Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gluten-Free Granola Redux

I have been eager to see whether or not my positive experience with Enjoy-Life Gluten & Allergen-Free Granola (Celiac Disease safe and more) was to be limited to just their Cinnamon Crunch variety of the product. I really liked that version of the gluten-free granola, as you can read in my prior gluten-free Enjoy Life Granola prouct review that I recently posted.

So, I have acquired the other two additional varieties of the Enjoy-Life Granola products to try out: Cranapple Crunch and Very Berry Crunch. Each is based on a similar ingredients list and preparation from what I can tell, with the common ingredients being brown rice flakes, rice bran, evaporated can juice, brown rice syrup, water, tapioca flour, coconut, gum arabic, molasses, golden flaxseed, and rosemary extract.

What makes each variety different from the other are the accent-flavors that Enjoy-Life mixes in with their base granola formula. For the Cranapple Crunch version, this means adding some Dried Apples and some cranberries to the mix. For the Very Berry variety, they include freeze-dried strawberries and raspberries, along with some natural strawberry flavor. So, how do they each compare to the Cinnamon Crunch granola I liked so much?

Well, this is where I have to get into a bit of story telling for a moment. One of the aspects of the Cinnamon Crunch that I liked so much was how incredibly crisp and crunchy it was. In fact, it held a hearty crunchy texture even after 15 minutes in Milk! So, I of course expected these new varieties would be equally crunchy, especially since both of the new flavors I tried are labeled with that "NEW crispier crunchier taste!" starburst on the front of each box.

Very Berry Crunch Granola by Enjoy-Life
So, I began by opening the box of Very Berry Crunch, since this flavor sounded intriguing enough to move to the front of my testing group. I open the bag of granola inside, find a nice big granola cluster, and pop it into my mouth... I prepare for that familiar hearty crunch as I slowly bite down on it, but instead am greeted by no crunch at all - in fact, the nugget was soft enough I could have mistaken it for something completely different. Imagine my dismay! So, was this a fluke, or was the Cinnamon version? To help determine the answer, I instantly opened the Cranapple Crunch and repeated the experiment - but, this time I was quite pleased to discover the crunchy texture I expected.

Conclusion: the box of Very Berry Crunch I got must have had a pin-hole in the inner bag, which led to the granola going stale. This was quickly proved out, and remedied, as follows...

Restoring the CRUNCH in stale cereals:

I preheated my oven to 250-degrees. While that was taking place, I poured the contents of the entire box of Enjoy Life Very Berry Crunch onto a jelly-roll type pan (i.e., cookie sheet with sides). Next, I placed that in my preheated oven and let it remain there for 30 minutes. The house took on an interesting, and somewhat pleasing, aroma of strawberries. My wife happened through the kitchen and told me it smelled like someone was toasting strawberry Pop Tarts. After the 30 minutes was up, I let the cereal cool down, and then tried it again: perfect! Crispy, crunchy, hearty and fulfilling granola just as I had desired - and no evidence of it ever being stale.

I don't know where in the supply chain the granola was exposed to extra humidity, though I suspect it was banged around in shipping or something. One thing that could help prevent that is to reduce the size of the box to match the inner package. I've noticed this to be a problem with all sorts of products, where companies sell something in a much larger box than necessary, because it looks bigger and therefore, regardless of weight or quantity therein, it just "must be" a better deal or more enticing. Personal opinion: it's wasteful on many levels (packaging and printing materials, shipping volume, and ultimately - disposal volume). In this particular case, thought the box is 9.5"H x 6.5" W, the inner bag of granola is about 7" x 6". So, there is plenty of room for the contents to shift back and forth inside the box. But, I doubt the box size will ever change to match the inside bag size, since it would just look too small to be considered a "box of cereal" per the typical American consumer's idealized image of what a box of cereal looks like. Well, enough of that side rant, and on to taste testing... :)

The Enjoy Life's Very Berry Crunch was quite pleasing. I enjoyed the berry flavor quite a bit. It was neither overpowering nor underwhelming. I'd call it a subtle berry flavor that definitely has a taste of strawberry and raspberry, but not so subtle that you'd mistake this variety for another variety of the cereal. If you are like me and really like the taste of Cinnamon, you may enjoy sprinkling a little bit of ground cinnamon onto the granola - I found that to be a nice complementary flavor.

So, In addition to learning that Enjoy Life's Very Berry Crunch is quite tasty, you have also learned how to restore the crispy, crunchy texture of any of your favorite gluten-free cereals you have laying around that have perhaps gone stale after opening. I didn't anticipate needing to employ those techniques on a new box of cereal, but it worked fine nonetheless, and certainly cost less (in time and energy) than it would have to drive to a store and get another box. I am rather certain the granola would have been crunchy and crispy had I not encountered the anomalous box on this occasion. Now, if I was to go buy a dozen boxes and run into more than one that had issues, that'd be another story and require some research and problem resolution at a higher level.

Cranapple Crunch Granola by Enjoy Life
Since I had also opened the box of Cranapple Crunch Granola (to verify that it was indeed crunchy as desired), I figured I might as well review that today too. Fact is, it was also quite good. The accent flavors of cranberry, dried apples, and natural apple flavor, are to me a bit more subtle overall than are the berry flavors in the Very Berry Crunch version. I guess this one is not called "Very" Cranapple Crunch :) In all seriousness, I think that the taste of berries is more easily made pervasive in foods than cranberries and apple.

Once again, I put the cereal through both dry-testing and milk-testing, and it passed both tests quite easily. This is a great tasting, and full-textured gluten-free and allergen-free granola. I would certainly eat this cereal again. Same with all of these Enjoy Life gluten-free granolas I have tried thusfar. To date, my favorite version is the Cinnamon Crunch, but I also admit how I am definitely partial to cinnamon - it is one of my favorite flavors in baking, and I use it regularly.

I don't think you can go wrong with any of the varieties of this granola; just choose a flavor that most suits your palate, and give it a try. Each of these gluten-free and dairy-free (and allergen-free) cereals has a pretty high fiber content too (5g / serving), which is very important in our diets, and something that us gluten-free types need to keep in mind, especially when so many gluten-free foods lack any substantial fiber. They are also low in sodium (perfect for anyone watching their blood pressure or adhering to the DASH plan), as well as reasonably low in sugar too. I think that these cereals from Enjoy Life can make up a healthy part of one's diet, while also helping one enjoy what they eat, since the cereal is satisfying on many levels.

On to snowfall...
I would have posted another gluten-free blog entry sooner, but my wrists were killing me after shoveling over a foot and a half of snow we received on Tuesday/Wednesday - the "Valentine's Day Blizzard of 2007" as some were calling it. What a mess! To make matters worse, there was quite a bit of wind and drifting, and the snow had drifted across the area even deeper - some areas were nearly three feet by my garage. I now have piles nearly 6 feet high on the sides of my driveway near the house, where we piled the contents of those snow drifts.

To make matters even more "fun", wouldn't you know... the one time I need my snow blower this year, and it decides not to function! Argghh! I was rather miffed to say the least. Seems the carburetor chose a great time to malfunction. I'm not sure if it was the 10-degree temperatures, or the fact this was the first time this season where I needed the device. Either way, with no easy way to repair it on short notice, the snowblower was to remain idle as my wife, daughter, and I shoveled for a couple hours. It is times like this when I just want to move to Hawaii or something! :) And, we had such a wonderfully mild winter up through early January -- I guess things had to balance out. Oh well.

So, my fingers have had enough of typing on the blog for today. And, I hope to be back to full power in another day or two (here's hoping we don't get any more snow for a while!).

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.


Lynn Barry said...

Hey Mike!
Sounds like we have been suffering with our shoveling injuries. YIKES! My wrists and hands and forearms have been killing me too. Oh well, this too shall pass.
Great report on the ENJOY LIFE granola products and all the extra tips too. Outstanding!
I want to put in a request for pics of you and Laura on the blog so we can put faces to stories and recipes. Just a thought.
Have a great weekend!

Mike Eberhart said...

Lynn, sounds like we all have the same shoveling symptoms. We all felt like we were suffering from forearm tendonitis after this event. Sounds like it is common after moving 100 tons of snow by hand! :)

Glad you like the E-L reviews.

As for the picture(s) request, I'll see what I can do. An enterprising person could probably locate a picture of me on the web somewhere... e.g., look closely at this page and you'll find a tiny picture that is a few years old, but me nonetheless:

Will that suffice for now? Not sure if Laura wants to have me put her picture online. Not sure I want to put mine online either, but that website/company I gave the link to did anyhow. :)

Jean Layton-GF Momma said...

Glad to hear about your adventures with granola, I appreciate your candor. Just wish that Enjoy life wanted to send me a trial package.
Oh well. Hope the snow melts for you soon.
I understand about the hesitation about putting your pic on-line. I put up my office one but my kids and hubby aren't ever going to be on-line if I can help it.

Mike Eberhart said...

I'm sorta with you on that picture thing. My wife and daughter will likely not appear on here. In this day of identity theft and every other thing, the less details of one's self disclosed online is probably better.

I meant to ask you also, did you ever get a chance to make the breadsticks and have your various "judges" give some feedback?

Gluten Free Vegan said...

Oh my...I got cold just listening to your snow story! Hope your wrist action is back to normal soon!

Oh and love the Enjoy life granola...have to check out the very berry too. And LOVE IT with a little soy milk....makes it yummier! (is that word?)