Sunday, July 20, 2014

Awesome Gluten-Free Bread : Genius Brand Spiced Fruit Loaf

Genius Spiced Fruit Loaf is Simply Excellent Gluten-Free Bread!

Fantastic Gluten-Free Bread at Reasonable Price

Genius brand Gluten-Free Bread : Spiced Fruit Loaf Variety
This bread is simply fantastic, gluten-free or not!

When I first encountered this gluten-free bread, with a brand-name of "Genius", I could not help wondering if the bread would live up to its name.  Without a doubt, it definitely does!

This is one of those rare gluten-free breads that I enjoy without toasting (worth noting, since toasting is a "requirement" for so many GF breads if you want the bread to have a decent texture and taste).  This sliced spicy fruit loaf review does not require any additional bread preparation in order to achieve optimal taste: just eat it, and enjoy.

Genius brand Gluten-Free Bread : Spiced Fruit Loaf Variety (close up of slices)

As you can imagine, the bread tastes very nice toasted too, though it is wonderful even fresh and untoasted.  I find myself eating it plain, or with a bit of almond butter on it, or occasionally toasted with a bit of butter.  In all cases, the texture, crumb, and taste are very nice and I am thoroughly enjoying the fact I am eating tasty bread.

One of the keys to the fantastic texture of this Gluten-Free Spiced Fruit Loaf bread (apparently) is the fact it does not rely on the old-school and more traditional gluten-replacements — such as Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum — but instead it uses Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose, which is an inert polymer used as an alternative to animal gelatin (and, somewhat related to and along the same lines as the carboxymethylcellulose (i.e., Dow Wellence gluten-free gluten-replacement product), which I first wrote a blog about in September, 2012).  And, I am please to further report: this stuff does not bother my GI tract like Xanthan Gum (which generally causes me pain).

This was my first encounter with a gluten-free product that used this particular gluten-replacement additive to mimic gluten, and I must say it does a fantastic job of doing so (best I have encountered in commercial gluten-free breads).

The full list of ingredients is as follows (quoted from their site):
Water, Tapioca Starch, Sultana (12%), Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Sunflower Oil, Yeast, Raisin (4%), Currants (4%), Caster Sugar, Psyllium Husk Powder, Humectant: Glycerine, Stabiliser: Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose, Dried Egg White, Cinnamon, Maize Flour, Salt, Maize Starch, Mixed Spice (Coriander, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Fennel, Clove, Cardamom), Rice Starch, Preservative: Calcium Propionate.
Notice that Psyllium Husk Powder too: more fiber and texure!  And, the dried egg whites are certainly going to help with that gluten-replacement also.

Reasonable Price for Great Gluten-Free Bread

I am actually tempted to call this not just "reasonably priced", but rather low-priced gluten-free bread — especially given the absolutely ridiculous price of some gluten-free breads I have encountered in the United States (I have seen a small loaf of gluten-free paleo bread at Whole Foods Market for $11.00!! ouch!!).   In fact, most commercially available gluten-free bread in the US is absolutely absurdly overpriced with typical tiny loafs costing in excess of $6 or $7, which is just crazy given that the base ingredients are usually quite cheap (potato starch, rice starch, etc).

Price is where the Genius Gluten-Free Bread shows its genius again: this loaf is only £2.50 (i.e., about US $4.25/loaf) and it is a nice sized loaf (400g, or approximately 14 ounces).  Basically, it is pretty similar in size to a "real" loaf of raisin bread or similar fruit loaf.

Hopefully you will have a chance to try this bread.   My product-review bottom line: Genius gluten-free bread is highly recommended!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Monday, June 23, 2014

Waitrose Fiery Alcoholic Ginger Beer Review - Refreshing and quite nice!

Waitrose Fiery Alcoholic Ginger Beer Review

A new Gluten-Free "Beer" to try

This adult-only ginger-beer is a delightful recent find I encountered in the United Kingdom at the Waitrose grocery store chain.   When I first came across the bottles at the store, I was immediately intrigued by the description on the label: "An alcoholic ginger beer made with Jamaican Ginger, Sicilian Lemons, and a hint of Chili."

Waitrose Fiery Ginger Beer (Alcoholic)
 Chili, did I read??  Interesting!  So, I quickly took a look at the product page on the Waitrose web site to see if this is considered a gluten-free alcoholic ginger beer, and yes it is.  Perfect... and, as soon as possible a couple bottles made their way into my shopping basket and on to be chilled in the refrigerator.

Review: A refreshing, satisfying, cool drink with added zing

I found this gluten-free ginger beer to be rather delightful.  It definitely left me satisfied and was a great cool thirst-quencher perfect for summer.

The effervescence is noticeable, though not overwhelming — I'd say it is just about right.  I have had non-alcoholic ginger ales that have been either too flat or too stingy-bubbly, but this drink gets it spot-on in my opinion.

As for the presumption of "heat" I made upon reading the "Fiery" portion of the label as well as that mention of Chili — well, I certainly do not consider it "hot" in any way.  Any "fiery" aspects are quite tame, though that is just fine with me given that the drink comes together nicely with the discernible hint of those Sicilian lemons present in among the notes of ginger and the ever slight heat from the Chili.  I like the drink quite a bit, though I would welcome a true hotter (spicier) version with more Chili if it were ever produced.

Since the options for gluten-free beer are somewhat limited, and I am not particularly an avid wine drinker (occasional is plenty), this GF ginger-beer fills a gap in my drinks menu.  Definitely recommended, and count me in for refills next time I make it to Waitrose.

Now, if only this would be sold in the United States of America (USA)!  I am not aware of anything quite like this in the US, but perhaps I can find a way to ship the stuff there if enough demand exists?  Shipping would be cost-prohibitive I fear, and each bottle is currently costing £1.77 (i.e., around USD $3.00 at the time of this writing).  That is certainly going to equate to a "premium" gluten-free beer / drink option by the time any shipping and retailing-costs are added.   Anyone have "extra" luggage space and heading to the US?

Nice, bubbly, GF Alcoholic Ginger Beer

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Monday, April 28, 2014

Costco: Gluten-Free Honeyville Almond Flour bulk bag

Costco has Gluten-Free Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour

New item at our Costco: 3 pound bags of fine almond flour!

Honeyville brand Blanched Almond Flour (Gluten-Free) 3# bag at Costco
If you have been looking for a very fine almond flour for your gluten-free recipes, check your local Costco store: I just came across this product this week at our Houston, TX location.

The flour has worked nicely in a few recipes I regularly use in my gluten-free diet:

  • pancakes:  I used along with finely shredded coconut flour and buckwheat flours and it was quite nice
  • yogurt: I often put almond butter in my yogurt along with fruit and berries, so I tried this almond flour instead and rather enjoyed it
  • chocolates: I created some quick coconut / almond "haystacks" using shredded coconut and this almond flour, cocoa, coconut-oil, and maple-syrup and found that to also be a tasty treat
This 3 pound bag was $18.99 at our Costco, and 3 pounds is a lot of almond flour!  I hesitated at first when I thought "how am I going to use all this?", but after purchasing it I am fully sure that I will use it quite quickly since I am finding it a versatile gluten-free recipe ingredient for so many things I make.  I think this will be quite nice in cookies and pie crusts and tarts and other things too.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gluten-Free Halloween Items and Party Recipe Ideas

Some Festive Gluten-Free Halloween Party Ideas

Dressing up some favorite GF party items for Halloween

Have you been contemplating what foods to make for a Halloween holiday party — whether appetizers, desserts, or other snack items? Kate, one of our gluten-free blog contributors, put together a sampling of her own ideas for some simple to make, and simple to convert from everyday fair into Halloween themed variations, gluten-free recipes that fit the occasion nicely.  She served these up this weekend to a group of people that found the items rather delightful.

I think you will all agree, these playful holiday treats should be quite easy to replicate using your favorite recipes.  She created things ranging from a pumpkin that is performing some Exorcist-type expulsion of green goo (in this case a tasty guacamole!), to some lovely one-eyed (cyclops) chocolate-dipped strawberries, to some gluten-free cupcakes covered with spiders!

Other items at her party included "bloodshot-eye" deviled eggs and other adventuresome and creative treats.  Here's hoping these all provide inspiration for a great GF holiday spread.  In addition to being gluten-free and wheat-free, she was able to accommodate the dairy-free / vegan / vegetarian crowd very nicely too.

(pictures all credit: Kate)


Cyclops-eyed Chocolate-covered Strawberries 

Oh my... Gluten-Free Cupcakes crawling with spiders!
Gluten-Free Halloween Party Treats Ideas

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Collection where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Probiotic Amounts in Kefir and Yogurt : Billions, perhaps Trillions

How Many Billion Probiotics are in your Yogurt / Kefir?

Probiotic Pills Prices are Ridiculous Compared to just consuming Kefir / Yogurt

Probiotics are those "beneficial bugs" that exist in vast quantities in healthy gastrointestinal tracts.  I have written other blogs here including a recent one about how Healthy Gut Microbes May Prevent Celiac (and other autoimmune diseases).

With scientific studies, like the one mentioned in that blog, providing further evidence that a healthy digestive tract — aided by probiotics —  may help us avoid and/or improve outcomes for various conditions and diseases, we may find ourselves asking: where can I get the most probiotics for the buck?

The answer is simple: kefirs or yogurts are definitely the most cost-effective probiotic source around, and here's why... (and yes, I am aware that some people may have digestive issues that make "dairy" not sound like a solution they can tolerate... but, read on first and reconsider that point after you see the numbers).

Probiotics in Kefir / Yogurt: Billions (and TRILLIONS) of Probiotics

Redwood Hill Farm Gluten-Free Goat Kefir
To the left I included a picture courtesy of Redwood Hill Farms (brand) Goat-Milk Kefir.  This is a perfect example of a product that is utterly loaded with Probiotics!  From the Redwood Hill Farms web page discussing the "Health Benefits of Goat Milk Kefir", we can obtain information about how many billion priobiotics are in an ounce of Kefir, by extrapolating from this quoted material:
Laboratory testing shows that Redwood Hill Farm brand kefir containing our proprietary blend of probiotics, “Flourish®”  averages 2.6 billion live probiotics per gram!  We use an average as batches can vary slightly and the number of probiotics at the beginning of our products ‘life’ can be slightly more or less than at the end of the products life.
WOW! 2.6 billion probiotics per gram of Kefir!  Did you catch the "per gram" part?  That is a TINY amount of Kefir with a HUGE number of probiotics. Keep in mind, there are just over 28 grams per ounce.  Therefore, there are nearly 75 BILLION probiotics per ounce of this Kefir! And, that means that an 8-ounce serving would have nearly 600 BILLION probiotics in it, an a quart container would contain around 2.4 TRILLION probiotics.

Now, compare that to all the probiotic pills on the market!  How many pills would you have to take to equal the amount in an 8-ounce serving of Kefir?  Better yet, what would it cost?! 
A quart of this specialty (Goat milk) Kefir cost somewhere around $6.00 at Whole Foods recently, which means an 8-ounce serving of Goat Milk Kefir cost $1.50 and provides 600 BILLION probiotics with it.

Even if you may have issues with dairy products, are you really sure your body could not handle an occasional ¼ Teaspoon of Goat Kefir that would provide around 3 billion probiotics? There are Twenty-Four (24) ¼ Teaspoon servings per ounce... or, 768 of these ¼ Teaspoon servings of 3-billion-probiotics each per quart!  How much would 768 "3 billion count" probiotic pills cost by comparison?

Probiotic Pills : Billions of Probiotics, at what cost?

Most probiotic pills I have seen at health-food stores and/or online are just ridiculously expensive for the amount of probiotics in each pill / tablet.  One of the better priced ones I have encountered is the gluten-free NOW Foods (brand) Probiotic-10 V-caps with 25 Billion probiotics per capsule and 50 capsules per bottle that sell for somewhere in the range of $16 -$17 on Amazon currently.

This particular NOW Foods gluten-free product has 10 strains of healthful  bacteria (including: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus salivarious, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum, Streptococcus thermophilus ), which is similar to what you would find in many yogurt cultures.

A bottle of these will (theoretically) get you 1.25 TRILLION probiotics in total,  which is about the same amount as you'd get in ½ a quart bottle of that Goat Milk Kefir.  The difference: the Kefir equivalent will cost you only $3.00 versus the $16-17 for the pills.  So, you can save 80%+ by going the Kefir route and just eating a tiny 2 Teaspoons of Goat Kefir per day to get that 25 Billion organisms.

Now, if you absolutely cannot handle any form of dairy (or are a dairy-free / vegan by choice), the NOW Brand pills may be a decent option.  But, remember... keep any pills refrigerated to maintain high potency. THIS IS IMPORTANT, as exposure to heat can kill the beneficial bugs.  And, in fact, this is a reason for concern: if anywhere along the distribution channel (e.g., during shipment, trucking, shelf-stocking, transport, etc) those pills were exposed to a high enough temperature for a long enough period of time, the probiotics that you paid all that hard-earned cash for could be DEAD!  If the probiotic bacteria dies during transport/storage, then you have just paid a fortune for nothingness.

Are your Billions of Probiotics still alive (and effective)?

If you didn't already realize this, there is an easy way to test for whether probiotic bacteria organisms are alive and well.  With yogurt or kefir, this is simple enough... just place a Tablespoon of the yogurt or kefir into a quart of milk and sit that in your oven overnight with ONLY the oven-light on (for the slightest heat-source)... the bacteria should do their job and multiply like crazy and transform the milk into kefir, essentially.  In effect, you are cloning the bacteria in mass numbers, and you can make your own yogurt this way (same principle as a "starter" for sourdough breads).

So, in theory, if the probiotics in your pills/capsules are actually alive and functioning, you could add the (powdered) contents of a probiotic capsule to some quantity of milk and achieve the same outcome (i.e., produce kefir / yogurt).  I cannot say I have personally tried this, not for lack of curiosity, but for the simple fact I prefer getting my probiotics by way of kefir / yogurt instead of costly supplements.  If anyone tries it and wants to post their results here, I'd welcome hearing about your observations.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my FREE Gluten-Free Recipes Page where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available and more.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Healthy Gut Microbes May Prevent Celiac?

Intestinal Microbes Health Help YOUR Health

Those Beneficial "Bugs" In the News Again

I was just reading an article discussing studies by Oregon State University researchers into how gut microbes are closely linked to proper immune system function and other health issues. This may not be "news" to many readers, but it is further confirmation of the importance of maintaining a healthy GI tract — and it sure makes me wonder even more about the potential ill effects of using antibiotics to treat conditions, especially when not needed (since, antibiotics kill off the "good" bacteria in your gut as well as the "bad" bacteria in your body).

I have written here in the past about other studies connecting antibiotics and celiac disease, and this latest study deepens my concern. As quoted from the article I am referring to,
"In a healthy person, these microbes in the gut stimulate the immune system as needed, and it in turn talks back," Shulzhenko said. "There's an increasing disruption of these microbes from modern lifestyle, diet, overuse of antibiotics and other issues. With that disruption, the conversation [the "crosstalk" between gut microbes and our immune system and metabolic processes] is breaking down."
And, it is not just antibiotics that are brought into question in this study.  How about dirt... or, should I say our lack of exposure to dirt?  Yes, we (modern humans) are probably making things worse by being TOO "clean":
"Appropriate sanitation such as clean water and sewers are good. But some erroneous lessons in health care may need to be unlearned -- leaving behind the fear of dirt, the love of antimicrobial cleansers, and the outdated notion that an antibiotic is always a good idea. We live in a world of "germs" and many of them are good for us."
Our immune systems have developed over the course of human history to function optimally by adapting to natural exposures to varied bacteria (in things like dirt) that modern sanitizing products wipe out (externally).  And, antibiotics are essentially "sanitizers" that wipe out internally-present bacteria (including the plethora of "good" ones that we need to function properly).

Celiac and Other Conditions : the Role of Gut Microbes

The article mentioned Celiac Disease (i.e., autoimmune gluten allergy that requires us to be on a gluten-free diet) as well as other conditions where there is an interplay of gut-microbe-crosstalk and our bodies:
"An explosion of research in the field of genomic sequencing is for the first time allowing researchers to understand some of this conversation [between gut microbes and our immune / metabolic systems] and appreciate its significance, Shulzhenko said. The results are surprising, with links that lead to a range of diseases, including celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Obesity may be related. And some studies have found relevance to depression, late-onset autism, allergies, asthma and cancer."
Seems like more and more evidence is piling up that should make us want to avoid things that destroy the optimal natural internal gut-microbe balance.  And, perhaps (my opinion), we can improve things in the near-term by introducing probiotics into our gluten-free diets and avoiding anything that will further negatively impact our systems.  

I like how the article concludes with forward-looking thoughts about probiotics and such:
Once researchers have a better idea of what constitutes healthy microbiota in the gut, they may be able to personalize therapies to restore that balance. It should also be possible to identify and use new types of probiotics to mitigate the impact of antibiotics, when such drugs are necessary and must be used. 
Such approaches are "an exciting target for therapeutic interventions" to treat health problems in the future, the researchers concluded.
Sounds like a good course of research to me!  And, while these people study their "bugs", I will personally continue to avoid antibiotics and antimicrobial products while at the same time enjoying my "bug-filled" (probiotics) in things like kefir, yogurt, etc.  In addition, I think my beneficial bugs much prefer a highly vegetable-laden diet :)

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Gluten-Free Health Warrior Chia Bar Review

Health Warrior Brand Gluten-Free Chia Bars Review

Chia Seeds meet Snack Bars : a great combination!

For any of you that have read my blog for any length of time, you have noticed I have written a few articles about recipes and baking with chia seed and/or product containing chia.  And now I am writing about a nice snack bar product line — each simply labeled "Chia Bar" of various flavors —  from a company called Health Warrior.

Health Warrior brand gluten-free chia bars
Health Warrior ( Chia Bars

I have been a fan of chia seed (salvia hispanica) for years now, having used them quite regularly since 2008, as chia sees have a wonderful nutritional profile in addition to making a great gluten-free baking ingredient. Chia seeds provide a nice balance of fiber, healthy fats (Omega 3's), and protein. I am used to using them in their hydrated form in my various homemade drinks and recipes, but this time I am enjoying them in as they appear in these commercially-available Health Warrior Chia Bars.

Health Warrior brand gluten-free acai berry chia bar
Health Warrior brand gluten-free acai berry chia bar (close-up and full of chia!)

Pleasing Taste and Texture from Innovative Ingredients

The first bite into the acai berry chia bar variety instantly reminded me of some favorite sesame-seed snacks I have had in the past — the texture was quite similar, and I am not quite sure how much of that is from non-hydrated chia.  As you can see in the close-up photo, it sure looks like sesame-seeds in a way too, and I am not sure if what I am seeing is perhaps all due to white-chia-seeds, or if some of what I see is also the gluten-free-oats used in the formula (yes, they contain oats); sure seems like it is mostly chia seeds I feel and see.  They also employ cashew-butter in the base-formula shared across all the bar varieties from what I see on the labels too.

The oats almost prevented me from trying this product, since I have not had oats (even "certified gluten-free" ones) in years; I have found I can tolerate small amounts on occasion, but generally just avoid them.  But, I decided to make an (oats) exception and try this interesting chia bar product, and I am glad I did.

My wife and I both enjoyed it and found that the flavor was pleasing as was the texture: it was not too sweet, not artificial tasting in any way, but just about spot-on with regards to the berry-centric flavor and the sweetness (sugar level) was just about where I like it (not too sweet, and a reasonable net carbohydrate load reflects this in the nutritional facts printed on the label: 15g total carbs of which 4g are fiber and 5g sugar).  I can definitely detect some nutty flavor from the cashews, but it too blends quite nicely with the other flavor-contributors in the recipe: things like cranberries and strawberries (of which there are certainly more of than of than the featured "acai berry" highlighted on the label for its buzz-factor and popularity) and vanilla.

The bars are rather small (just under 1 ounce), and that is one reason I actually gave them a try even with the GF oats included (I figured it would be a very small dose of oats for me); and, I am delighted to report, the oats had no ill-effects on me either.  Regardless, the size is about right for a quick small snack while keeping the carbohydrate intake down (and, getting 3g of protein thrown in along with Omega 3's for good measure).  I think these bars will come in handy when out for a long bike ride or walk where I want a nice nutritionally balanced snack with me that also tastes good and transports well.

Bottom line: my impression is that this is a quality snack product with a taste and texture I quite enjoyed and can enjoy more in the future.  It was a nice alternative to many of the much sweeter date-based bars, and it is also soy-free and 100% vegan (given I eat ZERO soy, this was a great fit for me too!)  I still need to try the other varieties (as shown in the picture), but I expect they will be similarly enjoyable and welcome in my gluten-free diet snack-repertoire.

A related thought: I would welcome a sugar-free version of these bar if Health Warrior could create a stevia-sweetened version and replace the brown-rice-syrup.  This bar, due to its diminutive size, has a reasonably low-carb / low-sugar profile, but it has the potential to be a very-low-sugar option with some minor tweaks.  I have my own ideas for a recipe that could perhaps yield my desired super-bar outcome: use stevia and perhaps (though breaking with the dairy-free status) use some whey-protein as a "binder" of sorts (perhaps in combo with some hydrated chia); this idea may not work commercially, but I plan to play with the idea for kicks since I enjoy recipes and baking quite a bit.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available