Product Review: Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin

Jac's Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin
Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin

Product: Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin – $3.50+

Many of you know by now that back in May, I signed up for this amazing delivery service that sends a box of gluten-free goodies to my doorstep.  All for a very reasonable fee.  The company is Cuisine Cube, and the seek out lesser-known gluten-free companies and the products that have to offer.  It’s great, because I know that a lot of us hang onto the same brands and are hesitant to branch out and try something new and different.  Cuisine Cube totally takes the guess work out of the equation and each month is like Christmas, opening up this box and seeing what products await you inside.

It’s my favorite delivery day.

Well, it is the end of November, and while I was away at Walt Disney World, running in the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, my cube arrived.  Never fear, it was waiting for me upon my arrival home.  A special box this time…all Thanksgiving themed.  I loved pulling out the variety of items and tying it back to the Thanksgiving table…which now will provide plenty of options for me!  However, I knew one particular product that was included inside wasn’t going to survive long around me.

Three of my favorite words: Pumpkin. Pecan. Muffin.

HELLO!!

The business that is responsible for bringing these into my life is Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro, which is Long Island’s first certified gluten-free bakery.  How about that?!  And to think, I was in New York City back at the beginning of the month to run in the TCS New York City Marathon…and I didn’t even know this place existed.  Trust me…this knowledge has now been filed away for my eminent return to the Big Apple.  A little bit more on Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro though…

Jac’s was opened back in 2009 by owner, Jac, who was diagnosed with Celiac disease and then, later in 2010, an egg allergy.  Being a professional bakery, Jac had to now find new ways to prepare the same foods she already loved…now sans gluten.  After years of trial and error, she perfected her recipes and opened up a 100% gluten-free bakeshop and bistro on Long Island.  All of her products are natural, 100% whole grain, use no refined sugars (only organic sugars), are 80% organic, and, according to her Web site, 500% extraordinarily scrumptious.  In addition to the items she sells in the shop itself, she also offers cooking classes.  That is super cool.

In this vacuum-sealed pouch, inside the November Cuisine Cube held what looked like the biggest, most amazing pumpkin muffin I have ever seen.  Literally, it fit into the palm of my hand.  It was epic.  And…honestly, two of my favorite ingredients are pumpkin and pecans.  And in the fall, I really do want ALL THE PUMPKIN FOODS AND DRINKS.  I mean…it’s that time of year.  And these things are only available during certain times of the year.  So when a muffin turns up…a muffin I can eat that I didn’t have to make myself and is ginormous…oh yeah…I take immediate notice.

Which is why this treat inside my Cuisine Cube has already been devoured.  Obviously.  I’m blogging on it, right?

It was…of course…a gym morning.  I mean, what better time to indulge in things than after hitting the gym, right?  Hey…I’ve been out of town…it happens.  Anyway, I brought the Pumpkin Pecan Muffin to work with me and sliced into the packaging.  A bit of the top layer came off the crown, but, all in all, the muffin traveled well and held up.  I set it down on my plate and gave it a short warm-up in the office microwave.  Then, I returned to my desk, muffin ready…and settled in with my fork to take my first bite.

Oh…wow.  This muffin hit all the right notes at all the right time.  The pumpkin flavor was perfect.  It wasn’t too much, nor was it overly spiced.  The nutty flavor came through as well, and gave the muffin a bit more texture and kept it from being “squishy-soft.”  It was perfect.  And I am particular about the amount of moistness in a muffin.  Whatever Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro does when they bake their muffins, they need to keep doing it.  I was loving each and every bite, savoring it as much as possible.  I am certain I was consuming more calories than I should, but it was perfect from the first to last bite, and when you’re enjoying a baked goodie for breakfast…just enjoy it.  Let go of the calorie count for one meal.  If it’s delicious, it’s worth it.  I can’t tell you the nutrition information on this product as none was provided…but it was GOOD (yes…caps lock good!).

The Pumpkin Pecan Muffin from Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro is made from almond milk, applesauce, organic evaporated cane juice, organic brown rice flour, oat flour, arrowroot, organic almond flour, organic coconut flour, golden flax meal, guar/xanthan gum, eggs, organic coconut yogurt, baking soda/powder, vanilla, pumpkin, and pecans.

Trust me…whatever amount of calories and fat may be inside this muffin, you won’t care.  I don’t care.  It was scrumptious!

So, yet again, my Cuisine Cube brought a product that I otherwise would never have known existed into my life.  From there, I learned more about the business, and have every intention of getting over to the actual shop the next time I am in New York City (*crossing my fingers for March*).  I love that this particular muffin not only engaged my taste buds, but also my curiosity.  And that’s the wonderful thing about Cuisine Cube.

As for Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro…you wowed me at first bite.  And now…I only want more!

Jac's Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin (unwrapped)
Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro Pumpkin Pecan Muffin (unwrapped)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The verdict?!

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Grease or butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

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

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

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

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

~*~*~

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

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

The Pure Pantry is pure gluten-free delicious goodness!

Product Review: Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins

Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins
Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins

Product: Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins – $3.99+

I am not going to lie…I’ve been eying the Garden Lites Veggie Muffins since the day I first spotted them in my local natural food and grocery stores.  Why did it take me so long to get a box?  Well…it probably would have taken me longer, but my roomie surprised me with a box one day after I sent her out on a grocery expedition.  I obviously forgot some sacred ingredient to something I was cooking right then…or I would have gone.  But the roomie often picks up little surprises when she’s sent on these emergency runs.  Maybe it’s to tame me, since I’m usually wound up about missing something I need.  Whatever the reason…she brought me a box of Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins.  And I was all too excited to try them.

I just…never did.  They just remained in my freezer.

I think I got all caught up in making my Breakfast Banana Splits and other such “real” food items, that opening the freezer for breakfast hadn’t happened in a long time.  I knew they were in there…

Lo and behold…after a week of Cathy being down with a cold and sitting out of gym workouts (meaning I’d go really early and get mine in, then come home and make breakfast instead of hauling it to work post-gym), I had no idea what to have after our time at the gym.  I began to search the pantry and fridge.  I found grapes…but those only get you so far.  I’d include some…but what to eat to refuel and recover?

And then…I remembered the box of Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins.  Problem…SOLVED!

I know what you’re thinking…zucchini with banana with chocolate chips…how could that possibly be good?  Well…zucchini bread is good.  Banana bread is good.  Both types of bread with chocolate chips are damn good.  So…why not combine them?  It should work, right?

Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffin (individually wrapped)
Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffin (individually wrapped)

I won’t lie…even I questioned it this morning as I packed the box of muffins in the cooler.  After the workout, we walked to our office and I got to work on breakfast.  These little muffins couldn’t be easier to prepare.  They come individually wrapped.  And all you have to do is pop the wrapped muffin into the microwave for 35 seconds.  Carefully remove the muffin from the microwave and then the plastic wrapper…and viola…your muffin is ready.

I think my biggest fear was that these were going to be soggy.  Or mushy.  Or just…gross.  But, I cooked up all four of them, two for me and two for Cathy, and our breakfast was ready.  In less than three minutes.  That has to be a new record!

I settled in at my desk with my first batch of work and my breakfast.  And after one bite, I knew the stack of paperwork was going to have to wait while I gave my full attention to the Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins.  Oh.  My.  God!  No…really…who knew that a muffin made primarily from vegetables and fruit could taste this fantastic.  Or this moist.  It was like biting into a luscious piece of banana bread.  But with zucchini in it.  You can’t even taste the zucchini, you just sometimes get those green flecks in the muffin.  And the chocolate chips…just enough to sweeten the deal without consuming the flavor of the muffin itself.  This was truly one amazing product and the love I have for it surprises even me.  I never would have thought about pairing zucchini with banana…but…damn…it works.  It works in delicious ways!

I don’t think my morning could have started any better…

So, let’s take a look at the ingredient list for the Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins, shall we?  These muffins are made from zucchini, pasteurized egg whites, sugar, pasteurized whole eggs, certified gluten-free oats, soluble corn fiber, semi-sweet chocolate chips, banana, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, corn starch, baking powder, canola oil, natural banana flavor, salt, and vanilla extract.

Recognize all those items?  I sure do.  And when mixed together and baked…epic things happen, both flavor, texture, and food-wise.

Now, how about the nutritional aspect of these muffins?  A serving is only 1 of the Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins.  As all we had before working out was a breakfast fruit, yogurt and granola parfait, Cathy and I each had two.  But…if you stick to the serving size, you will be consuming 120 calories and 3 grams of fat.  In addition, you will be taking in 20 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, and 11 grams of sugar.  I know the sugar seems high, and while some of that comes from the chocolate chip, some of it comes from the real banana that is included in the ingredients of the muffins.  One serving will also give you 5 grams of filling fiber and 3 grams of protein!  These muffins are gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free!

Nutritional and yummy too!  Gotta love it.  And I sure did.  I want to try the other varieties of muffins.  Yes…they have other flavors.  In fact, in addition to the Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins, Garden Lites has Veggie Muffins in the following flavors: Carrot Berry, Golden Corn, Veggie Blueberry Oat, and Zucchini Chocolate!  So…I must try all the Veggie Muffins.  Because these honestly did impress me.  And I lasted all the way through my snack time.  And that doesn’t always happen.  Good quality food…great product…

I’m hooked.  On muffins made with veggies and fruit.

Oh yeah…loving it!

Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins (cooked)
Garden Lites Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Veggie Muffins (cooked)

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Café Gluten Free Vegan Garlic Bread

Annie May's Sweet Café
Annie May’s Sweet Café

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Café Gluten Free Vegan Garlic Bread – $4.25

I love that my local gluten-free bakery is growing.  I love that they are getting enough business to even offer more of their business aside from their daily lunch specials and daily specials in the case.  This makes me insanely happy.

On Saturday, on the third anniversary of the opening of Annie May’s Sweet Café on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky, I finally got to partake in the newest feature of the bakery…

Take-n-Bake goodies from their freezer.  I am talking their (FAMOUS AND DELICIOUS) pizza crusts, garlic bread, vegan garlic bread, cinnamon rolls, and even some of their pastas…(like the best mac & cheese ever).  All items are gluten-free and most are allergen-free.  They make a point when doing gluten-free to also try to do allergen-free.  But some items (like the regular garlic bread and the mac and cheese) contain dairy.

I had stuck my head in the deep freeze earlier in the week when I was in for Soft Pretzel Wednesday (because pretzels on a Wednesday make the best lunch ever!).  The key words that made me happy was…Vegan. Garlic. Bread.  Short on money in the middle of the week, and knowing I was stopping in for the celebration of three years at that location on Saturday, I vowed to make a purchase then.  Little did I know I’d walk out of there with not just the Vegan Garlic Bread, but also the Mac & Cheese, and the Pizza Crust (seriously…best gluten-free pizza crust on this planet…hands down!).  I might have also walked out with an Allergen-Free Banana Spice Muffin (of heaven!).

But, I digress with the muffin.

Let me focus on the entire reason I pulled open that freezer in the first place…

Gluten-Free and Vegan Garlic Bread.

Annie May's Sweet Café Vegan Garlic Bread (frozen)
Annie May’s Sweet Café Gluten Free Vegan Garlic Bread (frozen)

What you get is a half of a half loaf of bread that has been slathered down with a vegan butter and garlic topping.  Then…wrapped and frozen with baking instructions on the label.  Talk about easy.  Just preheat the oven and place the garlic bread on a pan and into the oven and allow to cook for allotted time.  Once done…enjoy.

That’s what I did tonight (and served it up with the Mac & Cheese which I baked at the same time!)

I cried when I took my first bite.  Tears of happiness.  Tear of joy.  Because I haven’t had garlic bread in a very long time.  I tried to order some gluten-free garlic bread from a pizza place in Denver, but they wouldn’t deliver to the hotel (which was only 4 miles away).  So…unless I make it out of gluten-free sandwich bread, it hasn’t happened.  And trust me…that’s not the same.  Annie May’s Vegan Garlic Bread was amazing.  Delicious.  The crust got all golden and crunchy and the middle…soft…chewy…garlic and vegan buttery goodness.  Honestly.  Seasoned perfectly.  Tears.  When a food makes me cry…then it’s damn good.  We only ate half the loaf tonight with dinner…I almost cooked up the second half.  I think this will become another staple that I always purchase from Annie May’s when she has it in stock…much like her cinnamon rolls and her macaroni and cheese!  This…is one of my favorite things I have ever eaten since going gluten-free.  Real food.  Really good.  Make you cry good!  Even my roomie was blown away.  She had taken a bite before I had and she gave me the saddest eyes.  When I took my bite…I understood why.  She liked it better than the garlic bread she has been able to eat.  I liked it better than any I had prior to having to go gluten-free.  Honest…good…food!  That’s what Annie May’s bakes up every single time!

Annie May’s Sweet Café has literally changed my life.  With all the restaurants in Louisville’s blossoming foodie areas, all I want is Annie May’s!  Why?  Because not only can I get safe treats and meals there, but now…I can take a whole lot of their good stuff home to bake up myself when it is convenient.  I hope that the take-n-bake freezer takes off for them and expands, because I would be totally willing to purchase these convenient meals and items every week…just to make one day of my life (if not more) a lot easier.

Happy Third Birthday, Annie May’s…and here’s to many, many more delicious, allergen-free years!!

Annie May's Sweet Café Gluten Free Vegan Garlic Bread (baked)
Annie May’s Sweet Café Gluten Free Vegan Garlic Bread (baked)

Product Review: Lucky Clover Farm Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin

Lucky Clover Farm
Lucky Clover Farm

Product: Lucky Clover Farm Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin – $3.00

Yeah…after the mention of the Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin from Lucky Clover Farm in my previous post, I wasn’t going to leave you hanging.  Seriously.  I think I’m in love with the gluten-free baked goods this local business is putting out.  I am so glad that I went to the Buy Local Fair in Louisville on Sunday because I don’t think I would have found them otherwise.

Happiness…is being able to eat baked goodies!

Because unless I go to a specialty bakery or buy them in the store or make them myself…I go without.

That’s how it works when you are a Celiac.

That being said…when I literally turned around and walked back to the booth at the Buy Local Fair that was advertising gluten-free breads, muffins, cakes, etc…I didn’t know what I was in for.  I ended up purchasing more than what I initially intended.  I wanted the gluten-free carrot cake…but it’s hard to sell that on my roomie.  She was intrigued by the herb bread…and I just blogged on that.  We also picked out three of the jam varieties they had for sale as well.  We are jelly and jam lovers here.  Seriously.  I kept eying that carrot cake…but ended up leaving it and going for the Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin instead.

First of all, I have never seen such beautiful muffins.  It was shaped like a giant flour.  Seriously.  I picked up one of the individually wrapped muffins and found it soft, light, and smelling of fresh blueberries.  It smelled sweet.  And fresh.  And…yeah…I supposed I could leave the carrot cake behind this time if this was what I got to have instead.

On Monday morning, after my spin class, I returned home and got to work on a quick and easy breakfast.  This was going to consist of some of the aforementioned gluten-free herb bread from Lucky Clover Farm…and Cathy and I were splitting the Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin.  I decided to toast the slice of bread, tossing it on a pan and then into the oven while I went and showered.  When I was dressed and back in the kitchen, the bread was finishing up…so I unwrapped the blooming Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin from Lucky Clover Farm, placed it on a plate, and then placed it in the microwave for about 20 seconds.

It smelled so amazing as it emerged out of the microwave, warm all the way through.  I sliced it in half…then into quarters.  Cathy loves her muffin buttered, so I added a light schmear of real butter to her muffin slices and then plated it with the toasted gluten-free herb bread.

I never have buttered much of anything I ate…including bread and muffins, so mine was simply plated.  I settled in with my coffee and my tasty (and easy and quick) breakfast that morning.  I already knew the bread was good, so I immediately turned my attention and appetite to the Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin.

It was so soft and light.  It was not dense at all.  Just fresh and baked to a golden perfection on the outside.  The blueberries added a great amount of fresh sweetness.  And it wasn’t laden with sugar, making it seem more like cake.  This was a muffin through-and-through.  It was soft and chewy and perfect.  I think angels might have baked it…because I love a muffin that isn’t heavy.  And this was just what I needed that morning.  They seem to make different varieties of their gluten-free muffins throughout the year and where they end up at different fairs and festivals and markets.

I can’t say enough good things about Lucky Clover Farms.  In fact, these gluten-free baked goods were such a hit with me and Cathy that we can’t wait to try the jams out.

This might have been my favorite Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin to date.  I mean…it looked like a flower and tasted like a dream.

Doesn’t get much better than that!

Lucky Clover Farm Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin
Lucky Clover Farm Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin

Product Review: Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter

Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter
Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter

Product: Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter – $1.99+

I am not very good about blogging about various spreads and nut butters that I try.  I don’t know why…but mostly because it’s hard to wax rhapsodic about different varieties of nut butters…because…while they don’t all taste the same…it’s the same thing.  Besides, I’m a  Trader Joe’s Creamy Peanut Butter girl.  That doesn’t change.

Except…when something leaps out at me and catches my eye.

That was the case this past visit to Birmingham, Alabama.  I went to my mom’s favorite natural food store, Organic Harvest, and was shopping around for some products to try that I had never seen in my area.  I was walking the aisles, doing my initial scouting when I spotted little sample packs of almond butters at the bottom of one of the shelves.

The brand: Wild Friends Foods.

The flavor: Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter.

HELLO!!  How could I not buy this?!  I had to.  So, it was one of the items that I chose to bring home with me to try.  And…that’s what happened.  All I needed was the perfect opportunity to use it and to allow it to shine.  I mean…vanilla…espresso…almond butter.  That’s three of my favorite things all rolled into one product.  I was elated.  I was in heaven.  I…needed to find something to use it with.

And so…it all came together one morning when I was toasting up some gluten-free cinnamon raising English muffins.  I had pulled out some butter and honey to top the English muffins with, but then I recalled this spread.  So I decided to do half of the English muffins with the butter and honey, and the other half with this amazing sounding almond butter.

I made a fantastic choice.

The Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter is just as amazing as it sounds.  It has all the texture and flavor of almond butter, but elevated with the bits of ground up espresso beans and the amazing aroma and flavor of vanilla.  It’s almond butter taken to the nth degree.  And there is nothing wrong with that at all.  This packet, once kneaded as instructed, provided a creamy, flavorful topper for the cinnamon raising English muffin.  The espresso bits don’t get in the way or overpower the natural flavor of the almond butter.  In fact, they serve as a bit of a flavor enhancer.   And it was AWESOME!!  Trust me, even my roommate was raving about it.  Seriously…I wish I could find this stuff here.

So, let’s talk about the ingredients.  One very important thing about Wild Friends Foods is that the creators wanted to make fun flavors of nut butters without the white sugars, preservatives, additives, or oil.  So, instead of using slick oils and processed sweeteners, they use natural ingredients that are awesome…and…yes…healthy!  The Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter contains almonds, organic agave, natural vanilla flavor, espresso, and sea salt.  That’s it.  It is non-GMO, dairy-free, gluten-free, and kosher.

Nutritionally speaking, you can’t beat these statistics when it comes to almond butter.  The Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter has a serving size of 2 tablespoons.  This serving will provide you with 190 calories and 17 grams of fat (but it’s the healthy fat you get from nuts…so don’t freak out, okay?).  You will also be getting 95 mg sodium and 2 grams of sugar.  And finally, you will be taking in 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.

And it really does taste amazing.  Possibly my favorite almond butter I have had to date.  I wish I had more than just the sample pack.  From a quick check on the Wild Friends Foods Web site, it looks like a regular jar of this flavor is a whopping $11.99.  One jar.  But…I would say it was worth it.  For now, I guess I’ll just supplement with the amazing little sample packs whenever I go to Birmingham.

If you can order it online to try it…or if you can find it locally…don’t hesitate…just do it!

Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter (on a gluten-free cinnamon raisin English muffin)
Wild Friends Foods Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter (on a gluten-free cinnamon raisin English muffin)

Product Review: Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins

Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins
Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins

Product: Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins – $4.99

When it comes to gluten-free goodies…it doesn’t get much better than Katz Gluten Free.  Honestly.  I have never, ever, ever, ever, ever…etc. been disappointed by anything that I have ordered from Katz Gluten Free on their Web site.  In fact, I strongly encourage others to take the plunge and try some of Katz Gluten Free products.  If you are lucky, you won’t have to always order online.  Perhaps one of your local natural food stores carries some of their products.  Which is great…if that is the case.

For me…I can find the pies and the breads…but for the most part…my luck stops there.  So when something else catches my eye…that’s when I hit the Web site to place an order.

Trust me…you won’t ever regret hitting that check out button.

This time, after ordering the Gluten-Free Large Braided Challah Loaf, I figured I’d order a few extra items in order to round out the amount I was spending to get free shipping.  I was over halfway there with just the challah…so I felt it was worth it.  After perusing the items available, I made a decision to try the Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins.

Now, I’ve tried their Gluten Free Original English Muffins before and absolutely loved them.  They taste like real English muffins.  Perhaps even better.  So, since I love cinnamon raisin things, I figured this would be right up my alley to try.  Since I was out of town and don’t have a CSA bin to prepare meals from this week, my gym mornings were spent noshing down on things in my freezer.  One such item…the Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins.

I pulled two of the English muffins (one for me and one for my roomie) out the night before to thaw in a plastic bag.  I sliced them in half before packing them up while I went to the gym.  I got into office after my sweat session and put these on a dedicated plate, put them in the toaster oven, and let them get all toasty and golden and warm.  It took about 8 minutes from the time I put them in the toaster oven.

When they came out, they were golden and gorgeous…and smelling like cinnamon rolls.  No…seriously.  And we all know I love my cinnamon rolls.  I put a little butter and honey on one half…and on the other half I tried out a new kind of almond butter (Wild Friends Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter).  I served up a plate to my roommate and went to tuck into my hard-earned brekkies.

First bite and I was hooked.  I started with the side with the butter and honey, knowing the flavor would shine through more.  I was totally right about that.  I loved the hint of spice from the cinnamon and the sweetness from the raisins.  The texture was light…airy…perfect.  These are in no way dense at all.  They have the right amount of heft to them.  And…that cinnamon raisin flavor is outstanding.  When I tried it with the super-special almond butter, I might have fallen deeper in love.  These English muffins are fantastic.  Katz did amazing things with the original flavor.  They are doing even better things with the Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins.  I am hooked.  And now I wish I had ordered more.  Dang it.

Let’s talk ingredients.  Katz Gluten Free puts the following into their Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins:  gluten free flour (mix of potato flour and rice flour), water, potato starch, quinoa, tapioca starch, canola oil, sugar, dry yeast, baking powder, guar gum, salt, corn flour, cinnamon, and raisins.  They are completely cholesterol free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, dairy-free, and egg-free.

Nutrition-wise, these are actually really good on the dietary scale.  For English muffins that is.  One serving of Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins is one English muffin.  This will provide you with 170 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.  You will also be taking in 260 mg sodium and 7 grams of sugar.  Not bad for a gluten-free baked item.  Honestly.  In addition, you will be consuming 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein.

Seriously…if you love English muffins…you will definitely fall in love with these.  Katz Gluten Free really knows how to put a quality item out on the market.  And if you can’t find these in your local natural foods store…go to their Web site and place an order.  I promise, you won’t ever regret doing that!  I never do.  And all I get out of it is tasty gluten-free goodies.

Nothing wrong with that.

Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins
Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins

Product Review: Udi’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

Udi's Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins
Udi’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

Product: Udi’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins – $6.99+

I feel as though I may have stumbled into an anomaly…or perhaps some alternate universe.  Why?

Because I managed to find a new product before many other places had it.  And in this area, that is a rare and unnatural thing.

You see, I was in my Whole Foods just browsing.  I had to just browse because the food budget purse strings had been tightened.  There were so many things I wanted to try, but the roomie said, “Not this week…next week.”  Which is code for…NEVER.  Or so it seems.  Because whenever I am told that…it seems like forever until I actually get to have said product that caught my attention.  But…the budget was tight coming back from my epic vacation…so I guess never it will be.

That was…until I spotted something I had never seen before on the top shelf of the gluten-free bread area in my store.  I pointed to them…”What is that?” I asked.  My roommate looked up…looked at me and sighed.  “Want them?”  As if she had to ask.  The product I am speaking about is the Udi’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins.  And you better believe those were put in the cart and immediately shuttled to the register for ringing up before she changed her mind.

Then the week from hell happened and these delicious muffins remained untouched in my fridge for the whole of the week.  Until Friday morning.

Friday morning I was going to be working from home.  So, I allowed myself to get up later, go for a 5 mile walk, go into work to drop off a few items and pick a few more up, then head home.  The roommate was up after a rough week of being in the hospital…and she was ready for breakfast.  She didn’t even bother to pour herself any cereal…so that’s what she got started off with.  Next time, she can manage that on her own.  But I needed a main course for our brekkies that morning and these muffins were quick and easy and would allow me to get myself logged into work and getting my job done a lot sooner.  So…out came the muffins.  I warmed one up for her and one up for me…and breakfast was done.

These scream fall flavor.  Pumpkin flavored everything is everywhere and I eat it up.  I love pumpkin.  I love the taste and flavor of pumpkin.  The only time I do not like pumpkin is pumpkin pie.  I’ve never liked pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin anything else and…DING DING DING…we have a winner.  I’m weird…I know.

So, how were the Udi’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins?

Let me put it this way…the first day of fall is coming…and this was like the flavor of fall in one amazing and delicious bite.  Honestly.  The Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins actually do taste like pumpkin.  It’s not just a name for the product.  It doesn’t overpower, but strikes that right balance.  The muffin itself is light and fluffy.  I always heat mine up in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds and it’s like taking them fresh from the oven.  Soft, springy, and warm all the way through.  I loved the addition of pumpkin seeds throughout the muffins themselves.  It really added to the pumpkin experience.  The hints of cinnamon and nutmeg were so warming…just what you want in anything that includes pumpkin.  After all, the weather is getting cooler…the food should definitely make you feel warm and cozy.  These muffins are, probably, my second favorite thing in the Udi’s line-up.  My favorite being the Harvest Crunch Muffins…these probably are tied with Blueberry Muffins for second.  Yeah…they’re that good.

I think my only comlaint would be how uneven the muffins were.  My batch looked like they were set on their side when they baked.  But, you know…at least they tasted amazing.

So, let’s take a look at what Udi’s puts into these muffins, shall we?  Ingredients include dried cane syrup, eggs, pumpkin, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, water, palm oil, canola oil, dry molasses, pumpkin seeds, salt, cinnamon, orange zest, caramel color, xanthan gum, ground ginger, nutmeg, and baking soda.  So…yes…the first ingredient is basically sugar…but…it is a muffin.  And, let’s face it, muffins are sweet.

Nutritionally speaking, these aren’t a complete waistline buster.  One muffin is the serving size.  And with that one muffin, you will be consuming 260 calories (which isn’t the best for a muffin, but not bad either!) and 10 grams of fat.  While there are 200 mg of sodium in these muffins, the high 19 grams of sugar is a bit of a shock.  Yikes.  That’s over half the sugar I am actually allotted each day.  Well, as long as it’s not an every day thing…right?  In addition, one muffin also provides 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of protein.  So with that sugar level and the lower levels of fiber and protein, don’t expect this muffin to keep you full through lunch.  It’s not happening.

Be that as it may…they are super-duper delicious.  If you love the flavor of fall…the flavor of pumpkin…you’ll definitely want to pick up these if you can find them in your area.  I haven’t seen these since, so I’m glad I splurged that week and picked them up.  And now, naturally, I just want more of them.

Guess that’s how it works.

Keep an eye out this holiday season for Udi’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins.  You’ll fall in love at first bite.

Recipe: Gluten-Free Peach Almond Muffins

Every Saturday ushers in my long run.  Some weeks I go longer than others.  It all depends on my training plan.  Usually, whenever possible, I like to treat the runners from my Saturday morning clan, to something rewarding at the end of their efforts.  We all, as small groups, run different mileage, or different paces, so I usually have my roommate over at the coffee shop we meet at afterwards with their treats.

As I had four beautiful, amazing peaches from my CSA bin this past week, I really wanted to make something with them.  And it just so happened, that the week prior, I stumbled across an amazing looking recipe from one of my favorite blogs – Two Peas & Their Pod.

All I had to do was modify it to make it gluten-free.  Not so hard when you have a fantastic gluten-free all-purpose flour.  So, later than planned, on Friday night, I turned on my oven, got out the KitchenAid mixer…and got to baking.

Recipe: Gluten-Free Peach Almond Muffins

Servings: 18
Time: Prep 15 minutes; Bake 20 minutes

Gluten-Free Peach Almond Muffins
Gluten-Free Peach Almond Muffins


Ingredients:

For the Muffins:

  • 2-1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Better Batter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1-1/4 cups diced peeled peaches

For the Almond Streusel Topping:

  • 1/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Better Batter)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners or grease the cups.  Set pan aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Set aside.In a small bowl, whisk together egg, canola oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and almond extract.Pour liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix gently with a spatula.  Mix until just combined.

Gently stir in the peaches.

To make the almond streusel topping, in a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.  Mix with your hands until you have a crumbly mixture.  It is ok to have pea size chunks of butter.  Mix in the sliced almonds.

Pour muffin batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.

Sprinkle the almond streusel topping on top of the muffins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Let muffins cool to room temperature and serve.

~*~*~

These little muffins did surprise me.  Because when I snagged one fresh from the oven…split it in half…and taste tested it…I couldn’t really tell that it had much flavor.  So, I wasn’t exactly sure that they won me over.  My roommate said she really thought it tasted good and encouraged me to go ahead with the plan to package them up and share with my running group.

I am so glad I did, because everyone had high comments on them.  I was part of the last group getting back (I ran 16 miles, but the heat and humidity were killer…so it took a little longer), and everyone was finishing up their coffee and post-run refueling.  And I saw quite a few muffin wrappers on the plates.  Everyone thanked me for them and said they were delicious!  Hmm…

Fact is, I do think these muffins are even better on the following day.  Give all the flavors a chance to sit and soak into the muffin itself.  Because when I had mine…it was fantastic.  A little denser than I usually like my muffins, but the streusel topping was awesome and the peaches were really complimented by the different spices that were mixed throughout.

I’d make this again in a heartbeat.

So, if you love peaches and you love muffins…I encourage you to give this recipe a try.  Super delicious.  Runner approved.

Annie May’s Sweet Café packs up delicious take-home treats for every sweet tooth

Annie May's Sweet Cafe Allergen-Free Cinnamon Rolls and Allergen-Free Blueberry Muffin
Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Allergen-Free Cinnamon Rolls and Allergen-Free Blueberry Muffin

Products: Annie May’s Sweet Café Allergen-Free Cinnamon Rolls – $3.00; Annie May’s Sweet Café Allergen-Free Blueberry Muffin – $2.00; Annie May’s Sweet Café Gluten-Free Cinnamon Caramel Swirl Cheesecake Bar – $2.00

I can’t stop myself.  It’s an addiction.  It’s a routine.  But every time I am in town on Saturday…I head over to Frankfort Avenue to Annie May’s Sweet Café, where, depending on what time I hit there (which is often dictated by how long my Saturday run ends up being), I indulge in amazing gluten-free and allergen-free breakfast offerings, or the most amazing gluten-free pizza in the area.  Hands down.  Either way, I’m a happy girl on Saturday mornings because I know it means a trip to Annie May’s!

There was only one difference this past weekend when I went to get my gluten-free doughnut and gluten-free vegan sausage and “cheese” breakfast sandwich.  I was going straight home afterwards.  And, Cathy…the best roomie ever…told me to pick a couple of items from the case to take home to have for breakfast and dessert on the following day.

I was thrilled!!  THRILLED!

The hard part was choosing.

As I am a cinnamon roll lover, I did opt to get two of their allergen-free cinnamon rolls that were on display.  They looked fantastic, with their cinnamon and sugar goodness and even given a drizzle of icing.  I was trying hard not to drool, because…cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast.  And I don’t get them very often.  Now, I’ve gotten the Take-And-Bake variety from Annie May’s Sweet Café before, but these were already made and ready for consumption.  The fantastic looking blueberry muffins were calling my name.  Blueberry muffins are my absolute favorite muffin to make and devour.  And hers looked golden and moist and had this amazing sugary crust on the top.  Oh yeah…that was a must.  We got one that we decided we would split between us.  And then my roommate spotted the Cinnamon Caramel Swirl Cheesecake bars in the case…and we decided to get one of those to split as well.  Done.  Kenna was delightful and boxed everything up for us and we left with some delicious looking baked goodies from our favorite little eatery/bakery in town.

Fast forward to a late morning wake-up.  I rocked out a second 13 miles this morning for my Sunday run, and returned home.  After showering, I went to wake up Cathy, knocking on her door.  She was sleeping later than usual because we had been up in Indianapolis rocking out with Maroon 5…and didn’t get in until around 2 a.m.  My run took place later…her wake-up call came later.  It all worked.

But breakfast was going to be a cinch!  And it was.  I simply opened up the signature pink box with the Annie May’s Sweet Café sticker on it and pulled out the spoils of our shopping on Saturday.  Two allergen-free cinnamon rolls and one ginormous blueberry muffin.  I simply decided to slice the muffin in half and then warmed that half up in the microwave with the cinnamon roll, individually.

Let’s start with the Allergen-Free Cinnamon Roll ($3.00).  These were fantastic.  Even having sat on my counter all day and night, it was still cinnamon-sugar perfection.  The roll stayed together so well.  It had that heft of a cinnamon roll without being super dense and hard to eat.  It was crusty and flaky and sweetened to ultimate perfection.  I also liked how the icing was simply drizzled across the top, ensuring that the icing didn’t overtake the awesomeness of the cinnamon roll itself.  These cinnamon rolls contained no dairy and no gluten (of course) and they were awesome.  I hope they keep these in the case more often because I will make a habit of eating them whenever possible.

Now…one of Annie May’s muffins was a new choice for me.  Where I had the cinnamon rolls in a take-and-bake format before (but never from the case already done), I had never purchased a muffin.  So, this was a first for me.  The Allergen-Free Blueberry Muffin ($2.00) was huge.  And hugely moist too.  Yes…even after it had an entire day to sit in a box, it was still super moist.  I mean, I sliced into it and it was just…awesome.  I could tell it wasn’t dry at all, and this made me happy.  One of the little joys of these muffins was the sugar coating on the top.  It gave the muffin this nice bit of texture and sweetness…and I loved the crispness that it gave and the sound it made when my knife glided through the baked goodie to half it between my roommate and I.  And the taste…melt-in-your-mouth blueberry muffin perfection.  Moist.  Light.  Not at all dense or overdone.  The sugar struessel on top was the perfect touch to keep each bite sweet and interesting.  I am in love with these blueberry muffins.  And blueberry muffins are my most favorite thing when it comes to muffins.  So, I hope to see more of these in the very near future.

This leads us to dessert tonight…and the ever-epic sounding Cinnamon Caramel Swirl Cheesecake Bar ($2.00).  Completely gluten-free.  It was described by Annie May’s Sweet Café as some crazy cinnamon roll brainchild.  Okay…I was definitely intrigued!  Because, as we all know…CINNAMON ROLL FREAK HERE!!  So, dessert tonight had to be epic and awesome.  It just had to be.  After dinner, I went and retrieved this morsel of gluten-free goodness from my fridge and sliced it in half…ready to see if it lived up to its epic sounding description.

It was creamy, smooth, and it honestly did taste like some sort of cheesecake-cinnamon roll hybrid.  You can only imagine my joy upon first taste.  The crust was crunchy and delicious…held up perfectly overnight in the refrigerator.  As for the cheesecake portion…I loved that it wasn’t overly sweet.  Cheesecake can run too sweet, but this one was perfect.  The caramel and cinnamon that were swirled into it gave it the right amount of flavor without taking away from the cream cheese and the crust.  Perfectly balanced.  And not heavy at all.  Sometimes cheesecake can just be too much.  Here, it was just perfect.  Especially when the bar was cut in half to split with my roomie.  She enjoyed it too, especially the swirled caramel and cinnamon topping on the cheesecake itself.  We were both overly delighted with our dessert tonight.

And I think anything that tastes like a cinnamon roll should applauded.  This was well done!!

Continuing on the trend of her amazing products, Annie May’s Sweet Café provided the perfect way to start my day…and the perfect way to end it as well.  The cinnamon rolls and the muffin were both perfect and not too filling…just filling enough to get me through to lunch, when ended up being later in the day from the norm.  And dessert…that cheesecake bar was the perfect ending to a day filled with perfect food.

Compliments of Annie May’s Sweet Café.  Whether you need to eat gluten-free or have food allergies or not…Annie May’s is the perfect place to pick up a baked item, grab a bite to eat, or even place a special order for one of her breads, cakes, cookies, whatever it is you desire.  Her standards are high and her food reflects it.

Always.

I’m already looking forward to breakfast on Saturday this coming week…

Annie May's Sweet Café Gluten-Free Cinnamon Caramel Swirl Cheesecake Bar
Annie May’s Sweet Café Gluten-Free Cinnamon Caramel Swirl Cheesecake Bar