Product Review: Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Product: Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps – $4.59+

There was a time, not too long ago, back when I was first entering the world of Celiac Disease and the gluten-free lifestyle, that I discovered there was a huge lack of things like…sandwich wraps…at least decent ones…out on the gluten-free market.  That has since changed, thank goodness, as more familiar products are being created.  It’s nice to actually have a gluten-free product that isn’t chips or cookies or brownies or cake or…you get my point.

When it comes to food, I like my snacks too, but I really crave real food.  And, as I’ve been making a point of cleaning up my diet, real food is taking a top priority over highly processed, nutritionally-lacking foods.  I mean, I still have my (gluten-free) cake and eat it too…but I’m making better, plant-based, real-food choices more than anything else.  I am working off a meal plan and it’s really a life savor.  Sometimes it does mean a ton of prep work…but it’s worth it.  In the end…it is totally worth it.

Well, tonight’s meal plan called for Greek Tacos.  The original recipe called for pita bread, but the one version of gluten-free pita bread I found isn’t be sold at my grocery store anymore…so…tortillas it is.  When I went shopping at Jungle Jim’s International Market on my birthday, one of the gluten-free products I picked up that I hadn’t found anywhere else was…sandwich wraps.

It is so difficult to find good gluten-free wraps, even today.  You go to fold one and it breaks.  It’s too thick…or perhaps not thick enough.  It doesn’t have a good flavor.  It doesn’t cook well.  It doesn’t hold together or immediately crumbles when you wrap them up.  They rip and tear…you get the drift.

Well, as I had never heard of the Toufayan Bakeries brand before…I decided it was worth trying.  If anything else, I was just stuck with another wrap that crumbled under my high expectations.  Well, with these Greek Tacos being prepped and needing a vehicle in which to be built upon, I pulled the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps out of my pantry and immediately set to work on building dinner on them.

Toufayan Bakeries is one of the largest, privately-held, specialty bakeries in the United States.  It produces over 100 varieties of baked goods daily, including its own line of gluten-free wraps and gluten-free pita chips.  I have yet to find the gluten-free pita chips, but I found a few varieties of the wraps while grocery shopping.  Being on a budget even on my birthday, however, I only picked one to try in the end.

Available in four different flavors— original, garden vegetable, savory tomato, and spinach— the wraps are 100% gluten free. These wraps are processed a separate, dedicated gluten-free line, routinely tested to be under 10 ppm.

It was definitely time to put this new (to me) brand to the test.  And what does that better than a mess of Greek vegetables, lentils, and sauce, right?  I went to work immediately building the Greek Tacos up with warm lentils, thinly sliced red onion, tomatos, local bibb lettuce, and diced cucumber…topped off with a vegan tzatziki sauce.  Talk about testing the durability of a wrap, right?  Well, the only problem was…there was too much veggie goodness for the wrap, so actually folding it up wasn’t happening.  I had to eat it…like a taco.  And since this is Greek Tacos…that actually was okay.

So…this is how it stacked up…

I absolutely LOVED the taste and texture of the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps.  It had a great feel to it,  However, it wasn’t quite able to stay together…but for the most part, it handled the plethora of textures and volume of food that I hefted into it.  So, I’m not surprised it got a bit soggy (lettuce, tomato, cucumber and a yogurt topping…yeah…it happens) and crumbled a little.  But, for the most part, it did hold up and I was able to eat the wrap like a taco for much of my dinner.  That is a HUGE thing as most of the time I’m left eating the remnants off my plate with a fork.  The flavor was amazing and didn’t distract from the filling itself, just acted more as a kick-start to flavor town.  And, finally, someone got the texture right.  It wasn’t gummy or dry.  It was pliable and light and just…really delicious.  I will have to check around at stores around here for more Toufayan Gluten Free Wraps…because I just want to keep trying them out in various ways…

I’m thinking quesadillas or burritos might be next.  Maybe just a basic sandwich wrap.  We’ll see.  With wraps that don’t fall apart instantly…the possibilities are endless.

So, what are the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps made from?  Well, they are made with tapioca starch, water, rice flour, soybean flour, shortening (canola oil, palm and palm kernel), vegetable blend (spinach, parsley, red bell pepper, carrot, tomato, onion, shallot, garlic) food starch modified (corn starch, tapioca starch), potato starch, contains 2% or less of the following: yeast, baking powder (calcium acid pyprohosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, whole eggs, fumaric acid, mono and diglycerides with citric acid (a preservative), maltodextrin, dextrose, xanthan gum, egg whites, calcium propionate (to maintain freshness), and salt.

Whew.  That’s a laundry list, yeah?  I actually would prefer for my wraps to have fewer ingredients and additives in them, but I guess that’s what gets them so close to that flour tortilla flavor.

As for nutritional information, a serving size of the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps is 1 wrap (52 grams) and there are 6 wraps per package.  This serving will provide you with 120 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 350 mg sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams sugars, and 5 grams protein.  They do have the fact that they are high in fiber and protein to make them feel more filling in the end.  So, that is very handy.

I absolutely loved what I tasted when I bit into the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps.  And while my first attempt at using them wasn’t exactly as I envisioned, I have high hopes for the next.  If you can track down the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Wraps…I highly recommend it.  One of the best attempts at a wrap I have ever had.  Nicely done!

Greek Tacos made on Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Greek Tacos made on Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Product Review: Tina’s Sweet Treats Banana Bread Granola

Tina's Sweet Treats Banana Bread Granola

Tina’s Sweet Treats Banana Bread Granola

Product: Tina’s Sweet Treats Banana Bread Granola – $2.99+

One of the best things to ever come from my birthday expedition to Jungle Jim’s International Market (FOODIE HEAVEN!) was discovery local (to Ohio…not to me) bakeries through the products they had on display and for sale at Jungle Jim’s.  I love purchasing these items over everything else, because, well…I LOVE supporting local businesses.

So, one of the products I snagged from the end cap of gluten-free local bakery goodies at the market was this amazing sounding granola from a place called Tina’s Sweet Treats, based out of Franklin, Ohio.

Tina’s Sweet Treats came about after six (6) members of her family were diagnosed with Celiac.  She went from casually baking gluten-free to full-blown.  And, as with most people, wanting to make sure that her fmaily didn’t miss out on any of the wonderful baked goods that they loved, Tina worked hard to create products that won’t lack in flavor, taste, or make her family members feel like they were missing out on something amazing.  Everything from Tina’s Sweet Treats is baked fresh from their home kitchen, which is completely free of contamination!

I love it when I can also get a product and feel 100% secure that it won’t make me sick.  When something is produced where contamination will not even come into question, I never have to play roulette with my body.  And for that, I am thankful!

Jungle Jim’s had a few options from Tina’s Sweet Treats…but the one that really caught my eye…mostly because I don’t see a lot of this from local bakeries…was the granola.  But not just any granola.  Probably what may be considered the most epic of all granola.

Banana Bread Granola.

You had my full attention with all three of those words.  Into the basket…into the shopping bag…into the car…into my pantry.

And it didn’t last long.  This past weekend, I was baking and cooking up a storm, and my lunch was something quick and easy on Saturday.  I had a soccer match to get to and I needed to make some Gluten Free and Vegan Snickerdoodle Blondies and some Dairy Free Pumpkin Ice Cream before heading out to the big playoff match for Louisville City FC.  Thus…lunch became a yogurt with granola on top.  I remembered I had the granola…and being that it is made by a bakery, no preservatives are added and therefore, it is best when used by the sell-by date.  This would certainly accomplish that.  So, after palming a handful to taste on its own (OH MY GOD YUM!), I poured some on a yogurt for my roommate and some on mine.  It was a simple, yet delicious addition to already delicious yogurts, let me tell you.

What I love, first and foremost, is that toasty flavor you get with homemade granola.  Top it off with that aroma and the taste of fresh banana bread, and you’re talking about a winning combination.  And that is exactly what Tina’s Sweet Treats accomplishes with this gluten free Banana Bread Granola.  It was the perfect topper and stir-in for my vegan yogurt, and acted as a bit of a “sundae” topper for Cathy’s Banana Greek Yogurt with a Chocolate Topping.  It was, without a doubt, a way to kick up the yogurt lunch a notch.  And, the added crunch was that bonus that sometimes yogurt lacks.

I wish I lived closer to Tina’s Sweet Treats.  I’d purchase this every week.  Probably multiple times.

The Tina’s Sweet Treats Banana Bread Granola is made from rice flour, potato starch, millet flour, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, sugar, apples, milk, butter (cream, natural flavorings), eggs, brown sugar (white sugar, molasses) sour cream, baking powder (corn starch, sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum sulfate, monocalcium phosphate), vanilla (water, alcohol, vanilla bean), xanthan gum, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and salt.

Since this is made out of a home and sold by a local bakery, I don’t have any of the nutritional information.  But…as with all granola out there, stick to a serving (usually around 28 grams), and don’t go overboard.  It’s all good.  Enjoy a sweet treat (see what I did there?) every now and again.

Love at first banana bread-y bite.  Seriously, if you are a lover of banana and banana bread, Tina’s Sweet Treats has you covered with this granola.  I only wish they had it online to order.  Just…pure goodness and pure wow any way you want to eat it.  Personally, by the handful is the way I recommend. HA!

Product Review: Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix + Recipe Bonus

Harvest Muffins made with Zema's Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix

Harvest Muffins made with Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix

Review: Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix – $7.99+

It seems like ages ago, back on a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, when my parents first took me to Organic Harvest, the latest and newest health food store in their area.  I was gobsmacked by the amount of products inside this store that I had never seen before.  I might have heard of the brand, but the product itself or even the brand, was not available to me in any convenient form.

So, naturally, I went on a shopping spree.

Because…I do that.

Well, I get very overburdened with mixes.  I do this to myself, naturally.  I just get really, really excited when I see something new.  Or course, as of late, I’ve been making a point of eating more unprocessed foods for breakfast than something that comes out of a box (cereal included) or from a mix.  So, yeah, the pantry is well stocked with so many mixes that I honestly just need to work through.  And as this one was (obviously as the packaging has been since updated) nearing expiration…it was time to use it up and move it out.  So, out came the Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix.

Zemas Madhouse Foods is committed to manufacturing gluten-free, ancient grain baking mixes that help support a clean eating lifestyle through the use of minimally processed ingredients that can be safely incorporated into diets that are limited, allergy-free and diabetic.  They are committed to keeping their products free of dairy, soy, rice, yeast, tree nuts, peanuts, sulfites, additives, trans fats, preservatives, and refined sugar.

Now, I had high hopes for this mix.  I was first introduced to Zema’s Madhouse Foods by Cuisine Cube when I tried their mix for Focaccia and/or Pizza Crusts.  I loved it.  So, the fact that I had another Zema’s Product (yes…I had this one before Cuisine Cube sent theirs), I had very good expectations for this.  But…why stick to something as simple as the box exclaims.  After all, this is a pancake and waffle mix, and there are recipes for both on the back.  But I am really pancaked out these days and waffles are great…but a pain to make (time consuming, really).  So…I opted for the other recipe on the box, making a few minor adjustments to fit what I had in my pantry and my own idea of what constites a Harvest Muffin.

Oh, yeah…I made muffins with the Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix.  Yes.  Muffins.  I sort of ripped off Udi’s version of a Harvest Muffin, but utilized most of the recipe from the back of this exact box.  YAY!  The recipe will follow, of course.

Naturally, I can’t bake something and not try it.  How else am I going to report on it?  So, after these came out of the oven and rested for 10 minutes in the pan, I removed them and put them on a wire rack to cool the rest of the way.  After running some gluten-free and dairy free goodies downstairs to my neighbors, I came back upstairs and decided that both my roomie and I had an obligation to see how the muffins turned out.  If they were crap, well, we certainly didn’t have to keep them.  But…if they were good, they were getting bagged up and put in the freezer for those stressful and hectic days where cooking a breakfast is just not feasible.

Let me tell you…Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix is amazing.  Seriously.  Okay…so the muffins are a little dense…but I’ve grown to that being mostly the norm when it comes to gluten-free goodies (especially of a bread-like quality) that I bake.  However, there is a lot of flavor in each and every bite of these muffins.  And I absolutely love the combination of the sweet potato and pumpkin flavors, making this a perfect autumn mix for any sort of morning recipe…even pancakes and waffles.  Just…really good.  And not overly sweet either, which is a nice change.  I love dessert as much as any girl, but I mostly want my muffins to be muffins, not a fruit/veggie based cupcake.  But, maybe that’s just me.  The fact that there is no added sugar in the mix is a big plus with me, as I am working on cutting down on the amount of sugar I eat every day.  I also love that this mix is made with the superseed trio of hemp, chia and flaxmeal.  Flax is one of the best gluten-free plant-based sources, which contains alpha-linolenic acid, which converts in the body to the same heart-protective Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, sardines and mackerel.  It also contains 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon, which promotes intestinal health.  The chia seeds (like chia pets, yes!) are also naturally gluten-free and contain Omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fiber, calcium and protein.  LOVE a breakfast that packs a bit of extra nutrition into each and every bite through healthy and beneficial ingredients.  This might be a mix, but it has great ingredients making it a better choice than all the lack-luster and nutrient-sparse mixes on the shelf.  Oh yeah…have your breakfast treat and treat your body too.  Now we’re talking.

Let’s discuss the ingredients that go into Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix, shall we?  This mix is made from sorghum flour, organic flax seed meal, sweet potato flour, potato starch, organic quinoa flakes, tapioca flour, aluminum free baking powder (monocalcium phosphate, baking soda, corn starch (made from non-GMO corn)), hemp seeds, organic cinnamon, contains less than 2% of each of the following: baking soda, chia seeds, xanthan gum, sea salt, organic ginger, and nutmeg.  This product is manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free facility free of the top 8 allergens(milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish).  It is vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and verified non-GMO.

As for nutrition information, here you go…a serving of Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix is 1/3 cup of the dry mix (44 grams), and the box contains around 6 servings.  In each serving, you will be taking in 150 calories, 4 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 510 mg sodium, 29 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 2 grams sugars, and 4 grams of proteins.  This one might actually be the best nutrient-packed mix out on the market to be honest.  WOW!

And now…the promised recipe!

Recipe: Gluten Free Harvest Muffins

Servings: 18
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 28-30 minutes


  • 1 box Zema’s Madhouse Foods Gluten Free & Sugar Free Peruvian Pancake & Waffle Mix
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 3/4 cup milk of choice (I used unsweetened cashew milk)
  • 2 eggs (or egg replacer)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (I used agave)
  • 1/3 cup oil of choice (I used coconut)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas
  • 1/2 cup craisins


Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the mix and xanthan gum.  Set aside.

n a large bowl, whisk all liquid ingredients together.  Add the dry mix to the wet mixture and combine,  Add in the pepitas and craisins, mixing well.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way.

Bake for 28-30 minutes.  Check the doneness with a toothpick.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then take muffins out and cool on a rack.

This recipe freezes well.

I have the remaining 17 muffins in my freezer now for hectic crazy days…but I already am looking forward into diving into them.  I’m sure it won’t be long.

If you are interested in a pancake mix with more benefits than sugar and fillers, I can’t praise Zema’s Madhouse Foods enough.  Their Gluten Free and Sugar Free Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix surpassed all expectations.  And I didn’t even make pancakes or waffles with them.  Go figure.  Although, I am more than certain this mix would make some of the best pancakes or waffles out there.  Next time I pick up another box of this mix…I think I’ll go for traditional pancakes and waffles.  That being said…give this muffin recipe a shot!  And seek out Zema’s Madhouse Foods in your natural food stores…or order online!  It’s worth the hunt.

Product Review: Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies Super Dooper Snickerdoodle Bite Size Cookies

Gilbert's Gourmet Goodies Super Dooper Snickerdoodle Bite Size Cookies

Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies Super Dooper Snickerdoodle Bite Size Cookies

Product: Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies Super Dooper Snickerdoodle Bite Size Cookies – $5.50+

Are you tired of cookie reviews yet?  Are you?  You shouldn’t be.  Cookies are amazing.  Cookies are…one of the meanings of life.  Seriously.  Look it up. Cookies…I swear it’s there.

The thing with gluten free is…sometimes gluten free cookies do not invoke meaning of life feelings.  Sometimes they are just dry and sandy and just…blech.  So, when I find a new brand (nothing new about Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies…just new to me!) of cookie…I always want to try it.  Sometimes this is the best thing I could have done.  Sometimes…I regret it.  Gluten free is a science…and there are those who get it right…and those who still haven’t gotten it at all.


So, as I have mentioned in preceding blogs, my birthday was rough this year.  I was turning 35.  And my day was originally supposed to be spent running the Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio…because it actually ran ON my birthday and I was moving up an age division.  Big reason to celebrate.  But 3 weeks prior to that…the fracture happens and the now famous boot (aka: Bootsie) became my daily footwear…and I was under strict, strict rules from my amazing orthopedic doctor…NO RUNNING.

Super bummed, I didn’t want anything to do with my birthday.  Most of my friends were out of town running the race or doing a different one.  Or…just out of town.  And I was beyond down and bummed.  There might have been tears.  Okay, I won’t lie…there were.  Then, on the morning of my birthday, as I’m sitting down to eat at Annie May’s Sweet Café (allergen-free bakery in Louisville, KY…best breakfast ever!!), my roomie springs my birthday gift on me.  I don’t have a lot of things that I want/need…and those things that I do want/need…are too expensive for anyone but me to really buy for myself.  SO…she and her family all pitched in and gave me a $150 shopping spree at Jungle Jim’s International Market.

And it was on that shopping spree (which happened that very day…which I was NOT prepared for at all), in the gluten-free aisles of Jungle Jim’s, that I spotted the colorful bags of Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies Bite-Size Cookies.  Mmmm…cookies.  They had all the flavors too: Super Dooper Snickerdoodle, Double Chocolate Brownie, Simply Chocolate, Chewy Chocolate Chip, and Sensational Sugar Cookie.  We all know, this cookie monster is a fan of Snickerdoodles above all other cookies.  So, you know, the bright neon pink bag containing Super Dooper cookies….of cinnamon and sugar origin…was the one that made it into the shopping cart.

Tonight, after a very healthy meal (Chana Aloo Stew, in case you were curious), I dug out the variety of new cookie brands to try and let my roomie pick where to start.  She pointed to the snickerdoodles.  Smart girl.  HA!

Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies was created by Liz Gilbert, a Culinary Institute of America trained baker and chef, who was diagnosed with multiple food allergies (wheat, gluten, peanuts, nuts, soy, milk, corn and shellfish).  After the initial phase of depression (we have all been there…saying “I can’t eat anything!”), Gilbert took action, testing out recipes in what has become her line of great-tasting, classic, homestyle treats that everyone can enjoy.  Let’s face it…allergen-free foods can carry funky textures and aftertastes…so spending time on a formula to get it right does take time.  But Gilbert knew she was onto something when her children and their friends (none of whom have food restrictions) polished off plates of cookies and asked for more.  From there…Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies was born…and the founder, herself, set out to make treats for everyone…one cookie at a time.

Today, Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies boasts Gilbert’s baked goods and ready-to-go cookie dough.  So you can enjoy giant cookies, bite-size cookies, or cookie dough…all of which are made without artificial ingredients and the top allergens.

I know what you’re thinking…there is no way these can be good.

For some reason…that thought never crept into my mind.  Not when I opened up the packet.  Not when I pulled out a serving (4 mini cookies, for the record).  And not when I took my first bite.

Guess what…COOKIE HEAVEN!!  First of all, the Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies Super Dooper Snickerdoodle Bite Size Cookies are soft and chewy (not crisp and crunchy)…which for me…always wins.  I prefer soft cookies and choose them over the crispy ones any day.  So…that was the first point in their favor.  I loved how small and light they were.  A lot of gluten-free cookies feel heavy and dense.  Not these.  And moist…no sandpaper here.  Truly a chewy and soft cookie worth savoring as you pop the 4 (or more, I won’t judge!) cookies in the serving.  These aren’t overly sweet, nor are they too spicy.  They find that perfect cinnamon-sugar balance, which isn’t always easy in a snickerdoodle.  Holy moley…these cookies really are super dooper!!  No joke!

Tasting is believing…and now I understand why Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies (specifically the Snickerdoodles) have won an award from the CT Specialty Food Association.  These cookies were so amazing that if I had started eating right out of the packet…they’d be gone.  (This, in fact, is why I portion everything out…LOL!).

So, let’s talk about ingredients.  The Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies Super Dooper Snickerdoodle Bite-Size Cookies are made from gluten-free flour mix (sweet rice, brown rice, tapioca), non-hydrogenated palm oil, pure cane sugar, eggs, xanthan gum, vanilla, and cinnamon.  These cookies are kosher, gluten-free, wheat-free, contain no peanuts or tree nuts, contain no hydrogenated oils, contain no artificial colors of flavors, do not contain high fructose corn syrup, contain no preservatives, contain no trans fat, are dairy-free, are corn-free and are soy free.

BUT…they are definitely not taste-free.  In fact…they taste amazing.

As for nutrition…a serving of the Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies Super Dooper Snickerdoodle Bite-Size Cookies is 4 cookies (32 grams).  This serving will provide you with 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 10 mg sodium, 17 grams carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams sugars, and 1 gram of protein.

I am beyond enamored with the taste, texture, flavor, deliciousness, amazing goodness, sweet treats that are the Super Dooper Snickerdoodle Bite Size Cookies from Gilbert’s Gourmet Goodies.  Super dooper indeed.  Super dooper delicious.  Try them out for yourself.  Some of the best packaged snickerdoodles I’ve eaten since going gluten-free.  This package is snickerdoodle love…in gluten free form.  YUMMY!

Product Review: Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup

Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup

Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup

Product: Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup – $2.49+

Ah, my dear Jungle Jim’s…

Why must you be so far away and give me such good (and healthy) food.  I had never, never, ever seen any Explore Asian noodle cups anywhere around here…but I find you while cruising the international food aisles on my birthday, and…not knowing any better…only pick up enough for me to have once (I got two, for the record, but my roomie ate the other one).


This week, I’ve been really slacking on the meal prep for lunch.  In fact…it’s been vegetarian sushi and soup all week, because, it’s affordable, easy, and healthy!  At least I’m keeping it healthy, regardless of not really prepping anything to have on hand or keeping something on hand (okay…technically the soup was kept on hand…but I digress…), which is more than a lot of people manage.

Monday, due to being out of town…vegetarian sushi.  Tuesday…Amy’s Thai Coconut Soup (from a can…but SO GOOD!), Wednesday…SOFT PRETZEL WEDNESDAY at ANNIE MAY’S SWEET CAFE in Louisville.  Best (and only) gluten-free soft pretzels I’ve had out of an allergen-free bakery!  Thursday…soup…and this time…like a Cup ‘O Noodle…I pulled out the very new to my pantry Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup.


Because it was easy and I didn’t have to really do anything the night before to prep it.  How’s that for me being lazy.  Hey, I’m coming off a crazy, hectic, fun wedding weekend…I haven’t recovered yet!

Explore Asian strives to be innovative creators of everyday family friendly foods with a healthier twist.  While a small company, they still strive to put a lot of effort into exploring the world to find the highest quality, organic, and natural foods for their consumers to enjoy.  In fact, Explore Asian works directly with farmers to provide top of the line products.  Not only that, they take time to build a superior product that not only tastes good, but will nourish the body.  And, they believe in transparency when it comes to their consumers, maintaining a policy of being open and honest.

So, here we have a product similar to a Cup ‘O Noodle that is claiming to be healthy.  And you know what?  It really is!  In fact, people who consume Explore Asian products include healthy living advocates, athletes, people with special diets (gluten-free, wheat-free, egg-free), people who follow heart healthy diets (20 GI index for Explore Asian bean pastas), dieters and people trying to lose weight, non-GMO advocates, chefs and restaurants, vegans, and people who have to eat kosher!  Yep…all of that.

So, why was I still skeptical that this would make an amazing lunch?  I have no freakin’ idea!  Thursday afternoon…lunch time…and I prepare my roomie’s soup first…getting water and filling it to the line in the container with water, then using the 3 minute microwave method to eat it up.  It was piping hot when the microwave beeped and I prepped my bowl to go in.  This simply means…I pull off the lid (not microwave safe), dump out the contents, which include a packet of noodles, seasoning packet, salt packet, and a little plastic fork.  Add water up to the line and then stick the container in to warm for three minutes.  I delivered hers with gusto, showing her the fork (hers broke right away…mine did not break at all).  Spoon not provided, but it is a big bowl/cup thing…so you can always slurp the broth…

Anyway, I returned as my bowl was finishing up and I removed it from the microwave and walked it (with fork in hand) back to my desk.  I let it cool slightly before dipping the fork into the broth and spinning up a clump of the soybean noodles.  One taste was all it took for me to immediately berate myself for not purchasing more of these beauties.  The noodles were perfect…not mushy and definitely not going to get mushy throughout the time it took me to consume said container.  They stayed perfect…al dente and delicious!  I mean…really delicious.  The seasoning packet added all the flavor, and the brilliant part of the salt packet was that I could choose how much salt went in.  I put in half the packet in each bowl…and it was perfect.  Great flavor.  The noodles were definitely the stars.  My only complaint, I think, was that there were only like 4 pieces of vegetable in this soup.  It was all broth and noodle…and a piece of corn…maybe two…and a little bit of the chives.  I can’t make this up.  So, a little lacking on the actual vegetables…but those noodles were on point.  YUMMY!  And, trust me, nothing makes a hectic week better like a warm bowl of soup.  Am I right?  Of course I’m right!

So, let’s discuss the ingredients that are inside the Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup, shall we?  This soup contains organic soybeans, organic rice, water.  The seasoning packet includes maltodextrin, sichuanese pepper, wild pepper, star anise, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, dehydrated chives, dehydrated carrot, dehydrated sweet corn.  And, as mentioned, the salt packet is separate.  This amazing soup is gluten free, vegan (they also have vegan chicken and beef flavored as well), and non-GMO.

So, I’ve mentioned how this is actually a healthy (and filling) choice for an easy, brain-less meal, right?  But now let me prove it with the nutritional information on the Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup.  A serving size is 2.2 ounces (aka: 1 container).  This serving will dish up 207 calories, 3 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 150 mg sodium (if you add the entire salt packet, you are adding an additional 606 mg sodium…so if you are watching your sodium intake like we are…a dash does just fine!), 25 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 20 grams of protein.  When I said that this soup will make you feel full, I wasn’t kidding!!

Filling, yes…but even more importantly…YUMMY!  This soup went above and beyond all expectations.  This is not ramen noodles.  This is not Cup ‘O Noodle.  This is a healthy, beneficial, amazing soup that I hope I can locate somewhere around where I live…otherwise next time I journey through Cincinnati…I’ll have to stop off at Jungle Jim’s specifically to pick up more of these.  It was a lunch I felt good about eating…even if I was doing it at my desk while working.

Product Review: Chubby Bunny Bakery Jumbo Pumpkin Cookie with Caramel Icing

Chubby Bunny Bakery Jumbo Pumpkin Cookies with Caramel Icing

Chubby Bunny Bakery Jumbo Pumpkin Cookies with Caramel Icing

Product: Chubby Bunny Bakery Jumbo Pumpkin Cookie with Caramel Icing – $3.75

Here’s the story of how I came across Chubby Bunny Bakery‘s products…

Hang onto your seats…

Okay, it’s really not that exciting.  From my standpoint, it is…but in the grand scheme of things…definitely not novel, short story, or even periodical worthy.

You see…September 19th marked my birthday.  A milestone birthday…for a runner.  I was moving up an age division.  It fell on a Saturday this year, and for over a year, I had planned to run the Air Force Marathon to celebrate.  Unfortunately, I fractured my ankle and couldn’t do it.  As with everything running related this year.  And I was really, really bummed.  Like…having a meltdown the night before and just wanting to skip doing anything on Saturday because it wouldn’t be what I really wanted to do.

My roommate had other plans.  She and her family through in and gave me a $150 spending spree at Jungle Jim’s International Market…which is literally, Disney World for foodies…minus all the fun rides and characters.  Which means, it is actually nothing like Disney World…unless you are there for the food!  I mean, it is heaven for any foodie.  And it’s a good thing I don’t live closer to Cincinnati, Ohio, or I’d be tempted to go there more often.  That being said, I spent a good 2 hours perusing the aisles of the 20,000 square feet of Jungle Jim’s, searching high and low for gluten-free products I haven’t seen in my area.  I’m still on the hunt for Rudi’s Gluten Free Texas Toast…which I have NOT been able to locate…and figured if anywhere would have it it would be Jungle Jim’s.  So, while I didn’t find that particular goodie on my “must have” gluten-free indulgent food list…I did get a lot of good stuff.

And, believe it or not, the very last item to go into my shopping cart was…the Chubby Bunny Bakery Jumbo Pumpkin Cookie with Caramel Icing.  And, it almost didn’t make the cut.  I was down to going between a fresh gluten-free granola, a gluten-free lemon bar, and the cookie.  In the end, the cookie monster in me won out…and the cookie was what ended up in the cart, and then in the bag, and then…in my freezer (I had the most amazing gluten-free cookie cake made by my local bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café, so this had to be kept fresh while I polished that off and then went out of town for my best friend from high school’s wedding).

Last night, it emerged from the depths of my freezer and made it into my fridge to thaw out so that it could be my indulgent dessert tonight.  Although, after stopping by Annie May’s for Soft Pretzel Wednesday™ and discovering her new Cookie Dough Cupcake…it was a near thing.  I passed (amazingly enough) on the cupcake…this time.

Dinner was easy tonight as I had everything prepped ahead of time and it just required a little bit of warming up before serving.  This meant that my dinner (Vegan Pizza Chili…for the record) was actually made and consumed in a timely manner.  And this also meant…dessert at a decent hour (although it is never too late or too early for a sweet treat, if you ask me!).  So, while my roommate and I were devouring our chili, the cookies were out of the fridge and resting on the counter.  And after dishes were cleaned up and put away…dessert time!!

Chubby Bunny Bakery makes only gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free goodies.  Some of their items do contain soy and/or nuts, but they can prepare any of their baked goods with a substitute ingredient upon request.  This vegan bakery stocks the shelves of markets like Jungle Jim’s and the Oxford Farmer’s Market (through November), as well as the Moon Co-op in Oxford, Ohio.  Chubby Bunny uses organic and non-GMO ingredients whenever possible and use no preservatives or ingredients that you can’t pronounce.  Real ingredients yield a tastier, better, more indulgent treat.

The Chubby Bunny Bakery Jumbo Pumpkin Cookies with Caramel Icing come two in a container.  Now, if the cookies were smaller, I’d simply dish one up for me and one up for my roommate.  But these are JUMBO cookies…and therefore, I can get 2 nights out of 2 cookies…simply by splitting the cookies in half.  Which…means an extra night of tasty cookie goodness.  Pumpkin was the first thing to catch my eye when I chose these, for the record, as I love, love, love pumpkin-flavored ANYTHING (except pumpkin pie, but that’s more of a texture thing).  That was why these came home with me.  Two words…that win me over every freakin’ time: Pumpkin and Caramel.  HELLO!!

So, I removed one (1) of the two (2) cookies from the clam shell container they came in and sliced it right in half.  The knife glided through, which meant a couple of things: soft and moist.  Winning already before the first bite.  I loved the rather extravagant layer of the caramel icing that literally coated the entire cookie itself.  Sort of like a miniature cookie cake.  I’m all for this.  I handed half to my roommate while I took a bite of the other half.


The Chubby Bunny Bakery Jumbo Pumpkin Cookies with Caramel Icing are crack in cookie form.  The icing is sweet and loaded with delicious caramel flavoring.  As I am not big on icing or frosting…this is a huge thing for me to notice.  It didn’t overwhelm the cookie, just enhanced the already delicious cookie that was underneath.  Because the star…the pumpkin cookie itself was fantastic.  The cookie was soft and moist, not at all crumbly or dense.  The pumpkin flavor was at the perfect level…not too much, but definitely noticeable.  It hit every right note on my musical foodie tastebuds.  I mean…WOW.  There was absolutely nothing about this cookie that I didn’t like…except that I cut it in half to share instead of eating it all myself.  HA!!  Yes…if you can find them or order them…do not waste another moment and get yourself these cookies.  It’s officially fall.  Pumpkin is in.  These cookies are pumpkin.  Therefore, these cookies are what you need to be eating RIGHT NOW!!


Let’s discuss ingredients, shall we?  Chubby Bunny Bakery Jumbo Pumpkin Cookies with Caramel Icing are produced in a home, but per law, the ingredients that go into each chewy, moist cookie of pumpking yumminess are listed on the package.  The pumpkin cookie portion of this treat is made from brown rice flour, potato starch, organic pumpkin puree, vegan margarine (palm fruit oil, canola oil, soybean oil, flax oil, olive oil, filtered water, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid [non-dairy], naturally extracted annatto), ground organic flaxseed, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, xanthan gum, sea salt and vanilla extract.  The icing portion is made from vegan margarine (palm fruit oil, canola oil, soybean oil, flax oil, olive oil, filtered water, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid [non-dairy], naturally extracted annatto), brown sugar, powdered sugar, organic rice milk, and vanilla extract.  This bakery only offers gluten free and vegan treats.  Indulge!

While I can give you ingredients, as stated before, these are produced in a home, so there is no nutritional information to share.  However, as stated before, these cookies are amazing…so ruin your diet for a day or two.  And go check out the Facebook and Instagram pages for Chubby Bunny Bakery and see what other goodies they are baking up!!

So resisting the urge to drive to Jungle Jim’s this weekend just for more cookies…


Product Review: Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies

Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies

Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies

Product: Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies – $2.25

Ah, Columbus, Ohio.  What a strange place to find so much gluten-free goodness.  But, let’s be completely honest…I find so many gluten-free goodies there.  And one of my primary sources for this is the Raisin Rack, which my friend Jenn, introduced me to once upon a time.  Since then, this store has become a staple as far as stops go when I’m in town (others include the gluten-free crepe place and the gluten-free bakery).

On my most recent visit for a fun weekend with my friend, our final stop before heading back to her house was…Raisin Rack.  My budget was a bit tighter, so I was only given an allowance of 10 food items to try this time.  And after walking around the gluten-free section about 20 times, I started to put in my choices.

At the end of one of the one of the aisles, there was this cooler…and inside were some fun desserts, snacks, treats…whatever. And the ones that really, really caught my attention was these little cylindrical cakes filled with a marshmallow cream.

And…if you see where I’m going…you’ll know that this can only mean…


Except Twinkies are trademarked and all that jazz.

So, a local gluten free kitchen created their own take on the Hostess treat…

Cream-Filled Spongies!

Don’t you just love that?  Spongies.  HA!  Just saying it is fun. I bought two of them…one for me and one for my roommate, and we stocked them in my freezer upon transporting frozen stuff in dried ice…all the way back to the Louisville area.  They stayed in the freezer up until tonight…

Because I really just wanted a simple dessert tonight.  And this was as easy as putting these in the fridge the night before to let them thaw to perfection.  I let them sit on the counter, by the way, while I cooked and ate dinner…so they were about to room temperature when it was time to feast on dessert.

Before I get into what I thought of the Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies…let me tell you a little about Bake Me Happy.

Bake Me Happy is a gluten-free kitchen that believes that dessert should always be delightful.  In 2006, Wendy was self-diagnosed with a gluten intolerance and immediately felt relief from a life of digestive issues.  The problem she was encountering was that her food choices were lacking in flavor and texture…and her choices of what she could eat were limited.  So, Wendy began her foray into the world of gluten-free cooking and baking…eventually taking an immersion course at the acclaimed Culinary Institute of America and began to test recipes out on unsuspecting friends.  When her friends and family, who were not even gluten intolerant, began asking for treats for their parties, she knew she was onto something and that her baked goods were ready for the public.  And so, Bake Me Happy is the bakery that Wendy and Letha, her partner in gluten-free crime, opened.  This bakery is commited to making every bite the most decadent gluten free treat anyone has had since sliced bread.  If you have a craving, enjoy a baked good that won’t crumble to dust and leave you feeling like there is no pleasure in food.  Because Wendy has to eat gluten-free, she understands why good food is important and works hard to perfect her recipes.

And so…out of one of these recipes came…Bake Me Happy’s Gluten-Free Cream-Filled Spongies.

And these little cream-filled treats had to make their way home with me.  And tonight…after a stressful day…I really wanted something different and fun for dessert.  The Spongies were the perfect option.  After consuming dinner (I made black bean tostadas) and cleaning up the kitchen…dessert was on.  The Spongies had come to room temperature for the most part…only a slight chill from the fridge remained.  So, I opened up the package, gave one to my roommate and then did the same for myself.

I ate mine standing up in the kitchen.

The Bake Me Gluten Free Cream-Filled Spongies look just like Twinkies.  So…nostalgia happiness.  I know some people who would turn up their nose at the thought of eating a Twinkie of any sort.  But not me.  Not when most of these regular goodies that are the norm for anyone aren’t for me.  Twinkies are a dime a dozen…until you’re gluten-free.  Then…they are a special treat.

The Bake Me Gluten Free Cream-Filled Spongies are golden snack cakes filled with a whipped marshmallow cream.  Yep.  Just like a Twinkie.  And so…I first examined the little cake of cream-filled goodness.  It was soft and spongy like a Twinkie…shaped like a Twinkie…and the filling was piped in through three holes in the bottom.  I took one bite…

The Spongies cake was soft, but slightly gritty.  It had a great flavor to it…that rich buttery flavor that these snack cakes are known for…but the star was definitely the cream that was to fill the treat itself.  Sadly, the three holes were the only places the cream made it.  it was not piped throughout the entire cake itself…but in three little sections.  Which, is a bit of a disappointment.  The best part of the Twinkie is the cream.  Well, that part was true for the Spongies too.  The marshmallow cream was AWESOME.  The flavor and texture was fantastic.  I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of it.  Seriously.  It was lacking in cream.  The cake to cream ratio was WAY off.  But the cream that was there, I wanted to savor and enjoy…forever.  And I couldn’t…because there wasn’t enough of it.  The grittiness of the cake was a little off-putting, but when teamed with the cream, it worked.  But they had to be eaten together.  It was a bit of a let-down.

Let’s talk about the ingredients that go into Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies.  The cake portion of these treats are made from a gluten-free flour mix (white rice flour, cornstarch, sweet rice flour) butter (sweet cream, natural flavoring) sugar, eggs, whole milk, baking powder (cornstarch, bicarbonate of soda, sodium aluminum sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, vanilla bean paste (sugar, water, vanilla extract, vanilla beans, gum tragacanth (a natural thickener)), salt, and xanthan gum.  The cream filling is made from butter, marshmallow cream (corn syrup, sugar, egg whites and vanilla bean paste [sugar, water, vanilla extract, vanilla beans, gum tragacanth (a natural thickener)]}, confectioner’s sugar (sugar, cornstarch), organic shortening (100% organic expeller pressed palm oil), vanilla bean paste (sugar, water, vanilla extract, vanilla beans, gum tragacanth (a natural thickener)).  This product is produced in a gluten-free facility.

As for nutrition, a serving of Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spogies is 1 cake (48 grams).  This serving will dish up 180 calories, 8 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 105 mg sodium, 26 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 15 grams sugars, and 1 gram of protein.  Not filling…but it’s a dessert and should just be the icing on the cake…or the filling in the sponge-cake as is the case here.  HA!!

I didn’t dislike the Bake Me Happy Cream-Filled Spongies.  I just felt a little…cheated by them.  The cake was definitely not up to standard…but the cream was some of the best I have ever tasted.  So, there is the quandary.  I’m not done with the goodies from Bake Me Happy.  Not one bit.  But I think the cream filling in the Spongies needs a bit more room to shine like the awesome fluffy goodness that it is.  That being said…there are other goodies from Bake Me Happy that I’m dying to try.  I might have to go by the bakery itself next time I find myself in Columbus!

Hawaiian Hau’oli


So, last week, for a wonderful week, I was fortunate enough to spend some time on the two of the Hawaiian islands.  The original purpose – to run the Kauai Marathon.

But then…I fractured my ankle.

Trying to start a new trend in footwear, perhaps? This is Bootsie, my new friend for the next 6-8 weeks. MEH!

Trying to start a new trend in footwear, perhaps? This is Bootsie, my new friend for the next 6-8 weeks. MEH!

Yep.  Fractured my freakin’ ankle three days before leaving for Hawaii.  SUCK!!  I tried to put a positive spin on things…I really did.  At least I was still going to Hawaii.  Yeah…it didn’t really work for me then either…but I was trying.  To help make this painful adjustment, I started a Twitter account for Bootsie (the boot I’m forced to wear for 6-8 weeks) to document traveling adventures.  I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason…so there better be a damn good reason for this.  That’s all I’m saying.

The first leg of the trip was flying out to San Diego.  This gave us pretty much a full day to adjust to a bit of the time change (West Coast = 3 hours behind EST; Hawaii = 6 hours behind EST) and break up what was already a long ass flight to the islands.  We’d depart San Diego before it was bright and early to get to Kauai by mid-morning.  It was a plan.  The ankle just meant we had to depart from the hotel sooner because I wasn’t moving anywhere very fast.  So…my traveling companions, Cathy & Jenn, were both very helpful and very, very patient with me.  And, I didn’t complain much.  I mean, complaining won’t change the situation.  I just apologized…a lot…for being slow.

The first order of business after getting to San Diego and checking into the hotel to drop off luggage was…lunch.  Not having prepared for lunch, I ate a protein bar, while my fellow travelers ate tacos from a local taco stand.  SO cool.  But after that, I required my morning cup of coffee…so we sought out and found a great local establishment called…

Lestat’s Coffee House, San Diego, California

Lestat’s is one of those places that is open 24/7, 365 days of the year.  YES…it is always open!  Holiday?  No worries…they’re open!  Lestat’s Coffee House has a few signature drinks on their menu…and as it was pretty toasty in San Diego, I wasn’t feeling the hot coffee that day.  Neither were my traveling friends.  So, they each got coffee freezes (think blended drinks!) while I opted for one of Lestat’s Signature Drinks done up all refreshing and cold.  Jenn got the Winter Raspberry Freeze ($5.25), which is a ice blended raspberry mocha.  I took one little sip.  WINNING!  Cathy had me pick for her, and I choose the Arctic Squirrel Freeze ($5.25) for her, which is an ice blended hazelnut mocha (similar to the Hazelnut Turtle drink she loves at our local cafe…just…blended and cold).  As for me…I went with the Iced Arctic Joey ($4.55)…which is coconut, almond and chocolate.  I had mine made with coconut milk as well (+$1.00).  In essence, it was a liquid almond joy.  And it was delicious.  There were bits of coconut floating in it.  I think I was just starting to get in the Aloha spirit by getting something with coconut.  Needless to say…smooth, creamy, delicious.  Nothing overwhelmed the drink, and it wasn’t heavy.  It was pure liquid gold.  And refreshing.  And tasty.  And in the end, coffee should always be tasty.  I was beyond happy with this decision.

Lestat's Coffee House Iced Almond Joey with Coconut Milk

Lestat’s Coffee House Iced Almond Joey with Coconut Milk

Upon arriving in Hawaii…after the rental car debacle…wherein we learned…convertible is fun…but not when you have a fractured ankle.  We got it sorted…and switched out the fun and stylish convertible for…a Ford Fusion.  Yeah…definitely not the way we had envisioned traveling, but it gave us more leg room and some more storage space for our big-ass luggage.  LOL!  After checking into Pono Kai Resort in Kauai…coffee was needed.

It’s always coffee with me.  LOL!

So, we scoped out and fell in love with a local café called Ha Coffee Bar.  And we went back every day we were on the island of Kauai…save for Sunday, because they are closed.

Ha Coffee Bar, Lihue, Hawaii

It was love at first “Aloha” when it came to Ha Coffee Bar.  I have nothing but warm fuzzies when I think back to every stop at Ha Coffee Bar, each morning, first thing, while on Kauai.  It was a bit of a drive from the resort, but always worth it.  I tried three different things on the three days we were there that they were open.  And, not once, was I ever disappointed in my choice.  Ha Coffee Bar is a café that is built to resemble an old-school bar.  No joke.  Their iced drinks are even mixed in martini shakers.  LOVE.  This set-up allows them to showcase and sell products and items, such as pour-overs, that might not typically be served at a café.  Ha Coffee Bar primarily serves espresso coffee, cold brewed coffee, pour-over and French press coffee.  The variety in the types of coffee they serve allows for different origins and price points, which also helps minimize waste as they don’t have coffee sitting and going stale…high quality coffee and flexibility that allows customers to explore different blends, flavor profiles and methods of making coffee.  Coffee love.  And boy…did I LOVE this.  On the first day there, I stayed pretty basic.  I got a Salted Caramel French Pressed Cafe Au Lait with Almond Milk.  I loved that they added the flavor to the steamed milk itself, and then gave me the pitcher of leftover almond milk in case I needed more of it in the drink.  But it was perfect the way they gave it to me.  And the French pressed coffee…OMG…so good.  Jenn got a simple Iced Hazelnut Latte and Cathy got an Iced Peppermint Mocha.  So, on the next morning, I noticed they had signature drinks hanging up near the register…so I decided to give one of those a try.  I had it narrowed down to two…but opted for their drink the Bee Sting.  The Bee Sting is simply Espresso, Coconut Milk, Honey and Cinnamon.  I got it iced…as the humidity was killer that morning.  Cathy got their take on an Iced Black & White Mocha (Zebra).  And it was, absolutely, hands down, my favorite coffee drink of the trip.  I wish I could have had it again.  I would have gotten it again.  The coconut milk gave it this rich flavor, the honey sweetened it, the cinnamon lent a hint of spice…and espresso…got me moving for sure.  Simple…yet SO good.  SO very good.  In fact, on our last day there, this is the drink that Jenn opted to get after trying mine.  With Ha closed on Sunday, we had to go elsewhere, but on our last day on Kauai…we were there in the morning and I was getting another signature drink…Liquid Sunshine, which was cold brew coffee, coconut syrup, and coconut milk.  DELICIOUS!!  Not Bee Sting delicious…but delicious.  I was quite happy with it.  Not something I can get here…anywhere…so that was most of the draw for this drink in particular.  The last morning there, Cathy got the Iced Hazelnut Mocha and a Pineapple Cream Cheese Scone to enjoy for breakfast.  I still say it today…back in Louisville, Kentucky…that I miss Ha Coffee Bar.  It made that much of an impression.

Ha Coffee's Salted Caramel Cafe Au Lait with Almond Milk, Iced Bee Sting, and Iced Liquid Sunshine

Ha Coffee’s Salted Caramel Cafe Au Lait with Almond Milk, Iced Bee Sting, and Iced Liquid Sunshine


Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream, Lihue, Hawaii

I have KONG Radio to thank for the discovery of Skinny Mike’s.  As we were driving the island of Kauai on Saturday, just enjoying beaches and the like…an advertisement for Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream came on.  And it advertised ice cream, sorbets, and vegan ice cream.  They had my attention, and the attention of both Jenn and Cathy too.  I looked them up…and took note of where it was located.  And we vowed to go there and check them out.  At least once, yes?

And so, Saturday evening, after splitting a gluten-free pizza at a local chain…we headed over to Harbor Mall, where Skinny Mike’s is located.  We parked and marched up the stairs to the little shop.  Online I had taken a peak at the flavors, and sort of had my heart set on the Pineapple Cream.  However…they didn’t have that flavor.  So…I was left to look over the offered flavors while Jenn & Cathy made their choices.  We each got regular scoops ($3.49) of our flavor choices.  Cathy went with the Mint Chocolate Chip as it is one of her favorites…anywhere.  Jenn won with their signature flavor…a local classic…Macadamia Nut.  Hers was so good, we went back the last night there and each got a scoop of the Macademia Nut.  That’s how good that was.  For my first trip there, without the Pineapple flavor being available…I went with the suggestion of Coconut Cream.  The Coconut Cream ice cream was the perfect level of coconut flavor.  No bits of raw coconut…just the flavor infused in a creamy scoop of ice cream goodness.  It was delicious.  Smooth.  And melted fast.  Ah…coconut based things…I didn’t mind though.  Not one bit.  I eat frozen desserts rather quickly regardless.  LOL!  We were so impressed with the ice cream there that, as I said, we all went back to get the signature Macadamia Nut flavor on our last night on Kauai.  Worth it.  That was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.  Just…delicious.  I miss it.  I want some more of the Macadamia Nut flavor…it’s a craving that hits now.  Now that I know it exists…but can’t get it anywhere else…but there.

Skinny Mike's Hawaiian Ice Cream's Coconut Cream and Macadamia Nut Ice Cream

Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream’s Coconut Cream and Macadamia Nut Ice Cream


Java Kai, Kapaa, Hawaii

What happens when  your favorite Hawaiian coffee stop on Kauai is closed on Sunday?  You have to find a new place to get that caffeine hit.  And this was what we were left to do on Sunday morning.  Sunday.  When I should have been running a marathon.  When, instead, I was hobbling around Kapaa in search of coffee.  The stop at the little food truck-like coffee place was…not going to work for everyone.  No one was really happy with the menu options…so…we backtracked to a spot that Jenn spotted and had looked up online.  It wasn’t far from the resort.  It was a worthwhile stop in the end.  And, in the end, we all ended up with a bit of breakfast with our coffee as well.  How?  Because this place had some gluten-free options on the menu and in the bakery case.  SCORE!  This meant we could have something a little more substantial at the start of the day, instead of the meager protein bars or yogurts back at the resort.  It would mean eating better now and not making poor choices later.  And so…Jenn got one of the bars from the bakery case…the Aloha Bar ($3.75), I think.  For her caffeinated goodness that morning, she got the Iced Macanut Latte ($4.50).  Cathy went for the Breakfast Burrito ($10.50), which includes eggs, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese, which she got with the mango-chipotle salsa.  For her drink, she got the Iced Hazelnut Mocha ($4.70).  She at hers there at the café as she was the driver.  As for me…they had gluten-free English muffins.  HELLO!  So I ended up getting the Gluten Free English Muffin with Cream Cheese ($3.95), which they kindly toasted for me…looks like in a pan…no cross-contamination.  And for the drink, I got the Iced Macanut Latte ($4.50) with Almond Milk (+$0.75).  Jenn and I had ours to go and I happily noshed away on a Glutino English Muffin with a light spread of cream cheese.  The Macanut Latte…macadamia nut flavor…espresso…nutty goodness.  And it was just the perfect drink that morning.  It was supposed to be marathon morning…and I needed a distraction.  This food, while simple and basic…was just what I needed.  The drive along the coast helped too!

Java Kai's Gluten Free English Muffin (with Cream Cheese) and Macanut Latte with Almond Milk

Java Kai’s Gluten Free English Muffin (with Cream Cheese) and Macanut Latte with Almond Milk


Hanalei Bay, Hanalei, Hawaii

We visited a lot of beaches while visiting Hawaii.  I mean, that’s part of the point when you visit an island, right?  But, I think, above all others, my favorite one we stopped at, and spent the most time at, was Hanalei Bay.  This beach is stunning.  A beautiful 2-mile long crescent of white sand, nestled beneath a breathtaking range of mountains.  The water was relatively calm that day, with some small waves crashing against the shore.  Despite my new friend…Bootsie…being on, we were determined to get away and enjoy the day.  Anything to keep my mind off the fact that I should have been running.  Hanalei Bay is a great beach for walking and body surfing.  Calm waves, lifeguards, and a great coast line.  I managed a few solo ventures along the waterline of the beach, just needing to at least move a little…minus the boot.  I took it off for beach time.  Strange tan lines were not on the agenda.  I was very careful of where I stepped and the movement of the sand…and would pause if a wave came up and rolled over my legs…because that undertow could be a bit strong and throw me off balance.  It was here that I realized my surf lessons the following day were not going to happen, as much as I wanted to give it a try.  It was just not going to be physically possible for me to get up on a surf board.  I was brokenhearted over this…but shrugged it off as no big deal.  These were the cards I was dealt.  Suck it up, cupcake…you’re in Hawaii!

Me and Bootsie at Hanalei Bay

Me and Bootsie at Hanalei Bay

After some walking and some laying on the beach…we got dressed and headed off for the next venture.  Which tunred out to be a good thing.  Heavy rains started soon after we had changed…and soon, Jenn and I realized just how sunburned we had gotten.  I don’t think Jenn slapped on any sunscreen.  I had…but the burn was in those places where clothes met skin or that strings were located.  I was trying to avoid strange tan lines…and yet…that is what I ended up with in the end.

That being said…for a moment, I forgot about the ankle…and the boot…and I just enjoyed the perfect afternoon at the perfect beach.

JoJo’s Shave Ice, Hanalei, Hawaii

I have my good friend Harry Cooke to thank for the journey, while in Hanalei, to JoJo’s Shave Ice.  He had mentioned it to me in a message on Facebook…and we were right there!!  And with the rain pouring down now, it gave us a good excuse to not sit in a car and try to avoid the flooding roads.  It gave us some time to hope the rain would pass and we could do more exploring.  The rain didn’t pass.  It was with us the rest of the time on the North Shore.  However, after a bit of a short (hobbling, for me) spring from the rental car to the little storefront that the Hanalei JoJo’s Shave Ice operates out of…we knew we were in for a treat.  The original JoJo’s began in Waimea in 1992, the same year that Hurricane Iniki landed on Kauai.  That store is stil there today and still has the original JoJo’s sign.  The goal of JoJo’s…to offer the ultimate in Shave Ice on Kauai…which is a true Hawaiian treat.  When they expanded into Hanalei, they took the JoJo’s traditions and secret recipes along…and introduced the smaller “junior size,” which closely matches the normal serving size of other shave ice venues throughout Hawaii.  JoJo’s doesn’t use commercially made syrups.  They, instead, carefully make up their own syrups, with a lot less sugar and more flavor than the commercially used ones by other shave ice businesses.  And…no corn syrups either.  They also have upgraded all their locations with the best ice machines on Kauai, making for an unmatched, fluffy shave.  LOVE.  The three of us each got the Junior Sizes ($4.50).  And they let you choose up to 4-5 flavors.  I don’t remember what Jenn got…but it had cherry…and perhaps lime?  I can’t recall.  Cathy got Root Beer, Lemon and Grape Shave Ice.  And I opted for two of my favorite flavors…Watermelon and Strawberry Shave Ice.  Of course, now looking back, I wish I opted for something more…local…like mango or something.  Next time.  But the shave ice at JoJo’s was huge…filling…and amazingly packed with flavor.  I can see why it’s been open for 23 years.

30 ounces of Watermelon and Strawberry flavored goodness from JoJo's Shave Ice

30 ounces of Watermelon and Strawberry flavored goodness from JoJo’s Shave Ice


Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café, Kalaheo, Hawaii

I know that technically Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café should have gotten a full review, as it was our place to catch a bite for lunch…on Monday afternoon.  However, it was a hot day…and the humidity was really doing a number on me.  And while there were a few options for a gluten-free vegetarian on the menu, what sounded really, really good was the Spinach and Kauai Greens Salad ($10.95).  And the reason that this didn’t warrant a Restaurant Review post was…it was a salad I could have made at home.  Honestly.  But this was what I wanted.  The Spinach and Kauai Greens Salad is a blend of fresh grown Kailani Farm greens, served with crisp spinach and topped off with strawberries and candied pecans.  I kept the feta cheese and held the side of warm flat bread for obvious reasons.  It came with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.  And it was delicious.  Light, but filling.  And cooling.  And just flat-out what I was really wanting that miserably humid day.  But…it was a salad I could make…and therefore…it garners a mention here…but the restaurant itself is cozy and has a lot of great, fresh-made, delicious sandwiches, salads, soups, etc, to choose from.  And I loved sitting in there, listening to runners who had run the day before discuss the marathon and half marathon…looking at the different food items coming out of the kitchen to each table.  Beautiful setting, beautiful food…and tasty too.  For the record, Cathy got the Hot Pastrami Sandwich, which contained grilled onions, mushrooms, and melted Swiss cheese on toasted bread.  She got it with the much raved about Garlic Cilantro Fries…which after seeing her and Jenn devour…made me really wish I could have had those.  Not safe though…not for me.  Darn it.

Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café's Spinach & Kauai Greens Salad

Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café’s Spinach & Kauai Greens Salad


USS Arizona Memorial – Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii

This was one ONE place that I had to visit while in Hawaii, and the main and primary reason we even island hopped over to O’ahu instead of just hanging tight on the beautiful island of Kauai.  Honolulu is definitely a hopping city and much more urban…think LA and NYC.  But this…this stop was…important.  To all three of us.  The USS Arizona Memorial is the number one visitor destination in Hawaii, drawing millions of people from all over the world to see where World War II began for the United States on December 7, 1941.  Visitors are free to explore the grounds of the Pearl Harbor Visitor’s Center, which was recently expanded from the original 3 acres to 17 acres, and is now operated by the National Park Service.  Admission and parking is free to all visitors.  Over 2000 tickets are given out free per day on a first come, first serve basis.  We had to check our bags before entering the historic site, so Jenn and I did that while Cathy went to get the tickets she reserved online for us.  We were set for the final shuttle out, at 2:45 pm.  It was the hottest day in Honolulu…and with all the metal and concrete, we were literally melting out in the sun while walking around the ground.  We ducked into the museum, but it was even hotter in there.  Bottles of water were purchased and Cathy and I downed ours before we were put on an earlier shuttle, the 2:30 pm, to head out to the memorial.  A US Navy boat taxied us out to the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the remains of the sunken battleship, the final resting place of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941, when their ship was bombed by the Japanese Naval Forces.  The memorial itself was relatively quiet upon disembarking and walking over to it.  You can still see the oil leaking out of the actual ship that is buried beneath the waters of Pearl Harbor.  It is moving and touching.  And the memorial is beautiful and humbling.  And I am so glad that we went.

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor


Dole Plantation, Wahiawa, Hawaii

Two words…


DOLE FREAKIN’ WHIP!!  That was the primary reason to venture out to the Dole Plantation in Wahaiwa.  It was a bit of a journey…a long drive, but well worth it.  The Dole Plantation originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, before opening up to the public as “Hawaii’s ‘Pineapple Experience'” in 1989.  Another one of O’ahu’s most popular visitor attractions, the Dole Plantation provides activities for the entire family, including the Pineapple Express ($8.25/adult), the Plantation Garden Tour ($5.00/adult), and the Pineapple Garden Maze ($6.00/adult).  None of which we did…due to the cost that was associated with each one and the warm, humid weather that made us want to stick to the air conditioning.  What we did do, however, was shop at the HUGE gift shop, which carries a wide variety of Dole Plantation Gifts, local favorites, foods, and refreshments…including DOLE WHIP!!  You can even purchase a fresh pineapple to take home.  I wish I had.  The pineapple in Hawaii is freakin’ incredible.  I did some shopping, buying a few minor things like Dole Pineapple hard candy and a magnet.  Easy to transport and all.  And then, we went over to The Plantation Grille to purchase a bowl each of the world famous Dole Whip ($5.25).  It was a large serving, which I loved, and devoured enthusiastically.  Better than Disney, which is one of the few places Dole Whip is available.  This was…amazing and I wish I had gone back for seconds.  Dole Whip, by the way, is vegan and gluten free.  LOVE!!  It’s just pure frozen treat love.

Dole Whip from The Dole Plantation's Plantation Grille

Dole Whip from The Dole Plantation’s Plantation Grille


Panalu’u Beach Park and the Random Pineapple Roadside Stand, Hauula, Hawaii

Welcome to two of the most random stops we made on our trek around the North Shore of O’ahu.  Panalu’u Beach Park is located on O’ahu’s windward coast and has this strip of narrow, sandy beach.  The nearshore ocean bottom is shallow and has a reef, so swimming conditions here are poor.  This was a clam day at this particular beach when we pulled over to check it out.  Cathy went wading…and the water looked so refreshing (another humid and hot day!), that I took off Bootsie and kicked off my flip-flop to go wading in the surf myself.  My friend Jenn snapped my favorite picture of me on this entire trip here…with the gorgeous blue water and the white sand on the beach.  As I said on my Instagram…”Make only memories…Leave only footprints…Kill only time…”

Me on Punalu'u Beach Park (THIS IS MY FAVORITE PICTURE!)

Me on Punalu’u Beach Park (THIS IS MY FAVORITE PICTURE!)

From there, we went hunting for a shrimp place, Romey’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp, that the lady at Enterprise told Cathy about after we first arrived in Honolulu, when she mentioned we would be heading up to the North Shore.  Along the way, I had been hunting for mangos and we found a stand that advertised them.  We pulled into this dodgy little roadside stand, only to learn that they were out of mangos.  The weather had ended the season early.  I was bummed.  BUT…we did purchase a fresh pineapple there, so we purchased one for $5.00, and watched as this little old lady had it peeled and sliced in less that 2 minutes…bagged…and ready for us to take away.  We wasted no time, after climbing into the car, trying it out.  So fresh…so juicy…so amazing.  Hands down, the best pineapple I have eaten in my life.  Anywhere.  And I’ve had a lot of pineapple.  We did find Romy’s…and Jenn and Cathy split a plate of the Garlic and Butter Shrimp.  They ate that and I ate a good 2/3 (if not more) of the pineapple.  They helped a little after they were done with their fresh seafood.

Best.  Pineapple.  Purchase.  EVER!

BEST PINEAPPLE EVER from a random roadside stand along the North Shore of O'ahu! They peeled and chopped it right there!

BEST PINEAPPLE EVER from a random roadside stand along the North Shore of O’ahu! They peeled and chopped it right there!


Chief’s Luau, Waimanalo, Hawaii

Okay, again, this would generally get a blog of its own, despite not being a restaurant.  I couldn’t go to Hawaii and not do a luau, even if it is one that is so tourist-y…it’s funny.  We chose Chief’s Luau ($82.00+) due to the fact that it is the best ranked luau on O’auh AND that it had an allergen menu on their Web site.  And, yeah, it’s tourist-y, but I actually had a lot of fun at the luau.  I finally got a lei (made of shells as we had the cheapest package), had my picture taken with Chief…learned how to hula dance, watched Cathy throw a spear (rather poorly), watched Cathy make a coconut leaf headband (which she left behind), listened to great music, enjoyed the history of the dances that are native to Hawaii…and just…kicked back, laughed, and enjoyed my final night in Hawaii…with a Mai Tai and everything.  Aside from the free drink…the luau package also included dinner…and as a gluten-free vegetarian, this left only a few things for me to pick from.  Cathy was there for the meat…the pork…cooked in the ground with banana leaves…but for someone like me…I got the food that was catered in.  And that’s fine…but because it was catered, I didn’t review it.  I was left with the Seasonal Fruit Salad (more pineapple!), the Poi (GROSS…it looked like Barney’s (the purple dinosaur) snot…kind of gelatinous and goopy and YUCK.  I didn’t want to try it, but peer pressure had me at least take a taste.  NEVER AGAIN!), the Steamed White Rice and (my personal favorite) the Sweet Potatoes.  My first plate of food was not really full, and as this was all you can eat, I ventured back for more of the DELICIOUS sweet potatoes and the fruit.  Because…fruit and sweet potatoes are actually two of my favorite foods in life.  For real.  The Mai Tai’s were delicious…and I had a great time at the luau.  If you are in O’ahu and want to go to a luau…go to Chief’s.  They are #1 for a reason!

Seasonal Fruit Salad, Poi (GROSS!), White Steamed Rice, and Sweet Potatoes - my gluten free and vegetarian dinner at Chief's Luau

Seasonal Fruit Salad, Poi (GROSS!), White Steamed Rice, and Sweet Potatoes – my gluten free and vegetarian dinner at Chief’s Luau


Barista, Portland, Oregon

The flight we took back to the mainland went through Portland, where we disembarked and stayed an entire day, so we could explore.  Cathy and Jenn had Voodoo Doughnuts for breakfast.  We hit up the food pods for lunch, we did a gastropub for dinner.  But after the stop for doughnuts, it was vital that we got caffeine.  And I chose Barista, out of all the different coffee shops in Portland.  I chose wisely…of this I am certain.  Being a former barista, myself, I not only liked the name, I liked everything I read about them.  Barista was established by coffee legend, Billy Wilson, who now has four (4) Barista cafés open in the Portland area.  Let me tell you, this cofee delivers!!  Barista is one of the first multi-roaster shops in the Portland area, showcasing Heart, Coava, and another roaster on bar for espresso or drip.  Barista is known for serving exceptional coffees from the world’s finest roasters, prepared by the most skilled baristas in the Portland area.  No joke.  Jenn skipped out on this amazing experience, but both Cathy and I partook of the opportunity to try the coffee at the Downtown Barista location.  Cathy ordered the Semi-Sweet Valrohna Mocha ($4.50).  I went for the Bittersweet Valrohna Mocha ($4.50) with Almond Milk (+$0.75).  It was delicious.  Strong…but smooth.  There was this perfect balance of chocolate and espresso that just…melted together.  The milk softened up the bite of the espresso itself, cutting through the dark chocolate.  OH MY GOD…one of the best coffees I have ever had.  If you are in Portland and love coffee…you are missing out if you don’t swing by one of the Barista locations.  For real.  I loved every sip.  Even better…finally a coffeeshop that gives me an 8 ounce cup of coffee for a small!!  THANK YOU!

Barista's Bittersweet Valrohna Mocha with Almond Milk

Barista’s Bittersweet Valrohna Mocha with Almond Milk

And that was it.  It was Portland to Vegas to Louisville from there.  And my 10 day vacation came to an end.  Back in Louisville, it’s hard for me to ignore Bootsie.  It’s a depressing reminder of everything I’ve had to cancel for the upcoming weeks leading into November.  I tried not to fuss much over it on the trip.  And, I ate whatever I wanted…whenever I wanted…as long as it fit into my dietary restrictions.  And despite limited mobility and really lack of much movement at all…while continuing to stuff my face with local eats…I lost 3 pounds.  I’ve put it back on since coming home though…so no worries.  LOL!

It was a beautiful trip to paradise…and I’m already dreaming about my return.  Next time…to actually run the Kauai Marathon!!

Product Review: Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves

Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves

Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves

Product: Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves – $5.99+

My pantry is overflowing these days with fruit preserves.  I am a jelly and jam fanatic.  Seriously.  If there is a way to utilize jam in a recipe, by God, I’m going to do it.  Fruit preserves are one of the little joys in life.  And I am a huge fan.

So, imagine my excitement when the final Cuisine Cube box I was set to receive (I had to cancel it due to financial obligations toward medical bills) had a jar of fruit preserves inside!!  Insert me…doing a happy dance of joy.  It was the perfect ending to a year-long and fantastic partnership with this amazing subscription box.  So, before I talk more about the product itself, let me remind you or explain (in case you are new) what Cuisine Cube is all about!

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!  It’s like…Christmas…or your birthday…every month!  Who doesn’t love that?!

So…as it stands, we are still delving into May (Is For Mom) 2015 cube.  This morning was a swimming morning at the gym, meaning that I normally take in a smoothie and my roomie gets something easy that cooks up while I shower and get ready for work.  We have gluten-free bread.  We have vegan cream cheese.  Hmmm…

See where I’m going here?!  The best part is, this morning, I needed a new jam to top off the ricotta toast with, and this was just staring at me at the forefront of the jarred preserves shelf in my pantry (I recently reorganized).  It was the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves that I had been so excited about receiving, but hadn’t had a moment to actually use them.  Until now.

Vino de Milo began at a food business incubator, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet).  After a few issues that needed to be worked through, the company obtained a beautiful logo, the addition of wine, and a growing business began.  It began simply when an eggplant sauce for a catering job led to a packaging experiment in the adjoining bottling facility.  One thing led to another, wine was suggested and then added to the sauce…and Vino de Milo, the product line, was born.  This company prefers to use ingredients from local suppliers in Ohio.  And, as the brand has grown, they have added more products and capabilities.  With a research and development chef on staff, new products are not only being developed, but can easily be customized for retail sales.  From it’s humble start in 2003 by Jonathan Milo Leal, Vino de Milo has grown from only offering 3 pasta sauces to a full line of from-scratch-made products that include salad dressings, pasta sauces, bruschetta toppings, salsas, BBQ sauces, and fruit preserves.  All of which, by the way, include wine in some way, shape or form…hence the name…VINO de Milo.

So…as I said…it was my May 2015 Cuisine Cube, and most of the ingredients inside had some sort of Mother’s Day spin on them.  Kinda.  I’d say that the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves did above all other products in that box.  For sure.  Because…WINE!  This morning…it was a wine-infused breakfast morning.  I toasted up gluten-free bread and then gave each slice a healthy spread of vegan ricotta cheese.  Then, I simply scooped out the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves and settled them over the top, giving them a light smoothing with the back of the spoon.  Breakfast…was easily made, quick, and…

DELICIOUS!!  My roommate isn’t big on cherries, like I am, but she absolutely loved these preserves.  I am certain it had nothing to do with the crispness that the Riesling wine (her favorite kind of wine, mind you) brought to this spread.  Or…perhaps it did.  I don’t know about her, but I loved how deep and rich the cherry flavor was, with that Riesling really stepping it up and bringing out this crispness, keeping the cherries from being too tart on their own.  I fell in love with the smooth, yet a little chunky consistency to these preserves, finding chunks of cherries to be an inviting and tasty way to enjoy this spread.  Seriously…packed with great flavor, not overly strong, and just…delicious.  Wine or not, these preserves are the cherry on top.  HA!

Let’s discuss what goes into a jar of the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves.  This amazing spread is made from red tart cherries, sugar, Riesling wine, pectin, cherry concentrate, and citric acid.  Simple.  Basic.  REAL ingredients.  These preserves are 100% all natural.  No chemicals, preservatives, or artificial fillers.  It is also vegan and gluten-free.  YAY!

So, let’s take a look at the nutrition information now, shall we?  A serving size of the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves is 1 tablespoon.  This serving will provide you with 25 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 6 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 5 grams sugars, and 0 grams of protein.  For fruit preserves, that sugar level is fantastic!

I was beyond impressed with the Vino de Milo Cherry Riesling Fruit Preserves.  With it spread over the vegan ricotta cheese, it was almost like eating cheesecake for breakfast.  LOVE a healthy meal that tastes like a treat.  Vino de Milo puts out quality products made with local and amazing ingredients…all blended with a little bit of wine.  And who wouldn’t love that.  Now that I know this is out there, I hope that I can find it on the shelves.  But it’s because of Cuisine Cube that I am aware it exists.  And if I can’t find it locally…I can always order it online!

And so can you.  And this is me…encouraging you to do just that.  Trust me…this is one jam you don’t want to miss!

Product Review: Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Mini Chocolate Grahams

Pamela's Products Gluten Free Mini Chocolate Grahams

Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Mini Chocolate Grahams

Product: Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Mini Chocolate Grahams – $4.99+

Chocolate.  Graham.  Crackers.

Three words that, to someone like me, are just as important as “I love you.”  Okay…well…maybe not, but this comes really close in my book.

For the longest time, the gluten-free market was devoid of graham crackers.  There were a couple out there…sure, most notably Kinnikinnick’s S’moreables and Schär’s Honeygrams…which I’ve sampled, but have never purchased for myself.  Oh, and there are plenty or recipes out there.  Even the famous GF Jules was selling a mix where you could bake your own.  But cracker baking and I don’t always get along…and the gluten free snack isles were still missing that WOW with the graham cracker love.

And then…along came Pamela!

Pamela’s Products first announced their latest product breakthrough at this year’s Expo West.  They were going to be offering two different types of snack crackers…in the sweetened graham form.  Graham crackers!!  Graham crackers that reached beyond the ordinary.  In fact, Pamela’s Products stepped it up and took graham cracker snacking to the next level by offering two different sizes…Graham Cracker Size and Mini Grahams…in three (3) flavors: Honey, Cinnamon, and Chocolate.

How can you NOT get on board with this??!

The hardest part, initially…was finding them.  I searched high and low in my area for these and finally gave up, believing that it would take at least a year for the Louisville area to get them in.  But then, randomly one afternoon with a quick stop by my Kroger (of all places)…two flavors of the mini grahams sat on a shelf, illuminated in the heavenly fluorescent grocery store lights.  And, yes, I snagged a box of each and took them home with me.  I had to have them.  I’d been searching for them.  It had to happen.

Previously, I devoured the box of the Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Mini Cinnamon Grahams by making up little deconstructed S’mores bowls for desserts.  The box of the Mini Chocolate Grahams have been waiting their turn to shine, but with summer in full swing, I was all about cool treats from the freezer.  But the cooler fall temperatures are moving in…and with that…out comes the big bowl of S’mores-y goodness once again.  But this time…with a complete chocolate spin.

Yep…the Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Mini Chocolate Grahams came down from the top pantry shelf tonight.  And into a couple of bowls they went.  Just as with the Cinnamon variety, the Mini Chocolate Grahams are also little medallions of graham cracker goodness…about the size of a quarter, sporting a gorgeous “P” for “Pamela” on each one.  The Mini Chocolate Grahams are shaped like little hexagons, perfect for one-bite servings, especially if you just want something mindless and easy for snacking purposes.  Or, hey…dip them into milk or coffee.  YUM!  But, now I’m getting away from the point.  The point is…they are the perfect snack size.  I popped a few to much on (for the sake of the blog, you know!) while building the Double Chocolate S’mores Bowls tonight.  This dessert started with a layer of the Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Mini Chocolate Grahams, a tablespoon of dark chocolate chips, and then topped off with vegan marshmallows, which I then toast with my kitchen torch, successfully melting the chocolate chips in the process.  In essence…the ideal dessert bowl of marshmallow perfection.

Oh chocolate gods above…this is the perfect…perfect mini graham snack.  These crackers make all other chocolate snacks pale in comparison.  Not only are they crunchy, but they are sweet and packed with a chocolate punch, that doesn’t overpower, but definitely lets you know…this graham cracker is chocolate…not honey…not cinnamon.  Chocolate, baby!  I love that each cracker is lightly dusted with a bit of sugar, bringing out a nice hit of sweetness.  And when paired with the melt-y dark chocolate chips and the toasted mini vegan marshmallows…oh…dessert nirvana.  S’mores taken to the next dessert level.  Who says you need a campfire?!  For that matter, who says S’mores can’t be made gluten free.  These crackers are AMAZING!!  Sinfully deliciously good.  The Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Mini Chocolate Grahams are ideal for snacking, munching, dunking, or for use on desserts, as a pie crust, topping off ice cream…making mini ice cream sandwiches, or simply putting over your morning cereal (I make a killer S’mores hot cereal…that these will be DELICIOUS on!).  What’s not to love, especially when all that flavor comes from real cocoa!!

Let’s discuss what the Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Mini Chocolate Grahams are made from, shall we?  This particular treat is made up of a gluten free flour blend (brown rice flour, white rice flour, tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, xanthan gum), brown cane sugar, organic non-GMO butter (salted), cocoa powder, gluten-free oat bran, organic non-GMO honey, molasses, gluten-free flavors, baking soda, grainless and aluminum free baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, potato starch, sodium bicarbonate), sea salt, and a topping that is made up of organic sugar.  This product is certified gluten-free by GFCO, made in a dedicated gluten-free facility, and kosher certified.  They are gluten-free, wheat-free, soy-free, corn-free, nut-free, egg-free, contain no artificial flavors or additives, contain no hydrogenated oils or trans fats, and contain no corn syrup.

If that doesn’t make you want to rush out and find these…this might…

The nutritional facts for the Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Mini Chocolate Grahams aren’t too bad either.  A serving size is 10 crackers (29 grams) and there are about 7 servings per box.  This serving will provide you with 140 calories, 6 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, 22 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 11 grams sugars, and 1 gram of protein.  Not too bad for a handful of chocolate mini graham crackers, right?!  I’m happy with it.  Happily eating straight out of the box. HA!

No…we all know, I’m the queen of portion sizes.  I live by my kitchen scale!

So…feel free to find, purchase, open, and snack away on a box of Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Mini Chocolate Grahams.  Munch, crunch, dunk, dip, or pile high with chocolate and marshmallows…and devour.  Do whatever it is you want with these little miniature graham crackers.  These gluten-free treats are fantastic.  A great chocolate snack that will definitely curb your craving…without denying you that fantastic chocolate flavor you love and crave.  Trust me…you’ll want more than one box.

Double Chocolate S'mores Bowl made with Pamela’s Products Gluten-Free Mini Chocolate Grahams, dark chocolate, and vegan marshmallows

Double Chocolate S’mores Bowl made with Pamela’s Products Gluten-Free Mini Chocolate Grahams, dark chocolate, and vegan marshmallows