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

Fiona's Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal

Fiona’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Cherry Pecan Oatmeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica's Natural Foods Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola

Jessica’s Natural Foods Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHOCOLATE CHIPS!

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

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

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

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

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

 

Product Review: Modern Oats Apple Walnut Oatmeal

Modern Oats Apple Walnut Oatmeal

Modern Oats Apple Walnut Oatmeal

Product: Modern Oats Apple Walnut Oatmeal – $3.50+

It feels like a frozen tundra outside, so my favorite things to eat right now are warm, hearty, and comforting.  This includes casseroles, soups, and yes…oatmeal.  And while I’ve been preparing refrigerated overnight oats since…the weather warmed up, I guess…when the windchill dips down and makes the air hurt my face, the last thing I want is cold meal.  I don’t mind…but once I’m chilled, I’m chilled to the bone.  So something that is warming is always welcome.

And, it seems like I’m on a current oatmeal kick.  And who, honestly, can blame me.  There is nothing better in life than a steaming bowl of gluten-free oatmeal.  I’ll take it flavored or plain or with fruit or nuts or however.  As long as it tastes good, you have won me over.  Seriously.  Growing up I hated oatmeal.  I think it was a texture thing…and the fact that my dad would overcook it so it got lumpy and just…meh.  And I upheld that I disliked oatmeal up until a few years ago.  I started bringing in little packets with me to work for lunch.  They were perfect.  And they weren’t all bad.  Some where.  I won’t lie.  But I discovered some that were actually rather tasty.

And then…BAM…the diagnosis of being a Celiac.  I could find gluten-free oatmeal at my natural food stores…but I was having a hard time finding decent ones that wouldn’t break my already very fragile (and about to get more expensive) budget.  I purchased some, for sure, but eventually just moved onto making overnight oats with almond milk, gluten-free rolled oats, chia seeds, honey, fruit, cinnamon and Greek yogurt.  It was easy to make and really tasty.  But, when winter kicks you in the teeth…you fight back with heat, yes?  I know I do.

Back in August, my Cuisine Cube featured quite a few products that I’m still getting to try.  I travel a lot, so sometimes this means things get put into my pantry and I get to them…when I get to them.  And as I am sent a new box of goodies each month by Cuisine Cube…I sometimes get a bit backlogged.  But…this is not a complaint.  I always get to a product in the end.  I know I’ve talked a lot recently about Cuisine Cube, but let me share some more with why I love this service so much.  For a small fee (ranging from $34.99 (1 month) to $29.99 (six months)), a perfect cube filled with small business and lesser-known gluten-free products will be delivered to your door.  It’s yours to enjoy and then…do all over again the following month.  I love this because it is giving me the opportunity to try products and brands that I never heard of or would know about otherwise.  Sometimes the items come from local bakeries…and sometimes they might be something you have seen at a natural food store, but isn’t a widespread gluten-free corporate giant for sure.  It’s nice to try full-size (not sample sizes) products that are new to me or that I am unfamiliar with.  Every month, it’s like Christmas all over again.  At least 5-6 products in every Cube…and I never know what to expect inside.

I was very lucky to have not gotten through some items I received back in August because it meant with the cooler weather, I now had a warm treat for lunch.  And that treat was Modern Oats Apple Walnut Oatmeal.  I was not familiar at all with Modern Oats, so I was pretty excited to have a new gluten-free oatmeal to try.  Modern Oats was founded in 2013 with the simple goal of changing people’s perception of ‘old fashioned’ oatmeal.  You know…people like me…who either disliked or felt that oatmeal was boring.  They decided to only work with small farm, non-GMO, gluten-free rolled oats.  They next began to craft artisanal, delicious blends of fruits, nuts and seeds to produce the perfect, healthy, modern meal that can be enjoyed anytime…anywhere.  It’s a modern take on fast food…only better for you!

Modern Oats offers six varieties of their oatmeal.  The Cuisine Cube contained a single container of the Modern Oats Apple Walnut Oatmeal.  I love everything about this flavor.  I love apples.  I love walnuts.  Therefore…this should be a WIN with me, yes?!  Well…only one way to find out.

It’s Thursday and I’m rushing to get things done at the office before heading to Charleston, South Carolina this weekend.  YAY!!  Vacation.  A very short vacation, but a vacation.  The more I can be at my desk, working on what needs to be done, the better.  And the easy and quick preparation for this oatmeal definitely made it the best thing to bring with me this week.  Nothing could be easier.  Give the little container a shake, then pour boiling water over all the oats so they are covered.  Then, cover the container and allow it to sit for 3 minutes.  Uncover, stir, and devour.  Easy-peasy!  And quick.  I let mine steep and cook up while I got some work done.  And when the three minute time window was up…it was lunch time.  Sort of.  I might have added too much water…so I let it sit for another 2 minutes.  THEN…it was lunch time.

One bite.  And at first…I wasn’t too sure.  What I did notice was that it wasn’t abundantly sweet, despite containing 17 grams of sugar.  I’m assuming that some of that is the dried fruit.  At least…that’s what I am hoping.  On my second bite…I got it.  I mean, I really got it.  I had a little bit of everything.  The oats…the nuts…the seeds…the fruit…it was one magical bite.  I loved the different textures that were prevelant throughout the entire container.  This made each bite different from the one that came before it.  And that, my friends, is a fantastic thing.  I love that it wasn’t too sweet…nor was it bland.  And the best part was…it didn’t turn to mush.  Not at all.  The oats stayed al dente…in a good way…the nuts and fruits brought their own flavors and textures…and it was just one great bite after another.  I ended up eating this way faster than I usually would.  I liked it.  I liked it a lot.  I’m even happy to overlook the astounding (for oatmeal) calorie count, under the impression that much of that comes from the naturally good for you seeds and nuts that are inside.  Oh yeah…this was a big win!  And SO easy to make too!  Shake, pour, wait, devour!

Let’s discuss what goes into Modern Oats Apple Walnut Oatmeal.  This oatmeal is made from certified gluten-free whole grain rolled oats, organic cane sugar, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried apples, golden raisins, chia seeds, cinnamon, and natural flavors.  Real ingredients.  And while the second ingredient is sugar…not bad as to what all goes into it.  And, as a bonus, these ingredients are non-GMO.  This oatmeal, in addition to being gluten-free, is also cholesterol free and sodium free.

As for nutritional information, I will preface this by saying I was a little reluctant to dive into a small container that would give me over 300 calories for my lunch.  I’m not used to that.  But, I had to tell myself to remember that what I am eating is all-natural and real food.  A lot of these calories were coming from healthy ingredients, like the seeds, fruits, and nuts.  So…with that in mind, I hesitated no longer.  A serving of the Modern Oats Apple Walnut Oatmeal is 1 container.  This serving provides you with 310 calories and 7 grams of fat.  Much of that fat content will be the naturally healthy kind that you find in nuts.  This serving, however, does dish up a whopping 17 grams of sugar.  YIKES!  I’m trying to cut back on my sugar intake, so I’m chalking this figure up to the dried fruits…despite that second ingredient being organic cane sugar.   I am thinking positively.  One container of these oats will also serve up 7 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein.  Oh yeah…you’ll definitely feel full after eating this!

For the record, of the six flavors (Apple Walnut, 5 Berry, Goji Blueberry, Mango Blackberry, Chocolate Cherry, and Nuts and Seeds), the calories range between 250-310, depending on the variety you choose to feast on.

I love finding out what products Cuisine Cube has discovered and decided were worth to share with those of us who subscribe.  This little container from Modern Oats boasted big flavors and big promise.  It is one mighty meal indeed, and you will feel satiated and warmed all the way through.  Nicely done, Cuisine Cube.  Now, I have yet another gluten-free oatmeal option…and that is no bad thing!  If you can’t find Modern Oats at any of your local stores, you can certainly order online!

Modern Oats Apple Walnut Oatmeal (prepared)

Modern Oats Apple Walnut Oatmeal (prepared)

Product Review: Love Grown Foods Strawberry Raspberry Hot Oats

Love Grown Foods Strawberry Raspberry Hot Oats

Love Grown Foods Strawberry Raspberry Hot Oats

Product: Love Grown Foods Strawberry Raspberry Hot Oats – $1.50+

Another day has dawned, and in true fashion, I am having oatmeal for lunch.  Like I said, not a workday goes by where I don’t enjoy oats in some way, shape or form for my lunch.  Normally it’s in the form of overnight oats, but I’m working on a strict budget while I pay off the holidays…and I have plenty of goodies stashed in my pantry that have been just…waiting…and waiting for their turn to be consumed.

That week has arrived as I’m not only on a tight budget, but I’m heading out of town.  Therefore…it’s the perfect week to try new things, yes?  Because nothing adds stress to preparing for a trip like…loading up the blog!  HA!

Ah…in the end, it’s worth it.  I’m just hoping I can maintain the momentum and stay caught up.  We shall see.

All of that being said, it’s Wednesday…and it’s lunch time.  Instead of a package of my usual Chex Gluten Free Oatmeal (hey…it is always on sale!), I’m pulling out the other options from the top shelf of the pantry.  And up today…none other than Love Grown Foods Strawberry Raspberry Hot Oats.

I’m not going to lie…I sort of wish I had saved the Peach Almond Vanilla version I hate yesterday for today…because it has become my absolute favorite oatmeal…ever…of any brand…of any type…as of yesterday.  I was beyond impressed and wowed by it.  But, I also love berries, so I’m holding the Love Grown Foods Strawberry Raspberry Hot Oats to live up to it’s predecessor.  I have no doubt it will wow me.  I have yet to find something from Love Grown Foods that hasn’t done just that.

Preparation is super easy.  Everything I did yesterday, I repeated today.  At lunch, I pulled out the little container of oatmeal and removed the lid and the seal.  I then added water up to the fill line (which…is located on the outside of the container, not the inside, which means I do a lot of guessing…but it’s worked out thus far) and gave it a stir.  Into the microwave it went for 70 seconds.  It says to microwave for a minute and then add on 10-20 seconds for a thicker oatmeal.  I split the difference.  Another stir and then I let it stand for…about a minute.  It absorbs everything in the 1-2 minutes it sits…and believe me…I wanted to let it sit for 2 minutes, but I was hungry and it smelled so good.

Berries and oatmeal are BFFs.  Seriously.  I have never turned my nose up at any oatmeal that included either dried or fresh fruits.  The hit of sweetness just meshes beautifully with the savory, rich oats.  And, for that reason, I know that this little container was going to be amazing.  I was right.  I sort of wish I had saved the Peach Almond Vanilla one for today though…because this one just doesn’t quite equal the one I devoured yesterday for breakfast.  But now I’m comparing different flavors and that’s not fair.  Because this is a classic (and highly) delicious paring.  I love how sweet the berries are…strawberries and raspberries offer up a natural sweetness and then…this little hint of cinnamon follows up each spoonful.  It’s refreshing and warm and hearty and filling and just…perfection.  Seriously.  I loved how thick this oatmeal is because it does fill me up.  I don’t feel hungry for much of the rest of the day.  It’s amazing.  Most oatmeal doesn’t come close to accomplishing that at all.  I have nothing but love for Love Grown Foods and their little containers of Hot Oats.  If you love fruit and berries as much as me…then this one is totally for you!

Let’s discuss ingredients, shall we?  The Love Grown Foods Strawberry Raspberry Hot Oats are made from gluten-free oats, brown sugar, freeze-dried raspberries, freeze-dried strawberries, and cinnamon.  Loving the small ingredient list for sure.  These oats are also cholesterol free, gluten free and non-GMO.

As for nutrition, a serving of the Love Grown Foods Strawberry Raspberry Hot Oats is one container.  This serving will dish up 230 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.  This is actually higher than most the the oatmeal I consume, calorie-wise, but it really isn’t bad for the amount of oats you actually cook up.  A serving will also give you 0 mg sodium and 12 grams of sugar.  Much of the sugar seems to be due to the dried fruits, which is fine.  And, trust me, these hot oats will fill you up because they pack a whopping 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein!  Talk about loving it!

One thing I love about Love Grown Foods is not only their passion for their ingredients and their products, but their mission to create delicious foods that are packed with nutritional benefits and available to everyone.  They have made it a point to educate not only children, but also parents and teachers on the importance of eating healthy.  That’s why, Love Grown Foods keeps ingredients simple, flavors elevated, and their products healthy.  They have a fantastic line of granola (or oat clusters…which I LOVE…and, yes, I have tried them all!), Super Oats (I haven’t tried these yet…but want to!), and Power O’s (breakfast cereals…which I also haven’t tried yet, but certainly want to!).  With all of these options, it’s hard to make excuses for not having a filling, healthy breakfast (or lunch…or dinner!).

Love Grown Foods is definitely doing something right.  It’s rare for me to LOVE everything that I try from a company, but, seriously, they keep hitting it out of the park.  Not only do their products fill me up physically, but they are nutritious and healthy, and I love that.  I love feeling good about the food I am eating.  I can’t wait to try the products I either haven’t purchased yet or discovered yet.  And…I still have one more flavor of the Hot Oats to try (Apple Cinnamon), as soon as I pick it up from the grocery store!

And trust me…that’s happening for sure!!  DELICIOUS!

Love Grown Foods Strawberry Raspberry Hot Oats

Love Grown Foods Strawberry Raspberry Hot Oats (prepared)

Product Review: Love Grown Foods Peach Vanilla Almond Hot Oats

Love Grown Foods Peach Almond Vanilla Hot Oats

Love Grown Foods Peach Almond Vanilla Hot Oats

Product: Love Grown Foods Peach Vanilla Almond Hot Oats – $1.50+

Gluten-Free oatmeal is a way of life for me.  I know this sounds really over-the-top and dramatic, but it’s true.  Every single work day, I have something that is comprised of gluten-free oats.  Be it a package of gluten-free oatmeal or some version of overnight oats…lunch has been oatmeal (and oatmeal only) for the past two to three years.  With all the varieties out there, and all the ways oats can be dressed up and flavored, I really don’t get tired of it.  Besides, it is filling and nutritious too.

One of my favorite gluten-free companies came out with little tubs of gluten-free oatmeal awhile back. Once I was able to find them at my local stores, I tried the one that appealed to me the most: the Blueberry Banana Walnut Hot Oats.  I fell in love with them.  And then I vowed to get more.  I just…never did.

Until recently, when I found a couple of flavors on the Manager’s Special shelf at my local grocery store.  Gluten-free products on Manager’s Special means…they come home with me.  Especially when it’s from a brand I already love and trust.

My relationship with Love Grown Foods began with their granola.  OH. MY. GOD.  Their granola (every single flavor of it!) is some of the best gluten-free granola out on the market.  Then, they began expanding their line of products to include hot oats, then super oats, and finally a line of cereal as well.  They are growing and expanding…and this is only a good thing.  Because Love Grown Foods prides itself on putting out quality and healthy products.

They also have a huge focus on breakfast…healthy breakfasts.  The products they have out on the market definitely promote this passion they share.

The Love Grown Foods Peach Almond Vanilla Hot Oats are so easy to prepare.  Simply remove the lid and seal and fill with water to the fill line.  Give it a stir and then microwave it for 60 seconds.  Add an additional 10-20 seconds if you like a thicker consistency.  Then, let it sit for 1-2 minutes.  That’s it.  Then you can dive in.  So easy.

So I let it sit for 1 minute because the added 10 seconds I gave the cook time seemed to take away most of the water anyway.  And it was sheer oat perfection.  Seriously.  The Love Grown Foods Peach Almond Vanilla Hot Oats cook up into a smooth, rich, and thick bowl of oatmeal.  It was heaven on a spoon and warm going down. Perfect for these cold days.  Even more, there was a nice balance of flavor.  I had actually hesitated on purchasing the peach one, because, so often, the peach flavor dominates.  I love peaches…but I don’t want it to overtake everything else in my meal.  The vanilla and flavor of almonds balances out the sweetness of the peaches.  And it makes for the ultimate, warming, hearty bite…all the way to the very end.  There is just the right hit of sweetness thanks to the brown sugar and, so that it isn’t bland either.  And the little chunks of almonds just give it a little depth in the texture to keep it interesting.  It is amazing.  Pure and simple.  It is love.  This little unassuming microwave bowl exceeded every expectation I had for my lunch today.  And it made me really reconsider shunning peach flavored things in the near future.  I should have known never to doubt products put out by Love Grown Foods.  This one was a total win!

Let’s talk ingredients, shall we?  The Love Grown Foods Peach Almond Vanilla Hot Oats are made from gluten-free oats, brown sugar, freeze-dried peaches, almonds, vanilla, and cinnamon.  That’s it.  Simple.  Nutritious.  Healthy.  Amazing.  These are gluten-free and dairy free and also non-GMO.

As for nutrition, a serving is one tub of the Love Grown Foods Peach Almond Vanilla Hot Oats.  This little basin of goodness will deliver 240 calories and 4 grams of fat.  These oats contain no cholesterol or sodium.  LOVE it.  In addition, a serving gives you 12 mg of sugar, of which some of it comes from the fruit that is inside.  You also get 5 grams of filling fiber and 7 grams of protein.  You will definitely feel full upon eating this little tub of oat-y goodness.

I was beyond elated to spoon up each bite of this amazing little dish today.  I have to applaud Love Grown Foods for their dedication to quality products.  It’s for this reason I continue to stock my pantry with their oats and their granola.  Honestly…they have yet to let me down and I’m starting to believe it won’t happen.  It comes down to this…food is love…and I love these oats.  Total win with the Peach Almond Vanilla Hot Oats.  Now…to go stock up on more!

Love Grown Foods Peach Almond Vanilla Hot Oats (prepared)

Love Grown Foods Peach Almond Vanilla Hot Oats (prepared)

Product Review: Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

Lisa Harris Pantry's Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Cookie

Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

Product: Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie – $2.75+

I want to thank Cuisine Cube for one of the most epic products ever to arrive in my box.  No…this is for real.  Because in September, my cube included a cookie.  But this cookie was not there for dessert.  Nope.  It was clearly the item intended for breakfast.

A cookie.

For breakfast.

Being that I am a cookie monster, this totally made my day…my week…my month…perhaps even my year!

And, after running in the New York Marathon and then the Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon, I was running out of food in my apartment.  And it was a gym morning.  And grocery shopping had yet to happen.  To much travel time (not time travel, LOL!).  Okay, there really isn’t such a thing, but sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to go to work and get the much-needed grocery shopping done.  And this was a morning I was at a loss as to what to have after hitting up the gym.

And then I remembered the cookie I had toted around with me to both New York City and Disney World…just in case I needed something to eat at some point.  I never had to break into it on the go…but it was just the thing I needed when I returned home.  Go figure.

The Lisa Harris Pantry‘s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie is literally what it sounds like: a cookie intended to eat…for breakfast.  I love being an adult.  HA!

After getting in a good cardio session that morning, I ambled into work and was ready to settle in with something to eat before really beginning my day.  This cookie was so convenient.  It required no toaster oven, no microwave, and no hassles.  All I had to do was open up the wrapper and enjoy.  And that’s exactly what I did.  The cookie was actually quite large, about the size of a small mason jar lid.  And it’s thick too – a perfect drop cookie.  I could see the bits of diced apples and the flecks of cinnamon throughout the entire cookie.  It looked like a great balance.  I also expected these cookies to be hard.  But, while they had a crispy-ish outer edge, the center was soft and chewy and amazing.  For real.  It was, however, very sweet…due in part to the apples, apple flavoring, and the agave.  So, I almost wish I had something savory to pair with it because it was borderline almost too sweet.  But, it is, after all, a cookie.  I thought the flavor was amazing though.  I loved seeing the ingredients in the cookie.  And I loved the boost of protein that came from the quinoa.  As we know, I am always watching my protein intake due to my dietary needs (gluten-free/lactose free/vegetarian).  And being so active…protein is a vital part of my diet.  So, that was a huge win with me.  I loved the texture.  It wasn’t dry at all.  Had the sweetness been tampered down even slightly, I think it would have been the new breakfast of champions.  That being said, I would love to try the other flavor of breakfast cookies that are offered by Lisa Harris Pantry.  Because, every day should start with “dessert first.”

So, let’s talk about the ingredients that go into the Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie.  This flavor cookie is made from organic rice flour, tapioca flour, cornstarch, quinoa flour, gluten free rolled oats, agave, egg whites, organic diced apples, lecithin, non gmo canola oil, milled flax seed, xantham gum, cinnamon, natural apple flavoring (whole foods compliant), salt.  All ingredients are non-GMO.  And this particular cookie is dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, high in fiber, high in protein, and low in sugar.  YES…a cookie that is low in sugar.

While on that subject, let’s go ahead and tackle that all-important nutrition information, yes?  A serving of Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie is one entire cookie.  And trust me…these thick and moist cookies are definitely filling.  One cookie will give you 245 calories and 8 grams of fat.  They are cholesterol free.  Each cookie has 69 mg sodium and 11 grams of sugar.  In addition, you will be getting filled up with 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein!  These are definitely hunger satisfying, naturally energizing and perfect for any time of the day, not just breakfast.  But the slow-release carbohydrates will definitely keep you going for hours without even the slightest bit of hunger.

I didn’t believe for a moment that a cookie could fill me up, particularly on a gym morning when I tend to be ravenous.  But it did.  If it weren’t for the sweetness, I think this cookie would be the perfect way to start the day.  I mean, who doesn’t like dessert for breakfast?  I definitely want to check out the other gluten-free options (not all of the products at Lisa Harris Pantry are gluten free) now.  And without Cuisine Cube, I never would have even know these existed!

Another great product brought into my life thanks to Cuisine Cube!

Lisa Harris Pantry's Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

Lisa Harris Pantry’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh…that made me happy, indeed.

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

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

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

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

We’re pros.  HA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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