Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dedicated Woman

There's a little supplement store in our neighborhood and the Trainer has a good relationship with the owner. He always gets good deals and lots of free samples. So one day he was sent home with a few samples of Dedicated Woman protein powder for me.

Being me, I had to do a lot of research before I would even touch the stuff. Unable to find all the answers on the website I made a phone call and left a message.

The delightful woman who called me back was actually the president of the company. We had a chat and she explained to me that her husband is a well known former body builder, and is also the chemist who creates all the formulas. He has his own company, Extreme Labs, that caters to men, and her company, Dedicated Woman, deals in products specially formulated for women's nutritional needs. They manufacture all of their products in Las Vegas to ensure that they are pure and safe.

She herself has Crohn's Disease and all of their products are gluten free and safe for folk with other stomach issues. And the chocolate is flavored with Ghirardelli. Besides the nutrition: 125cal per serving with 2g of carbs and 27g protein, it just plain tastes great. I have to say, it is by far the best protein shake I've ever tasted, and I've tried quite a few.

I recommend this as great ore or post workout meal, as a quick breakfast or for whenever you need a protein boost. Until I use it up, I mix 1 scoop of Dedicated Woman with 1/2 scoop of Green Vibrance for my mid-morning and pre-workout meals.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Glutino Lemon Wafer Cookies

On Friday we had a birthday in the office. Since the VP was turning 40 she had been dropping not very subtle hints that she wanted something nice. So we had a catered lunch.

When I received the food from the delivery guy and started to set it up in the lunch room I was struck that the woman who ordered the food had actually made an effort to order food that I could eat. The receipt read: Mozzarella tomato plate, cold cut sandwich plate, fruit and chocolate plate, salad. This looked promising.

It wasn't. Well, the mozzarella tomato plate was great. The cold cut plate was really sandwiches and the chocolate plate was cookies and brownies with fruit sprinkled around it. I was glad that I had brought my own lunch, not wanting to take any chances. I had a nice slice of tomato and really good mozzarella with my turkey burger.

But it was so nice to see that they had really tried to accommodate my needs, just not knowing what questions to ask to ensure a safe meal for me. But I must remind myself that they tried.

Not being able to join in the fruit and chocolate plate, I delved into my store of samples for something to share.
I came up with these Glutino Lemon Wafer cookies.

Lately, here in New York the weather and calendar both say it's summer. It's almost to hot to do anything. Almost to hot to think even.

And the cookies were light and refreshing. Everyone agreed that they were a great summer desert. Sweet and tart with a great crisp bite.

(and they went pretty well with the champaign we were having. In the middle of the day, of course.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Trader Joe's

I seem to be doing a lot of trekking these days. Not out in the wilderness, but in the wilds of New York city. Often times I have to hit two or more stores to get all the things I need. I try to go to one store a day, or do a continuous trip, getting the heavy things last. I do all of my shopping on foot.

Today was my Treader Joe's trek. I take the train from work and then walk a mile to the store to load up on as much as I can. I love Trader Joe's because they have great prices on unique things. I can pay the same price for organic and free trade foods as I would at the standard grocery store.

The other great thing about Trader Joe's is their gluten free list. They have a list of all the products in the store that are gluten free. You can download the list on your desk top, or, if you're like me, you can grab on from the customer service desk and take it around the store with you as you shop. I wanted to try a few new things for next week and I made about three trips back to check the list.
Today they had Beef Jerky, which reads 'gluten free' right on the label. All you herbivores, look away. This jerky is great! I like things to be spiced, but I wouldn't call this 'spicy'. It's sweet and smoky and not too dry. I had some of it on the walk back to the subway and it really sut my tummy up.

My other find today was Trader Joe's Chocolate Pudding. When something says chocolate and gluten free right on the label I feel that it is my duty to sample, for your benefit. Into my shopping bag in went.

I had to wait to get home to try this one.

After putting away my groceries and washing my lunch dishes I decided I could treat myself to a little chocolate pudding.

As a I only got to have Jello-type puddings at friends houses, so any kind of creamy, chocolaty snack is a real treat and this exceeded my expectations. It's thick and rich without the artificial aftertaste I always associated with pudding cups.

Plus: it's got a cute little cow on the label!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Purely Decadent

I think that adults often forget that each days is an adventure waiting to happen. Especially so in New York City. Some days I shuffle to my job in the Diamond District and shuffle back home home to my Latin neighborhood. Some days I make my own adventure.

Walking downtown, or uptown, one travels through a cross section of New Yorks neighborhoods. As I walked my Whole Foods circuit I traveled from the suited business world through the city strata like a many-layered cake. Clothing changes, speech patterns change and the make-up of couple becomes more diverse.

I saw a well dressed young man walking down the street, and then noticed that he was wearing catholic school-style short pants with shiny black shoes and black socks pulled all the way up, and he was perfectly confident that he looked better than anyone else. I love to see the diversity around my adopted city, it reminds me why I moved here in the first place.

I made another wonderful discovery at the Whole Foods in Chelsea. I stopped by for bread for my boyfriend and raw cacao for myself, but every once in a while I wistfully peruse the frozen dessert case. As far as I'm concerned, most of those selections are off limits because of questionable flavoring ingredients. But what did I see? I saw Purely Decadent dairy free frozen desserts, and three flavor said gluten free. Snickerdoodle, Key Lime Pie and Blueberry Cheesecake.

I had to get one. After trekking to two more Whole Foods to get everything on my list I finally got a seat on the F train home to Queens. I pulled out my flimsy plastic spoon and opened my new find. I have never had a soy based frozen dessert, but I am always curious. Gelatos are often gluten free, and they are rich and creamy. Low calorie options are often a lot like iced milk or have weird flavors. I was trying not to get my hopes too high.

What I got was a cool, delicious, light, smooth cinnamon ice cream with real big chunks of gluten free snickerdoodle dough. It was great. It didn't taste like dairy ice cream, but it didn't need to. It was over all a little lighter and the snickerdoodle pieces tasted just as good as any snickerdoodle dough I've ever made.

I was reading the ingredients and although the packaging says that it is both dairy free and gluten free it also appears to be egg free as well.

Really, the best endorsement I can give is to say that, without a doubt, next time I go to Whole Foods I am going to try one of the other flavors.

Friday, June 13, 2008

ValpiForm Chocolate Chip Cookies

This review is long over due. I received two boxes of these ValpiForm cookies in my goody bag from the first Worry Free Dinner and I was trying to save them, for what, I’m not sure.

The last two weeks were incredibly stressful, between my aunts memorial, my boss getting back to the office and the ensuing drama, having these cookies in my office was a mistake.

I’m not sure what they’re actually called, but they ought to be called Way, Way, Way Too Good Chocolate Chip Cookies. They come in three packs of three in each box and despite all my best intentions I didn’t even have the willpower to save one for photography. These are seriously too good. I managed to eat both boxes in four days. Which might have had something to do with the amount of stress I was under.

But I digress. These cookies have a fantastic; they have a light crispy texture and smooth taste. They crumble a little but crumbs are the best part, right? And the chocolate chips are soft and sweet.

Not only are they gluten free they are also milk free and nut free.

The only reason I wouldn’t buy these cookies would be because I was afraid that I would eat them all at one time.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

First BBQ of the Season

Featuring Pamela’s Products Cake and Frosting Mixes

Yesterday Alyssa hosted a long overdue apartment warming BBQ with her new roommate. She was with me as I was being diagnosed and she helped me through my recovery and did a lot of research with me when we lived together. She used to work for a publishing house that did health and fitness books, and she even worked on a few early gluten free cookbooks. I had really felt lucky knowing that I wouldn’t really have to worry about the food being served, or at lest the items that they were providing.

But, I had several packages of Pamela’s cake mixes that were sent to me for sampling and I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to share them, so I offered to bring a cake to the BBQ.

Now, as hard as I try, it seems that nothing I do is ever simple and this cake was no exception. It was a three-day ordeal that began on Thursday with baking the cake layers and ended Saturday, with me hand carrying an enormous cake on the subway to the gym and then on the New Jersey Transit bus to her apartment.

The BBQ was great. Alyssa and Deb had a cheese plate, home made gazpacho, fruit and meat ready to be grilled. It seems that Alyssa talks about me quite a bit and everyone knew I was the Girl Who Can’t Eat Bread. They all had questions, but they were all also very good about not contaminating the cheese knives with cracker crumbs. Each new person who arrived was quickly apprised of the situation by the other guests. It was wonderful to meet such considerate and interesting new people.

It turns out that Deb, and others there were already interested or aware of the gluten free lifestyle. It was really hard to see Deb, who admits to having a minor gluten intolerance herself, eating bread and crackers. One of Deb’s past jobs included designing the logo and website for GlutenFree Passport, a website resource for dinning out gluten free in the US and also all around the world.

All in all I had a great time. I hope Alyssa and Deb have a few more BBQs this summer. My cake was a big hit. Everyone liked it and said they would never have guessed that it was anything other than a regular cake if no one had told them. Deb said it was the best gluten free cake she had ever had. The general consensus was that over all the chocolate cake layer was a little bit better than the yellow layer, which I thought was a tad dry. The chocolate frosting was amazing and the fruit added that extra touch.

The Cake Odyssey

I started with a bag each of Pamela’s Classic Vanilla Cake, Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Frosting and Dark Chocolate Frosting mixes. My first idea was to make two marbled layers, but the cooking times and temperatures are different for the two cake mixes, so it became a two flavor, two-layer cake.

I unloaded all the pots and pans and started the oven. The yellow cake came first, in my 10” spring form pan. When that one was finished I slipped the chocolate cake, in the 9” spring form pan in. I followed the bag recipes in each case, not wanting to experiment too much the first time.

The batter tasted good, since I had to lick the bowl, and both cakes came out looking delicious. When my boyfriend got home, he looked at them and made devouring noises and motions. The cakes got covered up and packed away in our bedroom, to keep them away from the mice.

Friday was assembly day. I picked up some fresh fruits on the way home from work. I decide to put the yellow cake on the bottom, since it was bigger and it would be easier to trim that way, using the chocolate cake as a guide.

I mixed up the chocolate frosting, again following the directions on the bag, and ended up with a very thick fudgy frosting that didn’t spread very well. I managed to coax it out to the edges of the first layer; it was just enough to cover the top.

I covered that with halved raspberries and blueberries, trying to be as artistically random as I could.

While taking the chocolate cake off of its pan and placing it on top of the fruit layer, I succeeded in getting a very delicious handprint. The cake was, I hope, baked for the proper amount of time, but the top was nice and moist. The chocolate layer fit perfectly on top of the yellow, so at least I trimmed well.

I mixed up the vanilla frosting, adding about 2 additional tablespoons of water than the recipe on the bag called for. This gave me a softer, more spreadable frosting for the top of the cake. I think, perhaps I should have added even more water, since I didn’t have quite enough frosting to completely cover the sides of the cake. As it turned out, in transporting the cake most of the side frosting got stuck to the foil and I had to ‘reapply’ it when I got to New Jersey.

As an artist, I simply cannot pass up a blank canvass like the top of this cake. Along with the berries I got for the purpose I pilfered two strawberries from the refrigerator and used them to decorate the top. The end result looked pretty good, if home made, and I’m glad that no one in our house decided to sample it Friday night.

*****A special thank you to Alyssa and Deb for having this BBQ and the Pamela's Products for the cake and frosting mixes*****

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mister Softee, My Summer Lover

See that? Across the busy street?

Nearing the corner?

For a New Yorker, even a transplanted one, it’s not the weather or a date on the calendar, but the arrival Mister Softee that marks the beginning of summer. Trucks spring up overnight on almost every street corner. Cruising through neighborhoods playing that distinctive song.

You know the one. In true Pavlovian response our eyes glaze over and an innocent, child hood need for ice cream, right now! awakens. When you hear that music, or see those trucks, you know summer is here to stay.

Summer has arrived and Mister Softee is my summer fling.

Isn’t he handsome?

And his soft serve ice creames and toppings are gluten free. Everything except the cones.

Ask just about any New Yorker and they’ll be happy to tell you where their favorite Mister Softee truck hangs out. Some swear by the one at the south east corner of Union Square. Others, Broadway and 50th.

Yesterday after work, filled with youthful glee, I ran to the corner of 49th and 6th for my first Mister Softee of the season. My Mister Softee will make me my favorite, no questions asked, and no extra charge: small vanilla, cherry dip, with rainbow sprinkles, in a cup. (Not all of them have the skills to do a dip in a cup, other don’t have the language facility to understand No Cone)

When the heat is on, and all you want is cool, smooth, luscious ice cream on a bright sunny day, have no fear: Mister Softee is here, or there, or pretty much wherever you are in the city, ready with a safe, gluten free treat to satisfy.

*I make no statement that Mister Softee is in any other way ‘healthy’ and I am fully aware that I ought to put an extra few hour at the gym after my splurge of yesterday. But hey, it’s summer! And I didn’t get sick!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Pamela’s Products Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix

As you may have picked up, my office was open over Memorial Day weekend; we worked both Saturday and Monday. With out disclosing too much information, we received new goods that needed to be catalogued and entered in our computer system in time to be shipped on Tuesday afternoon.

Who am I kidding? My bosses had an opportunity to purchase cultured pearls from Fiji and we are now the only company in the US that deals directly in Fiji pearls. These are amazing! The colors are fantastic! It was a lot of work, but we were successful and I got to play with lots of pretty pearls.

As a way to help buck-up my coworkers I promised to make cookies. It’s amazing how many ills a fresh baked cookie can cure. Pamela’s Chocolate Chunk Cookie mix was easy to prepare, as are most mixes. I was worried when I tasted the batter because it was very salty. I decided to bake the cookies anyway and hope for the best.

The box says that the mix, prepared as directed, makes 18-20 cookies but I got almost 30 since I made them small. I only cooked them for 9 minutes rather than 15 and they turned out just fine. Nice and moist and chewy. Not salty at all.

The cookie mix itself has cocoa in it, so they’re darker then straight chocolate chip cookies and they have nice big chunks of chocolate. I’m glad I made more, smaller cookies since every one wanted some; from the bookkeeper to the jewelry contractors to the security officer at the front desk. Everyone who got to try one said they were great.

I like baking from scratch, but sometimes that’s not feasible. Especially when a recipe requires a small amount of special ingredient. These were quick, easy and super tasty.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Glutino Vanilla Wafer Cookies

I finally got home from my trek to Trader Joe’s. It’s a 3+ mile round trip from the Subway station to my closes store. All that for 1 pound of raisins, two pounds of walnuts and a jar of sea salt. The things I’ll do for good food and a good deal, not to mention a little extra exercise on a beautiful spring/summer afternoon. My legs felt like pendulums, pumping away, even though I’m sitting now, they still want to keep going.

I guess that hike balances out my splurge of last week. In the middle of a very busy, very stressful week I had a moment of weakness. Well, really, the weakness lasted more than a moment, but it only took a moment to open the box of Glutino Vanilla Wafer Cookies. Luckily my office mates are adept chocolate scavengers and they handily helped me polish of this box of cookies. And let me tell you, we NEEDED chocolate last week.

These are vanilla wafer cookies with vanilla cream, coated in chocolate, and they are divine. The cookies are light and crispy and the vanilla cream really is creamy. The chocolate coating is just a bonus. As a youngster I used the deconstruct wafer cookies, for some reason I liked they way they came apart. These were so good, I wanted to eat them just the way the were. My memory may be a little fuzzy, but to me, these were much better than the wafer cookies I remember getting in bulk from the local Meijer store that were always dry and saw dusty tasting.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Celestial Seasonings

Some of my daily rituals revolve around tea. When I come to work in the morning, I make myself a cup of green tea. When I get home at night I have a sweet snack and a cup of tea.

I like Celestial Seasonings for several reasons, the biggest of which is probably sentimental, since my mother always kept their teas, and Sleepytime in particular, in our pantry. The artwork on the old boxes was really exceptional, like opening the cupboard to find an art gallery.

As I was making my tea and idly examining the box I noticed, in tiny print at the bottom of the box, under the nutrition, these words: Gluten Free. I had thought that gluten free tea was a no-brainer, but it’s still nice to see that label popping up on more and more places.
And somehow, every night since then, I’ve slept a little better. Maybe it’s the tea, maybe it’s the words on the box that remind me, my favorite tea cares about me too.

Warm fuzzies all around

Monday, May 12, 2008

Garrett Popcorn Shops

One Friday my boss ran to Staples to get some mailing labels and returned with a giant bag of Garrett Popcorn Shops' CaramelCrisp popcorn (and the mailing labels). She felt that we all needed a treat, and hoped that the popcorn was something that I could share too, since I never join them when they order food out. While this popcorn is so amazingly, decadently, addictingly delicious that it can’t possibly be good for you it is a treat that everyone in the office can share, even me!

I must admit that I have thrown caution to the wind and sampled their products before, but after a bit of hunting on their website I discovered the well-hidden nutrition page. In the allergy information for each flavor of popcorn it clearly states that none of their products use products that contain gluten. The actual nutrition was not as bad as I expected, either.

So, back to the popcorn; it’s just about all that I ate all day. It’s so sweet and buttery and crunchy and good. I couldn’t stay out of the kitchen; every time I passed by I had to make a detour to grab another handful. When it comes to treats that I can actually eat I tend to lose my self-control. Which is probably a good thing to be able to indulge in something that I can share with my coworkers once in a while.

Garrett Popcorn Shops have locations in New York and Chicago as well as offering their popcorns online. As I understand it, their popcorns have been endorsed by Oprah and Halle Berry among others. I first got to try it when the shop on the corner of 46th and 5th Ave opened and I became addicted to their abundant samples. For a while I stopped eating them, afraid that I might be getting contaminated, but now that I know it’s gluten free it’s going to be a lot harder to control my sweet tooth; hopefully my wallet will be able to help with that.

It must be noted that most of Garrett’s various flavors contain milk, coconut, soy products, and nuts.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Arico Cassava Chips

When I received the mail at work this morning there was a package in it for me. Everyone gets excited when I get packages. It means we all get a treat.

As soon as I opened my box from Arico (it wasn’t allowed to sit on my desk for long) the bookkeeper, Armi, spotted the Cassava Chips, she wanted to try them. I told her we’d open the bag at lunchtime. Armi was almost bouncing up and down with excitement. Very cute.

These are called Barbecue Bliss for a reason. The first bite was amazing! I haven’ had anything barbecue since I went gluten free nearly 3 years ago, with the exception of a very bad episode at B.B. Kings. Armi said, “At first you think it’s salty, then it’s sweet, and spicy. Just the right balance. It tastes healthy – organic – not like regular potato chips” and I think that sums it up.

Needless to say, these were a big hit. The Peruvian woman who works with us was so impressed that we ‘Americans’ are eating food from “my country.”

Terra Chips these are not, they are crispy and tasty and not at all greasy. They have 40% less fat than regular potato chips, with twice the fiber.

Arico is all about “living free”, as in free of allergens, not going without tasty treats. “Once you’ve been enlightened as to what your diet can do without, we invite you to trust us, to enjoy yourself, to live free.”

Arico also plants a tree for each new store that carries their Cassava Chips; so if they’re not by you, petition your local go to store to carry them!

****I would like to thank Arico for sending me these samples***

Friday, May 2, 2008


When I first tried sweetriot I was at Whole Foods. There was a good-looking guy behind a table with three giant martini glasses overflowing with little chocolate pieces. I can’t pass up chocolate (and the good looking guy didn’t hurt either), so I tried them. These tiny little guys pack a huge burst of chocolaty goodness.

sweetriot ‘peaces’, as they call them, are cacao nibs coated in chocolate. They come in three flavors; cacao nibs dunked in 50% dark chocolate, cacao nibs dunked in 65% dark chocolate and cacao nibs dunked in 70% dark chocolate with espresso. All of them are great! The espresso ones are really good for right around 3 o’clock when everything gets hard at the end of the day.

These ‘peaces’ come in really cool reusable, recyclable and collectible tins that feature art from emerging artists *. They’re just the right size to hide in your purse or pocket. I’ve got quite a collection now, and I use the empty ones for all sorts of things. Inside each tin you also get a ‘fortune’ with facts about the countries in which cacao is grown. I was especially excited to see one about Ecuador (where my boyfriend is from).

sweetriot is a product and company with a conscience. They see these all-natural healthy treats as an alternative to products in the candy world. When you add the company’s mission: to create a "sweet" movement to fix the world, setting an example of the future of socially responsible business where the focus is on one unit and one individual at a time. You’ve got a real winner.

sweetriot supports the farmers who help grow the cacao for their product through enlightened trade practices and the chocolate-covered cacao nibs are made in Latin America where we engage with farmers and workers directly. For more information please visit them on the web

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sift Bakery

I realize that it’s been a few weeks, but I’m finally back in the swing of things. Work in on an even keel and I have had time to write about all the great stuff I got to try while in Colorado with my mom.

I took a few cookies from Sift Bakery with me to Colorado, with the intention of sharing them with my mother, Dana of Sift Bakery sent me samples of four flavors of her Coffee Haus cookies: Double Chocolate, Almond Poppy Seed, Cashew Cranberry and Coconut Raisin Spice.

Sift cookies are gluten free and vegan, packaged in 100% biodegradable wrappers. And they’re huge. The perfect size for a long lazy afternoon, a steaming mug of tea and a really good book. They were equally great for an evening in front of the fire after a long day of skiing.

My mother was dubious when I told her they were vegan, but I knew better. Those of us on restricted diets can be very creative and resourceful, and we won’t sacrifice taste. I was right; all four flavors were delicious, with the crunch and texture of biscotti.

The Double Chocolate cookie was so intense, I had every intention of saving half of it for my mom when she got back from the hot tub, but that just didn’t happen. As I drank my tea I kept grabbing “one more piece”

I did manage to share the Almond Poppy Seed and Cashew Cranberry cookies, which we both enjoyed. The Almond Poppy Seed was a new variation from the lemon poppy seed I grew up with. The almond wasn’t as sharp as the lemon and gave the poppy seeds a slightly different flavor.

I’ll admit that I was a little dubious about the Cashew Cranberry. I’m not a big fan of cashews and usually avoid them in nut mixes and foods. I find the flavor to intense, but the flavor in the cookie was subtle, smooth and a little sweet. The cashew undertone set of the tartness of the cranberries wonderfully.

Where the Double Chocolate cookie was decadent, the Coconut Raisin Spice cookie was rich and earthy, tropical. It’s amazing how one bite can bring to mind images so vivid. Between the cookies and the fire, in my happily exhausted state, I almost felt myself in the rain forest, connected to the heat of the earth. That is truly a cookie experience.

I know that Dana created these recipes herself. I can only imagine how many “duds” she got to eat before she arrived at these. We are all indebted to her for her fantastic gluten free vegan cookie delights.

*****A special thank you to Dana at Sift Bakery for her sponsorship!*****

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Arico Peanut Butter Cookie

Now this: this is a peanut butter cookie. Slightly sweet and delicately flavored the Arico Peanut Butter Cookie reminds me of home made peanut butter cookies from long past summer cookouts and potlucks. The texture is hard to describe; soft and chewy and melt in your mouth with respectable pieces of peanut throughout.

Unlike the prepackaged and food service peanut butter cookies of my college days, these are not too highly flavored or too sweet. With so many commercial products being made so sweet, we forget that cookies are supposed to be satisfying, with out being so sickeningly sweet.

Arico cookies and cookie bars are gluten, dairy, trans fat, preservative and artificial color and flavor free. Made from 100% whole grains and 70-81% organic ingredients they are high in calcium and a good source of fiber.

What’s not to love, a tasty cookie from a healthy company that believes those of us with dietary restrictions shouldn’t have to give up fun and flavor for health.

*****A special thank you to Arico Foods for their samples*****

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bakery on Main, Extreme Trail Mix Granola Bar

Nuts, raisins and chewies, oh my!

Like the first Bakery on Main granola bar I tried the Extreme Trail Mix bar was chewy, a little crunchy and just sweet enough.

The Extreme Trail Mix bar is chuck full of nuts and seeds. The first one I tasted was sunflower, and halfway through the bar, right next to a dried cranberry I got a whole pecan! The sweetness and chewiness of the nuts nicely balances the crunch of the crisp rice.

This nutty, nutritious and delicious treat is crafted by artisan bakers at the Bakery on Main. They don’t use artificial colors, GMOs, artificial flavors or trans-fats.

Part of their mission statement includes “Better Health and Happy Taste Buds Living Together in Harmony.”

The Bakery on Main employs “Good Manufacturing Practices…ingredient quality controls, full product traceability, gluten testing under AOAC… [and] standardized allergen and sanitation cleaning procedures… to insure food safety.” It’s always great to find a company that takes such pride in creating healthy products for everyone to enjoy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Azure Chocolat

As I was shopping, really munching my way through the samples at Whole Foods in the Bowery, I saw a woman setting up a sample table. It was chocolate! And graham crackers! And fresh marshmallows! I zeroed in on the chocolate, contemplating if it would be safe to try the chocolate, even though it was being displayed with the graham crackers. I readied my battery of questions to see if the chocolate would be safe for me. It started something like this: “those look great, but they’re not gluten free are they?”

“It is”, she smiled back “my facility is dedicated gluten free and Kosher certified!” And that’s how I met the bright and indefatigable Heather, owner and artisan choclatier of Azure Chocolat. I explained my blog and sampling mission to her and decided to hang around to learn more about her operation. I ended up gorging myself on Beauty Bark, Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers and Fresh Marshmallows.

As she got busier I put on a pair of gloves and started to help her out. I learned all about her store and her products. The items she had at Whole Foods were only representations of her products that Whole Foods carries. The Beauty Bark is her own concoction of all the things you should be eating a little bit of everyday: 70% Belgian dark chocolate, walnuts, blueberries, cocoa nibs, golden flax and a little bit of sea salt. It’s great, I think that a lot of people were surprised at how well all the flavors blended together.

Whole Foods also carries her Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers and S’Mores Bars. Both come covered in either milk or dark chocolate. The S’Mores bar has graham cracker, fresh marshmallow, and a layer of ganache and is then smothered in chocolate.

Heather had little bits of fresh graham cracker with chocolate and fresh marshmallow to represent the S’Mores bar. And when I say ‘fresh marshmallows’ I mean made that morning, gooey, sticky, sweet, melts on your tongue marshmallows. As a marshmallow devotee, read ‘fiend’, I have never had a truly fresh marshmallow. I have been ruined for store bought marshmallows. And I’m not sorry.

Along with the items carried by Whole Foods Heather also makes fresh cream truffles, toffee, chocolate covered fresh marshmallows, caramel de sel and short bread cookies. These can be ordered on line or purchased at the store in Centerport, LI. I look forward to working with Heather again. Until then I can only wish that I’d made my left over graham cracker crumbs last longer.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nueva Cucina, Chipotlé Taco Seasoning

After learning about Nueva Cucina’s gluten free seasonings from the CeliacChicks I requested, and received, a sample. Last week in the mail came a packet of Chipotlé Taco seasoning. After a few days racking my brain about what to so with it I decided to make a meat loaf.

I tasted the spice mix before using it and it seemed pretty good, I always sample all my ingredients as I’m cooking. I mixed two thirds of it with the meat and mixed the remainder with tomato sauce to make a glaze. As I was cleaning up I tasted what was left of the sauce, which was tangy and sweet, with a definite kick.

The mix itself has dried onion, garlic and raisins along with the ground spices. The meat loaf turned out very well. I’m no connoisseur of chipotlé seasonings, but this one was very flavorful. The package says medium, and I would say that’s accurate. The meat loaf itself wasn’t too spicy, but man, the glaze had a punch!

This would be great with tofu if you lean that way, or in any type of tomato based chili or stew. For those of us who need a different, flavorful quick fix, I say go for it. It beats Hamburger Helper any day. Nueva Cucina makes rice mixes, soups and beef seasonings. Several of their items are not gluten free: Black Beans & Rice, Red Beans & Rice, Pumpkin Soup, and Sweet Corn Soup with Chilies. The gluten free items are made in the same facility in which the others are made but the machines are carefully cleaned between batches.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cherrybrook Kitchen, Fudge Brownie Mix

In my goody bag from the Worry Free Dinner I found a box of Cherrybrook Kitchen brownie mix, along with a cute little spatula with their logo on it. The day after the Worry Free Dinner I was gushing about it to my coworkers and I listed all the treats I found in my bag, As soon as I said “brownie mix” all eyes turned on me greedily. “So, you’re going to make us brownies?” my boss asked. “Don’t forget, I won’t be back till Monday.”

Foot in mouth. I was committed. Not that I would pass up an opportunity to make brownies, no sir. Making brownies means I get to eat brownies.

Sunday night I commandeered the oven, emptying it of pots, setting up my thermometer and started to prepare the mix. Now, the instructions call for margarine and vegetable oil, but being the health conscious type I decided to use what I had on hand: Smart Balance Light and olive oil. Perhaps not conventional, but I don’t think it made to much difference. Although, oddly enough, when I got to work in the morning the brownie had shrunk, pulling away from two sides of the pan. Unusual.

They were a great hit. By 10am the bookkeeper was already eating one, the boss tried one shortly after she arrived. I got everyone to try them, even the UPS pick-up guys and the woman who collects our office trash.

Everyone thought they had great flavor, perfect for chocolate cravings. The Designer pointed out that the texture was a bit off, while moist, it was more crumbly than expected. We decided that this was more like devil’s food cake than brownie, but delicious all the same.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Andean Dream Quinoa Cookies

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to meet the lovely couple responsible for Andean Dream quinoa cookies. For those of you not yet familiar with quinoa, it is one of the world’s super foods. It has more protein and complete amino acids than any other grain.

Andean Dream cookies are made from Royal Quinoa, which only grows around one salt lake in the Uyumi Region of the Bolivian Andes. Because of that environment Royal Quinoa is the most nutritious type of quinoa and has the most protein of any variety.

Andean Dream cookies come in five flavors: Coconut, Orange Essence, Chocolate Chip, Raisin & Spice and Cocoa Orange. All the flavors are equally delicious. The cookies have a great texture, crunchy and smooth. None of the varieties is too sweet and the individual flavors are balanced, rather then over powering.

The cookies came prepackaged in the box and two cookies contain one gram of protein. They are gluten free and vegan. The quinoa farmers are certified organic and the farmers who produce the other ingredients are also organic, not yet certified.

Andean Dream works with a Bolivian company La Francesa to manufacture the cookies. Together with the Andean Valley S.A. they formed an association to work to improve the conditions of the Royal Quinoa farmers. They have built better homes for the farming families and a school for the children.

Andean Dream cookies are available on the east and west coasts in Whole Foods, in independent stores and online at the Gluten Free Mall.

I highly recommend these cookies. They’re tasty and nutritious, and individually packed they make a great snack to carry in a bag, purse or in a lunch box. In buying these cookies you are also helping the farmers support themselves.

Monday, March 17, 2008

See's St. Patrick's Day Potato

In honor of St. Patrick's Day one of the jewelry contractors my company works with sent us a big box of chocolate. See's chocolate to be precise. Lucky gold coins and St. Patrick's Day Potatoes. Everyone else's first response is to rip open the box and start stuffing their faces. My first response is to go on the website and look for nutritional information.

Tired of waiting for a response to my email, I called costumer service directly. I was transferred once, to a woman who was very helpful. She told me that all of the candy and chocolates that See's manufactures themselves are gluten free and produced in a gluten free facility. The only exceptions are the decorated items; Easter Eggs, St. Patrick's Day and other decorated Candy Canes and decorated candies. She said that they do not make the decoration materials and cannot guarantee that they are gluten free, she believes that the facility they are made in is not gluten free. It was nice to talk to someone informed, she said that they have been receiving more and more calls on this matter in particular and she had a ready, educated answer for me.

And so we come to the much-anticipated St. Patrick's Day Potato. The girls in the office were agog when they arrived, almost fighting over them even though there were more than enough. I was told that, despite its humble appearance, this is a phenomenal treat. And it really does look like a potato, dirty and dusty, it even has 'eyes'.

The 'skin' is a packed mixture of cocoa and cinnamon and the inside is soft nougat with walnuts and pine nuts for 'eyes'. This tastes nothing like a potato. Good thing too. It's creamy and luscious and indulgent. I was afraid it would be too sweet, but the outer layer of cocoa and the walnuts inside balanced out the nougat and the cinnamon adds bite. Because I'm one of those 'healthy' girls, I got my spud in half and then cut a quarter and that was chocolaty sweet, satisfying enough that I don't feel like I have to eat the whole thing (which often happens with lower quality sweets). I packed this one up to enjoy for another day or two or three (I hope).

As much as I love chocolate I'm not a big indulger, especially since I had problems with so many that have 'malt flavoring' or it's kin. Being from the Mid-west, I don't have much experience with See's, although I see their chocolates in the Detroit airport now. If this is any indication of the rest of their chocolates, I'd say See's is an excellent choice for gluten free, delicious chocolate confections.

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