Life’s Too Short to Miss the Sweeter Things

Two fun facts about me:

1. I love eating healthy
2. I love sweets (especially chocolate)

What we have here, my friends, is a constant battle of sheer willpower.  But, the fact of the matter is…sometimes you just have to find a way to treat yourself.  Naturally, I stick to my necessary gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian lifestyle…however, this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy some of the finer things in life.

That being said, 2016 is a year of change for me.  I’m trying to improve myself, my body, my soul, my mindset…I’m trying to reach both long-term and short-term goals.  And part of that is definitely making certain tweaks to the diet.

I’m not saying I am cutting out sweets and desserts entirely.  That’s inhuman.  But, I am cutting back on them.  And once the current ones in the pantry are moved out…they aren’t coming back in.  I buy gluten-free…so I’m too cheap to just toss the stuff away.

That being said, I’m always game for trying new ways to make an indulgence healthier.  And awhile back, the amazing Lottie Bildirici, better known in the social media world as “Running on Veggies” posted about the treat she made for Kara Goucher (yes…THE Kara Goucher) when she was coming to NYC to run the NYC Marathon.  Kara chose blondies as her treat and Bildirici got to work researching and coming up with a recipe that would not only seem like a treat, but be made with real ingredients, nothing processed, and be healthy.  When the recipe posted, I was beyond intrigued.  Granted, my foray into baking using beans as a base resulted in brownies that tasted like black beans, so I did have my reservations going into this…but I decided to give it a try.

Blondies made without flour…and by using garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and dates as the sweetener.  Well…there was only one way to find out how this would turn out.  I hoped for the best, since Kara Goucher was a fan…but…hey…some things you have to try yourself.

So this was what I put into my food processor this past Sunday afternoon:

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Everything but the dairy-free dark chocolate chips, that is.  Any nut butter (or nut-free butter) will work, but I’m a huge fan, and an ambassador, for NuttZo…and it really is the best stuff on the market.  Find it.  Trust me…it’s worth the price!

After giving everything a whirl in the food processor, I was left with a light and fluffy fatter.  I folded in the chocolate chips, sprayed down some muffin tins and began to evenly distribute the batter into 24 muffin tins.

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After baking for around 40 minutes, I removed the pans from the oven and let everything sit, untouched for over an hour.  At that point, I moved everything to a sheet pan (carefully) and then into the freezer.  But not without trying one.

First of all, they don’t taste bean-y…and they don’t taste like dates either.  They actually taste like a decadent little dessert or muffin.  Especially when warmed up in the microwave for about 30 seconds or longer.  Although, I love them frozen too…but I’m weird like that.  These are an amazing treat and one that I don’t feel bad about eating because…it was made from real food.

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I know a lot of people look down on those who enjoy a treat every now and again…but the fact of the matter is…we’ve got it all wrong.  Not all calories are created equal.  Just like now not all carbohydrates and fats are either.  That’s the being said, I am a firm believer in counting nutrition, not calories.  And that’s what making something like this is all about.

And trust me…they are SO good.

If you want to give them a try…you can get the recipe here!  They are easy to make, and delicious.  Trust me…you’ll want to keep these on hand!  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack or dessert…these are truly a delicious and healthy treat.

Eat real food.  These treats are more like a healthy choice than an indulgence.  And what’s not to love about that?!

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Product Review: Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough

Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough

Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough

Product: Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough – $3.99+

My neighbors are awesome.  Let me just reiterate that fact now, if I haven’t said it enough in my previous blogs.

MY. NEIGHBORS. ARE. AWESOME.

I was downstairs having dinner with my amazing neighbors and friends on Sunday night (after a very entertaining game of cornhole), and we were just talking about anything and everything, as we very often do.  For awhile, they were trying out a gluten free and casein free diet for their young son, but it wasn’t making much of an impact…so they dropped off the wagon for now.  That being said, for a few weeks now, Michelle (that’s one of said neighbors) had been mentioning that Kroger now carried gluten-free and casein free cookies in the refrigerated section.  I am rarely over that way, so after feeding me delicious red lentils for dinner (they had bison burgers, but she made these AMAZING lentils for me and for others to use as a side), she was packing up leftovers.  They were keeping the remaining gluten-free and vegan corn pudding I made and she surprised me with a package of the very cookies she was talking about.

The Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough!

Immaculate Baking began with a cookie.  Now that’s the best start to any story, don’t you think?  Creator, Scott Blackwell used his garage to manifest a simple dream…to create perfect, mouth-watering, wholesome, homemade cookies that he could share with the world.  Today, that dream is becoming a reality.  Immaculate Baking offers cookies, sweet rolls, biscuits, pie crusts, and even…gluten-free cookies.  All products remain true to the company’s commitment to use simple and carefully-selected ingredients…so that every bite is packed with amazing, mouth-watering, crave-worthy flavor and texture.

I have had the Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough that is made by Immaculate Baking, and have to still give the Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookie Dough a try…but last night was all about chocolate.  My roommate was craving it and I never say no to a cookie or chocolate.  Two of my favorite things.  So, out of the refrigerator (after being in there less than 24 hours) and onto a baking sheet these went.  Yep…it is that easy.  These break and bake cookies are little balls of dough that you pull apart and then set on the baking sheet.  Place in a preheated 325°F oven for about 13-15 minutes and…at the end…you get an amazing, chocolatey-scented home…and fantastic little rounds of cookies.

Of course, the test is always with the taste.  And so, I dished one up to my roommate and one to me. One bite…one bite and I was in chocolate cookie heaven.  This reminded me, at first bite, fresh from the oven, of a warm pudding cake that I used to beg my mom to make for me.  Fantastic chocolate flavor.  Rich, chewy, and decadent.  These are an amazing, chewy bite of cookie.  Think about merging a dense, chewy brownie with a cookie…and that happy marriage is what this cookie is all about.  I was enamored with it.  I was lucky to hold myself to one.  That’s how good these are.  This is everything a cookie, gluten-free or not, should be.  I’m beyond impressed.

Let’s talk ingredients, shall we?  The Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough is made from palm fruit and canola oil, semisweet chocolate pieces (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla), powdered sugar (cane sugar, corn starch), potato starch, cane sugar, tapioca starch, rice flour, eggs, molasses, cocoa pressed with alkali, water, vanilla extract, xanthan gum, sea salt, guar gum and baking soda.  These cookies are certified gluten free.

As far as nutrition goes, the decadent Immaculate Baking Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough makes 12 cookies…and a serving size is 1 of these cookies.  This one cookie will provide you with 150 calories, 8 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 55 mg sodium, 19 grams carbohydrates, less than 1 gram fiber, 12 grams sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.  A sweet, not going to fill you up treat.

When a cookie that you don’t even have to dirty a bowl by mixing up a bunch of ingredients can spark memories and satisfy the biggest chocolate craving, you know something is amazing about them.  Immaculate Baking made a cookie that is for the serious chocoholic.  This cookie monster was beyond impressed…because it was everything I wanted in one perfect cookie.  And, with the chewy and fudgy texture, you’d never guess these were gluten free.

I’m in a chocolate cookie coma…and I’m happy there.  Join me!

Restaurant Review: Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Restaurant: Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Okay…technically this is not a restaurant.  There is no open seating, no tables, no hostess…none of that.  This is a bakery.  Not just any bakery though. This bakery has huge kitchen space to work out of, and in turn, offers up quite a lot of gluten-free goodies in their store.

Bake Me Happy was started by the lovely Wendy and Letha, committing themselves to making each and every bite that you have from their products the most decadent thing you’ve had since sliced bread.  Sliced bread, however, is not on their menu.  After being self-diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2006, Wendy immediately felt relieve from a life of digestive issues.  The only problem was…the gluten-free food choices available lacked flavor and texture, seriously limiting what she would be willing to consume (and who can blame her!?).  After many years of self-study, she decided to take the plunge and signed up for an immersion course at the Culinary Institute of America, experimenting with recipes and trying them out on unsuspecting friends.  Soon, both friends and family began requesting her treats for parties, and none of them were gluten intolerant.  From there, Wendy expanded and began offering her products to the public.  And from the huge response she got from her goodies…Bake Me Happy, the bakery, was born.  And because Wendy understands what it is like to have a food intolerance , you can guarantee that she takes great care and pride in the products that she puts out for the public.  Not only does she understand the importance of what she does, she also knows that a perfect recipe cannot be rushed and that the best things in life are worth waiting for.

Just over a month ago, I wrote up a review on Bake Me Happy’s Cream-Filled Spongies (think Twinkies), which I found in the freezer at Raisin Rack in Columbus, Ohio.  While they were…okay…they didn’t wow me.  And in response to my post about their product, the owners very kindly invited me to check out the bakery the next time I was in the Columbus area.  As one of my best friends lives in that area, I make the trip there numerous times a year.  And…this past Halloween weekend…that was where you found me.  And, I recalled their invite to check out what fresh goodness they had at their bakery, instead of a freezer at a natural foods store…so…that morning after breakfast, my friends and I journeyed over to their Merion Village retail location to check out what fresh goodies awaited.

First of all, I was completely blown away by the amount of space they had in there.  HUGE location.  I am so accustomed to my gluten free bakeries being little, tight spots that have a few seats and a small kitchen.  Not to say they don’t turn out quite a lot of products (Annie May’s Sweet Cafe and Cherbourg Bakery, I’m looking at you!), but this kitchen space was unbelievable.  You step inside and it’s just open and not congested, even if there is a line.  It was nice.  Their storefront contains a counter that was jammed full of fresh baked goodness, and a smaller fridge that kept items like their cheesecake bars and other dairy-based goodies chilled and fresh.  It was organized.  It was adorable.  And I already knew I wanted one of their soft t-shirts before I left.  HA!

Bake Me Happy's Gluten Free Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart, Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Bundt, and Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin

Bake Me Happy’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart, Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Bundt, and Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin

So, after going back and forth on a few items (I really wanted one of the huge Apple Dumplings, but the roomie, who I was splitting everything with, was less enthusiastic), we finally got our turn at the counter and we made our selections, keeping it reasonable and promising to return to try more.  So, four items.  It was hard to narrow it down.  In the end, we ended up going with a Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart, a Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin, a Lemon Blueberry Bundt, and (not pictured above because I devoured it on the car ride home) a Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Chip Scone.  In addition to that (and for a later blog) I purchased a box of their Take-And-Bake scones in the Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil flavor (roomie’s choice!).

So, let’s start with what I ended up eating first.  The (not pictured) Gluten Free Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Chip Scone ($3.50) sounded like a dream to me.  Like…a baked treat version of an Almond Joy.  Delicious, right?  Absolutely right!!  This is the first time I have had a gluten-free scone that lived up to the scone name.  I make scones, but none of them get the layers of pastry, and that flaky and crumbly texture to them.  This one had exactly that.  It was the most perfect scone I have had since going gluten free.  It had that hard outer layer and inside was a dry, crumbly, but not dense.  More biscuit-like.  I was in love.  And the blend of the sweet coconut and chocolate with the nuttiness of the almond made for more love and praise than I can even convey in words here.  Needless to say, the scone was devoured in record time.  And I loved every single bite.  I might have licked my fingers clean too.  You can get Bake Me Happy’s Gluten Free Scones in the following flavors: Almond, Coconut and Chocolate Chip; Ham, Cheese and Chives; Maple Cream, Bacon and White Cheddar; Blueberry, Goat Cheese and Basil; Jalapeño, Pepper Bacon and Pepper Jack Cheese; Apricot, White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut; and Dill, White Cheddar and Stone Ground Mustard.

As I visited the bakery on Halloween, they had quite a few Halloween themed treats.  One of these was the adorable Gluten Free Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart ($3.50 (I think…)).  I mean, come on…they are tarts that look like mummies.  Eyes and everything.  Bonus…pumpkin flavored.  YUM YUM!!  This was the first thing I ate the next day when I set out to devour half of each pastry (with my roommate, who is not gluten-free) consuming the other half and giving me her thoughts.  I loved, loved, LOVED the light and flaky pastry that these tarts are made from.  It reminded me of puff pastry…flaky, buttery, amazing, delicious, heavenly.  And the pumpkin cream cheese filler was the perfect amount.  Not too much.  Not heavy handed.  But just enough to make it feel like you were taking a bite out of an amazing pumpkin pie.  I was in pumpkin-everything heaven, let me tell you!!  So happy.  The first thing I said to Cathy when I took a bite was, “OH MY GOD THIS PASTRY!”  Blown away.  This was the first pastry crust that has actually impressed me since I’ve been gluten free.  Total win.  Totally want another one…or ten.

The Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Bundt ($4.50) was Cathy’s (the roomie) choice when it came to items that we selected.  She is a sucker (see what I did there?) for anything lemon.  So, I had a feeling when we were making our selections that she would go that route.  Next time I want a flippin’ apple dumpling.  Because I have never seen a gluten free apple dumpling before.  But…no matter.  The bundt cake was dense, but not heavy.  I loved how moist and sticky good this little cake was.  The blueberries brought a nice pop of sweetness.  Cathy didn’t think there was enough lemon flavor in it, but I thought it struck a nice balance.  The lemon was complimentary to the blueberry, not overpowering or underwhelming.  Just right.  I might have saved this for my last bite because, while dense, I found the texture quite light, airy, and amazing.  And I thought the flavor was above and beyond what I expected.  Crazy good.

And, last but not least, falling under the category that if it’s pumpkin I want to eat it…is the Gluten Free Pumpkin Donut Muffin ($3.00).  Strangely enough, this turned out to be Cathy’s favorite thing that we bought at Bake Me Happy.  I was shocked when she told me that.  But, quite honestly, this was one of the most perfect gluten-free donut anythings that I’ve had in a long time.  The texture was perfect.  Not too dense, but not too light either.  Perfect balance.  The flavor was AMAZING.  Seriously.  It was pumpkin, and it was rolled in this fantastic cinnamon sugar topping that made each bite both savory and sweet and I loved it.  I devoured each and every forkful.  And I wish I had bought more of them. Pumpkin flavored or their standard donut muffin, it wouldn’t matter.  This is the consistency of donuts that I’ve been searching for…for years now.  Nailed it.  And I loved it enough to lick the plate.  No joke.

I have to say…fresh beats a freezer any day and Bake Me Happy sure did impress me with their fresh, made right there in the bakery, treats.  There was so much to choose from and not enough room in my budget or stomach for all of it.  That being said, I happily am ready to bake up some scones this weekend.  And I can’t wait to add this place to my list of stops for every single time I visit Columbus, Ohio.  I was beyond impressed.  And the staff was so friendly and helpful.  I didn’t get to meet the owners, as they were at the Celiac Conference that was going on (and that I didn’t know about until Friday as I was traveling), so hopefully next time I will be able to talk them up some.

If you are in or around Columbus, make it a point to drop by Bake Me Happy.  Buy a shirt (they are SO SOFT!) and buy up their goodies.  You won’t be disappointed.  Not one bit.  They certainly changed my tune.  Fresh is best.  And why not get some great gluten-free treats fresh out of the kitchen of a place that loves to bake up happiness?

Recipe: Gluten-Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies

All you naysayers beware!!  Just because something is gluten free and dairy free does not immediately mean it will be flavorless or taste like cardboard.  I don’t know what cardboard tastes like since I’ve never had the urge to lick it or anything, but I promise you…this recipe will surpass all your expectations.

I was looking for a different sort of snickerdoodle treat to bake up for my amazing friends and neighbors downstairs.  They had a rough couple of weeks, but with things starting to turn around, I wanted to make something to celebrate.  That being said, I set out to bake up something snickerdoodle, that wasn’t necessarily the cookies themselves.  I still have to play around with my mom’s snickerdoodle cookie recipe and attempt to convert it to gluten and dairy free.

So…I found a recipe on The Cool York and changed it up to fit the diet they are starting out following, which just so happens to coincide with mine.  BONUS!!

Snickerdoodle Blondies…are life changing.

Recipe: Gluten Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Blondies

Servings: 16
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2-2/3 cups gluten-free baking flour (I used Mina’s Purely Divine Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (2 sticks) softened
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the butter & brown sugar in the mixing bowl and cream together.

Add in the 2 eggs until combined.

Add the baking powder to the mixture. Now, add in the flour.

Line a 9 x 13 baking sheet (or 8 x 8 if you prefer them thicker, like me) with parchment paper. Spread the batter over the pan.

Combine the white sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle generously over the batter.

Bake in the oven for 28-32 minutes (up to 40-45 min if using the 8 x 8 pan like I did).

Take out of the oven and let cool before serving!

Slice & enjoy

~*~*~

These blondies baked up light and soft and chewy and amazing.  Seriously.  I took half of the recipe and gave the rest to them.  I am beyond words with how well this worked out, honestly.  Totally delicious.  I especially loved the gooey and rich texture that these had.  I warmed mine up for about 20 seconds in the microwave and WOW!!  Just WOW!!  The original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of both sugar and cinnamon to top…but that was really heavy on the cinnamon.  So I reduced it to 1/3 of the amount and it was that perfect sweet/spicy level.  If you like snickerdoodles…you’re absolutely going to love these.  And…if you don’t have to eat gluten-free or dairy free…regular flour and butter can be used, of course.

I can’t wait to make these again.

Product Review: Dolci di Marie Gluten Free Classic Biscotti

Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti

Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti

Product: Dolci di Marie Gluten Free Classic Biscotti – $7.00

I love coffee.  I really do.  I wasn’t always that way, however.  Coffee came to me later in life.  I loved the smell and hated the taste…up until I became a barista.  Then…life sort of changed.  And not only, over time, did I develop a taste for coffee, but I now knew how to properly make it.

Sometimes, I like to spice up my mornings a little bit.  No…not by adding cayenne pepper to my scrambled eggs (although I have been known to do that, HA!)…

…I mean having a treat with my morning cup of coffee.  And one of my two favorite morning treats with coffee is a biscotti.  The other is my homemade madeleines…but I digress.

Well, it just so happened that my March 2015 Cuisine Cube had a container packed with biscotti for the “Breakfast” portion of the box.  YAY!

For those of you not familiar with Cuisine Cube…think about how awesome it would be to have lesser-known, smaller company, artisan gluten-free company products shipped straight to your door once a month.  Think of the joy opening said box would bring you and how trying new things entices you.  You get a product for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert.  And sometimes…you get a bonus.  Who doesn’t love a bonus?  If that got your heart pumping, that’s what Cuisine Cube is all about.  And, this subscription service is available for as low as $29.99/month.  Pretty awesome, yes?  You betcha.  So, if you’re curious and want to try something new and exciting and different…hop over to their site.

Because, sometimes, you get products in the box that are like Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti.  I mean, it’s a treat to have while you drink your wine, your coffee, your tea…whatever.  Have it any time of the day, but I like to go the classic route and dip my biscotti into my morning coffee.  It is love.  And who doesn’t love starting off their morning with a cookie, right?  Technically, I suppose a biscotti is consider a biscuit, twice baked so that it is extra dry and crunchy.  And if you’ve never had one…you’re totally missing out.

Dolci di Maria was created by Mari Tantillo, who created gluten-free and dairy-free desserts for her two young children who had food allergies and sensitivities.  She was urged by her friends to start selling her desserts because they were so delicious.  Dolci di Maria strives to create fine gluten and dairy-free desserts that strike a perfect balance with texture and taste.  Everything is baked fresh with natural and organic ingredients.  Even better…many of the products offered by Dolci di Maria are vegan.

So, with all of that being said, this week I decided to stop looking at the container of biscotti that came in my Cuisine Cube, and finally open it up and have one with my morning coffee (a delicious local blend, for those wondering).  Despite being a dry treat (they are meant to be dipped, after all), I always take my first taste without anything else.  That way I can judge what something tastes like and if I like it.  And…when it comes to the Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti…I like it…but I don’t love it.  It has nothing to do with the actual biscuit itself.  It actually has a great texture to it…and it holds up to the coffee dunking, that I do religiously when I get gluten-free biscotti in my clutches.  So that was the part that I was okay with.  The part I wasn’t okay with, when it came to the Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti…was the overwhelming licorice flavor.  I hate licorice.  And this biscotti definitely had a heavy taste of it.  I inspected the ingredient list on the bottom of the package and discovered the use of anise.  That will do it.  It was just…too much for me.  I think I was hoping for something with more vanilla flavor than the anise.  It didn’t go well with my coffee…nor did my tastebuds really enjoy the licorice flavor.  A little bit of anise goes a long way…and in this batch…it took it too far.  The biscotti itself is great…the flavor just didn’t work for me, and that’s more of a personal preference than anything else.

So, let’s talk about the ingredients that are in the Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti, shall we?  These classic Italian treats are made from brown rice flour, pure cane sugar, cage-free eggs, potato starch, tapioca starch, Earth Balance™, baking powder, xanthan gum, anise and vanilla extract, and sea salt.

The nutrition information for the Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti is very nice though.  You don’t feel so bad treating yourself at breakfast to a crispy Italian biscuit when you look at these stats.  A serving is 1 of the biscotti, which will give you 65 calories and 2 grams of fat.  You will be consuming 73 mg cholesterol, 102 mg sodium, 2 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, and 8 grams of carbohydrates.  These have no fiber.

If you don’t mind the flavor of anise (or that licorice-like flavor) than you will probably love everything about the Dolci di Maria Gluten Free Classic Biscotti.  For me, the texture was great…it was perfect for dipping, but the anise flavor just overpowered the rest of the biscuit and, for someone like me who dislikes licorice, it was a bit too much.  That being said, now that I know I can find Dolci di Maria products at my Lucky’s Market in Louisville, Kentucky (discovered that via the Web site), I am curious to try other products as she has brownies, pancakes and other flavors of biscotti to see if I like them better.

At least I got a morning treat in my Cuisine Cube this month.  The Dolci di Maria may not have enticed my taste buds, but I now know to look for other products in my area that might play nicer with my palate.

Product Review: North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble – Double Chocolate Brownie + Heath Bar Crunch Blondie

North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble - Double Chocolate Brownie and Heath Bar Blondie

North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble – Double Chocolate Brownie + Heath Bar Blondie

Product Review: North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble – Double Chocolate Brownie + Heath Bar Crunch Blondie – $8.50+

Double your pleasure.  Double your fun.  Double your dessert.

Trust me…that is not a complaint.

I was surprised with my Holiday 2014 (December) Cuisine Cube when I found two amazing desserts inside.  Even better…two of my favorite things for dessert.  Cookies (which I’ll nosh and blog about later) and brownies.  Not just one brownie…but two brownies.  Pardon me whilst I drool a little.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, back in March I signed up for a fantastic gluten-free food delivery program called Cuisine Cube.  Each month, I am sent a box of 5-6 different gluten-free products from smaller and lesser-known gluten-free companies.  Some…are just from local bakeries…much like the product I am eating today.  Cuisine Cube is a fantastic way to broaden your gluten-free culinary and foodie horizons, because, honestly, I never would have even known any of these products existed for the most part.  New to me…and I’m loving it.  I have already vowed to hit the Stock Up page on Cuisine Cube’s site more than once to get more of a product that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dessert x 2 this month.  As it should be with the holidays.  Hey…I’m a runner and I work out.  Dessert is not an option; it’s a way of life.  I was raised having dessert every night after dinner…and that tradition carries over even now when I am on my own.  It’s the best way to wrap up the day.  A little treat at the end.

So, the first dessert I reached for was the one that came with two options.  Yes.  I am talking about North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble.  Why “Double Trouble?”  Well…inside this little unassuming bag are two decadent looking dessert bats.  Yes.  North Brooklyn Eats included a Heath Bar Crunch Blondie and a Double Chocolate Brownie.

Before I discuss the dessert bars themselves, let’s discuss North Brooklyn Eats for a moment.  The local small town bakery is dedicated to making homemade confections that are gluten-free and “don’t suck.” (I pulled that right off the little info thing online!)  It is run by two brothers, Josh and Michael Kimberg out of Beacon, NY, in the Hudson Valley.  It is the goal of these two brothers to change everyone’s perception of gluten-free dessert.  They specialize in gluten-free cakes and muffins, but, obviously, have other baked goods to offer as well, but desserts are their forte.

And yes…they are knocking it out of the park.  A simple Double Trouble Home Run!!

As I believe in everything in moderation, including dessert (even if my sweet tooth says otherwise), I only ate one dessert bar at a time.  And I split each one with my roommate (who is not a Celiac and doesn’t have to eat gluten-free).  We started with (because I deemed it so) the Heath Bar Crunch Blondie.

The only thing I did to this blondie was that I gave it a quick warm up in the microwave.  Desserts are always better when warm (when it comes to things like brownies, bars and cookies).  It smelled absolutely fantastic when I removed it from the microwave.  I got a knife and sliced through the blondie.  Immediately I liked what I could see.  The edges had this nice crispy border to them (my favorite part of any brownie!) and the inside was soft and chewy.  I gave half to my roommate (Cathy), and kept the other half for me to devour.  I tucked in under my snuggie (Hey…it’s cold here!) and dove in.

Holy dessert gods!!  I have always loved brownies and enjoyed blondies.  This blondie was definitely done up very well.  The North Brooklyn eats Heath Bar Crunch Blondie tastes like…a Heath Bar…but in a more rich and decadent form.  It’s like a sweet snack transformed into a delicious dessert.  And I loved it.  The blondie was baked to perfection, golden and speckled with toffee and chocolate goodness.  It was a nice play of flavors on the taste buds for sure.  I was just casually eating each little forkful, until I just had to pick it up and shove it in my face.  Well, maybe not so barbarian and brutishly…but I did give up on the fork method as just getting my fingers on this treat was a necessary pleasure.  It was moist and crumbly and just perfect.  If heaven were a brownie…it would be a blondie!  THIS particular blondie!!

The North Brooklyn Eats Double Chocolate Brownie was up the next night.  Meaning…it was totally scarfed up tonight.  HA!  If you love chocolate…you will totally love this.  This brownie…think cake-like, not fudgy, is a rich, chocolatey, delicious treat from the first bite to the last.  I love that it isn’t overly sweet.  It hits all the right notes. The brownie itself is light and soft in the middle, not heavy and dense.  I love that.  It makes me feel like I can eat more!  The edges had that fantastic crunch to them, but inside was all chocolate and all business.  Chocolate brownies with chocolate chips.  Yeah…you can’t go wrong with that.  Insanely good!  Double insanely good.

As this is a product from a local bakery in the New York City area…there isn’t any information as to what ingredients they use or the nutrition information.  But…they are brownies and blondies…assume it’s a treat.  If you’re anything like me…you can split it with a friend or loved one.  All the taste, half the guilty pleasure…er…guilt.

Two nights, two desserts, two fantastic dessert bars…all brought to me by the awesome people at Cuisine Cube…as well as the master bakers at North Brooklyn Eats.  I’m still dreaming of dessert.  If you want the best of both dessert bar worlds…opt for North Brooklyn Eats Double Trouble – Double Chocolate Brownie + Heath Bar Crunch Blondie.  Enjoy every last bite!  And then…go buy more.

Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest – Indianapolis, Indiana – August 23, 2014

GF Jules and me at the Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest in Indianapolis, Indiana!

GF Jules and me at the Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest in Indianapolis, Indiana!

This past Saturday, I had the honor of being able to attend the Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest up in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I love going to gluten-free expos and events and Indianapolis seems to always have one at some point during any calendar year.  This year was no exception, and I was thrilled to read about the new location for this year’s event – the Indian State Fairgrounds.  With all the vendors and exhibitors I saw listed, I knew this year’s event was going to be HUGE! I was not let down at all.One of the magazines I currently subscribe to, Gluten Free & More (formerly Living Without), was putting on the Living Without Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest in various cities this year as a way to show those with food allergies and/or sensitivities that we can live life without deprivation and missing out on delicious food.  It was a coming together of the magazine, as well as over a hundred of their favorite exhibitors to celebrate living well.  And it was open to anyone who wanted to stop in.

Tickets went on sale and, as a subscriber, I received a free entry, and then received a discount code for another ticket…so I had Cathy taken care of as well.  So, on Saturday morning, we ate a light breakfast before climbing into the car and hauling up to Indianapolis.  We timed it perfectly because we burned through our breakfast just as we got up there, about 30 minutes after it officially opened.

And…there was already a line waiting to get in.

Oh…that made me happy, indeed.

It was a hot summer day already and standing outside in the blazing sun didn’t sound like too much fun…but it wasn’t going to be a long wait.  Just about 5 minutes, at the most.  And while standing in line, I got to listen to people who have done expos like this before (like me) describe the events and how things work to the first timers.  I even got to geek out over favorite products and the like for a few moments.  I love making gluten-free friends!

Before we knew it, we were inside the doors, in the air conditioning, and getting the tickets scanned.  We were given blue wristbands to wear (for re-entry purposes and to show we paid!).  Cathy and I put them on and headed into the expo proper.  We were greeted at the door by people passing out reusable shopping bags from Glutino (a personal favorite!).  Perfect for all the samples and products you are bound to pick up and buy.

Trust me, you don’t walk out of these events empty-handed.

Cathy and I decided that we were going to be systematic about our approach to each table/vendor/aisle.  We’d start on one side and then work our way up, then come back down the other side.  This was a good plan in theory, and we decided to start in the middle aisle to avoid the congestion of the end aisles.  We soon found out…no matter what…it was just hopping and congested.  People were surrounding tables, getting free samples, trying products, trying local baked goods, and the like.  So, we ditched our original systematic plan for the…let’s just see what there is and wriggle into open areas when we can.

We’re pros.  HA!

That being said, we began our Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest at the Glutino/Udi’s/Earth Balance booth, which was giving out samples of Udi’s Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Cashew Cookies as well as Glutino’s Gluten-Free Multigrain English Muffins, schmeared with Earth Balance Creamy Coconut and Peanut Spread.  It was all crazy, crazy delicious.  I actually have the Glutino English Muffins in my freezer, I just haven’t tried them yet. Now…I know buying them wasn’t a mistake at all.  They were delicious.  And that Earth Balance Creamy Coconut and Peanut Spread…out-of-this-world good!

And from there…it only got better.  We made a point to stop by each vendor’s table and talk to them about their products, if we had tried them.  If we hadn’t…we would ask all about them.  I made a point of raving to the Pamela’s Product people about the Figgies & Jammies.  Because they are awesome and worthy of praise.  I talked to the Hodgson Mills representative and when I mentioned being a food blogger he said to reach out to the Hodgson Mills team anytime.  I was told the same thing by various other vendors as well.  And one local vendor who was selling the most amazing bar-b-que sauce and seasoning (which we purchased) said to tag her on Facebook when I use their products so they can read my blog.  I was having a great time.

I think, though, the best moment had to come at the Freedom Foods table.  Because, as many of you are aware, Freedom Foods only makes my favorite gluten-free cereal, Tropic-O’s.  NOM NOM!  I can’t find this cereal here anymore, since my Whole Foods stopped carrying it, so my parents ship it to me from Birmingham, Alabama.  We have a system down.  But, recently, they put out a gluten-free, dairy-free, and not-free version of Nutella…which I fell in love with.  My local Kroger is the only place that had it…and I bought the last jar of it a few weeks ago.  It has never been restocked.  So…I stocked up on some Quinoa Pancake Mix, lots of “Smudge” (that’s the Nutella stuff!), and a few other products to try, all the time raving about how much I love their products and how they honestly care about what ingredients go into all of their stuff.  It didn’t hurt that the guy at the table had a New Zealand/Australian accent.  HELLO!  I actually ended up going back to the table before leaving that day and buying 4 more jars of Smudge.  I hadn’t opened the one I had at home for fear I would never find it again.  Now…it’s on!

I was able to sample some of the best gluten-free Snickerdoodles I have ever eaten.  And this pasta that was made from lentils that tasted exactly like regular pasta…but I couldn’t afford the hefty price tag on it.  Unfortunately.  It was nice to sample it, however.  At the very back of the building, for those over 21, was the gluten-free cider/beer tasting area.  There was so much food and samples…so I was glad we ate light.  And Cathy and I have a system down…where we split a sample so we aren’t filling up on our own.  It always works at these events.

However, I have to say the greatest moment ever was when I finally got to meet GF Jules in person. GF Jules (formerly Jules Gluten Free) was one of the first Celiac/Gluten-Free bloggers/recipe makers/amazing people I started to follow on social media after my diagnosis.  While I have been to events where she has been present, I have never been able to actually meet her.  That changed.  We discovered that we were food allergy soul sisters, both of us being vegetarian Celiacs who also can’t handle dairy.  Go figure.  She was so nice and just so easy to talk with.  I picked up one of her cookbooks, which she signed, and she was kind enough to take a picture with me.  I might have geeked out a little bit.  Or a lot.  You know how it goes…

And soon, after a couple hours of tasting, testing, buying, talking, and exploring, our time at the expo drew to a close.  We were going to meet our friend, Greg, for lunch that day, so we bid adieu to the fantastic event and made our way out to the car.

This event was probably the best one I have attended so far.  Great people, great vendors, great information all around.  And I came home with samples and products to try in the very near future.  Can’t argue with that, right?  Right!

I hope they return next year.  I’m already making plans to attend.  If one of these events happens near you…I definitely encourage you to go!