Gluten Free Product Review, Autumn Edition

fall in PA

Fall has become one of my favorite seasons. I used to be a real sucker for spring, and in a way I still am. But as much as I love flowering trees and the promise of summer, I feel a special kinship to the spicy warmth of autumn. I like the idea of hunkering down, cozying up, slowing down. Winter bums me out, but fall, with all its crackling fire smells, flame red leaves, and pumpkin recipes, is my kind of season.

So, in honor of fall (at least on this side of the hemisphere!) here is a round-up of my family’s favorite gluten free foods, which of course can be enjoyed any time of year.

First up, is this: (please pay special attention to the box on the bottom)

O M G - Pumpkin Spice Waffles are you kidding?!?

GF Pumpkin Spice Waffles OMG!

The other week my husband asked me to please buy some gluten free waffles that were NOT Van’s brand. No offense to Van’s, but we are a wee bit tired of their waffles. I blame it on my husband who introduced our kids to HOMEMADE waffle-maker waffles and frankly, Little Guy has never been the same since. Unfortunately, our waffle maker broke, and so we have been in a bit of of a waffle funk. Until now.

Nature’s Path Homestyle and Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Hello, beautiful

Hello, beautiful stack of pumpkin spice waffles. You smell like a pumpkin pie and taste as good.

Bring it on Nature’s Path! You rock! Pumpkin Spice Waffles, be still my heart, because you are THAT good. Try a couple with some almond butter smeared in between, and if you live in Pennsylvania, as I now do, use the local syrup. It’s mighty good.

This was my lunch yesterday. Yum.

This was my lunch yesterday. Yum.

The Homestyle ones are good, too. Not that I would know since I am a pumpkin addict.

Next up, Little Guy’s breakfast of champions, Enjoy LIfe Cocoa Loco Bars

enjoy life chocolate barsIs it bad to admit that he eats one EVERY MORNING, and sometimes again after nap?! Because they are fortified and stuff. It’s not actually dessert even though it looks and smells and tastes like dessert. I swear. Little Guy calls them Chocky Bars. Those are the first words he says every morning. No joke.

As grateful as I am to these bars, my true heart belongs to Van’s (see? my loyalty hadn’t been marred by waffle fatigue). Because after three long years, I have FINALLY found a soft and (vaguely) healthy gluten free granola bar for BOTH of my kids. WHA?! No, srsly.

Introducing, Little Guy’s fave, Van’s Peanut Butter Chocolate bars:

vans pb barsI was buying another brand for a while, but they had big chunks of almonds in them and LG kept eating around them (i.e. spitting them out). Since we drive a lot here in PA, it’s not exactly easy for me to catch spit up almonds while zooming by corn fields.

But even more shocking is that I found a bar for Bunky! Even though the kid will not touch peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a ten foot pole (sigh), she loves these bars. Says the jelly tastes like chocolate. Go figure.

vans pbj bars

FYI one of the other flavors, Cranberry Almond, is also delicious. I only know this because I bought them by accident (and I may do so again).

Now, you know as much as I prefer (in a perfect universe where children amuse themselves for hours at a time and gluten free flours abound in my pantry) to bake from SCRATCH, I have a soft spot for box mixes, such as Betty Crocker and Cherrybrook Farm, I recently tried a new mix: Stonewall Kitchen Chocolate Brownie Mix

stonewall kitchen choco brownie mix gfAnd WOW, so good! It was a gift from our lovely real estate agent who gave us an ENTIRE gift basket filled with gluten free goodies when we closed on our new place. (I seriously almost cried it was so nice.)

Well, we didn’t waste much time trying it out.

My beautiful baking assistant.

My beautiful baking assistant.

stonewall kitchens brownie mixThe consensus is THUMB’S UP. All of them.

bunky eating brownies

LG eating brownies

Also in the gift basket were several other goodies new to us, such as these RAD and healthy Orchard Bars.

orchard bars

They are similar in style and texture to Lara Bars, but I have to say, I liked these more. I tried Cherry Almond Crunch – delish and hearty – as well as the very sweet and delightful Pineapple Coconut Macadamia, which was kind of like eating a Pina Colada. Awesome.

According to their website, they are GMO free, all natural, protein packed as well as gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and kosher. My kids didn’t have any (um, because I ate them all) but I suspect once Little Guy gets over his nut chunk issue, he will enjoy these, too.

Another grown up winner? 180 Snacks Pistachio Trail Mix

180 snacks pistachio trail mixThis is basically like candy for adults (or kids with superior taste) but healthy(ish). It tastes like fancy nut brittle. I love that it only has 4 ingredients: nuts, cane sugar, rice syrup, salt. 180 Snacks also carries other kinds of wholesome snacks like nutty fruity clusters and bars. I’d definitely give those a try based on my love of this sticky yum trail mix.

One of the other things in the gift basket was a (not so) secret obsession of mine:

Late July Mild Green Mojo Multigrain Snack Chips (OMG)

late july mild green mojo chipsHave you tried these yet? If not, I highly recommend doing so NOW. They have a wonderful slow burn spice factor that grows with each bite which adds to their addictive quality. I highly recommend. Just beware, you WILL eat the whole bag in one sitting if not careful. I did.

I have to say, after many years of buying groceries from bodegas and the occasional narrow cavernous grocery store, I’m reallly enjoying the Giant suburban grocery store. Not even kidding, it’s called Giant. They have a huge gluten free aisle, so I’m sure we’ll have more favorites soon.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear what your current favorites are. Bring it on in comments. My pantry always has room for more (wow, that sounds all WRONG but you know what I mean).

 

 

Gluten Free Product Review Round-up

Earlier this month we spent our anniversary family-style at our country house upstate, and unlike the last trip (Easter weekend began with sun AND ended with snow!) this was summery without a spec of precipitation. It was filled with fun outdoor activities like lake swimming, sand castle building, marshmallow roasting, salamander catching (and releasing), and of course eating.

kids at lake

Red salamanders at the house and lots of green ones at the lake.

Red salamanders at the house and lots of green ones at the lake.

The eating part is surprisingly easy since the gluten free section at the local Peck’s grocery store is AWESOME! Seriously, it’s better than our grocery in Brooklyn. This makes our trips a lot easier knowing we can pick up a complete stash of Udi’s products, plus cookies, crackers, cake mixes, and more instead of packing our usual fridge/freezer/pantry arsenal.

I found a couple of new items that my family loved and I want to share here. I rarely do product reviews, but I should do more because there’s nothing worse than spending a zillion dollars on a dry meh GF cookie or a weird rubbery wrap.

scary face

Am I right?! (Gotta love Photo Booth.)

Have I mentioned how sad I am about gluten free bread lately? [sidebar alert] As much as I love Udi’s and am eternally grateful for their brand, I can’t handle how crumbly and hole-y the bread can be. It’s gotten to the point where I feel bad about giving it to my kids, especially Little Guy who is particularly sensitive to stale tasting bread. Maybe poor Bunky is used to it after all these years. Sigh.

Recently we tried Glutino White Bread, and it is SOFT, seriously insanely soft. You don’t even have to toast it! Less healthy than the whole grain Udi’s, sure, but you know, sometimes you need to be able to chew your sandwich without gagging.

Glutino_Bread_White_Sandwich-250x250

So, that was sort of an unofficial review, and now for the rest from our upstate stash…

Udi’s Gluten Free Flour Tortilla Wraps 

After years of eating quesadillas (practically a food group around here) on stiff yellow circles also known as store bought corn tortillas, I discovered these beauties.

The bread might not always be awesome, but these wraps totally are!

They are enormous and soft GF flour tortillas (they also sell smaller ones). Oh, Udi’s, I know I just bad talked your bread, but you nailed these. I used them for our regular shredded cheddar quesadillas, but also for a sweet breakfast tortilla (!) which tasted like a thick crepe, using our new favorite White Chocolate Peanut Butter and sliced banana. OMG! Unfortunately, I haven’t found these in Brooklyn yet (!) but the next time we go upstate, I’m stocking up.

Even a paper plate can't cheapen the experience.

Even a paper plate can’t cheapen the experience.

Next up…

Maple Grove Farms Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix

maple grove farms gf mix

Speaking of breakfast, have you tried this mix? If not, you should give it a try because it’s awesome. Plus, there’s NO added sugar, which is not necessarily true for other mixes (Bisquick, I’m talking to you). It’s super easy to make either pancakes or waffles and both have been successful for us. I used to like making my own homemade pancakes, and still do on occasion, but it’s also nice to have the convenience of a mix, especially when your kids wake you up before dawn.

Now, no trip to the country would be complete without copious amounts of Haagen Dazs ice cream. A moment of props to HD – want to know how many ingredients are in their traditional vanilla? FIVE. Cream, sugar, skim milk, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Nothing fake, no “natural flavor” scams, nothing. Just real food.

Normally we eat it in a bowl because GF cones are not always easy to come by… except upstate where they sell these awesome ones:

Joy Gluten Free Sugar Cones

Isn't my cone model adorable?!

Isn’t my cone model adorable?!

These GF sugar cones are really tasty! They also make gluten free cake cones, by the way. One day we’ll give those a try. In the meantime, the sugar cones are rad. We all really enjoyed eating them all filled up with drippy vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The only caveat is that they leak at the bottom, but you can use your finger as a stopper, ha, or better yet melt some chocolate down there. Oh, yeah.

bunky and cone

Eating outside makes ice cream taste even better, don’t you think?

Everything outside is better in the summer. Salamander catching included.

kids and salamander

Have you had any fantastic gluten free finds lately? If so, bring it on in comments. I can always use some new ideas. And let me know if you try any of my suggestions. We GFers have to stick together, you know?

 

Children’s Book Review and My First Giveaway!

In my past life (I’m talking pre kids, not reincarnation) when I worked in the book publishing industry, one of my favorite things to do was write book reviews. There was one job where that was a major part of my day. I also got to have lunches and coffee dates with publicists and come back to the office with dozens of FREE books.

free books

To a book lover this is like winning the lottery every day. Why I quit that particular (in retrospect, rather awesome) job to work at evil MTV Networks I will NEVER know. I didn’t even watch or like MTV at that point. Yet, I jumped ship because that’s what people did in the early 2000s when jobs were like bags of Skittles and you could rip open another pack and try a new flavor pretty much whenever you wanted…

[Full disclosure, had I not quit that job to work at evil MTV I wouldn’t have met my husband and therefore not had Bunky, Little Guy, or this blog, so THANK YOU evil MTV for making my life completely miserable for nine months yet inadvertently helping me find my soulmate + kiddos.]

That all leads me to this point: a few weeks ago when I received an email from a publicist asking if I’d consider reviewing a children’s book about celiac disease, I was like, oh yes!

Full disclosure: I received two free copies of this book with the understanding that I would write a review and give one away, but all opinions expressed here are my own. 

Gluten-Free Me: Beckmin Goes to Schoolby Christy E. Bukowski

glutenfreemeGluten-Free Me follows five-year-old Beckmin as he embarks on his first day of kindergarten. I really like how the author shows just how many gluten related situations a child may deal with in a single day – and this is not including after school care or play dates. From an offering of gluten cereal as the only breakfast option, to being unable to share his sandwich at lunch, to a birthday party, Beckmin handles each moment with grace, humor and lightheartedness.

Gluten-Free Me is powerful because it teaches the reader (along with Beckmin’s classmates and teachers) about celiac and the challenges that arise. Bykowski speaks from experience since her son, also named Beckmin, was diagnosed with celiac at 18 months.

I read this book to Bunky and she liked it a lot, especially since the main character is five years old and in kindergarten, like her. But she did ask me why Beckmin thinks having celiac is “special” – something he says several times in the book. I honestly didn’t know how to answer this. For me, “special” is a tricky word since it carries both positive and negative connotations. Does Bunky feel special when she can’t accept her friend’s offer of goldfish crackers, or has to bring her own pizza to a party?

When you have celiac, the reality is you’re different, your food is different.

You can’t share, and if a kid touches your gluten free cookie with gluten fingers, you can’t eat it. But maybe the point Bykowski is trying to make is that the difference is special to our children. It’s part of what makes them who they are.

My special girl.

My special girl.

I think this book would be great for newly diagnosed young children and their families since it offers a simple explanation of celiac as well as touching upon (albeit positively, sorry to be such a cynic!) social exclusion. I also think it would be a wonderful teaching tool for teachers and students.

Speaking of which, I sent this book to school with Bunky today because several times she hasn’t been able to finish her lunch because her food has been touched by another child. Some kids are scared of the dark, but my kid is scared of crumbs.

Bunky chose to sit apart at a birthday party because she was afraid of gluten crumbs.

Remember this? Bunky chose to sit apart at a crowded party because she was afraid of crumbs.

When I told her teacher about the book, she was very receptive about reading it to the class. (And of course I ran it by B first.) I just hope that when she does, Bunky – who has a tendency to feel embarrassed when people talk about celiac in front of her – feels special rather than simply different.

And now for the best part – the giveaway! I have a free copy of Gluten-Free Me for one lucky reader, or, one lucky reader’s favorite celiac family.

*In fact, I will mail the book to the winner – OR – to whoever the winner would like to receive the copy. I will also totally consider mailing it outside the United States, as long as the postage isn’t more than a zillion dollars.

All you have to do to be eligible to win is write a comment below. So easy! I will pick one winner at random (finger’s crossed, pinky swear, etc) two weeks from today, December 27th. If you feel like it, tell me who you have in mind to receive the book and why. I’m just curious, it has no basis on winning. I could get all fancy pants on you and do Rafflecopter or whatever it’s called, but let’s face facts, I’m not that fancy.

If you don’t win, or don’t want to take any chances, consider purchasing this book for a celiac family that you love. It is the season, after all. You can order a copy here.