Saturday, July 30, 2011

Katz Gluten Free

I contacted Katz Gluten Free recently about opportunities for samples for blog review and agreed to coordinate efforts to try to spearhead getting the local area Whole Foods to carry their products.

Katz Gluten Free is another company that is not only gluten free and wheat free, but also nut free and dairy free. Beyond these, the other ingredients that the products are free of vary from product to product.

They sent out boxes consisting of rugelech, cookies, bundt cake and two apple pies. Pies are their newest addition to their product line. They also make challah, muffins, breads and rolls.

Since we received two apple pies, I thought I would try one and give it a review. I was surprised that it contains high fructose corn syrup. Most gluten free products do not have HFCS because most of the time, gluten free is all natural or organic and HFCS is anything but all natural or organic. But, other than that flaw, I found that the small piece that I tried reminded me of my grandmother's homemade apple pies. It was only minimally dry, but it was perfect.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

MI-DEL Arrowroot Cookies - Are They Really Gluten-Free?

The front of the bag says gluten-free in nice bold letters. Whoo-hoo! Look at the allergy warning where it says they are processed in a facility that also processes or handles wheat, peanuts, and tree nuts and then scream in horror and disgust.

There are far too many companies proudly claiming to be gluten free but how gluten free are they if their facility or equipment also processes or handles wheat?

This company is now joining the ranks of many that have to be placed on my unsafe or high risk foods list. Which of course means that my list of safe companies is becoming all the more narrow every day. Literally.

I'm not thrilled about this as the cute animal-shaped cookies are tasty, but the fact they are processed with the only two ingredients that can cause me to have an asthma attack bothers me greatly. Well, so does the fact that they are claiming to be gluten free yet are processed in the same facility that also processes or handles wheat. Bummer.

Butternut Squash

Okay, confession. Butternut squash is one of my newest and most favorite vegetables EVER! I've never cared for any squash because usually when I've had cooked squash, it's been extremely slimy and tasteless. But let me tell you, I was exposed to butternut squash at a TACA event at Organic Harvest in Hoover a few months ago when the presenter snuck it into some gluten free macaroni. I couldn't even taste it! Which is a good thing because I am probably one of the world's most finicky eaters. But I loved it so much that I wanted to try it again. So we bake the squash in the oven and we usually butter it using a vegetable spread. I've had this habit of dumping loads of sugar on it as well. I find it tastes similar to the yam, a.k.a. sweet potato, and it is similar in color and texture. Today, I reheated the meat of one we cooked over the weekend in the microwave. But used a honey vegetable spread instead of dumping sugar all over it. And it is the best thing EVER! Like it or leave it, but in my personal opinion, butternut squash is the greatest vegetable ever and worth the introduction in any diet.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The End of the Nut Thins Era in My House

Blue Diamond Nut Thins. They support the Celiac Disease Foundation and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. They tout gluten free logos quite prominently. But they are manufactured in a facility that processes wheat. This is the sad reality that has ended the Nut Thins era in my house.

A few weeks ago I ate my last Nut Thin ever. All because it made my tongue itch. Because that is what only two of my food allergies - peanuts and wheat - do.

So alas, it is the end of the Nut Thin era in my house.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Enjoy Life Foods Double Chocolate Crunch Granola

As some of you may know, I often get a lot of samples. And as many of you have probably figured out by now, I will often write very honestly about my opinions about samples and other products, particularly gluten free foods. I'm not afraid to say that I like something and I'm not afraid to say that I hate something either.

So when I decided to get more into my blogging and start heading toward getting more blogging experience which will keep up my journalism skills and help me find paid opportunities eventually, I started to contact a few companies.

I started with a company that I really love and inquired if they had media kits that I could utilize in my blogging. Often media kits provide more information about a company and for bloggers, they can include buttons that link back to the company website.

The company Enjoy Life Foods actually did something better than I expected and offered to send me two of their newest full size products to try out and review. One of those is the Double Chocolate Crunch Granola.

I hesitated about the granola. I've never really been a big fan of granola. It tends to be dry. And the idea of chocolate granola kind of freaked me out a little bit. The first thing I noticed about the packaging was the statement: "Handful of chocolate in every bite!"

My first impression agreed that this granola does pack a lot of chocolate in every bite. But alas, my disdain for granola was still at play. So, I decided to try it as a cereal with some vanilla almond milk. After all, they do make granola cereal, right? And I LOVED it!

Another thing about the packaging of this granola is that it claims to be in a stay fresh package. Sure enough, the package got moved and I left it alone for a couple of days. I came back to it and it was still as good as the day I opened it!

Now, about Enjoy Life Foods. I choose Enjoy Life Foods because with my recent wheat allergy, I have gone on a predominantly gluten free diet. Wheat makes my food allergy count somewhere around ten. I'm allergic to strawberries, raspberries, onions, plums, mushrooms, peanuts, chickpeas, dairy, wheat, and chicken. I'm lactose intolerant, high fructose corn syrup sensitive, and allergic to something called sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate. I have to cut back on soy due to an underactive thyroid. And foods that have any cross-reactivity with grass, birch or latex (like avocados) could potentially cause an allergic reaction.

So with all of my food allergies and intolerances imagine how hard it is to find food I can not only eat but actually enjoy and like!

There are only three companies I know of so far that meets most of my special needs dietary restrictions. Enjoy Life Foods is one of those companies. The most familiar food item they have is their line of these super soft and chewy cookies. So when they offered to send me a package of the granola, I was excited to try it out!

How does Enjoy Life Foods meet my dietary needs? All of their products are free of gluten and the top eight allergies. The top eight allergies are those that the Food and Drug Administration deemed as the most frequent allergens: wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish and shellfish. Most of their products are also free of potatoes, sesame, sulfites and casein.

Founded in 2001, Enjoy Life Foods has been gluten-free certified, kosher-certified and halal-certified. As with many other companies that make gluten free foods, they are free of artificial ingredients, trans fats, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They have been featured on Food Network's Unwrapped, Plant Green's Emeril Green with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and ABC 7 Chicago's segment of Healthy Summer Snacks for Kids.

They can be found in many grocery stores and natural food stores in the United States and Canada and in over 15 online retailers. In the Birmingham, Ala. area, the Pelham Wal-Mart Supercenter, Whole Foods, Publix, Organic Harvest and Winn-Dixie have some of their products and they have been found in the commissary at Ft. Rucker in south Alabama.

My final verdict of this granola is that it takes a little bit of getting used to, but in the final analysis, I would definitely buy more of it once every other month as an instant snack and a quick bite.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Macaroons

I LOVE chocolate. One of my favorite Girl Scout cookies when I was in the GSA was the samoas. But they are not gluten free. So I googled gluten free samoas and got back SEVERAL recipes for chocolate macaroons. Well, I wasn't happy with the first one, so I looked some more. I landed on a no bake version using oatmeal, and then I couldn't find the cocoa powder. So I substituted Nutella. Which then led me to a version using BOTH Nutella AND cocoa powder. Now I will admit, that I am STILL tweaking the recipe and trying to figure out how to make it not so gooey and a little more dry, but maybe some of you who are reading this can lend a hand in that. I welcome any comments and suggestions for this.

By the way, this is the first recipe I am posting, so please if you try this and especially if you land on a way to tweak it, I invite your comments and follow up posts as I would like to add more recipes in the near future.

So here is my version of a no bake macaroon:

4 tablespoons of cocoa powder (I use Hershey's)
2 tablespoons of Nutella (this does contain milk, so if you are dairy allergic, you can try a dairy free version often found in health food type of stores; not sure if they have chocolate soy butter?)
1/2 cup milk (I use Silk Pure Almond in Vanilla, but if you use the Dark Chocolate, then you get TRIPLE chocolate! Soy milk is also a good substitute if allergic to nuts.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I use pure vanilla)
3 cups oatmeal (Quaker oatmeal in the canister works fine.)
1 cup coconut (ground almonds or substitute grated carrot if allergic to coconut)

Boil the cocoa, the Nutella, the milk and the sugar for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Pour this mixture over the oatmeal and coconut and mix well.

Drop by the teaspoon on parchment paper and wait until dry and easy to lift off. Or you can make a macaroon "pizza" or macaroon "cake" using a pizza pan or cake pan.

This recipe is entirely gluten free and an awesome substitute for those Girl Scout samoas that I so miss! But I usually end up with a very sticky and gooey mess in the end, so it is still being tweaked.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Riceworks Chips

I've been seeing riceworks for a couple of years and decided to give these gluten free chips a try. I chose parmesan because I like cheese. What I didn't expect was how dry and flavorless they seem to be.

I have even tried ranch dip. To no avail.

I will most likely not be purchasing this brand again myself. Although if you are looking for a good snack, they're not that bad. It's just I can't personally recommend them.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Indie Candy Provides Excellent Allergen-Free Candy in the Birmingham Area

So last week I had some blood work while at Trinity Medical Center for a doctor's appointment and decided to find Indie Candy in Mountain Brook while in that area. After all, I was basically in the area and had heard great things about it from their Facebook page and website. They offer allergen free candy.

Seriously. I walked in the store and was unsure what I was wanting. There was a girl working there that greeted me and after finding out that I was allergic to basically everything they are free of, she told me that I could everything in the store except what was on top of the counter. She even let me sample a gummy bear!

I fell in love. I expected higher prices, but the prices were reasonable. 25 cents for a sucker. 5 cents for a button candy. Even the counter items were not outrageously priced.

But aside from reasonable costs and excellent customer service, it was the selection available.

I have a dairy allergy but tend to limit soy due to a thyroid condition. I am allergic to wheat although my ENT said I can have it periodically since I am now grass allergy shots and it seems to be more of a cross-reactive allergy than an actual allergy. I am allergic to peanuts. Don't get me wrong. Vermont Chocolate Factory has excellent nut free candy but it's pricey, you have shipping costs, and well, they do have pretzels, so they are not 100 percent safe for me.

I ended up finally choosing a chocolate covered "oreo," a mix packet with an assortment of products, and gummy bears. Upon eating the cookie, my first thought was "There is no way this can be allergen free. It tastes too good!" Alas, I finished it and I still remember it. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I am definitely going to be a repeat customer for this store and I will recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone wanting a nice treat for their significant other, children, teachers, friends, or themselves for everyday and special occasions.