Product Review: Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup

Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup
Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup

Product: Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup – $2.49+

Ah, my dear Jungle Jim’s…

Why must you be so far away and give me such good (and healthy) food.  I had never, never, ever seen any Explore Asian noodle cups anywhere around here…but I find you while cruising the international food aisles on my birthday, and…not knowing any better…only pick up enough for me to have once (I got two, for the record, but my roomie ate the other one).


This week, I’ve been really slacking on the meal prep for lunch.  In fact…it’s been vegetarian sushi and soup all week, because, it’s affordable, easy, and healthy!  At least I’m keeping it healthy, regardless of not really prepping anything to have on hand or keeping something on hand (okay…technically the soup was kept on hand…but I digress…), which is more than a lot of people manage.

Monday, due to being out of town…vegetarian sushi.  Tuesday…Amy’s Thai Coconut Soup (from a can…but SO GOOD!), Wednesday…SOFT PRETZEL WEDNESDAY at ANNIE MAY’S SWEET CAFE in Louisville.  Best (and only) gluten-free soft pretzels I’ve had out of an allergen-free bakery!  Thursday…soup…and this time…like a Cup ‘O Noodle…I pulled out the very new to my pantry Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup.


Because it was easy and I didn’t have to really do anything the night before to prep it.  How’s that for me being lazy.  Hey, I’m coming off a crazy, hectic, fun wedding weekend…I haven’t recovered yet!

Explore Asian strives to be innovative creators of everyday family friendly foods with a healthier twist.  While a small company, they still strive to put a lot of effort into exploring the world to find the highest quality, organic, and natural foods for their consumers to enjoy.  In fact, Explore Asian works directly with farmers to provide top of the line products.  Not only that, they take time to build a superior product that not only tastes good, but will nourish the body.  And, they believe in transparency when it comes to their consumers, maintaining a policy of being open and honest.

So, here we have a product similar to a Cup ‘O Noodle that is claiming to be healthy.  And you know what?  It really is!  In fact, people who consume Explore Asian products include healthy living advocates, athletes, people with special diets (gluten-free, wheat-free, egg-free), people who follow heart healthy diets (20 GI index for Explore Asian bean pastas), dieters and people trying to lose weight, non-GMO advocates, chefs and restaurants, vegans, and people who have to eat kosher!  Yep…all of that.

So, why was I still skeptical that this would make an amazing lunch?  I have no freakin’ idea!  Thursday afternoon…lunch time…and I prepare my roomie’s soup first…getting water and filling it to the line in the container with water, then using the 3 minute microwave method to eat it up.  It was piping hot when the microwave beeped and I prepped my bowl to go in.  This simply means…I pull off the lid (not microwave safe), dump out the contents, which include a packet of noodles, seasoning packet, salt packet, and a little plastic fork.  Add water up to the line and then stick the container in to warm for three minutes.  I delivered hers with gusto, showing her the fork (hers broke right away…mine did not break at all).  Spoon not provided, but it is a big bowl/cup thing…so you can always slurp the broth…

Anyway, I returned as my bowl was finishing up and I removed it from the microwave and walked it (with fork in hand) back to my desk.  I let it cool slightly before dipping the fork into the broth and spinning up a clump of the soybean noodles.  One taste was all it took for me to immediately berate myself for not purchasing more of these beauties.  The noodles were perfect…not mushy and definitely not going to get mushy throughout the time it took me to consume said container.  They stayed perfect…al dente and delicious!  I mean…really delicious.  The seasoning packet added all the flavor, and the brilliant part of the salt packet was that I could choose how much salt went in.  I put in half the packet in each bowl…and it was perfect.  Great flavor.  The noodles were definitely the stars.  My only complaint, I think, was that there were only like 4 pieces of vegetable in this soup.  It was all broth and noodle…and a piece of corn…maybe two…and a little bit of the chives.  I can’t make this up.  So, a little lacking on the actual vegetables…but those noodles were on point.  YUMMY!  And, trust me, nothing makes a hectic week better like a warm bowl of soup.  Am I right?  Of course I’m right!

So, let’s discuss the ingredients that are inside the Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup, shall we?  This soup contains organic soybeans, organic rice, water.  The seasoning packet includes maltodextrin, sichuanese pepper, wild pepper, star anise, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, dehydrated chives, dehydrated carrot, dehydrated sweet corn.  And, as mentioned, the salt packet is separate.  This amazing soup is gluten free, vegan (they also have vegan chicken and beef flavored as well), and non-GMO.

So, I’ve mentioned how this is actually a healthy (and filling) choice for an easy, brain-less meal, right?  But now let me prove it with the nutritional information on the Explore Asian Gluten Free Vegetable Flavor Soybean Noodle Soup.  A serving size is 2.2 ounces (aka: 1 container).  This serving will dish up 207 calories, 3 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 150 mg sodium (if you add the entire salt packet, you are adding an additional 606 mg sodium…so if you are watching your sodium intake like we are…a dash does just fine!), 25 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 20 grams of protein.  When I said that this soup will make you feel full, I wasn’t kidding!!

Filling, yes…but even more importantly…YUMMY!  This soup went above and beyond all expectations.  This is not ramen noodles.  This is not Cup ‘O Noodle.  This is a healthy, beneficial, amazing soup that I hope I can locate somewhere around where I live…otherwise next time I journey through Cincinnati…I’ll have to stop off at Jungle Jim’s specifically to pick up more of these.  It was a lunch I felt good about eating…even if I was doing it at my desk while working.

Restaurant Review: Kalapawai Café, Kailua, Hawaii

Kalapawai Cafe, Kailua, Hawaii
Kalapawai Cafe, Kailua, Hawaii

Restaurant: Kalapawai Café, Kailua, Hawaii

Normally humidity and heat don’t get to me.  I thrive in warmer temperatures, to be completely honest.  But the sun, heat, and humidity that were brought to Hawaii by the hurricanes and tropical storms is a new level of humid.  And it’s a level that, being so close to the equator, I am not used to yet.

I was melting.  Literally.  Melting at Pearl Harbor yesterday afternoon.  But, myself and my traveling compatriots all survived and had quite the experience at Pearl Harbor.  Totally…unforgettable.  It was the one place I was making a requirement…and the other two also felt the same way.  Despite the intense sun, the humidity, and the heat…it was all worth it.

All that being said, afterwards we headed toward Kailua, which was home to the restaurant we would be having dinner in that evening.  The little restaurant is Kalapawai Café, this quaint little café and market.  We were early, as they don’t start serving dinner until 5 p.m.  So, while waiting, we scoped out a bit of Kailua.  We went to Walgreens so Jenn could pick up more Ibuprofen (sunburns suck!).  We dropped by this little bookstore called Book Ends.  It was in disarray, but it killed a bit of time.  And as we were heading out, it was time for dinner.  Talk about timing, eh?

We were greeted at the door as we entered and were able to ogle the dessert case, where I spotted macarons immediately.  Jenn noted the Flourless Chocolate Cake as well.  Mmmm…dessert.  But, our hostess guided us to a nice cool spot (we must have looked hot!) right under the air conditioning and got us situated with menus.  Our waitress soon followed, bringing us glasses of water and asking us if we wanted anything besides water.  We were all trying to rehydrate after Pearl Harbor, so we just stuck with the H2O.  She went over the specials and over what the Auction Price Fish of the Day, Auction Price Fresh Fish for the risotto was, and what the Auction Price Fresh Fish for the Greek Salad was.  She gave us a moment to peruse the menu.

Upon her return a few minutes later, we were pretty much set.  We mentioned that I was a Celiac vegetarian and she said…”Okay…so no wheat no meat…” She asked if I did dairy…I said I can…but I don’t always handle it well.  So she recommended the meal I had been eyeing in the first place due to the fact that it was labeled gluten-free AND contained no meat.  She said she’d just have the chef leave off the cheese.  Perfect.  Jenn and Cathy put in their orders too…and we cooled off, chilled, and got to watch the kitchen work.  I love open kitchens.  Hearing the expediter call off the orders was awesome.  Seeing the small line of chefs preparing at their different stations…yep…I love this stuff.

And soon…it was our order being made and being delivered.

Oddly enough, I had pegged what Jenn was going to order.  I know my friends!  Jenn ordered the Crab & Artichoke Dip ($12.00), which contained huge chunks (I mean HUGE) of blue crab, chopped artichoke (which didn’t overwhelm), fresh mozzerella, provolone, parmesan, red bell pepper, sweet onion, and served with toasted crostini.  Her meal looked cheesy good.   And it was delicious according to her.  Especially since they used great care to put chunks of crab meat into the dish itself…instead of skimping on the prize protein.  That was a huge plus.  The plate got polished.  She said she’d offer me some, but basically everything about the dish offended me.  LOL!

Kalapwai Cafe's House-made Okinawan Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Ravioli w/ asparagus, roasted grape tomato & lemon-thyme brown butter sauce
Kalapwai Café’s House-made Okinawan Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Ravioli w/ asparagus, roasted grape tomato & lemon-thyme brown butter sauce

Cathy had gone back and forth on what she wanted, opting between the ravioli and the shepherd’s pie.  In the end, she ordered the House-made Okinawan Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Ravioli ($15.00), served with asparagus, roasted grape tomato, and a lemon-thyme brown butter sauce.  She said the pasta was okay (duh!), but the star of the plate was that sweet potato and goat cheese.  The star of any ravoili should be the filling.  That’s the entire point.  The pasta…it should definitely be homemade and good…but it it simply a way to hold the delicious filling inside.  She devoured her meal.  In fact, for the first time, she was the first one done eating.

Kalapawai Café's House-made gluten free potato gnocchi w/ grilled asparagus, roasted mushroom & tomato, ver’jus & sauce romesco
Kalapawai Café’s House-made gluten free potato gnocchi w/ grilled asparagus, roasted mushroom & tomato, ver’jus & sauce romesco

As for me, I ordered the House-made Gluten Free Potato Gnocchi ($16.00), served with grilled asparagus, roasted mushroom and tomato, ver’jus and a sauce romesco.  It normally would come with Manchego cheese, but they left it off my dish since dairy and I are broken up.  These “gnocchi” were toasted potato puffs.  Sort of like…a naked tater tot.  And to be honest…that’s exactly what they tasted like.  This dish was like eating breakfast for dinner.  The gnocchi had this great toasted outside, think…perfect hashbrowns, and then were soft like the inside of a tater tot, on the inside.  The vegetables were grilled and cooked to perfection, pairing nicely with the breakfast-like gnocchi on my plate.  And the sauces gave a nice hit and addition of flavor to be sure.  I loved it…because breakfast is one of my favorite things in life.  It wasn’t what I was expecting.  Definitely less pasta more potato.  And I was okay with that.  It just wasn’t what my palate had been expecting.  It was a nice surprise.

Afterwards we were asked if we’d like to see a dessert menu.  As we never turn down looking at least, we perused and finally opted on splitting the macaron plate (it came with 3) ($5.00).  Normally this was an assortment of vanilla, lemon, and lime ginger, but they were out of vanilla, and I wasn’t too sure on the lime ginger…so we went with three of the lemon macarons.  They were retrieved from the case and…oh…oh yes…they were worth it.  Little pillows of lemony flavor.  Like…big lemon flavor too.  None of this fake stuff or lack of flavor.  It was like a lemon bar and lemon chifon cake.  It was just…yummy.  And we were happy that we went that way with the dessert in the end.

I was actually quite impressed with the service and the food that came  out of Kalapawai Café.  I would return there to eat in a heartbeat.  I loved the dish I was served, even if it wasn’t what I expected.  And having macarons on the dessert menu always wins, because they are a light option that still feels like a treat.

What a way to end the first night in O’ahu.

Kalapawai Café's Lemon Macarons
Kalapawai Café’s Lemon Macarons

Product Review: Daiya Cheezy Mac (Deluxe Cheddar, Deluxe Alfredo, White Cheddar Style Veggie)

Product Review: Daiya Cheezy Mac (Deluxe Cheddar, Deluxe Alfredo, Deluxe White Cheddar Style Veggies) – $4.99+/each

There is just something that is so uplifting about finding a newly released product rather quickly in your regular grocery store.  That was exactly how I felt when I stumbled across the new line of Daiya Cheezy Mac, which I didn’t even know existed.  So…surprise, surprise!

Usually I keep very up-to-date on any forthcoming gluten-free and dairy-free products, and Daiya is always my go-to when it comes to anything involving cheese!  I have been a fan of Daiya vegan cheese products since I first had to go dairy-free.  While I find that most of their products have that “Daiya” flavor…it doesn’t really change the fact that it is delicious vegan cheesy goodness.  Gotta love it.

So, yes…imagine the happy dance of joy that occurred when I was walking the natural food aisles at my local Kroger and…as I turn around from the vegan milks…there on a shelf right at eye-level are three different varieties of the Daiya Cheezy Mac products.  OH. MY. GOD.  There were only 1 box left of each on the shelf.  And they were all coming home with me.

I’ve been cutting out a lot of processed foods, but there is always a time and a place for easy-to-prepare products, especially on those weeks where you’ve planned out breakfast, snacks, and dinners…but forget about the ever-important lunch meal.  Which is exactly what happened this past week.  But, thankfully these beautiful boxes were sitting on a shelf in my pantry and definitely saved three days of lunches this past week (the other days brought allergen-free soft pretzels from the local gluten-free bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, and I cooked up a gluten-free vegan pasta with fresh veggies from the garden).  Guess it was a week of pasta lunches…and I’m way okay with that.

So…let’s start with the first one that we tried right out of the gate…

Daiya Deluxe White Cheddar Style Veggie Cheezy Mac
Daiya Deluxe White Cheddar Style Veggie Cheezy Mac

Daiya Deluxe White Cheddar Style Veggie Cheezy MacDaiya Deluxe White Cheddar Style Veggie Cheezy Mac

This was the smartest pic of the day when we devoured this for lunch of Tuesday.  There was a serious lack of veggies happening that day, with our local professional soccer team playing that night.  The morning was filled with some gym-time and leftover couscous cakes and dairy-free yogurt.  That at least had some fruit in it.  But dinner, for me, was simply a protein bar (Luna Protein Mint Chocolate Chip if you were wondering…) so the veggies were a nice touch and perfect on this day.  This box comes complete with a package of gluten-free brown rice pasta and dehydrated veggies (think peas, carrots, and red bell pepper) and a pouch of dairy-free “cheeze” sauce (not powder), which is white cheddar flavored in this particular version.  As the noodles are boiled for 7-8 minutes to reach that perfect al dente, the veggies re-hydrate, adding not only a touch of color but some depth of flavor too.  Noodles are drained and then put back into the pot and the cheeze sauce is then poured over top and mixed in.  LOVE!!  I LOVED THIS!  I was so happy with the first bite I took of this pasta.  It was creamy and dreamy and fluffy and awesome.  And just…REALLY FREAKIN’ GOOD!  How’s that.  The veggies are a very nice touch and one that doesn’t leave semi-hard veggies into perfectly cooked pasta.  It all came together.  And the sauce being in a pouch and being a sauce, not a powder, meant it was silky and creamy and not lumpy and gunky.  I really enjoyed this!  I shouldn’t have been surprised…but I was.

Ingredients for the Daiya Deluxe White Cheddar Style Veggie Cheezy Mac are: Brown rice pasta (whole grain brown rice, rice bran, water), filtered water, dried vegetable blend (pea, carrot, red bell pepper), tapioca starch, non-GMO expeller pressed: canola and/or safflower oil, coconut oil, sea salt, vegan natural flavors, pea protein isolate, potato protein, tricalcium phosphate, evaporated cane sugar, lactic acid (vegan, for flavor), xanthan gum, yeast extract, titanium dioxide (naturally occurring mineral), onion, vitamin B12.  It is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, certified vegan, and also kosher.

As for nutritional information for the Daiya Deluxe White Cheddar Style Veggie Cheezy Mac…my roommate and I split these to make a bigger meal, but the serving size is 1/3 of the package with 3 (obviously) servings per box.  One serving will provide 290 calories, 9 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat (from the coconut oil), 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 590 mg sodium, 48 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars, and 6 grams protein.  How about that??!!

Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac
Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac

Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac

So then, along came Thursday.  And when I went to the pantry on Wednesday night to prepare the pasta for Thursday’s lunch, I asked my roomie if she wanted alfredo or cheddar.  She went with the classic cheddar.  And so, out that box came.  Same basic cooking instructions as the other box.  Which makes it really easy to plan on preparation timing.  HA!  Into the boiling water went the noodles (no veggies this time).  Once they were done, they were drained and sauced accordingly.  And this one…this one really wins the day.  When I first started making the (highly processed) Velveeta Mac & Cheese meals at home, I loved how the sauce would just taste on the noodles, coating all of them in this great ooey-gooey-ness.  And THAT was what Daiya did here.  Daiya brought me the flavors of my adolescent years…in a version that I safely can devour and gorge myself on.  Which, I could easily do.  The rich, velvety cheeze sauce is a perfect cheddar flavor, coating each noodle in its creamy goodness.  I was in heaven while I devoured this one at my desk that day.  Seriously…beyond anything that I expected!  I would marry this product.

The ingredients in the Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac are: Brown rice pasta (whole grain brown rice, rice bran, water), filtered water, tapioca starch, non-GMO expeller pressed: canola and/or safflower oil, coconut oil, sea salt, vegan natural flavors, pea protein isolate, potato protein, tricalcium phosphate, evaporated cane sugar, lactic acid (vegan, for flavor), xanthan gum, yeast extract, titanium dioxide (naturally occurring mineral), annatto (color), onion, vitamin B12.  This product is also gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, certified vegan, and kosher.

As for nutrition, a serving of the Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac is 1/3 of the package and the package is meant to serve 3.  A serving of the Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Cheezy Mac will provide you with 300 calories, 9 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat (again…coconut oil), 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 580 mg sodium, 48 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 0 grams sugars, and 5 grams protein.  It is filling and delicious and amazing and I love, love, love it.

Diaya Deluxe Alfredo Style Cheezy Mac
Diaya Deluxe Alfredo Style Cheezy Mac

Daiya Deluxe Alfredo Style Cheezy Mac

My roommate didn’t grow up eating anything with alfredo sauce…so moving in with me has been an adventure.  I’ve made this usually dairy-heavy sauce out of cauliflower and now have dished it up using Daiya’s version of this amazing sauce.  While this one turned out to be her least favorite, I think this was my second favorite (cheddar being the best!).  Same easy prep…same simple directions, but this time…that awesome those cooked noodles were drenched in the comforting white sauce that is alfredo.  Yes…alfredo can be just as delicious without all the cream and dairy and Daiya proves it.  I loved the little touch of black pepper, which brought a depth of flavor to each bite.  The creamy sauce clung to the noodles, making each bite feel so sinful, but in honesty, it wasn’t.  And that is what makes this the ultimate comfort food of all time.  And, yes, this does have that cheesy, creaminess that is associated with alfredo for sure.  You won’t even miss the real thing.  This was true love.  True, true love.

The ingredients that go into the Daiya Deluxe Alfredo Style Cheezy Mac are: Brown rice pasta (whole grain brown rice, rice bran, water), filtered water, tapioca starch, non-GMO expeller pressed: canola and/or safflower oil, coconut oil, vegan natural flavors, sea salt, pea protein, potato protein, tricalcium phosphate, evaporated cane sugar, lactic acid (vegan, for flavor), xanthan gum, titanium dioxide (naturally occurring mineral), yeast extract, spices, onion, garlic, vitamin B12.  As before, this product is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, certified vegan, and kosher!

As for the nutritional information for the Daiya Deluxe Alfredo Style Cheezy Mac…a serving size is 1/3 of the package with (again, obviously) 3 servings per package.  If you stick to that serving (my roomie and I just split it in half), you will be taking in 290 calories, 9 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat (hello, coconut oil), 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 600 mg sodium, 48 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 0 grams sugars, and 5 grams of protein.  A creamy and dreamy product.

I believe in Daiya.  I really do.  They are experts and proving dairy-free and gluten-free alternatives to the grocery store aisles.  Seriously…these boxes were some of the best investments I ever made.  I loved the flavors and the creaminess that each different variety provided.  And they really did all taste different…and while I certainly have my favorites, all three were a fantastic way to enjoy one of life’s best comfort foods, without destroying my stomach in the process.  Daiya is proof that there is a God that loves the dairy-free (and gluten-free) people.  And even if you aren’t required to eat this way, I highly recommend trying out these products regardless.  My roomie is very much in love with these products and she doesn’t have to eat this way.  She just does because I do.

Daiya…our love affair continues.  Thank you!!

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

Neat - A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix
Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Then…dinner was served.

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

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

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

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

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

Product Review: Kite Hill Ricotta

Kite Hill Ricotta
Kite Hill Ricotta

Product: Kite Hill Ricotta – $9.99+

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

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

Kite Hill Ricotta
Kite Hill Ricotta

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

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

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

No easy task.

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

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

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

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

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

Mini Vegan Kale Lasagna (made with Kite Hill Ricotta)
Mini Vegan Kale Lasagna (made with Kite Hill Ricotta)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Cook the pasta per the package instructions.

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

Cut the kale into large strips and remove the stems.

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

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



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

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

Van's Gluten Free Rotini & Red Sauce
Van’s Gluten Free Rotini & Red Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Product Review: Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini + Recipe Bonus

Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini
Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini

Product: Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini – $5.99

There are probably a few things that you know about me by now.  These may include the fact that Cuisine Cube has revolutionized my life in introducing me to products I never would have known about or thought to seek out.  Another fact may be that I am a pasta-holic.  Yep.  I love pasta.  I know…that whole athlete who loves pasta thing is pretty cliche (hey…my pre-race night of carb loading doesn’t include pasta…always gluten-free pizza!).  But, ever since I was a child and could eat my first plate of spaghetti…I was hooked.  I love any and all pasta and sauces.  And while my options for pasta and their sauces have narrowed after first becoming a vegetarian and then, a year later, being diagnosed with Celiac…well…I haven’t let it hinder me from devouring one of my favorite food groups in the world.  Yes…pasta is a food group.  It…it just is.

But, before I go into detail about this new-to-me brand of gluten-free pasta, let me share with you some information about the people who brought it into my life.  Cuisine Cube is run by a small group of foodies who have put together a completely gluten-free box of goodies and then sends them to your doorstep each month.  These boxes contain 5-6 full-size products from small, lesser-known artisan producers…mostly local…some not as local.  Some you may even have heard of before, but most will be new to you.  I signed up for Cuisine Cube back in May and have never looked back.  Subscriptions start as low as $29.99…which is a great price and great incentive to sign up for this subscription box service and try out some gluten-free products you have been too nervous about purchasing yourself or, perhaps, didn’t even know existed.

Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini (cooked)
Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini (cooked)

So…Pastabilities.  Yes…you had me at the name.  I love the play on words.  And I was beyond excited to pull a gluten-free pasta out of my March 2015 Cuisine Cube.  Pasta + me = LOVE.  Seriously, we are a match made in carb heaven.  We are BFFs for life.  And it will always be this way.  One of the first things I staked out when I had to go gluten-free was good gluten-free pasta.  While there are uncountable varieties out there on the market…the key word there was good and not all of them fall into that category.  I want a gluten-free pasta to be like real pasta.  I don’t want it to fall apart or turn to mush.  I want it to cook through and have that perfect al dente bite to it.  I want it to reheat well if I cook too much of it and need to eat some for lunch the next day.  I want it to pair well with a variety of sauces and I want it to stand out.

Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini does exactly that.  Tagliolini is a long, flat ribbon-shaped pastsa that is similar to linguini or fettuccine, and is traditionally from the Northern regions of Italy.  This brand is crafted from high quality ingredients.  Even better, the actual pasta itself is manufactured in Italy using bronze dies that give the pasta a matte look and makes the surface rough…which is perfect for sauces.  We all want sauces to stick to our noodles, not fall away like water.  Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini is also made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.


Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini is fantastic.  Seriously.  This pasta is made with a blend of 70% corn and 30% rice, which makes it cook up within 8-9 minutes to a perfect al dente texture.  And the taste…amazing.  It isn’t gummy and it isn’t mushy.  It has that “real” pasta feel.  Like it was just made fresh for you.  Completely gluten free to boot.  As a connoisseur of gluten-free pasta, this ranks right up there as one of the best.  It is fantastic.  These ribbons of pasta held their own with the arrabbiata sauce, which makes me one happy pasta lover.  Nothing worse than going to take a bite of pasta and having it fall apart and needing to chase it around on your plate.  Pastabilities is, honestly, gluten-free pasta done right.  And it really is amazing.

Let’s talk about ingredients.  Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini is made from corn flour and rice flour.  That’s it.  Simple. Perfection.

As for nutrition, this is phenomenal for a gluten-free pasta.  A serving of the Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini is 2 ounces.  In this serving, you will be consuming 200 calories and 1 gram of fat.  You will also be taking in 1 gram of sugar.  This pasta is cholesterol free and sugar free.  And, trust me…it will fill you up just like “real” pasta as it packs 45 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein!

So, what do I do?  I go for a traditional approach to pasta in an nontraditional way.  I cooked up the pasta as I normally would…but served it in tacos instead of in a bowl.  Yes…spaghetti tacos.

You see, my roommate has apparently led a very sheltered life and had never indulged indulged in the Italian/Mexican infusion that is…Spaghetti Tacos.  It’s a traditional iCarly treat…one that my friends have raved about and that I have eaten myself.  And no one should ever miss out on spaghetti tacos.  So, below is the easy and delicious recipe for Spaghetti Tacos featuring…Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini!

Recipe: Gluten Free Spaghetti Tacos

Spaghetti Tacos made with Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini
Spaghetti Tacos made with Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini

Servings: 2
Time: Prep 5 minutes; Cook 10 minutes


  • 4 Gluten-Free Hard Taco Shells (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 4 ounces Gluten-Free Pasta (I used Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini)
  • 1 cup Gluten Free Pasta Sauce (I used BonGiovi Arrabbiata Sauce)


Cook gluten-free pasta according to directions on the package.  Don’t overcook it.  Get it to the perfect al dente texture.

While the pasta is boiling, start warming up the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 425°F and toast your crunchy taco shells for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from oven.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce.  Allow the noodles and sauce to cook together (this is for flavor).

Spoon the pasta and sauce into the taco shells.  Top with your favorite pasta toppings (cheese, red pepper flakes, etc).



If you haven’t tried the wonder of Spaghetti Tacos…remedy that.  It has revolutionized my roommate’s world.  I mean, savory good pasta inside a crunch tortilla shell…yeah…that’s good eats right there.  And thanks to Pastabilities Gluten Free Tagliolini…I had the perfect pasta to introduce this meal to my friend with.  It doesn’t get any better or fun than this.

Don’t miss out on amazing products like this one.  Hop on over to Cuisine Cube and sign up today for a subscription.  You won’t regret it.  Trust me.

Product Review: Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites

Russo's Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites
Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites

Product: Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites – $6.99+

They had me with the product name – Pizza Bites.  PIZZA. BITES.  PIZZA-FREAKIN’-BITES!  As in…pizza rolls?  Maybe? Possibly?  Could I be that fortunate to stumble across (finally) one of the products that I no longer ate, not because it was made of crap (and they are), but because they were my favorite go-to snack when I needed something to eat while very, very busy?


In fact, these were more like breaded cheese ravioli, rather than pizza bites, but we’ll go with it. Let’s just run with it.  Pizza Bites! WOOO!

So, I found these at my local natural food store, Rainbow Blossom, and had a freakin’ dance of joy in the freezer section.  Honestly.  I mean, I’ve been to parties where pizza rolls are laid out and everyone is just enjoying a few here and there.  I get to stare at them.  Dammit.

No longer.

Thanks to Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet…Pizza Bites (rolls…ravioli?) are back on my every-now-and-again want list.  And now…I know where to get them.  After purchasing these, I had to go through more fresh produce before allowing myself an indulgence from the freezer or fridge…but after a full day of professional soccer and time with friends…I needed to have something quick for dinner.  I was going to do up some green beans with almonds, but my roommate was craving pizza.  So…these made their debut in our kitchen.

Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet came about from Neil Russo, a professional chef who was hard at work on gluten-free recipes, which he was striving to perfect after hearing about the many people connected to himself that were having a hard time finding food while on a gluten-free diet due to intolerance or Celiac disease.  After experimenting on his Italian bread loaves and Tiramisu, Russo was ready to give his food to the world.  He first introduced the gluten free food in his restaurant, where he got high praise.  Soon, he opened up Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet.  And from there…the frozen versions of some of the classic Italian foods he perfected in gluten-free form.  So good, that people even would ask if he was certain it was gluten free.  All of Russo’s products are prepared in a strictly gluten-free facility.

So, two hungry soccer fans (my roommate and I) were ready to give these a try.  I was surprised, when I opened up the bag to find large ravioli like bites inside.  I was definitely expecting more of the pizza roll just from the name.  They were frozen, lightly breaded stuffed pasta.  But…I was hungry.  Cathy was hungry.  Pizza.  Bites.  Rolls.  Whatever.  Give us something delicious in some sort of pizza form.

Cooking the Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites is super easy.  Simply preheat the oven to 350°F and place the frozen bites on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes, then flip them and bake for another 5 minutes.  Take out when or if the cheese starts to show.  Mine cooked in 10 minutes without the cheese leaking out or anything.  Bonus.

So, it was chow time.  I dished up half the bag for my roommate and half for me.  That was about 6 of the Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites each.  We settled in with an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series and dug in.  One bite…and I couldn’t argue…they were delicious.  I was a bit thrown by the ratio of dough to filling…but that is a small, slight complaint.  I thought there was too much dough encasing a cheese filling…that was a little scant.  The pocket had more air than filling, but it was still crispy on the outside with a melty, molten center, regardless.  And yes…they were really, really great.  Delicious.  Amazing.

Yeah…I’d buy these again.

Let’s talk about the ingredients that are in Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites.  These pasta pockets of pizza goodness are made from gluten free flour (rice flour, corn starch, tapioca dextrin, xanthan gum, rice extract) tomatoes, part skim mozzarella, vegetable oil, soybean oil, soybean lecithin, water, whole eggs, yellow corn flour, ricotta, onions, sugar, salt, granulated garlic, onion powder, parsley, basil, and black pepper.

As for nutrition, this isn’t bad for pizza bites.  There are three servings in a bag of the Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites.  One serving is 4 pieces.  These 4 pieces will provide you with 260 calories and 15 grams of fat.  You will be taking in 40 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, and 2 grams of sugar.  In addition, a serving dishes up 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 6 grams of protein.

I was actually impressed by Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites.  But, what’s not to love about a company that does 100% gluten free products right, that is family owned and operated, and has exceptional quality.  And…they are doing products no one else has managed to put out there.  And they are doing them well.

If you can find Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites in your grocery store or natural food store freezer…buy them and try them.  You’ll love them.  And…pizza rolls are, kinda, back in your life.  And that…is amazing in and of itself.  For real!

Russo's Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites
Russo’s Gluten Free Gourmet Pizza Bites