Restaurant Review: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Restaurant: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Normally, whenever I venture up to Indianapolis for an event, race, or whatnot, my one requirement is a stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise…because I can get a gluten-free veggie burger with gluten-free fries (or sweet potato fries)…and the burger custom made (no cheese; no sour cream) to fit my dietary needs.  This is awesome, as any frozen burger patty, or even homemade burger, tend to be a bit mushy and end up slipping out of any sort of gluten-free bread used as a bun (be it an actual gluten-free bun or just some gluten-free bread).  Cheeseburger in Paradise doesn’t have that problem…and it’s nice to be able to safely eat a veggie burger (so many use breadcrumbs as binder) out at a restaurant AND not have to eat it with a fork and knife (meaning…they have a gluten-free bun and I can pick it up).

Needless to say, I ran two half marathons, two weeks apart up in Indianapolis.  After the first one (OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon), I did hit up Cheeseburger in Paradise.  But two weeks later, I wasn’t ready to revisit Paradise.  I just had it.  My craving had been satisfied.

That being said, when I returned to the Indianapolis to run the Geist Half Marathon, I wanted to try something different.  Step out of the comfort zone…try something new.

I had been hearing some buzz around a place located in Greenwood, Indiana, by a bunch of my friends up in that area.  It was a craft beer tap house called Hops & Fire.  And what was pointed out more than once was that when you step inside to be seated, the hostess will ask if you require any special menus.  In addition to their regular menu, they have extensive vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus.  I told her I was a gluten-free vegetarian and she grabbed both of those menus and a regular one for Cathy and told me that the menus don’t often cross over each other, but anything on either menu can be made gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian.  She took us to our table and we were seated.

Our waiter was totally adorable and came over to introduce himself.  His name was Kyle and he asked how we were doing.  Cathy pointed at me and said, “Well, she just ran a half marathon…”  He raised his eyebrows and said, “So I’m guessing you want water.”  HA!  He was so right.  Cathy had thought about trying one of their craft selections, but in the end started with the water.

Two menus and having so many options was a bit overwhelming to me.  The only thing I knew I wanted to try was Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread.  I bought Lactaid specifically for this meal.  No joke.  We went ahead and mentioned that we wanted that as an appetizer and Kyle said he’d put that in while we finished making our decisions on what to eat, as it was the appetizer that took the longest to prepare.  While he was gone, I started to narrow down my choices, getting it down to three options.  After a little back and forth and pros and cons, I went for the one that didn’t contain cheese…as I was certain I was about to consume more cheese than my body was going to like momentarily.

Kyle returned to take our order, and as usual, as I’m the complicated one, I ordered first.  I went with the Gluten Free California Wrap…keeping the House Chips as a side.  Cathy went with the Stout Pork Belly BLT, which was served with a side of their Parmesan House Chips.  Orders were in…after Kyle had to go and figure out how to combine two menus to make a dish.  Poor guy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Only a few moments late, a large plate was being carried to our table and put in front of us.  Clearly, when I saw the fact that I could get Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread…I didn’t read the description.  This plate and appetizer was HUGE.  Definitely enough for 4-8 people.  Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread ($9.00), is a full gluten-free baguette, which is drenched in roasted garlic and salted butter, served with a gooey, melted blanket of shallots and chives, which are smothered in Provolone, Mozzarella, and Romano cheeses.  This is then baked so that the top of the cheese gets golden and everything is melty and ooey-gooey.  It comes with a side of marinara.  I took my Lactaid and hoped for the best (sometimes it helps; other times, it doesn’t).  I grabbed the slice on the end and pulled it away, the cheese stretching and making me…so happy.  I cut it up, dipped a piece into the marinara…and immediately lost my mind.  If you go to Hops & Fire, this is their signature appetizer and it is not to be missed.  The gluten-free baguette was crispy on the outside and that perfect toasty, but still soft on the inside.  The cheese was melted to perfection.  The garlic was superb.  Yeah…this made me SO happy.  And, for the record, the Lactaid worked…this time.  Thank goodness!  This was A LOT of food, so Cathy and I said we’d eat half of it and get a box and take the rest of it home.  That’s what we did as our food arrived.  We boxed it up…and it was lunch the next day.

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

So, let’s start with Cathy’s lunch, shall we?  My om-nom-nomnivore (haha) friend loves to eat pig in any form she can.  This is no joke.  She loves her pork products.  So it was no surprise to me that she chose the Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT ($12.00) off of their Brewed Baskets selections on the regular menu.  It came with a decent serving of their Parmesan House Chips on the side.  This sandwich is not your typical BLT.  Hops & Fire serves up a stout beer and kosher salt-brined local pork belly, which is seared, roasted, sliced thin, and pan fried, then topped with baby bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, and homemade apricot onion jam…served on their grilled garlic shallot bread.  Here’s the thing…they do NOT skimp on the pork belly bacon in this BLT.  Not one bit.  You’ll see by the photo I’m putting up here for those of you who are not a gluten-free vegetarian like me.  I mean…it was BACON. FOR. DAYS.  She had more bacon than Parmesan House Chips.  And that’s not a bad thing, as the protein is, honestly, what you are shelling out money for.  She said the garlic shallot bread was amazing (we Celiacs will never know…).  She said it could have used a slight bit more mayo…but it was awesome.  And yes…she devoured it all and the chips.  Carnivores.  Oy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a mountain of House Chips

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a side of House Chips

As for me…I went ahead and combined an offering on the Vegetarian Menu and asked that it be made gluten-free.  I opted for the Gluten Free California Wrap ($12.00)…mostly because it didn’t have cheese and avocado always wins.  The California Wrap is a gluten-free tortilla that is stuffed and rolled up around fresh sliced avocado, beefsteak tomato, bibb lettuce, pickled onions, and a roasted garlic aioli. OH MY GLUTEN FREE GODS!!  This was a simple, basic, wrap, but it tasted amazing to me.  Maybe it was because I had just pounded out 13.1 miles and was living off of watermelon and water at that point, but this wrap was great.  Gluten-free tortillas are nothing to write home about, and I’m pretty certain this was the standard gluten-free teff tortilla.  But it just serves as a way for me to pick up and devour the veggie-licious produce that was stuffed and rolled up inside.  The aioli, by the way, was delicious.  The avocado was ripe and sweet.  The tomatoes…so good.  I loved every bite of this wrap.  It came with a mountain…no…a landslide of their House Chips, which I couldn’t even finish.  Where Cathy had a decent side of hers, the chips serving was bigger than my wrap…so…I ate what I wanted and left the rest.

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

We were full, but we couldn’t end our experience there.  Kyle tempted us with a dessert menu, pointing out that those marked with a gf were gluten free and also the codes for vegan and vegetarian as well.  We were very tempted to get one of the Desserts For Two (yeah…we so wanted the Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores Cast Iron Cake), but in the end, decided we were too full for that and went with splitting a single serving of the Vegan Ice Cream Sundae ($5.00).  This was a small bowl (thank goodness) that had a scoop of vegan ice cream, drizzled lightly with hot fudge.  It was perfect and a great way to end the meal.  It was amazing.  The ice cream was not as creamy as regular ice cream, but it was cold and melty and amazing.  And the hot fudge…that’s always a welcome addition to anything ice cream-ish.

Kyle brought us our check once we had polished it off and we paid in cash and got our things together to go.  We talked about the food for a bit of the drive home…and how amazing and good it was.  I was beyond happy with the service and the attention paid to each dish that was ordered, making sure that it fit my dietary needs…nothing that made me take pause and question whether it was safe for me to eat or not.

I’m already planning my return to Hops & Fire.  So, if you happen to be in the Indianapolis area, or traveling through, do make the trip to Greenwood and check out this amazing and delicious place.  You have a specialty diet…they have you covered.  And I love it.

Next time…gluten-free onion rings.  It’s happening!

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Product Review: Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze

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Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze

Product: Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze – $6.99+

A little while ago, I posted a blog about a new product I discovered at my local Whole Foods store…a vegan cheese spread by a company known as Heidi Ho.  I was beyond impressed with not just the texture, but also the flavor and taste of the cheese.  And from there…so many people began to sing the praises of their products, specifically their Creamy Chia Cheeze.

Let it not be said that I can’t take a hint!  HA!

With the holidays now out of the way and the budget not as stretched, I am able to indulge a little more these days.  And, that is how a container of Heidi Ho Organics Creamy Chia Cheeze wound up in my basket at Whole Foods…and then in my fridge at home.  Funny how that happens, right?  With this week being a little…hectic…with my training and just life in general…I chose to make a version of mac & cheese using some of the Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze instead of Daiya and all the cashew milk and gluten-free flour and bake method.  Simple is what I like.

Heidi Ho was created by Heidi K. Lovig, a fanatic about farm-to-table dining, sustainability, seasonal menus, and buying local.  This vegan chef honed in on her skills during her time living on the Big Island of Hawaii in a sustainable community where she managed an eco hostel and farm.  She trained with vegans and raw foodies from around the world, thus developing a deeper connection to the ingredients she uses in her cooking.  Lovig moved to Portland a few years ago and began training at Le Cordon Bleu to obtain her degree in Culinary Arts.  With a focus on local, organic, and sustainable practices, she turned her attention to the environmental issues humans have created due to food supply structures and our current system of distribution.  At her side is Lyssa M. Story, “the Boss” at Heidi Ho.  She runs the show and is the brains behind every facet of its operations.  From HR to business plans and projections, to law, licensing, accounting, banking, money, organization, and keeping Chef Heidi on track.  Story has an extensive background in the food and beverage industry, and attended the Western Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu, where she received an Associates degree in Occupational Studies – Hospitality and Restaurant Management. Story was raised on the standard American diet, which, over time, jeopardized her health.  At the age of 22, she began a plant based and whole foods diet.

So, these two ladies set out to create delicious plant-based cheezes using ingredients that are healthier for their consumers…as well as the planet.  Hedi Ho is the future of cheese – aiming to be the cheese that creates change.  They take great pride in the values they uphold in their company and products.  They sell cheeze that is superior in flavor and quality over the rest on the market.

Guess what…they succeed.  The introduction of this plant-based comfort food is a game changer for vegans out there.  They say on their Web site that their Creamy Chia Cheeze will “blow your mind for Mac N Cheese” and they are absolutely correct.  Not only does this have a fantastic flavor, but it is rich and creamy and tastes like cheese…not like something plastic.  It has a great texture too.  And it’s like having a real melty cheese.  I was so happy with the way this worked on the gluten-free noodles that I cooked up and poured this over.  Creamy, healthy, and guilt-free.  My dairy-free fridge will forever have one of Heidi Ho’s cheezes inside.  That’s for sure.

Let’s talk about what goes into the Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze, shall we?  This product is made from a veggie puree (water, red potatoes, red bell pepper, carrots, onions, garlic), cashews, safflower oil, sea salt, lemon, chia seeds, citric acid, paprika, mustard seed, black pepper, and cayenne.  A majority of their ingredients are organic!  The Hedi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze contains NO nutritional yeast (thank goodness, as I’ve started to have reactions to it), soy, and is free of gluten and dairy.  In other words, perfect for me!

So, let’s discuss nutrition.  A serving of Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze is 1 ounce (28 grams).  The container has 10 servings inside.  A serving of Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze will provide you with 50 calories, 4 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 3 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars, 1 gram protein.  So much healthier than actual cheese too!  Trust me, even you who can have dairy will LOVE this cheese.

If you haven’t been over to Whole Foods to pick up one of Heidi Ho’s vegan cheeze products, then you need to hurry over there now and try it out.  Seriously…it is one of the best vegan cheezes that I have tried.  No weird taste, creamy, delicious, and made with real and clean, organic ingredients.  What’s not to love?

For the record…tonight I poured it over gluten-free rice chips and made nachos…and it was awesome.

Seriously…awesome.  Your turn to try it so you know how awesome it is too!

 

 

 

Product Review: Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders

Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders

Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders

Product: Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders – $5.99+

Beyond Meat had me with their vegan and gluten free chicken strips from the very start.  I remember first spying those products in my local Whole Foods and immediately latching on to all three varieties and tossing them in the freezer.  Since then, they have not only improved on the vegan not-chicken strips…but they have since added to their non-meat repertoire.  Beyond Meat has introduced vegan chicken poppers, vegan chicken tenders, beyond beef crumbles, beyond beef meatballs, and beast burgers and beastly sliders.

I have yet to find the poppers and tenders and meatballs anywhere in my area, but I have stumbled across the two varieties of Beyond Beef Crumbles and…more recently…discovered the Beyond Meat Beast Burger and Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders.  Now, it’s not every day I stumble across a vegan/vegetarian slider that I can eat.  In fact, the only other sliders I’ve seen are made by Gardein, but they aren’t gluten-free.  So…the instant I spotted these at my Whole Foods, I knew there was no escaping the tight budget.  I’d squeeze it in and give them a try.

Due to my fresh produce and my lack of any sort of gluten-free slider buns…I ignored these in my freezer for a little while.  But after hobbling through The Boston Marathon, and not having a produce bin delivered on time…this past weekend, I needed to do something for dinner.  I searched my freezer, and have a few options remaining in there.  The one that caught my attention was the Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders.

Well…why not?  I was going grocery shopping that morning, so I could pick up some Udi’s Gluten Free Whole Grain Dinner Rolls to use as slider buns…I figured.  In my head, that was the plan.  I think I forgot that the Udi’s Gluten Free Dinner Rolls were a little longer than a standard roll…so when I had everything out to start cooking…I realized I was going to have to slice the dinner rolls in half and then slice them open to make a close proximity of a slider bun.

Dear Gluten Free bread makers….slider buns…create them.  I will buy them.  For reals!

So while my dinner rolls/slider buns of sorts were toasting in the oven, I got out a saute pan and gave it a splash of olive oil, allowing it to heat up on medium-high heat.  Then, into the pan all six of the slider patties went.  I was impressed upon opening the package of Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders.  The sliders have the appearance of real burgers.  So, it’s not a vegetarian patty that looks nothing like a burger masquerading as a burger.   These actually look like burgers.  I was impressed.  They were so easy to cook up too. Simply add the sliders to a touch of oil in a skillet and cook until lightly brown on both sides.  It takes about 5-7 minutes.  Then…it’s time to eat.

The dinner rolls weren’t a perfect fit for these hearty slider patties, but they worked.  So, that’s what matters.  I sliced each roll down to “slider” size and then loaded on the burger with a hit of ketchup and…BAM…vegetarian sliders for dinner.  It was really that easy.  I served these with a side of Zapp’s Voodoo Chips, which if you haven’t tried those…DO IT!

I haven’t eaten any sort of meat in over four years.  That being said, back when I was big into burgers…you know…Hard Rock Café knew my burger order…these rank right up there with the real thing.  Seriously.  They have this great meaty texture…and they were hearty and held up.  So often, vegetarian and vegan burger substitutes crumble and fall apart.  This is especially true with vegan/vegetarian patties that are also gluten-free.  It’s one of my pet peeves.  This did not happen with the Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders.  My roommate had just had sliders on our way to Boston a week before, and she said these were better than the real thing.  WOW!  I won’t lie…the texture, the flavor…it was awesome.  They were juicy and filling.  Oh yeah…they are Beastly Sliders for a reason…I was full from my serving of 3 of them.  I loved the smokey flavor that these patties had, sort of lending it to the “I taste like beef, but I’m not” flavor.  I’m sort of in love with these.  It is just eerie how much these resembled real beef patties in appearance and in taste.  It sort of freaked me out.  In a good way.  These will definitely find their way back into my freezer.  I might have to experiment with making my own slider buns, but these were truly fantastic.  I was beyond impressed.

Beyond Meat set out to replicate the taste and texture of beef burgers and to prove that there is a better, more sustainable, plant-based way to satisfy any burger craving.  In addition, they prove that there is a healthier, plant-based, sustainable way to make a burger without the need to kill animals.  We just needed a better burger…and these sliders are definitely proof that vegan burgers can run with the real thing.

Let’s discuss ingredients in the Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders, shall we? These sliders are made from water, pea protein isolate, essential fatty acid oil blend (DHA algal oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and palm oil), methycellulose, carrageenan, calcium sulfate, yeast extract, maltodextrin, potassium bicarbonate, potassium chloride, tapioca starch, caramel color, sorbitol, beyond nutrient blend (vegetable nutrient extract blend (spinach, broccoli, carrot, tomato, beet, shiitake mushroom), sea buckthorn juice powder, beet juice powder, hydrilla powder, horsetail herb powder, moringa leaf powder, mesquite powder, fulvic minerals, pomegranate seed powder), natural flavoring, spices, salt, l-cysteine hydrochloride, onion powder, sugar, onion extract, paprika extract and garlic extract. Lots of stuff I don’t recognize.  I admit.  And a lot of ingredients at that.  I know.  But…WOW.  The Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders are gluten-free, soy-free, cholesterol-free, and non-GMO.  They are also contain antioxidants, iron, calcium, vitamins B6, B12, D, potassium, as well as DHA and ALA omega-3’s.

So, let’s talk the nutritional value for a moment, yes?  A serving of the Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders is 3 sliders.  You get 6 in a box.  This serving of three patties will provide you with 260 calories, 16 grams of fat, 480 mg sodium, 720 mg potassium, 7 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams sugars (YAY!), 4 grams of fiber, and 23 (YES…23) grams of protein.  No wonder you feel full after eating these.  WOW!

While I don’t make faux meat products a standard in my home, it is fun to try out products every now and again.  The past four years I’ve had many vegetarian/vegan burger patties.  In the past three years, I’ve consumed quite a few brands that are also gluten-free.  By a long shot, Beyond Meat has provided the best burger patty to date.  To think…plant power all the way.  Totally in love with the nutritional aspect, the flavor, the taste…everything.  Now when I want sliders…I can have sliders.  So much love.

Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders (prepared)

Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders (prepared)

Product Review: Miti Miti Latin American Foods Plantain Chips

Miti Miti Latin American Foods Plantain Chips

Miti Miti Latin American Foods Plantain Chips

Product: Miti Miti Latin American Foods Plantain Chips – $6.00

It was in my January 2015 Cube (Happy New Year) that I was introduced to a plethora of new products from my Cuisine Cube subscription.  Healthy options to get your New Years resolutions rocking and rolling and to start the year off on the right track.  It ranged from gluten-free oatmeal to dark chocolate covered rice cakes (both of which were fantastic).  But saddled into the seat for a snack in January was a product that left me overly excited and jumping for joy and eagerness to try.

Plantain Chips.

Oh hell yes!

So, before I trudge further into my review of this little packaged snack of tropical goodness, let me first tell you a little bit more about Cuisine Cube.  I discovered Cuisine Cube through a Groupon offering of sorts and from my first box to my current one, I have been hooked.  This is a subscription service that sends you a box each month that is loaded down with 5-6 full-size gluten-free products for your foodie tastebuds to enjoy!  No joke.  These products always include something for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner and dessert…and every now and again, you get a bonus item.  It’s fantastic.  Really.  And subscriptions start as low as $29.99.  So, be sure to skip over to their Web site and check them out.  Better yet…try them out.

Why?

Because you will be introduced to products like Miti Miti Latin American Foods Plantain Chips!  Talk about biting into something I wasn’t expecting.  I have sampled plantain chips before, but this was the first time they actually snacked like a chip.  Usually I find them way too sweet, but with the blend of tropical and robust flavors that Miti Miti Foods adds to these dried plantains, you get a little bit of everything.  First of all, each and every trip is crunchy good.  I mean…CRUNCHY!!  I love that.  Chips should be crunchy, even when made out of fruit.  They are seasoned with paprika, coriander, and cardamom…giving them an added savory feel.  It really cuts down on the sweetness. And that’s where the magic happens.

I LOVED these chips.  Seriously.  They reminded me of really good french fries.  You know…those savory crispy ones…not the mushy, squishy ones.  Yep.  That’s the flavor they carried.  Sort of like a really amazing potato chip.  I couldn’t stop eating these.  Seriously.  I popped one to try.  So did my roommate.  Her initial thought was that they were “chalky” but I didn’t get that at all.  I found greatness.  I found something amazing and different.  I found…probably one of my favorite snacks to date.  I am addicted to them.  They are perfectly fried to a golden brown and carry everything my palate wants in a snack.  Having the bag in my general vicinity is dangerous…because it is one of those snacks that if I start eating, I can’t stop.  Which is why I have to dish out the serving size.  With the sweet and savory flavor with that perfect crunch in each bite (the thinner chips are my favorites…but they all are crunchy), I’m beyond addicted to these.  I won’t go to rehab either.  If I want chips…these are what I want.  From now on!

So, let’s take a look at the ingredients that go into a bag of Miti Miti Latin American Foods Plantain Chips.  These chips are made from plantains (obviously), a seasoning mix that includes salt, garlic, onion, black pepper, oregano, paprika, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, coriander, and cardamom, spices, canola oil, and garlic powder.  This snack is not only gluten-free, but also cholesterol free, sugar free, and vegan.

As for nutritional information…fear not.  These equal or might even be better than your standard potato chip.  And trust me…you’ll prefer these over a potato chip any day.  A serving size is 30 grams (or around 15 chips).  This serving will give you 160 calories and 10 grams of fat.  One serving will also provide you with 120 mg sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates and no sugar.  One serving also gives you 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein, making it a good snack that can take you through to dinner time.

Feel good about snacking again!  Don’t feel guilty about a treat in the afternoon or with dinner.  Miti Miti Latin American Foods make it so you can feed your snack side with something different and more nutritious than the standard potato chip.  Thanks to Cuisine Cube, I am feasting away on Miti Miti Plantain Chips and loving every bite.

Product Review: Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps

Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps

Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps

Product: Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps – $4.99+

The pantry is being hit up hard this month, and this is only a good thing, my friends.  This means I’m finally not dragging my feet anymore and attempting to clear things out that I’ve been ignoring over time.  When I get busy…things get pushed further and further to the back and I get lazy and just put things in front of it and grab for that stuff first.  I’m human…it happens.

But I’m making a total effort in my attempt to reorganize my home…my kitchen…my life…and my schedule…to get the older stuff out and make some room on these shelves.  I’m also using more fresh produce, so sometimes the boxed and packaged stuff just falls to the wayside.

But, I’ve been making a concerted effort to combine the packaged items I’ve been ignoring with the fresh produce I get from my local CSA.  It’s a good way to compromise.  And this past week, my roommate and I have eaten dinner at home every night, packed up healthy lunches and snacks, and incorporated fresh produce into healthy breakfast options to eat while busy and on-the-go.  And it’s been awesome and amazing.  And even though it was tempting to say, “Screw this, I’m going to Shalimar for some Indian food!” tonight…we didn’t.  We came home.  I got out some items and I used the last of last week’s produce to create…dinner.

Awhile back I made Crispy Broccoli, and homage to Red Lobster’s Fried Calamari appetizer that is served with amazing fried broccoli and red peppers.  When I had to go gluten-free…the fried plate of deliciously bad for me things was off the plate.  I used another product in my pantry when I made this the first time.  And yes, much like this time around, it was a Cuisine Cube item.

Cuisine Cube, as I am sure all of you are aware by now (but if not…pay attention!), is a great service that provides amazing gluten-free products from small, artisan, and lesser-known companies, delivering them right to your door each month.  You get 5-6 items in each cube (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert…and sometimes…a bonus).  They scour the gluten-free foodie world finding the highest quality, not-found-in-the-grocery-store products to send to you to try. I have found so many amazing products I never would have known about because of Cuisine Cube.  Even better, plans start as low as $29.99 a month.  If you haven’t checked them out yet…hop over to their site and do so.  You will not regret it.

In my November (Thanksgiving 2014) Cube, I had a package of Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps.  And yes…these little crisps are just what they sound like – little discs that are made entirely of aged Parmesan cheese.  Oh…that peeked your interest, didn’t it?  It certainly grabbed my roommate’s attention…because she is a cheese fanatic.  So, a snack chip that is made only of cheese…that’s her dream come true!

Kitchen Table Bakers was created by Barry Novick, who at the age of 55, left his every day job as a hospital administrator and began to learn the ins and outs of starting his own business.  With a lot of help and encouragement, he set out to make these little wafer crisps made completely of cheese, just like the ones they began making in their own kitchen.  The first All Parmesan Gourmet Wafer Crisp was created in the summer of 2003, and soon they were in such demand that larger batches had to be made.  Their goal, since beginning the business, was to create a gourmet product that would satisfy even the most discerning palate while meeting diverse nutritional requirements.  They are always careful to use only the highest quality of aged cheeses and seasonings.  The wafer crisps can stand on their own, be used as a chip for dipping, as a base for a canapé or with a fine glass of wine.  Even those this endeavor has moved beyond their own humble kitchen, they believe in keeping the integrity of their products to reflect the true beginnings of the company.

Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps are little wafer crisps made out of aged Parmesan cheese…with each crisp being about the size of a quarter.  They (as with all of Kitchen Table Bakers products) are wheat free, gluten free, trans fat free, sugar free, rich in calcium and protein, and naturally low in calories and carbs. I was using mine as a coating for broccoli which I was going to crisp up in the oven.  But, I naturally had to try one of the crisps on their own.  One bite…and I kind of felt bad crushing these up in a food processor…because it reminded me of that crispy edge of cheese you’d get on pizzas.  I mean…exactly in taste.  It was one of the most amazing snacks I ever popped into my mouth.  Rich, buttery, seasoned to ignite each and every taste bud on my tongue.  These little crisps were just…fantastic.  And, being that they were made completely of cheese, I wasn’t sure how they would work as a coating for my broccoli…whether I would get that crispy effect or whether I would just have a cheesy mess.  But there was only one way to find out.  So…I ground them up, coated the vegetables, and let it all bake.

They did not become that much of a cheesy mess.  But it did layer on this crispy, amazing layer of flavor to every bite of broccoli or red pepper.  Seriously…it was amazing.  The Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps were fantastic.  Next time…I’m just keeping them as a snack and not re-purposing them.  SO rich and delightful.  Like eating a bit of the best part of the pizza in each bite.  I was beyond blown away.  Cruncy, caramelized goodness, but also very light and flakey.  It was the perfect bite…all in one little cheesy wafer.

The Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Crisps come in 8 flavors: aged Parmesan, sesame, garlic, rosemary, Italian herb, everything, flax seed, and jalapeno.

I want to try them all.  That is how much I loved these.

So, let’s talk about ingredients.  So easy here.  The Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps are made from aged Parmesan cheese.  That’s it.

As for nutrition, a serving of the Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps is 15 crisps, with there being about 3.3 servings per bag.  One serving will provide you with only 80 calories and 6 grams of fat.  One serving will dish up 15 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, and 0 grams of sugar.  So healthy.  And, finally, you will not be taking in any fiber, but these mini crisps do give you 7 grams of healthy protein.  WOW!

Yet another fantastic product introduced to me by Cuisine Cube.  If you haven’t signed up yet…stop hesitating and start doing.  And, hop over to Kitchen Table Bakers and see about locating these in your area and/or ordering from them online.  Trust me…you will not regret it.

You outdid yourselves this time, Cuisine Cube!

Crispy Broccoli made with Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps

Crispy Broccoli made with Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Mini Crisps with a side of homemade Gluten Free Tomato Herb Foccacia Bread

Product Review: Rebel With A Cause Nacho Cheese Kale Chips

Rebel With A Cause Nacho Cheeze Kale Chips

Rebel With A Cause Nacho Cheeze Kale Chips

Product: Rebel With A Cause Nacho Cheeze Kale Chips – $3.99+

I love kale.  You might even hear me say “I heart kale” because…well…I do.  I fell in love with this amazing and versatile green a few years back.  And my life has never been the same.  I use it it practically everything.  But, far above and beyond everything else, one of my most favorite things to do with kale…is to make kale chips!!  I love, love, love, LOVE kale chips.  It’s a healthy relationship…because kale is loaded with amazing nutrients and good stuff (technical term), ranging from being low in calories, high in iron, high in fiber, loaded with antioxidants, high in vitamin K, an anti-inflammatory, high in calcium, and loaded with vitamin C and A…this is one super food…or, as it is referred to in the foodie world…a Superfood.  Big S.  Like Superman…but with less man and more food.

HA!

So, needless to say, kale chips have been on my radar for awhile, from the first time I made them to store bought versions. I rarely buy them, as they are, by far, cheaper to make yourself, but my mom always had some on hand when I traveled home for visits.  And both she and I would just devour them.

I’ve tried a few brands on the market.  Some have been okay. Some have been…really good.  But in my Non-GMO Cuisine Cube (which has been in my blog a lot…so if you are paying attention…that was October’s cube), I was delighted to pull out a bright white package with a lucha libre wrestler on the front.  In bold letters, the unassuming package declared: REBEL WITH A CAUSE ORGANIC & GLUTEN FREE NACHO CHEEZE KALE CHIPS!  Okay…you have my full and undivided attention now!  Thank you!

Before I go any further…most of you by now know about how great of a service Cuisine Cube is…and have either considered subscribing or have decided to subscribe to this fantastic service.  Quick little run down, though, in case you are new to my blog or have a memory like Dori from Finding Nemo.  Cuisine Cube is a monthly delivery service that brings fantastic gluten-free products from lesser known brands made by small artisan producers (instead of those bigger name brands you can find in virtually every grocery store these days) to your door.  Not only are you supporting small businesses, you get the opportunity to try products that you may not have heard of before…or would have ever heard about if not for Cuisine Cube.  Some products are from local businesses…and some you might be able to find in a store like Whole Foods…but it’s not guaranteed.  Let’s face it, shopping for gluten-free products is hard enough…trying to convince yourself to purchase a product you’ve never heard of or tried…is a challenge.  Cuisine Cube takes that pressure off, and with subscriptions starting around $29.99, it’s an affordable service for sure.

So, last night, I was making soup from some items out of my CSA bin.  Soup is great on its own…or served with something.  I didn’t want to make vegan grilled cheese sandwiches, because I was prepping dinner for tomorrow as well (stay tuned for that blog).  The soup recipe wasn’t hard, but with virtually every burner on my stove being used and my Vitamix whirring away…yeah…sandwiches were not sounding like a good option.  I knew I had some Cuisine Cube snacks still in my pantry so…I went browsing.

These sounded like the best pairing (in fact…they are vegan cheese flavored), so out of my pantry came the final product from my October cube…the Snacos Libre Rebel With A Cause Nacho Cheeze Kale Chips.  This one pouch is a serving, but I was splitting it with my roommate because she likes a little something with her soup too!  When the soup was on its finally simmer, I busted open this bag of mighty kale goodness and dished up small bowls for the two of us.

The Rebel With A Cause Nacho Cheeze Kale Chips look like clusters of kale Doritos.  Honestly.  Each leave was coated in this great layer of orange goodness.  The chips were crispy and clumpy and just smelled awesome.  Because, let’s face it, kale chips smell as awesome as they look.  Especially flavored ones.  This particular flavor is actually vegan.  Yep.  That’s part of the reason for the misspelling of the world “cheese” I am guessing.  Who needs tortilla chips when you can reach for this healthy and awesome super snack?

Rebel With A Cause Nacho Cheeze Kale Chips are actually dried…not fried.  So, already, you’re winning the battle of the bulge.  The company that makes them, Kaia Foods, based out of Oakland, California, invites eaters to “overthrow the tyranny of processed foods and to rise up against empty calories.”  It’s a clever and fun take on healthy snacking, and it definitely had my attention.  This specific flavor of kale chips actually does taste like a nacho cheese chip.  I mean, you don’t get that corn flavor and that crispiness of a tortilla chip, but they have just as much amazing flavor.  And they have their own kind of crunch.  After all, these chips are dehydrated to preserve the nutrients and enhance the flavor of the chip itself.  I loved them from first bite.  I literally popped one of the nacho green leaves and went…”Mmmmm!”  And my roommate, an avid lover of all things Doritos, had the same reaction.  Snack love.  Crispy, packed with flavor, and totally healthy.  My kind of snack.

The Rebel With A Cause Nacho Cheeze Kale Chips are made from raw, organic, gluten-free ingredients that are good for you.  Don’t shy away from products that are good for you.  Good for you doesn’t mean they taste like cardboard.  And these kale chips are a prime example of doing healthy snacks right.  The Rebel With A Cause Nacho Cheeze Kale Chips are made from kale, cashews, carrots, chickpea miso, lemon juice, red onion, celery, red bell pepper, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, chia seeds, onion powder, chili powder, garlic, sea salt, coconut water, paprika, mustard, smoked paprika, cayenne, turmeric, and chili flakes.  All of these ingredients are listed as organic, save the nutritional yeast and the sea salt.  Color me impressed.  This snack food is gluten-free, vegan, cholesterol free, and free of trans fats.

As far as nutrition goes…the Rebel With A Cause Nacho Cheeze Kale Chips provide 1 serving per package.  This serving dishes up a low 90 calories and 5 grams of fat.  Most of that fat will be a result of the cashews.  How’s that for awesome?  One serving will also provide 240 mg sodium and 2 grams of sugar.  And, finally, a serving (which, as I said, is the entire bag), will give you 2 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein, making this a healthy, and semi-filling snack for sure.  Lots of health benefits in a very healthy snack.

Love is a snack food that is good for you, but you don’t know is good for you.  I feel like both Cuisine Cube and Rebel With A Cause really got it right with this snack.  Amazing flavor, great texture, and…no guilt.  None whatsoever.  Here’s a time where it’s okay to open up a package and devour the entire thing.  It’s expected.

I encourage you, my loyal and new readers, to head over to Cuisine Cube‘s site and take a look at this fantastic service.  Again, there are so many products I have been introduced to thanks to this amazing team of foodies who take food allergies into consideration and seek out amazing products that are lesser known, local, and amazing.  If you find something you really like, often you can purchase more from their Stock Up page.  Seriously…try it for a month.

As for Rebel With A Cause Kale Chips…I will definitely be stocking my pantry with more of these chips in the future.  In fact, they offer other varieties, ranging from Sea Salt to Spicy Superfood to Sriracha Lime…in addition to the Nacho Cheeze variety that was provided in my cube.  Amazing snacks, if you ask me.  I think if you are new to the world of kale, this would be a great way to introduce yourself to the food.  Healthy snacking can be delicious.  The proof is in this bold little package.  So impressed.

And, with that, I finally managed to polish off every product in a cube (October – Non-GMO Month).  Thank you, Cuisine Cube!!  I’m loving every bite!

Product Review: Hardbite Lightly Salted Parsnip Handcrafted Chips

Hardbite Handcrafted Lightly Salted Parsnip Chips (aka: Eat Your Parsnips)

Hardbite Handcrafted Lightly Salted Parsnip Chips (aka: Eat Your Parsnips)

Product: Hardbite Lightly Salted Parsnip Handcrafted Chips – $6.00+

As many of you know, back in May, I decided to give something new a try.  With this step, I subscribed to this fantastic service called Cuisine Cube.  With Cuisine Cube, you receive 5-6 gluten-free products from small and/or local businesses…those products and companies that you won’t find at your local grocery store.  It’s amazing the food that I have discovered.  And, the cube is generally well-rounded in that it includes an item for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner and dessert.  And then, sometimes…a bonus!  And this service starts at $29.99, depending on how frequently you want this box of goodness delivered to your door.  If you’ve been reading about it in my blog and putting it off, hesitant to try something like this out…just take action.  I promise, you will not regret this purchase.

That being said, my life has been really busy as of late with so much traveling going on.  I feel like I am rarely ever home.  However, these past few weeks have given me the opportunity to work through some of the products from previous Cuisine Cubes that I didn’t have the chance to get to before.  This has been quite an amazing couple of weeks.

Now, let’s ask a serious question here…

Who likes potato chips?  Plain?  Sweet potato?  Lightly salted?  Barbeque?  You name it…but there is something so addictive and amazing about potato chips. From their light feel to their crispy and salty texture.  Mmmm.  They are the ultimate pig-out snack.  And by that, I mean if you eat out of a bag, sometimes it is really hard to stop…and before you know it…the entire bag is gone.  We’ve all been there and done that.  Don’t worry…we’re human…and that’s normal.  This is also why I do not ever eat out of a package anymore.  I portion out things I could mindlessly eat…such as chips.

Back in October, when they mailed off the Non-GMO Project box, Cuisine Cube included a bag of Hardbite Handcrafted Lightly Salted Parsnip Chips, with the grand title of “Eat Your Parsnips.”  I love chips made from parsnips.  I often find gluten-free variety chip bags (like with beet chips, sweet potato chips, parsnip chips, and regular potato chips) and have always loved the little bit of extra flavor that parsnips bring to those mixes.  But this bag…this bag was dedicated to the often misunderstood parsnip.

If you are unfamiliar with what a parsnip is…it is a root vegetable…resembling a cream-colored carrot.  In fact…this vegetable is sort of a cross between a carrot and a potato, if that tells you anything.  What the people at Hardbite did was reinvent the parsnip by turning it into a light and crunchy snack.  I mean…who doesn’t like potato chips, right?

Well, a parsnip is different from a potato.  It’s sweeter, for one thing.  And that’s the first thing I noticed when I took my first bite into one of these long, lightly salted chips.  The sweetness does take a moment to get used to, but, thankfully, the lightly salted exterior helps to tame it.  Salty and sweet.  Who doesn’t love that?  In addition, these chips definitely bring the crunch factor.  From a company that calls themselves “Hardbite,” I would expect nothing less.  And, let’s be honest…it just sounds so much healthier to eat chips made from parsnips than from potatoes, yes?  I mean, our starchy potatoes are amazing and wonderful…but they do get a bad rap.    If you are a fan of light chips with a big crunch and a sweet and salty flavor…these are definitely for you.

Hardbite was founded by a potato farmer based out of British Columbia.  In fact, this is the only potato chip manufacturing plant based out of British Columbia.  It was founded 12 years ago when, Pete Schouten, the owner, founder, and a farmer was on a quest to perfect the potato chip.  I know that doesn’t sound like much of a quest, but it was enough to get Schouten to start up Hardbite Potato Chips.  When the opportunity arose, he grabbed at it and became an owner in this local company.  It all started with a single frier and a desire to make the very best chip on the market.  Hardbite is picky about what goes into their chips and make their chips with ingredients that are free from GMOs, trans fat, gluten and cholesterol.  They use the finest and freshest ingredients and dress their different flavored chips with aromatic, natural seasonings.  All chips are cooked in small batches to give Hardbite chips that defining crunch.  The Hardbite product line now consists of seven unique flavors for all snacking occasions!

So…interested yet?

Let’s talk ingredients.  The bag of Eat Your Parsnips…also known as Hardbite Handcrafted Lightly Salted Parsnip Chips…is made from parsnips, non-hydrogenated sunflower oil and/or non-hydrogenated canola oil, sea salt.  Yes…that is really it as far as ingredients go.  Three ingredients…big flavor.

As far as nutrition goes, a serving of Hardbite Handcrafted Lightly Salted Parsnip Chips is 28 grams (or about 16 chips).  This serving will provide you with 120 calories and 13 grams of fat.  In addition you will be consuming a light 105 mg sodium and only 1 gram of sugar.  Finally, these chips give you 1 gram of fiber and less than 1 gram of protein.  Not filling, but chips never are.  They do make for a nice snack though in between meals…or paired with a veggie burger or sandwich, for sure.

Real ingredients…real attention to what goes into their food.  This Canadian made chip is a healthy and great alternative to the standard potato chip.  They can be a little sweet, but if you like that sort of thing, you will definitely fall in love with these chips.  And if you are a sucker for a crunch…these definitely bring it.

Yet another brand I never would have even known about or tried if not for Cuisine Cube.  Because of this monthly service, products like these chips from Hardbite, make their way to my kitchen and then…I can go and find out how to get more if they strike my fancy.  Great service.  Great products.  Great food.  Thank you, Cuisine Cube!