Product Review: Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Italian Mix

Neat - A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix

Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix

 Product: Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix – $4.99+

I am so glad that Neat exists in the world.  I really, really am.  Because, it is sometimes hard to find a good protein base when you are not only a vegetarian (or perhaps a vegan), but also gluten-free.  Trust me…the struggle is real…FOR REAL!!  Most of the vegetarian/vegan faux-meat products out on the market have some sort of vital wheat gluten or glutenous substance inside (for texture purposes, I’ve been told).  I don’t need faux-meat in my life, but sometimes it’s nice to step away from the mushrooms and whatever else I get creative with and use something that is already prepared.

And that…brings me to Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat.  Ever since I became a subscriber to Delight Gluten Free magazine I noticed ads for this vegan meat replacement called Neat.  I was beyond intrigued and immediately went on the hunt in my local natural food stores.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, no one in my area carried this product.  At least not yet.  I said I’d get online and see if I could order it, but, naturally, I forgot to do that.  Story of my life.  But after a pouch of the Mexican Mix turned up on my Cuisine Cube, I started finding it on the shelves of my local Kroger stores, my natural food stores.  I was getting Neat where I could purchase it when I suddenly decided to make something spontaneous for dinner.

YAY!

So, what exactly is Neat?  Neat is a meat replacement that is derived from nuts and other non-GMO natural ingredients.  It is a product that was created by a mother of two children who decided that they were going to become vegetarians.  At first she would puree beans into sauces to help her girls get the protein they wanted, but after awhile, everyone got tired of it.  And that was when she got into the kitchen, experimented, and created what is now marketed at Neat.

Neat comes in this shelf-stable pouch in a powdered form.  All you do to prepare it is pour the pouch into a bowl, add two eggs (or a vegan egg replacer), plus two tablespoons of water.  Stir all the ingredients together and throw it into a skillet over medium heat.  Or…if you happen to have the Italian Mix and want to make meatballs…well…you just change it up a little.

I wanted meatballs to make vegan meatball subs and some vegan spaghetti and meatballs for lunch the following day at the office.  SO…I took the mix from the pouch and poured it into a bowl, adding 1 egg, about 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (although now I think I should have gone for the full 1/3 cup (which was the amount of Parmesan cheese the recipe said to add), and 1 tablespoon of water and gave it a mix.  Then, with clean hands, I ended up rolling 12 meatballs (you normally would do 8 larger meatballs, but I had multiple meals planned for these…this way my roommate and I each got 3 in each dish I prepared).  Then, into an oven at 350°F for about 18 minutes, turning them over once.  That simple.

Near the end of their cooking time, I began warming up some marinara sauce on the stove.  And when these meatballs came out of the oven, into the sauce they went.  I gave the sauce a stir and just coated the meatballs the best I could.  I was using an open jar of sauce, so I had a little less than I wanted, but I figured the entire point of the meatball sub was the meatball itself.  So…with any luck, I didn’t screw those up.  Into the gluten-free hotdog buns they went (no one around here seems to carry the Schär Gluten Free Sub Rolls anymore).  I topped them with a bit of the sauce, then some Daiya mozzarella style shreds then placed them back in the oven under the broiler for about a minute to get the vegan cheese as gooey as I could manage.

Then…dinner was served.

Given that this was my first attempt at the “neatballs,” I was quite happy with them.  As I said, I should have done a perfect swap for the Parmesan cheese with the nutritional yeast, but I didn’t want to overkill it.  My oven is old, so I set it a little higher in temp, and baked these for the full 18 minutes, instead of maybe just 15…so they were slightly dry, but the texture was very meaty and very dense, like a meatball should be.  I thought these were amazing in both the subs and the pasta I cooked up for the following work day.  While I might have overcooked them slightly, it didn’t make me dislike what emerged from the oven and saucepan.  I loved biting into a vegetarian meatball sub and having it feel like I was actually eating a sub.  That was a nice treat.  I loved forming these meatballs to cook, because it’s like making it yourself instead of pulling them from the freezer (for the record, I know of only 2 kinds of vegan/gluten-free meatballs…Franklin Farms (which I can’t find anymore) and Beyond Meat (which I haven’t found here) which are both kept in the fridge/freezer.  So, this was a bit more rustic and a bit more like you were putting in the work yourself to make the protein base for your meal.  It was messy, but quite fun and quite satisfying.

Let’s first delve into the nitty-gritty ingredients and nutrition of Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Italian Mix.  The Italian Mix version of Neat is made from pecans, garbanzo beans, organic whole grain gluten free oats, garlic, onion, sea salt, and spices.  So, where this is meat-free and dairy-free, and also gluten-free…it is NOT nut-free.  So, if you have a nut allergy…this product is not for you.

As for nutrition, a serving of Neat Italian Mix is 40 grams and each pouch contains 4 servings.  This serving will give you 190 calories, and 15 grams of fat (healthy fat as it is coming from beans and nuts), 1.5 grams saturated fat, 218 mg sodium, 12 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars, and 4 grams protein.  These meatballs will fill you up.  Seriously.  I really appreciate when a faux protein is made with filling, real foods that won’t leave me feeling hungry an hour or so later.  Trust me, that isn’t a problem with Neat.

I am so in love with the two mixes I have picked up from Neat – A Healthy Replacement to Meat.  I still have the Breakfast Mix and the Original Mix to try so I’ll be picking those up soon.  They also make an Egg Replacer as well, which I’d love to try.  So far, there isn’t anything bad I can say about Neat.  So, if you haven’t tried it and you, perhaps, have been missing your spaghetti and meatballs or meatball subs…you gotta try this!!  Order online if you can’t find it in your stores.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Spaghetti & Neatballs and Neatball Sub made with Neat - A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix

Spaghetti & Neatballs and Neatball Sub made with Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix

Product Review: Kite Hill Ricotta

Kite Hill Ricotta

Kite Hill Ricotta

Product: Kite Hill Ricotta – $9.99+

Color me charmed.  For real.  A couple of weeks ago, I took a chance and tried a new product I discovered (exclusively) at my local Whole Foods.  In fact, all of the products from this particular brand are only available at Whole Foods…currently.  They are a little pricey, but as I’ve been discovering…they are totally worth it.

Kite Hill was started due to a vision for a plant-based food that would have all the qualities we love in the best artisan dairy cheeses.  Using simple ingredients and using traditional methods, Kite Hill has created artisan cheeses, yogurts, and cream cheeses that can all be incorporated into entrées and desserts.  Created by a dedicated team with deep culinary, cheese-making, and scientific expertise, including Tal Ronnen, Monte Casino, Jean Prevot, Pat Brown, and Matthew Sade, Kite Hill has stepped up to the challenge  to create a non-dairy cheese that met their high standards for quality.  So often, vegan cheese tastes fake or plastic-like.  After years of recipe testing and countless trials and errors to develop the perfect nut milk, cultures, and enzymes needed to create a worthy product, Kite Hill emerged on the market place.

Kite Hill Ricotta

Kite Hill Ricotta

You will recall that I have already given a raving review for the Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread.  Well, I had pasta on my mind this past week.  Really.  And I had gluten free lasagna noodles in my pantry.  And ramekin dishes in my cupboard.  See where this is headed?  Yep…individual mini lasagnas…all made possible by the introduction of Kite Hill’s Ricotta – which is completely soy free, vegan, gluten free and dairy free.

Let me tell you, I was beyond blown away by this product.  It surprised me.  It really, really did.  The Kite Hill Ricotta is light and fluffy right off the bat.  It looked just like real ricotta…the stuff I am incapable of consuming anymore.  Damn lactose intolerance.  But let me say this, if Kite Hill continues to produce their version of ricotta cheese, then I will never miss it again.  I know that tofu can be substituted in pasta dishes for ricotta…as can Tofutti’s Better Than Ricotta…and I have actually used both in successful recipes.  But…it wasn’t the same.  The texture was different.  The flavor was different.

Not with Kite Hill.  My roommate and I both tried some of the Kite Hill Ricotta on its own before I blended it with some herbs for the actual meal.  Oh.  My.  God.  I probably could have eaten the entire tub on my own, with just a spoon.  There is that much amazing flavor in this cheese.  The texture is light, but with a bit of heft to it.  So, it mimics that of real ricotta.  Oh…this was already looking good for my mini lasagnas.  I just had to keep myself from eating all the cheese out of the container and to use it, instead, in the actual recipe.

No easy task.

But I did end up blending it with my herbs and some Daiya Mozzerella Shreds to complete the cheesy filling of the lasagna, which would also include sautéed onion and kale with some garlic.  YUMMY!!  The noodles were cooked, cooled, and put into the dishes.  The ricotta & cheese filling was added, and layered with the vegetables…and of course an amazing sauce from Rao to top it all off.  Into the oven for 40 minutes and…viola…we’re in business!  The mini-lasagnas came out of the oven bubbling hot with cheese and sauce and a whole lot of goodness.  I eased them out of the ramekins and dinner was served.

Oh. My. God.  This was the best ricotta cheese substitute I have tried yet.  Not only was this flavorful, mimicing both ricotta and/or mascarpone cheese, but it didn’t make the dish heavy at all.  The ricotta has a slight tanginess to it, making it a nice addition not just to pastas, but also to desserts.  This product is ridiculously tasty.  I want to make ricotta pancakes now.  And I think I might just do that…maybe tomorrow.  We’ll see.  I have some left over to do just that.  And I have all these fresh local blueberries to use as well.  Oh yes…I sense an epic gluten-free and dairy free pancake breakfast.  It’s the best ricotta substitute I have ever stumbled upon.  It’s made from almond milk, so if you have a nut allergy, it’s not for you, but it’s nice to have a soy-free alternative.

So, now let’s talk about the ingredients.  Nothing beats real, wholesome ingredients.  What’s even better, the Kite Hill Ricotta only has 5 ingredients in it.  Yep.  Just five!  These include: almond milk (water, almonds), salt, enzyme, tartaric acid, and cultures.  This product, as mentioned before, is gluten-free, soy free, dairy free and vegan.  It also contains no cholesterol, no saturated fat, and no trans fats!

And with that in mind, this is the best time to discuss Kite Hill Roctta nutritional facts, yes?  A serving of the Kite Hill Ricotta is 1 ounce (28 grams…or about 2 tablespoons).  This serving will provide you with 70 calories, 6 grams of fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 90 mg sodium, 2 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams dietary fiber, 0 grams sugars, and 3 grams of protein.  Are you loving it?  I’m loving it!

Seriously, you won’t find anything better than Kite Hill Ricotta.  It’s so versatile.  Pastas, pizza toppings, desserts, or even in hot chocolate, this will do it all.  And the taste, oh my God, the taste is fantastic.  I am hooked.  I’ll pay the price to have a good tasting, good quality product.  And Kite Hill totally makes it worth it.  If you live near a Whole Foods, I encourage you and highly recommend that you check out the Kite Hill lineup of vegan artisan cheese.

Mini Vegan Kale Lasagna (made with Kite Hill Ricotta)

Mini Vegan Kale Lasagna (made with Kite Hill Ricotta)

Recipe: Gluten Free Penne with Kale in a White Wine Sauce

I’m getting back into the swing of using up everything that comes in my CSA bin before the next one arrives.  Sometimes, it’s hard…but this past week, I have literally used up every bit of produce that came to me last Friday in my green bin of happiness.  Ah, I love Friday because it is BIN DAY!

So, after using up the cucumber (I made a childhood favorite…cucumbers in vinegar), zucchini, squash, blueberries, apples, green beans, broccoli, watermelon, and onion, all that remained was the kale.  And, I do love cooking with kale.  Usually I make kale chips or use it in a breakfast egg scramble of sorts.  But I wanted to get a little more creative than that this time around.  So…with just enough white wine remaining in the bottle in the fridge, I set out to master…pasta and kale…with white wine.

The premise of the recipe was skimmed over while reading through the Funny Love blog.  And from there, I tweaked it to fit my dietary needs.  What emerged was a healthy, delicious, and runner-friendly (non-runner friendly too!) meal this evening that both my roommate and I sat down and devoured while watching Friends on Netflix.  Life…can be good and delicious all at once.

Recipe: Gluten Free Penne with Kale and a White Wine Sauce

Gluten Free Penne with Kale in a White Wine Sauce

Gluten Free Penne with Kale in a White Wine Sauce

Servings: 4-6
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Cook 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8-12 ounces Gluten Free Penne (I used Aldi’s liveGfree brand)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups kale
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup pasta water (reserve right before you drain the pasta)

Directions:

Cook the pasta per the package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, pull out a pan I used the one I was using to make the sauce) and add about an inch or two of water with about a teaspoon of salt.  Place pan on stove and bring water to a boil.

Cut the kale into large strips and remove the stems.

Put the kale into the boiling water for about a minute.  Drain the kale and set it aside.

In the same pan, prepare the sauce.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, the red pepper flakes, and the minced garlic and cook over medium heat, for about 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is soft and golden.  Do not burn the garlic.  It will make everything bitter.
Stir in the wine.  Allow the wine to come up to a boil and reduce for about a minute.  Then, add some of the starchy pasta water, if you’d like a bit more liquid in the dish.  Stir in the drained pasta, the kale, and some Parmesan cheese (as much as you’d like).  Season with salt, more cheese, red pepper, or pasta water as you deem necessary.

Serve.

~*~*~

This turned out to be a light dish, despite having the pasta integrated into the rest of it.  I found it a great way to use of a bottle of white wine from the fridge so that it didn’t go wasted.  And…I love finding new ways to enjoy kale!  Packed with nutrients, light, delicious…yeah…it’s a perfect meal.  And one I might consider the night before a long run…should this hip ever improve enough to get me back out onto the roads.

Product Review: Van’s Gluten Free Rotini and Red Sauce

Van's Gluten Free Rotini & Red Sauce

Van’s Gluten Free Rotini & Red Sauce

 Product: Van’s Gluten Free Rotini and Red Sauce – $3.99+

It’s been one of those weeks.  Seriously.  I’m recovering (slowly) from my awful, awful, painful Boston Marathon.  To top it all off, my produce bin didn’t arrive as scheduled on Friday.  So, all weekend I was left scrambling with ideas as to what to make for dinner and how little grocery shopping I could get away with in trying to manage exactly that.  The answer…I still had to hit up the produce at the grocery store, and my CSA bin was redelivered to me on Monday evening.  But for that weekend…I was not in a good spot.

Thankfully, I have a pantry full of things that have been just dying for me to pick them off the shelf and try.  And when push comes to shove, Saturday was going to be all about some pasta.  I have a few gluten-free pastas (just the noodles and then some dishes like this) in my pantry for just such occasions…because pasta is easy and a very common go-to for me. Because I LOVE pasta.

I listed off some options to the roomie, and ultimately Cathy made the final say.  “Let’s try that last Van’s thing.”

And so it came to pass that “the last Van’s thing” was going to make its way from pantry shelf to full-on meal in my kitchen.  Moving on up!

You see, awhile back I had picked up three boxes of the Van’s Gluten Free Whole Grain Pasta Sides, which I had discovered at Walmart, of all places, way ahead of anywhere else in the area carrying them.  I snagged one of each flavor and happily stocked my pantry with them.  I have already had the Creamy Herb and Garlic Pasta and the Ultimate Cheddar Penne as well.  So…this time it was Rotini & Red Sauce’s turn to shine.

Van’s Gluten Free choices have never disappointed me.  Not once.  Not ever.  They are my waffle of choice, above all others, even the new Gluten-Free Eggo’s.  That’s a huge thing!!  But Van’s puts a lot of love and care into their packaged foods.  And Van’s does believe that nutritious is delicious and that’s why they make their gluten-free pastas with whole grain brown rice, delivering more than a full serving of nutrient dense whole grains.  You can always add in some vegetables or chicken (if you eat meat…which I don’t…) in order to bulk up the pasta sides and make these more of an entrée.  But as my roommate and I take something that serves three and split it between the two of us…it’s the perfect amount in the end.

Cooking up the Van’s Gluten Free Rotini and Red Sauce takes all but 10 minutes.  Seriously.  Just boil 6 cups of water in a medium saucepan.  Add the pasta and allow it to return to a boil.  Let it cook for 7-8 minutes.  The noodles will become al dente.  Do not overcook.  Gluten-free noodles are an awful thing overcooked.  Drain the noodles and give them a rinse.  Then, add the marinara sauce to the saucepan, heating on low.  Stir often.  Put the pasta back into the pan with the marinara and heat through.  Enjoy.

I served this up with a gluten-free dinner roll that I baked up a few weeks ago.  It made a perfect, perfect, perfect dinner.  The rotini (which is actually red) cooked up really perfectly.  It wasn’t mushy and didn’t crumble apart when I stabbed at it with my fork.  The pasta sauce was rich and flavorful.  I sort of wish there was a little more sauce when all was said and done, but there was the perfect amount to lightly coat the noodles and serve them up.  This was a filling entree, and would serve at least 4 people as a side dish to a bigger main dish.  I enjoyed this one, but it was my least favorite of the three pasta sides that Van’s created.  Not that it wasn’t good.  It was. But it was something I easily could have made with things I have at home in the same amount of time.  It was nothing special.  But it was quite tasty.  If more sauce had been present, I would have used my dinner roll to mop it up.  But…the sauce was just enough…no extra.  Still…a solid, delicious pasta dish.

Van’s is very proud of the ingredients they put into their products.  Seriously.  They state this on the box.  And the ingredients that go into Van’s Gluten Free Rotini & Red Sauce are simple.  These ingredients include gluten free penne pasta (brown rice flour, red lentil flour, beet powder, tomato powder), marinara sauce (tomatoes, water, tomato paste, olive oil, onions, sugar, basil, garlic, salt, citric acid, and black pepper).  It is gluten-free, kosher, contains no artificial colors or flavors, has a full serving of whole grains, is egg-free, and is dairy-free.

As far as nutrition goes, a serving of Van’s Gluten Free Rotini & Red Sauce is about 1 cup prepared.  This box contains about 2.5 servings.  This will dish up 250 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 160 mg sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar, and 12 grams of protein.  This side dish is cholesterol free.

So, while this was a simple and basic meal, it was easy to make and served up a fantastic dish for my roommate and I to share.  Of the three, however, this would probably be the one I wouldn’t pick up again.  Not that it wasn’t good…it just wasn’t as memorable as the others.

Van's Gluten Free Rotini & Red Sauce (prepared)

Van’s Gluten Free Rotini & Red Sauce (prepared)

Restaurant Review: Upper Crust Pizzeria, Boston, Massachusetts

Upper Crust Pizzeria, Boston, Massachusetts

Upper Crust Pizzeria, Boston, Massachusetts

Restaurant: Upper Crust Pizzeria, Boston, Massachusetts

So…I was in Boston…for The Boston Marathon.  And you know what it means when I’m gearing up for a race.  The traditional night-before-the-race gluten-free pizza.  It is a must.  Sure, I can do gluten-free pasta, but pizza seems to be my mojo.  My magical little race-day helper.  And so, this tradition has gone unchanged whenever possible.

I consulted with a good friend of mine, Julie, before heading to Boston, looking for restaurant recommendations, especially for pizza.  She sent me so many different options, I was elated to see how many options were available in Boston.  If you are a Celiac or gluten-free and planning on a trip to Boston, trust me…it is so easy to find something to eat there.  It’s wonderful.  Never before have I had so many options in one place.

With her high recommendation, and the praise of my high school friend, Lydia, it was decided that we would be noshing on Sunday night (Monday is marathon day in Boston!) at a place called Upper Crust Pizzeria.  They have several locations throughout the Boston area, but as we were spending the day hiking the Freedom Trail, we decided that we’d wind our way out toward Beacon Hill and land there right around dinner time.

We actually ended up getting there sooner, rather than later, so we ducked into some candy shops and walked around the Beacon Hill area until around 5 p.m.  That was when we made our way back to the little establishment and stepped inside.

It wasn’t what I was expecting.  This was one tiny little establishment, indeed.  In fact, the kitchen was on the far right as you enter, with one long community table in the middle of the restaurant.  That was it.  We lucked out in that people finished up eating by the time we ordered, so we had a place to settle in and eat.  Because there was no way the pizza would make it back to the hotel and still be hot.

Cathy and I had scouted the menu prior to leaving for Boston and already knew what we were going to get.  This left my friends Heather and Jenn to either have pizza by the slice or split a pizza.  As Heather wanted pepperoni and Jenn does just cheese, they ended up getting two slices each.

Their slices were ginormous!!  Seriously!!  Holy cow.  It made me more than a little concerned over how big the gluten-free pizza slices were going to be and whether Cathy and I could eat it on our own.

But, our 14-inch gluten-free pizza arrived a short time after their slices…and it looked fantastic.  We ordered one of the custom pies that is a “local favorite.”  It’s called Charles Street ($19.00 – the gluten-free crust is a $2 upcharge), and we had it made on the gluten-free dough.  It comes topped with portabella mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and fresh garlic.  For the sake of my stomach, we asked them to go light on the cheese on this pizza.  And it looked absolutely fantastic when it arrived at the table.  We paused long enough in our hunger to snap a picture before diving in, each peeling off a slice.  The pizza is their “small” size…and it’s actually quite big…but it was perfect for 2-3 people to share.  And since we hadn’t eaten much that day, it was perfect for Cathy and I to split without any help.

The Charles Street pizza at Upper Crust Pizzeria is AMAZING!  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!  Totally and honestly.  I ate a bite on its own and immediately was all “Mmmmmm.”  Like in “Mmmmmmarathon” and “Mmmmmmore please” and “Mmmmmmgoooooood!”  But then, I doctored it up with some dried herbs and a little bit of red pepper flakes.  My stomach fears no spice, not even before a marathon.  The crust of the pizza was thin, but not a cracker crust.  You could definitely tell it was white rice flour based, but it wasn’t a distracting overlying taste.  In fact, the crust was one of my favorite things about this pizza.  I love a good crust, but I also love to indulge in more pizza…so a thin crust is a nice thing in my book.  Cathy tried a bit of Jenn’s pizza and said the gluten-free crust was even better than the original.  Score!!  I loved the earthiness that flavored this particular pizza.  The Charles Street had this great balance of savory with a hint of sweetness from the sundried tomatoes.  It was amazing.  I devoured every slice.  For the first time ever, I think Cathy finished her pizza just as I was polishing off mine.

I can’t say enough good things about this pizza.  At first I was a little uncertain, due to the venue more than anything.  I mean, one table…and no room when we arrived for us to sit and enjoy…it was a little intimidating and off-putting…but a spot cleared up and we settled in after ordering, and all of us were happy with our pizza.  I would go back and eat here the next time I was in Boston, even if there wasn’t a marathon involved.  Really fantastic.  There were a few other signature pizzas that they make that sound absolutely amazing, so I’m definitely eager to return and give them a taste.

If you’re in Boston…and you want a great gluten-free pizza…find one of the locations for Upper Crust Pizzeria (or go to the original one, like I did, in Beacon Hill) and order up a slice of heaven in pizza form.  I know I’ll be back.  Oh yes, I will be back!

Upper Crust Pizzeria's Gluten Free Charles Street Pizza

Upper Crust Pizzeria’s Gluten Free Charles Street Pizza

Product Review: Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Product Review: Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix – $10.99

I know some pretty amazing people.  I really do.  One of such people is a friend of mine from high school.  Awhile back, she contacted me and said that Tastefully Simple was releasing some gluten-free products that she would love for me to try.  My friend, Rebecca Fifield, just happens to be a Tastefully Simple Consultant.  So, she sent them to my.  And then Tastefully Simple released more products…and I bought them and some of the ones that had originally just been sent to me.  And I loved every one of them that had tried.

I think what I love most about what Tastefully Simple is doing with their gluten-free mixes is that they are making it so easy to make bread or pizza or cake cookies or pancakes.  They take all that fancy flour mixing and make it so you have it in one easy place, and only need to add 2 ingredients to it.  I love it.  LOVE it.

And now, thanks to both Rebecca and my own trial-by-fire with the gluten-free products that Tastefully Simple offers (they’ve added cookies and pancakes since I last looked!)…I’m obsessed.  Because, as much as I love baking and cooking and being in my teeny-tiny kitchen…I love simplicity too.  Because baking can be stressful…gluten-free baking can be catastrophic if anything is off.

That’s the glory of Tastefully Simple.  They take that guess work off.

So, with me heading out of town on Friday evening, the main goal this week is to use up all the fresh produce that would otherwise go bad in my absence.  So, with fresh basil and some tomatoes and onions lurking about, I remembered that I had a Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix in my pantry.  So…pizza it would be.  AND…it would last for three days between my roommate and I.  Added bonus.  No more cooking the rest of the week.  YAY!

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix (prepared)

Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix (prepared)

Preparing the Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix is super easy!!  For real.  That’s why there is the word “simple” in the brand.  HA!  To prepare the crust, simply combine the crust mix with 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  The dough will be sticky.  Cover it losely with plastic wrap and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.  Using lightly oiled hands to prevent sticking, spread the dough out on a pizza stone or a 12-inch greased pizza pan.  Bake it for 10 minutes in a 400°F oven.

While it’s baking…mix up the sauce.  It’s a breeze.  Simply combine the sauce mix with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and tomato sauce.  Spread it over the warm crust you have now baked for 10 minutes.  Add your favorite toppings (in my case…tomato, onion, basil and Daiya vegan mozzarella cheese shreds) and place back in the oven to cook for another 17-20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Slice into 6 pieces and devour.

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Pizza Crust & Sauce (baked)

Tastefully Simple Gluten-Free Pizza Crust & Sauce (baked)

The quality, however, always comes in the taste test.  And they totally nailed it.  The dough wasn’t too sticky when I went to press it out on the pizza stone.  And, it cooked up to this amazing crispy, golden brown.  The sauce and toppings didn’t make it soggy.  It held up to slicing and being moved onto plates.  And I loved the flavor.  It had this amazing crusty quality that just made it work.  It was the perfect base for my toppings of choice.  And it was one of my favorite crusts I have made at home.  It was easy, and it didn’t take too long to bake up either.  Perfect way to enjoy my dinner tonight.  Tastefully Simple is not only making gluten-free delicious, but easy too!

So, let’s take a look at what Tastefully Simple puts into their Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix, shall we?  This pizza crust mix is made from rice flour, tapioca flour, sugar, baker’s yeast, potato starch, cassava flour, salt, less than 2% hydrogenated palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, baking powder and, xanthan gum.  The sauce mix is made from maltodextrin, dehydrated garlic, garlic powder, salt, dehydrated onion, spices, roasted dehydrated garlic, sugar, Romano cheese, less than 2% of natural flavors, toasted sesame oil, citric acid, whey, cheddar cheese, hydrolyzed soy protein, disodium phosphate, and silicon dioxide (anticaking).

As far as the nutritional information for the Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix goes, this isn’t bad for pizza.  Really.  A serving size is 1/6 of the package.  This serving will dish up 200 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, no cholesterol, 810 mg sodium (it’s a little high, yes), 43 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 1 gram fiber, and 4 grams of protein.

If you love pizza and want that “from scratch” appeal with a golden, crispy crunch, without it being the frozen cracker-crusts that the gluten-free community are otherwise delegated to having…then give Tastefully Simple’s Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix a try.  Hop on over to my friend, Rebecca Fifield‘s, page and place an order.  Not only will you be amazed with how easy this is to make, the taste, texture, and everything else will win you over.  I promise you that.

A slice of gluten-free pizza made with Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

A slice of pizza made with Tastefully Simple Gluten Free Pizza Crust & Sauce Mix

Product Review: Le Veneziane Micrawable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express

Le Veneziane Microwaveable Penne Al Pomodor E Basilico Pasta Express

Le Veneziane Microwaveable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodor E Basilico Pasta Express

Product: Le Veneziane Microwavable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express – $6.99+

Pasta.  We all know that pasta is one of my favorite things in the world.  I grew up begging for spaghetti each week.  I wanted my mom’s spaghetti when my birthday rolled around each year.  Forget dining out.  I wanted my mom’s cooking.  I didn’t care if it was store-bought boxed pasta noodles.  Her sauce made it.  And that’s what I wanted.  Pasta (in all forms) has been one of my favorite dishes to just dive into.  Ultimate comfort food.  Ultimate meal.

Even after the Celiac diagnosis…one of the first things I sought out were pasta alternatives.  There are so many out on the market.  Some good…others not-so-good…and some that rise above and beyond the bar.  Like…even better than true pasta level of amazing.

Back in my September 2014 Cuisine Cube, I was presented with a box of Le Veneziane Microwavable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico (Penne with Tomato and Basil) Pasta Express.  And, yes, even the pasta freak in me didn’t immediately make this up.  But…I’ll explain why in a moment.

For now, let me give you a quick run through of what Cuisine Cube is all about.  Cuisine Cube is a monthly subscription service that delivers healthier, lesser-known, smaller artisan bakers/companies gluten free goodies to your door.  Each box contains 5-6 items (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert, and a bonus sometimes!) and subscriptions start as low as $29.99.  Go to their site and check them out.  I’ve really enjoyed my year of Cuisine Cube and intend to keep my subscription rolling.  In fact, I might have to go in for the long-term subscription instead of the month-to-month.  I’m that committed.  LOVE.

So…yes…I realize that September is about 7 months ago and that I am just now reviewing a product from that Cube.  BUT…it is the last item from the September 2014 Cuisine Cube.  And that was one very delicious cube for sure!  The Dinner portion of that box was dedicated to a 1-serving microwavable pasta meal made by Le Veneziane.  Now, I have had Le Veneziane products before and have always been impressed, so I was quite happy to see this company included in the box.  I had no idea they made microwavable pasta meals.  The things you learn!

Le Veneziane corn pasta is actually a very great choice for people trying to stay healthy and for people who follow the Mediterranean Diet.  Why?  It has a very low fat content.  How about that?  Le Veneziane is now one of the most modern companies using high-quality corn and producing amazing gluten-free pasta, polenta, sauces, and cookies.  They put out a high quality product because they believe in using the highest quality ingredients from flour and corn.  It is milled properly and kept in the right conditions to make sure that nothing, including being 100% gluten free, is compromised.  Love that integrity and devotion.

So, last night after a very busy day that included breakfast at my favorite gluten-free bakery and lunch of gluten-free crepes from my favorite food truck at a festival…I wanted something light for dinner.  This was ideal because my roommate and I could split it and it would be the perfect amount.  To accompany it, I made some homemade gluten-free dinner rolls (even though I was so tempted just to grab some out of the freezer section).  So, while the rolls were cooling, I went ahead and opened up the Le Veneziane Microwavable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express.  Inside was a microwaveable dish that I peeled the top off of and a measuring cone so that I could get exactly 300 ml of water as directed by the instructions.  The corn pasta in the container was perfect.  It had this deep red-brown powder inside too.  And when I added the water and mixed it well, everything got this muddy brown color.  I hoped for the best and popped it in the microwave for 10 minutes.

Le Veneziane Micrwavable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express (cooked)

Le Veneziane Micrwavable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express (cooked)

When 10 minutes elapsed, I pulled the tray out of the microwave, a little put off by the brownish color of the sauce.  But, I gave it a stir and then dished up half to my roommate and half for me, giving us each a dinner roll to have with it.  When I handed her the bowl she said, “That’s an interesting color sauce.”  HAHA!!  Everyone was thinking it; she just said it aloud.

Well, despite the rich brown color of the sauce, the Le Veneziane Microwaveable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express was actually very delicious.  I shouldn’t have doubted it.  The sauce was thick and rich with a tomato flavor that was peppered with the right hit of basil.  It was really quite delicious.  The pasta, despite being nuked in a microwave, were cooked to that perfect al dente.  The homemade rolls made the perfect side item for this meal.  And even eating just half of the dish itself was more than enough.  Very filling.  But very, very good.  I don’t know where to find more of the microwave meals from Le Veneziane, but I will keep my eyes open for them now.  It’s nice to have a delicious and healthy meal in 10 minutes sometimes.

So, let’s talk about ingredients, shall we?  The Le Veneziane Microwaveable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express pasta is made from corn flour, emulsifier, and the sauce is made from tomato, cream, salt, melted cheese powder, onion, garlic, basil, and sugar.  This is 100% gluten-free.

As for the nutrition information, the Le Veneziane Microwaveable Gluten Free Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express portion is 1 pack.  In this serving, you will be taking in 350 calories and 7 grams of fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 820 mg sodium (um…yikes!), 64 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar, and 8 grams of protein.  See what I mean…it’s filling.  And delicious.

I want to thank Cuisine Cube for letting me try a new product from Le Veneziane that I didn’t even know existed.  I’ll be on the watch now for more microwavable pasta meals by this great Italian company.

Half of a serving of Le Veneziane Gluten Free Microwaveable Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express with a homemade gluten-free dinner roll

Half of a serving of Le Veneziane Gluten Free Microwaveable Penne Al Pomodoro E Basilico Pasta Express with a homemade gluten-free dinner roll