Product Review: Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust Mix

Moon Rabbit Farms Gluten Free Pastry & Pie Mix
Moon Rabbit Foods Gluten Free Pastry & Pie Mix

Product: Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust Mix – $8.79+

So, for awhile now, I’ve been wanting to revamp another one of my mom’s famous recipes.  Making it not only gluten-free, but also vegetarian.  Oh…and dairy free too…but that’s pretty much a given when it comes to me, right?  The actual dish is her delicious Cheeseburger Pie.  Normally, the crust of this amazing meal is made from crescent rolls from the grocery store fridge area zone.  You know, that place I hardly visit these days.

Sadness.

But…then I got to thinking…what if I cooked up a pie crust and used that instead.  Sure, it wouldn’t be the flaky crescent roll shell that this meal was known for, but I was already going to get rid of the whole meat thing (using a meat substitute) and use Daiya cheese for the cheese.  So…why not give a different sort of crust a try?

The problem is…pie crusts and I have never really gotten along.  We are anything but BFFs.  Then…lo and behold…the Thanksgiving (November 2014) Cuisine Cube arrived in the mail.  And inside was Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust Mix.  Everything in the November Cuisine Cube could have been used for Thanksgiving itself…but I wasn’t allowed to host this year so most of it was used at my own discretion.  Well, the final product is up now…but first…

Cuisine Cube is run by a small group of foodies who have put together a completely gluten-free box of goodies and then sends them to your doorstep each month.  These boxes contain 5-6 full-size products from small, lesser-known artisan producers…mostly local…some not as local.  Some you may even have heard of before, but most will be new to you.  I signed up for Cuisine Cube back in May and have never looked back.  Subscriptions start as low as $29.99…which is a great price and great incentive to sign up for this subscription box service and try out some gluten-free products you have been too nervous about purchasing yourself or, perhaps, didn’t even know existed.

Such as Moon Rabbit Foods.  Never head of this brand before in my life.  Moon Rabbit Foods follows a philosophy of choosing the finest ingredients and using the latest techniques of the craft of baking to give those living a gluten free lifestyle (like me!) a rare opportunity to enjoy delicious refined pastries and baked goods.  Their baking and pastry blends provide a source for hard-to-find gluten-free products, allowing customers to enjoy that high quality at home, and even allowing them to add their own inspirational touches.  So, here, in my clutches was a pie crust mix.  I had no reason to make a pie.  No one ever wants desserts at the family dinners.  I usually do because I never really get to eat much of what is offered (part of why I love to host).  But, I also hate being the only person to eat dessert, especially when I’m the one providing it.  So, instead of going sweet, I opted to go savory and attempt to recreate a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian version of my mom’s Cheeseburger Pie recipe.

Cross your fingers…

This mix makes 3 9-inch pie crusts.  I went ahead and cooked them all up because…well…I could freeze the rest of them instead of just letting the mix sit and having to haul out all the equipment (a food processor, really) and ingredients (only 3) to do whenever I felt the need to make a pie.  Because if I did that, it would only get used this one time.  Therefore…all or nothing.  So, I took 1 cup of the pie mix and mixed it with one stick (4 ounces) of butter (or vegan butter) and pulsed it until it looked like cornmeal.  Then, in went 3 tablespoons of cold water and I ran the food processor until it all came together.  I formed the dough into a 6-7 inch disk and then put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Then I rolled it out and fit it into a pie pan.  It fell apart at some points because pie crusts hate me, but I managed to get it into the pie pans and into a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.  Out come the par baked crusts…and there you have it.  Use it as you will.

For the rest of the recipe, I used NEAT original mix and prepared the recipe from my mom’s cookbook as it would have been prepared regularly.  YAY!  That recipe will go in the review for NEAT.  So stick with me here.  Let’s talk about how the pie crusts cooked up and the rest of that important stuff.

A slice of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian Cheeseburger Pie on the pie crust made from Moon Rabbit Foods Gluten Free Pastry & Pie Mix
A slice of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian Cheeseburger Pie on the pie crust made from Moon Rabbit Foods Gluten Free Pastry & Pie Mix

First of all, I think I sort of expected them to be a little more golden.  They cooked, but they were still a pale white color.  I poked it to make sure it wasn’t still dough.  Then I figured it would get more golden as it cooked with my filling of Neat, tomato paste, onion, and vegan cheese…but it still remained a pale shade of…pale.  It was cooked…it just didn’t look that way.  It was a bit disconcerting.  It tasted good though, so I guess that’s the important thing.  It may look underdone, but it is quite a good pie shell.  I was actually happy to have a pie crust that didn’t incorporate sugar into the mix as I was using it for a savory dish.  This made this a great substitute for the refrigerated croissant rolls that used to make this light, flaky crust for this dish.  Being a thinner crust also helped as well.  So, once again, looks can be a wee bit deceiving.  It’s all in the taste, when it all comes down to it.

So, what exactly is in the Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust Mix?  According to the package, this mix is made up of potato starch, cassava flour, rice flour, sea salt, unrefined cane sugar, and xanthan gum.  That’s it.  Small list and all recognizable ingredients makes me a happy girl. This crust is gluten-free and vegan.  It is also cholesterol free and fat-free until you add the butter…

As for nutrition, the Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust Mix has around 24 2 tablespoon servings in the package.  A serving will provide 60 calories, 115 mg sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber and no sugar or protein.  No sugar or protein is added to the mix so…it remains that way in the end.  When it’s prepared, all of this changes depending on your ingredients and the like.

If you need an easy pie crust, I highly recommend Moon Rabbit Foods Pastry & Pie Crust.  Yet another product I never would have even know existed (and, hence, never would have made my mom’s Cheeseburger Pie (albeit vegetarian and dairy free)) if not for Cuisine Cube.  Loving this service and the new products and companies that it introduces to me.

Product Review: gfJules Cornbread Mix + Recipe Bonus

gfJules Gluten Free Cornbread Mix
gfJules Gluten Free Cornbread Mix

Product: gfJules Cornbread Mix – $6.26+

I am a stranger in a not so strange land.  Seriously.  Because for the past three three years that I’ve had to be gluten-free…I’ve followed, discussed, and even met the infamous Jules Shepard, AKA: Jules Gluten Free, AKA: gfJules.  And, despite all of that…it has taken me up until now to actually try one of her products!  Hard to believe, right?  Truth of the matter is…no store in my area currently carries any of the Jules line.  I hope that changes.

So…it was due to my November 2014 Cuisine Cube (aka: the Thanksgiving Cube) that my Jules drought finally came to an end.  Thank you, Cuisine Cube.  Because, honestly, I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to be able to give this an easy try, without it involving some online ordering and shipping and…yeah.  So, yes, Jules brand is not new to me…but it is.  Confused yet?  Don’t be.

Jules Shepard is one of the biggest advocates and leaders that I know in the gluten-free community.  She was diagnosed with Celiac back in 1999 and embarked upon her new diet.  As a former attorney who was unwilling to accept the dry, gritty, vacuous foods that the gluten-free community was limited to.  Two years later, Shepard perfected an all-purpose flour blend that allowed her to continue her passion for baking.  Soon, people were begging for her to sell it commercially…which she did.  She introduced this flour blend back in 2008, with her former company, Jules Gluten Free, and now exclusively through her new company – gfJules.  Not only is she an entrepreneur, but Shepard has written three highly regarded books and attends various speaking engagements at gluten-free consumer, business, and trade gatherings.  She is the mother of two children, hosts a weekly radio show, pens one of the gluten-free community’s most active blog, organizes an annual Gluten Free Cookie Swap, and personally monitors all forms of her social media network.  She’s doing it all…but not letting her high standards slip in the slightest.

So…here I was, three years after having discovered Jules via Facebook and Twitter, having met her in person last year at a Gluten Free Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana, and having spent forever longing to try her flour and mixes…it finally happened.  Thanksgiving.  A time for giving thanks and eating comforting and hearty foods.  Like…cornbread.  And that is what Cuisine Cube sent me!

gfJules Cornbread Mix (prepared)
gfJules Cornbread Mix (mixed)

The gfJules Gluten Free Cornbread Mix is a gluten free cornbread mix that “will put a smile on anyone’s face.”  Or, so I was told by the Web site.  As cornbread is one of Jules’ favorite sides, she took extra care when she crated this mix, making it so authentic, some restaurants even serve it and don’t promote it as being gluten-free.  It’s really easy to prepare and make too.  Simply whisk together sour cream, milk and an egg.  Stir in the mix using a fork or whisk until smooth. Spread into a hot buttered pan (or into muffin cups) and bake for 25-30 minutes.  The cornbread is done when the edges are crispy and brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  That is…if you bake it according to the instructions on the box.

By now, you should know…that’s not what I do.

Before I get to the recipe I used this amazing product in, let’s discuss it, shall we?

I loved how a light and airy this batter was once I had it all mixed together.  It just whisked up beautifully and perfectly.  I had a good feeling that this wasn’t going to bake up heavy and dense like most gluten-free cornbread…and I was right.  The cornbread turned a perfect golden in the oven, the edges browning perfectly.  And it had this amazing crust that gave it some great texture.  And the inside was light and soft and moist and…so good.  It ranks up in my top gluten-free cornbreads I have made and tried.  I am blown away by just how delicious and perfect this bread was.  Now I want to try more of her mixes…and will have to skip over to her Web site and make it happen. This was one of the best parts of this entire dish.

gfJules Cornbread Mix (prepared, not baked)
gfJules Cornbread Mix (prepared, not baked)

The gfJules Cornbread Mix is made from the following ingredients: yellow cornmeal, modified tapioca starch, cane sugar, potato starch, cornstarch white rice flour, corn flour, baking powder, flaxseed meal, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt, tocopherols (vitamin E).  It is made in a certified facility free of gluten, wheat, dairy – all of the Top 8 food allergens.  All her ingredients in the cornbread mix are also non-GMO.  Love it.

The gfJules Cornbread Mix makes 8 servings per box.  In each serving, you will be provided with 160 calories and 1 gram of fat.  This serving will give you 490 mg sodium and  5 grams of sugar, which is really good for cornbread, if you ask me!  And, finally, you will be taking in 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein.

And now…how about the recipe that featured the always amazing gfJules Cornbread Mix?  I won’t keep you waiting any longer, I promise…

Recipe: Gluten Free and Vegan Cheddar Chili Cornbread Pasta Bake

gf Jules Cornbread (prepared) on top of the Gluten Free and Dairy Free Cheddar Chili Cornbread Pasta Bake
gf Jules Cornbread (prepared) on top of the Gluten Free and Dairy Free Cheddar Chili Cornbread Pasta Bake

Servings: 6
Time: Prep 4 hours; Cook 30 minutes

Ingredients:

 

  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked gluten-free elbow noodles (I used Meijer Gluten Free Corn Pasta Elbow Noodles)
  • 3/4 cup Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds (if you do dairy…freshly shredded cheddar works!)
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups of leftover chili (I used Mary Ann’s Beans Gluten Free White Chili)
  • 1 batch of your favorite cornbread (I used gfJules Cornbread)

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Bring  the water to a boil and prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package, taking about 1-2 minutes off of the cooking time, as the noodles are going into the oven.

While the noodles are cooking, mix up a batch of your favorite cornbread (just the batter…do not cook it!) and get the cheese prepared.

Drain the pasta when it’s ready.

In an 8 x 8 inch baking dish, spray non-stick cooking spray.  Add the pasta to the botom of the dish.  Then top it with a layer of cheese.  Then add the chili.  Top with the cornbread batter, spreading it evenly over the top with a spoon.  It’s okay if it doesn’t reach the edges.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden on top and cooked all the way through.  You can use a spoon to lift up the cornbread layer to make sure that it is completely cooked.  Cooking times may vary with the cornbread mixture you use, but keep an eye on it and check it.  The cooking time might increase due to the “wet” layers that are underneath the layer.

Serve immediately.

~*~*~

I don’t think a better upper crust could have existed.  No doubt about it.  gfJules lives up to the high pedestal that I have regarded it on since I first discovered Jules Gluten Free three years ago.  So happy that, because of Cuisine Cube, I finally got to try one of her amazing products.  It was everything I thought it would be.  Maybe even more.  Count me one happy cornbread loving girl!

And, if you have yet to give gfJules a try, or Cuisine Cube for that matter…head over to the Cuisine Cube page and sign up for at least a month.  If you aren’t impressed (but, trust me, you will be), you can opt out after that.  With plans starting as low as $29.99/month for each cube, you get the convenience and amazing pleasure of having box of gluten-free goodies arrive each month, featuring lesser-known and smaller gluten-free artisan products.  I have been amazed, wowed, and completely blown away at times by the items I have had the opportunity to find out about and try thanks to Cuisine Cube.  We aren’t talking sample sizes either…you get a full size product, as you would purchase it in the store.  So…what are you waiting for?  Go sign up!

And, gfJules…I loved meeting you this past year…and I have really enjoyed finally getting to try one of your outstanding and top-of-the-line gluten-free products.  I hope more people hop over to your site and order.  Now that I have tried it…there’s no stopping me now!

 

 

Product Review: Zemas Madhouse Foods Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Crust Mix

Zemas Madhouse Foods Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Crust Mix
Zemas Madhouse Foods Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Crust Mix

Product: Zemas Madhouse Foods Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Crust Mix – $7.95+

It’s time for another rewind as I work my way through my pantry these days.  Hard to believe that I’m just now polishing off the very last of the first Cuisine Cube I ever received.  But…it’s true.  I am.  I tend to overlook mixes when I get them because…well…I get distracted by using up the fresh produce that I receive in my CSA bin.  And, sometimes…mixes and my pantry become BFFs for awhile.  Until, one day, I’m looking for something and see a mix and go…”Oh…I forgot I had that.”

For the past couple of weeks, I have had every intention of using up the last product from the May 2014 (the Cuisine Cube that started it all!) cube.  Really.  I even took it to a weekend getaway with me, having every intention of baking it up with my friend.  But, we had other menu plans and this returned home with me.  I kept telling my roomie…”I need to use this mix…this weekend…”  And it never happened.  I had originally thought to turn it into a pizza crust, but that was going to involve yeast and time that I didn’t have…so I decided to just bake up the recipe on the back of the bag…for the Zema’s Gluten Free Tomato Herb Focaccia.

So…first let me give you a recap of Cuisine Cube and the services that they offer.  Cuisine Cube is this great subscription service that will deliver, right to your door, a cube of happiness and goodness, each month.  Subscriptions are affordable and definitely worth it.  In fact, depending on the service you choose, a subscription to Cuisine Cube can run you as little as $29.99 a month.  What a deal, eh?  And, for this low rate, you will receive 5-6 products from small and lesser-known artisan companies that offer gluten-free products.  It is a great way to cut out the highly processed gluten-free stuff you can find in nearly every grocery store this time.  You receive a product that will cover breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, dessert…and sometimes…a bonus!  Seriously…it is fantastic.  And I love trying out brands and products I never would have known about before…or even thought about taking a chance and trying, should it be available in my area.  And most of these items…are not.

So…yesterday…it was the magic day.  I was already cooking up a vegan (yes…you read that right!) shrimp and grits for dinner and as I was about to get started on that, I remembered…”OH…I still have that focaccia bread mix!”  To which my roommate said, “Well, make it up and we’ll have some with dinner.”  Smart lady, my roommate.  So…as I knew that a pizza version and some other recipes (which they have online) involved yeast and rise time…I opted to do the package recipe.  And this product was none other than Zemas Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Crust Mix.

Zemas Madhouse Foods is committed to manufacturing gluten-free, ancient grain baking mixes that help support a clean eating lifestyle through the use of minimally processed ingredients that can be safely incorporated into diets that are limited, allergy-free and diabetic.  They are committed to keeping their products free of dairy, soy, rice, yeast, tree nuts, peanuts, sulfites, additives, trans fats, preservatives, and refined sugar.  I loved what I was reading already.  So, the challenge was going to come with the baking and the tasting.  Would it live up to the hype?

Zemas Madhouse Foods Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Crust Mix (prepared)
Zemas Madhouse Foods Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Crust Mix (prepared)

The recipe was easy and I had all the ingredients necessary to prepare it.  Save for a rimmed cookie sheet.  So, instead I baked mine into a pie pan.  I figured, if anything, it might just require a bit more cooking time.  So, I first combined the wet ingredients: egg whites, water, agave nectar, and apple cider vinegar.  After that was all mixed together, I poured in the mix and whisked it together some more.  Then, it all went into my round cake pan, which I lined with parchment paper.  I topped it off with slices of grape tomatoes and then some dried basil, oregano, and garlic powder.  Then,  just a hit of Himalayan salt.  Drizzled it with olive oil and…into my oven it went for about 45 minutes.  And…the entire time it was baking it smelled AMAZING!  When baking time was up, I tested it to make sure it baked through (I was using a smaller baking vessel, so it would be thicker than if I had baked it on a cookie sheet (Note to self: Purchase rimmed cookie sheet!)…and it was.  So, it sat to cool slightly while I made the rest of dinner.  Once dinner was prepared, I sliced a wedge of the Zemas Gluten-Free Tomato Herb Focaccia…and sat down to a hearty dinner.

As I mentioned above…making focaccia bread with Zema’s Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Crust Mix really made my apartment smell fantastic.  My roommate even said, “If that tastes half as good as it smells…”  So, I dished up her vegan shrimp and grits first and gave her a side of the Tomato Herb Focaccia and as I went to prepare my plate, I heard her say, “The bread is good…but a little dry.”  Focaccia isn’t supposed to be dry…rather have a great outer crust and a chewy inside.  So, as I settled down to eat my own dinner, I went for the bread first.

Zemas Gluten Free Tomato Herb Focaccia Bread (baked)
Zemas Gluten Free Tomato Herb Focaccia Bread (baked)

Zemas Madhouse Foods baked up a really great looking loaf of focaccia bread.  No kidding.  It had that golden outer layer, and when I sliced into it…it was a bit softer.  However, unlike most focaccia’s that get it’s chewy inside from little pockets of air that get there from kneading and/or beating, this definitely had a more cake-like texture to it.  Much denser.  No air pockets.  I took a bite…and my roomie was right, the Zemas Gluten Free Tomato Herb Focaccia, baked form the Zemas Madhouse Foods Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Crust Mix definitely did taste a little dry.  Maybe not dry…but heavy and dense.  Which was a bit of a letdown.  That being said, the flavor…OH MY GOD…the flavor was amazing.  When I eat a slice tonight with dinner, I’m going to serve it with some olive oil and herbs de Provence.  I think having something like that or a marinara to accompany the bread will only enhance the flavor and maybe take away from the dense nature of the inside breading.  I loved the mix, however, especially with the herbs baked right on top.  Just fantastic eating.  I just wish it had baked up differently.  And, perhaps, it was baking it in a cake pan that messed with the end product…but it wasn’t enough for me to ditch the entire loaf and cut my losses.  Not at all.  Amazing flavor can make up for a multitude of sins, for sure.

So, let’s talk about what ingredients go into the Zemas Madhouse Foods Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Mix.  This mix is composed of sorghum flour, millet flour, organic flax seed meal, potato starch, tapioca starch, hemp seeds, and contains less than 2% of the following: aluminum free baking powder, organic quinoa, chia seeds, organic rosemary, xanthan gum, and sea salt.  This mix is free of trans fats, cholesterol, sugar, and saturated fat.

As for the nutritional information, for the mix itself (not made up into a focaccia bread of pizza dough), the  facts are that a serving is about 1-2/3 tablespoon of the dry mix (or about 13 grams).  This serving will give you 45 calories and only 1 gram of fat.  From this serving, you will be taking in 55 mg sodium and 0 sugars.  You will also be consuming only 1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of protein.  If you were to make the Gluten-Free Tomato Herb Focaccia as I did, with the ingredients I listed above, your nutritional information alters slightly.  I made it so that the bread would make 16 servings (16 small wedges), which would provide 78 calories per serving and only 3 grams of fat.  A wedge would also give you 134 mg sodium and only 1 gram of sugar (from the tomatoes!).  And, finally, one serving provides 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein, meaning it’s not a very filling serving, but you won’t be starving either.  Definitely pair this with a meal.

I love the idea and mission that Zemas Madhouse Foods has set into place for their business and their foods.  And while I was underwhelmed by the texture of the focaccia I baked up from the Zemas Gluten-Free Rosemary-Millet Focaccia & Pizza Crust Mix…it really hit a high note when it came to flavor.  I loved the different spices and seasonings and how I could taste all of them.  I think I even have another product (that I found when I was out of town) that is part of Zemas product lineup, so I am eager to try it and see how it comes out.

If you’re looking for a healthier way to eat, despite your dietary restrictions, I definitely recommend not only Cuisine Cube, but also products from Zemas Madhouse Foods.  I think the texture was more in part of how I baked it and now want to try to do it the way it was intended.  That being said, I can’t wait to see how more of Zemas products fair in my kitchen.  Thank you Cuisine Cube…for introducing me to this amazing, and forward-thinking gluten-free company that is trying to help us live a healthier and more nutritious life.

A slice of Zemas Gluten Free Tomato Herb Focaccia
A slice of Zemas Gluten Free Tomato Herb Focaccia

Recipe: Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

It is naturally gluten free.  It is cheesy.  It is soft and gooey and amazing. It is one of the most amazing things you will ever eat.  I first made Brazilian cheese bread when I used a Chebe bread mix a long, long time ago.  But after having the real thing at the Disney World Wine & Dine Festival…Pão de Queijo has been on my mind.

This weekend, I am visiting my friend, Jenn, and we are having a culinary cooking experience, as usual.  Last night, to accompany our delicious gluten-free gnocchi main course…we baked up a batch of this amazing Brazilian cheese bread.  And…were we ever impressed!  Holy cheesy gods of goodness!

So…here’s how we did it…

Recipe: Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)
Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

Servings: 12-30 (we got 30 out of ours)
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup (packed, about 66 grams) grated cheese – I used mature cheddar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Grease a mini muffin tin.  Put all the ingredients in a blender, pulse the mixture till smooth.  (This mixture keeps in the fridge for up to a week, so you can pre-mix some of this for a quick snack during the week).

Fill the muffin tin, slightly more than two thirds full.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden.

Serve fresh and warm from the oven.

~*~*~

Seriously…a great bread to serve up with whatever dinner you are eating.  Or have it with breakfast (we are this morning!).  Or as a snack.  The outside gets golden and a little crispy…but that inside…it is just gooey and soft and just amazing.  I am going to make the hell out of this recipe.  Over and over and over and over again!

Even if you aren’t gluten-free…you will seriously love these bite-size breads of cheesy goodness.  Bake some up now.  Do not try to substitute the tapioca flour for a different flour.  It won’t be the same. Bake it.  Bake it up now!

Recipe: Gluten Free Melted Snowman Cookies

It’s my favorite time of year!  I love the Christmas holidays.  Why?  Because I get to make people some of my baked goodies.  And I absolutely love doing this and then handing them over.  I do this for the people at my bank…the gas station…my neighbors…my adoptive family…and my apartment office.  I do it for friends and family.  I just love, love, love, love to create something in my kitchen and then bring a little joy and sweetness to the people in my life.

Well, as my roommate and I have made friends with our new downstairs neighbors…we wanted to make some Christmas cookies for them.  After asking if their young son had any food allergies (he doesn’t)…I went ahead with my plan to make these adorable Melted Snowman Cookies.  I was just crossing my fingers the entire time that they would work out.  They did.  They require a little work when it comes to the faces…but totally worth it.

Recipe: Gluten Free Melted Snowman Cookies

Gluten Free Melting Snowman Cookies
Gluten Free Melting Snowman Cookies

Servings: 20-28 cookies
Time: Prep 50 minutes; Bake 9-11 minutes

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Cup 4 Cup)
  • 1 pound vanilla-flavored candy coating, coarsely chopped
  • 20-28 bite-size chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped
  • Mini M&Ms for the face (which I separated ahead of time while the cookies cooled so they were ready to go!)1/4 teaspoon salt1 egg
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in the granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until combined. Beat in the cocoa powder and as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour.

Shape dough into twenty 1-3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are just firm. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Place cooled cookies on prepared baking sheet. In a medium microwave-safe bowl microwave candy coating on 50% power for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Spoon melted coating over each cookie to cover cookie and resemble melted snow. While coating is still tacky, add a peanut butter cup for a top hat and decorate with mini M&Ms or other candies to resemble snowman faces.

Let stand until set.

~*~*~

These cookies are not only adorable but they are amazing too!  Lots of flavor.  And they are so easy to make, but it looks like you spent hours in the kitchen making them.  The difficult part is letting that candy coating cool so you can package them up.  HA!  If you are looking for a cute Christmas cookie idea…I highly recommend these!

Happy gluten-free baking, sweeties!

Product Review: Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix
Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Product: Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix – $5.99+

YES!!  FINALLY!!  At long last, I am trying out one of the Cup 4 Cup baking mixes.  I have been dying to do this since these products emerged on the scene back in 2012.  I had eyed the Cup 4 Cup Original Flour Blend back when it was exclusive only to Williams-Sonoma and online purchases.  The problem was, I couldn’t fathom paying the $20+ dollars to try a flour blend that was being touted as the best on the market.  I wish I could have made room in the budget for it, but I live paycheck to paycheck with very little wiggle room most weeks.  Especially having to eat gluten-free.

So, when I was in Columbus, Ohio at The Raisin Rack, and my roomie told me to fill up a basket with products I wanted to try…I knew, immediately, that I wanted one of the Cup 4 Cup baking mixes.  The problem was choosing which one.  The other one on the shelves at the time was the Pizza Crust Mix…and I have so many pizza crusts here just waiting to be made, the pancake mix seemed like the most obvious choice.  And so…it has the honor of being the first product by Cup 4 Cup that I have tried.

So, if you aren’t familiar with Cup 4 Cup or why I’m so enthusiastic about this product, you must take into consideration that I am a food and chef junkie.

This brand of gluten-free flour and baking mixes was created by Chef Lena Kwak, while serving as Research and Development Chef in the famed French Laundry in Yountville, California.  Her mentor, Chef and Owner Thomas Keller, knew they had stumbled upon something amazing when a guest at the restaurant tasted Lena’s gluten-free brioche and cried because she hadn’t tasted bread in years.  It was then that they knew they needed to share this product with the rest of the world.  Cup 4 Cup is not just great-tasting gluten-free flour, but it’s great-tasting flour for everyone.  The name comes from this brand’s ability to substitute all-purpose flour in traditional recipes, cup for cup, making it easy to translate some past favorites into a gluten-free version.  And no one will be the wiser.  Basically, Cup 4 Cup allows you to not only create, but also enjoy all the foods that you always loved…but now makes them gluten-free so that you can love them again.

It is a pretty high standard and tall order to hold yourself up to.  But you have to trust products when Thomas Keller is involved. Really!

On Friday, last week, I had made the decision to finally break into the Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix and make some pancakes.  This was going to be a little time consuming, as I rush home after my 5:30 a.m. spin class on Friday’s to shower, change, and eat something for breakfast.  But, the roomie and I had no real rush, so…I just had everything that I could prep ahead of time done and ready with all the rest of the ingredients out and waiting…with the glass mixing bowl.  I showered.  I changed.  I went into the kitchen, preheated my skillet, and got to work.

Making the Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix is easy.  Even when I doctored the mix up.  You see, I asked Cathy if she wanted just straight-out pancakes, or if she’d like the Lemon Poppy Seed version that was mentioned on the back of the pouch the mix was in.  She said, “You can’t throw lemon poppy seed at me and expect me not to want that!”  So, one quick trip to the grocery store very early that morning to get lemons…I zested and juiced them before heading to the gym so that I just had to melt the butter and mix things together before scooping it out onto the skillet.

Nothing could be easier.  With the skillet preheating, I poured the contents of the pouch into the mixing bowl and added milk and 1 egg to it.  I stirred this together, then added the melted butter and (optional) vanilla extract.  Then, I added the additional stuff to make it the Lemon Poppy Seed variety…1/4 cup sugar, the zest of 2 lemons, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds.  With everything incorporated, I scooped 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle and repeated the process again.  With two pancakes cooking, I noticed that they were getting those perfect bubbles around the edges after a couple of minutes.  Time to flip the pancakes!

As I did, I noticed the gorgeous golden color on the other side.  These were not only properly crisping, but they were fluffing up to these gorgeous, thick, and light pancakes. I was beyond pleased with the look of them.  And they smelled amazing.  That lemon scent was so refreshing.  I checked the skillet side, and noticed it was now golden too…so they were moved to a plate and a new batch was started.  These got a light treatment of butter and some delicious maple syrup.  Breakfast was served.

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes made from Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix
Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes made from Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Cathy got the first two pancakes that morning and when I saw her finish her first bite, I had to ask how they were, since mine were still cooking.  She immediately cut another piece and began to devour it.  “YUMMY” she said, with a mouthful of lemon poppy seed pancakes and maple syrup.

Mine finished up and I ate them in the kitchen while I prepared pancakes from the rest of the mix to have at a later time.  In fact, four of them are coming out of the fridge tomorrow for our post-gym breakfast at the office.  So, it will be interesting to see how they do on a microwave reheat.

That being said…these pancakes did have that perfect golden crust, giving it that amazing golden flavor and initial crunch as your fork slides through it.  These pancakes were not dense or heavy at all.  In fact, I found them rather light and airy in comparison to other pancakes I’ve made from baking blends.  The lemon flavor was incredible…and at just the right level.  Any more and it would have been too tart.  I was glad I left the vanilla extract in, despite it being an optional addition.  I just think it added to the flavor in the end.  Overall, I devoured these in record time, cleaning my plate of every last remnant of the pancakes.

In the end, I ended up making 12 pancakes from the mix itself.

So, let’s talk ingredients.  The Cup 4 Cup Pancake & Waffle Mix is made from cornstarch, white rice flour, sugar, brown rice flour, milk powder, tapioca flour, baking powder, potato starch, salt, and xanthan gum.  It is gluten-free…but trust me…you’d never know it.  No one would.  And these pancakes were definitely diner-style and diner quality.

As for the nutritional information…a serving of the Cup 4 Cup Pancake & Waffle Mix is 1/4 cup of the mix.  This serving provides 140  calories and is fat free.  It is also cholesterol free.  This serving also will provide 440 mg sodium and 8 grams of sugar.  One serving has less than 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  Of course, all of that changes when you prepare it with the rest of the ingredients.  I used almond milk in mine, for the record.

Beyond impressed with Cup 4 Cup All Natural Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix.  On a busy morning, breakfast was still simple to make.  And these really are some of the best pancakes I have had since going gluten-free.  I think having a product that was developed by chefs for consumers helps keep up the integrity.  And we all know that nothing that Thomas Keller touches would be sub-par.

I’m hooked.  I sort of always want to have these in my pantry.  Forever.

Product Review: The Pure Pantry Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix (with bonus recipe & coupon code)

Product: The Pure Pantry Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix – $7.29+

A couple weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be sent a free package of The Pure Pantry‘s Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix.  I was ecstatic…for quite a few reasons.  For the first thing…most gluten-free baking mixes that I have tried…haven’t lived up to expectations.  Secondly, the pancakes on the package looked heavenly…so, I could only imagine the awesomeness that was enclosed inside.

Included with the mix were two recipes.  I had this perfect vision in my head the moment I saw one for The Pure Pantry’s Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Cornbread (or Muffins).  You see…I love chili, soup, and stew.  I LOVE…LOVE…LOVE these things…and it’s officially autumn.  It’s fall.  It’s soup season.  It’s time to break into my vegetable crisper and my pantry and whip up some warm, comforting goodness on the stovetop.

Tonight…that’s just what I did.  And I pulled out my package of The Pure Pantry’s Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix because the perfect accompaniment to any chili (and I made a fantastic Garden Chili with LOTS of veggies!)…is cornbread, of course!!

This was not my first foray into gluten-free cornbread.  I’ve made at least a dozen different versions of it.  None of which I have liked.  Seriously.  None.  They just never seemed to hit that perfect cornbread mark!  Always a disappointment.  If my roommate was game, she’d offer to use the failed versions for some snacks at work…but that was rare.  Yeah…my cornbread record since going gluten-free has not been stellar.

So, you can only imagine my anticipation today when, after a long day of fitness, festivals, and…yes…food…I wanted to cook up a light chili and give this cornbread recipe a whirl.  What could go wrong?  I’d either be amazed…or disappointed once again.

The recipe was very easy and everything needed was in my pantry or fridge already.  Don’t you love it when that happens?  Combining the mix with corn meal, baking powder, salt, and some liquid ingredients, this epic dough that felt light and airy emerged.  I poured it into a greased baking pan and threw it in the oven for about 22 minutes.

What emerged was sheer cornbread perfection.  It looked like cornbread.  It smelled like cornbread.  Once the chili was done simmering away on the stove…I would find out if it tasted like cornbread.  About 20 minutes later…dinner was served.

The first difference between the cornbread made with The Pure Pantry’s Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix was that it didn’t feel heavy or dense…even as it came out of the oven.  I can tell when I bake whether a recipe is going to be good by how heavy the pan feels as I lift it out of that oven.  This didn’t feel heavy at all.  It was this gorgeous golden color on top. It cooled briefly before I got out a knife and sliced it into 16 squares.  Cutting it was a dream.  I could tell that it was going to be a perfect texture due to how easily the knife cut through it.  Like butter!  It glided right through…no fighting with heavy, gummy insides on this bread.  I might have perfection here!  Each bowl of chili was served with two squares of the cornbread.

The verdict?!

BEST GLUTEN FREE CORNBREAD EVER!!  And, as I stated above, I’ve made so much gluten-free cornbread that I didn’t like or I felt just came out wrong.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with this recipe.  It was hearty and delicious and so easy to prepare.  I loved not just the texture, but how light, but substantial it felt.  I loved the flavor…which…for me…was perfect.  It wasn’t sweet cornbread…which is just how I like it.  Sugar in cornbread is cake.  This didn’t taste like cake.  This tasted like cornbread.  It had that gritty, corn flavor.  Honestly…made my night.

I am going to definitely try the sweet recipe that was sent along with this baking mix as well…so stay tuned for that!!  But for now, please enjoy this recipe from The Pure Pantry:

Recipe: The Pure Pantry’s Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Cornbread (or Muffins)

The Pure Pantry Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix (with Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Cornbread)
The Pure Pantry Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix (with Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Cornbread)

Servings: 6
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup The Pure Pantry Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix
  • 1 cup organic yellow corn meal
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (almond milk or rice milk may be substituted) (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening, butter, or coconut oil – melted
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten (or egg replacer)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Grease or butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Combine milk, oil, agave, and egg in a small bowl; mix well.

Add the milk mixture to flour mixture; stir until just blended.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-22 minutes.  For muffins, spoon batter into greased muffin cups, fill 2/3 full and bake 15-18 minutes.

This recipe may be doubled and baked as above in a 13×9 inch baking pan.

~*~*~

The Pure Pantry has so many mixes to offer.  And they were kind enough to share a coupon code with me to give to all of you, my dear readers.  If you are interested in trying their products, skip over to http://www.thepurepantry.com and take a look at their shop.  You can get $1.00 off your purchase of any two (2) gluten-free products from The Pure Pantry simply by entering PLU 35147 as you are checking out!  Trust me…these products are totally worth it.  I have never been so satisfied with a mix than I was with this one.  The Pure Pantry might actually be selling gluten-free baking perfection.

But…don’t just take my word for it.  Get over to their site…order some of their products and see how life changing your gluten-free foods can be.  Simple.  Delicious.  And…amazing and delicious.

The Pure Pantry is pure gluten-free delicious goodness!

Product Review: Molina di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous

Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous
Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous

Product: Molina di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous – $3.00+

There was a time…back before I was diagnosed as a Celiac…when I used to make numerous dishes with a grain known as couscous.  But, as couscous is made from the semolina of hard wheat…so any couscous dish I started to ignore or substitute quinoa.  It worked…but it wasn’t the same.

You cannot imagine my excitement when I opened up this month’s Cuisine Cube and found a box of Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous.  I was beyond thrilled.  Seriously, I might have done a happy dance in my office.  Okay…I did do a happy dance.  And with that being said, I was already making plans in my head to recreate some of my favorite couscous dishes with this little box.  My roommate immediately said, “BREAKFAST COUSCOUS!”  Which, is definitely going to happen.  But…it just so happened that I ended up making a salad first with this product.

It was this month’s issue of Vegetarian Times, highlighting hot and cold salads.  And the one that really, really caught her attention was one of Grilled Eggplant with Couscous and Greek Yogurt Dressing.  We looked over the ingredients and they all seemed within reason to pick up at the local farmer’s market (as none of the ingredients were in the CSA bin this week), so I made a pact…if we could find the ingredients, I would cook up the dish.  Because now…I could absolutely use couscous in a dish that asked for it.

The shopping was a success and last night, I found myself prepping most of the ingredients for our dinner tonight.  I cooked up the couscous, seeded the pomegranate, diced the cucumbers, chopped the green onion, and chopped the mint leaves.  I blended together the yogurt dressing ingredients, after a quick run to the store for the actual yogurt itself.  It was the one ingredient we forgot about.  HA!  Not bad.

Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous (cooked)
Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous (cooked)

I have to say…the couscous is easy enough to cook.  I actually didn’t follow the ingredients on the box.  I went off the instructions in Vegetarian Times for the cooking of the whole-wheat couscous they used in the original recipe.  So, instead of 2/3 cup of couscous with 2/3 cup of boiling water, I used the 2/3 cup of couscous and 1 cup of boiling water, letting it cook for 5 minutes.  Usually the said amount of boiling water and the same ratio of couscous would sit for 2 minutes, then the box says to add oil or butter and cook for 3 more minutes over a slow flame.  The way I did it worked just as well, and when the 5 minutes was up, I emptied the pan of couscous into a bowl to cool for 10 minutes.  Then I added the pomegranate seeds and the remaining ingredients, seasoning with olive oil and white wine vinegar.  I let it chill overnight in the fridge.

After work today, my roomie and I returned home and I set out to grill the eggplant and piece the dish together.  That’s what I did.  I plated the couscous salad, then topped it with the grilled eggplant, gave a drizzle of the Greek yogurt dressing and topped it off with a few more pomegranate seeds.  It looked amazing.  And it tasted just as good!

Now, my roommate said her least favorite part of the dish was the couscous, but to me, it was one of the highlights.  Maybe it was because I haven’t had it in a long time.  But I did nothing special to season this couscous, as I used to hit up the regular couscous with cayenne while it steamed.  I left this one plain, as I was adding enough flavors via the fresh ingredients and the oil and vinegar…and a touch of salt to season.  I thought the texture was clearly different.  This was a lighter, smoother, not as gritty couscous, but it was the perfect ingredient for this dish.  In fact, I can’t wait to try it in my “Breakfast Couscous” later on this week.

The grains of the Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous were finer and smoother than regular couscous.  However, this is not to say that it was mush.  Anything but that.  In fact, the grains were still very noticeable on the palate and tongue.  I found that it really blended well with all the fresh vegetables and ingredients that were placed on top of it.  It was perfection…quinoa wouldn’t have been the same.  The couscous was perfect.  And it tasted brilliant.

I was beyond impressed!

So, I bet you’re wondering what a gluten-free couscous is made from.  Simple.  One ingredient is all that is listed on Molino di Nicoli’s Web site – corn flour.  Yes, the Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous is simply corn flour.  That explains the different texture from regular couscous…but ultimately still delicious.  It felt more like grits than couscous…but…it will do.  Different…but close enough in my eyes.

As far as nutrition goes…well…let me see if I can figure this out.  A serving size of Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous is 50 grams, which is about 1/4 of a cup.  This serving will provide you with 177 calories and 0.5 grams of fat.  You will be consuming 0.002 mg sodium (yes…that is the actual measurement) and 0.3 grams of sugar.  A serving provides you with 1.3 grams of fiber and 3.8 grams of protein.  It’s not too filling, but you won’t fell starved an hour later either.  Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous is gluten-free and cholesterol free.

I will be savoring this couscous for as long as I can, as I have a few more dishes I want to make with it.  But tonight’s meal was a success.  It was the perfect base for the grilled eggplant and the light and lively dressing that brought everything together.  Beyond happy.  It’s not exactly couscous, but when you’re gluten-free…this is close enough.  Close enough…and really, really good!

Thank you, once again, Cuisine Cube.  Because of you…I’m one happy couscous eating girl again!

Grilled Eggplant with Greek Yogurt Dressing over a Gluten Free Couscous Salad using Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous
Grilled Eggplant with Greek Yogurt Dressing over a Gluten Free Couscous Salad using Molino di Nicoli Gluten Free Couscous

 

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

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

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

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

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

Oh…that made me happy, indeed.

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

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

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

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

We’re pros.  HA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Product Review: Breads From Anna Gluten Free Banana Bread Mix

Breads From Anna Gluten Free Banana Bread Mix
Breads From Anna Gluten Free Banana Bread Mix

Product: Breads From Anna Gluten Free Banana Bread Mix – $7.49+

I don’t remember where I first heard about Breads From Anna bread mixes…but I discovered it one day at work.  I remember messaging my friend, Jenn, on Twitter because the store locator showed that her local natural foods store, The Raisin Rack, carried these mixes.  She said that the next time she made it over there, she’d check.

Well, it just so happened that the next time she was over there…I happened to be with her.  And my roommate happened to be in a generous mood as far as the food budget, because she handed me a basket and told me to fill it up!

I did.  And, lo and behold, in one of the aisles with a bunch of gluten-free baking mixes…I found Breads From Anna bread mixes.  Lots and lots of them.  The hard part was finally choosing which one to try first.  While I love pumpkin bread…in the end I went with the Gluten Free Banana Bread Mix.

Normally I make my own bread, but I have never, ever had a gluten-free banana bread come out right.  I figured it was time to call in some help in the form of a mix.  When in doubt…try the experts.  How did I know that Anna would be an expert?  I didn’t.  But I had heard things.  Good things.  And as a celiac and type 1 diabetic, she wanted to make bread that tastes like bread (not cardboard), and as a trained chef, she was able to put her skills to the test and created safe, allergen-free products that would have superb flavor, texture, and taste.  When her non-celiac brother first tried her bread…he said it tasted like bread.  That was all she needed.  Breads From Anna grew from there.

Regardless of what I heard and the creator’s promise on the side of the box…with me…it just has to be baked and tested.  Making the batter was easy.  After preheating the oven and greasing one bread loaf pan, I mixed together the eggs, the oil, and the 3 bananas, which I had pureed in the food processor.  In went the bread mix, and once that was well blended, I went ahead and folded in the optional chopped nuts.  Because banana bread plays nicely with nuts.  Into the loaf pan and then into the oven for one hour.

Yes.  One hour.  One hour of sheer torture because after about 20 minutes, you get that amazing banana bread smell wafting out of the kitchen.  I was literally doing my hand weight routine and trying really heard not to drool.  The aroma was beyond enticing.  I peaked into the oven about halfway through and the loaf had risen and puffed up gorgeously and was turning this fantastic golden color.  I wasn’t sure it needed the remaining 30 minutes, but kept it in the oven regardless…hoping for the best this time around.  When the timer went off, I pulled it from the oven and set it on a cooling rack to now cool in the pan for an hour.

Sweet torture!

But…well worth the wait.  After an hour…to the exact moment, I made my way back into the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and you better believe I carved a slice out of it.  My roommate, who is non-celiac and a bread connoisseur, was my ultimate test.  I handed her a slice of the still warm gluten-free banana bread and waited for her to take a bite.  She absolutely loved it.  My turn.

Moist.  Light.  Definitely delivering on the flavor, the texture, and the overall feel of banana bread.  This bread isn’t heavy and dense.  It isn’t overly banana.  It’s moist, but without being wet.  It’s perfection.  Honest to goodness bread goodness.  I wish I could claim I made this from scratch.  This loaf of bread puffed up to this gorgeous loaf with a nice golden outer crust.  Inside, you get this fantastic banana and walnut flavor.  And this loaf does bake up big.  Like…better than any other bread I have made, whether from scratch or from a mix.  Never before has it turned out like this one did.  I’m hooked.  I want to buy all the Breads From Anna Mixes and just get into that kitchen and test them all out.

Totally worth it.

So, down to the science of things.  The Breads From Anna Gluten Free Banana Bread Mix is made from powdered honey, tapioca starch, arrowroot, millet four, potato starch, chia flour, chickpea flour, pinto bean flour, navy bean flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, xanthan gum, and sea salt.  This bread mix is gluten-free, yeast-free, corn-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free and rice-free.  For a bread that is yeast free…it sure did rise up beautifully.  This mix is also kosher parve and non-GMO.

Nutritionally speaking, the Breads From Anna Gluten Free Banana Bread Mix contains 14 servings.  One serving of the mix on its own is 80 calories.  The mix is fat free and cholesterol free.  Just the dry ingredients alone, you will be taking in 270 mg sodium and 9 grams of sugar.  In addition, you will be consuming 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein.

I. AM. IN. LOVE.

With a bread mix.  Thank you, Anna Sobaski…for creating this fantastic mix to make gluten-free baking, which is an art and science all itself, easy for someone like me.  This bread is one of the best I have ever cooked up in my kitchen.  I am happily, happily noshing away on this delicious loaf.  And with all the flavor, texture and taste of “real” banana bread…no one would have a clue that they were eating gluten-free.

Thank you.