Product Review: Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread

Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread

Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread

Product: Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread – $5.99+

Sometimes a product you never thought about trying serves you up a good reason to keep getting it.  And if anything, that is exactly the experience I had with the new line of Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Breads from Food For Life.  In particular, the gluten free Almond Bread has really struck a chord with me.

I can’t explain it.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was introduced to a couple of new breads on the market.  While the brand name has been producing gluten-free breads for awhile now, it wasn’t a brand that I actively sought out.  Yes, I saw it all the time in the freezer section of Whole Foods and other natural food stores, but I had grown accustomed to snagging Rudi’s or Udi’s or (now) the Aldi liveGfree brand or Canyon Bakehouse.  Food For Life was there…I just always overlooked it.

And why?

Who knows?  As an active (even now, with an on-the-mend injury) athlete, it’s important to properly fuel my body and eat wholesome foods.  Most products on the market for the gluten-free diet happen to be junk food.  It drives me nuts.  I hit that gluten-free section of a store and I can find a vast array of cookies, crackers, chips, pretzels, and the like.  It is one of the biggest pet peeves of the grocery store.  Yes, a lot of people with Celiac and gluten intolerance do miss out on some of the finer treats like Oreos and the like, but the shelves are literally overrun with products that aren’t going to feed your body right and healthy.

But Food For Life set out to change that.  Through a lot of research and development, Food For Life released the first ever gluten free breads made from sprouted grains, such as quinoa, millet and chia.  A majority of gluten-free breads, while satisfying the “gluten free” bread requirement, don’t address the overall health needs of consumers.  Without the gluten to give bread the soft, elasticity of regular breads, most manufacturers choose alternative ingredients that mimic the feel of gluten, using egg, milk, and refined starches in order to achieve a softer and chewier texture.  But these breads are created from ingredients that you wouldn’t expect to find in natural breads, many of which are devoid of nutrients.

Food For Life stepped up and decided to start a line with four varieties of completely gluten-free breads that were specifically created with the health of consumers in mind.  Not only are they gluten free, but they are also vegan and made from nutrition packed ingredients that have been sprouted to maximize nutrition and digestibility.

I was fortunate enough to be sent one loaf of each of the Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Breads from Food For Life.  These loaves come in Original 3 Seed, Almond, Cinnamon Raisin, and Flax.

This past week, I decided to reach into the freezer and pull out the loaf of the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread.  Why?  Because I was about to make something sweet and savory, and somehow the thought of bread with a hint of almond flavoring just sounded like it would pair well.  I mean, do I really need a reason?  You see, I was serving this up as a side dish to my Mexican Corn Dip.  I had vegan Kite Hill Ricotta Cheese in my fridge and a jar of fig preserves from Charleston, South Carolina.  It was an odd side to have with the corn dip, but it actually worked out really well.

I simply preheated the oven and placed two slices of the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread on the baking sheet.  Into the oven it went to get a nice toast on it.  When it was perfectly toasted, I removed the slices from the oven and let them cool slightly.  Then, each slice got a schmear of the Kite Hill Vegan Ricotta and then a dollop of the Charleston fig jam. I plated each slice with the corn salsa and dinner was strange…but served.

One bite, and I knew I was in love with this bread.  For real!  The Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread had the most amazing flavor that I have tasted in bread in a long time.  I was blown away with the slight hint of sweetness, making it the ideal vehicle for this spread of ricotta and jam that I topped it off.  It was heaven.  But this bread doesn’t have to be limited strictly to sweet spreads.  In fact, this morning I slathered two slices of it with mashed avocado and it was divine.  Honestly, the pairing of the sweet, nutty almonds makes this bread beyond amazing.  It makes it a nutritious powerhouse too.  The slight nutty flavor compliments anything that you could think to top it off with.  I have been impressed each time I have used this bread out of my freezer.  And, yes…it was delicious as a grilled cheese sandwich as well.  In fact, the nutty flavor with the vegan cheese that I put in my sandwich meshed so well.  Delicious any way you slice or slather it.  It’s fantastic.

Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread is made with organic almonds for extra flavor, nutrition and to help aid in blood glucose regulation.  This bread is specifically developed to help keep you on the go and perform at your best.  When you toast it…that rich nutty flavor is released and it is awesome.

So, what all goes into the making of Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread?  Well, it’s simple.  It really is.  This bread is made from organic sprouted quinoa (red and/or white), filtered water, organic arrowroot, organic potato starch, organic sprouted millet, organic tapioca, organic applesauce, fresh yeast, organic almond meal, organic safflower oil, organic cactus, organic sprouted chia seeds, organic agave, organic vanilla, sea salt, vegetable gum (xanthan, cellulose), and organic psyllium.  Made with sprouted chia, sprouted quinoa, and sprouted millet, this bread is a trio of health.  Not only is it made with sprouted grains (which are SO good for you!), it is also vegan, gluten-free, and high in fiber.  It is so rare for a gluten free bread to be high in fiber.  This is a welcome addition to my freezer.

So let’s discuss the nutritional information for the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread.  Since passing my final exam in personal nutrition for the nutrition course I was taking and moving on to the advanced nutrition,my nutrition course, I have learned that there is more to counting calories.  Sure, it is important, but it shouldn’t be the focus.  It’s all about the nutritional aspects of the food.  Avocados are high in fat and calories…but SO much better for you than that chocolate bar with the same amount of fat and calories.  See what I mean? A serving size is one (1) slice.  In this serving, you will be provided with 110 calories, 3 grams of fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 110 mg sodium, 19 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars, and 2 grams of protein.  I was freaked out at first with the high calories per slice, but, again, not all calories are created equal and there is nothing fake going into this bread.  It’s all healthy, all good, all nutritious.  Making this a fantastic choice.

i used to turn my nose up at the Food For Life breads due to the high calories, but I have learned a lot about nutrition since then, and it turns out this is one of the best, nutrition-wise, gluten free breads on the market.  If you love a hint of nutty sweetness in your bread, I highly, highly recommend the Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread. It was truly love at first bite.  A bit of a surprise, but this is, by far, one of my favorite gluten-free breads I have ever tasted.  I was very fortunate to be sent these loaves.  I spotted them in Whole Foods the other day.  I’m going to be well stocked for the future.

Vegan Ricotta and Charleston Fig Jam on top of toasted slices of Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread

Vegan Ricotta and Charleston Fig Jam on top of toasted slices of Food For Life Sprouted For Life Gluten Free Almond Bread

Product Review: Sticky Fingers Bakeries Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Scones

Sticky Fingers Bakeries Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Scones

Sticky Fingers Bakeries Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Scones

Product Review: Sticky Fingers Bakeries Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Scones – $6.25+

I have been a fan of scones ever since I bit into my first one while visiting Europe in 2003.  Scones, after that, became this legendary thing, and something I was determined to enjoy every time I went overseas.  At that point I was either living in Birmingham, Alabama or in Louisville, Kentucky…which are not exactly a hotspot for scone making and feasting.  Not to say some bakeries didn’t turn them out.  As I was going through the initial stages of my Celiac diagnosis, before we really pinpointed it, I was enjoying a homemade, amazing scone from a local coffee shop, which was produced by a local bakery…which I often bought out of their scones and froze at home for later enjoyment.

Then…the gluten-free diet kicked in…immediately…for my health.

So, after a hiatus from my scone indulgences, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to have them back in my life.  So, I got into my kitchen and using what gluten-free flour I had on hand (mostly Pamela’s Products pancake mix) at that point, I began making my own versions and variety of flavors for gluten-free scones.  And while they weren’t as good as the ones I had overseas or the ones the bakery made, they were pretty damn good in their own right.

It has been awhile since I’ve made scones.  A very long while.  But while I was out shopping one day, I ran across a box that was labeled “GLUTEN FREE” and had the word “SCONES” on it.  Okay…you have my undivided attention!!  The company was Sticky Fingers Bakeries, and they had a line out of gluten-free scone mixes in a variety of flavors: Apple Oat, Wild Blueberry, Meyer Lemon, Original, Chocolate Chip, and Pumpkin Cranberry.

My roommate, knowing me elation said we could purchase one to make…and then grabbed the Sticky Fingers Bakeries Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Scones mix.  HA!  Should have known.  If it is lemon, she wants to have it.  So…it came home with us and went into the pantry.  Months later, I finally decided it was time to stop putting it off and start baking.

This past Monday night, I did just that, deciding that the scones could be the breakfast we eat post-gym while settling in at work.  In fact, I had made my own blueberry jam not too long ago, which would pair nicely with the lemon pastry, if all went well.

Sticky Fingers Bakeries began with a scone…and a dream.  Seriously!  It was founded in 1987 by fraternity brothers Tom Owens and Ted Vogelman in San Diego, California.  It initially began as a thriving retail bakery.  The scones, in particular, were selling out every day.  When recipe request kept flooding in, they knew they were on to something.  Owens and Vogelman got to work on a scone mix that their patrons could purchase and recreate the bakery’s most popular item at home…just by adding water.  The mix was a hit…so they kept going…and the company kept growing.  Today, their products include their popular scone mixes as well as muffin mixes, an Irish soda bread mix, three brownie mixes, a line of premium fruit spreads (including curds, jams jellies and fruit butters), and now…GLUTEN FREE SCONES!

Sticky Fingers Bakeries prides itself on the quality of their ingredients.  None of their mixes contain artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, trans-fats, or saturated fats.

Sticky Fingers Bakeries carries their commitment to quality over to their gluten-free scone mixes as well.  They are made with high quality ingredients that give them the same delicate, crumbly texture with just a touch of sweetness.  Even better, this line of their products is produced in a certified gluten-free manufacturing facility.

Baking these are so easy, you will think someone at a bakery did it for you.  Simply get out a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper.  Then, pull the box containing the Sticky Fingers Bakeries Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Scone Mix out of your pantry and open it up.  Pour the mix into a large mixing bowl and add to it 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons water and 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Mix everything together with a fork until a sticky dough forms.  Then, drop heaping spoonfuls of the batter onto the baking sheet and allow to bake for 13-15 minutes, or until firm and light golden brown.  The mix makes 10 scones, but I managed to get 12 out of it.  HA!  The box says these are great warm, on their own, or with butter, honey, jams of curds.

I highly recommend jam.  Preferably a homemade blueberry.  Blueberry + lemon = AMAZING!

Want to know what else is amazing?  These scones, that’s what!  The Sticky Fingers Bakeries Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Scones bake up all light and pillow-y on the inside and get this beautiful golden crust on the outside.  The scone is packed full of lemon flavor, without it overpowering the baked good itself.  I mean, it strikes the perfect balance of flakiness and yumminess and it is sheer perfection.  I am so in love with these.  I need to try to remember where I bought this box from so I can try to find more.  That is how impressed I am with these.  I only have 2 left for breakfast after the gym…so now I have to come up with some yummy treat to heat up at the office for a quick breakfast as I settle into work.  These were ideal and perfect.  But…all good things must be devoured.

Let’s discuss the ingredients that go into Sticky Fingers Bakeries Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Scones!  These scones are made from white rice flour, sugar, potato starch, buttermilk powder, tapioca starch, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate), lemon bits (sugar, rice syrup, corn cereal, corn starch, palm oil, natural flavor, tumeric concentrate), natural meyer lemon flavors, canola oil (ascorbic acid & rosemary added to preserve freshness), sea salt, baking soda, xanthan gum, and natural vanilla powder. As mentioned before, these scones are certified gluten-free, contain no artificial colors or flavors, contain no preservatives, contain no trans-fats or saturated fats, are certified kosher…oh…and are amazingly scrumptious!

As for the nutritional information, a box of the Sticky Fingers Bakeries Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Scones makes 10 (but I got 12) scones.  The mix itself will give you 180 calories, 5 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 30 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 9 grams sugars, and 2 grams of protein.  Do not expect these to be filling, unless you eat two of them…which I do.  I also slather mine with a delicious and liberal amount of my own homemade blueberry jam.  Hence, the recommendation above.

The Sticky Fingers Bakeries guys sure do have scones down to pefection.  And they make it easy for you to make them yourself in the comfort of your own home.  Easy to mix, easy to bake, and SO easy to consume.  It will be hard not to eat them all at once.  They are worth spreading out over a few days…trust me.  Phenomenal flavor.  Perfect scones.  So much love.

 

Product Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Cappuccino Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Diary Free Cappuccino Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Diary Free Cappuccino Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert

Product Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Cappuccino Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert – $6.99+

So, for those of you who know me and who have been paying some sort of attention…I’ve been hooked now, since it was first introduced onto the market, to cashew milk (unsweetened, of course!).  Seriously…YUM!!  If you are missing a little bit of the thickness of regular milk, switch from that runny almond milk and coconut milk to cashew milk.  You will NOT be disappointed.  I will never go back to anything else.  Nope.  Not at all.

With that in mind, and the fact that, of everything in this world that contains dairy, the thing I miss the most isn’t cheese…but ice cream.  Good, delicious, cold, satisfying ice cream!  I stopped going to my local ice cream place (oh Comfy Cow, how I miss you!) as even the supplements I used to take to help me handle some dairy stopped really having any sort of effect.  I think the last ice cream I had was back on my birthday in September.

*SIGH*

But, there are, naturally, non-dairy ice creams out on the market.  One of the most notorious for their fantastic products, however, is So Delicious Dairy Free.  And, not only are they making ice cream with their soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk…but they have added cashew milk to the mix too!  That was an exciting day in the grocery store, let me tell you.  I have already tried two of the five (5) flavors they currently have out on the market: Snickerdoodle and Salted Caramel Cluster.  A reader (Louise) sang high praises of the Cappuccino flavor.  Now, I can understand how this flavor would be out of this world.  It combines my love of two things…espresso and ice cream.

And, one day, while I was home baking or cooking or something, my roomie made a last moment dash out to Kroger to pick up some items I needed.  And upon her return she presented me with two more of the So Delicious Cashew Milk Frozen Desserts.  Yep.  Dark Chocolate Truffle and Cappuccino.  As the Cappuccino was so highly praised in a comment on my blog…when I polished of a pint of my homemade strawberry coconut milk ice cream…this was next in line.

It’s the perfect time of year for ice cream and cold desserts.  While this summer hasn’t been as hot as years past, it still has  been enough to make me wilt on occasion.  That being said, ice cream makes everything right.  So, after I cooked up an easy vegan grilled cheese sandwich for dinner just before my last physical therapy session last night, I pulled out the pint of the So Delicious Dairy Free Cappuccino Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert and let it thaw while I made up the sandwiches for my roomie and I, plated them with a serving of Zapps VooDoo Kettle Chips (OMG! YUM!), and devoured the food because it had been a long day and I was hungry.  HA!  When we had both finished eating and cleaned off the dishes, I got out the ice cream bowls and set to scooping out perfect 1/2 cup servings (yes…I measure…every time!) for each of us.

I handed my roomie her bowl first.  See, when it comes to ice cream that is coffee-flavored, Cathy will either love it or hate it.  Most of the time, she wrinkles up her nose in disgust and is done.  But…she kept on taking spoonfuls.  This…boded well.  This boded very well.  I tucked the rest of the pint back into the freezer, gathered up my own helping and settled in to try it myself.

OH…WOW!!  First of all, I appreciate that So Delicious manages to find a distinct and perfect balance.  This frozen treat isn’t too strong on the coffee flavor.  In fact, it’s more like…a latte if you will…milky with a coffee finish.  The nutty flavor of the cashew milk base itself helps to balance out the flavors, keeping the coffee from overwhelming the rest of the product.    The flavor is simple, but executed perfectly.  I probably could have put this into my coffee cup in the morning and told everyone I was just having my morning coffee…and be content.  I might even start a new coffee trend.  Forget Starbucks Frappuccinos…I’ll take a scoop of So Delicious Dairy Free Cappuccino Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert.  Half the calories…big on taste.  Oh yeah!!  You know what I like.

Let’s look at the ingredients that go into the So Delicious Dairy Free Cappuccino Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert, shall we?  This product is made from cashew milk (water, cashews, non-GMO canola oil), organic dried cane syrup, gum acacia, natural flavor, sea salt, organic fair trade coffee, and cinnamon.  This dessert is gluten-free, vegan, cholesterol free, free of trans-fats, and non-GMO.

As far as nutrition goes…aside from being a dessert and an ice cream treat at that, this is actually quite impressive and not half bad as far as the data goes.  One serving is 1/2 cup and there are 4 servings in each pint.  One serving will provide you with 150 calories, 7 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 20 mg sodium, 21 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 17 grams sugars (YIKES!!  It is dessert…it is dessert…), and 3 grams of protein.

Rest assured, the rest of this pint was polished off tonight.  No more of the So Delicious Dairy Free Cappuccino Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert…for the moment.  But, trust me, that one is in the rotation for keeps.  So delicious (no pun intended!).  I loved it from the first bite to the last, and had to keep myself from stealing spoonfuls from the frozen pint for all the moments in between.  That is the mark of a quality ice cream for sure.

Coffee lovers heaven…in a dairy free package.  Enjoy!

So Delicious Dairy Free Cappuccino Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Cappuccino Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert

Product Review: SweetieBeans! Rise n’ Shine Pancake Mix

SweetBeans! Rise 'n Shine Pancake Mix

SweetBeans! Rise ‘n Shine Pancake Mix

Product: SweetieBeans! Rise n’ Shine Pancake Mix – $7.49+

Sorry about not having a retail price for you on this product I am about to review.  I just guessed as the link on the actual Web site for the company itself leads to an error and I can’t find anywhere else to draw a price from.  I’m guessing here.  My apologies.***

**Updated with actual ordering price**

BUT…now let’s cut to the chase.

When it comes to breakfast foods, you can’t quite beat the perfect pancake, right?  Hell, I eat pancakes for dinner sometimes.  Done that since I was a kid.  We always loved when my mom made breakfast for dinner, and the tradition carries on still in my family.  We are a breakfast-loving bunch, let me tell you!

When it comes to mixes out there for gluten-free pancakes, I have hit on the entire spectrum.  I have had the amazing.  I’ve had the so-so.  And I’ve had the horrible.  I absolutely love pancakes (they are so versatile…with what you put in them and what you put on them), and I feel that pancakes should turn out perfectly…every freakin’ time.  So, why is it that some gluten-free products get that right, and some…just don’t come close.

Pancakes are all about texture.  You want them to be hearty, yet light and fluffy.  This is a very difficult balance to reach.  And I definitely have my go-to favorites when it comes to the gluten-free pancake mixes that are out on the market.  I thought I had covered them all (or at least the wide-spread ones) until my February (Happy V-Day) 2015 Cuisine Cube tossed another one my way.

So, first let me recap for you what Cuisine Cube is all about, shall I?  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, the February box arrives and I uncover this large pouch of SweetieBeans! Rise ‘n Shine Pancake Mix.  SCORE!!  Pancakes are amazing.  I was quite excited about them.  And after tucking all that month’s products away in their proper places, I had every intention of making pancakes with this mix.  And then…I got hurt.  And life got busy.  Very, very busy.  And it was left to sit on the pantry shelf with some random bread mixes and other baking/breakfast items that I have yet to delve into.

But, my good friend, Harry, brought me some amazing local, and freshly picked (by himself!) blueberries on Friday and I knew that blueberry pancakes had to be made.  I’d been craving them, but I keep eating all the blueberries like candy instead of baking/cooking/making things with them.  Hey, give me a fruit and I’ll devour it…even if I just pop them from the bag and nosh.  Seriously.  That’s how much I love fruit, particularly berries.

So, after my Monday morning spin class, I came home and retrieved the SweetieBeans! Rise ‘n Shine Pancake Mix from my pantry, mixed 2 cups of it with 1-3/4 cup water and stirred it up.  Added these amazing blueberries and it was time to make the pancakes.

Sweetie!Beans is a true labor of love.  Several years ago, through a series of health related unfortunate events, the creator’s family became aware that they had food allergies and were going to have to make a few dietary adjustments…which meant completely excluding wheat, gluten, eggs, dairy, casein, peanuts, walnuts, food dyes, pesticides, and yeast.  Because it was a health matter, the entire went cold-turkey on their allergy elimination and found that within a few months they were feeling much better.  The food, however, for people who were considered “foodies” was lacking now.  The items were lackluster, back in the day when cakes tasted like cardboard, fried foods were soggy, and cookies were incomprehensible.  The father of the family took matters into his own hands and got into the kitchen.  This didn’t happen overnight, but through years of trial and error, he found the perfect blend.  Word spread, and soon people were asking him to bake cakes for their special occasions, and all went over well, despite that they were vegan and gluten free.  Talk about winning!  And with that, SweetieBeans! was born…the company named after the nickname he gave the love of his life, his wife, back when they were 17 years old.

As for the SweetieBeans! Rise ‘n Shine Pancake Mix…the batter combined with all the ingredients to form this slightly thick, but smooth, consistency.  It was ideal.  I got out my 1/4 cup measure cup and dropped the batter onto the skillet to begin to cook.  So often, gluten-free pancakes don’t get that amazing golden crust on the outside, but these did.  And it didn’t take long for the batter to get there either.  I started to see the edges begin to bubble and firm up, so I went ahead and went to flip the first batch over.  Perfection.  So, this made me feel really good about the way these would taste when all was done.  And while these didn’t get overly fluffy in size, but they weren’t flat either.  These had the perfect amount of lift to them.  They weren’t heavy, nor were they particularly filling.  I ate mine while cooking up another round of them and ended up hoovering the two I had plated for myself.  Seriously.  They were gone almost as soon as I poured my Sohgave Blueberry Syrup over them.  I think, because of the name, my roommate thought these were made with bean flours, so she had said that she was surprised they didn’t taste like bean.  I told her it was just the name and nothing to do with the blend of flours that were used to create the pancake mix itself.  She, a lover of pancakes like me, also enjoyed these.  She said they cooked up well and had good volume to them.  So, since she isn’t a Celiac or gluten-free…this is a great endorsement.  Were they the best we’ve had?  Nope.  But they rank right up there!  I was pleasantly surprised, honestly.

With that in mind, let’s discuss what goes into the SweetieBeans! Rise ‘n Shine Pancake Mix, shall we?  This mix is a blend of sorghum flour, rice flour blend (rice flour, rice bran), white rice flour, sugar, tapioca starch, and contains less than 2% of each of the following: baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, corn starch, potato starch, potato flour, natural flavor, xanthan gum, sea salt, monocalcium phosphate, magnesium carbonate.  This mix is gluten-free (obviously), vegan, wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free, casein-free, peanut-free, walnut-free, free of food dyes, free of pesticides, and yeast-free.  Loving it?  I know I am!!

As for nutrition, a serving size of SweetieBeans! Rise ‘n Shine Pancake Mix is 1/3 cup of the dry mix.  This serving will give you 170 calories (remember, unless you add some chocolate chips or berries or peanut butter…all you put into this mix is water…so this amount remains the same!), 1 gram fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans-fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 410 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar, and 3 grams of protein.  So, it will fill you up, but it won’t make you feel ridiculously full.

For me, I loved this mix at first bite.  To say that I was surprised is an understatement.  After being burned with pancake mixes promising me the best gluten-free pancakes and ending up with anything but that, it was nice to have a product actually deliver.  In fact, I look forward to reheating the other batch I made while devouring mine like they were going out of style this morning.  Some foods I just can’t savor.  Not when it had been so long since I had something taste that amazing.  Pancakes should be simple and delicious.  SweetieBeans! gives you this and more.

I’m a fan!  Trust me…you will be too.  But first, we need to figure out how to order more!

(Thanks to Tim’s comment below, you can order this mix and the other SweetieBeans! mixes at this link: https://gourmetfoodland.com/products/mixes/gluten-free/

Product Review: Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Italian Mix

Neat - A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix

Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix

 Product: Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix – $4.99+

I am so glad that Neat exists in the world.  I really, really am.  Because, it is sometimes hard to find a good protein base when you are not only a vegetarian (or perhaps a vegan), but also gluten-free.  Trust me…the struggle is real…FOR REAL!!  Most of the vegetarian/vegan faux-meat products out on the market have some sort of vital wheat gluten or glutenous substance inside (for texture purposes, I’ve been told).  I don’t need faux-meat in my life, but sometimes it’s nice to step away from the mushrooms and whatever else I get creative with and use something that is already prepared.

And that…brings me to Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat.  Ever since I became a subscriber to Delight Gluten Free magazine I noticed ads for this vegan meat replacement called Neat.  I was beyond intrigued and immediately went on the hunt in my local natural food stores.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, no one in my area carried this product.  At least not yet.  I said I’d get online and see if I could order it, but, naturally, I forgot to do that.  Story of my life.  But after a pouch of the Mexican Mix turned up on my Cuisine Cube, I started finding it on the shelves of my local Kroger stores, my natural food stores.  I was getting Neat where I could purchase it when I suddenly decided to make something spontaneous for dinner.

YAY!

So, what exactly is Neat?  Neat is a meat replacement that is derived from nuts and other non-GMO natural ingredients.  It is a product that was created by a mother of two children who decided that they were going to become vegetarians.  At first she would puree beans into sauces to help her girls get the protein they wanted, but after awhile, everyone got tired of it.  And that was when she got into the kitchen, experimented, and created what is now marketed at Neat.

Neat comes in this shelf-stable pouch in a powdered form.  All you do to prepare it is pour the pouch into a bowl, add two eggs (or a vegan egg replacer), plus two tablespoons of water.  Stir all the ingredients together and throw it into a skillet over medium heat.  Or…if you happen to have the Italian Mix and want to make meatballs…well…you just change it up a little.

I wanted meatballs to make vegan meatball subs and some vegan spaghetti and meatballs for lunch the following day at the office.  SO…I took the mix from the pouch and poured it into a bowl, adding 1 egg, about 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (although now I think I should have gone for the full 1/3 cup (which was the amount of Parmesan cheese the recipe said to add), and 1 tablespoon of water and gave it a mix.  Then, with clean hands, I ended up rolling 12 meatballs (you normally would do 8 larger meatballs, but I had multiple meals planned for these…this way my roommate and I each got 3 in each dish I prepared).  Then, into an oven at 350°F for about 18 minutes, turning them over once.  That simple.

Near the end of their cooking time, I began warming up some marinara sauce on the stove.  And when these meatballs came out of the oven, into the sauce they went.  I gave the sauce a stir and just coated the meatballs the best I could.  I was using an open jar of sauce, so I had a little less than I wanted, but I figured the entire point of the meatball sub was the meatball itself.  So…with any luck, I didn’t screw those up.  Into the gluten-free hotdog buns they went (no one around here seems to carry the Schär Gluten Free Sub Rolls anymore).  I topped them with a bit of the sauce, then some Daiya mozzarella style shreds then placed them back in the oven under the broiler for about a minute to get the vegan cheese as gooey as I could manage.

Then…dinner was served.

Given that this was my first attempt at the “neatballs,” I was quite happy with them.  As I said, I should have done a perfect swap for the Parmesan cheese with the nutritional yeast, but I didn’t want to overkill it.  My oven is old, so I set it a little higher in temp, and baked these for the full 18 minutes, instead of maybe just 15…so they were slightly dry, but the texture was very meaty and very dense, like a meatball should be.  I thought these were amazing in both the subs and the pasta I cooked up for the following work day.  While I might have overcooked them slightly, it didn’t make me dislike what emerged from the oven and saucepan.  I loved biting into a vegetarian meatball sub and having it feel like I was actually eating a sub.  That was a nice treat.  I loved forming these meatballs to cook, because it’s like making it yourself instead of pulling them from the freezer (for the record, I know of only 2 kinds of vegan/gluten-free meatballs…Franklin Farms (which I can’t find anymore) and Beyond Meat (which I haven’t found here) which are both kept in the fridge/freezer.  So, this was a bit more rustic and a bit more like you were putting in the work yourself to make the protein base for your meal.  It was messy, but quite fun and quite satisfying.

Let’s first delve into the nitty-gritty ingredients and nutrition of Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Italian Mix.  The Italian Mix version of Neat is made from pecans, garbanzo beans, organic whole grain gluten free oats, garlic, onion, sea salt, and spices.  So, where this is meat-free and dairy-free, and also gluten-free…it is NOT nut-free.  So, if you have a nut allergy…this product is not for you.

As for nutrition, a serving of Neat Italian Mix is 40 grams and each pouch contains 4 servings.  This serving will give you 190 calories, and 15 grams of fat (healthy fat as it is coming from beans and nuts), 1.5 grams saturated fat, 218 mg sodium, 12 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars, and 4 grams protein.  These meatballs will fill you up.  Seriously.  I really appreciate when a faux protein is made with filling, real foods that won’t leave me feeling hungry an hour or so later.  Trust me, that isn’t a problem with Neat.

I am so in love with the two mixes I have picked up from Neat – A Healthy Replacement to Meat.  I still have the Breakfast Mix and the Original Mix to try so I’ll be picking those up soon.  They also make an Egg Replacer as well, which I’d love to try.  So far, there isn’t anything bad I can say about Neat.  So, if you haven’t tried it and you, perhaps, have been missing your spaghetti and meatballs or meatball subs…you gotta try this!!  Order online if you can’t find it in your stores.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Spaghetti & Neatballs and Neatball Sub made with Neat - A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix

Spaghetti & Neatballs and Neatball Sub made with Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix

Product Review: Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Oat Bar

Bobo's Gluten Free Peach Oat Bar

Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Oat Bar

 Product: Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Oat Bar – $2.50+

Ever see one of those products that intrigues you…but you just can’t get up the nerve to purchase one to actually try it?  That is the relationship I have had for a few years with Bobo’s Oat Bars.  I spotted these first at my natural foods store, Rainbow Blossom, on an endcap.  Not all flavors are gluten-free, but there was quite a variety.  I really wanted to try one, and, for a gluten-free bar…the price isn’t so bad.  I just never could actually talk myself into it.

Lo and behold, my May (Is For Mom) 2015 Cuisine Cube brought Bobo’s Oat Bars to me, instead.  It was like a “if you build it, they will come,” moment, save more of a, “if you covet it, someone will send it to you.”  HA!

So, first let me recap for you what Cuisine Cube is all about, shall I?  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?!

In the May 2015 box, there were quite a few snacks/candies/sweets packed in.  It was the Mother’s Day cube, that’s how it should be.  And for the Breakfast/Snack option, the people at Cuisine Cube sent me a much coveted, highly anticipated, Bobo’s Gluten Free Oat Bar.  The flavor – peach.

Now, peach for me can be hit or miss, honestly.  You either get it right, or you get it wrong.  As a huge fan and connoisseur of peaches (fresh, tinned, frozen…you name it!), peach is one of those flavors that either wins me over or loses me.  So, peach was the risky flavor of bar to send from the gluten-free line, I think.  It’s not a common favorite, but, honestly, it is one of the most refreshing and summer-inducing flavors around.

Bobo’s Oat Bars was founded by Beryl Strafford in 2005.  This Boulder, Colorado, based business is still headquarted there today.  These bars are named after Strafford’s eldest daughter, who she has affectionately called “Bobo.”  These bars were developed out of a simple mother-daughter baking tradition, and soon grew to become a sought-after snack bar that are enjoyed by families, athletes, and healthy minded people everywhere.  Strafford wanted these bars to embody two of her highest values in life: being a mom, and living an active and healthy lifestyle.  Bobo’s Oat Bars are baked from scratch using only the finest organic ingredients, with no additives or artificial sweeteners.  These bars are not only convenient, but a wholesome snack choice that are convenient for the busy kids, students, athletes, and adults in life.  Not all of Bobo’s Oat Bars are gluten-free, but they have a core selection of flavors that are, including: peach, maple pecan, lemon poppyseed, chocolate almond, apple pie, and peanut butter and jelly.

Cuisine Cube shared probably the flavor I would have picked up last, due to my love-hate relationship with peach flavored items.  I am either going to love it or hate it.  And after 2 months of not quite getting around to trying the much-coveted Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Oat Bar, my roommate and I split it tonight as our dessert.

First of all, I loved the texture of this bar.  It was substantial, yes, but it was soft and chewy…like an elite granola bar of sorts.  The oats were stunning and each bite was chewy and wholesome.  I love that these are made with natural ingredients.  I love that very little sugar is in these bars.  I loved how 1/2 of this bar (which is the serving size) was filling enough to double as a meal.  Yes…I loved all of that.  What fell a little short for me, however, was the flavor.  When something declares that it is peach flavored, by the taste gods, bring me that bold, sweet, amazing peach flavor.  At the very edges of this bar, I found it to be very bland.  The center part, still bland, but had more of that peach flavor that I was hoping for.  At least the flavor didn’t taste fake…there just wasn’t enough of it there.  The Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Oat Bar was filling, for sure, but not all that flavorful.  A little bit of a let-down, but not enough to make me not want to try the other gluten-free flavors out there.

So, with that in mind, let’s discuss the ingredients that go into Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Oat Bars!  These bars are made from organic gluten free rolled oats, brown rice syrup (brown rice, filtered water), Earth Balance [natural oil blend (palm fruit, canola and olive oils), filtered water, pure salt, natural flavor (derived from corn, no MSG, no alcohol, no gluten), sunflower lecithin, lactic acid (non-dairy, derived from sugar beets) and colored with annatto extract], organic sucant (non-refined cane sugar), dried peaches, natural peach extract, and xanthan gum.  These bars are gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, and now certified kosher!

As for the nutrition facts of Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Oat Bars, these stats are pretty fantastic.  Do keep in mind, however, that each bar is 2 servings, so cut that baby in half and save the rest for another day.  One serving, or half of a bar, will provide you with 180 calories, 6 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, 28 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams dietary fiber, 10 grams sugars, and 3 grams of protein.  Is it any wonder with that low sugar, and the higher protein and fiber that this bar feats more like a meal than a snack?!  Fantastic.

So, the jury is still out for me.  While I wasn’t completely blown away by Bobo’s Gluten-Free Peach Oat Bars, I didn’t dislike them either.  In fact, the texture, chewy, yet substantial, was amazing.  I loved that.  I just wish it was more peachy, given theat it is the peach bar.  However, I’m not counting them out yet.  Next time I’m at my natural food store, I’m going to snag a different flavor and see if it smacks my taste buds around a little more.

For what it is worth, Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Oat Bar is a great, healthy snack or meal for the busy and on-the-go type of person.  It will leave you feeling full, and with it being made from natural ingredients, keep you feeling full.  Your body won’t burn right through this bar, as it would many protein, granola and/or snack bars out on the market.  The lower the sugar, the happier I am.

If not for Cuisine Cube, I don’t know if I ever would have convinced myself to purchase one of Bobo’s Gluten Free Oat Bars.  That being said, I’m glad that this was shipped to me so I could get a taste of what is out on the market, and what I love and might not love as much about new bars.  I’m a marathoner, I’m always looking for new fuel and recovery items.  This…is off to a good start.

Bobo's Gluten Free Peach Oat Bar (unwrapped)

Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Oat Bar (unwrapped)

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)