Product Review: Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice

Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice
Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice

Product: Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice – $4.69+

You know, it only seems appropriate that in the February Cuisine Cube (aka: Happy V-Day 2015), a package of Forbidden Black Rice was included.  Nothing compliments the month of L-O-V-E like something that starts with the word forbidden.  Sounds exotic and exciting and…tasty.  Tasty because, well, it’s followed by the word rice!

February is all about love.  And one thing that I love is receiving my Cuisine Cube each month.  I mean, nothing says love quite like a box full of exciting, new, and enticing foods that are new to me and you.  But that’s what Cuisine Cube is all about.  This small group of foodies are searching high and low for gluten free products that aren’t highly processed, that are made by the smaller businesses and companies…and then…they ship these to you…each month.  This subscription is one of the best things I have ever done.  I mean…5-6 items for a month (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert…and sometimes an added bonus!)…that’s a fantastic deal.  Seriously, you’ll fall in love with this service as quickly as I did.  I certainly encourage you to give them a try.  With subscriptions starting as low as $29.99…how can you turn that down?

Now, Lotus Foods is not a company that I am unfamiliar with anymore.  A few Cuisine Cube boxes ago, I received two pouches of the Lotus Foods Rice Ramen…and I loved them.  The products produced by Lotus Foods are recognized for their exceptional cooking quality, taste, texture, and superb nutritional value.  The ancient and new rices that compose their products are grown on family farms in limited quantities, on healthy, chemical-free soils.  The rice and rice products that are produced by Lotus Foods are found in specialty gourmet, natural food markets, grocery stores, white tablecloth restaurants throughout the United States, becoming a fast favorite of consumers who are seeking healthier options, as well as chefs and foodies across the country.

How’s that for a recommendation, eh?  So, last time it was noodles…this time…

Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice.

Legend has it that heirloom forbidden rice was once eaten exclusively by the Emporors of China.  It is said to enrich health and ensuire longevity.  Forbidden rice is known for it’s beautiful, rich, deep purple color.  It has a soft texture and a slightly nutty taste.  This rice is high in a class of flavonoid antioxidants called anthocyanins, which is rich in iron and considered to be a blood tonifier.  A recent study also shows that a spoonful of black rice brown, or 10 spoonfuls of cooked black rice contains the same amount of antioxidants as a spoonful of fresh blueberries.  How’s that for a healthy powerhouse?  But, let’s not stop there…forbidden rice provides the richest nutritional value, providing higher levels of vitamins and minerals and fiber than any other bran rice, as well as a comprehensive range of amino acids, proteins, vegetable fats, and essential trace elements that are necessary for the body.  It is called “tribute rice” or “longevity rice” and was reserved for the Emperors of the Ming Dynasty to ensure their good health and long life.

Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice (cooked)
Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice (cooked)

This rice is super easy to prepare.  As I was being a bit nontraditional (shocker, I know) with mine, I ended up soaking my rice for about 30 minutes in water.  And then, I got to cooking it.  I turned on the stove and brought it up to a boil.  Once I had the rice rocking and rolling in the boiling water, I covered the pan and lowered the heat, letting the grain cook for 30 minutes.  When the rice was done, I removed it from the heat and let it sit another 10 minutes.

From there…I fluffed it with a fork and gave it a try.  Because, I had to taste it before it was messed with, yes?  Yes.  LOVE.  I would eat this rice however it was prepared.  On its own, even without any seasoning, it was honestly really good.  There is this great flavor to it.  Yes…the rich nuttiness that they mention above is there.  The rice is soft and just has this great flavor to it.  Don’t let the color dissuade you.  It’s amazing.

So, once I knew what it tasted like, I went and added a bit of sugar, some rice vinegar, and salt.  And BAMMO!  SUSHI RICE!  I let it sit while I was at work and then…tonight…dinner was vegetarian sushi!  Vegetarian sushi made with the Lotus Food Heirloom Forbidden Rice.  It was AMAZING!  The forbidden rice actually did great as the sushi rice.  It held together gorgeously and really made for a pretty sushi roll.  It wasn’t your standard white or brown rice roll. This gave it, not only a great flavor, but also a fantastic look on the plate.  It tasted amazing.  I have enough to do another two rolls as well, so this makes me super happy!

The Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice is simply made up of black rice.  It is gluten-free and wheat-free, non-GMO and vegan.  It is love.

As far as nutrition goes, the Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice is a powerhouse of nutrients and a great addition to your diet.  One serving is 1/3 cup dry rice.  This serving will give you 200 calories and 2 grams of fat.  A serving of this amazing rice will also give you 0 mg sodium, 175 mg potassium, and 1 gram of sugar.  This rice also gives you 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.  Filling, tasty, and delicious.  What more could you want?

I was excited that I started seeing some of the Lotus Foods products in my local grocery store.  I haven’t spotted the actual rices like the Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice, but this was certainly a great introduction to this product.  And, I have Cuisine Cube to thank for it!

Vegetarian Sushi made with Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice
Vegetarian Sushi made with Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice

 

Product Review: CraveRight Gluten Free Jumbo Sesame Crunch Cookie

CraveRight Gluten Free Sesame Crunch Cookie
CraveRight Gluten Free Sesame Crunch Cookie

Product: CraveRight Gluten Free Jumbo Sesame Crunch Cookie – $3.99

I was so lucky this past Christmas, to be given one of my favorite gifts – a $50 Whole Foods Gift Card.  I vowed to only purchase products I have been meaning to try and just haven’t been able to “justify” for my tight weekly budget.  So, soon after the New Year passed, I decided to do a first round of product sweeping.

Now, naturally gluten free foods (fruits and veggies) I get delivered to my door.  Unless I have cancelled my CSA bin that week, I am pretty set on those.  And while I am doing much more clean eating these days, I decided to venture over to all those snack foods that are what all gluten-free people get stuck with.  Cookies, chips, candy…

Whoever said eating gluten-free will make you lose weight has never walked through the gluten-free sections of their local grocery or natural food stores.  Just sayin’.

And with that being said…we also know that the women in my family have quite the sweet tooth.  Oh yes…we all do come by it honestly.  And while for some people it’s cakes and cupcakes that they want…for me, it’s always been the simple, yet ultimately delicious…COOKIE.  Call me cookie monster, because I love cookies.  All types of cookies.  I have my favorites, sure, but…cookies are my kryptonite.

Well, there I was, perusing the aisles I had been skipping whenever in Whole Foods, when the giant cookies near the bottom shelf sort of just…sang to me.  It was a brand I was unfamiliar with – CraveRight.  So, I leaned down and picked one up…noting that these were not just gluten free, but also dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free, and corn free.  They used no flours or starches, and actually was billing itself as a “natural meal replacement.”  Really?  A cookie?  There were three flavors of the jumbo cookies – Sesame Crunch, Chocolate Chunk, and Brownie Chocolate Chunk.  Next to them were cookie packs of the same cookies, smaller scale, more inside.  My roommate said, “get one of the big ones…just in case we don’t like them.”  Okay…good point.  I was all set for that Brownie Chocolate Chunk and I somehow let her talk me into the Sesame Crunch.  “You don’t often see sesame cookies!”  That was her thoughts on that matter.  And…I went along with it.  And this CraveRight Gluten Free Jumbo Sesame Crunch Cookie…made it home with me.

CraveRight was created in 2009, creating “crave-worthy cookies that don’t sabotage wellness goals but reinforce them.”  Tired of seeing so-called “healthy snacks” that weren’t really that good for you being sold on the market – many of which could not be eaten by people with food allergies and intolerances, and the taste all wrong – Roya S. came up with the idea of creating delicious, healthy treats – specifically their specialty – their 100% vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free cookies.  All of the cookies are baked and prepared in a dedicated gluten-free and nut-free facility so cross-contamination is not a problem.  CraveRight cookies are baked up being packaed with antioxidants and essential amino acids.  Not only that, they are proud that their cookies contain no empty-calorie ingredients – no flours, starches or fillers.  The CraveRight cookies are rich in iron and calcium, and low in sodium as well.  And, the company sources their ingredients from nearby, making sure that the ingredients are minimally processed (without chemicals) and made with only the finest of ingredients, free of contaminants.

Which, all sounds really good on paper, right?  But how do they taste?

I can only vouch for the CraveRight Gluten Free Jumbo Sesame Crunch Cookie…which I split with my roommate last night for dessert.  You know, I was having a bad day…I just ate an amazing comfort food dinner and was all set for dessert.  I grabbed the CraveRight Gluten Free Jumbo Sesame Crunch Cookie off my counter and declared it to be dessert.  If anything could make me feel better, it would be a cookie, right?

So, as is typical with huge cookies…I cut it in half and gave one side to my roommate while claiming the other for myself.  I climbed back onto the couch, restarted the episode of Game of Thrones I was watching, and took my first bite.

And I think my nose wrinkled up a little bit.  But it was only one bite.  Maybe my palate just needed cleansing.  So, I gave it another taste.  Nope.  This was not a cookie I was enjoying.  The CraveRight Gluten Free Jumbo Sesame Crunch Cookie was everything I didn’t like about a cookie.  The texture was crumbly.  I’m fine with a bit of crunch on my cookie, but I don’t want it to crumble when I try to eat it.  I have no kitchen or dining room table in my apartment, and I don’t want to have to vacuum my couch after dessert, thank you very much.  The flavor lacked sweetness.  I mean, regardless of whether a cookie is billed as a “healthy meal replacement” or not, I want it to taste like a cookie.  And this didn’t.  It tasted like…a snack.  Like those savory sesame sticks that were put into snack mixes and most people skipped eating.  I think I was expecting something like a sunbutter cookie…a little more richness and depth of flavor, but that’s not what I got at all.  They were bland and rather…tasteless.  That bit of sesame came through in the end, but that’s about all I can say about that.  It was not a winning cookie in my book, and we know I eat lots of cookies.  The part near the middle was slightly chewy, but everything else was just…wrong.  I wasn’t a fan at all.

Neither was my roomie.

As far as what goes into the CraveRight Gluten Free Jumbo Sesame Crunch Cookies…it seems rather basic.  So…that is good.  These cookies are made from sesame seeds, palm shortening, demerara sugar, tahini, sesame powder, water, chicory extract, flax meal, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt.  Not actually a bad list of ingredients.

It’s just too bad they didn’t come together to form a cohesively delicious cookie.

Since the CraveRight Gluten Free Sesame Crunch Cookie is billed as a “natural meal replacement” and carries the sentiment “Crave One. Eat Two.” on each package, let’s really focus for a moment on these nutritional facts.  A serving size of the CraveRight Gluten Free Jumbo Sesame Crunch Cookie is 1/2 of the cookie.  Yes…half.  This half will deliver 170 calories and 13 grams of fat.  These cookies are cholesterol free, have only 90 mg sodium per serving and only 5 grams of sugar.  One serving will also give you 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.  I still don’t think I’d eat a cookie instead of my dinner though.  Just sayin’.

So, color me unimpressed and highly disappointed.  I was not at all craving another bite of the CraveRight Gluten Free Sesame Crunch Cookie.  In fact, it was a struggle just to get the half I had finished.  It wasn’t what I wanted in a cookie at all, “healthy” or not.  Beyond disappointed.  I felt cheated out of my dessert last night.

You win some, you lose some.

CraveRight Gluten Free Jumbo Sesame Crunch Cookie
CraveRight Gluten Free Jumbo Sesame Crunch Cookie

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: SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter

SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter
SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter

Product: SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter – $5.00+

I am an athlete.  I’m also a vegetarian.  And this means that I often search for foods that are nutrient dense and provide a good hit of protein, healthy fats, and energy.  One of my favorite go-to foods has always been peanut butter.  I have absolutely no willpower when it comes to peanut butter.  And, thankfully, I do not have a food allergy to nuts.  Whew.  I grew up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or fluffernutters.  I put peanut butter on celery sticks with raisins.  I eat peanut butter pancakes.  I love, love, love peanut butter.  In fact, I have my own jar which, when I am feeling down, I often raid with a spoon and try to not eat the whole thing in one sitting.  It’s happened.  It is my favorite comfort food.  In texture, taste (sweet and salty)…I have never met a peanut butter that I don’t like.

And, a couple years ago, I went to the good stuff.  Yes…peanut butter that is made strictly from nuts.  No added sugars, oils, or anything.  Yes, this does mean I have to stir the jar when I open it…but then I just flip it upside down and store it in the refrigerator.  It’s a great arm workout to say the least and worth it when I churn out gorgeous, creamy peanut butter at the end of it.  And, it stays creamy in the fridge without getting too solid to spread.  If I am going to have a go-to comfort food like peanut butter, by God, it’s going to have as few ingredients in it as humanly possible.

It just so happened that when Cuisine Cube sent out their September Cube (aka: Back To School), there was a jar of SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter included.  I was elated.  No…really.  This is how much I love nut butters.  And, while technically, this is not a nut butter…it’s the same concept.  And I was just all awash with happiness because…when it comes to favorite things…nut/seed butters rank right up there in my life.  When a little jar of delicious nut/seed butter arrives at my doorstep…you best believe a happy dance ensued.

For those of you new to my blog…let me briefly tell you about the amazing service that Cuisine Cube offers.  Cuisine Cube is a service that was developed by foodies, bringing small and local artisan gluten free products to your house.  The items we can find in the grocery store are all fine and good, but often so processed and laden with food additives and subpar ingredients.  This small group of food enthusiasts set out to find better products for those of us in the gluten-free world.  Based out of New York City, a food haven for sure, the ‘little guy’ products can be hard to find and might even require a trip to a specialty store.  But not anymore, because these awesome and amazing brands are now being sent to you on a monthly basis, with plans starting as low as $29.99.  That’s a great deal, considering you get at least 5 products (a breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert) in each cube, and occasionally, you get an extra product thrown in.  Seriously…if it wasn’t worth it, I wouldn’t still be doing it.  I have experienced so much more from the gluten-free world due to Cuisine Cube…discovering and being introduced to brands and businesses I never would have known about otherwise.

So, when I dug into my Back To School (aka: September) Cube, I was greeted with a plethora of amazing products, that are also very good for people with kids going back to school.  I have no children, but that didn’t deter me any.  Nope.  And, finally this week, when I opened up the Alce Nero Gallette di Riso Integrale (Rice Cakes), I had a perfect vehicle for the SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter.  Everything falls into place so nicely, doesn’t it?  So, the other day, I dished out 2 tablespoons of the seed butter to take to work with me to spread onto my rice cakes…

…I knew I loved nut and seed butters…but SuperButter just took it to a whole new level.  FANTASTIC!!  SUPERB!! I fell in love at first taste, which might have been straight out of the jar.  And it might have been followed by a few more tastings before I had to give into my willpower and put it away.  This is the best seed butter I have ever tasted.  And as someone with a nephew who has a nut allergy, I have tried many of the seed butter options out there.  They have all been decent enough, but never this fantastic.  SuperButter is packed with the best flavor and texture.  I credit this to the roasted seeds that go into the making of this butter, and the creaminess that emerges.  Silky and smooth.  Even with the added sesame and flax seeds for the crunch factor in this variety, it was just smooth.  No grittiness.  Just…SuperYum!  I may sneak tastes out of the jar when I duck into the kitchen.  That might not be a maybe…I actually do that.  SO amazing and delicious.  It has been awhile since a simple product has knocked me for a loop like this, but WOW.  I have heard that GNC sells this in their stores.  I’m going to have to stop in and find out.

SuperButter is available in a variety of flavors, including: Crunchy Original (the one I received), Creamy Original, Creamy Vanilla Bean, and Creamy Chocolate.  SuperButter is made from real, whole ingredients, as nothing artificial is permitted.  Everything starts with the roasted seeds for the base, then they sweeten the deal with cane sugar, smooth it out with palm oil, and season it up with some sea salt.  It doesn’t get much better than that, right?  Oh…it might…

Let’s talk about ingredients, shall we?  The SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter is made from roasted sunflower, sesame and flax Seeds, cane sugar, palm oil, and sea salt.  SuperButter is high in protein, fiber and antioxidants (omega 3’s and vitamin E).  They are gluten-free, trans-fat free, and cholesterol free.  And, they contain less fat than regular peanut or nut butters.  How do you love that?  I love that…just from the aspect that I overindulge in nut butters ALL the time.  If I can do it without packing on the fat that comes with it…even better.

Made from real, whole ingredients – no artificial anything is permitted. Roasted sunflower, flax and sesame seeds comprise the flavorful base, with a little cane sugar, palm oil and sea salt added for maximum deliciousness!

As for nutrition, a serving of SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter is 2 tablespoons.  In this serving, you will be devouring a delicious 200 calories and 16 grams of fat.  Don’t worry…this is actually the good kind of fat.  Everything in moderation…right?  YES!  One serving will also provide 65 mg sodium and 3 grams of sugar.  In addition, you’ll be filled up with goodness with the hearty 3 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein that are provided.  And I absolutely love the sesame and flax seeds that are mixed in to bring that crunch factor in.  SO good.

I don’t think I ever would have known that something like SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter existed if not for Cuisine Cube.  Yet another reason that this is such a worthwhile and amazing subscription service.  I am on the hunt for more SuperButter now locally…and if I can’t find it, I am totally hitting up their Web site to order it myself.  Because, honestly, no lie…the jar is already almost empty.  So much for self-control and willpower!

SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter (on a gluten-free rice cake)
SuperButter Original Crunchy Seed Butter (on Alce Nero Gallette di Riso Integrale (rice cake)

Product Review: The YES Bar Macadamia Chocolate Chip Snack Bar

The YES Bar Macadamia Chocolate Chip Snack Bar
The YES Bar Macadamia Chocolate Chip Snack Bar

Product: The YES Bar Macadamia Chocolate Chip Snack Bar – $3.00+

The holiday season is over, and the New Years resolutions have kicked in, right?  And so many people place eating better, working out, and losing weight at the top of their list.  I am not one of those people.  In fact, I don’t ever make New Years resolutions…and I’ll tell you why…I hate not accomplishing a goal I set for myself.  I usually just make it a point to live that year to the best of my abilities.  That being said, I am doing a little bit of cleaning up when it comes to my diet.  And that does mean I am paying attention to ingredients that are in products that I purchase.  While I prefer to eat natural and whole foods, there is no escaping the ease and convenience of processed and packaged goods at times.

And thanks to Cuisine Cube‘s Holiday cube (December), my New Year is off to a grand start.  Let’s discuss, once again, the benefits and advantages I feel a service like Cuisine Cube offers.  Because, if you’ve been reading this, you should be familiar with the service, but perhaps have been wavering on actually signing up.  Hesitate no more.  Just…DO IT!  Cuisine Cube is a mail delivery service that happens monthly, delivering delicious, lesser-known, local, and less-processed gluten-free products right to your door.  It’s fantastic.  And each month is like Christmas, opening up the box and discovering what goodies are inside.  It’s available at different price ranges, depending on how long you wish to order it for…be it month-to-month or a whole year.  If you haven’t gone to the site to check it out…do it now.  You will not regret it.

Available in each cube is a food that can be used for either a breakfast, a lunch, a dinner, a snack, and a dessert…and sometimes…a bonus.  This month…an extra dessert.  My sweet tooth stands up and salutes the Cuisine Cube gods and goddesses!  But, the product that I tried out this morning was actually the breakfast item that was included.

We all know that I am a huge advocate for breakfast.  It is my favorite meal of the day.  Honestly.  I could eat breakfast for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never get tired of that kind of food.  Never.

This morning was one of those mornings where I would rather stay curled up in bed, hibernating under all my blankets.  With a hard freeze warning in affect for my area, my 7 mile speed work run was not happening outdoors today.  Nope.  So, I had to set my alarm to get up early and go to the gym to run…7 miles…on a treadmill…at varying speeds.  UGH!  But, when training for the Boston Marathon, you do what needs to be done.  You just suck it up, cupcake.

After my run, I returned home for breakfast.  With my coffee brewing, I needed something easy and fast.  I remembered that I still had some products from my December Cuisine Cube…which included a breakfast bar of sorts.

It is called The YES Bar.  Yes…The YES Bar.  It was created over three years ago in a home kitchen in Laurel Canyon, California.  Creator, Abigail, was faced with some food sensitivities and health challenges when it came to her son.  And she found herself constantly having to tell him “no” to the foods he wanted to eat.  So, she set to work, collecting all the healthy, delicious, and yummy foods that she could find in her kitchen that were naturally free of gluten, dairy, soy and corn.  She started with nuts and seeds…added in honey and maple syrup…then vanilla bean powder…cinnamon…dried fruits…and coconut butter.  In went hemp and chia for added nutrition.  And then…chocolate.  Because chocolate should be in everything.  And “chocolate is awesome”…she says on the Web site.  It took months to get the recipe down and find the right consistency to make these little portable treats of breakfast goodness.  From the first taste, even before they were perfected, Abigail’s son loved them.  Her other son loved them.  Her friends loved them.  Her husband loved them.  In fact, her husband started using them for his 50 mile bike rides…and then his cycling buddies wanted them.  From there it was parties…then people wanting to buy them…then into local stores…and so on.

The YES Bar is a grain free bar, so if you follow a paleo diet, they work for you.  I do not follow a paleo diet, nor am I a fan of said diet.  But…every single ingredient that goes into these bars is real foodAnd that is a sticking piont with me these days.  The less processed the better.  No weird preservatives or binders or fillers.  This is not a glorified candy bar.  It is a delicious and 100% healthy bar that you can eat for breakfast, after a run, on-the-go, for dessert, or as fuel for your workout.  In fact…The YES Bar makes the following promise on their site: “If it’s in our bar, it’s good for you. And when you eat it, it will be yummy. Like, really yummy.”

So, does it live up to all the Web site hype by the creators?

OMG…does it ever!!  This is like a Lärabar on crack.  The good kind of crack!  HA!  The package said to try it chilled, so last night I popped it into the fridge so I could enjoy it this morning as a breakfast treat after my treadmill run.  It was fantastic.  Sweet and savory and salty and just all around amazing and delicious.  I loved the crunchy and chewy texture combination.  And it was actually quite filling for a bar…and it should be because it is all real and natural ingredients.  There is some sugar, but it is part of the dried fruits and the honey and syrup that is added.  It’s not granulated sugar of any kind.  Gotta love that.  And the flavor…amazing.  You do feel like you’re cheating on breakfast with this bad.  The chocolate gives it that rich sweetness…the dried fruits add to the texture and sweetness, but the nuts give it a salty and savory feel at the same time.  It’s like eating candy for breakfast…but candy that is actually good for you!

Since we’re on the subject of ingredients, let me give you a run down of what all goes into The YES Bar Macadamia Chocolate Chip Snack Bar.  This bar is made from macadamia nuts, maple syrup, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut butter, pecans, honey, dark chocolate, raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, dried tart cherries, shelled hemp seeds, sesame paste, flax seeds, chia seeds, celtic sea salt, cinnamon, and vanilla bean powder.   It is certified paleo friendly, certified gluten-free, and does not contain soy, dairy, gluten, or corn.  It is also non-GMO!  You gotta love all of that, yes?

As for nutrition, a serving size is one of The YES Bar Macadamia Chocolate Chip Snack Bars.  In this one bar, you will be served up a filling 200 calories and 15 grams of fat.  Do not freak out over the fat…because it is the healthy fat that comes from the nuts and seeds that are inside this bar.  This bar provides you with 105 mg sodium, 160 grams of potassium, and 9 grams of sugar.  That may seem a little high for one bar, but it’s mostly coming from the maple syrup, the honey, and the dried fruits.  So, it’s not the bad kind of sugar.  To top it off, you will be taking in 3 grams of filling fiber and 4 grams of protein.  It makes a perfect on-the-go snack and a great post-workout breakfast.  Or…eat it while on your long run for fuel.  Nothing should be offensive to the stomach.  I might have to give that a try next time as I train up for my upcoming marathons!

I am beyond thrilled with The YES Bar Macadamia Chocolate Chip Snack Bar.  And I never would have even known of its existence without my subscription to Cuisine Cube.  They really do search for the best quality items to go in each cube.  And they definitely hit the mark with this California based snack bar company.  Loved this bar from first bite.  It was great chilled, but I bet it would be just as good straight out of the package.  Another win!

If you can’t find The YES Bar near you…be sure to check out their Web site!  Trust me…you do NOT want to miss out on these!

Product Review: Miracle Noodle Garlic and Herb Fettucine

Miracle Noodle Garlic and Herb Fettuccine
Miracle Noodle Garlic and Herb Fettuccine

Product: Miracle Noodle Garlic and Herb Fettuccine – $3.49+

Ah…my dear Cuisine Cube.  You’ve brought so much understanding and…great products into my life.  And I’ve only been subscribing to you for three months now (my July cube should arrive tomorrow or Thursday, I believe!).  While sometimes I receive products I have heard of or tried, there are other times I get products that I’ve looked at…wondered if it was worth trying…and put back on the shelf at the grocery store, either out of fear that I’ll waste my money…or out of not being able to expand the budget.

That was the case with Miracle Noodle.  We have these in our local stores.  I’ve spotted them at Meijer and at Whole Foods.  I’ve probably spotted them a few other places as well.  But…I never bought them.  Why not?  They were really no different than the Shirataki Noodles I used to buy and prepare.  And, it took a couple of tries for me to get used to the texture…but they weren’t…awful.  They weren’t bad.  And once I got the hang of how to cook them…they weren’t a bad substitute.

Not one bit.

But I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t make myself purchase the little water and noodle-filled bags on the shelf at my grocery stores.  I just…couldn’t.

But Cuisine Cube changed all of that.

I initially had other plans for dinner tonight, but then I found a recipe for corn tacos…which I need some ingredients for in order to fix…so it was time for another plan.  I recalled my May Cuisine Cube had the Miracle Noodle Garlic and Herb Fettuccine noodles in it, and they were currently taking up residence in my pantry.  This would be a great time to break them out…especially since I had some marinara sauce in the fridge and some vegan and gluten-free garlic bread (from my local bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café) in the freezer.  Dinner was saved.

Shiratake Pasta (Miracle Noodle) is made from the root of a plant called the konnyaku imo and is known for its health benefits for 2000 years in China and Japan.  Shirataki is made from the soluble fiber of the plant and is remarkably low in calories.  Like…for real!  And, these noodles will absorb the flavor of any sauce or dish that you add them to.  They are little noodle-y ninjas.

Miracle Noodle Garlic & Herb Fettuccine (drained and rinsed)
Miracle Noodle Garlic & Herb Fettuccine (drained and rinsed)

So, I immediately got the bread in the oven and while it was baking for 20 minutes, I got to work on the noodles.  The Miracle Noodles are encased in a plastic sack that is filled with water.  I cut it open and poured the noodles into a strainer.  They smelled horrible.  Fish-like.  I remembered that from the Shirataki Noodles…but I had forgotten how pungent that scent initially was.  But, it goes away.  The noodles were given a 15-20 second bath under cold water and then placed into a pot of boiling water, simply to blanch them…only for a minute.  Then, drain them again and place on paper towels, removing as much water as humanly possible.  From here…you place them in a pan, heat them until they are dry, and then add them to your dish.  In this case…the marinara sauce I had working on the stove top.  Heat through…and serve.

Easy.

And…much to my genuine surprise…these were really good.  One of my biggest obstacles with the Shiratake Noodles was the texture.  Just rubbery and gummy and just…not pasta-like.  I didn’t get that texture with Miracle Noodle.  Not at all.  I loved the texture of these noodles.  They almost had that fresh pasta bite to them.  Almost.  And the flavor was amazing.  This was the Garlic and Herb variety and it brought great flavor to the dish itself.  No need to add any spices to the dish…these noodles did it for you.  They tasted really good.  To the point where I said I wanted to purchase them again…because I wanted to!  Go figure!  Never saw that one coming.  I love pleasant surprises like that.

So, let’s first talk ingredients.  The Miracle Noodle Garlic and Herb Fettuccine are made from purified water, konnyaku, garlic and herb mix, and calcium hydroxide.  So…not completely free of “chemical” sounding things, but not bad either.  Miracle Noodle Garlic and Herb Fettuccine is soy free, gluten free and cholesterol free.

Impressed?  Wait until you read these nutrition facts!  The Miracle Noodle Garlic and Herb Fettuccine contains two servings in each pouch.  Each serving contains 15 calories and are fat-free.  They have no cholesterol, as mentioned above, contain 5 mg sodium, and contain no sugar.  These noodles have only 3 grams of carbs per serving.  And they have 2 grams of fiber and no protein.  So, they won’t fill you up, but they are a great low-calorie substitute for pasta.  Guilt-free pasta!!  That’s what I’m talking about.  I’m a carb fiend…so sometimes a low-carb options is good to institute into my food regimen.

I was really set to dislike Miracle Noodle…but these were really amazing.  The Garlic and Herb flavor of the noodles was a nice match to the plain marinara.  The texture was perfect.  And dinner was a low-carb, low calorie, delicious meal in the end.  Beyond impressed and ready to add Miracle Noodle to more dishes in the future.

Thank you, again, Cuisine Cube.

Oh…and if you haven’t checked out Cuisine Cube yet…click here.  You might want to subscribe yourself!

Miracle Noodle Garlic and Herb Fettuccine (with marinara)
Miracle Noodle Garlic and Herb Fettuccine (with marinara)

Recipe: Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms, Garlic Marinara, and a Homemade Basil Pesto

Sometimes, I get more produce in my CSA bin than I can logically begin to work through in a week.  Sometimes I think I should go to every-other-week….but then the thought of not getting my fresh fruits and veggies makes me sad.  So, I try to come up with clever ways to use some of it up.  Last week’s bin had a yellow summer squash and a zucchini inside…and this week’s bin…two zucchinis.  I needed to use some zucchini up stat.

Also…I hate some large portobello mushroom caps, two of which were a little busted up…so making my portobello mushroom cap pizzas were not going to be an option.  So I thought…what can I do with this?  And then I thought…pasta.

But pasta made from zucchini…giving a bit of a low carb option (not that I worry about carbs!).  I was going to coat everything in a pesto, but my homegrown basil was…not enough to do that.  So I only had a small amount.  So, I could garnish the pasta with it.  And thankfully I had a jar of RAO’s Homemade Roasted Garlic Sauce in the pantry.  Yes!  Rescued by a manager’s special!  HA!

This recipe was super-easy to make and put together.  Even better…super good for you.  And, even if you don’t want to mess with making a pesto, the dish won’t lack anything if you leave it out.  Or, you can do what I originally had planned and skip the marinara and go with just the pesto!  It’s up to you.  I’ll put up the recipe for the full pesto recipe just in case.  I had to cut mine down to 1/4 the original recipe as I only had 1/2 cup of fresh basil.

That being said…

Recipe: Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms, Garlic Marinara, and a Homemade Basil Pesto

Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms, Garlic Marinara, and a Homemade Basil Pesto
Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms, Garlic Marinara, and a Homemade Basil Pesto

Servings: 2
Time: Prep 15 minutes; Cook 15 minutes


Ingredients for Pesto:

  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast


Ingredients for Pasta:

  • Olive oil
  • Chopped/minced garlic
  • Seasoning of choice (I used herbs de provence)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2 zucchini
  • 3 large portobello mushroom caps, sliced
  • 6 oz of marinara (or 4 ounces of pesto)
  • Dab of homemade pesto (if not using as the sauce)

 

Directions:

Make the pesto.

Place the basil, walnuts, and garlic in a food processor fitted with the S blade.  Pulse to combine, until the mixture is coarsely ground.

Turn the motor on and drizzle the olive oil in a thin stream.  Add the sea salt, pepper, lemon, and nutritional yeast, and pulse a few more times to combine.
Make the pasta:

Use your julienne peeler, spiral slicer or mandolin to create noodles out of the zucchini.  I used a mandolin and made long, thin strips of zucchini for noodles.  It’s really up to you!  Zucchini is usually full of water, so take a paper towel and squeeze them to get out some of the water.  Place them in a bowl and set aside.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and heat for a minute at medium heat.  Add 1 clove of minced garlic and sauté for one minute.  Add your mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms begin to release their juices and have browned up beautifully.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Rinse out your skillet (or wipe it down to get out any mushroom residue) and place another tablespoon of olive oil in the pan, allowing it to heat for one minute over medium heat.  Add your zucchini noodles to the pan and begin to heat them up.  In order to not turn them to mush, do not stir them.  Just move them gently around the pan.

Once the zucchini noodles are heated, add the musrhooms back into the pan and season with your seasonings of choice.  Definitely add a bit of salt though.

Toss together and then add the sauce (be it marinara or pest0).  Continue to toss in the skillet until it is heated through.  Transfer to bowls and top off with pesto, if you didn’t use it for your sauce of choice.  Or don’t…if you didn’t want to fuss with it.

Serve!

~*~*~

This was so packed with flavor and so delicious.  Honestly, it was super delicious.  I’d love to make this again and serve it up in the way I intended…with the pesto sauce, but the marinara added great flavor and worked so well with the zucchini and mushrooms.  A delicious, low calorie, low carb meal that doesn’t take too long to prep or cook.  Dinner…couldn’t be easier.

Give it a shot.  I hope you like it!

 

Restaurant Review: The Gluten Escape, Denver, Colorado

The Gluten Escape, Denver, Colorado
The Gluten Escape, Denver, Colorado

Restaurant: The Gluten Escape, Denver, Colorado

I have my friend, Pecos, to thank for turning me on to the newest gluten-free bakery near the Denver Tech Center in Denver, Colorado.  I make a yearly sojourn out to Denver for Starfest, an annual sci-fi/fantasy convention, and am always looking for places that can safely feed me.  A couple of months before I headed that way, Pecos mentioned this place on Facebook.  Sure enough, it wasn’t far from my hotel at the convention at all.  Insert a happy traveler right here!

As it turned out, we’d be hitting Denver at the right time to stop into said bakery for lunch.  And I couldn’t be happier.  Cathy and I budgeted some money (and then she added on after we settled in to eat and after purchasing a few things for later…but I’m getting ahead of myself) for this stop to be our official lunch and snack stop on Friday afternoon.  It was perfect.  And…after getting a little lost trying to find the place, we finally located it (under a storage awning, of all things).

The Gluten Escape.  Their slogan…”Where gluten is a 4-letter word…gone!”

Love it.

The bakery itself is quite small and cozy.  You see the counter with all the baked goods in the case and on top of the case the moment you walk in.  To the left is a fridge, a toaster, a microwave, and coffee/tea stuff.  To the right, a small dining area for those who are dining in.  The back and far walls had little shelves with some of the items they had for sale…as well as cakes.  Cathy scoped those out while I was preparing lunch…but I’m getting ahead of myself again.

We were greeted by a very nice gentleman behind the counter when we entered the bakery.  We told him that we were from the Louisville, Kentucky area and had been told about this bakery by a good friend of ours in the area…and we were starving travelers.  I was eying the brownies and bars in the case at the front when Cathy tapped me on the shoulder and said…”Bagels!”

The Gluten Escape's Gluten-Free Onion Bagel and Gluten-Free Cinnamon Roll
The Gluten Escape’s Gluten-Free Onion Bagel and Gluten-Free Cinnamon Roll

SOLD!!  They were out of the Everything Bagel, which would have been my first choice.  The other two options were Onion and Cinnamon Raisin.  I jumped at Cinnamon Raisin, but Cathy said…”Really?  You want that one?”  Which means…she didn’t.  So, I gave in for the Gluten-Free Onion Bagel ($3.00).  And let me tell you…this bagel looked AWESOME!!  Even better than Udi’s Gluten-Free Bagels.  All of them.  So, we got the Gluten-Free Onion Bagel with the Daiya Cream Cheese (yay for vegan cream cheese!) to split as we also purchased one of the Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls ($2.25) to split as well.

We also picked up other goodies…but I’ll get into that in a moment.

Let’s focus on lunch.  We were handed the bagel, which he sliced for us and told that the toaster was right behind us.  Awesome.  I got to work toasting it while he grabbed the dairy-free cream cheese and then the cinnamon roll.  He handed that to Cathy and told her she might want to give it a 20 second warm-up in the microwave.  Which…she did.  The toasting on the bagel was taking a bit of time and I was hoping I wasn’t going to burn it.  Because…FRESH MADE GLUTEN-FREE BAGEL!!  HELLO!!  Do you realize how uncommon that is to find??!!  Trust me…you don’t see it very often.  I don’t see it at all, honestly.  The bagel popped and I plated it and carried it to the table.  Photos happened and then I spread the bagel with the cream cheese and we each took a bite.

Holy gluten-free bagel, Batman.  This was fantastic.  It was light, not heavy.  The flavor was amazing.  You really got the onion flavor without it being overpowering.  It had that nice crust on the outside, but was still chewy and bread-y in the middle.  It was heaven.  I cried.  Seriously.  Tears of joy.  Because, save for the Udi’s processed gluten-free bagels…I hadn’t had an actual bagel since I had to go gluten-free.  This…was life changing for me.  Life affirming even.  I might survive after all.  I set the bagel down so I could try the cinnamon roll.

This was not what I was expecting when I cut the cinnamon roll in half.  Honestly.  It looked more like a muffin than the traditional cinnamon roll.  It was way different from the gluten-free cinnamon rolls that I purchase from Sinfully Gluten Free in Dayton, Ohio and Annie May’s Sweet Café in Louisville, Kentucky.  Like I said…it looked more like a muffin.  But…we all know that cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite indulgences…and I was looking forward to splitting this with Cathy.  I sliced it in half…a pocket of cinnamon flavoring nestled right in the center.  I lifted it and took a bite.  It reminded me of…apple pie, oddly enough.  I think it was the spices that went into the dough and the cinnamon center.  I loved that it wasn’t coated in icing, but lightly drizzled.  I am not a fan of icing or frosting…so the less the better in my book.  And this definitely gave it a nice level of sweetness.  It wasn’t my favorite gluten-free cinnamon roll, but it was delicious.  And we ended up buying another one!

This brings me to our side purchases…

For breakfast the following morning, Cathy and I picked up two of the Mini Chocolate Donuts ($1.59), the Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bar, and the Lemon Raspberry Bar as well.  I would have bought one of everything if I could have afforded it.  So, after I went for a run that morning, I returned to the hotel room and got our breakfast prepped.  I sliced the bars in half and delivered those to Cathy, along with her donut.  As I was getting the rest of my breakfast ready for me to settle in and enjoy…I hear the happiest noise in the world.

The Gluten Escape's Gluten-Free Lemon Raspberry Bar, Gluten-Free Chocolate Donut, and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bar
The Gluten Escape’s Gluten-Free Lemon Raspberry Bar, Gluten-Free Chocolate Donut, and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bar

“You HAVE TO try the donut RIGHT NOW!” I was told.

So, I took a bite.

OMG…best gluten-free donut I have had yet.  From anywhere.  And, trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of gluten-free donuts…in gluten-free bakeries and the store-bought kind.  Seriously…reminded me of a Dunkin Doughnuts Chocolate Munchkin.  I was once again in tears.  It was a cake doughnut, but without the denseness and heaviness that I often find with gluten-free donuts.  These were light and airy, and amazing.  The chocolate chips inside were a very nice treat as well.  I was starting off breakfast with a bang.  YUMMY!!

The next thing I sampled was the Gluten-Free Lemon Raspberry Bar ($3.75).  This had this delicious crust and was topped with a sweet and tart lemon filling and then capped with something akin to raspberry jam or compote.  Whatever it was…the flavor combination was awesome.  The crust gave it a little bit of texture as well as dulled the sweetness of the berries and the tartness of the lemon.  I liked this bar a lot, but found myself wishing that it was just the lemon on there.  I love raspberries and all…but LEMON…is the ultimate bar.  Forever.

The Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bar ($3.75) snagged my attention away from the brownies that were in the case.  Those were tempting too.  But…pretzel!  HELLO!  This was a lot like a blondie…but with gluten-free pretzels baked into it and scattered across the top.  I’m thinking…sweet with salty.  I was right.  This bar was fantastic.  The pretzels were slightly on the stale side, but that’s because I had bought them the day before and they were sitting on top of one of the tables in the hotel room all night.  It didn’t take away from the deliciousness though.  I loved the play and sweet and salty, which is my favorite flavor combination  These were amazing.  For real.

The Gluten Escape's Gluten-Free Snickerdoodle Cookie
The Gluten Escape’s Gluten-Free Snickerdoodle Cookie

Later on that day, Cathy and I decided to have a snack.  We indulged in some fruit we had picked up at the grocery store.  And with it, we split the Gluten-Free Snickerdoodle Cookie ($2.50) that we also purchased while there.  This was my first time ever encountering a crispy snickerdoodle cookie.  But…the flavors were spot on.  The sweetness from the sugar, the heat from the cinnamon.  Snickerdoodles, as we all know, are my absolute favorite cookie and these were different from what I’m used to, but I loved it all the same.  So, it wasn’t the chewy cookie I associate snickerdoodles with.  Didn’t matter.  It tasted like a snickerdoodle.  That’s what counts, yes?  RIGHT!

I won’t lie…the buying didn’t stop there.  Nope.  Not at all.  Before we left the bakery on Friday afternoon, Cathy pointed out the Gluten-Free Biscotti and the Gluten-Free Puppy Chow on one of the shelves.  I also found a Pumpkin Spice Granola Bar that was definitely intriguing, since pumpkin flavored everything rules!  I ended up buying the Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Granola Bar ($2.25), the Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Biscotti ($1.95), the Grain Free Mocha Almond Biscotti ($3.25), and a container of the Gluten-Free Puppy Chow ($3.99-ish?).

The Gluten Escape's Gluten-Free Puppy Chow
The Gluten Escape’s Gluten-Free Puppy Chow

I tried the Puppy Chow on Monday morning on my way to the airport.  Cathy and I needed to swing by Voodoo Donut to pick up some dounuts for a co-worker of ours.  So, while there, Cathy ordered a donut for herself.  As for me…it was Puppy Chow time.  The Gluten Escape’s Puppy Chow is a mix of Chex cereal, puffed rice, pretzels, and corn flakes.  They are dusted in powdered sugar.  And it was really, really good.  I loved the different textures and flavors with each bite.  You got the salty from the pretzels, the sweet from the cereal, and each cereal was different, making it crunchy or softer or just snack-able by the handful.  I loved it.  I ate half of it before hitting the airport and brought the other half to the office with me the following day.

The Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Granola Bar was…lacking sweetness, in my opinion.  It was good.  And they definitely had the right pumpkin spice flavor down.  It wasn’t overpowering.  But…the bar just seemed flat.  It was very crunchy, which is fine…granola bars can go either way.  But I kept waiting on something that would sweeten the deal.  Like chocolate chips or something.  I just think it needed a touch of sugar (not too much…just something to elevate it).  Regardless, it was good and I downed that entire thing at the office.

As for the two biscotti that I chose…WOW!!  Just…WOW!!  They complimented my morning coffee beautifully for one thing.  The first one that Cathy and I tried (we split them) was the Grain Free Mocha Almond Biscotti.  OH MY GOD!!  So delicious.  I enjoyed dunking it in my coffee and just having that flavor mingle and mix.  Oh…it was divine.  And totally made my morning, if you couldn’t tell.  The Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Biscotti was the same way.  I loved the crispness that would soften when dunked in the coffee and the chocolate chips were a nice lingering sweet touch.  I was in total coffee heaven those mornings.  Seriously.  I will probably buy whatever biscotti they have next time I am in town.  For real.  That…was love at first bite for sure!

I know that Colorado is a hotbed for gluten-free companies and businesses…and I love visiting there for that reason.  But, if you happen to be near the Denver Tech Center (DTC)…I strongly encourage you to take the trip up the road to The Gluten Escape and indulge in some of their daily specials and their baked goods.  Everything looked fantastic.  I really would have purchased one of everything had the budget and my belly allowed.  But, that’s why there is always a next time.  And there will be a next time.

Beyond impressed!

The Gluten-Escape's Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Granola Bar, Grain-Free Mocha Almond Biscotti, and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Biscotti
The Gluten-Escape’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Granola Bar, Grain-Free Mocha Almond Biscotti, and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Recipe: Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato and Zucchini Fritters

I admit it…originally, I was going to take my zucchini and pull out my handy-dandy Cusinart food processor and make some more gluten-free zucchini bread.  Why?  Because I love my family recipe for zucchini bread (which very successfully bakes up gluten-free from the original not-gluten-free recipe).  I was so tempted.

But…I’m going out of town this weekend…and need to use up produce without having too much left just sitting around in the crisper drawer or in the fridge and freezer.  So…I hunted down other ideas.  And thanks to the magic of Pinterest…I stumbled across a recipe that would not only use up the zucchini in my crisper, but also one of my two sweet potatoes.  It was from the blog Averie Cooks and I had everything necessary to make these that night for dinner.  I sent the link to my roomie and she mightily approved.  I gave her the option of two sweet potato recipes…and she went with this one.  And so…dinner was decided…just like that.

Upon returning home from the office on Friday, I set myself to work in the kitchen, cleaning and shredding up a large sweet potato and a large zucchini.  And when all was said and done, these baked up to be a soft, but delicious treat for dinner.  Honestly, I can’t wait to make it again.  The flavors are amazing and they even go well in a skillet and served up like a veggie burger on a bun (that’s what I did with the leftovers!).

Check out this easy recipe:

Recipe: Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato Zucchini Fritters

 

Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato and Zucchini Fritters (with Gluten-Free Baked Zucchini Fries)
Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato and Zucchini Fritters (with Gluten-Free Baked Zucchini Fries)


Servings: 6
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (or vegan butter)
  • 1 large egg (or egg replacer or flax egg)
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle seasoning (I used ancho chili powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose)
  • about 3 cups coarsely grated sweet potato (1 medium to large sweet potato, peeled and grated)
  • about 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (1 large or 2 small zucchini)

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.  Sp with cooking spray; set aside.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.

To the melted butter, add the egg and beat with a fork to combine.

Add the chipotle seasoning, salt, pepper, and stir to combine.

Add the flour and stir to combine.

Add the sweet potato, zucchini, and toss to combine.

Mixture will be loose and a bit soggy.

Using a 1/2-cup measure, form fritters by transferring one heaping half-cup of vegetable mixture from mixing bowl directly to baking trays.  They will be about 4-inches in diameter.

Bake fritters for 10 minutes at 375°F and if fritters have “leaked” or released any liquids, either from the zucchini releasing water, or the butter-egg mixture, just “push” the liquid back into a fritter using a spatula.

Lower oven temperature to 350°F and bake for about 15 minutes.  Carefully flip fritters over (they will be soft and delicate, so be careful to flip them without breaking them) and bake for about 15 more minutes, or until browned.  Fritters will be browned but soft upon removal from oven.  Allow them to cool and firm up on the baking trays for at least 10 minutes before moving or serving them.

~*~*~

Really, really fantastic flavor!!  Honestly.  My roommate raved about them.  They are still quite soft, but they are delicious and amazing.  I fell in love with these at first bite.  And so did the roomie.  In fact, we were thrilled to come home tonight and eat the two leftover patties as veggie burgers.  The night I made these, we each had 2 fritters each (about 100 calories per fritter), and I baked up some gluten-free zucchini fries with the leftover zucchini.  One of my favorite dinners to date.

I encourage you to give these fritters a shot.  They are definitely worth the time they take to make and eat.  Trust me…you’ll love them.

 

 

Product Review: Caveman Bakery Alpine Caveman Cookies

Caveman Bakery Apline Caveman Cookies
Caveman Bakery Apline Caveman Cookies

Product: Caveman Bakery Apline Caveman Cookies – $6.29+

Can cookies really be made the caveman way?  Can paleo really go that far?

Ah, that new fad that so many people are jumping onto.  Eat like a caveman, and reap the wonderful health benefits.  While I find nothing wrong with cutting out refined sugars and processed grains…I go back and forth on the whole “eat like a caveman” thing.  I mean…not being able to eat beans…or corn…due to sugar content or something.  Nope.  Not a fan.

However…paleo items are gluten-free.  And when something hits the market that I’ve never seen before…my friend Jenn usually supplies me with a box.  God love her!  Well, I have previously tried and was not thrilled with the Tropical version of these cookies.  Jenn assured me via a Twitter account that, surprisingly, the Alpine were better.

Well, it’s moment of truth week because I have no dessert on hand and these are in my pantry.  Out came the box of Caveman Bakery Alpine Caveman Cookies.

Much like the Tropical variety of these cookies, these come individually wrapped inside the box.  They are little flat cookies, slightly sticky as you remove them from the wrapper…probably the honey…no…definitely the honey.  They smelled good.  They looked deceivingly chocolatey.  Would they be better than the very bland and disappointing Tropical flavor?  Was it possible?

Kinda…I guess.

Here’s the thing.  These cookies are chewy.  Not like…soft…fresh out of the oven chewy.  Not even processed cookies that are made to be soft and chewy chewy.  Nope.  These are just…chewy.  Like…not quite gum…but almost…chewy.  Which, we all know I prefer a chewy cookie to a crunchy one (although I will eat both and do so happily and without any measure of guilt!), but these…these are just too chewy.  Yes…a cookie that is too chewy for me.

As for taste…Jenn was right.  These actually do taste better than the Tropical variety.  The Alpine Caveman Cookies have a hint of chocolate flavor.  But it’s very mild and almost…not there.  The honey really sort of stands out the most.  I took a bite, tugging the very chewy cookie back and tried to savor it…find that flavor…find that chocolate flavor that I was craving.  Only a hint.  But…it was enough to cleanse the palate.

I guess.

I still wasn’t impressed.  Strike two Caveman Bakery.

Sad, because I love what goes into these cookies.  You want to talk about clean eating…these cookies are made from what Caveman Bakery says are ingredients that cavemen could have found while hiking in the alps.  These cookies are simply made from honey, hazelnut meal, almond meal, and toasted carob seeds.  They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and cholesterol free.

As for the nutritional aspect of these cookies…a serving size of the Caveman Bakery Alpine Caveman Cookies is 2 cookies.  Yep.  Two.  Get those jaws loosened up, folks!  This serving will provide you with 150 calories and 9 grams of fat.  Most of that fat is from the use of the nuts (hazelnuts and almonds), so that is at least the healthy kind of fat.  These two cookies contain 0 mg sodium, but 14 whopping grams of sugar.  YIKES!!  Okay…so it’s from the honey and carob but…YIKES!  Okay…they are cookies.  I’ll give them that.  But still.  And finally, you will have 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.  Let’s hear it for meals made from nuts!

I don’t know…I understand the concept.  I get that it’s considered a better way of eating.  But I think these cookies are not what the cavemen had in mind when they thought about polishing off their saber tooth tiger consommé and needed to cleanse their palate.  Perhaps some wild berries or nuts would have been sufficient.

While these cookies aren’t awful, they definitely didn’t do anything for me.  Therefore, once the package is gone…it will be the last of the Caveman Cookies in my home.  Kind of pricey for a product that didn’t wow me.  Not one bit.

But, I think my jaw got the workout of a lifetime.