Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagels

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagel

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

The ultimate test of anything…is to test the standard.  In the case of bagels…PLAIN.  It doesn’t get any easier or normal than the every day, run-of-the-mill plain bagel.  And, as one of the four flavors that Annie May’s Sweet Cafe now offers…Plain is, as it should be, one of them.

I have previously blogged about the Everything Bagels and the Onion Bagels.  So, if you missed those…check them out.

Bagels, to this former New Yorker…are the ultimate food.  Breakfast…lunch…dinner.  I could eat them all day.  First of all…MMMM…CARBS.  Second of all, for the most part, they are pretty versatile.  You can eat them with Earth Balance, or Cream Cheese, make them into a sandwich…or a pizza…

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That’s the great thing about bagels.  ESPECIALLY…Plain Bagels.  It’s like staring down a blank canvas.  You can go sweet or savory with it…and that’s why they are magical.  And wonderful.

And, when you get one of the NEW Plain Bagels at Annie May’s Sweet Cafe…you are also getting one that is Top 9 Allergen Free.  How about that?!  So before any further discussion…let me reiterate one little thing…

Annie May’s bagels are not pre-cut.  Never fear…this is nothing that a good serrated knife can’t fix.  Slicing a bagel isn’t hard.  Make sure, if you’re starting from frozen, thaw the bagels out and then slice through them.  As a pro bagel slicer…start where the bagel is a little bit thinner and slice through that end first.  It makes for a much cleaner and even cut.  Pro tip!

Now…let’s dig in…

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The plain bagel is the simplest of pleasures when it comes to the bagel.  You can’t go wrong with it.  But it has to be made well.  That’s the one caveat I have.  Call me a bagel snob if you must…but a bagel must not just look like a bagel…but taste like a bagel.  And if you can’t do a simple plain bagel…well…just stop trying to make them.

Annie May is fantastic when it comes to the products she serves because if she doesn’t like it or if she isn’t happy with it…it’s not going in the bakery case or freezer or up on the Web site for order.  Talk about good quality control.  As a consumer, I appreciate that as it means I am guaranteed a tried and true product.  YAY!

I eat breakfast at work…because it keeps me from snacking so much if I have a later breakfast.  Seriously, I used to have 3 snacks a day…so shifting meals worked for me.  I have to take a few precautionary measures to ensure I still eat safely…but I’ve manged so far.  My office has a toaster oven in the kitchen and I bring my own aluminum foil to use since I avoid the communal toaster completely, because…well…cross-contamination.

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As was true with the Everything Bagel and the Onion Bagel…the Plain Bagel toasted up to a golden perfection.  I could tell as I pulled the foil that cradled these little babies from the toaster oven that they weren’t going to disappoint.  The outside toasted up to get a little crispy…and the surface got that gorgeous golden color and crispy…but it still had the fluffy, chewy middle, which is definitely what makes a bagel so…incredible.  It’s not just bread…it’s so much more than bread.

As a traditionalist, I schmeared this bagel with the new Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese.  I love Kite Hill because it has a whipped texture, but packs amazing traditional flavor.  It is almond milk based, so if nuts, specifically almonds, are a problem…try other options on the market.  Thankfully, we live in a time where the market is inundated with dairy-free products so there are numerous options to fit your dietary needs.  And…if dairy isn’t an issue for you or if you aren’t vegan…well…grab yourself some of that Philadelphia Cream Cheese and go to town.  But…it’s Kite Hill in my home.  Because YUMMY!

So now that we’re properly dressed…let’s take a bite, shall we?

Sometimes bagels can just feel heavy.  These are perfect.  Just the right amount of bread to get you to that right level of fullness.  These toasted up beautifully.  If you have had the chance to taste and partake of Annie May’s dinner rolls, sandwich buns or soft pretzels…these are very reminiscent of those.  And Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, to this day, has my heart when it comes to gluten free (and vegan) breads!  The same is holding true with their new bagels.  Plain bagels…they are simple…but delightful and perfect to fit whatever you’re feeling when it comes to breakfast.  OR…make it a sandwich.  If you’re not a vegan, put an egg in between it with some greens.  Or…top it with marinara and vegan mozzarella cheese shreds.  Bagel pizzas really are life.

Plain bagels can satisfy any desire or crave…and these are no exception.  I probably ate mine way too fast…but I was enamored with it.  I was dreaming up other ways to eat them…rather than the standard way.  Why not?  I do my best thinking when I’m eating delicious food!  If you haven’t gotten yourself around to purchasing these bagels…get on it.  Now.

And, remember, if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But, I highly encourage you…get the bagels!

As I stated before, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.  I think they are currently offering them in-house on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So, you may want to call ahead and make sure they have them.  But…you can just go and hope for the best.  If nothing else, you’ll walk out of there with something tasty.

Stay tuned…because next week…I will delve into their sweeter version of their bagels…the Cinnamon Sugar.  But…today…it’s all about plain.  But there is nothing ordinary about these.  They are definitely extraordinary.

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagels schmeared with Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagel

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

Remember last week when I shared that Annie May’s Sweet Cafe is now making bagels?  You know…bagels that are Top 9 Allergen Free?  Remember?  You should, because I did an extensive review of one of the four flavors that they offer – the Everything Bagel.

I’ve mentioned numerous times that I grew up in New York, so the bagel was a breakfast staple in my home.  And when I was diagnosed with Celiac…it took forever to find a bagel that actually felt like a bagel to me.  It’s been a long journey.  And while some have exceeded the bar, others have fallen short.

Well, those didn’t last long in my freezer, so today I prepped the Onion Bagel for a try.

For those of you who haven’t tried one yet or didn’t make note…Annie May’s bagels are not pre-cut.  Never fear…this is nothing that a good serrated knife can’t fix.  Slicing a bagel isn’t hard.  Make sure, if you’re starting from frozen, thaw the bagels out and then slice through them.  As a pro bagel slicer…start where the bagel is a little bit thinner and slice through that end first.  It makes for a much cleaner and even cut.  Pro tip!

Now…let’s dig in…

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I used to hate onion.  Hate it.  Until I was a teenager and I realized that the bite actually brought great flavor to thing.  Guess my pallet turned on around the age of 13.  But after that, my life was filled with onion.  Onions aren’t for everyone…but I am a believer in the power of the onion.

And the power of the bagel.

Especially an onion bagel!

So, per the usual routine…this morning I sliced the bagel I thawed in half and brought it to work with me.  I bring my own aluminum foil and use the toaster oven (not the toaster) to avoid cross-contamination.  So…these toast in the toaster oven in the kitchen.  It also makes the office smell really good anytime I toast up bagels in there.  Especially flavored bagels.  Mmmm.  (No joke…I just had three people walk into the kitchen while I was waiting for them to finish and commented on how good they smelled and warned me not to turn my back!)

Once toasted…cream cheese had to happen.  A proper bagel has a healthy schmear of cream cheese or Earth Balance (or butter if you aren’t dairy-free).

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Actually, Scully, it was VEGAN cream cheese.  I really like Kite Hill because it has SUCh good flavor and is almost whipped in texture.  Love a light (get it) and airy texture to my cream cheese.  Not traditional, I know…but when you can’t do dairy…you do vegan cream cheese.  Kite Hill is by far the best, but it is made from almond milk…so if you can’t do almonds…you must find a different path.  But there are lots of options out there these days!

I happen to have (and love) the new Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese.  It’s delightful.

Okay now.  Settle in.  Take a deep breath.  Savor the aroma….and then take a bite.

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LOTS of flavor!  The onion is there, but it won’t overpower the bagel itself.  It’s got just enough punch to let you know that it’s there, but not enough to make you reach for the breath mint afterwards.  I loved how well these bagels toasted up…browning up on the outside and on the sliced part…but remaining soft and chewy in the center.  It made it the perfect vehicle for the cream cheese.  Sometime bagels fall apart when you go to schmear them.  Not these.  Let me tell you, I also love the way the onion is incorporated, because it didn’t burn in the toaster oven and become bitter.  It toasted and became sweet and savory all at once.  Simply delicious.  Down to the last bite.

Remember, if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But, I highly encourage you…get the bagels!

As I stated before, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.  I think they are currently offering them in-house on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So, you may want to call ahead and make sure they have them.  But…you can just go and hope for the best.  If nothing else, you’ll walk out of there with something tasty.

Onion bagels…you’re my jam.  Or my cream cheese.  Or my breakfast.

Annie May’s Sweet Cafe continues to make my gluten-free world a happier and more local place!

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels schmeared with Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese

Quick Thoughts From the Week

It was a long, holiday weekend.  YAY!!  And, as is usual for me over the 4th of July…I was out of town.  At a convention.  In Indianapolis.  Now, normally when I am up in Indy for this convention, my Saturday morning is spent running the Monon Trail.  It’s gorgeous.  Seriously.  I always look forward to it.  The past few years (last year I wasn’t able to run at all at this point), I have managed to get out there for my long run of 10-12 or so miles.

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But, this past weekend, Saturday’s Monon Trail run wasn’t happening…

MEH.

SO…on Saturday morning, I was down in the fitness center at 6 am…and on a treadmill to do 12 miles that morning.  I started easy and worked up a ladder to a comfortable speed and then took it back down.  It was mind numbing, despite the music (and to think, I almost left my iPod in my room).  But, my training run was done.

And if that wasn’t enough punishment, I got up on Sunday morning to do my shakeout run.  I decided to do an easy run for an hour…getting 7.36 miles in during that time.

I was feeling it Saturday and I really felt it Sunday.  I hate running on treadmills.  They seem to do more damage to me than road running does.  I was sore through Wednesday, honestly.  I don’t know how people do long distances on these things on a regular basis.  My body couldn’t handle it!

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My runs have been suffering since those treadmill runs.  The hip was not mad…but not happy either.  MEH.  Not enough foam rolling in the world.  Of course…the epic humidity with air so thick you could cut it with a knife…isn’t helping either.

But, despite the humidity and the fatigue from late nights, I’ve been keeping up with my training runs.  Which…is impressive for me.  It’s not been easy to get out of bed to just go outside and melt…but…

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…I’ve been getting it done.  It hasn’t been pretty…and I’m not always happy with the results on my Garmin, but I’m doing what my body is currently capable of…so, there is that.

OH…and this past week, I got to play around with recipes that I created.  I made 6 different recipes…2 pasta dishes, a fusion pizza, a rice dish, a sandwich, and a dessert.  I was quite proud of the results…all based off of Peter Cincotti’s recently released EP, Exit 105.  Check out these images of the completed dishes…

 

Top (L-R): Island Spell Pizza (song: Palermo) – Jerk seasoned tofu, topped with onion, bell pepper, pineapple, cheddar cheese, and a Jamaican jerk coleslaw; Missing Sara Sammie (song: What’s Sara Doing?) – sammie layered with sweet potato, hummus, avocado (or guacamole), and kale; Unexpected Beat Tagliatelle (song: Long Way From Home) – tagliatelle pasta in a bechemel sauce and topped with shredded beets, goat cheese, parsley, toasted pine nuts, and toasted bread crumbs

Botton (L-R): Roamin’ Skies Pasta (song: Roman Skies) – my take on the traditional Roman dish – Cacio e Pepe – pasta mixed with butter, black pepper, Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses; Exit 105 Rice-A-Roni (Album Title: Exit 105) – my version of the San Francisco Treat (after all, Exit 105 takes you to the Golden Gate Bridge)…and it has been dubbed my “best rice dish in the history of ever”; Sexy on the Beach Ice Cream (song: Sexy) – a vegan ice cream made from coconut cream, pureed raspberries, pureed pineapple, chambord and vodka…just like the drink Sex on the Beach…

I love getting chefy.

So, aside from a little bit of work stress…that’s what’s going on thus far.  Stay tuned as this weekend is going to be amazing.  I can tell.

Product Review: Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto

Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto Pasta Meal

Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto Pasta Meal

Product: Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto – $3.29+

You know…it was because I was told that the liveGfree Gluten Free Tortillas at Aldi wouldn’t fall apart and crumble on me (which was false…they did…and I was sad) that I ended up back at my Aldi to grab some gluten-free goods.  Just the tortillas…that was the plan.

But you know how quickly plans fall apart when gluten free products/food are involved.

While standing in line with one item, I spotted the infamous liveGfree box colors on some discounted sale items.  There were three different types of pastas sitting there…discounted…looking for a happy pantry to belong to.  I thought about just skipping that.  I’m trying to move things out, not bring more in, but they were discounted to $1.99…so I grabbed one of each flavor.

With this being an odd week with half days and holidays…my usual meal planning is thrown a bit off.  When I’m not going to be here, batch cooking that much just doesn’t make sense.  So, I pick and choose and then fill in.  So, when my roommate said to just throw together a pasta or something for a lunch on Monday, that’s exactly what I decided to do.

I knew we had these boxes of Aldi lifeGfree Gluten Free Pasta Meals in my pantry, so I gave her the choice of flavors…(all of which will be reviewed here…so watch this space)…and she decided to start with the Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto Pasta Meal.

Cooking this up is super easy.  Simply throw 1-1/4 cup water into a pan and bring it to a boil.  Once there, pour the noodles and seasoning mix into the water.  Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for about 7-9 minutes.  Stir it occasionally, and continue to cook until the water is completely absorbed.  That’s it.  It’s ready to eat.

Well, here is the downside.  A box contains only 1-1/2 servings.  Yes…one and a half servings.  I don’t know where the logic is with that, but after I had this cooked up and split it between my roommate and I…there was hardly anything in our lunch bowls.  So, I reached into my freezer and pulled out the Beyond Meat Gluten Free and Vegan Italian Meatballs, cooking up some of those to add to the dish to bulk it up and make it bigger than just a side dish.  So, please be aware…1-1/2 servings per container.  If there is more than 1-1/2 of you eating…plan accordingly.

Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pasta Meal  (cooked) with Beyond Meat Vegan and Gluten Free Italian Meatballs

Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pasta Meal (cooked) with Beyond Meat Vegan and Gluten Free Italian Meatballs

At lunch today, I retrieved the Pyrex containers with the pasta and “meatballs” in it and popped each one in the microwave to heat.  Once heated all the way through…lunch was ready to go.  I do love a no-hassle, fuss-free, easy lunch to prepare at work when the kitchen can get quite chaotic with everyone fighting for counter space and the microwave.

I settled in at  my desk, gave it a sprinkle of red pepper flakes (because I like it hot, LOL!) and dug in.

First of all, I was very impressed with the way the pasta held up, not just in the cooking process, but also in the reheating. It didn’t fall apart or get gummy.  So, that’s a huge plus.  I loved the seasoning that was cooked down over the noodles.  A blend of basil and spinach, mixed with a touch of garlic and Parmesan.  So, yeah…not exactly dairy-free, eh?  I didn’t notice that when I bought it…but…it was all I had for lunch.  I’m not allergic to dairy…just highly intolerant to lactose.  So, I just hoped for the best.  Very full of flavor…which surprised me.  I never expect much from boxed pasta meals, but this one was actually very delicious.  I am, however, quite happy that I opted to include the vegan meatballs to bulk it out.  It also added to the depth of flavor of the dish.  For a pasta meal that I spent under $2 to purchase…this was the happy surprise of the week.  Didn’t see that one coming.

Let’s discuss the ingredients that go into Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto Pasta Meal, shall we?  This boxed meal is made from gluten free pasta (corn flour, rice flour), process cheese food in powder [cheese blend (pasteurized milk, salt, cheese cultures, enzymes), whey powder, salt, sodium citrate, disodium phosphate], cream powder (cream, milk), natural flavor, potato starch, parmigano reggiano cheese (milk, salt, rennet), dehydrated spinach, dehydrated basil, salt, garlic powder, and turmeric powder.  This pasta meal is gluten free and wheat free.

Now that we know what goes into Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto Pasta Meal, let’s look at the nutrition ingredients.  A serving size of this product is 2/3 cup (or 3/4 cup prepared), and there are 1.5 servings fer container.  One serving will provide you with 250 calories, 6 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 570 mg sodium, 42 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 4 grams sugars, and 8 grams protein.  If you were to eat the entire box yourself, you would only be consuming 375 calories in total.  Which, really isn’t too bad.  I just think that Aldi should either round it down to 1 serving or up to 2 servings, because this half serving really annoyed me, if you couldn’t tell.

I wasn’t expecting much from this Aldi meal, but, once again, Aldi surprised me.  I should have trusted them a little more.  If you can get your hands on the Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Pasta Meal’s…it’s a cheap and delicious way to have something on hand for when you don’t really have time or energy to cook something else up.

Check your local Aldi…and pick some up.

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels – $7.25

Breakfast.  Breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day…but the most versatile and best meal…in the history of ever.

Anything can be breakfast, honestly.  There was a time when a cold slap of pizza would carry me through my morning classes to lunch time.  That was a very long time ago.  Back when a container of spaghetti was fair game for brekkies.

That being said, I have always been a fan of “real” breakfast food.  Seriously.  Breakfast has always been the most magical and wonderful meal of the day.  My mom made it a point to cook a hot breakfast for myself and my two siblings every morning before sending is off to school.  It was always something different…nothing fancy…but just what we needed.

We were also that family that would eat pancakes for dinner.  Or scrambled eggs.  Maybe waffles or French toast.  Yep…breakfast has always been one of my favorite things in the history of ever.

So, you can only imagine how my mind was blown when the Crazy Bagelers at Sweet Note Bakery put together the ultimate fusion of ultimate breakfast favorites.  Bagels (because…New Yorker here!)…and French toast.

YES…introducing the ONLINE EXCLUSIVE Gluten Free French Toast Bagel.

FRENCH. TOAST. BAGEL.

Let those three words sink in for just one moment…

…one epic moment.

Because this, my friends, is epic breakfast food.  Bagel fusion at its finest, for real!  Imagine, if you will, the most perfect, dense, chewy, amazing New York-style bagel.  Now…imagine if it tasted like maple syrup and dreams.  Can you imagine it?  If not, you’re in luck…because this heavenly breakfast food is available through Sweet Note Bakery’s online store.

It’s Friday…and I was out of the vegan and gluten-free pumpkin pancakes I made earlier in the week.  I asked my roommate if bagels were okay in the morning.  She agreed.  So, as is my typical Friday morning…I did my core work, my physical therapy exercises, and all that before heading to my 5:30 am spin class.  Upon my return, I turned on the oven, greeted the roomie who was on the couch, ready for the freshly brewed coffee.  She got a nice warm cup of coffee and I pulled the last package of Sweet Note Bakery bagels out of my freezer (don’t worry…four new packages that I ordered came in today).  It was the (amazing sounding) Gluten Free French Toast Bagels.  I set out to my usual perfect thawing method…heat for 30 seconds on side, flip over, heat for another 30 seconds.  Let sit for about 30 seconds…slice…toast in oven.  It’s simple…and this has been the best way to not get harder parts on the bagel when you thaw them in the microwave.  My microwave is ancient…but it came with the apartment…so maybe that just happens with my caveman microwave…but this helps even out the heat and allows the bagel to get to that right level of softness to make the knife slip right through.  I placed them on a baking sheet, stuffed them in the oven, and went to take a shower.  15 minutes later, I was out of the shower, dressed, and pulling these amazing smelling bagels out of the oven.  Seriously…it smelled like…like warm maple syrup and pancakes.  But like toasty bagels too.

Before leaving for spin, I pulled the Daiya Vegan Cream Cheese out of the fridge and measured out two servings.  Then, I sifted in a bit of confectioners sugar and drizzled in a bit of maple syrup.  I whipped it all together and put it back in the fridge to chill.  This is what got spread over each half of the Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels.  To finish it off in true chefy fashion, each half got a small additional drizzle of pure maple syrup.  I walked out a bagel to my roommate, schmeared with my special cream cheese and set her to feasting.  I went back to prepare my own…ready to dive in because I was H-U-N-G-R-Y.  And these smelled A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

As I was preparing to grab my own cup of coffee and settle in on the couch to watch some of the news before heading to work, I asked her what she thought.  She was chewing…and didn’t actually answer me.  I asked her later on and she said, “I don’t know where the French Toast part came from, but they were tasty.”  I explained that the French Toast part of the name probably comes from the cinnamon and maple flavor that infuse the bagel and rests atop it too.  Finger-licking-good!

Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels with a schmear of Vegan Sweet Maple Cream Cheese and Coffee!!

Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels with a schmear of Vegan Sweet Maple Cream Cheese and Coffee!!

So, here is my more thorough take on the Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels.  Do you love a breakfast that you can pour maple syrup over and devour?  Do you like French Toast?  Do you like bagels?  Texture-wise…the Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels taste like…a bagel.  But the sugar-y, maple-infused top and bagel itself, with that little brush of cinnamon flavor…definitely makes you think of French Toast.  Without that weird egg-y flavor/texture that you can sometimes get.  It’s, honestly, the perfect fusion of two of the most amazing breakfast foods.  I loved the little hint of spice that the cinnamon adds, and the sugary sprinkle on top was a very nice touch.  That maple flavor is key, though, making it taste like pancakes and bagels and French toast and breakfast.  All the breakfast.  I think the sweetness that the confectioners sugar added to the cream cheese made for the perfect topping for this breakfast treat.  I mean, powdered sugar and French Toast go together like…pancakes and syrup.  The maple syrup that was stirred in added to that French Toast appeal.  And yeah…I had to remind myself to slow down and savor my breakfast instead of just gobbling it down mindlessly because it tasted so amazing.  That perfect golden toasted crust and that soft and chewy dense center…ah…so good.  So very good…and reminiscent of the bagels I could eat back before the Celiac diagnosis.  Seriously, no one would guess these were gluten-free if they were just given one to eat.

So, what exactly goes into this breakfast nosh of dueling breakfast treats?  Well, I can tell you!  The Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels are made from love (yep…that’s an actual ingredient), water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, sugar, cane syrup, molasses, maple syrup, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla extract.  As with all other Sweet Note Bakery bagels, the French Toast variety is gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free. And breakfast heaven.

As far as nutritional information goes, these bagels have all the basics covered.  A serving of the Sweet Note Gluten Free French Toast Bagels is 4.5 ounces (128 grams), or one (1) bagel.  This bagel will serve you up 310 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 65 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 14 grams sugar, and 4 grams protein.  Due to the higher fiber and protein, these will leave you feeling full all the way through lunch.  I know the sugars seem a bit high, but it’s a French Toast bagel.  There’s going to be sugar.  Worth it.

Okay…so if you still haven’t tried Sweet Note Gluten Free Bagels…what are you waiting for?  I have reviewed every single one of them…so look up the tag “Bagels” on my site and look them over.  Seriously…you need these in your life.  Whether you have to eat gluten-free or not, these taste amazing and are the most authentic gluten free bagels I have ever eaten.  The first time I ate one, I had to double-check the package to make sure they were seriously gluten free.  Small, dense, and NY-style all the way…you’ll love every bite of the French Toast bagels…or any of the other varieties.

Hop over to their Web site and check them out.  Just…trust me!

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Unicorn Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Unicorn Bagel

Sweet Note Gluten Free Unicorn Bagel

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Unicorn Bagels – $9.99

You didn’t think they existed…but they do.  You thought they were a myth…but they are not.  Yes…the infamous Rainbow Bagel gets a gluten-free makeover thanks to the crazy bagelers at Sweet Note Bakery.

God, I love them!

Just before…and I mean…right before…as in DAYS before I went to New York City back in March, the big article about the Rainbow Bagel that The Bagel Store in NYC was offering hit the mass media…and it was…insane.  I felt a little pang of judgement (okay…okay…resentment) because I, myself, could not have one.  And they looked so, so pretty!  And delicious.  Pretty delicious too!

So, my bagel experience in NYC was left up to the gluten free offerings at Tompkins Square Bagels…which was fine…but it wasn’t a true NY-style bagel…and it just didn’t seem perfect to me.  And…the Rainbow Bagel was out there.  Sometimes schmeared with birthday cake cream cheese.

Life wasn’t fair.

But then the rain lifted and the sun came out, and the amazing ladies over at Sweet Note Bakery said, “You know what?  Celiacs shouldn’t have to miss out on tasting the rainbow.  Skittles got nothing on us.”  And so, a little while after my return from NYC…I saw a prototype of their own rainbow bagel on their Instagram feed.

And I coveted it.  I said if they put it out on the market, I’d buy it.  I needed it.  No, I wanted it!  They had asked if people would be interested in buying it…and that they were going to look into more natural food dyes as well (although their first attempt was with natural food dye and it baked out)…before offering it on the Web site.  I immediately chimed in with my calm, cool and collected, “I would buy them”…which…the more times the Rainbow Bagel appeared on their feed…the more this became…”OMG I NEED THESE IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW!”

Well, last week…it happened.  They aren’t using natural food dies yet…but those crazy baglers have made their version of the Rainbow Bagel…called the Unicorn Bagel (don’t you love it??!) available as an Online Exclusive purchase in their store.  So…yes…for now, you can only order these online.

So…I threw more money at these wonderful people and put in my order.

Here’s the thing…I have been a collector of unicorn things since I was a child.  No joke.  Then, when I became a runner and qualified for the Boston Marathon…unicorns returned to the forefront of my obsessions.  So…you give me a swirly breakfast bread of wonderment in fun colors and call it a “Unicorn Bagel”…my money is coming at you and these are finding a way into my life.  No doubt about it.  And that, my friends, is how I wound up with the new Unicorn Bagel in my freezer…which lasted all but 15 hours before they were out and being thawed in the microwave and toasted in my oven.

It’s important.  Because…NEW GLUTEN FREE BAGEL.  Because…COLORS!  Because…UNICORN.  And because it’s a RACE WEEKEND.  So the unicorn theme should be good luck, yes?  Good omen, yes?  Oh…I hope so.

I think I’ve told you enough about Sweet Note Bakery…their origins and the like in all the past blogs I’ve done about them.  If you are just now tuning in…you can read about their history here.  If you want to know why size always matters, especially in certain important matters like…bagel size…read all about it here.  Seriously…if you want authentic New York-style bagels…that are both vegan and gluten-free…NOTHING beats Sweet Note Bakery!  Their bagels are phenomenal.  Feel free to go back to all the past entries (and I still have 1 more of their new flavors to review!) and see what every flavor is like.  Trust me…I grew up in New York.  Bagels and I are BFFs.

Just really quickly though, I will revisit the proper way (or at least the best way) to evenly thaw out the frozen bagels.  DO NOT thaw these on the counter.  It’s easy.  It only takes 60 seconds out of your daily routine.  Simply place a bagel on a plate and place in the microwave. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds.  Then, flip the bagel completely over and turn it about 180°. Microwave for another 30 seconds.  Let it sit for a few seconds and then slice in half.  Place each half in a toaster oven or on a baking sheet and in the oven and let it toast up for about 15-20 minutes.  This is normally about the time I leave the kitchen to shower and let my roommate make sure that if she smells smoke to shut off the oven.  But I’m always done before anything gets burned.

Sweet Note Gluten Free Unicorn Bagel with a schmear of Kite Hill vegan cream cheese and rainbow sprinkles

Sweet Note Gluten Free Unicorn Bagel with a schmear of Kite Hill vegan cream cheese and rainbow sprinkles

I can’t even begin to tell you how giddy these bagels made me.  Seriously. They were swirly and rainbow-y and just plain fun!  I pulled them out of the oven when they reached that perfect level of toasty.  I mean…perfect crispy outer crust with the dense and chewy dough in the middle.  Bagel perfection.  I gave each half a schmear of vegan cream cheese from Kite Hill.  And then, because, I’m eating the rainbow here…I gave the cream cheese a smattering of rainbow sprinkles.

DUH!  You can’t eat a Unicorn Bagel without rainbow sprinkles.  And with that…breakfast was served.

Who doesn’t love fun food, right?  The more fun, the more exciting breakfast is.  I loved eating a colorful breakfast.  They say to eat the rainbow…well…they may not have had a Unicorn Bagel in mind when they said that…but…I successfully ate the rainbow today.  HAHA!  And it was tasty.  I get it…it’s a plain bagel with all the dressings of a sparkly soul, but it somehow makes it fabulous, you know?  It tasted sweet, but I don’t know how much of that was the bagel and how much of that was the little sprinkles of rainbow goodness I topped the cream cheese with.  Nevertheless…this bagel is made of complete awesomeness.  You can top it off without whatever floats your boat.  Frosting would have been pretty epic.  I mean, you’re devouring a breakfast bread that is dyed to every amazing color in the color spectrum…have frosting and sprinkless…or whatever…whatever makes you feel like a kid at heart.  Or a Boston Marathoner.  Or a lover of unicorns.  Or just…a lover of bagels.  Or rainbows. Or all of the above.

So, let’s discuss what goes into each of the Sweet Note Gluten Free Unicorn Bagels.  Each bagel is made from love (because all rainbow-type food is made with love…and unicorn tears), water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flower, sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, salt, food coloring (red 40, red 3, yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 1, blue 1, titanium dioxide, modified corn starch, vegetable gum, citric acid, and less than 1/10 of 1% sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate).  They are still experimenting with natural food dyes that won’t fade…and I have every faith that they will find something that works.  But…for now…if food dyes don’t bother you, these are totally epic and worth a try.  As always when it comes to Sweet Note’s bagels, these bagels are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free.  Made with love, indeed!!

As far as nutrition goes for the Sweet Note Gluten Free Unicorn Bagels…well…here are the magical facts.  A serving size is one (1) bagel, which is about 4.5 oz (128 grams).  There are 4 servings per package.  Each bagel will deliver 280 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 60 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams sugars, and 4 grams protein.  The mythical morning hunger pangs remained at bay…this was delicious and filling.  Loving the rainbow.

Breakfast should be fun.  After all, it is the most important meal of the day.  You might as well color it up, top it off, and eat it with a smile.  That’s the magic that is inside the Unicorn Bagels.  They are simple…but simply wonderful.  Just because you have to eat gluten-free doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun bagels for breakfast.  Sweet Note Bakery is taking the standard bagel and making it for the gluten-free and vegan bagel lovers.  No limits.  No boundaries.  Anything goes.  Like rainbow unicorn bagels.  The Unicorn Bagel will totally win you over.

Maybe it will make me run faster.

Maybe.

I’ll go for my run…and you go ahead and run over to the Sweet Note Bakery online store and purchase a pack or five of the Gluten Free Unicorn Bagel!

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagel

Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagel

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels – $9.99

To a former New Yorker…love is a good gluten-free bagel.  And when I say good, I mean that it has to actually be NY-style bagel quality.  For the longest time, this is exactly what every single gluten-free bagel I tried wasn’t.  Not to say the big corporation names that have placed gluten-free bagels in the freezers of grocery stores and natural food stores didn’t put out a quality product.  In fact, I’ve been smitten by both Udi’s Gluten Free Bagels and the Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Bagels (EVERY. SINGLE. VARIETY).  But then…

…the ultimate gluten-free bagel tweeted its way into my life.  This is not a joke.  It literally tweeted its way into my life.

I’m talking about Sweet Note Bakery and their amazing, gluten-free, vegan, delicious NY-style bagels!  Sweet Note saw my link to my blog on the Canyon Bakehouse bagels and challenged me to try their bagels.  While I was hesitant at first, I finally decided that it was actually worth a try.  Their Web site intrigued me.  The bagels looked phenomenal…and they made traditional NY-style bagels.  Not these giant monstrosities the other gluten-free bagel manufacturers were producing…but dense, thick, and perfect NY-style bagels.  Size does matter when it comes to bagels.  An authentic bagel should be about 3 inches in diameter, have a crunchy crust and a chewy, dense center.  And this…this is what Sweet Note recreated to perfection.

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.

And she did…and now she’s delivering these bagels, one step at a time, to the gluten-free (and even the non-gluten-free community).  Seriously, purchasing (and continuing to purchase so that my freezer is never without bagels) bagels from Sweet Note was one of the best gluten-free food decisions I have made…in the history of ever!

I know that I recently reported on the latest four flavors (three of which were online exclusive), but Sweet Note has been busy prepping new flavors and have released three more!!  YES!!  And, for the record…YES…I bought them.  Like…the day that they were announced.  I am not ashamed.  I proudly wave my gluten-free bagel lovin’ flag.  A happy freezer contains a package of some sort of Sweet Note’s amazing bagels.

Well, the three new flavors are actually quite playful and fun.  They introduced the French Toast Bagel, the Sunrise Swirl Bagel, and the Unicorn Bagel (aka: Rainbow Bagel).  My Unicorn Bagels are on the way, but the freezer has been happily cradling my packages of the French Toast Bagel and Sunrise Swirl Bagel…up until yesterday when breakfast rolled around.

I came home from spin class that morning and asked my roommate, who had emerged from her room and was shambling toward the couch, which bagel she’d like to try today.  I won’t lie…I also have the Tomato Basil in the freezer…as they make amazing Bagel Pizzas.  HA!  She immediately said, “Sunrise Swirl.”  Okay…it might have been sort of sleepily slurred (she hadn’t had coffee yet), but I pulled out the bagels that were beautifully swirled with reds and oranges and yellows and set about the usual prep on a Sweet Note Bagel.

My current thawing method seems to be perfect.  So, you can always give this a go too, because I expect you to order at least ONE variety of their bagels.  You won’t be disappointed.  Anyway…my currrent method for perfect defrosting in the microwave…30 seconds on one side, then flip it over for another 30 seconds.  Let it sit for a moment and then slice in half.  If you’re not into toasting (like a true New Yorker), then go ahead and schmear this bagel up with whatever goodness you like.  If you are a true New Yorker (or not) but love a toasted bagel (like me!)…toast it up.  If you have a toaster…go to town.  If you, like me, don’t own a toaster, simply put these beauties on a baking sheet and into an oven heated to 350°F for about 15-20 minutes.  I left them to toast while I showered and changed…and emerged in enough time to get my breakfast chef skills on.

An Egg & "Cheese" Bagel Sammie made with the Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels

An Egg & “Cheese” Bagel Sammie made with the Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels

Deciding to do something a little different, I (*GASP*) skipped the cream cheese schmearing this particular morning and instead, dug out my little egg pan and cracked an egg into it, frying it to perfection.  While the egg was working, I pulled some Daiya Cheddar-Style Slices out of the fridge and placed them on the bottom half of the bagels as they finished up their toasting time in the oven.  This gave the cheese some time to melt (as well as vegan cheese melts).  Afterwards, I placed fried eggs on each bagel and topped it off with the top half.  Breakfast sammies…DONE!

Even better…gorgeous breakfast sammies at that.  The colors were amazing and bright and just…beautiful in the Sunrise Swirl Bagels.  What makes that even better is that the colors (that smattering of sunshine) are added naturally to their original plain bagel recipe by using spices such as paprika, annatto, and turmeric.  Yep.  No fake chemicals, dyes, or bad stuff.  Don’t you love it?

Needless to say…the bagels are not only colorful and uplifting to your spirit on an early morning…but they taste good too.  This was the first time I stuck a fried egg between a Sweet Note bagel…but it certainly won’t be the last.  The Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels taste like an ordinary bagel, but they are extraordinary.  You’ll love how it will perk up your breakfast, whether you schmear it with butter, cream cheese, jam, nut butter…whatever floats your breakfast boat, right?  OR…go ahead and use it as a vehicle for a fried egg, or some (vegan) bacon or (vegan) sausage…layer it with (vegan) mayo and stick some tomato and greens in there.  The gorgeously swirled carb-loaded disk of goodness is your canvas…so accessorize it however you want.

Let’s discuss what goes into Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels, shall we?  These bagels are made from love (yep…actual ingredient that is…and one that makes ALL the difference), water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, salt, paprika coloring, annatto coloring, and turmeric coloring.  As with all of Sweet Note’s bagel offerings, these are completely gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free.

As for nutritional information, Sweet Note really stacks up when it comes to fueling and providing for your body.  These stats are equal to if not better than standard bagels out on the market.  A serving size of the Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels is 4.5 ounces (128 grams) and there are four (4) servings per package.  One bagel will provide you with 290 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 170 mg potassium, 62 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 5 grams of protein.  The higher protein and fiber definitely helps keep you feeling full throughout the day.

Here’s something all those big corporation gluten-free bagel producers aren’t doing…they aren’t stepping outside of the box when it comes to bagels.  But Sweet Note is not only thinking outside the box, but they are stepping up and really taking charge of the gluten-free bagel market out there.  Where else will you be able to find a gluten-free bagel that is gorgeously swirled with colors…no where.  While they do offer the standards as well, Sweet Note has really stepped up and created bagels that you normally could only get in a glutenous form at a bagel shop, probably in New York City.  The Sunrise Swirl Bagel is a definite example of that.  And it is not only a joy to look at, but also to eat.  It will brighten up your morning for sure.

The Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagel is an Online Exclusive offering, so hop on over to their Bagel Shop and place and order ASAP.  While you’re at it, try out a few of their other flavors, standard, or artisan…it doesn’t matter.  I swear, you won’t be disappointed.

Restaurant Review: Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

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Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

Restaurant: Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida

I am a foodie.  Hard to believe with all my food allergies and intolerance…and the fact that I am a vegetarian…that this is a true statement.  But I LOVE food.  I love to eat food.  I love to enjoy food.  And I love to cook food.  I love to share food.  Food is love.  And, as an athlete, food is also fuel.

I am on a nice vacation at the moment, enjoying myself and my time away from the stresses of life.  And, as is the way me and my traveling compatriots do vacations…we work in one nice meal out.  And, as we were enjoying some time at Universal Studios today, we opted to eat on the Universal Studios Citywalk…at Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando.

Now, I have loved Emeril Lagasse for a long time.  He is, not only, one of the most recognizable and quotable chef’s (“BAM!”)…he is just awesome.  His food is simple, pure, cajun goodness!!  He is pure Louisiana.  And that’s what we went there for.

We were in for a treat.  White tablecloths.  Chairs were pulled out for us.  Napkins were dropped into our laps.  I sort of felt under dressed with my roller-coaster windblown hair and my Wonder Woman t-shirt.  But, none of the staff minded.  We were greeted soon after by our waiter for the night…which was actually going to be three people seeing to us.  Our waiters were amazing and funny and extremely helpful.  We were given the menu to look over and I mentioned that I was a gluten free vegetarian…and after some witty bantering…he pointed out the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day (which changes from day to day) and explained to me that it was a noodless lasagna…where the chef layers squash, zucchini, eggplant and roasted red peppers, all seasoned with amazing herbs, and makes them into the noodles.  They could even make it vegan for me.  They let us peruse the menu and I noticed the special as well being a Roasted Cauliflower in a tomato broth with crispy kale that sounded SO good.  I needed to ask about it being gluten free.  Cathy had settled on the Grilled Double Cut Pork Chop and Jenn said she was getting the Shrimp and Grits (I had a feeling all the veggies would be tossed aside…LOL!).  But then, after checking with the chef about the gluten-free status of the cauliflower special (it was), and answering Jenn’s question as to what an étouffée was (all the veggies)…he went on to say that the Shrimp and Grits was the best dish on the menu.  So…Jenn was sold.  He also went on to say that the other dishes he considers the best served there were the Scallops and the Short Rib.

So now Cathy was undecided.  And I still was torn between the special and the menu special.  Both were special.  LOL!  But…both were different enough that I knew that I couldn’t get them anywhere else.  So, once Cathy decided on the Scallops instead, I was still torn.  And my dinner buddies weren’t making the decision any easier.  Back to our waiter for his opinion…and with his help, I opted for the Vegan version of the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day.  This meant none of the cheese or alfredo would be added to the dish.  Gluten free and vegan vegetable goodness.

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Emeril’s Cast Iron Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Bacon Jam

As we were going to have a little wait while our food was prepared, Jenn and Cathy decided they were going to split an appetizer.  They ordered the Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Bacon Jam ($8.00).  The cornbread looked fantastic.  They said it was light and fluffy and just soft and amazing.  Cathy was a big, big, big fan of the Bacon Jam (pork belly cooked in butter with brown sugar and reduced).  Jenn said she could take it or leave it…but the honey butter at the bottom was just soaking into the bread.  I thought it was just…awesome looking.  But, alas, so not something I could eat.

Before too long, our entrees were being served.  They had Cathy and Jenn’s backwards, but that was easily fixed.  The plates were changed out and we were ready to dive in.

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Emeril’s Shrimp + Grits

Jenn ordered the Shrimp + Grits, which was Louisiana shrimp, étouffée, Anson Mills rice grits, and local cherry tomatoes ($30.00).  She said the shrimp was nailed to the perfect cook.  The grits were smooth and creamy.  I looked at them.  I thought it was rice at first…with all the cheese.  Much of the étouffée was cast aside, as she is not a cooked vegetable person, but the rest of it was devoured.  I really do think it was a 1/1 ratio of cheese to grits…but it looked awesome.  Her only qualm…the tails were left on the shrimp.  It’s kind of hard to be classy in a nice restaurant when you have to use your fingers to remove the tails.

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Emeril’s Blackened Diver Scallops

Cathy went with the Blackened Diver Scallops, which was served with a Creamy Corn Moque Choux, Wilted Greens, and Local Tomato Jam ($32.00).  It looked GORGEOUS!!  The corn sauce fascinated her.  She said it was almost like a corn chowder.  The greens were cooked perfectly.  They weren’t mushy or overly done.  She said the tomato jam was sweet and paired beautifully with everything.  But the star…the scallops.  They were tender and buttery and had a perfect sear.  She said they were the best scallops she ever had.

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Emeril’s Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day – Noodleless Lasagna (tightly stacked slices of eggplant, zucchini, squash and roasted red pepper) with a marinara sauce and greens

So…my perfectly gluten-free and vegan dish is now up.  As I stated, I ordered the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day ($23.00).  This was a noodleless lasagna, where the noodles were stacked slices of eggplant, zucchini, squash, and roasted red pepper.  The seasonings were crazy good.  And all of this was topped off with an amazingly rich marinara and greens.  I could hardly make out the noodles, and I didn’t want to destroy the dish to get a picture.  So, trust me…there are tightly stacked veggies under there.  OMG.  The tomato sauce, for starters, was killer.  Just mouth watering, savory, amazing flavor.  The vegetables were cooked perfectly…not limp and wet, but perfect, with still a little crisp to them, but tender to bite into.  Almost like real noodles.  I didn’t miss the cheese or the heavy Alfredo.  This was pure perfection.  Why go back to noodles when you can do this to have lasagna?!  Seriously…so glad the waiter talked me into this one.  I was one happy girl.

And while we were all rather full from dinner…we decided we had to do dinner.  The waiter had tempted me with a Flourless (and Gluten Free) Chocolate Torte earlier that evening.  And I had been on the fence.  He did deliver dessert menus to us, to let the Cathy and Jenn choose what they might want to have…and then said the sorbets (strawberry lemonade, coconut, and passionfruit tonight) were another option for me.

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Emeril’s Flourless Decadent Chocolate Torte with Butter Pecan Sauce

In the end, we decided to split the Flourless Decadent Chocolate Torte with a Butter Pecan Sauce ($10.00) between the three of us.  I am so glad we did.  While the slice of torte isn’t as huge as say, a slice of Emeril’s famous Banana Cream Pie…it was rich.  Smooth, perfect, rich, creamy, amazing, sinful, decadent, chocolatey goodness.  Pure sinful goodness in each bite.  And that butter pecan sauce…oh yeah…that just tied it all together.  Cathy and Jenn split the whipped cream.  I ate the strawberry.  This…was a perfect end to a perfect meal.

I was beyond impressed with the service, setting, and food that we received at Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando.  They were so good at working with me and my dietary needs.  Didn’t even bat an eye.  Immediately knew what to ask about and explained to me what I could eat and what was delicious.  Our waiter was awesome.  He made me laugh, he made me feel so good about the food that was going to be made for me, and he even helped me make a decision on my dinner that night.

If only more restaurants turned out a meal and an experience like this one did.  Emeril is an amazing chef…and his restaurant didn’t let me down.  This was a meal I will be talking about for a very long time.

Restaurant Review: Toasted, Orlando, Florida

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Toasted, Orlando, Florida

Restaurant: Toasted, Orlando, Florida

Sometimes I find food places to try in the most peculiar and unexpected places.  As I was prepping to head out to Orlando, I was sitting on my couch at home, scrolling through my Instagram feed…when I spotted an amazing looking photo on #NationalGrilledCheeseDay from someone that I follow on there.

And it just happened to be in Orlando.

And it also just happened to feature grilled cheese and…FRIES.

Fries.  I rarely get to eat fries when I go out to eat.  And it’s potato.  And potato is one of my favorite things in life.  So, naturally, I had to check them out.

The place was called Toasted.  And I suddenly needed to know more…like…was there more than just gluten free fries that I could eat there?  Like…did they have…vegan cheese??!!  Was it possible??!!

I went to Toasted’s Web site..and lo and behold…they had a regular menu, a vegan menu, and a gluten free menu…and they were all interchangeable.  They even have a gluten-free vegan burger if I wanted to do burger rather than sandwich.  And as tempting as a burger was…GRILLED CHEESE!  Hello!!

I was handed the gluten free menu first and was looking it over…and when I asked about vegan options, I was handed that menu as well.  And the first thing that caught my eye was a sandwich that involved all the spicy goodness that I love.  Sriracha, jalapeno, and then…random tomatoes.  Mmmm.  That was easy.

So, my traveling brigade and I decided to get our orders in because we had been on the go pretty much all day (since downing bagels from Erin McKenna’s at Disney Springs around 10 am.

Jenn ordered the Truffle Melt ($6.25), which is a sammie made from Havarti, truffle oil, arugula, and fresh ground pepper.  Mmmm…cheese-y goodness.  She got the Truffle Fries ($2.50) as her side.

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The As Gouda As It Gets with Rosemary Truffle Fries from Toasted, Orlando, Florida

Cathy ordered the As Gouda As It Gets ($6.75), which is a sammie made with Smoked Gouda, pulled chicken, roasted red peppers, and garlic spinach.  She also got the Truffle Fries ($2.50) as her side.

As for me…as I said…I saw some spicy goodness listed on the vegan menu.  So, I ordered the Vegan Fireball ($5.75) done Gluten Free (+1.25).  This was gluten free bread with Housemade Vegan Cheese with jalapeno, sriracha, and tomato.  And I went for broke and ordered the Vegan Truffle Cheese Fries ($3.50)…which was a happy accident, as I really just wanted the Truffle Fries.  Oh well.

We were given one of the signs, which contained a code from their Periodic Table of Cheese.  We had Gr (Gruyere).  It was a short weight…long enough to listen to a woman having a loud conversation on her cell phone and discuss how excited we were about dinner.  Maybe about 10 minutes later, our food arrived.  This was when I realized I had somehow got the Vegan Truffle Cheese Fries.  Like I said…happy accident.  I was ready to dive in.  I needed to slice my sandwich in half and it made for a gooey (yes…GOOEY VEGAN CHEESE!) sandwich mess.  And I loved it.  Usually vegan cheese doesn’t melt to the point of epic gooeyness.  This one…this one did!  God bless amazing housemade vegan cheese.

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The Gluten Free Vegan Fireball Sandwich with Vegan Truffle Cheese Fries from Toasted, Orlando, Florida

One bite…and I no longer want Tom + Chee or….well…that’s really the only place I’ve been able to have a gluten free and vegan grilled cheese.  And they don’t get gooey runny vegan cheese in theirs.  THIS WAS LIFE CHANGING!!  I loved that it was spicy, without being too spicy.  It had a nice balance with the warm, melty, messy cheese (YAY!), the jalapeno slices, the cooling tomato, and just the right hit of sriracha.  SO good.  I was seriously dredging the crusts of the bread through the cheese puddle on my plate.  And the fries…oh…those were good.  I was sort of disappointed at first because I’m such a huge fan of ketchup, but the vegan cheese was delicious with the truffle and rosemary flavors.  The only downside…was when the cheese got a bit cool.  Nevertheless, despite saying I wouldn’t be able to eat them all…I did.  Happily.

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Look at the GOOEY vegan cheese in the Gluten Free Vegan Fireball from Toasted, Orlando, Florida

Cathy loved the fries…and thought they were amazing.  She liked her sandwich, but despite being a fan of Gouda, she felt the sandwich needed a stronger cheese to pair with the boldness of the garlic spinach.  But she LOVED it. She also stole some of my Vegan Truffle Cheese Fries and thought the vegan cheese was awesome.  Nice smokey flavor.

Jenn gives two thumbs up to her sandwich and fries.  Wouldn’t change a thing.  We all just hoovered and loved every moment of our culinary sandwich and fries.

Yeah…Toasted is just that good.  It’s simple, easy, but crafted and amazing grilled cheese sandwiches.  If you aren’t into sandwiches (and if not…what is wrong with you) they have burger options (also available gluten-free and vegan), salads, amazing side dishes, and even a kids menu.

If you are going through Orlando, Florida…not doing the whole Disney thing where you pretty much just stay on Disney property and don’t leave until you are forced to go to the airport…check out Toasted!  They have two locations in Orlando – Winter Park and Lake Nona.

Seriously, I’d go back to eat here in a heartbeat.  When you give me one of my favorite comfort foods and do it up beyond my expectations…you have my full and undivided attention.  Toasted…thank you!  I am one happy gluten-free, dairy-free girl!

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels – $7.25

I.  LOVE. BAGELS.

I come by it honestly.  As I’ve stated before, I was raised in New York.  New York is the birthplace of the bagel, I’m pretty certain.  New York is the land of these carby rounds of delicious bread-y goodness.  I have loved them for as long as I can remember being alive.  And that’s a damn long time.

One of the hardest things for me when I was diagnosed with Celiac was to say goodbye to my bagels.  Sure, there were plenty of gluten-free versions out there…but nothing like a classic New York bagel.  Some were small like a doughnut.  Some were light and fluffy.  Some were just…wrong.  All wrong.  Some were close or came close…close enough at least in flavor.  But what I truly missed was that dense, small round that was schmeared with some variety of cream cheese and devoured while on-the-go or at the table or wherever.

That is…until Sweet Note Bakery found me.

Yes…they found me.  Through Twitter.  And they told me I needed to try their bagels.  I shrugged it off the first time, but they came back…and so…I decided to blindly place an order.

It was the best decision of my life.

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.

And today…until they release a new flavor or put that Gluten Free Rainbow Bagel up in their online store…I devoured the last of their four (4) new flavors they released earlier last month.  Hey…new bagels means I get out my credit card and buy, buy, buy.  With all that being said, I sense that it’s time to place a new order.  I don’t like my freezer to be empty of these.  It’s nice to have some on hand.  So, the four flavors that they released were Tomato Basil, Garlic & Herbs, Salt and Garlic.

Today…was all about Garlic!

I grew up in a family of garlic lovers.  Perhaps that’s why we always seem to carry mints with us.  Like…all of us.  HAHA!  Anyway, if my mom was making garlic bread…it was butter and garlic for days.  Just heaped on there.  And we loved it that way.  There is no such thing as too much garlic.  So…garlic bagels…right up my alley.

I was both excited and sad to return from spin class this morning and pull the last package of bagels out of my freezer.  Sweet Note…be forewarned…an order is coming your way.  *cough*  Anyway…

GARLIC!!

ALL THE GARLIC!!  These bagels have a nice coating of garlic right on top of it, so be cautious of the bagels beneath the one you are removing…and be sure to leave some garlic on them.  Mine pulled apart just fine, without stealing any of the garlic-y goodness. I used my current method for perfect defrosting in the microwave…30 seconds on one side, then flip it over for another 30 seconds.  Let it sit for a moment and then slice in half.  If you’re not into toasting (like a true New Yorker), then go ahead and schmear this bagel up with whatever goodness you like.  If you are a true New Yorker (or not) but love a toasted bagel (like me!)…toast it up.  If you have a toaster…go to town.  If you, like me, don’t own a toaster, simply put these beauties on a baking sheet and into an oven heated to 350°F for about 15-20 minutes.  Since my roomie was awake at this point, I went to shower while our breakfast was toasting up.  By the time I was dressed and out of the bathroom…it was time to pull them out.

The apartment smelled SO GOOD!!  I was practically drooling as I pulled the pan out of the oven and then schmeared some vegan cream cheese over the tops of each half.  I served one bagel to my (gluten-eating) roommate and I took the other one.  And grabbed coffee…because…I need to be human.  HA!

Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels with a schmear of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and Coffee!!

Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels with a schmear of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and Coffee!!

My roomie was already digging in, so I asked what she thought.  She muttered something incoherent as she took another bite.  So, I took that as a good thing.  This was the flavor she had been waiting for…and somehow managed to save for last.  I think she was beyond happy with it.  And with that…I took a bite.

Oh…yes.  Even with the nice coating of garlic on the top of the bagel, this does not overwhelm or overpower.  It is a nice balance, especially with the dense bread of the bagel.  This would totally make a great base for a bagel pizza…but it’s all about breakfast for me this time.  And this…was heaven.  I’m contemplating a bagel sammie with the other ones in the freezer…a nice fried egg on the inside…mmmm…

When I’m daydreaming about the next time I eat a product, you know it’s a winner.  I loved the crispy crust and soft insides of this bagel.  The bread is chewy and perfect, right at that perfect bagel consistancy.  This isn’t your average gluten-free bagel.  This feels and tastes just like a “normal” bagel…a “regular” bagel.  You know…the kind you buy from a corner bagel shop in NYC.  There are plenty to choose from.  No other bagels on the market live up to that…and I don’t think any others will.  Sweet Note Bakery has the magic touch…and the perfect recipe for the ultimate Garlic Bagel. I might have devoured this faster than I intended today.

Record time.  The coffee had to wait.

One of the things that sets Sweet Note Gluten Free Bagels apart from others on them market is 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.  Bagel perfection.

In this case…Garlic Bagel perfection.  HA!

Let’s talk about what goes into Sweet Note Gluten Free Garlic Bagels, shall we?  These bagels are made with love (yep…real ingredient!), white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, brown sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, garlic, and salt.  As always when it comes to Sweet Note’s bagels, these bagels are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free.  Made with love, indeed!!

As far as the nutritional information goes, these bagels really do stack up to the competition.  In fact, with real ingredients, it makes every bit of these even better for you.  A serving size is 4.5 ounces (128 grams), or one bagel!!  Yep…one full bagel.  YAY!  This one bagel will serve up 280 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 330 mg sodium, 62 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams sugars, and 4 grams of protein.  This bagel kept me full all morning, thanks to that high protein and fiber count.  YES!  Loving it.

If you have been hunting for the perfect gluten-free bagel…or just bagel…you need to turn your attention to Sweet Note Bakery.  Their bagels (every single flavor…and I have tried them all) has been amazing.  They all are packed with flavor, taste amazing, and give you a true texture and mouthfeel of an authentic bagel.  Life is so good…thanks to Sweet Note.  Don’t just read my blog though…try it for yourself.  If your local natural food stores don’t carry Sweet Note Gluten Free Bagels…hop over to their Web site and order from the shop.  Keep in mind that the Garlic Bagels, as well as the Garlic and Herb, and the Salt are online exclusive…so get them while you can.

And love breakfast again!