Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagels


Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagel

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

Last one.  This is the final flavor that Annie May’s Sweet Cafe has put out in bagels.  Four very amazing flavors.  And the last one down the pipe…was one of my favorites…

Cinnamon Sugar!

First of all…you give me anything cinnamon and I’m going to be in love with it.  Pure, real cinnamon is one of God’s little gifts to everyone…sweet and a little spicy.  It’s perfect.  Add sugar to the mix and throw it on top of something edible…and you’ve won me over for life.

Cinnamon Rolls…Soft Pretzels…Cinnamon Rolls…Snickerdoodles…Cinnamon Rolls…(can you tell my favorite cinnamon treat?)…and now…


So…in the weeks leading up to this…the culmination of all things Allergen Free Bagel-y…I have reviewed Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything, Onion, and Plain Bagels.  All of which have been amazing.  But for the record…the Everything ones are off the chain!!

To kick this blog off…let me say that the Cinnamon Sugar flavor is my second favorite that Annie May’s offers.  For real!

For one thing…hello…it has two of my favorite words in the name…CINNAMON and SUGAR!  So, while bagels are normally viewed as a savory treat…there are sweet variations on them as well.  This is the only sweet option currently offered by Annie May’s…but she hits it out of the ballpark.

I may have mentioned a few times before that I grew up in the great land of New York.


New Yorkers LOVE their bagels.  It’s…like the state’s native food.  Or something.  It’s close enough to being the state’s native food.  Let’s roll with it, okay?  So, I grew up on bagels.  You can probably call me an expert on bagels.  Professor Bagel.

Alright…enough fun with the gifs…time to get serious about some serious eats.

Annie May’s Cinnamon Sugar Bagel is the epitome of the sweet bagel.  Honestly.  Back when her soft pretzels first hit on Wednesdays, the Cinnamon Sugar was my jam.  I love a good sugar rush as much as the next person.  But, the key here is balance and Annie May’s definitely strikes it with just the right amount of cinnamon sugar topping off these new bakery offerings.

LOVE.  LOVE is what goes into these.  Simple.  True.  Passionate.  Love of all things that the gluten-free community SHOULD have in their life…and not simply from a big corporation in the local freezer section of another big chain store.

I mean…these are kept frozen since no preservatives and all that…but…they are nothing like the big box stuff you can pretty much buy anywhere now.  I know for a fact that Annie May puts a lot of hard work into any new product she is thinking about offering.  I also know, because I’ve done this a few times, that bagels are a pain the ass to make.  So, the fact that she has added these to her bakery menu has me dancing with joy.  My freezer will never be without.  I will purchase one of each whenever I am running low.  Mark my words.

And if that isn’t a good enough testament to how good these are…let me specifically focus on the Cinnamon Sugar flavor so it gets it’s moment to shine.

I went a bit off the script with these bagels today.  Usually, plain cream cheese with my own smattering of cinnamon sugar on top would have happened.  But…I didn’t want to pay for really good vegan cream cheese (that stuff is expensive)…but I did have a little bit of my Boar’s Head Dark Chocolate Hummus left in the container…so I chose that for my topping this time.  My roommate’s version was topped with Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread and then some Crofters Organic Strawberry Spread. Both options worked beautifully with the bagel at hand.

This bagel is everything.  Toasty on the outside.  Chewy on the inside.  Sweet to the taste.  Yet still gives that whole bagel vibe…so it’s not just a confused doughnut.  It’s basically cinnamon toast taken to the next level.  Because…cinnamon toast is one of the best things to eat in the history of ever.  And these…these are just like biting into that.  Topped off however you like, these make a delicious addition to any breakfast table.  Mine toasted up beautifully and I LOVED the dessert hummus smothered on top.  It brought an extra added kick of goodness to an already perfect bite.  Cinnamon…sugar…chocolate.  I see nothing wrong with this picture.

Have you been intrigued yet following these blogs on these bagels?  Have I mentioned that all four varieties are FREE of the TOP 9 FOOD ALLERGIES??!!  How about that?  Don’t you want to try them for yourself?

Trust me.  You really need to.

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

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

But, I highly encourage you…get the bagels!

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


Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagel topped with Boar’s Head Dark Chocolate Hummus


Quick Thoughts From the Week

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


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


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

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

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

giphy (26)

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

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

giphy (27)
…I’ve been getting it done.  It hasn’t been pretty…and I’m not always happy with the results on my Garmin, but I’m doing what my body is currently capable of…so, there is that.

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


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

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

I love getting chefy.

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

Restaurant Review: Bandar, San Diego, California

Bandar, San Diego, California

Bandar, San Diego, California

Restaurant: Bandar, San Diego, California

It’s not every day that I get to travel somewhere new and exciting.  But this current week, I’m off on an adventure.  Albeit (see an upcoming post), not the adventure that I was expecting, but you make the most of the cards that are dealt to you.  You can’t change the circumstances, but you can change the attitude, right?

You betcha!

So, for one day only, I was knee-deep in the surroundings, hills, and the beautiful bay of San Diego.  While my traveling buddies (Cathy (aka: the roomie) and Jenn) went to a local taco stand for lunch, I made my lunch out of a protein bar that I brought with me.  I hadn’t planned on lunch, and when I can’t check out places online, I get a bit cautious.  I like to read reviews and look at menus and be confident in my choice to eat somewhere.  When you have food allergies, you just learn not to take risks.  It was all good.  My bar was filling and got me through to dinner time.  Because Cathy had made reservations at a place called Bandar in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego.

Bandar is a Persian restaurant of all things.  Now, I’ve had a lot of different cuisines in my life, but my taste buds had never had a go at Persian cuisine.  Bandar’s owner, Behrooz Farahani, graduated with a degree in architecture and originally owned his own architectural firm.  When he visited San Diego in 1986, he decided to move his family (a wife and twin daughters) there to provide them with a better life.  Behrooz and his wife, Shokooh, purchased the historical buidling in the Gaslamp Quarter…and soon Bandar emerged, becoming an overnight phenomenon.  This husband and wife team raised Persian dining to new heights, using authentic marinades for signature dishes involving beef, lamp, chicken, and fish.  Using only the finest ingredients, Farahani insists on personally choosing each cut of meat that is served in his restaurants.

The restaurant, Bandar, is best known for its use of healthy ingredients and bold, complex flavors, bringing the flavors of saffron, limes, and other Persian spices to the forefront of each dish, highlighting the amazing flavor that comes in such a healthy and exotic cuisine.

It had been a long, long day.  I was sore from making the hikes through airports to get to my flights.  And then hauling around San Diego.  But, it was all culminating with the final outing of the evening…dinner.  And Cathy chose Bandar as our place to eat as it had great reviews on Find Me Gluten Free…and mostly everything (save the bread) is gluten-free in the restaurant (although I think the desserts are also an exception, but we were too full to even consider dessert).  Therefore, this made it a great place to check out.

We were there a little earlier than the reservation and for most of the meal, we were the only ones in there.  Considering it was prime dinner time, I was a bit surprised by this.  But, what do you do?  You get seated early (we all decided we could eat…although I’ve realized that traveling still does a number on my appetite and most times I’m not exactly hungry, but I know I need to eat something.  The hostess seated us near the back at a gorgeous table and left us with menus.  Water was poured and we settled in for a moment.  Flat bread and butter were brought out…and to be sure we asked (because the menu misleadingly says that all food there is gluten-free) about what I could have…and the bread was a no-go.  From what I was told…it was good.

The first thing we noticed was the price of the food.  Holy hummus, foodies…it was pricey.  And with Hawaii on the horizon, we weren’t looking for an expensive meal, for sure.  I mean, the cheapest (and pretty much only) vegetarian entree on there (Eggplant Stew) was around $26.  I wasn’t sure how big the entree portions were either, and, as I said, I wasn’t all that hungry to begin with.  A combination of fatigue and the heat, I believe, are to blame for that.  My internal clock was three hours ahead, so in my mind, it was bedtime, not dinner time.

While we decided on what to do for dinner, Cathy placed an order for the Hummus Classic ($10.00) that we could split.  With that order in, we continued discussing whether or not to split some appetizers or just let me get an appetizer size plate and Cathy and Jenn split an entree.  This actually went on for longer than it should have, but mostly because we were all just tired, and probably hungrier than we realized.  BUT…with that being said…our Hummus Classic arrived, without anything to dip in it, so I guess that was meant for that flat bread.  Cathy asked our waitress if we could have some tomatoes or something so that I could have some too…and she very quickly said she would bring out some cucumbers for me.  YAY!  Cathy and Jenn each scooped up a little.  This was actually Jenn’s first time (she is a bean-hater, BTW) trying hummus and she did not like it at all.  To dry and beany she said.  Cathy, however, did like it, and when I got my cucumbers and was able to try it…it was actually really good.  Smooth, seasoned with paprika and just…yummy.  It had that bit of olive oil to finish and it made for a flavorful touch.  It was a nice little appetizer to help get us more focused.  And while we enjoyed the hummus and Jenn enjoyed some flat bread, we finally decided on dinner.  YAY!

Bandar's Albalu Polo (Black Cherry Rice and Chicken Kebab)

Bandar’s Albalu Polo (Black Cherry Rice and Chicken Kebab)

Jenn and Cathy, in the end, decided to split the Albalu Polo (Black Cherry Rice with Chicken Kebab) entree ($26.00).  This is exactly what the dish sounds like…chunks of grilled chicken tenderloin served up with rice and black cherries.  The waitress asked if they liked sweet things because it was a sweet dish.  The two poultry-loving sweet-toothers were okay with that.

As for me, I went with the Dolmeh (Stuffed Grape Leaves) starter ($12.00).  I have had horrible grape leaves at a local place in Louisville, Kentucky (oddly enough called The Grape Leaf) and then had some fantastic ones at a Mediterranean chain called Taziki’s.  So, this is like my go-to food.  This version of Dolmehs were large grape leaves stuffed with split peas, tarragon, basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, rosemary and basmati rice.  When I ordered it, she said it was like a meal…so that was a good sign.

The food actually took a little bit of time to get to us.  That was fine, because everything at Bandar is cooked to order.  Although, it did get to the point that Jenn and I were joking about having to go find a chicken, kill it, pluck it, debone it, etc.  But, lo and behold…as a few more people were coming in, our food arrived.  I am very glad that Cathy and Jenn opted to split the entree they got because that platter was HUGE.  It easily could have fed 3-4 people.  Honestly.  And the waitress said that she has seen diners finish it on their own.  How that is even possible, I’ll never know.  They let me try the black cherry rice, and it was really tasty.  But I had my own food to dive into, so I left them to their chicken platter of DOOOOOM, while I settled in to feast on my own meal.

The starter size Dolmehs at Bandar come with four (4) very stuffed grape leaves, each one resting on a fresh slice of tomato.  That was a nice touch.  After photos for the blog, I carried over the first Dolmeh to my plate and settled in with fork and knife to give it a taste.  I sliced through the cooked grape leaf, seeing the seasoned basmati rice, split peas, and herbs poke out and fall onto my plate and the tomato.  The rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned.  The flavors were awesome.  My first bite and I got the fresh herbs immediately in the rice, the spices, and even the peas.  It was a great texture, the rice soft, but not mushy, the peas the same…and that grape leaf…it was cooked to perfection.  Pairing it with a slice of tomato brought a nice added touch and I ate it, whether it was a garnish or not.  I love tomatoes…I could eat a full one as a snack.  Needless to say…it was worth the wait…and the indecision…and the price.

And, in case you were wondering, Cathy and Jenn loved their Albalu Polo dish too.  Not only was the rice cooked to perfection and paired beautifully with sweet black cherries (I never would have imagined that combination to work), they said the chicken was moist, tender, and tasty.  But they hardly made a dent in the actual entree dish itself.  But, they did what they could. In the end, Cathy said she could always eat the leftovers for breakfast (which I didn’t believe for a moment, and lo and behold, I was right), so they boxed it up and we left with full and happy tummies.

So, in the end, expensive, but damn, you really do get what you pay for.  Honestly, I was not expecting that much food.  So, honestly, when you look at it in perspective, Bandar is giving you your money’s worth on their expensive entrees.  I was relieved I didn’t attempt the Eggplant Stew on my own after seeing the Thanksgiving Day platter of food that Jenn and Cathy attempted (and failed) to make a dent in.

Bandar was an interesting experience and got Jenn to at least try something new.  I’m still working on getting her to try avocado.  She says it scares her…but I’ll work on it.  That being said, Persian food is very interesting, delightful, and delicious.  And I was beyond happy with the food I was able to eat at Bandar.  They brought out a tray of cakes to offer us dessert, but we were done and ready to head back to the hotel, cycle through the shower, and get ready for a 3 am wakeup call to get to the airport and continue on our way to Hawaii the next day.

And by the time we were leaving, there were a few more people inside eating.  I guess the Gaslamp Quarter (home of SO MANY restaurants) isn’t quite as busy on a Thursday night.  But that worked in our favor, as we never felt rushed, and our food was given extreme focus and care.  It showed.  It was everything I hoped for…and a little more.  I’d be more than tempted to go back should I ever find myself back in San Diego.

Bandar's Dolmeh starter

Bandar’s Dolmeh starter

Product Review: Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel with Quinoa

Nature's Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel with Quinoa

Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel with Quinoa

Product: Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel with Quinoa – $2.99+

One of the healthiest and best diets out there these days is the Mediterranean diet.  There is little question as to why.  Largely plant-based and focused on seafood and lean proteins, the Mediterranean diet offers a whole lot of health benefits without giving up delicious tasting foods.

But I am no Greek and the Mediterranean diet seems almost Greek to me when it comes to figuring out foods to prepare and the best way to do it.  That being said…thankfully there are shortcuts out there.  One such shortcut is to pick up a box of Nature’s Earthly Choice falafel varieties.  I have previously tried some quinoa products from Nature’s Eartlhy Choice, so trying out falafel (which I love and ate a whole hell of a lot of before going gluten-free) seemed like the next step.  I purchased a box of Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel from The Raisin Rack in Columbus, Ohio…quite a bit ago.  This once again fell prey to my use of my fresh produce rather than processed and packaged goods…which is not a bad thing.  But this past week and this week ahead, I have no CSA bin for my fresh produce, and trying to keep the budget in check, I am using up foods that I have in my fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Out with the old…and hopefully not replacing the highly processed foods with more in the future.

That being said, Nature’s Earthly Choice is not a bad option when it comes to foods that come packaged.  In fact, Nature’s Earthly Choice was created in 2005 and founded on the principles of creating healthy products.  Originally, this company launched products that were made of quinoa (for the gluten-free), farro and wheat berries, with the expectation of living up to their mission to provide healthy and wholesome products to the public and consumers.  Since then, they have added wild rice, chia, hemp, basmati rice, a continent grain blend, and other grains to their list of products, continuing to maintain the healthy aspect of their foods and expand their line to allow for new and delicious items.  Their products are easy to prepare and hassle free as far as cooking.  No matter the dietary needs (they offer products that are gluten-free, rich in omega 3’s, high in protein, offering alternative grains), Nature’s Earthly Choice is passionate about the products they create and are committed to delivering the best tasting and highest quality products to support everyone’s unique healthy lifestyle.

So with my past love of falafel, I decided finding a mix for a gluten-free falafel, a flavered one at that, would be something worth checking out.  It takes time for me to get around to these things at times…but I do get there.  And tonight, after yesterday’s long ride home from Birmingham, Alabama, and my upcoming trip on Thursday to New York City…I needed something easy and something delicious to cook up for dinner.  This week was going to be a short, but busy one.  My meals needed to fit into my time…I didn’t have time to linger in the kitchen over a hot stove, babysitting something that needed constant stirring and such.

Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel was so easy for me to make after a long day of physical therapy appointments and work.  Seriously.  I came home, poured the mix into a bowl, mixed it with 3/4 cup water and let it sit for 10 minutes.  After it has sit (make sure not to let it sit too long), I formed it into 10 patties and set it in a skillet with 1/3 cup vegetable oil.  Giving each patty a chance to cook for about 4 minutes on each side, letting it brown up evenly and beautifully and get crispy on the outside.  I served mine with lemon hummus…because I had it in my fridge, believe it or not.

As for how it tasted…well…I’m ambivalent.  On its own, I wasn’t impressed.  It was bland and a little…dry(?), I suppose.  There was a small hint of garlic flavor, but nothing that really stood out.  Now, when I paired the Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel with the lemon hummus…magic.  It worked.  The hummus brought it out.  True falafel…nope.  Nowhere near it.  A passing acquaintance…definitely.  Would I purchase it again…eh…probably not.  It wasn’t bad…it just didn’t blow me away.  It didn’t make me reminisce about the days of falafel from the nearby Mediterranean restaurant.  It just made me long for those days all over again.  It just wasn’t everything I hoped it would be.

Let’s talk ingredients, shall we?  The Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel is made from fava beans, chickpeas, quinoa, potato starch, garlic powder, spices, onion powder, and salt.  This mix is gluten-free, cholesterol free, and dairy-free.  There is also an option for baking the falafel, but I always find a pan fry seems to work best on such products.

A serving of Nature’s Earthly Choice Roasted Garlic Falafel is 1/4 cup dry mix, or about 2.5 small falafel patties.  As I was making a dinner out of this, my roommate and I split the entire box, making 5 falafel patties for each of us.  One serving, however, would give you 150 calories and 1 gram of fat.  A serving will also provide you with 150 mg sodium and only 1 gram of sugar.  Loving that.  One serving will give you 8 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein, making this a very filling and long-lasting meal choice.  You won’t be hungry immediately following your meal.  Trust me.

While this ended up being quite a filling meal, the lack of taste and proper texture just sort of left me half empty.  When paired with a dipping sauce or spread…this was amazing.  But on it’s own, there was nothing that stood out or made me wish I had more boxes of this in my pantry.  Decent…but not a favorite.

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

Restaurant Review: Brown Dog Deli, Charleston, South Carolina

Brown Dog Deli, Charleston, South Carolina

Brown Dog Deli, Charleston, South Carolina

Restaurant: Brown Dog Deli, Charleston, South Carolina

The Brown Dog Deli is definitely one of Charleston, South Carolina’s little gems.  It’s definitely not your average deli…but it is serving up some fantastic food.

And if that doesn’t sound like an intro to Diner’s, Drive-In’s and Dives…I don’t know what does!

But let’s face it…I don’t sugarcoat things.  And when I am told over and over again by my Charleston regulars, Amanda and Richie, that I must go eat at the Brown Dog Deli…well you bet your sweet tennis balls and Nylabones that I do.  HA.  Dog references FTW.  Don’t you love it when I laugh at my own jokes?

With this in mind, and packed schedule on Saturday, we made the decision to hit up the Brown Dog Deli on Sunday morning/afternoon for an early lunch of sorts.  And after wandering around downtown, hitting up the market, shopping, and just taking in some of the history and beauty of Charleston, we were ready to sit down to a light-ish lunch.  We were doing dinner out that night, so we wanted to hit this up early.  Naturally, this means we got there at noon.  HAHA!  But, it was okay.

This funky little diner is located on Broad Street in downtown Charleston, and everyone seems to love it.  When we arrived, at around noon on-the-dot, we were greeted by a server and led to a booth.  The place had a few other people in there, but it wasn’t hopping.  Our server, Meredith, came over to get our drink orders.  And Cathy went ahead and gave her the heads up on my food allergies and dietary restrictions.  She immediately came back with the fact that they had gluten-free bread and wraps and that they had a separate vegetarian/vegan menu.  She retrieved that for me and then filled our drink orders.

I originally was just going to get the Gluten-Free Hummus and Veggies Wrap ($6.95), which would have been a wrap made with roasted red pepper hummus, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, red onions, feta, sprouts and spinach.  It sounded really good…but the more I looked over the menu and the more my friends were talking about all the different things they were getting (and with the sort-of exception of Cathy…it was something you could only get at this restaurant).  So, I ended up changing my mind.

As it was Amanda got what she always gets at the Brown Dog Deli…the Mesquite Turkey Croissant Sandwich ($7.95), which is made up of brie cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, sprouts, red onions, and cranberry-pepper jelly, served on a croissant.  It is her favorite thing on the menu.  Richie’s favorite sandwich was no longer on the menu, so he decided to try something very different, the Apple “Butter” Jeans Sandwich ($7.95), which is composed of warm melted brie, sliced Granny Smith apples, local apple butter, fresh arugula, mesquite smoked turkey, honey ham, and prosciutto, served on a panini-pressed local French baguette.

Cathy really was interested in the chili that was being offered that day, so she decided she was going to do a cup of that.  It was the Southwest Beef and Beer Chili ($3.95) and she opted to pair it with a Build-Your-Own Grilled Cheese ($5.95), selecting Yellow Cheddar, White American Mozzarella, and Goats Cheese as her three cheeses for the sandwich, and choosing to have all of that toasted up on Sourdough Bread.

As for me…I ditched the Hummus and Veggies Wrap and thought to do something I hadn’t seen on a menu anywhere else.  I opted for the Gluten-Free Portobello Philly Sandwich…light on the cheese ($6.95).  This sandwich was made up of marinated portobello mushrooms, sautéed with peppers and onions, Boar’s Head Vermont yellow cheddar and white American cheese.  They had Udi’s bread, which they toasted up to help keep it from immediately falling apart with the wet ingredients.

There was no shortage of things to discuss while we waited on food, but when it arrived, I was so excited.  Like I said, this restaurant came highly recommended…and it was now packed with a line waiting to get in.  We had good timing.  And when food did arrive at our table, I was definitely ready to dig into my sandwich.

So how was the Gluten Free Portobello Philly?  It was fantastic.  The marinated mushrooms gave this sandwich a “meaty” texture.  And the onions and peppers were cooked to perfection…keeping them flavorful and crisp, but also cooking them down so they weren’t raw.  They were fantastic.  The bread did start to fall apart, but that’s the nature of gluten-free bread.  Especially Udi’s.  But, with that aside, they were good about keeping the cheese light, and it probably would have been just as fantastic without it on the sandwich.  I thought everything was seasoned perfectly.

And I was not alone.  Clean plates…that is what we left at the Brown Dog Deli.  Cathy loved her soup, and would dip her sandwich into the thick and spicy soup.  She raved about the creaminess of the cheeses in her sandwich and how they all, surprisingly, worked when put together.  And Amanda and Richie both loved what they ordered.  Especially Richie…who had to get something he had never had before.  Lunch was later than planned, but a total success.  And then, we all purchased matching shirts from the Brown Dog Deli as well.


Anyway…if I were to point out one restaurant to anyone wanting to eat the local fare in Charleston, South Carolina…this is the place I would send them.  They work with dietary restrictions, they are careful, they create great food…and you will not regret any wait you might have to get a seat inside.  It’s worth it.

Brown Dog Deli…I’m coming back next time I’m in that fine city.  I can’t wait to try something else!

Brown Dog Deli's Gluten Free Portobello Philly Sandwich

Brown Dog Deli’s Gluten Free Portobello Philly Sandwich

Product Review: Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Sea Salt Multiseed Snack Crackers

Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Sea Salt Multiseed Snack Crackers

Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Sea Salt Multiseed Snack Crackers

Product: Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Sea Salt Multiseed Snack Crackers – $1.49

So, I haven’t been into Aldi since I went there on Mother’s Day and stocked up on ALL THE GLUTEN FREE ITEMS that I could get my hands on and that I truly needed.  I had so many mixes that I really didn’t need to add to the growing collection in my pantry.  But, man…it sure was nice for Celiac Awareness Month (May, in case you didn’t know) for Aldi to bring out a gluten-free line of products to test on the market.  From the way it sounded, people were gobbling these products up.  My store had run out of the gluten-free wraps (dang it!) by the time I had gotten there.

Now, with only a couple products remaining from my original haul…I have since heard that the gluten-free products are nigh on impossible to find now.  I truly hope that Aldi didn’t do away with this line permanently.  I was really looking forward to a restock…since less than $30 got me a whole lot of food.  And rather good food too.

Which leads me to this installment of the next Aldi liveGfree product that came into the rotation.  Snack time at work is a very important time and I take my snacks very seriously.  On weeks where I am without the fresh fruit and veggies from my bin, I turn to my pantry.  Such is the case this week and the next product that happened to be up were the Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Sea Salt Multiseed Snack Crackers.  From the packaging, they closely resemble Crunchmaster crackers in both size and appearance.

So, I tore into the bag last night and loaded up a little container with a serving of the crackers.  And as snack time rolled around today, I was all set to revel in my Crunchmaster-wannabe crackers.  I expected them to taste every bit like a Crunchmaster cracker.

Boy…were my taste buds surprised.

For one thing…the Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Sea Salt Multiseed Snack Crackers are less about the salt…and lean more on the sweet.  Yes…these crackers are sweet.  More of the sesame seed shines through over any seasoning or any other seed incorporated.  So, while I was anticipating a salty, savory bite, what I ended up getting was something that tasted of sweetened sesame seeds. And that’s okay…just not what I expected.  I do appreciate that, while these are a Sea Salt flavor, they aren’t overly salty.  I’m not sure I’m 100% sold on eating them on their own.  With the abundant sweetness, I sort of feel like it needs a creamy, spicy kick of hummus to tame it.  I definitely prefer Crunchmaster over these, but at more than half the price, these are a great deal.

Sort of on the fence, as it were.  I did find the more I ate them…the more they grew on me…

So…since I can’t figure out how I feel about the taste, let’s talk about ingredients and delve into those nutritionals, shall we?

The Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Sea Salt Multiseed Snack Crackers are made from brown rice flour, long grain white rice flour, brown sugar, sesame seeds, long grain brown rice flour, corn starch, vegetable oil (corn and/or canola and/or sunflower), flax seed, quinoa seeds, millet, sea salt, oat fiber, and natural flavor.  They are certified gluten-free and are cholesterol free.

As for the nutrition information, a serving of the Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Sea Salt Mulitseed Snack Crackers is 1 ounce, or about 13 crackers.  This serving will provide you with 130 calories and 5 grams of fat.  A serving also dishes up 120 mg sodium and 3 grams of sugar.  In addition, you will be taking in 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  These crackers are definitely not made to make you feel full.  So, remember to stick to that serving size and know that you will feel hungry soon after your snack.

While I honestly believe these crackers would be better served with some sort of fantastic dip, like a hummus, they aren’t bad on their own.  They just seem to need something that would help balance out the sweetness and that sesame seed flavor that just permeates each bite.  They aren’t bad…but I would buy Crunchmaster first before coming back to these.  I applaud the effort for a snack cracker by Aldi and would definitely encourage them to keep this line around.

I hope they are listening!