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

Life Update and a Product Review: Enjoy Life Crunchy Cookies

Oh, I am a bit behind here. It seems that, in life, you are either behind in work/things that need to be done, or behind in everything else. I think this falls into the “everything else” category. My apologies. As some of you may know, I finished grad school in May and since I started working full-time (real-job time!) I haven’t had much time to write.

Also, in an effort to um, er, downsize, I have enacted a moratorium on baked goods, excepting those on Thanksgiving and Christmas (upon which there will be baked goods. I’m very excited to show you them). I did manage to sneak some pumpkin bread in there but I figure, if it’s made in the bread machine it can’t be all bad. And pumpkin is oh so good for you.

And since I didn’t technically bake these cookies I’m about to review, they don’t count – yep, I’m pretty sure they don’t. Plus, they were sent to me gratis, and therefore can’t be wasted.

So for the stats: these cookies come in four varieties: double chocolate, chocolate chip, vanilla honey graham, and sugar shortbread. They are indeed lightly crispy, and quite large for the typical boxed-cookies, which makes me happy, at about 100-120 calories a pop for two.They are free of all the allergens, as Enjoy Life products are.

(Tip: if you like your cookies less-crispy, open the box and come back in a few days; they will soften up a little)

These make a lovely snack, dessert, coffee-partner. I just tried the sugar version yesterday and even though the chocolate ones are very good, I think the big sugar crystals on these won me over. (Very bad tasty with Nutella.)

However, with the holidays coming up, I am confident that these cookies would be a great ingredient in recipes that call for a cookie crust/cookie crumbs, etc.  Their texture is very well suited for grinding, and firm enough to stand up in baking.

Another related tangent that I need to share: my grandma makes the best rum balls. Ever. In all creation. Every year she makes a whole batch of them and then they sit out in a big tin on the counter, getting better each day, as rum balls do. Since her house is about 10 feet from mine, I used to furtively sneak into the kitchen – when people were conveniently elsewhere – and shove a couple in my pocket for good measure.

If you aren’t familiar, they are basically crushed Nilla wafers, rum, powdered sugar, and walnuts. They are German, as am I. Many recipes call for cocoa powder, but I think they’re better without it. No need for baking, which keeps the alcohol…intact. They are amazing little spicy balls of cookie dough, and of course off-limits to me now.

As yet I haven’t tried to recreate them gluten-free, but this year I really want to. And I think I might have to try it with the vanilla honey graham version here.

Has anyone tried to make some sort of unbaked cookie with gf cookie crumbs? Let me know!

One week till Thanksgiving!

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!

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!

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

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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

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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!)

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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: Udi’s Gluten-free blueberry muffins

So I’ve been on a bit of a diet-thing recently, to rid my system of what I felt was an overdose of sugar. I’ve been eating fruit for dessert. Yep, fruit.

However, I have decided that the place to have fun is: Breakfast! I tried out some gluten-free bagels that were pretty darn awesome. And yesterday when I went to Whole Foods to buy coffee (which means I ended up buying a small cart worth of stuff, dang) I spotted Udi’s Cinnamon Rolls. They come with icing. Icing, people! But alas, they come in at about 330 calories. A tad high for me. So I went with the blueberry muffins instead.


And they make for a pretty good trade!

Why, you ask? More

Product Review: Udi’s gluten-free whole grain bagels

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A bagel’s a bagel no manner which way you toss it – which in my book means that they will always be a splurge. But sometimes, all you want is a moist, chewy, toasty bagel. And with Udi’s new line of gluten-free bagels, you can!

Udi’s is, hands-down, my favorite gf bread line: you can actually eat it without toasting, which is rare for many gf varieties. Their bagels come in plain, whole grain, and cinnamon raisin. I decided to try out the whole grain, since they had the most fiber.

 

 

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They are also dairy-free, and do contain eggs, so they aren’t vegan.

Turns out, they are delicious! They are great for a breakfast on the go. And the nutrition facts are terrible (not great, but again, it’s a bagel). Texture is very close to a regular bagel, just a little bit less gluey.

And look, 7 grams of protein! Not too shabby.

Another thing I love? They don’t list half a bagel for a serving size. I mean, who eats half a bagel, or half an English muffin? If you make calorie-rich products, have the guts to list it on the label. Grrr.

I’m also very tempted to try out Udi’s line of muffins and cinnamon rolls, but that’s another story…

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Someone needs to give me a special grant so I can try out all these goodies!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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