Product Review: Fiona’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal

Fiona's Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal
Fiona’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal

Product: Fiona’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal – $4.99

January has come and gone, but some of us are clinging tightly to our New Years Resolutions.  There are so many new members at my gym that it’s virtually impossible to get a machine unless you arrive at 5 a.m.  Granted, this happens every year…but it can still be quite the gauntlet to run for about 2-3 months.  Along with exercise come vows to eat better and to diet, diet, diet.  Now, I’m not one to technically diet.  I try to mind what I eat (although I have my weaknesses…like anything creamy like a nut/seed butter) all throughout the year, but it seems when everyone around you is dieting, you become a bit more mindful of what you’re eating as well.

Leave it to Cuisine Cube, then, to put together the perfect cube for January 2015.  Enclosed inside were some really fantastic gluten-free products…that had a healthy edge to each and every one of them.  I have already dined on the gluten-free white chili mix.  And while I have plenty left in this cube, this past day, I realized I was out of my little pouches of oatmeal for lunch…so therefore, I needed something to feast on at work.  Since oatmeal is my thing…I remembered that Cuisine Cube had included a package of oatmeal in the latest delivery.  I went and dug it out of the box and took it into the kitchen to see about getting it ready for the following day at work.

But I’ll get to that soon enough.  Let me first talk about Cuisine Cube.  Cuisine Cube is a mail delivery service, starting at a cost as low as $29.99, which delivers amazing, local, small artisan gluten-free products and foods to your doorstep each month.  Encased in each box you will find 5-6 products that are free of preservatives and chemicals that you are likely to find in the more common gluten-free product brand names on the shelves of your grocery store.  When I first signed up for this, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But I’m hooked.  And I love the surprise I get each month when I open up the box and dig out what they included this time.  It is truly like Christmas every month.  And I have liked and loved pretty much everything that that have included.  Not always…but they have a good streak going this far.

Well, with all the promises to get fit and stay fit, it seems Cuisine Cube was prepared.  For the breakfast item in the January 2015 cube, they included a pack of Fiona’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal.  This is not the first time Fiona’s Natural Foods has been a part of my Cuisine Cube.  I’ve had the opportunity to try (and love) a granola that was included in the very first Cuisine Cube I received (May 2014).  This made me very excited to give the oatmeal a try.  Fiona’s Natural Foods’ mission is simply to offer consumers an organic, gourmet product that is superior in taste, texture, quality, and nutritional value.  They commit themselves to this mission with each product they have on the market.  In my January Cuisine Cube, it was the Fiona’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal.

The first thing I did was scan the packaging for the instructions on how to prepare it.  They had a few options…stove top, microwave, or cold.  I love overnight oats, and it’s so much easier to do for work than try to fit into the line for the one microwave we have for the 18 people that work in the actual office.  So, that’s what I did.  There weren’t many instructions, just to combine the oatmeal with milk and let it sit overnight.  There were no measurements, so I went with the measurements for the warm version of this cereal.  1/4 cup of the oatmeal – 1/2 cup of milk (I used Silk Unsweetened Cashew Milk).  I put it in a mason jar and set it in the fridge overnight.  There was a lot of liquid, but I was hoping that the oats would soak most of it up as it sat overnight.  It didn’t.  Not really…but it was no bother to me.

That following afternoon, around noon, when I usually take my lunch, I went to the kitchen at the office where I stashed my jar of milk and oats in the fridge and brought it back to my desk.  I took one bite…and was amazed.  The crazy amount of flavor and texture that comes with each bite is fantastic.  I will definitely have to give this a try warm in the next few days…but cold it was soupy (so much milk), but amazing.  The European-style oatmeal is a hearty and wholesome blend of dried fruits, oats, nuts and seeds.  There was no added sugars, no added oil.  Nothing that shouldn’t be in there.  Extra love just for that.  So, I carefully brought a spoonful of the chilled oats and cashew milk up to my lips and tried it.

I am beyond in love with this blend.  First of all…the flavors that come out of having no sweeteners or spices included in the ingredients is fantastic.  The seeds and nuts make each spoonful take on a fantastic and intriguing texture.  I loved the variety.  The raisins and tart cherries plumped up sitting in the milk overnight and were sweet and sour all at once.  It was fantastic.  In fact, today I made it up for my roommate as well.  Remember, Cathy doesn’t have to eat gluten-free or vegan or vegetarian…but she does in the apartment.  And, guess what?  She LOVED the oatmeal.  In fact, she said her favorite part was how plump and ripe the bits of raisin and cherry got.  Yeah…it’s a total win.  Super delicious.  I would make this for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a total heartbeat!

Let’s talk ingredients, shall we?  The Fiona’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal is made from certified gluten free rolled oats, certified gluten free steel cut oats, raisins, flax seeds, dried sour cherries, pecans, and sunflower seeds.  Yes…that is it.  It is raw, wheat free, vegan, soy free, salt free, gluten free, and amazing!!  Just pure and simply amazing.

As for nutrition, a serving of Fiona’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal is 1/4 cup.  In this serving, you will be taking in 120 calories and 4 grams of fat.  You will also be provided with only 3 grams of sugar.  Isn’t that fantastic.  This oatmeal is cholesterol free and sodium free.  Finally, you will be consuming 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein, which will help make you feel full once you finish your serving.  It truly is one of the most fantastic oatmeal combinations I have ever eaten.

I can’t find Fiona’s Natural Foods products here in my area, so when I get something like this, it truly does make me want to place an order for more.  And that will certainly be happening as the way this oatmeal plays across your taste buds and excites your palate is really unmatched by anything else I have eaten.  Truly a fantastic food in and of itself.  Hot or cold…you’re going to want to devour the Fiona’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal.  I know it won’t last long in my pantry.

Another brilliant product brought to me by the amazing Cuisine Cube.  I am forever in their debt.

Overnight Oats made from Fiona's Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal
Overnight Oats made from Fiona’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal

Product Review: New England Naturals Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Coconut Granola

New England Naturals Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Coconut Granola
New England Naturals Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Coconut Granola

Product: New England Naturals Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Coconut Granola – $6.49+

I don’t know why…but I have turned into a granola freak over the past couple of years.  I absolutely love the stuff.  And it can be eaten on its own, on top of Greek yogurt, put over ice cream, mixed with fruit, etc.  I love granola and love trying new versions that I find out in the markets.  When it comes to the gluten-free options available in my area, I think I’ve pretty much tackled them all.  Every brand.  Every flavor.  I’ve got it covered.

So, when I take a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit my family, one of the required stops I make is to a natural foods market called Organic Harvest.  It was on one such trip that I stopped in and spotted some gluten-free granola I was unfamiliar with on one of the shelves.  Therefore, I put it into the “Organic Harvest Budget” and made it one of the items I brought home with me.  I try to aim for things I don’t see in my area…so this fell right into that category.

The brand was New England Naturals Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Coconut Granola.  There were a few flavor options on the shelf from New England Naturals…but this had a few things working for it…the word unsweetened…the word coconut…and the word berry.  I happily snagged the white and pink package off the shelf and dropped it into my basket.  After a little more shopping…it was time to check out.  And, when I left Alabama, this bag of granola made the journey with me.

And then sat, dormant, as I wasn’t doing anything in the mornings with granola.  Until recently.  Because I’m really changing up not only workout plans, but also the diet.  And some mornings…a fruit, yogurt and granola parfait are on the menu.  YAY!  Finally getting things back on track.  And I have been working my way through the packs of granola that I have acquired over the past few months.  Some I have liked more than others.  But now…it was time for the New England Naturals Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Coconut Granola to either wow me or underwhelm me.

Yesterday…was the first chance it had to shine.  I had picked up some strawberries at the grocery store over the weekend, along with some Greek yogurt.  So, I began building the parfait…starting with a small hit of the New England Naturals Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Granola…then yogurt…honey…fruit…repeat…top with a handful of granola…drizzle honey…enjoy!  Simple.  And one heck of a breakfast if you ask me.  Nutritious, filled with great nutrients, and hearty thanks to the granola.

I loved quite a few things about this granola.  For one thing, the New England Naturals Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Granola wasn’t clumpy.  No large clusters to break apart.  It was just every little piece stood on its own.  Which means to me that this is not loaded with sticky sugars and syrups that would cause things to bind together.  YAY!  Second of all…because it is unsweetened, the flavors that are in the bag are what you get.  If a granola can’t stand on its own when it comes to flavor…then…I feel it is failing to do its duty.  The freeze dried blueberries and raspberries really bring out the tangy nature of this granola.  The coconut chips add a depth of flavor.  And the oats…they bring the texture.  I felt all the components really worked well together and when put into one bite did make for…a perfect bite.  Subtle flavors…but just enough to accentuate, not detract from the rest of the dish.

What I love about New England Naturals is that they believe that gluten free products should be delicious and have nutritional value.  What a concept!!  So often, a gluten free product is a calorie and fat laden mess, making up for the lack of gluten in the product.  It is great to see a company striving for better health in gluten free goods.  This is something I can totally get behind.

With that being said, let’s go ahead and take a look at the ingredients that go into the New England Naturals Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Granola, shall we?  This granola includes organic gluten free oats, organic expeller pressed canola oil, organic coconut, organic raisin puree, organic corn meal, organic flax seed, organic freeze dried raspberries, organic freeze dried blueberries, organic vanilla flavor, and salt.  This granola is non-GMO, kosher, gluten-free trans fat free, and cholesterol free.  It is a great source of iron as well!

As far as nutrition information goes, a serving of the New England Naturals Organic Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Granola is 1/2 cup.  That’s a lot of granola.  I use half of that in each parfait.  But, if you were to eat an entire serving, that would provide you with 250 calories and 12 grams of fat.  Much of that fat count is going to be provided by the oils, seeds, and the coconut.  With the exception of the oil, the rest of it is a healthy fat.  A serving of this granola will also dish up 60 mg sodium and 3 grams of sugar.  How amazing is that?  So often, granola is just laden with sugar and I have to really pay attention to it as I’m trying to cut back on processed sugars.  But with this being left unsweetened, that sugar count stays low.  Love that.  And, finally, you will be taking in 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, making this not only nutritious, but also filling.  I love eating a gluten-free food and not feeling famished only an hour or so later.  No artificial fillers here either.  This is naturally filling and it lasted me through the morning for sure.

If you like granola, but are tired of the sugar-fests out there, I highly recommend the New England Naturals brand.  With less sugar and still packed with flavor, you really can’t go wrong.  I am definitely enjoying using it this week on various morning dishes.  Breakfast is definitely being done right.  I hope I can locate some of this granola in my area…or else I’m stocking up next time I’m down visiting my family!  Without a doubt…one of the best low sugar options out there.

Product Review: Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread
Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

Product: Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread – $3.99+

Sometimes…the world is made for more than just gluten-free sandwich bread.  The problem is…not only is a good and delicious gluten free sandwich bread sometimes hard to come by…so is an alternative.  For some, gluten-free isn’t just a dietary choice, it is a necessity.  No cheating allowed or bad things happen.  Very, very bad things.

Back before my initial diagnosis, however, I had found a new love for making wraps.  Yes…wraps.  And one of the best options out on the market were these low-calorie wraps called…Sandwich Thins.  Ah, the days of making sandwiches and pizzas and other things using Flat-Out Sandwich Wraps.  I loved them.  I used them a lot.  But, when I was diagnosed as a Celiac, at first I refused to spend an ungodly amount of money on sandwich bread…and when I finally decided I couldn’t live my life without sandwiches…I had to find a good one to use.  When I narrowed that down to a few different brands to choose from (since one would usually be on sale at some point at one of the 9 stores I would visit)…I resigned myself that if I wanted anything apart from regular sandwiches…I’d have to use gluten-free corn tortillas.  And that…just seemed wrong.

Since then, however, a few companies, including Rudi’s Gluten-Free and Udi’s Gluten-Free have released tortillas and wraps that make great substitutes.  But, they just weren’t the same as my Flat-Out Sandwich Wraps from my past.  It was sad for this gluten-free foodie, for sure.

But then, I took a journey to Boulder, Colorado and just happened to be killing time on a Sunday morning, waiting for some stores to open, perusing the aisles of a local natural food store.  I wasn’t planning on shopping for food items.  After all, these had to make the journey back to Indiana with me.  But, alas…when I’m not looking is when I find something.  And this time, this something was – SANDWICH PETALS!  In three flavors, even.  These reminded me so much (in shape and feel) of the Flat-Out Sandwich Wraps I had given up…that I had to have them.  So, all three flavors were purchased and made the journey home.  The Spinach Garlic flavor was the first to disappear.

This time…as I was making a simple vegetable wrap for dinner, I opted for the “original” version…the Agave Grain flavor of Sandwich Petals.

Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread
Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

Sandwich Petals are aptly named because, well, they are shaped like a flower petal.  Or a football.  Or, perhaps, a combination of the two.  Regardless, they are oblong, narrower at the top and slightly wider around the middle.  They are easy enough to prepare too.  Just prep your filling, and then wrap a single Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Petal in damp paper towels.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  And you’re good to go.  When you first take the petals out of the resealable package, they are rather stiff and stale feeling.  But when you warm them up in the damp paper towel, they do get slightly more pliable and flexible.  Enough that you can roll them up and make them functional to say the least.  So…it would do.  I warmed mine up, gave each petal a schmear of sun-dried tomato hummus, then packed it with kale, spinach, greens, yellow peppers, sliced onion, carrots, and a bit of avocado.  Do not attempt to actually be able to roll these up into a wrap if you do fill it like an actual wrap should be filled.  That doesn’t work with these wraps.  But, you can go “taco-style” with them.  It will be messy…but it works.  And that’s exactly how it was for the past two nights.

The Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Petals were actually sweet.  Which…was weird when paired with the vegetables.  At least I thought so.  A little bit of sweetness is fine, but this was an odd sweetness that just didn’t work in tandem with the rest of the insides.  This one, as I found out this morning when I paired this wrap instead with a banana, some melted peanut butter, and a bit of gluten-free chocolate chip granola, worked best as a dessert base, or wrap for something with a bit more sweetness.  While not off-putting, it was just…different.  But, ah well.  If you warm up the Agave Grain Sandwich Petal and don’t build and consume your wrap immediately, leave it within the damp paper towel…or your wrap does stiffen up and harden back up a little.  While it still is good, it’s just not as nice as a soft and pliable wrap that sandwich wraps are associated with.  These were good…but not “knock-my-socks-off” fantastic.  I don’t know if I would seek out this particular flavor again…unless wanting to make a sweet wrap or something that included cinnamon and sugar and chocolate and all that stuff.  The sweetness just seems to work better with that sort of a filling.  Not bad.  But…not my favorite either.  I reserve the right to be a bit picky when it comes to the short supply of gluten-free options out there.  Wow me!  That’s how you win me.

Hummus and Veggie Wrap made with Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread
Hummus and Veggie Wrap made with Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

The Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Petals are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, nut free, egg free, non-GMO, and diabetic smart.  These flatbreads are made with 10 gluten free ancient grains, contain omega 3’s, prebiotics (which aid in a healthy digestive system – very important for Celiacs, indeed!), are versatile, don’t have to be frozen, are virtually allergen free, and are heart healthy!  The Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Petals are made from GluTenFree Gluten-Free Proprietary blend of milled and whole grains (including: corn, flax, sesame, buckwheat, brown rice, sorghum, millet, quinoa, teff, and amaranth), water, organic agave nectar, tapioca starch, raisin juice, molasses, short chain fructooligosaccharides, xanthan gum, dicalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, fumaric acid, sodium propionate, and sorbic acid.  I know…those last few sound rather…processed, yes?  Yeah…I agree.  But…gluten-free flatbreads/wraps are important to at least try!  Even if you’re trying to do more clean eating.

As far as nutrition goes, a serving of the Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Petals is 1 wrap.  This 1 petal will provide you with 100 calories and only 1 gram of fat.  Theses petals do not have any trans fat or cholesterol.  One of these wraps will give you 120 mg sodium and 3 grams of sugar.  Considering these are sweeter than the other version I tried, I think that’s not a bad number on the sugar.  One of these wraps will also serve up 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  So, yes…they are filling, but they won’t leave you feeling like a glutton or as though you have eaten too much.  Even when stuffed full of whatever fillings you want, be it sweet, savory, a protein, or just vegetables.

I have yet to find Sandwich Petals anywhere in the stores I live near or in this area of the country.  However, if you are curious about them, you can order them on the Sandwich Petals page…here!  I was certainly a bigger fan of the Spinach Garlic version of these gluten-free tortillas, but the Agave Grain version wasn’t too bad itself.  If these were readily available in my area, I would definitely consider using them in other ways.  If you like a kick of sweetness in each bite…or are looking for a dessert wrap of some sort, this would be the wrap for you.  These wraps, I will say, do not distract from whatever filling you do put inside, though.  Even if it has a sweetness in the aftertaste.  I love having different options when I’m preparing a sandwich without making a standard sandwich with gluten-free bread.  While the Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Wraps were not my favorite of the two versions (of three) that I have tried…they weren’t horrible either.  Just choose your use wisely with these.  To me…until this morning’s breakfast creation…these ones just fell a bit…flat.

Breakfast Banana, Peanut Butter, and Granola Wrap using Sandwich Petals Agave Grain Flatbread
Breakfast Banana, Peanut Butter, and Granola Wrap using Sandwich Petals Agave Grain Flatbread

Product Review: Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola

Jessica's Natural Foods Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola
Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola

Product: Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola – $6.99+

On some very rare occasions, a product that arrives in my Cuisine Cube is actually something I am familiar with…or…perhaps…even might have tried before.  When it comes to the Non-GMO Project cube, which arrived in October, I was actually surprised to encounter a brand that I had already tried.  Albeit, this was not a flavor I had tried from this brand, but it is readily available at my local Whole Foods!  Like I said…this doesn’t happen often…but sometimes it’s a comfort to find a small brand that you have familiarized yourself with before.

This product…was the Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola from Jessica’s Natural Foods.  Jessica’s Natural Foods was started by Jessica Mindell, an avid baker with a background in engineering.  Back in 2009, her husband discovered that he was gluten-intolerant and said that he missed oat-based granola.  Once Mindell was able to find gluten-free oats and a certified gluten-free facility, she was able to launch her healthy, delicious granola.  Since then, her bags of granola have expanded to over 25 states.  Mindell’s passion for natural foods means that she always bakes with simple, pure ingredients and keeps health and nutrition at the forefront of her products.

Prior to this Cuisine Cube…I had picked up a pack of the Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten-Free Pecan Almond Granola.  My Cuisine Cube stepped it up a notch by including one of my most favorite things…chocolate!  Chocolate chips to be exact.

With all the time that I’ve spent traveling and racing these past couple of months…and the holidays taking over life in general…I haven’t had much time to explore some items from some of my Cuisine Cubes.  That being said, I’m making a push currently to polish off most of the products that have made a home in my pantry.  I need to be more pro-active about these products…and that’s not a bad thing.  It is definitely getting me to branch out and try some things I had been content to let sit for awhile.

This past week, after a long weekend away in Charleston, South Carolina (I was marathoning)…I was looking for a delicious, and more nutritious way to enjoy breakfast.  I knew I had a few granola options tucked away on the top shelf of my kitchen pantry…so, I grabbed a stool (I’m short…I can’t help it!) and dug around.  I had two to choose between and both sounded great.  But the Jessica’s Natural Foods variety had one thing that won me over…

CHOCOLATE CHIPS!

Yep…the sweet-tooth, chocaholic emerged with a vengeance upon seeing that in the name.  WIN!  That morning, I darted out to the grocery store to pick up a few necessities that were needed for the coming week and ended up picking up a big container of Greek yogurt, some fresh organic blueberries, and a few other fruits and vegetables to use for the various meals I needed for the week.  Breakfast…lunch…dinner.  You name it.  But, I hadn’t made many of my fruit & yogurt breakfast parfaits for a long while, and I knew this was a delicious and nutritious way to start the morning.  With some granola at home, it was just a matter of choosing the fruit.  I had thought to get strawberries, but the organic ones didn’t look too good.  We are, after all, out of season.  But, the blueberries looked big and ripe and therefore…came home with me.  That morning, I assembled two breakfast parfaits, making use of the Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola, vanilla Greek yogurt, local honey, and the fresh organic blueberries.  I just layer these up and top it off with more granola and…voila…breakfast was served.

Jessica’s Natural Foods gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola is, without a doubt, one of the best granola’s I have had since going gluten-free.  The gluten-free oats were toasted and golden to perfection.  Adding to the sweetness were the melt-in-your-mouth bits of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  It feels like you’re cheating, but in reality, you are eating something that is good for you.  Mixing these delightful spoonfuls with a thick and delicious Greek yogurt and bursts of fresh fruit juice from the little blueberries…this made a perfect breakfast with each bite.  The granola brought this fantastic and light texture to the entire dish.  And, if left with a bag of this and no supervision, I could easily eat the entire bag in one sitting.  The clusters with the chocolate were my favorite part as they would melt upon hitting my tongue.  This made handfuls of this granola a great treat…if not addictive.  Seriously…one of the best parts of any breakfast I have ever eaten in my entire life…this granola is amazing.  And I don’t feel bad indulging in it, because the ingredients are natural and the nutritional information is rather good!

Granola can become a calorie-laden sugar-fest, so it’s always good to take a look at ingredients and nutritional information.  For Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola…this is what the company strives for.  The Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Granola is made from certified gluten-free rolled oats, semi-sweet chocolate chips, organic honey, brown sugar, expeller pressed sunflower oil, ground flax seed, coconut, maple syrup, pure vanilla extract, cinnamon, sea salt, tocopherols (natural vitamin E).  This granola is free of cholesterol and trans fats.  It is also gluten-free and non-GMO.

A serving of Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola is 1/4 cup.  Trust me…this may not seem like much…but it is an amazing and filling 1/4 cup.  Mmm…chocolate by the quarter-cup.  In this serving, you will be consuming 130 calories and 6 grams of fat.  Not bad for granola.  Not at all.  In this serving, you will also be taking in 30 mg sodium and only 7 grams of sugar.  Yes…only 7 grams.  That’s amazing.  So often, the gluten-free granola I find is laden with heavy sugar.  Not these.  Naturally sweet more than anything.  And finally, this 1/4 cup serving gives you 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  Not too filling, but filling enough, especially when paired with nutrient dense Greek yogurt and fiber-filled fresh fruit.

Oh yes…it’s a rare thing when Cuisine Cube sends me something I am already familiar with, but in a way, it’s also quite satisfying.  If you have yet to join the happy consumers of Cuisine Cube…just go over to their Web site and check out your options.  Every month is like Christmas as you open up your box and discover what products have been selected for you.  These monthly deliveries start at $29.99…and are so totally worth the investment.  I have yet to regret making this choice to enjoy these monthly deliveries.  Seriously…give it a month and you will want to keep going!  It’s because of this service that I am able to try foods like Jessica’s Natural Foods, a less-processed and lesser-known product than some of the brand name gluten-free granola out on the market.  I much prefer to support the smaller businesses who put a lot more thought and care into their products and the making of their products.  I feel that way about Jessica’s Natural Foods…so check them out too!  If you can’t find these bags of granola goodness at your Whole Foods…get online and place an order!  Stop hesitating…and just do it!

 

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: Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten-Free Pecan Almond Granola

Jessica's Natural Foods Gluten Free Pecan Almond Granola
Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Pecan Almond Granola

Product: Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten-Free Pecan Almond Granola – $6.99+

It wasn’t in the budget this week.  Honestly.  But I have a lot of delicious, fresh blueberries at home and needed some way to prepare them.  Well…some other way as I’ve already put some in a blueberry compote for gluten-free pancakes and even baked some into dark chocolate and blueberry scones.  Mmmm…scones.  I’ve been eating them prior to running and after running.  So, when I was out grocery shopping, it occured to me that one of my favorite ways to eat blueberries…is in my breakfast fruit, yogurt and granola parfaits.   So, while at Whole Foods, Cathy and I were walking through the cereal aisle and she spotted the bright, colorful, yellow packaging of Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten-Free Granola!

Her eyes fell on the Motor City Crunch variety, which is a chocolate and hazelnut granola.  Mmmm…Nutella in granola form.  I wanted it.  So, I told her we had to get one, because, after all, we had blueberries to eat.  So, she grabbed…the Gluten-Free Pecan Almond Granola??!!  After waving chocolate hazelnut at me?  That’s just mean and cruel, I think.  Next time I’m selecting so I get the chocolate hazelnut.  Crazy roomie of mine.  Chocolate and hazelnut always win.  I mean, I love pecans and almonds, but those are in…pretty much every other granola out there.  And Motor City Crunch actually had like a special title and everything  It wasn’t just the flavor.  It has to be big…it has to be amazing…it has to wait until next time…

Bummer.

But…you just go with it in these situations.  So, instead of the one I thought we were getting…the Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten-Free Pecan Almond Granola is the actual variety that made it into our shopping bag and then into the pantry on Saturday.

Fast forward to Monday morning.  I had spin class to get to by 5:30 a.m. and breakfast had to be quick.  So…here it was…blueberry breakfast parfaits.  I pulled out the pouch of granola and opened it up.  I retrieved glasses to build the parfaits in and then the Greek yogurt and berries from the fridge.  I plucked the honey from the pantry.  And I figured I had to taste-test the granola before loading it into the parfaits.  So, I reached inside and plucked out a large clump of granola.

It was sweet without being overly sweet.  It looked like it was packed with sugar…but it’s not.  The nuts add a great bit of depth to the flavor and the oats are toasted to perfection.  You get that perfect granola crunch followed by the sweetness.  I had to take another bit before telling myself that I actually needed to build a parfait and couldn’t just eat the granola.  But trust me…I could.  While I might have been disappointed that the flavor I wanted remained shelved at Whole Foods…this flavor is top of the line.  I mean, honest-to-goodness ingredients and flavors.  Low in sugar…packed with enough flavor that makes you almost feel guilty when eating it.  It was like a treat.  And when I paired it with the ripe and very fresh (and amazing) blueberries and the Greek yogurt…it was a fantastic combination.  The pecans, almonds, and oats brought this nice texture, the berries practically burst on my tongue…and the smooth yogurt just tied it all together.  This was a wonderful (and tasty) surprise this morning.  LOVED this flavor.

So…let’s talk ingredients.  Inside a package of Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten-Free Pecan Almond Granola you will find certified gluten-free rolled oats, organic honey, brown sugar, expeller pressed sunflower oil, pecans, almonds, ground flax seed, coconut, maple syrup, pure vanilla extract, sea salt, cinnamon, and tocopherols (natural vitamin E).  That last ingredient sounds very chemical-like…but look at everything else.  The sweetness, I now see, is due to the honey, brown sugar, and maple syrup that are included.  I can taste the hint of coconut and the seasoning of cinnamon that is included.  And the combination is magic on your taste buds.  Not only is it gluten-free, but it’s also cholesterol free.  YAY!

Nutritionally speaking…these stats are pretty awesome.  A serving of Jessica’s Natural Foods Pecan Almond Granola is 1/4 cup.  This serving will provide you with 135 calories and 7 grams of fat.  That isn’t bad for something that contains nuts.  Mostly healthy fats there.  A serving also will give you only 25 mg sodium and 6 grams of sugar.  This is phenomenal for a granola.  You will also be taking in 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.  It doesn’t sound like much, but you will actually feel full.  Trust me.

I always try to get Cathy’s opinion on a product and since this was the flavor that she chose…against my wishes (because NUTELLA!)…I asked her what she thought.  She gave her usual…”It was good.”  Or whatever.  And then I remember she is still fighting off a summer cold and she had just woken up.  Dammit.  No luck these days with her opinion.  And this one I really wanted.  Maybe another time.

That being said, despite not getting the Chocolate Hazelnut variety I am enamored with high praise and love for Jessica’s Natural Foods and the Pecan Almond Granola.  Delicious.  Not too sweet…although it just looks like it should be more sweet than it is.  It’s sheer granola perfection and I can’t wait to try the other flavors.  But next up…Motor City Crunch.  For real!

Jessica's Natural Foods Gluten Free Pecan Almond Granola
Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Pecan Almond Granola

Product Review: Fiona’s Natural Sunflower Vanilla Coconut Granola

Fiona's Natural Sunflower Vanilla Coconut Granola
Fiona’s Natural Sunflower Vanilla Coconut Granola

Product: Fiona’s Natural Sunflower Vanilla Coconut Granola – $4.99+

Another morning…another healthy breakfast!  That’s how I try to look at it.  Especially as I am gearing up for marathon training, yet again, through the hot, steamy summer mornings.  This morning, not only did I have a training run to do, but I also have my spin class.  Fuel is important and I want to be sure I’m giving my body the best fuel possible for optimum performance.  Besides, food that is good for me makes me feel good.  I try to keep it as natural as possible as often as I can.

So, after my run (I had something to eat before heading out, don’t worry…sports nutritionist’s orders!) and before heading out for spinning…I grabbed yet another product from my May Cuisine Cube – Fiona’s Natural Sunflower Vanilla Coconut Granola.  First of all, if you haven’t checked out Cuisine Cube, I highly encourage you to do so.  I get a box, every month, with a new gluten-free item from every meal category.  One for breakfast, one for snack, one for candy, one for dinner, one for lunch, and one for dessert.  Every month, this is delivered to me with…and everything inside is from  a smaller, lesser known company that specializes in gluten-free foods.  I love it, because it is introducing me to companies and products I never would have heard of otherwise.

As my CSA bin had provided me with some amazing looking organic strawberries, I figured it was time to build up some breakfast fruit and yogurt parfaits.  Because I have some damn good Greek yogurt in my fridge.  It’s a staple.  I always have it in there.  So…I pulled the granola (a breakfast item from my Cuisine Cube) out of my pantry and began to build my famous parfaits.  First some granola…then the yogurt…some honey…fruit (in this case…strawberries)…more granola…yogurt…honey…strawberries…granola…honey.  Serve!

Super easy.  And one of my favorite breakfasts.  It’s cool and refreshing and just damn good.  But…a lot of the success of this parfait does fall to the granola.

So…it was time to put Fiona’s Natural Sunflower Vanilla Coconut Granola to the test.

You know what?  It passed.  One bite (which I took straight from the bag so I could see how it tasted on its own without the yogurt and fruit  muddling the flavor) and I knew it was good.  I knew I was going to be okay with this one.  The flavors were fantastic.  Not overwhelming or overpowering, but just enough.  I loved being able to see not just the sunflower seeds, but the oats and flax seeds too.  Nothing was hidden or unidentifiable.  And the sweetness was natural as well, brought out with agave and  coconut.  And…the coconut doesn’t take over the granola either.  And because it is sweetened with pure, organic agave nectar, this granola is low glycemic and won’t cause those sugar highs that lead to the eventual crash.  This granola is heavenly.  Seriously.  The combination of the pure vanilla with the coconut and the crunchy sunflower seeds and toasted oats…magic on my tongue.  I am so glad I had the chance to enjoy this granola.  Because I use granola a lot in things and I love trying new ones.  I’d never heard of Fiona’s Natural….and now I hope to find it in one of my stores around here.

Let’s talk ingredients.  Fiona’s Natural Sunflower Vanilla Coconut Granola couldn’t be cleaner.  The ingredients are as follows: certified gluten-free oats, unsweetened coconut, sunflower seeds, milled flax seeds, organic agave nectar, rice bran oil, and pure vanilla extract.  Not only are all of those natural ingredients, but they are all recognizable and things I have in my kitchen.  Seriously!  And the granola is also vegan, soy-free, and salt-free.  But it does not skimp on flavor because of that.  Honestly…you’ll fall in love at first bite too.

And what about nutritional information?  Fiona’s Natural Sunflower Vanilla Coconut Granola is a bit higher on the calorie scale than many other granolas out there.  However…I didn’t use a full serving in my parfaits…in fact, I normally use about half of what this says.  But a serving is 1/3 cup of the granola.  This serving provides you with 210 calories and 10 grams of fat.  Do NOT freak out over that fat…they are the healthy fats.  I promise!  A serving will also give you 5mg sodium and 6 grams of sugar.  That isn’t bad for a granola at all.  This granola is cholesterol free and gluten-free.  A serving will dish up 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.

So much love to Cuisine Cube for introducing me to yet another company with a great product.  I hope to find Fiona’s Natural granola in stores around here.  And if not, I will see if I can have it special ordered.  Or…maybe I’ll just order online.  This was really good granola.  I was impressed.  And when you eat a lot of granola, sometimes they all blend together.  But this one, the subtleness of it…made it stand out.  And I’m happy to have a bag of it in my pantry.

Fiona's Natural Sunflower Vanilla Coconut Granola
Fiona’s Natural Sunflower Vanilla Coconut Granola

Product Review: Glutenfreeda Cranberry Cashew Honey Granola

Glutenfreeda Cashew Cranberry Honey Granola
Glutenfreeda Cashew Cranberry Honey Granola

Product: Glutenfreeda Cranberry Cashew Honey Granola – $4.99+

Way back when my gluten-free journey started, I finally stopped cheating on my oatmeal (because I got tired of feeling like crap after lunch) and made the leap to gluten-free oats.  One of the first brands readily available in my area (and also more cost efficient than others) was the gluten-free oatmeal by Glutenfreeda.  And…sadly enough, the oatmeal didn’t wow me or really make me want to be friends with it.  In fact, I found it rather bland, if I recall correctly.

But…sometimes you have to learn not to hold something against a brand itself.  And, after a quick trip to Birmingham, Alabama, and a dash through the Publix near the Mellow Mushroom I was meeting my parents at for gluten-free pizza that night…I discovered a delicious sounding granola on the gluten-free shelves.  The issue I had was…it was Glutenfreeda.

Do I risk it?  I mean…it was Glutenfreeda Gluten-Free Cranberry Cashew Honey Granola.  Um…nothing wrong with any of that.  In fact…it sounds oh…so right!  So, with a little debating, I finally snatched it off the shelf and committed myself to the purchase.

And…a month later…and me back in Louisville, Kentucky…I broke it out of the pantry for some breakfast parfaits (made with Greek yogurt and caramelized pears).  Oh, to be sure, I was beyond nervous.  It was the only granola in the pantry at the time, so it was either amazing…or not.  And with no replacement, either way my roomie and I were eating it.

*sigh*  *deep breath*

Breakfast Parfait…assemble!

Of course, I had to test the granola on its own before tossing it with the rest of the parfait components.  I poured a bit in my palm, getting the oats, the dried cranberries, and the cashews.  I tossed it back and…it was really good.  I mean…REALLY good.  It’s actually that perfect mix of sweet and salty.  I mean…perfect.  It has the flavor from the roasted cashews and the sweetness from the dried cranberries.  The honey ties it all together.  And the gluten-free oats are toasted to perfection and absolutely amazing.  It all just comes together…and as much as I thought I was going to dislike this granola…I love it.

Naturally, because I have yet to find it around here.  HA!

So…let’s talk ingredients, shall we?  You’ll love these.  Glutenfreeda’s Gluten-Free Cranberry Cashew Honey Granola is simply made from gluten-free oats, cashews, dried cranberries, brown sugar, canola oil, honey, flax seeds, vanilla.

That’s it.  Okay…so the canola oil and brown sugar might throw you off…especially the canola oil, but in the grand scheme of things…not too shabby!  Not at all.

Nutritionally speaking, Glutenfreeda isn’t dishing up a whole lot of empty, sugar-laden calories either.  Each box of granola contains 4 individual packages.  The kicker is, there are 10 servings per box.  So do not eat an entire package in one sitting.  You’ll be doing 2.5 servings if you do that.  And one serving, 1/4 cup of the granola, will give you 120 calories and 4 grams of fat.  This granola is cholesterol-free and sodium-free.  A serving also provides you with 6 grams of sugar (not bad), 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.

Honestly, I was skeptical, but as it turns out…I was pleasantly surprised to actually like this granola.  Not just like…love.  I could indulge in this at breakfast every day…if I could find it in my area.  Great flavor profile.  Crunchy, tasty granola.  Great job, Glutenfreeda!

Granola never tasted this good! Roasted cashews and plump dried cranberries are the cornerstones to our Cranberry Cashew Honey granola. This wholesome cereal is the perfect way to start your day, carry you through the day or even end your day, as a late night snack. Our Cranberry Cashew Honey Granola is made with certified gluten-free oats and is a great way to get fiber back into your diet, deliciously.

Each box contains 4 convenient travel pouches. Just slide one in your purse, briefcase or backpack for a nutritious ‘anytime’ snack.’

Ingredients:

Certified gluten-free oats, cashews (salt), dried cranberries (sugar, sunflower oil), brown sugar, canola oil, honey, flax seeds, vanilla.

– See more at: http://www.glutenfreeda.com/our-products/granola/cranberry-cashew/#sthash.hltlNfkn.dpuf

 

Granola never tasted this good! Roasted cashews and plump dried cranberries are the cornerstones to our Cranberry Cashew Honey granola. This wholesome cereal is the perfect way to start your day, carry you through the day or even end your day, as a late night snack. Our Cranberry Cashew Honey Granola is made with certified gluten-free oats and is a great way to get fiber back into your diet, deliciously.

Each box contains 4 convenient travel pouches. Just slide one in your purse, briefcase or backpack for a nutritious ‘anytime’ snack.’

Ingredients:

Certified gluten-free oats, cashews (salt), dried cranberries (sugar, sunflower oil), brown sugar, canola oil, honey, flax seeds, vanilla.

– See more at: http://www.glutenfreeda.com/our-products/granola/cranberry-cashew/#sthash.hltlNfkn.dpuf

Granola never tasted this good! Roasted cashews and plump dried cranberries are the cornerstones to our Cranberry Cashew Honey granola. This wholesome cereal is the perfect way to start your day, carry you through the day or even end your day, as a late night snack. Our Cranberry Cashew Honey Granola is made with certified gluten-free oats and is a great way to get fiber back into your diet, deliciously.

Each box contains 4 convenient travel pouches. Just slide one in your purse, briefcase or backpack for a nutritious ‘anytime’ snack.’

Ingredients:

Certified gluten-free oats, cashews (salt), dried cranberries (sugar, sunflower oil), brown sugar, canola oil, honey, flax seeds, vanilla.

– See more at: http://www.glutenfreeda.com/our-products/granola/cranberry-cashew/#sthash.hltlNfkn.dpuf

Product Review: KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars
KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

Product: KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars – $3.99+

Granola bars.

While there are gluten-free options out there for granola bars, it is something that I gave up when I had to go gluten-free.  Why?  I just didn’t find any that tasted…right…or good for that matter.  Sure, there are plenty of fruit and nut bars out there, but when you think granola bar, you think of oats and that chewy-sticky goodness that you get with each bite.  That was what I wanted.  And that was not what I was finding.

Until…

KIND once again rose to the occasion.

I keep becoming so indebted to KIND because their products are superb.  Honestly.  I wouldn’t keep going back to KIND bars and KIND Healthy Grain Clusters time after time after time.  Lord knows, these days there are plenty of delicious and gluten-free options when it comes to protein bars and granola.  But there is something so spectacular about the products that KIND puts out.  I trust them with my food budget.  I really do.

So, imagine my glee the day I stepped into my local grocery store and went to scope out the Manager’s Special shelves and found the KIND Healthy Grains Bars on the shelf.  They had the discounted price ticket on there.  The only flavor being offered at the discounted price was the KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars…so that’s what came home with me.  Two boxes of them.  That meant, without any idea of how they tasted…I invested in 10 bars (they come 5 to a box).  But I didn’t even flinch…because it was KIND.

Sadly, these just sort of sat in my drawer of protein bars and race day snackies up until the other day.  I was working my way through the pantry that I totally forgot about those in that drawer.  And, with my sprained ankle, I hadn’t been racing or running so there was no reason for me to open that drawer.  It slipped my mind.  Until…I started running again.  I noticed the boxes in the drawer and knew it was time to bust them out for one of my work snacks.  It would be just like the old days.  A morning snack of a “granola” bar.  But this…this is even better than a granola bar.  It tastes better…has actual real ingredients…and it has more (and better) nutritional value.  Trust me.

I couldn’t wait for snack time to roll around the other day.  Honestly.  I had the bar out on my desk…anticipating it.  Wanting to see if it was any good.  Needing to know if it lived up to the high standards that KIND set for its products with me in the past.  And when it was time, I tore into that wrapper and broke off a corner of the Healthy Grains Bar.  The first thing I noticed was this didn’t snap away.  The bar itself is very light and soft.  You definitely get that hint of sticky-soft goodness from the honey, which helps to also sweeten the oats and other grains that are used in the making of these bars.  The dark chocolate chunks provide this amazing sweetness that doesn’t detract from the rest of the bar, but works with it…bringing out all the other flavors.  And I love that hint of coconut flavor you get right at the end.  Honestly…one of the best bars I have ever consumed.  EVER!  Even better…I don’t feel guilty about this little indulgence, because it’s not really an indulgence.  The name of this product says it all – HEALTHY Grains Bars.  Add in that sweet hint of heart-healthy dark chocolate and you have my new favorite snack in life.

So, what all goes into the KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars?  Well, KIND never hides anything when it comes to their products.  That’s why their packaging and wrappers have large open windows.  They honestly have nothing to hide.  At all.  The KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars are a blend of whole grains (which include gluten-free oats, brown rice, millet, gluten-free oat flour, buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa), tapioca syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey, non-GMO canola oil, coconut, chocolate liquor, sugar, brown rice syrup, molasses, gum acacia, sea salt, vanilla extract, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and natural vitamin E.

How does it stack up nutritionally?  Not too bad at all.  A serving of the KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars is one bar.  This bar will provide 150 calories and 4.5 grams of fat.  One bar will also provide you with only 65 mg sodium and 9 grams of sugar.  You will also be getting 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein…so you actually do feel full after eating one.  These are gluten-free and cholesterol-free.

If you’re looking for a healthy snack that you can easily pack and take with you…anywhere…I highly recommend KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars.  They remind me, a lot, of the homemade granola bars I used to make.  Flavor is SUPER fantastic.  Texture and feel is spot on.  And that chocolate…tames even the biggest sweet tooth.  My snack time just got a lot sweeter….without the extra sugar and…additives.  Thank you, KIND, for products that I’m proud to have right out on my desk.

KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars
KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

Product Review: Udi’s Gluten Free Crunchy Original Granola

Udi's Gluten Free Crunchy Original Granola
Udi’s Gluten Free Crunchy Original Granola

Product: Udi’s Gluten Free Crunchy Original Granola – $6.50+

Granola.

I love it.  I use it every other morning (as in…mornings I don’t go to the gym) in breakfast fruit parfaits or over hot cereal.  I love it.  And, thankfully, I have found some better choices when it comes to the sugars that are included.  And I love finding granola I haven’t tried yet.  And Udi’s Gluten Free released quite a few new options recently.

Now Udi’s Gluten Free has had granola out on the market for awhile…but the new varieties bring some extra oomph to the mix.  For real.

The variety that I purchased was the Udi’s Gluten Free Crunchy Original Granola.

So…what is it?  Simple.  It’s a blend of oats that have been toasted and mixed with sweet and salty toppings.  What might these be?  Raisins, banana chips, walnuts, cashews, almonds, and pistachios.  Mmmm…delicious!  I love that blend.  The raisins and the banana chips bring nice variety in texture, soft and crunchy…and also the sweetness that meshes with the honey toasted oats.  The blend of nuts also adds variety as each has a distinct flavor and texture.  And it just works!  It works well.

The oats are that right level of granola perfect.  Kind of soft, but still crunchy.  The raisins are plump and sweet.  The nuts are amazing…because I love nuts.  And the banana chips are a nice addition of sweetness that is a little unexpected but very welcome.  The variety of ingredients and flavors really works well over the palate.  It’s a fantastic play on the tongue.  And I put this over some gluten-free hot cereal and it was really delicious.  I mean…YUM!

Ingredients are basically already listed above…with a few additions.  Udi’s Gluten Free Crunchy Original Oats are made from certified gluten-free oats, wildflower honey, canola oil, raisins, banana chips, walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachio nuts.  I love, love, love it.  Clean eating…right here!

As for nutrition…this isn’t bad either.  A serving size is 1/4 cup of granola.  This is actually a rather large amount believe it or not.  This serving will provide you with 140 calories and 6 grams of fat (of which, much is the healthy variety from the nuts).  This granola is cholesterol free and sodium free.  A serving also provides 7 grams of sugar, which is amazing in a granola.  This serving will also give you 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.

I am wowed!

No, for real.  This is one of my favorite granola I have had to date.  And trust me…I have eaten a lot of granola.  Why I never purchased this before, I don’t know.  But I’m sold.  The different textures, tastes…it works.  It works magic, whether you top something off with it or eat it straight from the bag.  You won’t be disappointed either.

Now…excuse me…there is an open package of this in my pantry calling my name…

A serving of Udi's Gluten Free Crunchy Original Granola
A serving of Udi’s Gluten Free Crunchy Original Granola