Product Review: Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers

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Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burger

Product: Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burger – $6.99+

There is just something so amazing and comforting about a good veggie burger.  The problem that I find, thank you Celiac Disease, is that most veggie burgers on the market use some sort of vital wheat gluten or gluten-containing binder to give them their “meaty” texture.  It sort of takes all the veggie burger eating fun out of it for the gluten-free.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many gluten-free veggie burger options in the freezer sections these days.  I’ve pretty much tried them all.  And they’re a wide range of amazing perfection to…eh…it’s alright.

And just when I think I have pretty much sampled them all, my roommate finds a new one to try.  The Brand…Luna Burger.

Not familiar with Luna Burger?  Neither was I at the time.  But there it was (only one gluten-free variety among the various Luna Burger line), in the freezer section of Columbus, Ohio’s very own natural food store, Raisin Rack.  I. LOVE. RAISIN. RACK.  It’s required shopping whenever I go to Columbus.  No joke.  It really is.  Grocery budgets are planned around the Raisin Rack visit.

Anyway, I digress.  So, here was this small, unassuming box containing two (2) veggie burger patties…by Luna Burger.  Luna Burger is actually based out of Columbus, Ohio.  This company makes artisan veggie burgers with Ohio-grown ingredients.  How amazing is that?  The only gluten-free option they have is the BBQ Burger, but their vegan line-up includes Classic, Garden Thyme, Farmhouse Chili, Peanut-Cilantro, and Kickstart Sausage Patties.  I wish I could try all of them, but, alas…the BBQ Luna Burger is it for me.  Luna Burgers are available at many of Central Ohio farmers’ markets, as well as stores and restaurants throughout Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania.  They can also be ordered for delivery through Green B.E.A.N. Delivery (which I have and use) in certain markets.  And, yes…these can also be ordered online.

This past week, since returning from New York City, it’s been a live out of the pantry/fridge/freezer week.  Use up some things and not spend money on more groceries.  HA!  I am on a very tight budget these days thanks to a raise in rent..and those constant medical bills.  BLARF!  So, yesterday, I was digging around for something to have for dinner and I remembered that I had a box of the Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers in my freezer.  I had just picked up some Allergen Free Sandwich Buns from my local allergen-free bakery (Annie May’s Sweet Cafe), and had some greens, tomatoes and onions that needed some using up.  I also had some Alexia Fries in my freezer too…so it turned into a burger and fries night.

I love burger and fries night.  Not going to lie.  The problem is finding a decent gluten-free veggie burger that doesn’t squish out of the bun or crumble with the first bite.  It is nearly impossible.  Not only that, I don’t want something that is flavorless or tastes like cardboard…or worse.   Been there, experienced that.  I want something that makes me feel like I’m eating a real burger.  I was hoping that the Luna Burgers would live up to my own high gluten-free veggie burger expectations!

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My amazing veggie burger & fries night made possible by Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers

So, I popped the fries into the oven for the 16 minutes it would take to cook them.  Then, I got out my skillet and turned on medium heat.  Opening up the box, I found two thick (yes…THICK) four ounce (4 oz) patties ready to hit the heat.  I placed each one on the skillet and began to slowly cook it per the instructions on the box.  When I flipped the fries and set the sandwich buns on the baking sheet to toast lightly, I flipped the burgers too.  A few pieces flaked off, but for the most part, the Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers held their own in the cooking process.  I was actually impressed.  No trying to piece burgers back together.  That was a nice change of pace for sure.  When the fries were done, I began to layer up the sandwich buns to build a huge…hefty…but amazing veggie burger.  Bun…mustard…greens…Luna Burger patty…tomato, onion, avocado…more mustard…and the other half of the sandwich bun.  Oh…I was already trying to figure out how I was going to get my mouth around the entire thing.  It was a beautiful thing for sure.

But the big test always comes with that first bite.  And this burger delivered.  I was really impressed with how the Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers cooked.  But I was even more impressed with how they held up when being handled and eaten.  Honestly, most gluten-free veggie burgers crumble and fall apart with each bite.  They squish out of the bun and lack that “meaty” texture that you want…even with a veggie burger.  The opposite was the case with the Luna Burger BBQ Veggie Burger.  I loved the texture.  It was soft, but got that nice crust on each side, giving it this great burger texture.  It didn’t fall out of my bun or crumble when I picked it up and took large bites.  I was beyond impressed with the myriad of flavors that came in this burger as well.  I don’t know if I got that smokey BBQ flavor that, but I did get a little bit of heat and sweetness.  And it definitely made for an amazing and interesting (in a good way) flavor profile.  Totally hoping somewhere around here carries these, because I would LOVE to have them in my freezer again.  Delicious!!

Let’s discuss the ingredients that go into the Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers.  These burgers are made from brown rice, black beans, onion, brown rice flour, carrots, tomatoes, peaches, sunflower seeds, kale, molasses, garlic, jalapeno peppers, apple cider vinegar, salt, ground mustard, and black pepper.  This burger is gluten-free, wheat-free, corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free, and contains no extra oils.

As far as nutrition goes, Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers live up to their healthy packaging.  A serving size is 1 burger (114 grams) and there are two (2) burgers per box.  A serving will provide you with 170 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 310 mg sodium, 31 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 3 grams sugars, and 7 grams of protein.  This is a filling, healthy, completely vegan product that makes you feel good about eating it.  I mean, Luna Burger uses locally sourced fruits, grains, vegetables, and herbs.  LOVE it.

The Luna Burger BBQ Pure Plant Veggie Burgers definitely rank up there in gluten-free veggie burger options.  Not my #1 choice, but definitely close.  Perfect texture, flavor, and so satisfying.  You can’t go wrong.   Need to treat yourself to some comfort food…turn to Luna Burger for your veggie burger needs.

But remember…only the BBQ variety is gluten-free and vegan!

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Product Review: Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix

Gluten Free Hamburger Buns & Dinner Rolls made with Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix

Gluten Free Hamburger Buns & Dinner Rolls made with Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix

Product: Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix – $8.99

Of all the products that I received when I was a subscriber to Cuisine Cube, the ones that took me the longest to get to were the bread mixes.  I have another mix (which I hope to make in the next few weeks) for gluten-free tortillas…so…this is not an anomoly.  It’s just that I already have my own gluten-free bread/dinner roll flour blend that I make amazing bread with.  So, why use a mix?

Besides, my bread baking skills in the gluten-free realm are…sort of hit or miss.

But my March 2015 Cuisine Cube brought me a lot of amazing goodies that I have already blogged on.  The only hold-out from that cube was…none other than the lunch option (weird, I know…but probably under the impression that sandwich bread would be the end result).  And that lunch option was the Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Bread Mix.

For those of you who are not familiar with Cuisine Cube, let me give you the rundown.  Cuisine Cube is a subscription service that delivers 5-6 gluten-free, full-size products to your door for as little as $34.99/month. Inside the cube, you will discover full-size products (not sample sizes) that are made by local and smaller, artisan companies, rather than those that you can find at the average grocery store.  It has introduced me to so many new and delightful products.  Each box contains a breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert product…and then, sometimes, an extra bonus item.  Who doesn’t love a little something extra, right?   Keep in mind, however, that Cuisine Cube has gone through some changes as of May.  No longer do they strictly only offer gluten-free cubes.  In addition to their gluten-free option, they now also offer Artisan and Vegan cubes as well.  The Artisan cube means that you have no food allergies and foods that contain common food allergens will be included.  The Vegan cubes contain products that are dairy and animal free.  And, they still have the Gluten Free cubes, which will have products that contain no gluten or wheat.  So, if you’re really interested in being introduced to the smaller, lesser-known, artisan companies, give Cuisine Cube a try!  It’s like…Christmas…or your birthday…every month!  Who doesn’t love that?!  I did love it and I hope I’m able to resubscribe next year.

So, the March 2015’s lunch option was filled by the Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix.  Sevierly Good began with the Sevier family, who began their business when they realized how difficult it was to find good, local resources for the things they enjoyed eating.  The company blossomed from the need for their family to eat a gluten-free diet due to high gluten intolerances.  So, with a completely different diet now being served up, the Seviers decided to get into the kitchen and begin to experiment.
With past experience in the baking industry and some great resources, the family created a list of recipes to begin with…and from there, a set of mixes that are versatile and easy to make emerged.  For two (2) years, the Sevier Family made each mix by hand in a local, commercial kitchen.  Since then, they have expanded to working with a manufacturer, enabling them to grow their dream and their product.  Now, Sevierly Good Gluten Free products can be found in the more stores throughout the United States.

This was actually my first introduction to any of the Sevierly Good Gluten Free products.  And while I don’t always appreciate a bread mix…I do love to bake.  So, I sucked it up and got together the very few ingredients needed to mix up this bread and set it to baking.  Except…I decided not to make a loaf.  I wanted to make hamburger buns and dinner rolls.  So…I got out the rings I use to make homemade gluten free hamburger buns and got the oven preheating.

All I had to do was mix together the Organic Multigrain Bread Mix with the (included) yeast packet, 2 large eggs (or egg substitute), 2 cups of warm water, and 1/4 cup olive oil.  Once mixed together, if you’re baking a loaf, you pour it into an oiled loaf pan and pat/spread it into place with the spatula.  For dinner rolls, drop onto an oiled cookie sheet in the desired size.  I filled the hamburger bun rings…and the rest i made into 12 small dinner rolls.  After they were on the baking sheet, I covered them with lightly oiled cling wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes.  Then, it goes into the oven for 10 minutes at 400°F, then I turn down the temperature to 375°F and allow it to finish baking.  For a loaf of bread, that’s around 40-50 more minutes.  Less for the dinner rolls…but this isn’t indicated on the package.  So, watch those rolls!!  I got mine out before they got too baked.  But, what I did notice was how golden brown they got on the top.  I allowed them to cool on a rack…and then…I had to try one immediately.

I admit…I was skeptical.  After finally having an amazing gluten-free dinner roll recipe of my own…I don’t stray from it often.  But, this product was in my pantry and calling to me to (FINALLY) bake it up.  To be honest…I was impressed.  This is, perhaps, the best sandwich bread that I ever baked up from a mix.  They did actually rise in the rising period, which was a step ahead of most mixes.  And then, they baked up to golden rolls just ready for the dining room table.  I sliced one in half, finding the center to be soft (a nice contrast to the crispy outer crust) and the texture reminded me so much of what traditional bread was like.  Seriously, this is a mix that a hearty bread lover will love, even if they don’t have to eat gluten free.  I was so happy with each bite of the roll.  So, now I have a backup for when I’m low on ingredients for my own.  Completely surpassed all my expectations.

So, let’s take a look at the ingredients.  The Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix is made from organic brown rice flour, organic sorghum flour, organic tapioca starch, organic quinoa flour, organic evaporated cane juice, xanthan gum, yeast, and salt.  It is non-GMO, certified gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, dairy-free, bean-free and corn-free.  Wholesome and wholegrain goodness in one little pouch.

As for the nutrition facts, the Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Multigrain Bread Mix has 12 servings in a package.  A serving size is 1 slice of bread.  Each serving will give you 110 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 23 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram sugars, and 2 grams protein.

One would think that with the low amounts of fiber and protein that this bread would not be filling.  But I made vegan BLTs for lunch today, using one of the hamburger buns for the sandwich portion instead of bread from my freezer.  I toasted the buns in the oven and then topped them with vegan mayo, baby spinach, heirloom tomato slices, and vegan (and gluten-free) bacon.  This bread was…AMAZING.  I loved using it for this sort of sandwich as it didn’t get soggy (even with toasting) and crumble and fall apart.  It’s wonderful to have a traditional bread feel…but be able to bake it up in various ways, without having to blend all the flours myself.

I, once again, have to commend Cuisine Cube for introducing me to the Sevierly Good Gluten Free brand.  The Organic Multigrain Bread Mix was amazing…like no other bread mix I have ever baked from before.  Now I sort of wish that I had done up an actual loaf, just to see how it turned out.  But…that’s why I can order more.

And you can too.  If you can’t fiend Sevierly Good Gluten Free products in your area, head over to their Products page and have their mixes shipped directly to you.  Then get into your kitchen and bake up something Sevierly Good!

Orders can also be placed online from our Products page and shipped direct to your home.

And, as many have said…”It’s more than good, it’s Sevierly Good”. We thank you for your business!

The Sevier Family

Product Review: Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Product: Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps – $4.59+

There was a time, not too long ago, back when I was first entering the world of Celiac Disease and the gluten-free lifestyle, that I discovered there was a huge lack of things like…sandwich wraps…at least decent ones…out on the gluten-free market.  That has since changed, thank goodness, as more familiar products are being created.  It’s nice to actually have a gluten-free product that isn’t chips or cookies or brownies or cake or…you get my point.

When it comes to food, I like my snacks too, but I really crave real food.  And, as I’ve been making a point of cleaning up my diet, real food is taking a top priority over highly processed, nutritionally-lacking foods.  I mean, I still have my (gluten-free) cake and eat it too…but I’m making better, plant-based, real-food choices more than anything else.  I am working off a meal plan and it’s really a life savor.  Sometimes it does mean a ton of prep work…but it’s worth it.  In the end…it is totally worth it.

Well, tonight’s meal plan called for Greek Tacos.  The original recipe called for pita bread, but the one version of gluten-free pita bread I found isn’t be sold at my grocery store anymore…so…tortillas it is.  When I went shopping at Jungle Jim’s International Market on my birthday, one of the gluten-free products I picked up that I hadn’t found anywhere else was…sandwich wraps.

It is so difficult to find good gluten-free wraps, even today.  You go to fold one and it breaks.  It’s too thick…or perhaps not thick enough.  It doesn’t have a good flavor.  It doesn’t cook well.  It doesn’t hold together or immediately crumbles when you wrap them up.  They rip and tear…you get the drift.

Well, as I had never heard of the Toufayan Bakeries brand before…I decided it was worth trying.  If anything else, I was just stuck with another wrap that crumbled under my high expectations.  Well, with these Greek Tacos being prepped and needing a vehicle in which to be built upon, I pulled the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps out of my pantry and immediately set to work on building dinner on them.

Toufayan Bakeries is one of the largest, privately-held, specialty bakeries in the United States.  It produces over 100 varieties of baked goods daily, including its own line of gluten-free wraps and gluten-free pita chips.  I have yet to find the gluten-free pita chips, but I found a few varieties of the wraps while grocery shopping.  Being on a budget even on my birthday, however, I only picked one to try in the end.

Available in four different flavors— original, garden vegetable, savory tomato, and spinach— the wraps are 100% gluten free. These wraps are processed a separate, dedicated gluten-free line, routinely tested to be under 10 ppm.

It was definitely time to put this new (to me) brand to the test.  And what does that better than a mess of Greek vegetables, lentils, and sauce, right?  I went to work immediately building the Greek Tacos up with warm lentils, thinly sliced red onion, tomatos, local bibb lettuce, and diced cucumber…topped off with a vegan tzatziki sauce.  Talk about testing the durability of a wrap, right?  Well, the only problem was…there was too much veggie goodness for the wrap, so actually folding it up wasn’t happening.  I had to eat it…like a taco.  And since this is Greek Tacos…that actually was okay.

So…this is how it stacked up…

I absolutely LOVED the taste and texture of the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps.  It had a great feel to it,  However, it wasn’t quite able to stay together…but for the most part, it handled the plethora of textures and volume of food that I hefted into it.  So, I’m not surprised it got a bit soggy (lettuce, tomato, cucumber and a yogurt topping…yeah…it happens) and crumbled a little.  But, for the most part, it did hold up and I was able to eat the wrap like a taco for much of my dinner.  That is a HUGE thing as most of the time I’m left eating the remnants off my plate with a fork.  The flavor was amazing and didn’t distract from the filling itself, just acted more as a kick-start to flavor town.  And, finally, someone got the texture right.  It wasn’t gummy or dry.  It was pliable and light and just…really delicious.  I will have to check around at stores around here for more Toufayan Gluten Free Wraps…because I just want to keep trying them out in various ways…

I’m thinking quesadillas or burritos might be next.  Maybe just a basic sandwich wrap.  We’ll see.  With wraps that don’t fall apart instantly…the possibilities are endless.

So, what are the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps made from?  Well, they are made with tapioca starch, water, rice flour, soybean flour, shortening (canola oil, palm and palm kernel), vegetable blend (spinach, parsley, red bell pepper, carrot, tomato, onion, shallot, garlic) food starch modified (corn starch, tapioca starch), potato starch, contains 2% or less of the following: yeast, baking powder (calcium acid pyprohosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, whole eggs, fumaric acid, mono and diglycerides with citric acid (a preservative), maltodextrin, dextrose, xanthan gum, egg whites, calcium propionate (to maintain freshness), and salt.

Whew.  That’s a laundry list, yeah?  I actually would prefer for my wraps to have fewer ingredients and additives in them, but I guess that’s what gets them so close to that flour tortilla flavor.

As for nutritional information, a serving size of the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps is 1 wrap (52 grams) and there are 6 wraps per package.  This serving will provide you with 120 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 350 mg sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams sugars, and 5 grams protein.  They do have the fact that they are high in fiber and protein to make them feel more filling in the end.  So, that is very handy.

I absolutely loved what I tasted when I bit into the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps.  And while my first attempt at using them wasn’t exactly as I envisioned, I have high hopes for the next.  If you can track down the Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Wraps…I highly recommend it.  One of the best attempts at a wrap I have ever had.  Nicely done!

Greek Tacos made on Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Greek Tacos made on Toufayan Bakeries Gluten Free Garden Vegetable Wraps

Restaurant Review: Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Restaurant: Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

What do you think of when you think of Portland, Oregon?  Food trucks…yes…but a lot of people would also point to the amazing array of brew pubs that the city has to offer.  Oregon is very much a foodie haven, and there is plenty of places to whet your appetite.

Research began on Find Me Gluten Free…which pulled up hundreds and hundreds of restaurants that cater to people with gluten intolerance and Celiac.  I knew that my traveling partners, Cathy and Jenn, were being very good about where we ate on Hawaii (often out of Jenn’s comfort zone) due to my dietary restrictions…so…going to a brew pub in Portland wasn’t just a necessity, it was a way of thanking them for being so flexible with the food choices while island hopping in Hawaii.

That being said, we narrowed it down to two choices…and Cathy and I made Jenn pick the place.  This was no biggie for me…there were options I was interested in at each place…but it was a matter of whether Cathy got Chicken and Waffles or Roasted Lamb.

Jenn didn’t really care where we went, but in the end, she chose Deschutes Brewery…and that was our Friday night dinner.

After lunch at the food pods, we continued our exploration of Portland, meaning bookstores, record stores, chocolate shops, coffee shops, and all that good stuff.  But all that shopping does work up an appetite.  So, after spending a long time exploring Powell’s Books, we were ready to get some dinner.  And it was just a short hike to Deschutes Brewery…and I loved it from the moment we stepped inside.

Deschutes Brewery is a brew pub located in the heart of Portland and is described as a popular destination for great beer, delicious food, and a relaxed urban atmosphere.  It features 26 taps that include Deschutes mainstays plus a selection of seasonal and experimental beers developed and brewed on site exclusively for the Portland pub.

In addition, no pub is worth its salt without pub grub.  Executive Chef Jill Ramseier leads a talented culinary team that has put forth classic pub food, but elevated it.  In fact, each item on the menu is created, from scratch, with the best possible local ingredients.  SO Portland.  Love it!

We arrived shortly after 5 p.m. and it was already hopping.  We were seated immediately and given menus to peruse.  Water was brought to our table and our waiter, Zach, came over to pour some water and ask if we wanted anything else to drink.  Jenn and I were sticking with water, but Cathy had it on her to-do list to sample a local brew.  She went with the Deschutes River Ale ($3.25).  He went to grab her drink while we finished up decisions for dinner.

With beer delivered, it was time to place an order.  Jenn went with the Dungeness Crab Roll ($17.75), which is pacific crab tossed with onion, celery, lemon and mayonnaise in a seared East coast-style bun.  It came with a serving of fries on the side.

Cathy opted for the Spicy Fried Chicken and Waffle ($16.50).  This dish is a Nashville-style basted chicken breast and thick sliced smoked provolone over a housemade sourdough waffle with maple dressed kale, fenel and pecan salad, served with a maple honey sauce.  For an additional $2…you can add bacon.  Cathy left the bacon off.

As for me…I was given a gluten-free menu.  And on that menu was plenty of items to choose from.  Had I not had a great sandwich for lunch from Juniper at the food pods, I would have opted for the Quinoa Burger ($13.25), which is described as a crispy quinoa cashew patty with chipotle aioli, Rock Face Creamery aged white cheddar (which I would have left off), lettuce, tomato, onion and served, I am assuming, on a gluten free bun.  BUT…I DIDN’T get that.  I could have…and, as I said, had I not had a sammie for lunch, this would have been my dinner.

My dinner, instead, was the half portion of their Spinach and Quinoa Salad ($7.00) with a plate of their Garlic Rosemary Fries ($6.75), which I got minus the manchego cheese that comes served with it.  YES…the fries are gluten-free!!!  *HAPPY DANCE!*  Hey…I eat healthy most of the time, dessert and an occasional plate of fries are treats to me and ones I never turn down when they are available.  A healthy life doesn’t mean there aren’t treats every now and again!

Orders in.

And in true brew pub (and pub) fashion, the food didn’t take too long to come out.  Just long enough to know that everything was prepared fresh and made to order.  Our plates came out…and they were heaped with food.  Even without the plate of fries (which I did share!), my salad would have been plenty filling at the half portion on its own.  So, that was actually a good call on my part.

Deschutes Brewery's Spicy Fried Chicken & Waffle

Deschutes Brewery’s Spicy Fried Chicken & Waffle

Jenn and Cathy both loved their meals.  Cathy said that while the chicken was spicy, it wasn’t overpowering.  The provolone cheese helped to cool things down and the waffle was a nice hit of sweetness to mesh with the savory heat of the chicken.  When paired with the maple and honey, it was a perfect bite.  In fact, after years of wondering why chicken and waffles were such a thing in the south…it took a trip to Portland, Oregon for her to “get it.”  Yes…she gets it now.  And I think she has a new craving in life.  She ate until she was full…and then had to surrender to the dish.  But she made a healthy dent in it, loving and raving about every bite.  So there is that.

Let’s start with the salad.  The Spinach and Quinoa Salad comes with Briar Rose Creamery feta cheese (which I left on…because feta and I get along for the most part), blueberries, pickled beets, fresh spinach, and perfectly cooked quinoa.  It is topped with a delicious vinaigrette, which does come on the side so it isn’t swimming in dressing.  That’s something I totally appreciated.  This salad was filling and provided a myriad of different flavors and textures.  It was inviting with each bite.  Tangy, tart, smooth and creamy.  The quinoa and spinach are both nutritional powerhouses…and I devoured every last bit of this salad.  Besides, you put roasted beets on anything and you have my full attention.  Seriously!  OH…and it came with a gluten-free breadstick laid across it.  I questioned it when it arrived at the table…”This is gluten-free, right?”  “OH yes,” I was reassured.  Happiness comes in breadstick form sometimes.  It’s the little things that aren’t so little for other people but are for people like me.

But the star…as much as I want to point to the salad…was the gluten-free Garlic Rosemary Fries.  These fries are made from hand cut Kennebec potatoes and seasoned with fresh garlic (LOTS of it) and rosemary and served with a rosemary aioli.  These were to DIE for.  Seriously.  I took one bite and I was hooked.  I didn’t want to stop eating them.  Even with some self-control (HA!) and a little help from my friends, this plate wasn’t emptied.  It probably could have been, but we all have our limits.  These were some of the best gluten-free fries I have ever been served in a restaurant.  And fries are hard for me to get in a restaurant.  Everything shares a fryer…so this is always a nice treat.  And this is one splurge I was glad I made.  Holy cow.  I want to recreate these.  I’m going to do the best I can.  WOW!

Save for fries (from both Jenn & I) and a bit of chicken and waffle on Cathy’s plate…we ate the hell out of our meals.  And for good reason…they were amazing.  I was beyond impressed with the caliber of food that came to our table.  Everything looked beautiful and tasted amazing.  Nothing was soggy or overdressed.  Nothing was burnt.  It was pure dinner perfection in true brew pub form.  I am a huge fan…and I wish I lived in Portland so I could continue to go back and try other options from their extensive gluten-free menu.  Just…WOW!!

I have Jenn to thank for actually sending us to Deschutes Brewery in the end…and to me, it was the perfect way to round out an amazing and unforgettable trip.  No better way to end a vacation then with good friends, good food, and good times.  Deschutes…made that all possible…right in the heart of Portland.

Deschutes Brewery's Spinach & Quinoa Salad with the Garlic Rosemary Fries

Deschutes Brewery’s Gluten Free Spinach & Quinoa Salad with the Garlic Rosemary Fries (also gluten free)

Restaurant Review: Juniper, Portland, Oregon

Juniper Food Cart, Portland, Oregon

Juniper Food Cart, Portland, Oregon

Restaurant: Juniper, Portland, Oregon

Twas the end of my vacation, and after a late flight in from Honolulu, Hawaii, and a walk of doom from the wrong train stop to the hotel my friends and I were staying in…around 11 p.m. at night…my Friday morning started off really well.  My two friends who have no food allergies took in a Portland, Oregon staple…Voodoo Doughnut…for breakfast.

It had been discussed that we would do some shopping around Portland and then hit up the food pods for lunch.  In fact, after a bit of researching, my roomie found the perfect pod for us to visit…due to one food cart where she knew I could get something to eat.

The food cart…Juniper.

Juniper is a worker-owned food cart that was founded by five (5) women – Kashi, Lizz, Elena, Frencesca, and Summer.  They serve nourishing, vibrant, whole-foods that are consciously sourced.  Their menu is seasonal and features local and global flavors that pair lesser known produce with familiar favorites.  They are proud to offer meals that are mostly organic, local farm sourced and made from scratch.  They encourage you, above all else, to “Love Your Food.”

Speaking of food, this team of ladies work hard to source foods grown locally, supplied by small businesses, with worker-focused and community driven practices.  They keep the food on their menu in sync with natural availability, which also helps keep our bodies in sync with the seasons.  They believe that access to healthy and sustainable food is a social justice issue and have set sort and long term goals for themselves aiming at using their position in the food industry to open doors to people who have trouble accessing healthy and steady food sources.  And with all that going on, these ladies do their best to keep prices on the menu sustainable for them to stay in business, to be able to source foods in a way that is in line with their mission, and to also stay accessible to a large cross-section of people.

But, that’s not all…these intrepid food cart entrepreneurs built their menu with high awareness of food sensitives and allergies.  Their menu items are and always will be gluten-free and vegan (completely free of dairy, meat, honey, and egg), and limited on the amount of soy ingredients – meaning they sparingly use tamari, tofu and soy curls.  If necessary, they are happy to substitute or eliminate the tofu or soy curls completely from an order.

I Love This Cart's Small Loaded Tater Tots

I Love This Cart’s Small Loaded Tater Tots

With all that said…on Friday morning, I spent the day drinking amazing coffee, ducking into local shops, and just checking out as much of Portland as I could while hobbling around.  I handled it well enough, but when noon rolled around, I was more than ready to eat.  I knew what I was getting from the food pod, and Cathy pretty much knew what she wanted…so we walked the other carts so Jenn could figure out what she wanted to eat.  And after a little wandering…we made our choices.  Cathy was left over at I Hearth This Cart, as she had her eyes on the small Loaded Tater Tots ($4.00), which are tots layered up with Tillamook cheddar cheese, bacon, and green onion, served w/ chipotle ranch. These are, by the way, gluten-free.  Jenn got a quesadilla…I don’t remember from what cart.  She gave Cathy her avocado.  I was waiting on my dish for most of their orders and eating.  But…I won’t complain.

The one reason I chose Juniper over all other food carts at that specific pod was because of the vegan and gluten-free options.  This was one very safe cart for me to dine in without wondering how I would feel afterwards.  And, honestly, the one dish that caught my eye first and foremost was one of their offered sandwiches…

The Vegan BBQ Bacon Sandwich.

OH HELL YEAH!!

Juniper’s Vegan BBQ Bacon Sandwich (7.00) is BBQ soy curls, cabbage and carrot slaw, avocado, and coconut bacon, piled onto two grilled slices of their homemade gluten-free bread.  I got mine with a T.A.S. Coconut Water ($2.50).  I waled up to the cart and said I had heard stories of this sandwich and said that was what I wanted for lunch.  It was a bit of a wait, but they were hopping at lunch time.  Never a bad thing.  And I don’t mind waiting for food I can see being prepared right there in front of me.  And trust me…this sandwich was worth the time standing on the sidewalk holding a can of coconut water.  HA!

But the wait was well worth it.  The sandwich looked and smelled amazing.  The soy curls gave the BBQ “meaty” portion of this sandwich a great depth of flavor.  It really made the sandwich feel like a sandwich.  The coconut bacon was amazing, as smokey, delicious bacon made out of coconut always is.  And the slaw and avocado just completed the full affect, adding texture and a bit of cooling deliciousness.  The toasted gluten-free bread was done to a golden perfection.  And this was all served up with a side of greens, lightly dressed.  How amazing.

First bite was love.  I shared a piece with Cathy, and she said it was “pretty tasty.”  Which means, she liked it but didn’t love it.  HA!  She was eating deep fried potato tots…of course my healthy and amazing sammie wasn’t going to win out.  But to me, this was perfection.  It’s a food I can’t get from any of the meager selection of food trucks here in the area, nor anywhere else I have visited…which was the main reason that Juniper was where I wanted to eat.  There was no getting around that.  I wanted that sandwich before I even left for Hawaii…and before I made it to Portland.  And it was everything that I expected.  For the record, the coconut bacon tastes like bacon…not coconut.  And it is awesome.  So, pretty tasty is a total understatement and doesn’t do this cart the justice it deserves for the quality and standard of food that they are putting out.  Above all else, one of the best vegan and gluten-free sandwiches I have ever been able to eat.  So far above anything else offered anywhere else.  Miles above.  I love sammies…and this one…was just what I wanted, needed, and ended up devouring.  I was so happy it was on the menu when I got to Juniper’s food cart.

If you are in Portland, be sure to make the most out of your stay.  Check out all the different varieties of food pods out there…eat at a food cart.  But if you have food allergies and food restrictions like I do, head over to Juniper at the food carts on SW 3rd and Washington.  If they have it…get the Vegan BBQ Sammie.  Trust me…all expectations of any sandwich that is vegan and gluten-free…will be exceded.  This was sandwich nirvana for me.  I only wish I had been able to go back for another one before leaving town.

I will be back though.  And I know where I’m catching a bite.

Juniper's Gluten Free Vegan BBQ Bacon Sandwich

Juniper’s Gluten Free Vegan BBQ Bacon Sandwich

Restaurant Review: Tucker & Bevvy Breakfast, Honolulu, Hawaii

Tucker & Bevvy Brealfast, Honolulu, Hawaii

Tucker & Bevvy Brealfast, Honolulu, Hawaii

Restaurant: Tucker & Bevvy Breakfast, Honolulu, Hawaii

Hangry.

That was all there was to it.  We were all hangry.  Our flight out of Kauai to island hop over to O’ahu was the earliest one available.  We were up at 4 a.m.  Some of us sooner.  Some of us without getting much sleep.  But between the three of us, we were all just picking at everything.

And the added unseasonable humidity wasn’t helping matters.  For me…I was doing okay…but my traveling companions don’t take to the humidity well.  So, lack of coffee and food was setting in.  But…we made the short hike over to Hee Hing Plaza and climbed the stairs to the second floor.  We stepped inside, happy to be in some air conditioning and took a table near the middle of the dining area.  A nice waitress came over with glasses of water and menus and explained to us the three new specials that Tucker & Bevvy Breakfast was now offering.  After that, she let us ponder what we wanted and returned soon after when we looked ready to order.

Jenn had one question about the pancakes, and when she was given an answer as to what size they were, she ordered up.  One single Ricotta Pancake ($4.00) with a side of bacon ($4.00).  Cathy went with the House Omelette (bacon, potato, cherry tomato, spinach & parmesan) with Sourdough Toast ($11.50).  As for me, I wanted one of the new specials for the menu:

The Smashed Avocado Toast ($9.50) on Gluten Free Toast with a Side of Fresh Fruit ($6.00).

Order in, and we continued to sit there and attempt to wake up.  This usually meant that Cathy rambled on about something while Jenn and I pretended to listen or just simply blinked at her.  It was one of those mornings.  We watched as plates were brought out to fellow diners…all of the food looking amazing.  I was ready to get something other than a protein bar in my tummy, that was for sure.

After a bit of a wait…out came some food.  Happiness is food arriving at your table when you are hot, tired, and hungry.  Jenn’s pancake was fluffy and looked and smelled amazing.  The Web site says they serve 100% maple syrup…but she tasted it and shunned it.  Not pure maple.

Tucker & Bevvy Breakfast's House Omelette with Sourdough Toast

Tucker & Bevvy Breakfast’s House Omelette with Sourdough Toast

Cathy’s omelet was packed with vegetables.  In fact, the entire top layer was vegetables.  Inside the egg was the bacon and potatoes.  It looked amazing.  And, she does love her sourdough toast when we’re out to eat.  She’s always stuck with the gluten-free stuff in our apartment due to the kitchen needing to be completely gluten-free (save for her own boxed snacks and cereals).  She devoured it.

And my Smashed Avocado Toast was fantastic.  I knew this was what I wanted the moment I saw it on the board at the restaurant.  It is no secret that avocado and I are BFFs and when smashed over toast…I’m in a happy place.  This version of Avocado Toast was made with lemon juice, an Egyptian spice blend, and toasted pistachios on top.  The pistachios were a nice touch, and one I never would have thought of.  But…lo and behold…it totally changed my idea of Avocado Toast.  This was amazing.  It was love at first bite…all the way down to the last bite.  Because, yes…I ate it ALL!  ALL of it.  Completely all of it.  And the big bowl of fresh fruit as well.  The fruit was fresh and ripe and sweet…and I didn’t need it, but damn, it tasted good.  Bananas, strawberries, blueberries and grapes.  That’s the good breakfast life.

We all pretty much ate what was put in front of us.  Cathy ate most  of hers.  She almost had all the eggs gone and left two of the slices of bread.

In the end, we were happy with the fact that we now had delicious food in our stomachs.  It was an unexpected breakfast stop, but well worth it.  I am forever dressing up my avocado toast with toasted pistachios.  I mean…HELLO!  Mind blown.  Culinary eyes opened.  Heck yeah…LOVE.

So, while Tucker & Bevvy was a spur-of-the-moment choice so the three of us didn’t claw each other’s eyes out…our hanger pains were tamed by the delicious breakfast foods at Tucker & Bevvy.  Seriously, I’d go back for that toast in a heartbeat.  Breakfast is love…and this was true love.

Gluten Free Avocado Toast with a Side of Fresh Fruit

Gluten Free Avocado Toast with a Side of Fresh Fruit

Product Review: Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread

Rudi's Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread

Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread

Product: Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread – $4.99+

You know…I’ve been searching for the newer additions to the Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery bread selection since they were first introduced back in early 2014.  But, it seems that no store in the Louisville area carries anything apart from the traditional three: White, Multigrain, and Cinnamon Raisin.  That is all I can ever find around here.

So, imagine my delight upon a stop at my favorite Columbus, Ohio, store – Raisin Rack, and spotting the two missing pieces of my Rudi’s Gluten Free bread dilemma.  I could only afford 1 loaf this time around, and after a little back and forth with the roomie, we decided on the Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread.

And no soon had I transported it home and put it in my freezer…it was back out again.  I’ve been spending a lot of time out on the road, and to save money, and time (because fast food is not exactly easy for a gluten-free vegetarian)…I’ve been packing peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to eat for dinner.  Yep.  That’s how I roll.  And while I had two slices of a previous, regular Rudi’s Gluten Free White Bread loaf in my freezer, I delegated that for my roommate’s sammie while I went ahead and tried the Deli-Style.

I can’t say the overall appearance of the Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread looks much different from the other varieties on the market.  It doesn’t.  BUT…my blonde self (haha!) didn’t quite register that this was a loaf of bread that was definitely geared more toward delicatessen-style sandwiches…like…those with meat in them.  And since I don’t eat meat…not exactly a bread that would normally find its way into my freezer.  Nope.  That didn’t register at all.  So, here I was, making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the Deli-Style bread, not even considering that this bread was made to be like a rye bread and that the caraway seeds might add an aromatic anise-like flavor.  I just thought it was like the sprouted seeded bread I had been eating recently.

So, you can imagine my extreme surprise when I unwrapped my peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread…and took a bite.  NOT A GOOD TASTE!!  Nope.  The bread definitely had that rye and anise flavor to it, which is all fine and good with a savory sandwich…but peanut butter and jelly is anything but a savory sandwich.  This combination did not work at all.  I somehow managed to finish off the sandwich regardless…but I was…beyond disappointed.

And then…I remembered one of my favorite foods in life to dine on is avocado toast.  And while the Rudi’s Gluten Free Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread was an awful match for PB&J…it was a delightful flavor enhancer for the avocado toast I often toast up for breakfast…and sometimes dinner.  When I toasted up this bread and mashed an avocado over it, seasoning it with a hit of bereber…that was so much better.  To me, I think when I saw Deli-Style, I was thinking size of the bread.  The caraway seed part didn’t even register.  So, after an initial taste that went…not so well, the next few times I ate this bread, I ate it in a savory way…and it tasted perfect.  The hit of dilliness with the caraway seeds perfectly complimented the avocado and seasoning…and for that, my confidence in this bread was back.  So, if you are a fan of rye bread, Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery is bringing it to you…and you can have it back in your life with their Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread.  My one compliant (as is the case with most gluten-free breads) is that some of the slices had some pretty massive holes in them.  Sad face.

Let’s talk ingredients, shall we?  Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery prides itself on using real ingredients…so it is no surprise that this holds true for their Gluten Free Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread.  This bread is made from water, potato extract, tapioca starch, rice flour, high oleic canola/sunflower oil, inulin, rice starch, psyllium husk, egg white, yeast, sea salt, caraway seeds, xanthan gum, ground caraway seeds, vinegar, sodium bicarbonate, and natural enzymes.  It is non-GMO, soy-free, dairy-free, nut-free, kosher, and contains no high-fructose corn syrup.

As far as nutritional information goes, the Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread looks amazing in print.  The serving size is 1 slice of bread.  This slice will provide you with 70 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, and 1 gram protein.  It isn’t a very filling bread, a common problem with gluten-free breads…but it sure is delicious.  Pair it with the right thing, and you have a very filling breakfast, lunch or dinner.

So, at first bite, I was not in love with the Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread.  Not at all.  But I had paired it wrong due to not fully understanding what deli-style bread was all about.  Once I figured it out and paired it with the right sort of topping and filling, that was where I learned to enjoy it.  It’s all about the food you pair with it.  Not recommended for PB & J or something like a french toast…but for any sort of savory sandwich…or even a grilled cheese, it just might work better.  So, if you love rye bread, this one is perfect for you.

The ill-conceived Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich made on Rudi's Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread (note you can see the seeds!)

The ill-conceived Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich made on Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery Deli-Style with Caraway Seeds Bread (note you can see the seeds!)