Restaurant Review: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Restaurant: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Normally, whenever I venture up to Indianapolis for an event, race, or whatnot, my one requirement is a stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise…because I can get a gluten-free veggie burger with gluten-free fries (or sweet potato fries)…and the burger custom made (no cheese; no sour cream) to fit my dietary needs.  This is awesome, as any frozen burger patty, or even homemade burger, tend to be a bit mushy and end up slipping out of any sort of gluten-free bread used as a bun (be it an actual gluten-free bun or just some gluten-free bread).  Cheeseburger in Paradise doesn’t have that problem…and it’s nice to be able to safely eat a veggie burger (so many use breadcrumbs as binder) out at a restaurant AND not have to eat it with a fork and knife (meaning…they have a gluten-free bun and I can pick it up).

Needless to say, I ran two half marathons, two weeks apart up in Indianapolis.  After the first one (OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon), I did hit up Cheeseburger in Paradise.  But two weeks later, I wasn’t ready to revisit Paradise.  I just had it.  My craving had been satisfied.

That being said, when I returned to the Indianapolis to run the Geist Half Marathon, I wanted to try something different.  Step out of the comfort zone…try something new.

I had been hearing some buzz around a place located in Greenwood, Indiana, by a bunch of my friends up in that area.  It was a craft beer tap house called Hops & Fire.  And what was pointed out more than once was that when you step inside to be seated, the hostess will ask if you require any special menus.  In addition to their regular menu, they have extensive vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus.  I told her I was a gluten-free vegetarian and she grabbed both of those menus and a regular one for Cathy and told me that the menus don’t often cross over each other, but anything on either menu can be made gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian.  She took us to our table and we were seated.

Our waiter was totally adorable and came over to introduce himself.  His name was Kyle and he asked how we were doing.  Cathy pointed at me and said, “Well, she just ran a half marathon…”  He raised his eyebrows and said, “So I’m guessing you want water.”  HA!  He was so right.  Cathy had thought about trying one of their craft selections, but in the end started with the water.

Two menus and having so many options was a bit overwhelming to me.  The only thing I knew I wanted to try was Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread.  I bought Lactaid specifically for this meal.  No joke.  We went ahead and mentioned that we wanted that as an appetizer and Kyle said he’d put that in while we finished making our decisions on what to eat, as it was the appetizer that took the longest to prepare.  While he was gone, I started to narrow down my choices, getting it down to three options.  After a little back and forth and pros and cons, I went for the one that didn’t contain cheese…as I was certain I was about to consume more cheese than my body was going to like momentarily.

Kyle returned to take our order, and as usual, as I’m the complicated one, I ordered first.  I went with the Gluten Free California Wrap…keeping the House Chips as a side.  Cathy went with the Stout Pork Belly BLT, which was served with a side of their Parmesan House Chips.  Orders were in…after Kyle had to go and figure out how to combine two menus to make a dish.  Poor guy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Only a few moments late, a large plate was being carried to our table and put in front of us.  Clearly, when I saw the fact that I could get Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread…I didn’t read the description.  This plate and appetizer was HUGE.  Definitely enough for 4-8 people.  Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread ($9.00), is a full gluten-free baguette, which is drenched in roasted garlic and salted butter, served with a gooey, melted blanket of shallots and chives, which are smothered in Provolone, Mozzarella, and Romano cheeses.  This is then baked so that the top of the cheese gets golden and everything is melty and ooey-gooey.  It comes with a side of marinara.  I took my Lactaid and hoped for the best (sometimes it helps; other times, it doesn’t).  I grabbed the slice on the end and pulled it away, the cheese stretching and making me…so happy.  I cut it up, dipped a piece into the marinara…and immediately lost my mind.  If you go to Hops & Fire, this is their signature appetizer and it is not to be missed.  The gluten-free baguette was crispy on the outside and that perfect toasty, but still soft on the inside.  The cheese was melted to perfection.  The garlic was superb.  Yeah…this made me SO happy.  And, for the record, the Lactaid worked…this time.  Thank goodness!  This was A LOT of food, so Cathy and I said we’d eat half of it and get a box and take the rest of it home.  That’s what we did as our food arrived.  We boxed it up…and it was lunch the next day.

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

So, let’s start with Cathy’s lunch, shall we?  My om-nom-nomnivore (haha) friend loves to eat pig in any form she can.  This is no joke.  She loves her pork products.  So it was no surprise to me that she chose the Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT ($12.00) off of their Brewed Baskets selections on the regular menu.  It came with a decent serving of their Parmesan House Chips on the side.  This sandwich is not your typical BLT.  Hops & Fire serves up a stout beer and kosher salt-brined local pork belly, which is seared, roasted, sliced thin, and pan fried, then topped with baby bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, and homemade apricot onion jam…served on their grilled garlic shallot bread.  Here’s the thing…they do NOT skimp on the pork belly bacon in this BLT.  Not one bit.  You’ll see by the photo I’m putting up here for those of you who are not a gluten-free vegetarian like me.  I mean…it was BACON. FOR. DAYS.  She had more bacon than Parmesan House Chips.  And that’s not a bad thing, as the protein is, honestly, what you are shelling out money for.  She said the garlic shallot bread was amazing (we Celiacs will never know…).  She said it could have used a slight bit more mayo…but it was awesome.  And yes…she devoured it all and the chips.  Carnivores.  Oy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a mountain of House Chips

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a side of House Chips

As for me…I went ahead and combined an offering on the Vegetarian Menu and asked that it be made gluten-free.  I opted for the Gluten Free California Wrap ($12.00)…mostly because it didn’t have cheese and avocado always wins.  The California Wrap is a gluten-free tortilla that is stuffed and rolled up around fresh sliced avocado, beefsteak tomato, bibb lettuce, pickled onions, and a roasted garlic aioli. OH MY GLUTEN FREE GODS!!  This was a simple, basic, wrap, but it tasted amazing to me.  Maybe it was because I had just pounded out 13.1 miles and was living off of watermelon and water at that point, but this wrap was great.  Gluten-free tortillas are nothing to write home about, and I’m pretty certain this was the standard gluten-free teff tortilla.  But it just serves as a way for me to pick up and devour the veggie-licious produce that was stuffed and rolled up inside.  The aioli, by the way, was delicious.  The avocado was ripe and sweet.  The tomatoes…so good.  I loved every bite of this wrap.  It came with a mountain…no…a landslide of their House Chips, which I couldn’t even finish.  Where Cathy had a decent side of hers, the chips serving was bigger than my wrap…so…I ate what I wanted and left the rest.

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

We were full, but we couldn’t end our experience there.  Kyle tempted us with a dessert menu, pointing out that those marked with a gf were gluten free and also the codes for vegan and vegetarian as well.  We were very tempted to get one of the Desserts For Two (yeah…we so wanted the Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores Cast Iron Cake), but in the end, decided we were too full for that and went with splitting a single serving of the Vegan Ice Cream Sundae ($5.00).  This was a small bowl (thank goodness) that had a scoop of vegan ice cream, drizzled lightly with hot fudge.  It was perfect and a great way to end the meal.  It was amazing.  The ice cream was not as creamy as regular ice cream, but it was cold and melty and amazing.  And the hot fudge…that’s always a welcome addition to anything ice cream-ish.

Kyle brought us our check once we had polished it off and we paid in cash and got our things together to go.  We talked about the food for a bit of the drive home…and how amazing and good it was.  I was beyond happy with the service and the attention paid to each dish that was ordered, making sure that it fit my dietary needs…nothing that made me take pause and question whether it was safe for me to eat or not.

I’m already planning my return to Hops & Fire.  So, if you happen to be in the Indianapolis area, or traveling through, do make the trip to Greenwood and check out this amazing and delicious place.  You have a specialty diet…they have you covered.  And I love it.

Next time…gluten-free onion rings.  It’s happening!

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Product Review: Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze

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Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze

Product: Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze – $6.99+

A little while ago, I posted a blog about a new product I discovered at my local Whole Foods store…a vegan cheese spread by a company known as Heidi Ho.  I was beyond impressed with not just the texture, but also the flavor and taste of the cheese.  And from there…so many people began to sing the praises of their products, specifically their Creamy Chia Cheeze.

Let it not be said that I can’t take a hint!  HA!

With the holidays now out of the way and the budget not as stretched, I am able to indulge a little more these days.  And, that is how a container of Heidi Ho Organics Creamy Chia Cheeze wound up in my basket at Whole Foods…and then in my fridge at home.  Funny how that happens, right?  With this week being a little…hectic…with my training and just life in general…I chose to make a version of mac & cheese using some of the Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze instead of Daiya and all the cashew milk and gluten-free flour and bake method.  Simple is what I like.

Heidi Ho was created by Heidi K. Lovig, a fanatic about farm-to-table dining, sustainability, seasonal menus, and buying local.  This vegan chef honed in on her skills during her time living on the Big Island of Hawaii in a sustainable community where she managed an eco hostel and farm.  She trained with vegans and raw foodies from around the world, thus developing a deeper connection to the ingredients she uses in her cooking.  Lovig moved to Portland a few years ago and began training at Le Cordon Bleu to obtain her degree in Culinary Arts.  With a focus on local, organic, and sustainable practices, she turned her attention to the environmental issues humans have created due to food supply structures and our current system of distribution.  At her side is Lyssa M. Story, “the Boss” at Heidi Ho.  She runs the show and is the brains behind every facet of its operations.  From HR to business plans and projections, to law, licensing, accounting, banking, money, organization, and keeping Chef Heidi on track.  Story has an extensive background in the food and beverage industry, and attended the Western Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu, where she received an Associates degree in Occupational Studies – Hospitality and Restaurant Management. Story was raised on the standard American diet, which, over time, jeopardized her health.  At the age of 22, she began a plant based and whole foods diet.

So, these two ladies set out to create delicious plant-based cheezes using ingredients that are healthier for their consumers…as well as the planet.  Hedi Ho is the future of cheese – aiming to be the cheese that creates change.  They take great pride in the values they uphold in their company and products.  They sell cheeze that is superior in flavor and quality over the rest on the market.

Guess what…they succeed.  The introduction of this plant-based comfort food is a game changer for vegans out there.  They say on their Web site that their Creamy Chia Cheeze will “blow your mind for Mac N Cheese” and they are absolutely correct.  Not only does this have a fantastic flavor, but it is rich and creamy and tastes like cheese…not like something plastic.  It has a great texture too.  And it’s like having a real melty cheese.  I was so happy with the way this worked on the gluten-free noodles that I cooked up and poured this over.  Creamy, healthy, and guilt-free.  My dairy-free fridge will forever have one of Heidi Ho’s cheezes inside.  That’s for sure.

Let’s talk about what goes into the Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze, shall we?  This product is made from a veggie puree (water, red potatoes, red bell pepper, carrots, onions, garlic), cashews, safflower oil, sea salt, lemon, chia seeds, citric acid, paprika, mustard seed, black pepper, and cayenne.  A majority of their ingredients are organic!  The Hedi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze contains NO nutritional yeast (thank goodness, as I’ve started to have reactions to it), soy, and is free of gluten and dairy.  In other words, perfect for me!

So, let’s discuss nutrition.  A serving of Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze is 1 ounce (28 grams).  The container has 10 servings inside.  A serving of Heidi Ho Creamy Chia Cheeze will provide you with 50 calories, 4 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 3 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars, 1 gram protein.  So much healthier than actual cheese too!  Trust me, even you who can have dairy will LOVE this cheese.

If you haven’t been over to Whole Foods to pick up one of Heidi Ho’s vegan cheeze products, then you need to hurry over there now and try it out.  Seriously…it is one of the best vegan cheezes that I have tried.  No weird taste, creamy, delicious, and made with real and clean, organic ingredients.  What’s not to love?

For the record…tonight I poured it over gluten-free rice chips and made nachos…and it was awesome.

Seriously…awesome.  Your turn to try it so you know how awesome it is too!

 

 

 

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

Product Review: Evol Foods Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Street Tacos

Evol Foods Gluten Free Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Street Tacos

Evol Foods Gluten Free Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Street Tacos

Product: Evol Foods Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Street Tacos – $3.99+

There are very few products out on the market these days that fill me with excitement and pure elation when I see them on the shelf for the first time.  I know that might be hard to believe…but it’s true.  Honestly.  It’s true.  Granted, there are some things that make me happy and truly excited when I find them…enough to run, flailing, up and down the aisles at the local Whole Foods or grocery store…but it’s not an everyday or even an every week occurrence.

That being said, one of my favorite foods in the world is…tacos.  “Why tacos?” you might be wondering.  Well…the reason I have a taco obsession (and have had weeks where all I cook are different varieties of vegetarian tacos…and call it Tour de Taco) is that you can literally put just about anything into a taco.  For real!  And it can be delicious.  My favorite creation, by far, has been my veggie burger and fries taco.  Yep…unhealthy but…OMG…yummy!

So, yeah, I was really, really excited to be shopping the frozen food aisles at my local Target one afternoon and spotting the orange and white box from Evol Foods for their new line of street tacos.   Currently Evol Foods offers three gluten-free varieties with only one being vegetarian.  So, hell yes, it came home with me and took up residence in my freezer.  And, for some reason, I was unprepared for my lunches this past week…don’t know why.  The never happens.  But it did.  So, on Friday, as I was intending on Indian food that night to celebrate my roomie (Cathy) heading out to audition for Jeopardy…this made the perfect lunch for us to share.  I thought.

So Evol Foods mission is “to inspire people to care about where food comes from and how it is produced by making real food that tastes delicious.  Love what you eat.”

Simple.  Basic.  And, as someone who has tried a couple of Evol Foods gluten-free and vegetarian products before, was pretty confident that the latest products to hit the market, the Evol Foods Street Tacos, would live up to not only their mission, but the high bar they set with the quality of their previous products.

Evol Foods Gluten Free Sweet Potato, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese Street Tacos (frozen, out of the box)

Evol Foods Gluten Free Sweet Potato, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese Street Tacos (frozen, out of the box)

That being said, the first thing I noticed when I removed the tray containing the two (2) street tacos that are in each package were just how small these were.  I mean…SMALL!  Maybe 4-5 bites each small.  Given the size of the packaging and the picture on the box, I don’t know, I just expected…more.

Ah well…I was fortunate enough to have planned ahead, bringing the rest of the Good Boy Organics Organicasaurus Tangy Tomato Puffs (previously blogged on) with me for my roomie and I to split as we had intended to split the street tacos to keep lunch lighter in preparation for a bit of a bigger dinner.  So…size…it does matter when you see a product with 220 calories and figure…well…a regular size (6-inch) soft corn tortilla has 40 calories in each tortilla.  What I got were two very tiny tacos with doubled up corn tortillas that were about the size of the palm of my hand.  I was shocked.

It came with frozen pouch containing a somewhat mild-spicy salsa verde, so before I even worked on the tacos, I brought some water to a boil and set the pouch into that to thaw while I warmed up the teeny-tiny tacos for 2 minutes on the tray.  They then sat for 1 minute more…until they were considered ready to consume.

Let me start by saying this…the taco stuffing looked like…a hairball a cat threw up.  Seriously.  The image on the box is so deceiving, showing impeccably orange sweet potatoes, surrounded by crumbled goat cheese and perfect black beans, topped up with the perfect drizzle of salsa verde.  Do not let this fool you.  Because one the taco is cooked, the insides look more like something mashed up together and left out for the dog.  Or…as stated before…a coughed up hairball.  People eat first with their eyes, so it looked rather unappealing.  I gave each taco a healthy dose of the salsa verde, which I had to cut the packet open as it is not one of those that gives you a corner to tear across.  Good thing my office is equipped with such things in the kitchen.  I was still going with it, however.  Because I’ve eaten quite a few things that didn’t look all that appetizing, but in the end were phenomenal.

Tiny tacos were placed on two giant plates and I carried one over to where my roommate was working.  I think she thought I was joking when I set it down in front of her.  Eager to see how it tasted, I shrugged, apologized for the lack of size in the taco, and hurried to my own desk to tuck into my lunch.

It was…bland.  Honetsly.  If it wasn’t for the healthy squirt of salsa verde, I would venture to say that the Evol Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Street Tacos would be nigh-on tasteless.  Some things taste like a frozen dinner…and this is one of those things.  The tiny corn tortillas began to fall apart.  The filling was not appetizing to look at and not even seasoned.  The salsa verde, thawed in a coffee cup full of hot water, was the best part of this entire dish.  In fact, I ate my entire taco and then savored the little dinosaur puffs I brought as a side, instead of the other way around.  I wasn’t impressed, and my roommate was less than impressed as well.

I get it…street vendors are big into tacos, and street tacos might be smaller than the average taco.  But this was really not even close to being a filling and decent-sized meal.  What a complete and utter disappointment.  When the best part is the part I almost didn’t mess with…well…there is a problem.  Never underestimate a good salsa verde with a nice kick of cilantro.

So, let’s take a look at the ingredients for Evol Foods Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Street Tacos.  These tacos are made from corn tortillas (white corn flour cooked in lime water, yellow corn flour cooked in lime water, water, and guar gum), sweet potatoes, organic black beans, goat cheese (pasteurized goat milk, salt, cheese cultures, vegetarian rennet, cellulose powder), roasted corn, salsa blend (jalapeños, green onion, cilantro, garlic), cheese sauce (whole milk, cheddar cheese [milk, cheese, cultures, salt enzymes], heavy cream, butter [cream, salt], water, potato flour, onions, rice starch, Parmesan cheese [part-skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes], sea salt spices), cilantro, jalapeños, salt, lime juice, cumin, and black pepper.  The ingredients in the salsa verde are fire roasted tomatillo puree, jalapeños, cilantro, corn starch, lime juice, salt, onions and black pepper.

As for nutrition facts, the Evol Foods Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Street Tacos have 1 serving per container, which holds 2 small tacos.  This serving will provide you with 220 calories, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 36 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 5 grams sugars, and 8 grams of protein.  These are gluten-free and vegetarian.

So, yeah, you can say that I feel betrayed and really let down by both the presentation and the flavor of the Evol Foods Gluten Free Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Street Tacos.  Thank goodness I decided to go ahead and thaw out the sauce packet or I would have been very, very disappointed.  I hate to say I wouldn’t purchase these again, but I wouldn’t.  I’m glad I tried them, but I just wasn’t impressed.  What a let down from Evol Foods.

Evol Foods Gluten Free Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Street Tacos (prepared)

Evol Foods Gluten Free Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Street Tacos (prepared)

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.

YAY!

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

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Directions:

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).

Devour.

~*~*~

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: Sol Cuisine Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken

Sol Cuisine Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken

Sol Cuisine Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken

Product: Sol Cuisine Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken – $6.49+

Ever since I discovered Sol Cuisine vegetarian and vegan protein products, I have been hooked.  Seriously.  I’ve tried falafal, burgers, and sausage from this fantastic company.  One thing that really caught my attention was how Sol Cuisine focuses on organic, non-GMO Kosher, halal, wheat-free, gluten-free, nutritious and delicious ingredients that aren’t loaded with fillers and chemicals.  Yes…they are actually healthy and good for you!

Now, I used to do these “faux-meat” replacements all the time when I first went vegetarian.  This came to an abrupt end (for the most part) when I was diagnosed as a Celiac.  Most meat-replacement products out on the market contain vital wheat gluten or wheat protein to “give it better texture” and other such excuses.  Very few companies have made the leap to both vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free for their protein products.

Some have and have failed.  Some have and been successful.

Sol Cuisine…has definitely been successful.  This was not the first product I have tried from Sol Cuisine, and it certainly won’t be the last.  That being said, this was the first of the frozen meatless chicken meals that they put out last year.  I have had this in my freezer for a long while, just begging to be used.  I have gone to focusing on more natural and fresh ingredients, especially since I get a CSA bin delivered to my door each week.  When I leave town though…my bin gets canceled and when I return, I usually try to make the most out of what I have in my freezer, fridge, and pantry.

I returned from New York City this past Monday with very little in my fridge.  I wanted to still keep it nutritious and healthy, but really was on a tight budget after the trip.  So, I managed to get enough to pick up a few necessities (kale, tomatoes, and some other necessities)…and said the rest could be done through pantry/freezer picking.  And that’s when I discovered (all the way in the back) the packet of Sol Cuisine Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken that I picked up at my local Whole Foods…a bit ago.  I kept saying I was going to make it…then never did.  No excuses this time.  Tuesday after work…this is what came out of my freezer.

Sol Cuisine’s Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken incorporates an authentic recipe from Cuernavaca Mexico and brings it to your home – vegan style.  I was hoping for something rich and spicy and saucy and yummy.  I even served it up as it suggested on the package, but taking my gluten-free corn tortillas and rubbing them down with some oil and toasting them in the oven for some homemade tostadas.  Seriously.  So easy and can be done while the meal is cooking.  You can get tostadas already made, but why?  They don’t take much time to make…just a warm oven and a timer so you don’t burn them and remember to flip them.  HA!

As I was having a busy week, trying to make up the entire day I missed with delayed flights out of NYC, I needed easy, but healthy dinners this week.  And the Sol Cuisine Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken definitely fit the bill.  It is so easy to prepare.  Simply open the package and remove the sauce packets.  Place into a bowl of hot water for about 4 minutes to thaw out.

Then, you can either cook the meatless chicken on the stovetop or in the microwave.  I find these things work best on the stovetop…so that was the method I used.  To cook on the stovetop, simply place the frozen strips into a lightly oiled skillet and sauté over medium heat for about 3-6 minutes.  Then add the sauce and stir until heated through.  SO EASY!  The microwave technique is super-easy as well and just involves pouring the sauce over the strips in the bag it came in and microwaving the open bag for about 3 minutes on medium…allowing it to rest for 1 minute before serving.  Stovetop worked for me and it yielded an amazing end product too.  The sauced and cooked chicken was placed on my homemade tostadas over some kale and spinach and arugula.  And…dinner…was served.

Now, I’ve had plenty of meat replacements since becoming a vegetarian.  Since then, I’ve found a few meatless chicken products that are also gluten-free.  This is one of the first times that I haven’t gotten that fake soy/tofu/weirdness that I often do with such products.  Not one bit.  It tasted amazing.  The strips of meatless chicken had a great texture too, chewy without being too chewy or rough.  It was amazing.  The sauce was spicy with just enough heat that I knew my roommate could tolerate it.  I was right…she said it was the perfect level of heat.  Meaning…there wasn’t too much of a kick.  Not, at least, to the level I like it…but it was really good.  And the sauce coated the chickenless strips perfectly, without watering down everything.  It was thick and rich and perfect.  Pairing it with the greens and the tostada brought nutrients and a great bit of texture and crunch to the dish.  I loved it!  Every bite of it.

Let’s look at ingredients, shall we?  The Sol Cuisine Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken Strips are made from filtered water, soy protein isolate and concentrate, okara, a vitamin and mineral blend (potassium, magnesium, rice flower, iron, B3, zinc, B12, folic acid, Copper, B1, B6, and B2), expeller pressed sunflower roil, yeast extract, tapioca starch, sea salt, and spices.  The sauce is made from filtered water, tomato paste, onion, cane syrup, sunflower oil, garlic, lemon juice concentrate, sea salt, chipotle pepper, turmeric, natural flavor and spices.

As for nutrition, I loved what this offered per serving.  A serving size is 1/4 of the package.  One serving of strips dishes up 60 calories, 2 grams of fat, 110 mg sodium, 190 mg potassium, 2 grams of carbohydtrates, 2 grams of fiber, no sugar, and 10 grams of filling protein.  The sauce dishes up 30 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 120 mg sodium, 4 grams of carbohydrates, no fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.  So, all-in-all…AMAZING!!  And it tastes amazing too!!

My roommate and I actually split the entire package between the two of us…and it was so amazing and guilt-free!!

Once again, Sol Cuisine has astounded me with its flavorful and delicious (and healthy) options for a gluten-free vegetarian.  I am in love with this meal.  And now I want to try the other varieties in my Whole Foods freezer…which are Ginger Lime Teriyaki Meatless Chicken and Tangy Korean BBQ Meatless Chicken.  Both sound intriguing and amazing.  And I’ll definitely pick up the Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken again too!  SO DELICIOUS!

Sol Cuisine Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken (prepared), served over fresh greens and an oven-baked tostada

Sol Cuisine Smoky Chipotle Tinga Meatless Chicken (prepared), served over fresh greens and an oven-baked tostada

Product Review: Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

Product: Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread – $3.99+

Sometimes…the world is made for more than just gluten-free sandwich bread.  The problem is…not only is a good and delicious gluten free sandwich bread sometimes hard to come by…so is an alternative.  For some, gluten-free isn’t just a dietary choice, it is a necessity.  No cheating allowed or bad things happen.  Very, very bad things.

Back before my initial diagnosis, however, I had found a new love for making wraps.  Yes…wraps.  And one of the best options out on the market were these low-calorie wraps called…Sandwich Thins.  Ah, the days of making sandwiches and pizzas and other things using Flat-Out Sandwich Wraps.  I loved them.  I used them a lot.  But, when I was diagnosed as a Celiac, at first I refused to spend an ungodly amount of money on sandwich bread…and when I finally decided I couldn’t live my life without sandwiches…I had to find a good one to use.  When I narrowed that down to a few different brands to choose from (since one would usually be on sale at some point at one of the 9 stores I would visit)…I resigned myself that if I wanted anything apart from regular sandwiches…I’d have to use gluten-free corn tortillas.  And that…just seemed wrong.

Since then, however, a few companies, including Rudi’s Gluten-Free and Udi’s Gluten-Free have released tortillas and wraps that make great substitutes.  But, they just weren’t the same as my Flat-Out Sandwich Wraps from my past.  It was sad for this gluten-free foodie, for sure.

But then, I took a journey to Boulder, Colorado and just happened to be killing time on a Sunday morning, waiting for some stores to open, perusing the aisles of a local natural food store.  I wasn’t planning on shopping for food items.  After all, these had to make the journey back to Indiana with me.  But, alas…when I’m not looking is when I find something.  And this time, this something was – SANDWICH PETALS!  In three flavors, even.  These reminded me so much (in shape and feel) of the Flat-Out Sandwich Wraps I had given up…that I had to have them.  So, all three flavors were purchased and made the journey home.  The Spinach Garlic flavor was the first to disappear.

This time…as I was making a simple vegetable wrap for dinner, I opted for the “original” version…the Agave Grain flavor of Sandwich Petals.

Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

Sandwich Petals are aptly named because, well, they are shaped like a flower petal.  Or a football.  Or, perhaps, a combination of the two.  Regardless, they are oblong, narrower at the top and slightly wider around the middle.  They are easy enough to prepare too.  Just prep your filling, and then wrap a single Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Petal in damp paper towels.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  And you’re good to go.  When you first take the petals out of the resealable package, they are rather stiff and stale feeling.  But when you warm them up in the damp paper towel, they do get slightly more pliable and flexible.  Enough that you can roll them up and make them functional to say the least.  So…it would do.  I warmed mine up, gave each petal a schmear of sun-dried tomato hummus, then packed it with kale, spinach, greens, yellow peppers, sliced onion, carrots, and a bit of avocado.  Do not attempt to actually be able to roll these up into a wrap if you do fill it like an actual wrap should be filled.  That doesn’t work with these wraps.  But, you can go “taco-style” with them.  It will be messy…but it works.  And that’s exactly how it was for the past two nights.

The Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Petals were actually sweet.  Which…was weird when paired with the vegetables.  At least I thought so.  A little bit of sweetness is fine, but this was an odd sweetness that just didn’t work in tandem with the rest of the insides.  This one, as I found out this morning when I paired this wrap instead with a banana, some melted peanut butter, and a bit of gluten-free chocolate chip granola, worked best as a dessert base, or wrap for something with a bit more sweetness.  While not off-putting, it was just…different.  But, ah well.  If you warm up the Agave Grain Sandwich Petal and don’t build and consume your wrap immediately, leave it within the damp paper towel…or your wrap does stiffen up and harden back up a little.  While it still is good, it’s just not as nice as a soft and pliable wrap that sandwich wraps are associated with.  These were good…but not “knock-my-socks-off” fantastic.  I don’t know if I would seek out this particular flavor again…unless wanting to make a sweet wrap or something that included cinnamon and sugar and chocolate and all that stuff.  The sweetness just seems to work better with that sort of a filling.  Not bad.  But…not my favorite either.  I reserve the right to be a bit picky when it comes to the short supply of gluten-free options out there.  Wow me!  That’s how you win me.

Hummus and Veggie Wrap made with Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

Hummus and Veggie Wrap made with Sandwich Petals Gluten Free Agave Grain Flatbread

The Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Petals are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, nut free, egg free, non-GMO, and diabetic smart.  These flatbreads are made with 10 gluten free ancient grains, contain omega 3’s, prebiotics (which aid in a healthy digestive system – very important for Celiacs, indeed!), are versatile, don’t have to be frozen, are virtually allergen free, and are heart healthy!  The Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Petals are made from GluTenFree Gluten-Free Proprietary blend of milled and whole grains (including: corn, flax, sesame, buckwheat, brown rice, sorghum, millet, quinoa, teff, and amaranth), water, organic agave nectar, tapioca starch, raisin juice, molasses, short chain fructooligosaccharides, xanthan gum, dicalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, fumaric acid, sodium propionate, and sorbic acid.  I know…those last few sound rather…processed, yes?  Yeah…I agree.  But…gluten-free flatbreads/wraps are important to at least try!  Even if you’re trying to do more clean eating.

As far as nutrition goes, a serving of the Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Petals is 1 wrap.  This 1 petal will provide you with 100 calories and only 1 gram of fat.  Theses petals do not have any trans fat or cholesterol.  One of these wraps will give you 120 mg sodium and 3 grams of sugar.  Considering these are sweeter than the other version I tried, I think that’s not a bad number on the sugar.  One of these wraps will also serve up 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  So, yes…they are filling, but they won’t leave you feeling like a glutton or as though you have eaten too much.  Even when stuffed full of whatever fillings you want, be it sweet, savory, a protein, or just vegetables.

I have yet to find Sandwich Petals anywhere in the stores I live near or in this area of the country.  However, if you are curious about them, you can order them on the Sandwich Petals page…here!  I was certainly a bigger fan of the Spinach Garlic version of these gluten-free tortillas, but the Agave Grain version wasn’t too bad itself.  If these were readily available in my area, I would definitely consider using them in other ways.  If you like a kick of sweetness in each bite…or are looking for a dessert wrap of some sort, this would be the wrap for you.  These wraps, I will say, do not distract from whatever filling you do put inside, though.  Even if it has a sweetness in the aftertaste.  I love having different options when I’m preparing a sandwich without making a standard sandwich with gluten-free bread.  While the Gluten Free Agave Grain Sandwich Wraps were not my favorite of the two versions (of three) that I have tried…they weren’t horrible either.  Just choose your use wisely with these.  To me…until this morning’s breakfast creation…these ones just fell a bit…flat.

Breakfast Banana, Peanut Butter, and Granola Wrap using Sandwich Petals Agave Grain Flatbread

Breakfast Banana, Peanut Butter, and Granola Wrap using Sandwich Petals Agave Grain Flatbread