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KinniToos Chocolate Vanilla Sandwich Cookies

Posted: May 28th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on KinniToos Chocolate Vanilla Sandwich Cookies

KinniToosMy son and daughter have both handled their celiac diagnosis really well. Obviously it’s not what any teenager wants to learn, and I still feel irrationally guilty for passing the genes for this disease on to them, but they’ve made the most of it and adapted well. Recently, when students were seeking choir officer positions at school, many of them brought the traditional food bribes for votes. My daughter noted somewhat ruefully that she couldn’t eat any of the cupcakes, cake balls, or cookies. But at least there was some gluten free candy, so she could have something.

One of my daughter’s favorite cookies before she was diagnosed was Oreos. It’s not something she ever ate frequently. But for picnics, especially at events like the Zilker Summer Musical and Shakespeare in the Park, at sleepovers, and at Girl Scout outings Oreos were a “go to” cookie. Unlike most of the other foods she enjoyed, that’s also not one either my wife or I had any idea how to recreate from scratch at all, much less using gluten free ingredients.

Fortunately, we discovered KinniToos! Frankly, though I’m not sure how good my memory of Oreos really is, these seem pretty much identical in texture and taste. More importantly, my daughter thinks they are as well. (And when she shares with her non-celiac friends, they love them too.) The cookies are, of course, significantly more expensive than Oreos, but well worth the price from my perspective. I don’t want my daughter to feel like this disease is depriving her of things she loves — at least to the extent that I can prevent it.

At any rate, we highly recommend them. KinniToos are fantastic!

Mrs. Renfro’s Salsa

Posted: May 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , | Comments Off on Mrs. Renfro’s Salsa

Ghost Pepper SalsaTortilla chips and salsa are a food combination which should always be safe for those of us with celiac disease, but which sadly often aren’t. I’ve run into tortilla chips that actually include flour in their ingredients. Even if they don’t, some of them are processed on production lines with wheat-containing products and are cross-contaminated. In restaurants, fresh tortilla chips are often fried in the same fryer as gluten containing dishes. It’s not terribly difficult finding a gluten free tortilla chip, but normal care must still be taken.

The same thing is true with salsa. And just because a product is a higher end product does not automatically mean it’s safe. I remember picking up an expensive fresh salsa refrigerated in the produce section and discovering it included wheat flour in its ingredients. There are, however, quite a few salsas that are gluten free and safe. Over the years since our diagnosis our family has gradually drifted toward Mrs. Renfro’s.

Mrs. Renfro’s salsas are all gluten free (at least every one I’ve ever purchased). They have a broad variety as well. My daughter generally likes the peach salsa (and I see they have a pineapple salsa now, so I’ll have to find that one for her). My son likes the jalapeno green salsa, especially on eggs. I like them all, but particularly enjoy their habanero salsa.

As far as the ghost pepper salsa pictured in this post? Yes, I’ve bought it a number of times and do recommend it. I enjoy its flavor and its heat, at least in moderation. Sometimes very hot foods can become unpleasantly bitter, but Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa does not suffer from that flaw. However, it is quite hot. If you don’t enjoy foods at that end of the spectrum, stick to their milder salsas.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Posted: April 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Brownie MixI wanted to prepare a dessert for our Easter dinner, but spent most of my attention and time on the meal itself. While I can follow a dessert recipe, I’ve never been a major dessert chef. It’s just not an area of cooking I enjoy as much as I do other foods. So I decided to stick to something simple — a brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge. (Or, in my case, just the brownie topped with hot fudge.)

Unlike me, my wife loves making desserts and brownies are one of her specialties. It only took her a few tries after the kids and I were diagnosed with celiac disease to adapt her brownies to be gluten free. She’s never really recorded her recipe though, and wouldn’t have been able to write it down accurately from memory while recovering. So I decided it wasn’t the time for me to try to make gluten free brownies from scratch.

I saw the Bob’s Red Mill GF Brownie Mix at our neighborhood HEB and decided to give it a whirl. Bob’s Red Mill has always been reliably safe and we’ve tried some of their other products with good results over the years. If you haven’t read about the company and their founder’s philosophy of people before profit, I recommend visiting their site and checking it out.

I followed the directions on the package without varying from them. (My wife tends to experiment and change mixes — usually successfully, but again I’m not the baker she is.) The directions were straightforward and pretty simple.

The results?

The brownies came out chocolatey and delicious! Everyone enjoyed them and they vanished fairly quickly. They weren’t as good as my wife’s, of course, but they were still good brownies. And very importantly, they were chewy. As my son and I joked, there’s a name for “cake-like” brownies. And that word is … cake!

So, if you need a quick and easy pan of gluten free brownies, this is a great mix to use. It gets a definite thumbs up!

Heartland Gourmet Red Velvet Cupcake Mix

Posted: March 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , | Comments Off on Heartland Gourmet Red Velvet Cupcake Mix

Heartland Gourmet Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcake MixMy wife was shopping at World Market a while ago when she stumbled across a brand of gluten free mixes she had never seen before. My wife has always been the baker in the family. While I can follow a baking recipe without any problem, I’m much better at other sorts of cooking. My wife, on the other hand, figures out ways to enhance and adapt any baking recipe she tries over time. And she makes some things, like her brownies, without much of a recipe at all. She’s adapted many of the things she bakes to be gluten free now, but the mixes looked interesting and she picked up one to try, the Heartland Gourmet Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcake Mix.

My wife generally prepares mixes according to the instructions on a mix the first time in order to work out what to add or how to change the preparation of that mix in the future. In her experience, every mix requires some adaptation and adjustment to produce something really good. That’s been particularly true of gluten free mixes.

Not so with this red velvet cupcake mix. The cupcakes were moist with a smooth, rich texture and delicious flavor. They weren’t grainy at all. The cupcakes didn’t crumble. It was hard to believe they were gluten free!

We haven’t tried any of the other mixes yet, but this cupcake mix is truly excellent. If you can find it in your area, give it a try.

Pink Slime – But Not At HEB

Posted: March 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews, Misc | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Pink Slime – But Not At HEB

ABC has been airing a series of reports on so-called “Lean Finely Textured Beef” better known as pink slime. In their initial report, former USDA scientists outline how the agency, which is supposed to be a regulatory agency but is in fact essentially run by the industry they purport to regulate, over-ruled their recommendations against allowing BPI to label pink slime as beef. Take a moment to watch the report and discover what you’ve been eating.

In the follow-up segment below, ABC checked with top supermarkets and Whole Foods to see which ones included pink slime in their ground beef. (And in this case, a refusal to answer is as good as an admission that they do.) Although we try to buy organic beef, I was very happy to see that HEB, the supermarket at which we shop, does not add pink slime to their ground beef. I would have to be pretty desperate before I would do any grocery shopping at a place like Walmart. (Of course, that was true even before this report. It just confirms that as a wise choice.)

And it also appears the schools will at least have the choice whether they get beef with or without pink slime from the USDA starting next fall. I only have one child left in public school and she can’t eat the food provided at her high school even if she had any desire to do so. But all parents who have kids who eat school lunches should contact their school districts and make their wishes known.

Of course, pink slime is only one problem among many in our poorly regulated, highly industrialized, and fundamentally immoral food production industry. (It can hardly be honestly called farming or ranching anymore.) When I look at the sheer scope of the depths into which we have sunk over the past four decades, it can be overwhelming. But all we can do is tackle one problem at a time as we try to restore some minimum level of integrity to our regulatory agencies and overall industry.

Personally, I think a great place to start is full disclosure. It should be easy for us to determine what’s truly in the “food” we’re consuming and everything about the way it was produced. GMO? Label it. “Natural flavor”? Fully disclose everything included in the flavors, including any binding agents. Make the categories simpler and require that products be appropriately placed. We have organic, non-organic, processed, and imitation foods. We need to have mandatory, easily understood, and well-defined categories like those. (We used to require that imitation food include that on the packaging. Removing that requirement certainly hasn’t made things better.)

King Arthur Gluten Free Bread Mix

Posted: March 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on King Arthur Gluten Free Bread Mix

King Arthur Gluten Free Bread MixI never thought a great deal about bread before I was diagnosed with celiac disease. We would sometimes make homemade bread. I would buy different sorts of bread, especially freshly baked bread. I loved bread, but I didn’t realize how pervasive it actually is. We use it to make lunches. We have it on the side. We use it as the foundation to some dishes on our plates. Bread is everywhere. And bread is one of the main things that simply doesn’t normally work the same without wheat flour.

We like Rudi’s and Udi’s, especially for ease and convenience when making lunches for work or school. But sometimes we want a little more. My wife has always been a better baker than me (and used to make killer sourdough), but while she has learned to bake almost everything gluten free from scratch, she hasn’t yet tackled bread from scratch.

We have, however, tried a number of different bread mixes. Most of the ones we’ve tried have been decent. Some have had a complex flavor I enjoyed, but none of them produced a good, all-purpose loaf with that freshly baked flavor and which also holds together when making and eating a sandwich. None of them, that is, until we tried King Arthur’s Gluten Free Bread Mix.

We had always like King Arthur’s flours in the past and so we were happy to hear the news when they began to move into the gluten free area. (As far as all-purpose flour goes, though, we still think Jules is the superior gluten free flour.) So we tried their bread mix. It’s fairly straightforward to prepare, rises well, and produces a delicious loaf which is good for many purposes, but definitely makes great sandwiches. And it produces the same results consistently every time. (We’ve noticed that’s not always the case with gluten free mixes.)

I definitely recommend this product. You won’t be disappointed.

Jules Gluten Free Flour

Posted: February 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , | Comments Off on Jules Gluten Free Flour

Jules Gluten Free FlourOne of the first books I read after I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2009 was The First Year – Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free by Jules Shepard. It was an incredibly helpful book and I still recommend it to anyone who is newly diagnosed.

Jules also sells her own gluten free flour (and other mixes). We tried a lot of different things we could buy at local stores first. But last year my wife and I decided to give her flour a try. Now? We use it for almost everything. It’s fantastic.

We’ve found that, at least for our tastes, it not’s precisely a cup for cup replacement for all-purpose flour in recipes. Often we will end up reducing the amount of flour in recipes, but it’s pretty close.

I haven’t quite gotten up the nerve yet to attempt a gluten free roux, but it’s on my list of things to do and this is the flour I plan to use when I do make my first attempt. We have a bin for it and we always keep a couple of bags on hand. It’s a wonderful gluten free flour.

Visit Jules’ online store and check out her different products and specials. Sign up for her mailing list so you can be notified about new specials and limited time offers. We primarily use her flour, but we’ve tried some of the other products and they aren’t bad at all.

Gluten Free Tamales

Posted: January 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

This Christmas season, I decided I really wanted tamales. I hadn’t had good tamales since my diagnosis and it’s one of the foods we’ve traditionally had at some point during Christmas most years. However, the first few places I called or emailed replied that they couldn’t ensure their tamales were gluten free as they were made on the same surfaces and with some of the same equipment as their flour tortillas. I was frustrated and decided to search online specifically for gluten free tamales. I was trying to locate a local place, but ran across two different mail order companies which did specify that their tamales were gluten free. Both looked pretty decent, so I decided to get some from both places and compare them.

The first place is The Tamale Company (located in Dallas). I ordered a variety of flavors from them. So far we’ve tried the ancho chili pork and the black bean and both were quite good. I didn’t use the boil in bag approach. Instead I steamed them out of the bag as I’ve normally done. I still have the beef and the chicken tomatillo to try, though, so I may give their ‘boil in bag’ technique a shot.

The second place is Texas Tamale Company (located in Houston). I ordered their beef and pork options. We’ve had the beef and they were yummy. I expect the same will be true for the pork.

Both shipped their tamales in a styrofoam container inside a box with, I believe, packets of dry ice (the dry ice had evaporated by the time they arrived). The tamales arrived in excellent condition. Honestly, both brands were quite good. I would be hard pressed to pick one over the other. If you want good gluten free tamales, and don’t want to make them yourself, I don’t hesitate to recommend either company.

Van’s Waffles

Posted: May 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Some mornings before school my daughter likes to have a waffle and an egg for breakfast. I had already heard about Van’s Waffles, so I picked up a variety for her to sample. The minis were the clear winner for her. (I like the buckwheat ones myself.)

Van's Minis

These are best heated in the oven, which is good, I suppose, since our toaster is full of gluten crumbs. On a frozen waffle scale, they are pretty good.

Larabars and Kind Bars

Posted: May 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Larabars and Kind Bars

The other regular non-gluten free staple in my daughter’s lunches and one of her favorite snacks were granola bars. That one was easy. I’ve loved Larabars and Kind bars for quite some time now. It was just a matter of finding the ones she liked. While she likes a number of them, there is one clear winner in her mind.

Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar

Meet the Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar. Its only ingredients are dates, peanuts, and salt, but it does make a delicious snack. And, for now at least, it’s my daughter’s favorite. (She doesn’t have anything against the ones with chocolate in them either.)

I’ve also found a couple of other brands of gluten free snack bars and she likes them as well. So this replacement was the easiest of them all.