Product Review: The Gluten Free Bar

We all know how hard it is to find a protein or meal bar that meets all expectations – I myself usually end up eating a protein bar with dairy because there aren’t other options. The folks at the Gluten Free Bar were kind enough to send me some samples to try – and I’m always happy to try samples!

They sent me three flavors: peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate, and cranberry almond. That stats for these bars are quite impressive: vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, with 12 grams of protein. They’re also a decent size, which is important. Usually bars like this are “raw-” in other words, made mostly of nuts and dried fruit, which makes them very high in calories (sometime upwards of 400 cals/bar).

If I compare them to the bar I normally eat in the morning at work (some form of this) they stack up pretty well, though clearly they don’t have as high amounts of protein and fiber. They do however have less saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrates.

However, the big difference here is the ingredients: the gf bar is dairy-free. This is huge – it is extremely different to find a protein bar that doesn’t use dairy. I can tolerate small levels of dairy, but there are days when I just can’t add any extra irritants into my system (don’t we all have those days). They’re also quite tasty, with a texture that falls somewhere between a lara bar and a power bar. The bars are chewy and slightly-sweet – the peanut butter chocolate and the peanut butter are the best flavors. What I also liked was that they were rolled out into a large, thin squares which took longer to eat than the typical bar-size. They kept me full till lunch, and no stomach ache!

The only con: they aren’t available in any stores in the bay area yet, so you have to buy them online, and they are a little expensive – about $28 for a box of 12. I imagine if you find them in stores they will cost you more. But if you have the means, definitely check them out.

In all, a strong A.

Buy them here

Product Review: Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks

1 Last week I received some goodies from the generous folks at Enjoy Life, among them were their new Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks. Enjoy Life is a great company for those of us with food sensitivities and especially allergies, as they source ingredients that are completely gluten, dairy, nut, and soy free!

In the past I’ve used other brands of semi-sweet chips in baking, but I realize that people with Celiac’s have to be very careful about which brands they choose; even though they may not have gluten ingredients the company may use gluten on their equipment or even consider trace amounts inconsequential (and we don’t!). But with Enjoy Life you can be sure their products are free from gluten and the major allergens.

But we all know what matters is taste and performance! Here’s how the Mega Chunks stack up.

2 Inside the bag you will find big pieces of semi-sweet chocolate – no chips, though Enjoy Life does make a regular-shaped chip – that are great in baked goods or for snacking. I decided to try them in a meringue recipe I tested (found here) and they did very well – I’m not posting the full recipe here because I chose to make meringues on a humid day, so they didn’t come out quite right. (Oh, but they were goood out of the oven, like warm, gooey, chocolatey marshmallows.)

3 I did have to chop up the chunks a bit, as some of them are rather large, but they baked well, and actually the taste and texture was improved by baking. The larger size would be well-suited to chocolate chip cookies, though. The chunks stayed chewy after the cookies cooled, and were sweet without being overpowering. Their texture when melted is also very pleasing, and I imagine they would be great for dipping, decorating, etc.

Overall, I would recommend the Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks to anyone who is concerned about allergens or gluten; they are proof that safely-made products are equal to their competitors in performance, and allow consumers to have confidence in the integrity of their ingredients!

Spotted: Gluten-Free Goodies at The Coffee Bean

314677_10100521913353283_3205146_57482142_1760422078_nLook, no fog!

Today was a very warm day in Sonoma county; so warm, in fact, that it was over 80 degrees in San Francisco. This, my friends, is rare.

But do you know what is also rare? Finding a gluten-free baked good at your regular coffee joint. How does this hot weather relate to this rarity, you ask? Business called me to the city today, and around 11am I was walking down Fillmore – which, if you didn’t know, has basically every coffee chain within a one-block perimeter. And as my boyfriend led us into Noah’s Bagels to pick up a toasty number for himself (lucky bastard), I fond myself sitting at a back-table, feeling rather glum; I was tired and a bit cranky, or in other words, feeling the need for some bagel love. Sadly, there is no gluten-free bagel love to be found at Noah’s.

imageBut there is hope: As we walked out of the cafe, I instinctively ducked into the adjacent coffee place, The Coffee Bean, to admire their case of pastries. And what did I find? In the upper left-hand corner, a gluten-free cinnamon bun. (!)

Now, wheat-eating folks cannot know the joy of this find. Too often are the gluten-free forced to look longingly at treats while we drink our coffee a la nothing. Even though we shouldn’t be eating those muffins and scones all the time (I favored the maple variety at Starbucks myself) sometimes you just need a freakin slice of coffee cake.

Anyway, a small victory, but it made my morning, so I’d just like to say thank you to The Coffee Bean, and thank you to whoever made the decision to stock those buns.

Of course, in a pinch, you can always tote one of these!

image

Creamy Vegan and Gluten-Free Potato Soup

5

Yesterday I had lunch with my mom at Slice of Life, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Sebastopol, and we had a very tasty blended potato and vegetable soup. It was so tasty, in fact, that I decided to make my own version. 

This recipe has many lovely attributes: it’s gluten and dairy-free (of course), vegan, filling, low in fat, high in nutrients, and cheap economical. If you buy all these items in bunches, you can even get another full recipe out of it.

~*Creamy Vegan Potato and Veggie Soup*~

Makes a medium pot of soup, or around 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 small, fit-in-your-palm size yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1/2 of one large yellow onion
  • olive oil
  • soup seasoning mix, or veggie/chicken broth (obv. chicken is not vegan)
  • any other desired seasonings; salt, pepper, etc.

Peel and wash potatoes; cut russets into 2-inch pieces and yukon’s into 1-inch chunks. Chop peeled carrots and 3 of the celery stalks into 1-inch long pieces, and dice the remaining stalk into small pieces, the same size you normally use for aromatics. Slice onion so the layers are in 2/3 inch-long pieces. image

Drizzle a little olive oil over the bottom of your pan; sauté the diced celery and onion for a few minutes over high heat, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Once the onion starts to get transparent, add the potatoes and remaining veggies, along with a healthy sprinkling of your seasonings.

I used a no-salt mixture along with a seasoning/soup mix and water in lieu of a broth. My favorite kind of soup mix is Vegeta, which I was turned onto by my boyfriend’s Russian mother. You might have to go to a European grocery or store like World Market to get it, though I haven’t actually looked for it in the regular grocery. Per the directions, you add about a couple spoonfuls to the pot of water. It’s quite tasty, but you can use bullion or broth if you like.

Add enough water/broth to just cover the ingredients, and stir in the seasoning. Cover and simmer the soup over medium-low heat until the veggies and potatoes are soft and cooked, around 20-30 minutes. Check halfway to see if you need to add more salt, seasoning, etc. Tip: if the soup has too much of a salty-vegetable flavor add something sweet, like juice or a teaspoon of sugar.

1 To blend the soup using a blender, fill it up and add just enough  of the broth for it to blend; mix on high for a few seconds until it’s smooth. If you like your soup with a little bite like I do, only partially blend the rest of the soup so that there are still chunks of the veggies and potatoes, and mix it in with the smoother first batch.

There’s something about blending the potatoes with the veggies that makes this magic; it’s thick and creamy comfort food without that heavy feeling. And the best thing? Leftovers!

6

Forget Ramen noodles and all that other cheap crap people are forced to eat when they’re short on cash; this is the kind of inexpensive food that not only fills you up, but keeps you healthy too!

A Tasty Thursday!

I have the habit of repeating food; once I find something I like I tend to eat it over and over until I get sick of it. Apparently doctors say this isn’t a good habit to have, since you may restrict your nutrients, but like many people I have my food-moods.

Example: for the past few months I have been on a salad kick, and before that I hadn’t made a salad at home in quite awhile. This particular salad was made without lettuce, since bagged lettuce usually has “taste” and I’m too lazy to wash my own lettuce – it always goes bad, what can I say? Instead I used cucumbers, carrots, green onions, and sometimes a bell pepper, dressed with a mixture of Bragg’s aminos, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar. (If you haven’t tired Bragg’s yet, do! It’s a great GF alternative to soy sauce and makes a great seasoning.)

But recently I’ve eaten some tasty things, and I thought I’d share some of my new favorites!

Trader Joe’s Hummus Salad Dressing

The past couple dressings I’ve tried have been complete losses, so color me happy to find this fantastic hummus dressing! It’s like the better version of thick hummus because it can go on salads and still work as a dip, with less chance of me eating the whole container in one sitting.

Amy’s Gluten-Free Lasagna

I was always a fan of Amy’s Dairy-Free Lasagna, but how happy am I they have a GF version now?! I stumbled upon this on a rare trip to Safeway (normally they have a very poor selection of GF foods), and I discovered they carry a large selection of Amy’s meals that are a little cheaper than my usual store. Who knew? And hey, it’s pretty good, and only 290 calories. Win.

Yoplait Go-Gurt

I know what you’re probably shaking your head at this, because Yoplait’s prime advertising directive (very “Borg” of them) is to encourage moms to put this in their kid’s lunch. But seriously folks, freeze them. It is the only way to ever get store-bought yogurt to turn into something resembling frozen yogurt from an ice-cream shop. Putting a whole 6 oz container in the freezer gives you a dairy rock; freezing a Go-Gurt tube makes for creamy, tasty frozen yogurt. Plus, it’s cheap and comes in kooky flavors.

Fresh Summer Fruit

The view inside my fruit cup

Ok, so this isn’t a “new” find, but this is the time for fruit. And this morning I had just about the best fruit cup I’ve ever had with actual fruit in it – you know, other than melon and half a strawberry. Plus my yard is on blackberry overload – no complaints here!

Salmon and Jicama Salad with Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette

Usually my school/work has rather limited food options, but their summer grill menu is quite lovely, and made outside to boot.  Fresh grilled salmon with almonds and honey-mustard? Good. Jicama? Good. Dressing? Good. Overall, Fantastic.

So, in the words of one of my Facebook friends, “Knock off this whole, ‘Make me jealous with food’ business.” Sorry folks, but sometimes I feel obligated to show how a gluten-free diet is anything but dull!

Review: Udi’s Hamburger Buns + One Delicious Sandwich!

aThanks to the lovely folks over at Udi’s I received a box with some free goodies last week, and I’ve been seriously enjoying them!

1

I’ll be reviewing all three products they sent me, but for this post, I’m taking on their whole-grain hamburger buns.

14

So let’s get started. These are the first gluten-free hamburger buns I’ve tried, and I must say, they remind me very much of a wheat version; they’re chewy, dense, and great when toasted.

Here is the nutritional break-down (per bun):

  • Ingredients: View entire list at this link. Gluten and Dairy-Free, but contains eggs (not vegan)
  • Calories: 180
  • Fat: 5g (no saturated/trans fat)
  • Cholesterol: 0g
  • Sodium 290mg
  • Carbohydrates: 32g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Sugars: 4g
  • Protein: 5g

11 So really, the calorie count is lower than some buns I’ve seen, they’re low in sugar, with no “bad” fats and a nice dose of fiber.

The only hold-back might be that they are a bit smaller than the buns we see on a typical restaurant-style bun, so that huge grilled burger might not fit too well – but you probably shouldn’t be eating that much meat anyway, right? 😉

Taste and texture-wise, these are also pretty awesome. They hold up well to wet ingredients, and taste best toasted. There’s a strong whole-grain flavor and a hint of sweetness, which I like in my bread, personally.

Bottom line: These buns will make a great addition to your summer gluten-free diet. I’d recommend buying a pack and keeping them in the freezer so you can bring them along to those gluten-filled barbeques. And there’s no shame in toasting them up and eating them with breakfast either; I’ve been known to treat these guys like a (much-healthier) breakfast bagel. Or you could make your own egg-sandwich – go crazy 🙂d

Or you could try my new favorite (vegetarian) sandwich, pictured above, made with hummus, black pepper, and some veggies (sliced cucumbers, orange bell pepper, and tomato) on a toasted Udi’s bun. Super-healthy (the hummus I used came in a portioned, 60-calorie container) and tastes fresh like summer.  Highly recommended! 🙂

Also: when I was looking online for these, there was some concern there that there might be some kind of recall going on. However, it looks like this is not a contamination issue, but a supply one. Udi’s has stated that the buns did go out of stock, but they will be sending new shipments out soon.

If you’d like to buy these, check out the Udi’s website for a coupon, and consider ordering online; the prices seem to be lower than my local store, and the bread I received from them tasted super-fresh, and hadn’t been frozen yet.

Product Review: Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bread

sand1

Guess what, my gluten-free friends; there’s a new bread in town!  image

If you’ve read my previous posts about GF bread, you may remember that I was super-excited to find Udi’s – not to be confused with Rudi’s – but there is another option on the scene!

So, let’s review… (and read on for a coupon!)

More

In Praise of a Sandwich: Some gluten free restaurants in Sonoma County

I don’t know about you, but when I find out that a great restaurant has gluten-free options, I get a little excited. Especially when those options aren’t just the omission of gluten, but the substitution.

And I’ve been noticing lately that more and more restaurants are offering items like gluten-free bread, pastries, and even soy sauce. So for my fellow residents of Sonoma County, here are a couple places we all can enjoy! (Note: these places do serve gluten-products, so for those who are sensitive to traces or who have Celiacs, take usual caution.)

Jennie Low’s Chinese Cuisine, Petaluma

http://www.jennielow.com/

image Photo Source

The only local Chinese restaurant I’ve found that will make basically any dish with GF soy sauce, and I swear you can’t tell the difference. They will also steam or stir-fry dishes without oil, which makes it healthy!

Aqus Cafe, Petaluma

http://www.aquscafe.com/main/index.php

image

They offer GF bread with any order, and also have pretty awesome vegetarian and vegan options. And dude, look at this Turkey Club (thick bacon.)

Redwood Cafe, Cotati

www.redwoodcafecotati.com/

image Photo Source

I’ve been going to this place for over 20 years, and it’s a great, casual staple for all-day eating. They have GF options and have recently started offering GF bread! Burger, anyone?

Sift Cupcake and Dessert Bar, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Napa

www.siftcupcakes.com

image Photo Source

The ladies here recently won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, which means: it’s gooood. On Wednesdays they have GF “make your own” cupcakes where you can choose the cake and the icing flavor, and they carry macaroons every day, which are always GF. And unlike some GF cupcakes I’ve had, they aren’t overly-dense; they have a nice, light texture.

Avatars Punjabi Burritos, Petaluma, Mill Valley

www.enjoyavatars.com

image

What I love about these folks? They will customize your meal to be GF, Dairy-free, vegan, whatever – and they enjoy doing so!

Slice of Life, Sebastopol

thesliceoflife.com

image

Photo Source

Continually voted best natural food, vegan, vegetarian restaurant in the Bay area, Slice of Life has many GF options. Though they don’t offer GF bread or pasta (why not, I’m not sure) they have simple dishes like brown rice and vegetables, and also make pizza with a GF cornmeal crust. They have great salads and Fat-Free French fries. Yum.

Velasco’s Mexican Restaurant, Petaluma

www.velascosrestaurant.com

image Photo Source

This is one of my favorite Mexican places in town; it’s not expensive, has amazing chips and salsa, and many GF dishes. I love their grilled white fish, fish tacos, and flank steak. They put this little cabbage salad as a garnish, which is super tasty.

So it’s safe to say that there are many GF dining options out there.

Do you have a favorite GF restaurant or bakery in the Bay area? Let me know!

What’s For Breakfast? Gluten-Free Meal Bars!

If  you’re like me, you are not exactly a morning person. You relish every moment in bed, hitting the snooze alarm – you might even set your alarm early so you can hang out in bed after the alarm goes off. And you definitely don’t have time to cook anything before heading off to work, which means two things: 1. you grab something on the way out; 2. you starve.

Not being a fan of starving, I’m partial to the grabbing. And while the majority of the population can swing by some establishment to pick up a speedy meal, the gluten-free are not so lucky. (If there is a gluten-free bakery right by your house, I very much envy you.) Even a stop at the gas station is unlikely to yield success, for while you might find some wheat-free bars, oats almost always sneak their way in – and don’t get me started on the oat industry and how they contaminate an otherwise GF product. Hrmpph.

But luckily, there are a handful of decent meal-bars out there that happen to be gluten-free! Here are my top 5 favorite:

1. Think Thin Bars

Disclaimer: these have dairy – but they are so delicious I almost forgive them. But they also have 20g of protein (!) and no added sugar.  And let me tell you, the peanut-butter varieties taste just like Reece’s peanut butter cups. Yum. Best flavors are: Creamy/chunky peanut butter, white chocolate, chocolate fudge, lemon cream pie. Stay away from chocolate covered strawberries – not their best.

2. Lara Bars

These are pretty darn delicious, and have the added benefit of being made from basically dates, nuts, and dried fruit, and are thus naturally gluten and dairy-free. I myself am partial to the cherry pie and coconut pie flavors. You can also find these pretty much everywhere food is sold. They are a bit high in calories for their size, but with a piece of fruit these make a filling breakfast.

3. Oskri Bars – Assorted

I discovered Oskri chocolate and coconut bars in an airport last summer, and they are amazing – like a mounds but healthier and with no dairy or gluten. They make a large variety of different bars: sesame crisps, just coconut bars, mixed nuts, dates, the list goes on. You can find a huge selection on Amazon – I myself bought a box of the chocolate-coconut bars. Oskri’s website is also pretty awesome http://www.oskri.com/index.php.

4. Kind Fruit and Nut Bars

To my delight, these are getting much more common in stores, and they should be: under 200 calories (generally) and just darn tasty. The individual ingredients really shine in these, and they’re nice and chewy. Any variety is a safe bet.

5. Glutino Gluten-Free Breakfast Bars


Very much like a Nutri-Grain bar, but a little tastier, if you ask me. The apple is the best flavor – it reminds me of apple pie. These would be higher on the list except they aren’t super-filling.

So there you have it! And if you’re looking for a place where you can buy all these items, check out Amazon’s Gluten-Free Store. They have just about everything you could ever want and never find in the local supermarket.

Happy Tuesday, folks!

Product Review: Pamela’s Gluten-Free Bread Mix (it teases me)

On a note along the lines of the current weather (rainy), I am getting a cold. I blame Michael: while people who choose social work are generally kind-hearted individuals, they may also come in contact with many germy-children on a daily basis. And then come in contact with you.

But I digress – on to bread!

I heard through the grapevine that Pamela’s Gluten-Free Bread Mix is the best out there, so I gave it a whirl. Interestingly enough if you use a breadmaker you don’t use the GF setting (basic instead) and thus last week learned the value of patience – regular bread takes 3 1/2 hours to make versus the 1 1/2 hour for GF.

 image

Alright, so here’s the deal: this stuff is legit. Real, heavy and dense bread. Thick and chewy. And oddly enough, a 2lb loaf looks a lot like a 1 lb loaf. But there is one caveat: The Calories.

image

Now, I don’t know about y’all, but I tend to consider bread as a side-dish, a complement if you will, not a meal. But at roughly 170 cals per slice plus a spread of some kind, well, that’s more like a breakfast. Not that two slices of this delicious bread couldn’t forma whole breakfast – it can fill you up. There’s a nice amount of fiber too. But man, do I feel a bit guilty. So guilty, I had to put half of the loaf in the freezer so it would stop teasing me.

Does it make me sad that the best bread mix I’ve tried so far that is both gluten and dairy free is not a prime candidate for becoming a diet staple? A little. Dang.

However, I will say; you must try this bread at least once. Cut it in small slices, save it for a special treat. Treat it like a pasty or a muffin. Don’t combine it with a box of Valentine’s Day truffles. image

And toast it. That will cheer you up.

Now, I need to stop thinking about the fact that this mix can be used to make bagels…

Previous Older Entries

Gluten-Free Dreaming Copyright 2011.