kitchen is strictly gluten-free, everything I provide to office pitch-ins is gluten-free.  Some people at the office won’t even give my food a try, but some do…and most are surprised by the flavor and texture…and how normal it is.

Well, my love affair with gluten-free flours just reached a whole new level.  I actually found a recipe for the gluten-free (and vegan) blueberry cobbler on gfJules sight.  And being that I had a box of gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour in the pantry.  New recipe…why not go for broke and try a new flour too.  As this was one of her recipes, I figured it was best to stick with the flour originally used to make it.  Logic!

Let me tell you something…from the get-go, I realized how amazing this flour truly was.  When I mixed it with the vegan butter and the egg substitute, it all just came together perfectly.  It had this great biscuit texture to it.  And this was before topping off my blueberries with it!  How’s that for being impressed really early in the game.  It worked as a thickener with the heated sugar and water that the blueberries were stirred into, and it produced the most amazing batter for the biscuit-y top that gets baked right on top of the fruit.  I was nervous when I popped it into the oven to bake…but I should have never doubted it.

When my cobbler emerged from the oven, piping hot, it was warm and sweet on the bottom, and the cobbler part…that top bready portion, was this perfect crisp, golden brown.  I had to wait until the following day to actually taste it…but when I did, I was beyond impressed.  The flour really made this remarkable crusty top…and it didn’t have that weird gluten-free flavor or texture to it.  No one, save for the fact that I brought it in, would have known it was gluten-free.  Seriously…and everyone who was brave enough to try it gave only the highest praise for the treat.  The perfect blueberries…with the perfect flour…made for the perfect summer dish for this little pitch-in.  As I have failed miserably at gluten-free bread, this makes me want to pick up baguette pans so that I can give the recipe that accompanied this product in my Cuisine Cube.  This might happen.  Williams-Sonoma…I’m coming for you.

So, now that I’ve gone over why I fell in love with the gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour, let me tell you a little bit about what is inside.  This flour is made from modified tapioca starch, potato starch, corn starch, corn flour, white rice flour, and xanthan gum.  It is gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegan, KOSHER – and now NON-GMO!

As far as the nutrition information goes, gfJules Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour really falls in with others on the market.  A serving size is 31 grams of flour, which will give you 110 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 10 mg sodium, 26 grams carbohydrates, less than 1 gram fiber, 0 grams sugars, and 1 gram of protein.

And if you don’t believe me, the truth is in the use!!  And below is the recipe I used this flour in!  You should really try it out.  I think you’ll be impressed too!

Recipe: Gluten Free Old-Fashioned Blueberry Cobbler

Servings: 8
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 40 minutes

Gluten Free Old Fashioned Blueberry Cobbler (made with gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour)

Gluten Free Old Fashioned Blueberry Cobbler (made with gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour)

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs. gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup gfJules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ cup lightly packed brown sugar or unrefined coconut palm sugar
  • ¼ cup milk, dairy or non-dairy
  • 1 egg or favorite egg substitute
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ cup butter or non-dairy alternative (Earth Balance® Buttery Sticks)

Directions:

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine gfJules™ Flour, sugar and water. Stir and cook over medium heat until thickened, approximately 12-15 minutes. The mixture will over-boil and burn if not stirred often, so watch the pot and reduce the heat if the mixture is too bubbly or is browning. Add the vanilla extract.

Wash and remove all blueberry stems. Stir the blueberries into the cooked sugar mixture to coat.

Pour the filling into a 9- or 10- inch, deep pie plate (it’s important not to bake the cobbler in too small or too shallow of a plate, or the hot blueberry filling will bubble all over the sides).

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together gfJules™ Flour, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Using a pastry cutter or two butter knives, cut in the butter until the flour looks like small gravel or pebbles.

In a separate bowl, stir the egg and milk to mix. Slowly add this mixture to the flour bowl and stir with a fork until completely combined.

Scoop several large spoonfuls of this batter onto the top of the filling in the pie plate. It will rise and touch the other spoonfuls as it bakes, to cover most of the top of the filling, as pictured.

Line the oven rack with foil and place the filled pie plate on top of the foil to prevent any bubbly mixture from falling onto your oven floor and burning.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or just until the cobbler is browning and somewhat firm to the touch. A toothpick inserted into the cobbler, then removed, should be clean.

Serve warm or cold.

~*~*~

This flour is the best yet.  Honestly, it bakes up perfectly.  It is light, fluffy, and amazing.  It would fool the unassuming person into not even guessing that it was gluten-free.  This product is as amazing as the woman who created it.  Thank you gfJules (Jules Shepard) and Cuisine Cube…for finally giving me the opportunity to try this fantastic flour.  Now…to get more!

Product Review: Kite Hill Ricotta

Kite Hill Ricotta

Kite Hill Ricotta

Product: Kite Hill Ricotta – $9.99+

Color me charmed.  For real.  A couple of weeks ago, I took a chance and tried a new product I discovered (exclusively) at my local Whole Foods.  In fact, all of the products from this particular brand are only available at Whole Foods…currently.  They are a little pricey, but as I’ve been discovering…they are totally worth it.

Kite Hill was started due to a vision for a plant-based food that would have all the qualities we love in the best artisan dairy cheeses.  Using simple ingredients and using traditional methods, Kite Hill has created artisan cheeses, yogurts, and cream cheeses that can all be incorporated into entrées and desserts.  Created by a dedicated team with deep culinary, cheese-making, and scientific expertise, including Tal Ronnen, Monte Casino, Jean Prevot, Pat Brown, and Matthew Sade, Kite Hill has stepped up to the challenge  to create a non-dairy cheese that met their high standards for quality.  So often, vegan cheese tastes fake or plastic-like.  After years of recipe testing and countless trials and errors to develop the perfect nut milk, cultures, and enzymes needed to create a worthy product, Kite Hill emerged on the market place.

Kite Hill Ricotta

Kite Hill Ricotta

You will recall that I have already given a raving review for the Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread.  Well, I had pasta on my mind this past week.  Really.  And I had gluten free lasagna noodles in my pantry.  And ramekin dishes in my cupboard.  See where this is headed?  Yep…individual mini lasagnas…all made possible by the introduction of Kite Hill’s Ricotta – which is completely soy free, vegan, gluten free and dairy free.

Let me tell you, I was beyond blown away by this product.  It surprised me.  It really, really did.  The Kite Hill Ricotta is light and fluffy right off the bat.  It looked just like real ricotta…the stuff I am incapable of consuming anymore.  Damn lactose intolerance.  But let me say this, if Kite Hill continues to produce their version of ricotta cheese, then I will never miss it again.  I know that tofu can be substituted in pasta dishes for ricotta…as can Tofutti’s Better Than Ricotta…and I have actually used both in successful recipes.  But…it wasn’t the same.  The texture was different.  The flavor was different.

Not with Kite Hill.  My roommate and I both tried some of the Kite Hill Ricotta on its own before I blended it with some herbs for the actual meal.  Oh.  My.  God.  I probably could have eaten the entire tub on my own, with just a spoon.  There is that much amazing flavor in this cheese.  The texture is light, but with a bit of heft to it.  So, it mimics that of real ricotta.  Oh…this was already looking good for my mini lasagnas.  I just had to keep myself from eating all the cheese out of the container and to use it, instead, in the actual recipe.

No easy task.

But I did end up blending it with my herbs and some Daiya Mozzerella Shreds to complete the cheesy filling of the lasagna, which would also include sautéed onion and kale with some garlic.  YUMMY!!  The noodles were cooked, cooled, and put into the dishes.  The ricotta & cheese filling was added, and layered with the vegetables…and of course an amazing sauce from Rao to top it all off.  Into the oven for 40 minutes and…viola…we’re in business!  The mini-lasagnas came out of the oven bubbling hot with cheese and sauce and a whole lot of goodness.  I eased them out of the ramekins and dinner was served.

Oh. My. God.  This was the best ricotta cheese substitute I have tried yet.  Not only was this flavorful, mimicing both ricotta and/or mascarpone cheese, but it didn’t make the dish heavy at all.  The ricotta has a slight tanginess to it, making it a nice addition not just to pastas, but also to desserts.  This product is ridiculously tasty.  I want to make ricotta pancakes now.  And I think I might just do that…maybe tomorrow.  We’ll see.  I have some left over to do just that.  And I have all these fresh local blueberries to use as well.  Oh yes…I sense an epic gluten-free and dairy free pancake breakfast.  It’s the best ricotta substitute I have ever stumbled upon.  It’s made from almond milk, so if you have a nut allergy, it’s not for you, but it’s nice to have a soy-free alternative.

So, now let’s talk about the ingredients.  Nothing beats real, wholesome ingredients.  What’s even better, the Kite Hill Ricotta only has 5 ingredients in it.  Yep.  Just five!  These include: almond milk (water, almonds), salt, enzyme, tartaric acid, and cultures.  This product, as mentioned before, is gluten-free, soy free, dairy free and vegan.  It also contains no cholesterol, no saturated fat, and no trans fats!

And with that in mind, this is the best time to discuss Kite Hill Roctta nutritional facts, yes?  A serving of the Kite Hill Ricotta is 1 ounce (28 grams…or about 2 tablespoons).  This serving will provide you with 70 calories, 6 grams of fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 90 mg sodium, 2 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams dietary fiber, 0 grams sugars, and 3 grams of protein.  Are you loving it?  I’m loving it!

Seriously, you won’t find anything better than Kite Hill Ricotta.  It’s so versatile.  Pastas, pizza toppings, desserts, or even in hot chocolate, this will do it all.  And the taste, oh my God, the taste is fantastic.  I am hooked.  I’ll pay the price to have a good tasting, good quality product.  And Kite Hill totally makes it worth it.  If you live near a Whole Foods, I encourage you and highly recommend that you check out the Kite Hill lineup of vegan artisan cheese.

Mini Vegan Kale Lasagna (made with Kite Hill Ricotta)

Mini Vegan Kale Lasagna (made with Kite Hill Ricotta)

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

 Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bagels – $7.29+

Some leaps of faith are just worth taking.  Seriously.  And nothing has surprised me more than how deeply I have fallen in love with the bagel creations by Sweet Note Bagels.  It was fate that introduced me to these gluten-free goodies.  Actually, it was a fantastic PR person at Sweet Note Bagels who was quick on the draw after seeing my blog on Canyon Bakehouse’s Gluten Free Bagels (both plain and everything).  And I have to say…persistence always pays off with me.  Always.  The recommendation that if I liked Canyon Bakehouse’s Bagels then I would LOVE theirs, had me clicking on a provided link and heading over to their Web site to check them out.

And then my curiosity got the best of me.  Without any further knowledge about their products, without looking up any reviews as to what other consumers thought of their products, I was on their online store, purchasing half of their bagel selections.  Yep, I didn’t start with just one variety.  I went into this believing that these would blow me away…and thus…I ordered four (4) of their eight (8) varieties that they currently offer.

Sweet Note began in 2012, when founder and president, Michelle MacDonald, stepped up to a challenge.  She had been baking ever since she was a child and was very passionate about it.  When her grandfather and sister were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, she took the first steps on her entrepreneurial journey.  Her family really missed a good New York Style bagel.  (Hey…I can’t blame them…I know this feeling all too well). So with a lot of experimentation and trial and error, MacDonald perfected the recipe, getting huge approval from her family (also bagel lovers).  Gluten-free bagels that taste good?!  It was a reality.  Sweet Note Bakery’s vision is to make gluten-free options more readily accessible.  Those of us who live with Celiac understand how isolating this disease can be, when you can’t have a meal while out with friends and family, be it at a restaurant or a ballpark, or wherever your adventures take you.  MacDonald wanted to change that…one gluten-free bagel at a time.

No buyer’s remorse happened either after I checked out of their online store.  A couple of days later, a box arrived bearing my bagels.  I made room for them in my packed freezer until it was time to crack into them.  So far, they have wowed me with both the Plain and Everything varieties.

So, now we went for a personal favorite…

Cinnamon Raisin.

I love everything about cinnamon raisin baked goods.  I was a huge cinnamon roll lover growing up.  Anything with a little hit of spice and that bit of sweetness is winning in my book.  Raisins…well, they are one sweet treat I love indulging in, without the guilt.  Put them together in some sort of bread-like form and you have a happy girl on your hands.

So, it was this morning after my 5:30 a.m. spin class that I dodged some rain home and immediately removed the Sweet Note Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bagels from my freezer. I grabbed two of them (one for me and the other for my non-gluten-free roomie!) and got onto thawing them in the microwave.  You don’t bring these to room temperature like most gluten-free foods.  Just 1 minute or so in the microwave, until they are squishy soft, and you’re golden.  Cool them for a moment, slice in half, and toast.  Because I don’t own a toaster, these bad boys went into the oven.  And I left my roommate in charge of not letting the apartment burn down while they toasted and I went to shower.

No tragedies.  My oven didn’t burn anything while I was getting cleaned and dressed for my physical therapy appointment before finally making my way into work.  I came out to an apartment that was carrying the warm, comforting aroma of cinnamon sweetness.  I peaked into the oven, just to make sure I was hitting that perfect golden color, and not having it begin to char.  It was right on point.  And as I closed the oven to let the bagels finish up, I commented to the roomie, “Those smell SO good…like cinnamon rolls.”  I got out the Kite Hill Plain Vegan Cream Cheese Spread and some local Whipped Vanilla Honey that we had picked up at the recent Buy Local Fair in Louisville, Kentucky.

And so…out came the baking sheet with the perfectly toasted Sweet Note Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bagels.  And I contained myself by not drooling on them or devouring all four halves.  I took one half of each bagel and gave it the classic schmear of the vegan cream cheese spread.  The other half of each bagel got a touch of the local Whipped Vanilla Honey.  We were in business now.  I served my roommate her bagel then went to pour my coffee and settle in to do my PT stretches and eat some breakfast.

I was no longer apprehensive and wondering if I had thrown away my money when it came to Sweet Note Bagels.  Nope…I knew they were amazing.  But how amazing were the New York Style Cinnamon Raisin offerings?  AMAZING!  There is no way anyone could eat these and immediately say that these are gluten-free.  They taste just like a good, classic New York Bagel.  The resemble them too!  A perfect three inches in diameter, dense, and just thick.  Honestly…I am so impressed with the appearance right off, resembling traditional bagels…just without the gluten!  This style of bagel means that you get this crispy, golden outer crust and a soft, chewy, dense center where all the good stuff hides.  And it’s perfection.  A swirl of cinnamon and dabbling of sweet raisins complete this bagel from the first bite to the last.  There wasn’t too much spice or too few raisins.  It was an ideal and perfect balance.  And I took my time this time, to savor, each half…one bite of one, then another, pairing it with the selected topping and finding how each one worked uniquely with this flavor of bagel.

Cinnamon Raisin + Gluten Free + Bagel = HAPPY GIRL!

Let’s talk about what Sweet Note Bagels puts into their Gluten Free New York Style Cinnamon Raisin Bagels, shall we?  Well…as with their other products, the first ingredient is LOVE!  So, you have LOVE, water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, sugar, cane syrup, raisins, olive oil, molasses, vanilla extract, cinnamon, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, and salt.  These bagels are gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, dairy-free, vegan, and non-GMO.

And now…the nitty-gritty.  Let’s discuss the nutritional information of the Sweet Note Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bagels, shall we?  A serving size is one (1) bagel (135 grams) and four (4) bagels come in the package.  One serving will dish up 310 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans-fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 69 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 17 grams sugar, and 4 grams protein.

One of the best things about these bagels is that they are really filling because they use real ingredients, No fillers, chemicals, and weird preservatives.  This is real food…and will give you plenty of energy to get through the morning.  I love eating a breakfast and knowing that my body is getting something good from it.

When it comes to Cinnamon Raisin anything…Sweet Note Bagels has won me over.  My favorite flavor of bread-item…done in a perfect New York style bagel…yeah…you’ve won me over and won my gluten-free food loving heart.  The bagels made by the fantastic team at Sweet Note Bagels has done their job and done it to perfection because, so far, their bagels have not let me down.  If anything, they have shown me that there is so much more to the bagel market than the Udi’s and Canyon Bakehouse standards that are readily available in stores.

And thanks to their intrepid social media perseverance…I am forever a fan!  If, like me, you love Cinnamon Raisin…then these will blow you away.  Sweet and oh, so amazing!

Sweet Note Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (one half with Kite Hill Vegan Cream Cheese Spread and one half with local Whipped Vanilla Honey)

Sweet Note Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (one half with Kite Hill Vegan Cream Cheese Spread and one half with local Whipped Vanilla Honey)

Product Review: Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash

Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash

Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash

 Product: Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash – $9.90+/-

Sometimes trying to find balance in your diet isn’t easy.  There are some days my macro and micro nutrients are so out of whack that I have a hard time seeing where things went awry.  That being said…I am always looking for new and inventive ways to have a food that I love, minus the guilt and the excess.

Enter Cuisine Cube!  For those of you just tuning in, I have been a firm supporter and happy subscriber of Cuisine Cube for awhile now.  But, Cuisine Cube has gone through some changes as of May.  No longer do they strictly only offer gluten-free cubes.  In addition to their gluten-free option, they now also offer Artisan and Vegan cubes as well.  The Artisan cube means that you have no food allergies and foods that contain common food allergens will be included.  The Vegan cubes contain products that are dairy and animal free.  And, they still have the Gluten Free cubes, which will have products that contain no gluten or wheat.  These box subscriptions start at $34.99/month.  And, part of the charm is that you will receive 5-6 full-size (not sample size) products.  WOOT!  These usually fall into every meal category for the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert…with an added bonus from time-to-time.  So, if you’re really interested in being introduced to the smaller, lesser-known, artisan companies, give Cuisine Cube a try!

So, when my February 2015 (Happy V-Day) Cuisine Cube arrived, I was happy, excited, elated, and over-the-moon happy to find an easy-to-prepare (not that the real thing is difficult, but this was certainly less time consuming) Cauliflower Mash from Zero Cuisine.  Now, I have heard and even made cauliflower mash before, but this was the first time I ever saw it come in packaged form.  I was beyond intrigued.  And yet, the perfect moment to use it never quite arrived…until just recently when I spotted a recipe for Portobella Mushroom Steaks.  What goes best with a steak (of sorts) than potatoes.  So, why not replace the mashed potatoes with something a bit healthier and lower in calories and carbohydrates?  It was ideal.

Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash in powdered form

Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash in powdered form

Zero Cuisine brings you a leaner, better-looking cousin of the traditional mashed potato.  Their Cauliflower Mash, available in two flavors – Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt and Wasabi & Chives – is a low carb, low calorie, low GI, gluten-free, preservative-free, high fiber, high in vitamins, all natural product that can easily replace your favorite starchy carbs with low carb vegetables which just about every diet recommends.  From the Ketogenic, Atkins, Paleo, diabetic diets…reducing carbohydrate intake is highly touted.  Zero Cuisine…just makes it easier for you to enjoy a substitute for starchy carbs without any guilt or any cravings for the carb-laden real thing.  Cuisine Cube included the Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt version in the February cube.

But, how good can a powdered form of cauliflower mash be?  Well…just as good, but healthier for you, than those powdered potato flakes that turn into mashed potatoes.  Honestly.  I had my doubts upon opening up this little package, but it was so quick, easy, and really tasty when all was said and done.

Let’s face it…it doesn’t get any easier than this…

In a saucepan, heat up water (4 ounces per serving, so if you make the entire thing like I did…2 cups of water) and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat and add 1/3 cup of the Cauliflower Mash powder (or…if you make the entire pouch instead of one serving…just pour the entire package) into the hot water.  Stir continuously until desired consistency is achieved, which for me was in less than 3 minutes.  Might have only taken a minute.  For extra creamy flavor, add butter and milk if your diet allows.

I didn’t add butter or milk, but I did get a beautiful, rich, thick cauliflower mash when all was said and done.  It was like really creamy mashed potatoes.  Great consistency.  Of course, the biggest test comes with the taste.

Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash (prepared)

Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash (prepared)

Zero Cuisine does a phenomenal job of capturing the texture of mashed potatoes with their Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash.  I was actually quite impressed as I watched the powder turn into this gorgeous swirl of thick mash.  And, with only a lack of a bit of seasoning, the flavors really stood out too.  The garlic and herbs don’t overpower the cauliflower itself.  It just would have been a bit bland if not for the seasoned portobello mushroom steak I was serving, which came with a sauce that I drizzled over the entire dish.  It was an amazing addition to the meal and took a lot of prep time out of the occasion.  It’s always best to make things yourself, but this is a healthy and very easy alternative when time restrictions play a huge part in your life.

Let’s talk about ingredients, shall we?  The Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash is made up of dried cauliflower, garlic and spices, sea salt, and guar gum.  It is naturally gluten-free, trans fat free, free of saturated fat, and cholesterol free.  Gotta love it.  Also, every pack of this cauliflower mash is made from approximately 2.6 pounds of fresh cauliflower and every serving of Zero Cuisine Cauliflower Mash contains 1-1/2 servings of vegetables.

As far as nutrition information goes…you’re going to love this even more.  A serving size is 1/3 cup package or 2/3 cup prepared.  There are 4 servings per container.  In one serving, you will be consuming 60 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 270 mg sodium, 15 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 10 grams sugars, and 3 grams protein.  This is spectacular given that a regular serving of mashed potatoes would provide 160 calories, 24 grams carbs, 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 445 mg sodium  HUGE difference.  Feel good about your food.  Eat something that is better for you and your body in the long run.

I need to find out where I can find this in my area, because Zero Cuisine made prep and cooking so easy.  Especially on hectic nights, this is something that is worth having in the pantry.  Loved the flavors and the texture of the Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash.  And it was because of Cuisine Cube, that I now know it exists.  Happiness comes in all sorts of packages!

Portobello Steak over Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash

Portobello Steak over Zero Cuisine Garlic, Herbs & Sea Salt Cauliflower Mash

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Everything Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Everything Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Everything Bagels

 Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Everything Bagels – $7.25+

I think it has been well established that as a former New Yorker, I am a bagel lover.  When I got my Celiac diagnosis, I became a one-time lover of bagels.  Sure, there were a few different gluten free bagels out on the market…and I tried them all.  Most of them were all wrong.  I was enticed, because they had different flavors than the others…but in the end…just wrong.  The closest I could get to a true bagel in my gluten-free world were the offerings by Udi’s and, more recently, Canyon Bakehouse.

But here is where the power of social media plays an important roll.  I had recently reviewed the Canyon Bakehouse Plain and Everything Bagels that I ordered off their Web site, since they weren’t in stores yet (and still might be working their way there).  After posting the review, I was pinged on Twitter by a company that literally does only gluten free bagels.  Not just gluten-free, but also vegan, soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and non-GMO.  I was intrigued enough to Google search them and take a look at their Web site.  Their name: Sweet Note Bagels.

New York style bagels…gluten-free?  It sounded too good to be true.  Usually very hesitant and cautious about ordering from a company I know little about or have heard little about, I decided to take a risk and a chance.  And I went all-in, ordering half of their New York style gluten-free bagel flavors.  Yep.  They have eight (8) different flavors…I started with four of them – opting for the Plain (previously blogged), Everything, Cinnamon Raisin, and Chocolate Swirl.  In addition to these four, Sweet Note Bagels offers Poppy, Sesame, Snickerdoodle and Pumpkin.  And,according to their Web site, they are working on a Spinach Garlic offering as well (which sounds SO delicious).

Sweet Note began in 2012, when founder and president, Michelle MacDonald, stepped up to a challenge.  She had been baking ever since she was a child and was very passionate about it.  When her grandfather and sister were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, she took the first steps on her entrepreneurial journey.  Her family really missed a good New York Style bagel.  (Hey…I can’t blame them…I know this feeling all too well). So with a lot of experimentation and trial and error, MacDonald perfected the recipe, getting huge approval from her family (also bagel lovers).  Gluten-free bagels that taste good?!  It was a reality.  Sweet Note Bakery’s vision is to make gluten-free options more readily accessible.  Those of us who live with Celiac understand how isolating this disease can be, when you can’t have a meal while out with friends and family, be it at a restaurant or a ballpark, or wherever your adventures take you.  MacDonald wanted to change that…one gluten-free bagel at a time.

She and her team are doing a fantastic job.  And I hope it continues and more and more people try and discover these amazing bagels.  Sweet Note Bagels are top-of-the-line.  And I can now attest to that given that I have tried my second flavor that I purchased off their Web site…

EVERYTHING!

Yes, the Everything Bagel.  Nothing gets as New York as this flavor of bagel.  Unfamiliar with the Everything Bagel?  Well, the basic information is these bagels appeared in New York back in the 1970s-1980s.  They are basically a bagel that is topped with all the different topping varieties that are normally found on bagels.  It is basically traditional to see a combination of seeds and dried herbs, with the most commonly used being poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion, garlic, salt, and even caraway seeds.  Everything but the kitchen sink.  They are incredible.

As the Everything Bagel is a New York tradition, and one that I am most fond of, I had high hopes when I pulled these out of the freezer to thaw them in the microwave for a minute, slice them, and toast them in my oven (you can toast them in a toaster, I just don’t own a toaster).  They smelled amazing.  Like…garlic and onion and awesomesauce.  I don’t know what awesomesauce smells like, but I have a feeling it would be these bagels.  And my mouth began to water more in anticipation as they toasted and the aroma filled my kitchen.  Oh yeah…New York heaven.

The best part is…Sweet Note Bagels gets EVERYTHING right with their Gluten Free Everything Bagel.  Trust this New Yorker.  This bagel is a perfect 3-inch diameter…just like bagels used to be made, not the monstrosities that exist on the market and in bakeries today.  Old school, traditional bagels…minus the gluten.  LOVE.  What this also means is that the outside of the bagel gets this great golden crust that is crisp when you bite into it after toasting it.  The center…soft, chewy, and perfection.  With the Sweet Note Bagels Gluten Free Everything Bagel, I topped it with a schmear of Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread and went to town.  I couldn’t help it.  If anything brought back my memories of New York…it was this bagel…in perfect technicolor!  The flavors were amazing.  Nothing was overpowering, not even the garlic!  Seriously.  The outside was this perfect crisp, which gave the bagel texture.  The top half was topped off with a healthy spread of salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion, and dried garlic.  Yes…these are messy bagels.  But messy bagels when you’re talking about an Everything Bagel…is just what you’re supposed to get.  I thought there was the perfect amount of toppings on each bagel (4 come in each package).  And they cooked up to perfection.  I ate them faster than I intended…and I wanted another one!  I mean, I literally wanted to go and prepare another one right then and there.  I resisted…somehow.  Even my roommate, who had a regular Everything Bagel back in New York City in November when I was running the marathon fell in love with this version.  She doesn’t have to eat gluten-free…but she does about 90% at home…because of me, and these bagels have really, really impressed her.  She didn’t grow up a bagel lover…so these have won her heart.  They have won me over too.  If I were asked to choose my final meal, I think a Sweet Note Gluten Free Everything Bagel would be on the menu.  Yes…they are that exceptional!

So…let’s talk about what goes into Sweet Note Gluten Free Everything Bagels, shall we?  I can tell you this…these won’t leave you feeling hungry an hour after you eat them.  These bagels are made with REAL ingredients,  not just fillers and rubish.  That’s  another great thing about Sweet Note Bagels…they make real food made with real ingredients.  The Gluten Free Everything Bagels from Sweet Note are made with LOVE (Yes…really on the ingredient list!), water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion, and dried garlic.  These bagels, as mentioned above, are gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, dairy-free, vegan, and non-GMO.

How about taking a look at the nutritional facts of the Sweet Note Gluten Free Everything Bagels?  A serving size is one (1) bagel (135 grams).  This serving will provide you with yumminess.  Aside from that, you will be taking in 300 calories, 5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans-fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 540 mg sodium, 63 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams sugars, and 4 grams of protein.  See why you’ll feel so full and stay full?  LOVE IT!

Let me tell you, there are few things that win me over as quickly as these bagels did.  I am so grateful that Twitter drew Sweet Note Bagels to my blog on Canyon Bakehouse, and had them reach out to me about their product.  Never before have I been so blown away by a product.  Bagels…they are simple pleasures, but the bagels that Sweet Note Bagels makes are a gluten free treasure.  Nothing else will stack up to these.  I’m sure of it.

Sweet Note Gluten Free Everything Bagels with a schmear of Kite Hill Plain Vegan Cream Cheese Spread

Sweet Note Gluten Free Everything Bagels with a schmear of Kite Hill Plain Vegan Cream Cheese Spread

Product Review: Field Roast Original Grain Meat Co. Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese Slices

Field Roast The Original Grain Meat Co Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese Slices

Field Roast Original Grain Meat Co Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese Slices

 Product: Field Roast Original Grain Meat Co. Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese Slices – $4.99+

I had another “ah-ha!” moment in Whole Foods a few weeks ago.  While perusing the vegan cheeses and trying to convince myself not to just settle on another inadequate sliced vegan cheese that just stays a hard lump of…whatever vegan stuff it is made out of…I decided that the next time I needed cheese for my infamous grilled cheese sammies, I was going to get something new.  Try something different.  Maybe get better results instead of toasted bread with a warm slice of cheese that didn’t melt stuck in the middle.

One could hope.

Here is where not being able to tolerate much dairy is a downfall.  Vegan cheese…it just doesn’t melt like the real stuff.  But if I eat the real stuff, my stomach hates me for hours and hours.  So, I do what is best for me.  I get the cheese that doesn’t get creamy and gooey and stretchy when I pull my cheese slices apart.  You know, for the sake of my health…it’s the sacrifice I have made.

But it doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed.

So, while I had spotted some new vegan cheese slices at Whole Foods one weekend while grocery shopping, these made by the Field Roast Original Grain meat Co., I was hesitant to take the leap and to actually purchase them.  So…I stared longingly at them for the next few weeks until…my roommate surprised me by buying them for me.  With them now in my clutches…and safely in my fridge, it was time to bust out some soup and sandwiches for sure!  And this past Sunday was the perfect day to do just that.

After a long day on Saturday of hitting up the Farmer’s Market and getting absolutely soaked…before seeing Jurassic World for the second time (we wanted to see Inside Out, but it was sold out) and then hitting up our local professional soccer team match (we are season ticket holders), Sunday was a pretty easy day.  Hit the gym in the morning, saw Inside Out, finished grocery shopping, did some meal prep for the week, remembered I was heading out of town in the middle of the week, then cooked up a quick soup and made my infamous grilled cheese sandwich (or…as I call it…toasted cheese!) to go with it.

My roomie had picked up the Field Roast Original Grain Meat Co. Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese Slices at Whole Foods as my surprise.  She knows I love a bit of spice in everything I eat.  So, she chose wisely, for sure!  These slices of cheese are a rich and deep orange with speckles of green and red throughout it.  They looked amazing and actually felt like the real cheese slices that go atop her grilled cheese sandwich.  I used my Earth Balance spread and buttered up each slice of bread before placing it on the griddle and topping each slice with a piece of cheese, real for her, and one of the Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese Slices for me.  The other slice of bread topped off the sandwich and I was toasting away to a perfect golden brown.

At the start of the grilling process, I noticed that, like with every vegan cheese I have put on a sandwich, the edges weren’t melting.  “Here we go, another warmed through slice of cheese that doesn’t really melt.”  I was actually feeling let down…betrayed once again by the non-dairy options that are left to people like me.  I flipped the sandwiches over, watching the real cheese melt to a perfect stretchy-gooeyness in my roommate’s sandwich.  I placed the soup in bowls and got out plates for the sandwiches.  I got my roommate’s done first, slicing it in half and carrying her dinner over to her to start feasting on while we polished off another episode of Friends.  I went to retrieve mine, slicing it into little triangles and realizing, that despite those corners, the inside was melted.  It was warm and melty-gooey.  Almost stretchy gooey, but not there.  But melty-gooey was a definite improvement.

But the true test would come with the taste.  So many vegan cheeses taste like…plastic.  Or in the case of Daiya…it tastes like Daiya, which isn’t a bad thing, it just is very distinctive.  I have to say, I was surprised when I took my first bite of my toasted cheese that was stuffed with a slice of the Field Roast Original Gran Meat Co. Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese.  I mean, honestly surprised.  No plastic flavor.  No fake taste at all.  Just a creamy, rich, smooth melted bit of cheese.  Forget the unmelted corners of the cheese, the inside of the sandwich is really what counts, and what I found was a delicious, melted center.  Something I hadn’t experienced since giving up dairy.  The cheese itself was rich in flavor.  I could taste the subtle tomato flavor with the hit of spicy cayenne.  The green flecks…those are dried bell peppers…and they add a nice touch of sweetness to this cheese as well.  I was completely, 100% in love with this cheese.  I forgot what melted cheese in a sandwich was like.  Now…I was in complete melted cheese heaven…with a flavor kick to boot.  One that I could actually taste (Go Veggie Slices, I’m looking at you!)…one that actually tasted real.  You don’t know true bliss until you get a vegan grilled cheese that has melted cheese inside.  Truly.

Field Roast’s Chao cheese slices are the newest memeber of their vegan food lineup.  This cheese is made from a coconut cheese alternative and seasned with a traditionally fermented soybean cured called Chao by the Vietnamese.  Hence…the name.  As Field Roast loves blending Asian and European heritages, the cheese is a perfect fit.

So what is the Field Roast Original Grain Meat Co. Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese Slices made from?  Good question.  I’m going to tell you.  These slices of cheesy goodness are produced with filtered water, coconut oil, modified corn and potato starch, tomato juice, potato starch, fermented chao tofu (soybeans, water, salt, sesame oil, calcium sulfate), sea salt, green and red dried bell peppers, cayenne pepper, natural flavor, olive extract (antioxidant used as a preservative), paprika extract and beta carotene.  These slices are free vegan, non-GMO, dairy-free, gluten free, cholesterol free, and free of trans-fats.

As for nutrition, I loved these stats.  A serving size is one slice and there are 10 slices per package.  One slice will serve up 60 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 4 grams saturated fat (remember…coconut based), 180 mg sodium, 4 carbohydrates, no fiber, no sugars, and no protein.  So, not filling…but tasty!!

Definitely going to have to try more of the Field Roast Grain Meat Co Chao Vegan Cheese Slices in the future.  These cheese alternatives come in three flavors: Tomato Cayenne, Creamy Original, and Coconut Herb.  Yes…I really want to try them all!  What a great find!

Gluten Free & Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich using Field Roast Original Grain Meat Co. Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese Slices

Gluten Free & Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich using Field Roast Original Grain Meat Co. Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese Slices

Product Review: OLOMOMO Maple Garam Masala Kettle-Roasted Pecans

OLOMOMO Maple Masala Pecans

OLOMOMO Maple Masala Pecans

Product: OLOMOMO Maple Garam Masala Kettle-Roasted Pecans – $4.99+

One of my fondest memories of my roommate’s late father was taking him to the ballpark on Thunder Over Louisville day here in Louisville, Kentucky.  He had just been re-diagnosed and started treatment for his second round of prostate cancer.  And he was having a good day.  He ordered a foot-long brat and enjoyed that, then bought some German roasted nuts to share with us.

Little did I know that Cuisine Cube was going to bring those memories back to me with the simple inclusion of one product in their March 2015 cube.

Before I explain, let me begin by telling you a little bit about Cuisine Cube.  Cuisine Cube has gone through some changes as of May.  No longer do they strictly only offer gluten-free cubes.  In addition to their gluten-free option, they now also offer Artisan and Vegan cubes as well.  The Artisan cube means that you have no food allergies and foods that contain common food allergens will be included.  The Vegan cubes contain products that are dairy and animal free.  And, they still have the Gluten Free cubes, which will have products that contain no gluten or wheat.  These box subscriptions start at $34.99/month.  And, part of the charm is that you will receive 5-6 full-size (not sample size) products.  WOOT!  These usually fall into every meal category for the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert…with an added bonus from time-to-time.  So, if you’re really interested in being introduced to the smaller, lesser-known, artisan companies, give Cuisine Cube a try!  I can’t wait to get back to receiving these in the mail.

Tucked into my March Cube was the product that surprised me when I tried it last night as my dessert.  Sometimes it takes me a little while to get around to products, but I always do it.  They all serve a purpose.  And, even though Cuisine Cube presented this product as the Snack portion of their cube, it can be so much more.

I’m talking about OLOMOMO Masala Maple Pecans.

OLOMOMO Nut Company launched in one of my favorite places on Earth – Boulder, Colorado, in 2008 with one simple mission plan: be The Good Nuts and create one of the first socially and environmentally conscious nut companies.  Their beginnings were humble, selling samples at the Colorado farmers markets, and then, eventually hitting the big time with a national debut on the Cooking Channel.  OLOMOMO is quickly becoming a national brand.  Currently, the product is available through natural grocery stores like Whole Foods and in coffee shops and smoothie shops (like Smoothie King) across the country.  OLOMOMO is committed to developing fun, healthy products that infuse exotic flavors with familiar flavors, enticing your taste buds more than you thought possible.  They use simple, real, natural ingredients, including fair trade, organic and sustainable packaging when possible.  OLOMOMO is also the first US nut snack company to become certified as a B Corp for their socially and environmentally sustainable business practices.  What’s not to love?  Even more, what’s not to love about a company that strives to inspire people to be more nutty, good and adventurous.  Now you’re speaking my language!

But, how do they taste?  Well, the OLOMOMO Masala Maple Pecans look like the German roasted nuts you see around ballparks and in the malls during the holidays.  My biggest concern was going to be how well the garam masala played with the flavor.  Garam masala is an amazing Indian spice blend that contains cinnamon and cardamon tones.  I love Indian food…I just wasn’t sure how well this flavor would play with the coating on the nuts.  The answer…was brilliantly.  The nuts, even with the hint of garam masala, have more of a sweet than savory flavor…and it isn’t a spicy tone either.  A lot of people hear the word “Indiana food” and immediately imagine everything to be at volcanic levels of spice.  This is like adding cinnamon to your nuts.  Seriously, the combination of cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and maple sweeten up the nuts while the dash of salt gives it that perfect balance salty/sweet combination.  And, yeah, they taste dead up like those German roasted nuts.  Except…better.  Yep…better!!  I’m addicted to them and sad that they are only available in 3.25 ounce bags at the moment.  Don’t let the strange combination of maple and Indian spices throw you off.  These are truly a delightful treat that will entice your taste buds and leave you reaching for more.  It’s a good thing I weigh out all portions of foods I consume…

These are great by the handful, but would really spice up a salad or some fresh yogurt as well.  Go nutty!  Be adventurous.  That’s the entire point.

Let’s discuss ingredients, shall we?  OLOMOMO Masala Maple Pecans are made with pecans, organic evaporated cane juice, fair trade organic maple syrup, garam masala, and love.  YES…my second product in a week that includes LOVE as an ingredient.  It has to be good!!  Food made with love is honestly really amazing food.

Even more enticing is the nutrition information of OLOMOMO Masala Maple Pecans.  This snack is a nutrition powerhouse.  A serving size is 1/4 cup (30 grams) and there are about 3 servings per package.  This one serving will provide you with 190 calories and 18 grams of (healthy) fat.  You will be devouring 120 mg sodium, 9 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams sugars, and 2 grams of protein.  These nuts are all natural, gluten free, and cholesterol free.

Trust me…this little snack is so addicting.  If you aren’t like me and dish out a serving, you could easily eat the entire package.

I probably have seen OLOMOMO nuts at my Whole Foods and just never given them a second glance.  Or, perhaps my area doesn’t carry them.  But now that I know they exist, I’ll be searching for them for sure.  Without this introduction by Cuisine Cube, I’d be a little less nutty today.  Spice up your nut habit…try OLOMOMO!

Product review: Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread

Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread

Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread

 Product: Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread – $5.99+

I’m always looking for good and healthy alternatives to the not-quite-so-healthy alternatives that I have to east since my body can’t really process the lactose in dairy.  Dairy and I have all but broken up for the most part.  It wasn’t an easy break-up either…but something had to give.

For awhile now, I’ve been purchasing vegan versions of cream cheese from Tofutti and Daiya.  And these worked.  They double as a cream cheese alternative, minus the actual dairy.  Texture works.  Tofutti tastes just like cream cheese.  Daiya tastes like…Daiya…as pretty much all Daiya products do…but still amazing.  These have been staples in my fridge since I found amazing gluten-free bagels (Udi’s, Canyon Bakehouse, and now Sweet Note) and have made a few attempts at making my own gluten free bagels.

But then…one day while in Whole Foods, I saw something new.  Something…different.

Kite Hill was started due to a vision for a plant-based food that would have all the qualities we love in the best artisan dairy cheeses.  Using simple ingredients and using traditional methods, Kite Hill has created artisan cheeses, yogurts, and cream cheeses that can all be incorporated into entrées and desserts.  Created by a dedicated team with deep culinary, cheese-making, and scientific expertise, including Tal Ronnen, Monte Casino, Jean Prevot, Pat Brown, and Matthew Sade, Kite Hill has stepped up to the challenge  to create a non-dairy cheese that met their high standards for quality.  So often, vegan cheese tastes fake or plastic-like.  After years of recipe testing and countless trials and errors to develop the perfect nut milk, cultures, and enzymes needed to create a worthy product, Kite Hill emerged on the market place.

And then…my weekly stop in at Whole Foods.  I went early, because my allergen-free bakery wasn’t open yet.  This allowed me time to sip on coffee from my local coffee shop and just roam, see what I normally would blow past because I was trying to miss the crowd or just in a hurry.  There, over with the cheeses…I saw it.  Kite Hill products galore.  Something new!!  Something vegan!  Something I knew I wanted to try.  I had places to be that day, though, so I couldn’t stock up.  A few trips later, I still hadn’t tried it.  So, one day, my roommate just surprised me with a container of the Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread.  I was SO excited.  While there are two varieties (Plain and Chive), she had started with the plain…because…it’s the original.  The classic.

I had to polish off the container of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese that was in the fridge before tackling this…but this morning, the packaging was ripped off.  It was time to try Kite Hill for myself.

I had toasted up the amazing Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Plain Bagels (go to their Web site…order them…STAT!) this morning.  And, in true New York Bagel style…I needed my hefty schmear of cream cheese on top of each half.  I lifted the lid and pulled back the plastic, revealing this soft and creamy spread.  I thought it looked a little more like ricotta cheese than cream cheese.  I scooped up a serving size and placed some on my roommate’s bagel and then some on mine.

Moment of truth.

First of all…I loved how it was all light and fluffy.  Straight out of the refrigerator, it was the perfect texture to immediately spread on the bagel.  No need to battle it out with a knife.  This was smooth as (dairy-free) butter.  The texture was very ricotta cheese like.  It had this faint bit of sweetness…almost like a cottage cheese, without all the gross lumpy bits.  The flavor was very light…not quite like you expect cream cheese to taste…(Tofutti has honestly been the closest on the flavor that I have tried)…but it worked.  It worked brilliantly.  I fell in love with it at first bite.  The smooth, light, airy texture was the perfect complement to a dense, New York style bagel.  It was harmony on my breakfast plate.  I don’t want to ever have another brand again.  This was it for me.  Pure love in every bagel-y bite.  Not sweet, but not savory…a perfect balance.

One of the biggest draws to Kite Hill is their ingredient list.  While Tofutti and Daiya both have a lot of added fillers like ground nut pastes, stabilizers and artificial ingredients to make their cheese-like products, Kite Hill’s cream cheese spread is made from a short list of real ingredients.  We’re talking clean cheating…er…eating at it’s very best.  Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread is made from almond milk (water, almonds), salt, enzyme, vinegar, xanthan gum, locust bean gum, guar gum, and cultures.   That’s it.  It is soy-free, vegan, dairy-free, contains no saturated fat, trans-fat free, cholesterol free, and gluten-free.  Is this love or is this love?

Yeah…love.

And I am also loving the nutrition facts as well.  A serving size of Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread is 1 ounce (28 grams)…or about 2 tablespoons.  There are 8 servings per container.  One serving will provide you with 78 calories, 7 grams of fat (keep in mind this is made from almonds, so this is actually a healthy fat), 170 mg sodium, 2 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars, and 3 (yes…3!) grams of protein!  When compared to the other, more commonly found, vegan cream cheeses out there…hands down, this one wins the nutrition and ingredient prize!

So, if you’re ready to turn your gluten-free bagel up to eleven…then you need to get to your local Whole Foods (yes…Kite Hill is only available at Whole Foods) and find this brand ASAP!  Now that I’ve tried it, I can’t wait to taste the other cream cheese and artisan cheese offerings that Kite Hill has to offer.  Beyond impressed.  I’m completely converted.  Forget the rest…Kite Hill is best.

Really…it is.  But you should try it for yourself.  So…go on…Whole Foods awaits.

Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread on Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Plain Bagels

Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread on Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Plain Bagels

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Plain Bagels

Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Plain Bagels

Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Plain Bagels

 Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Plain Bagels – $7.25

Yep.  This New Yorker has been introduced to a new gluten-free bagel.  I had never, ever heard of Sweet Note Bagels before, until I got a response to a tweet on my blog on Canyon Bakehouse’s new bagels.  It came from Sweet Note itself, telling me that if I liked Canyon Bakehouse, then I would love their bagels.

Being the investigative reporter that I am…(HEY!  I have a B.A. in Journalism, thank you very much), I immediately Googled their Web site and began to poke around.  Sweet Note began in 2012, when founder and president, Michelle MacDonald, stepped up to a challenge.  She had been baking ever since she was a child and was very passionate about it.  When her grandfather and sister were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, she took the first steps on her entrepreneurial journey.  Her family really missed a good New York Style bagel.  (Hey…I can’t blame them…I know this feeling all too well). So with a lot of experimentation and trial and error, MacDonald perfected the recipe, getting huge approval from her family (also bagel lovers).  Gluten-free bagels that taste good?!  It was a reality.  Sweet Note Bakery’s vision is to make gluten-free options more readily accessible.  Those of us who live with Celiac understand how isolating this disease can be, when you can’t have a meal while out with friends and family, be it at a restaurant or a ballpark, or wherever your adventures take you.  MacDonald wanted to change that…one gluten-free bagel at a time.

So…here I was…sitting at my desk, looking at these amazing photos online of these gluten-free bagels.  I decided to throw caution (and my budget) to the wind and place an order, choosing four of the eight gluten-free bagel varieties that Sweet Note Bakery currently offers.  I didn’t even hesitate to order, which is very unlike me, as I’ve been burned by gluten-free products before.  But…this involved bagels…

It was important.

The bagels arrived two days later, and via the instructions in and on the box, I immediately froze them.  I had some homemade bagels to use up before diving into these, but that occurred over the weekend.  So, on Tuesday morning, after a morning at the gym, I returned home and pulled the Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Plain Bagels out (because you always start with the plain/original).  The instructions that come in the box and on the packaging says not to thaw these to room temperature.  This was certainly a different approach than how I normally do gluten-free bagels…but I obeyed.  I plucked two bagels out of the package and tucked the remaining two back into the freezer.  Then, each bagel got a 60 second meet-and-greet with the microwave.  When they were removed, I did my best to slice them in half evenly.  I admit, my bagel slicing skills will definitely need some work.  I tossed these onto a baking sheet and into the oven to toast (I don’t own a toaster…that went away with my initial diagnosis, as my roommate was still eating regular bread and cross contamination was an issue…but since then, my kitchen went completely gluten-free) and went to get cleaned up for work.  I returned and pulled these out of the oven, seeing the beautiful gold middles from the oven.  I got the vegan cream cheese out of the refrigerator and applied a liberal schmear to each half.  I served one bagel to my roommate and prepped my own, pouring a nice cup of coffee to enjoy with it.

Moment of truth.

For the first time…ever…someone finally got it right.  Inside of each Sweet Note Bagel is the taste of a true New York Style bagel.  From the size to the way it eats, you would be hard pressed to find someone who could immediately identify these bagels as gluten-free.  First of all, forget the gigantor, plus-sized bagels on the market today.  Sweet Note makes bagels the size they were intended to be, smaller, and more dense.  That’s a true New York bagel.  The average bagel 20 years ago was only 3 inches wide.  Today, you’re looking at a 6 inch circumference.  Is it any wonder we deal with an obesity epidemic in this country?  So, returning to the authenticity of the true New York bagel, Sweet Note Bagels also achieve a perfectly crunchy crust and a chewy center.

My first bite brought back a wash of memories.  These bagels are dense, chewy, crunchy and perfection.  I loved sinking my teeth into each half, savoring the flavor, the way the crust would crumble and the middle would be soft, with a bit of melty vegan cream cheese.  Heaven.  Bagel heaven.  I didn’t want breakfast to end.  They say that it’s okay to have two…but I reigned myself in.  There is nothing plain and simple about the Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Plain Bagels.  They have extraordinary flavor for being the most basic bagel available.  This leaves me looking forward to the other three flavors that are residing in my freezer.

For the record, my roommate has never really experienced the joy of a true New York Style bagel.  She said she wasn’t used to the chewiness.  Not a slam at all, because she devoured her bagel just as quickly as I did mine.  She did get a bagel in New York City back in November, but she can’t remember much about it apparently.  HA!

So…let’s talk about what goes into the Sweet Note Gluten Free Plain Bagels, shall we?  These bagels are made from LOVE (yes…that is in the ingredient list!), water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, and salt.  These bagels are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free.  LOVE IT!!  Vegan and gluten-free…yes, please.  More of these!

Now, let’s look at the nutritional information.  A serving size is one (1) of the Sweet Note Gluten Free Plain Bagels.  This bagel will provide you with 300 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 340 mg sodium, 64 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugars, and 4 grams of protein.  Yes…these bagels are filling, and that’s what I love about them.  With other gluten-free bagels on the market, I am full for an hour, then hungry again.  And I ate a six inch gluten-free bagel.  It was made with filler more than real ingredients.  And that makes a huge difference.

I will shout this from the highest mountain top, and throughout the realms of cyberspace.  If you are like me, looking for an amazing bagel, but are confined to the gluten-free lifestyle…go over to Sweet Note Bakery‘s Web site and place an order for any (or all) of their eight varieties of bagels (Plain, Everything, Cinnamon Raisin, Poppy, Sesame, Snickerdoodle, Pumpkin Spice, and Chocolate Swirl).  For the record, I went with plain, everything, cinnamon raisin, and chocolate swirl to start…and that was without ever trying them before ordering).  Trust me, there is only sheer awesomeness in each bite of these bagels.  You will not be disappointed at all.

Sweet Note…thank you for introducing yourself to me via Twitter.  Without your reaching out to me, I never would have known about your bagels…and now…I don’t think I can live without them.

Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Plain Bagels (toasted with a schmear of vegan cream cheese)

Sweet Note Bakery Gluten Free Plain Bagels (toasted with a schmear of vegan cream cheese)