Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gluten-Free Recipe: "Chocolate Orange-Juice Cheesecake"

I really like the flavors of Orange and Chocolate combined. And, thanks to my wife's latest gluten-free recipe creation, I have a new and delicious way to enjoy this favored taste combination: the Gluten-Free "Chocolate Orange-Juice Cheesecake"™, or "Chocolate Orange-Juice-Concentrate Cheesecake"™ (which would be more accurate)

This new cheesecake formula has moved the dessert into my "top 10 list" for now, and I have had the pleasure of enjoying two of these cakes in the past couple months - it is always good to double-test recipes before publishing (and, double-eat too!) I was hoping to share a more complimentary photo of the end-product, but my picture suffered a bit and does not really make the new cheesecake recipe look as good as it tastes; the piece cracked a bit getting it onto a plate... oh well. But, it is good enough to get the idea I hope:

I may be a bit biased about how great this Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange-Juice Cheesecake tastes, but I find it to be fabulous. Full of chocolate flavor, plenty smooth in texture, and a very sweet orange taste throughout too.

It reminds me a bit of a chocolate Tobler Orange (actually, I believe they changed the name of those to Terry's Chocolate Orange now - produced by Kraft foods), where chocolate combines wonderfully with the semi-pronounced taste of orange (from orange-oil). But, unlike those Terry's chocolate-oranges, this dessert does not get split into 20-segments resembling slices of an orange; in fact, if I had my way, it may only get split into 2 pieces... one for me, one for my wife :)

The recipe came about rather by accident: a lack of fresh oranges in the house made the move to frozen orange juice concentrate a move of desperation that resulted in taste sensation. In addition, it makes it much easier to make, since the need for fresh oranges has been removed. And, my wife made this recipe even easier by using standard chocolate-chips (so you do not need to worry about baker's chocolates and/or weighing chocolate). We hope you enjoy it!

Here is a link to the Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange-Juice Cheesecake Recipe on our website's recipe library. We're using an adapted crust from another one of our cheesecakes (from our cookbook), but any favorite crust should work fine. My preference for cheesecake crusts include ones featuring nut-meals, coconut, and the like. They are rather simplistic formulas, but very tasty.

And, though it should be obvious, this OJ Cheesecake is gluten-free and wheat-free, but not dairy-free. And, before anyone asks, I took the picture of the Orange a while back... it was not available for this recipe. It is actually what I believe to be a Satsuma-Mandarin-Orange that I got at Whole Foods, and I really liked how the leaves were still intact: made for a good photo.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Gluten Warning: Delight GF Magazine Holiday Issue, page 54,Texas Bean Soup In A Jar Recipe.

Hey everyone, I do not know if any of you readers subscribe to Delight Gluten-Free Magazine, but if you do, watch out for a problem with the recipe printed on page 54, caled "Texas Bean Soup In A Jar". The recipe (accidentally) calls for barley pearls / pearl barley.

Now, I have not seen this issue personally, but a gluten-free friend of the family that did see it sent me an Email asking me to inform people to be mindful of the fact that barley does contain gluten and that the magazine is *wrong*. All of us longer-term Celiac and gluten-free diet types may well know this, but just in case anyone less familiar with the limitations of the diet decides to cook the soup for themselves or for another person that must remain gluten-free, it could lead to a less than optimal holiday season.

Our friend Sande contacted the magazine, and the following is the exact message she received back from Vanessa Maltin, the Food and Lifestyle Editor, who also said to feel free to share this information.
"I know---it happened because a designer added in her own recipe after the article content had gone through proofing. She has been terminated from the Delight Staff. Julie is putting together a blast to send out to all subscribers notifying people about it and will be posting it on the website. " (Julie is Julie Ann Luse, the Editor in Chief)
Hopefully none of you readers has accidentally included the forbidden Barley in any gluten-free soups or other recipes because of this. This type of situation just reinforces what I tell everyone: always be well informed, know your gluten-free diet constraints well, and proceed with caution (the latter part being more targeted to gluten-free foods and ingredients purchases; but, I guess it also applies to taking recipes for face-value too).

Thanks for the heads-up Sande!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gluten-Free Ultimate Mouse Bait

The above pictures show a recent gluten-free cheesecake recipe we were experimenting with. This was to be a gluten-free peanut-butter-cup cheesecake of sorts (peanut butter cheesecake, with peanut-infused crust, all topped with a chocolate layer). Well, even though it *looks* rather good, it was just "OK", and needed some more fine tuning.

So, the question became: what to do with an entire cheesecake that does not meet the cut?

To begin with, I ate a fair amount of this cake myself. Like I said, it did not meet the cut for what I consider "top of the line" desserts, so the recipe will get tuned further before release to the public. But, it was not TOO bad,... it mainly suffered from texture issues, and was a bit thicker/springier than I wanted. It lacked some of the smoothness and creaminess that it should have had (I think there was too much peanut butter proportionately, and the next attempt should perhaps use part Marscapone cheese instead of all Cream Cheese - which is substantially thicker than the former).

But, I tired of this cake, and contemplated its removal from the house.

Perhaps the Mouse / Mice will like it?!
Instead of just pitching the cake into the compost, I decided to address a second issue of the moment (or season)... one that is an inevitability of country-living from what I have determined through conversations with everybody else living in a 20 mile radius here in the country: mice!

Well, it turns out that this time of year is especially prone to mice wanting to move into the house. When the farmers pick the crops and return the fields to nothing more than a bit of thatch, the mice seem compelled to seek refuge in some place a little more stable - and warmer - the closest human residence!

Trapping with Cheesecake
We use these really effective no-kill traps (we refuse to kill animals that are not of any threat to us). And, experimentation with baits had previously determined that the only thing more desirable than cheese was peanut-butter. So, how about a gluten-free peanut-butter-cup cheesecake instead?

The results are clear: mice prefer this cheesecake to all other bait by a factor of about 4 to 1. Seriously. They will ignore traps containing just cheese, and/or just peanut butter, and choose the mouse-bait recipe containing both of their favorite ingredients in one -- PB Cheesecake.

One of our catches:

Isn't it cute? The leaves around it should give a sense of scale... it is only about 2 inches long (tail excluded).

This one had very distinctive markings: those little tan patches on each side coupled with gray. Most mice have been either all gray or all tan, but this one was a hybrid. And, after release, it posed nicely for the picture, holding still for nearly a minute as I talked to it and told it not to return (I do no think my speech helped: I swear this SAME one showed up for "seconds" 2 days later). Oh well. I have a lot of cake for it to eat while I figure out where it gets in.

And Another...
We have also had these ultra-cute "Meadow Jumping Mice" (credit: picture borrowed from someone else online -- ours looked identical, but did not hold still for a photo):

These guys are SUPER TINY... barely 1-1.5" around when sitting like this. And, they "hop" around like little kangaroos. We see them hopping around outside the basement windows every so often, collecting grass and seeds (and, probably hauling that back into some nook of our house.). They might as well be a wild pygmy hamster or pygmy gerbil or whatever. Very, very similar. Too bad I got rid of the aquarium when we moved, or I would have been tempted to have one as a "pet".

Eradication continues...
I still have a lot of that gluten-free peanut-butter cheesecake recipe (attempt) in the fridge where it should last long enough for me to figure out where these little critters are entering the place from. Although they are cute and all, I wish I could just enter into a pact or accord with them whereby I deliver the cheesecake to some OUTSIDE location for their consumption, and they stay out of my house, instead of me needing to bait the no-kill traps that then force me to take them for a nice long walk out into the woods or field for release. But, such is... country living!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kozy Shack Gluten-Free Chocolate Pudding Review

I almost always cook gluten-free pudding from scratch (chocolate pudding being my favorite) using the recipe right out of our cookbook. But, on occasion (like when going to the grocery store hungry!) the convenience of a pre-made chocolate pudding is appealing, and during the last trip to the store, I actually found this Kozy Shack brand gluten-free chocolate pudding that I gave in and purchased.

The deciding factors for the purchase: clearly labeled "gluten-free" on the back, and the ingredient list was not too far from "homemade" (the only difference being the addition of carrageenan; a thickener / gum). Aside from that, it is just what you might expect in a chocolate pudding recipe: milk, sugar, tapioca starch, cocoa, salt, and natural flavorings. I had other pudding options to look over in the store at the same time, and the "competition" (that lost out) all suffered from a variety of issues like not being labeled gluten-free, or being full of artificial stuff, or even more gums and thickeners, etc. Kozy Shack passed my first test, and now it just had to make it home for the taste-test...

Taste and Texture
This pudding is really, really good! The thickness/consistency is nearly perfect: it is not too thick (not over-gummed!), but instead it is in my opinion just right - the thickness that a good pudding should present with. Kozy Shack is definitely satisfying with a smooth and creamy texture, and plenty of chocolate flavor from ample amounts of cocoa. It tastes natural from start to finish - no chemical/artificial taste or aftertaste like some other puddings I have encountered in the past. This Kozy Shack chocolate pudding is quite similar to a homemade gluten-free chocolate pudding in both taste and texture, but without the effort of cooking yourself.

The container I found was 22-ounces in size, which is to yield about 6 servings of 1/2 cup each, and 140 calories each. Well, this is where my only problem comes in: I consider this container to be about two servings -- one for me, and one for my wife :) We both really loved the pudding, and it definitely did not last long. We could use the excuse of "getting our calcium and protein" in our gluten-free diet perhaps, but the fact is, it just really tasted great and made for a nice dessert / snack.

I give this Kozy Shack gluten-free dessert a definitely-positive recommendation. Now, I look forward to trying their OTHER desserts / snacks, which include tapioca pudding, flan, and some others - including sugar-free varieties and soy-pudding varieties (presumably targeting dairy-free diets). I checked the Kozy Shack web site to see what their gluten-statement is, and it says:

Is Kozy Shack gluten-free?

Kozy Shack puddings, flans, and gels are gluten-free.

I like being able to quickly locate that type of Celiac-friendly information, both on the web, and on the physical products... now I need to track down that flan of theirs to evaluate - and in two varieties! Yum!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gluten-Free Jennies Carob Macaroon Review

There are plenty of times when my sweet tooth requires quick attention and I just do not feel like baking a gluten-free dessert from scratch to satisfy the "need" for a cookie, cake, or similar treat. When this situation arises (all too often), it is nice to have a few gluten-free snacks around that fit the bill -- like this Jennies Macaroon (carob variety).

In one word: SWEET!
This small 2-ounce cookie (which by the way is not quite photogenic as you can see below, as it resembles a mound or pile of some sort. lol), is just packed with sweetness from the honey contained in the recipe. In fact, there are 34-grams of sugar in this cookie, which is a bit extreme, but guaranteed to satisfy any sugar cravings you have (and, also why I quite often split this cookie into two separate servings).

But, sweetness aside, there is plenty of flavor from the coconut and carob to provide satisfaction too. The carob bears some similarity to chocolate, but yet has subtle differences; either way, it is a nice taste for me. And, this cookie is actually a "high fiber cookie" (in my opinion) thanks to all that coconut fiber, weighing in with a whopping 6-grams of dietary fiber per cookie too.

The product's gluten-free recipe is a simple one, as one would expect of a macaroon (certainly a homemade macaroon would have a similar recipe), with the ingredients label showing only these items in the formula: unsweetened sulfite-free coconut, honey, carob, and egg whites. Period. I always love such simplicity in commercial recipes and appreciate the attention to keeping the recipe free of any chemicals, preservatives, colors, or artificial anything. This is how a purchasable celiac-friendly snack should be!

I have found these gluten-free cookies at a couple local stores, but not widespread. So, there is always the official Jennies Macaroon official website where you can buy them -- including, this rather wonderful sounding order option of 144 macaroons at a time :) Wow! 144... a gross of cookies!? That would keep even me busy for a long, long time. The nice thing about buying in such large quantities is the ability to get that price-point below $1/cookie (the website lists 144 for $125), but then again, unless I have a lot of help eating them, it probably is not a bargain. Anyone nearby want to "go in on a gross" of macaroons with me? he he he

Bottom line: great product. Super sweet. Great taste (I also like the regular coconut macaroon variety, and I have not had a chance to try the dutch-chocolate version, but I suspect it is just fine). Semi-reasonable price for a convenient form of a gluten-free dessert when you do not have time to bake your own. Recommended.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gluten-Free Recipe : Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)

Gluten-Free Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)

Gluten-Free Recipe : Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)
Gluten-Free Recipe : Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)
Baba Ghanoush makes for a flavorful and versatile appetizer, side dish, or salad. One serving suggestion (pictured above)... We placed the baba ghanoush on a small plate surrounded by gluten-free vegetable chips (somewhat like potato chips, but instead these are made from things like sweet potato, taro, carrots, green beans, and other vegetables). A sprinkling of fresh-ground black pepper over the eggplant dip topped things off.

Baba Ghanoush (aka, Baba Ghannouj or Baba Ghannoug) has been a favorite appetizer / snack of ours for years, and this recipe is one Laura created and tuned according to our tastes in order to bring forth the mildly smokey roasted eggplant (aubergine) flavor in conjunction with a bit of warmth from whatever types of pepper(s) we choose, and presented with the complementary flavors of garlic, lemon, and tahini (sesame paste). We will also add other accent flavors on an as-desired basis; spices like cumin work well, and dried smoked peppers (chipotles, anchos, poblanos) are always a nice optional addition too.

We serve this regularly, in a gluten-free manner, with things like tortilla chips, gluten-free pretzels, and vegetable chips (as pictured above) to name a few. There are many possibilities for variations and serving suggestions, so experiment with whatever sounds good. If you have some gluten-free breads or pita chips around, those may work nicely too.

And, another great thing about this recipe is that it comes in quite handy at the end of the eggplant growing season, when you may either have a few extra eggplants you do not otherwise know what to do with, or if you happen to stumble upon a bargain on eggplant (that was our luck this time: we purchased a whole pile of small eggplants for 15-cents each where a local farmer market was getting ready to close down for the season!)

The Recipe and Directions

We posted the recipe, along with some additional pictures and discussion, over on our gluten-free recipes library at our gluten-free dessert cookbook website. It is dairy-free, vegan, wheat-free, and gluten-free. And, even without dairy, it has a rather "creamy" texture, about the thickness of sour cream of similar. Here is a direct link to the Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip) Recipe.

Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walmart, Water, and Inflation

We tend to keep a few gallons of distilled water on hand for things like the coffee-maker and similar uses, but I think we may just have given up on buying the gallon jugs of distilled water for good: the price is ridiculous!

Thankfully I do not "need" distilled water for my gluten-free recipes or drinking water, as we have seen the price rise from a low of two gallons for 99-cents just 2 or 3 years back, to 68-cents/gallon last year, and now to a new unbelievable high of 88-cents per gallon (and, this is all comparisons of WalMart prices). OUCH!

This last move from 68-to-88 cents/gallon represents an annual inflation rate of 30-percent! Or, the move from 50-cents to 88-cents, though over a few years, represents compound annual inflation of 20-percent (for 3 years). And yet, the government publishes CPI (Consumer Price Index) information claiming there is zero inflation (actually, they claimed it was negative inflation the past year). Part of that "zero inflation" bunk is due to how they keep excluding the "volatile food and energy" category, which affects a lot of us substantially, from the CPI, so that we (i.e., the government) can paint a rosy picture of negligible inflation to match the negligible (or negative) wage growth.

Perhaps I should have posted this gluten-free blog entry over on my other Financial and Technology Blog instead, but I find that this food and energy inflation directly affects my gluten-free life as I watch prices soar on most everything in my diet, while the government proclaims flat-line inflation. This is exactly why we tend to bake and cook nearly all our own foods -- we do not often purchase pre-made gluten-free items, aside from gluten-free snack foods and gluten-free beer that I should perhaps cut back on anyhow; lol. And, we also grow a lot of our own vegetables already; something that we need to ramp up even further in the coming years to keep costs down.

All of this would be less upsetting if there was some way to earn a return (on investments) that could equal the inflation in daily products. But, the same government CPI number that says we have essentially-zero inflation is also used to ensure the government pays you zero on investments in their own debt-instruments too: e.g., "I-Bonds" (i.e., inflation protected bonds), which are now quite literally paying ZERO because the supposed inflation rate the last 6-12 months was negative. Good luck making up for that distilled-water price-increase with I-Bond "earnings"! And, we all know what savings-rates and CD-rates in the bank are like... surely nothing near 20% annual to match my distilled-water price increase! Arghghgh!

The bottom line: there must be some significant supply/demand imbalance going on somewhere in the "food chain" (or water chain) to justify these prices. I realize energy prices directly affect the manufacture (i.e., distillation) of water, but 20% increase every year?? I want to source as much of my own gluten-free diet products as possible, but just in case I decide I want some affordable distilled water to go with what we grow, cook, and bake, I need to find a good affordable solar-powered water-distillation unit or some such thing. :)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Are Vitamins the Cure for Celiac Disease?

Are Vitamins the Cure for Celiac Disease? Well, perhaps not a cure, but they sure may help avoid some of the problems that may otherwise arise from Celiac Disease, according to the results of a 2009 research team in the Netherlands that investigated the effect of vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12 daily supplements on homocysteine levels in patients with coeliac disease. The results were VERY encouraging (in my opinion, at least), and suggestive of some protective and/or healing-helping functions directly enabled or extended by these B-Vitamins.

The study did a side-by-side comparison of those with coeliac disease to "healthy control individuals" (i.e., those without Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance), and the findings were quite clearly in favor of encouraging B-Vitamin use among Celiac patients - especially B6 and Folate (oddly enough, this study did not result in a correlation between B12 consumption and a reduction in homocysteine levels that other studies have):
They found that patients with celiac disease and using vitamin supplements had higher serum vitamin B6 (P = 0.003), folate (P < p =" 0.012)" p =" 0.035," p =" 0.007," style="font-weight: bold;">Lower plasma homocysteine levels were found in patients using vitamin supplements than in patients who did not (P = 0.001) or healthy controls (P = 0.003). However, vitamin B6 and folate, not vitamin B12, were significantly and independently associated with homo-cysteine levels.
Well, we need to keep in mind here that the study was about homocysteine levels in patients with Celiac, and the effect of vitamin-dosing on those levels. And I forgot to mention that the reason that lower homocysteine levels are important (in general): above-normal homocysteine levels are correlated as strong risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Thus, in theory, lowering your homocysteine levels is a good thing if you want to avoid cardiovascular problems.

The study's findings about a lesser correlation between Vitamin B-12 and homocysteine levels goes against some other studies I have read about B-12 being effective for homocysteine lowering (in the normal population), but perhaps it is less of the direct-cause for high-homocysteine levels in Celiac patients particularly? I do not know, but I will still take my large doses of Vitamin-B12 regardless, as they make me feel better. (See my prior Gluten-Free Blog post on getting B12 to absorb well, without B12 shots, by taking sublingual B12 - i.e., under-the-tongue B12)

Now, for a final bit of science / techie conclusion quoted from the study-excerpt I read, here is the summary statement of why B-Vitamins / Folate is a good thing for us Gluten-Free folks:
The study demonstrates in agreement with earlier findings, that both the presence and the severity of coeliac disease were determinants of homocysteine levels. The regular use of B vitamin supplements was associated with higher serum vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12 and lower plasma homocysteine levels in patients with coeliac disease. Furthermore, B vitamin supplements seem to have a protective role against the effect of villous atrophy on homocysteine levels, irrespective to the genetic susceptibility status as manifested by carrying the C677T polymorphism of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.
I want my villi protected! :)

OK, so it is perhaps time to make sure you take some B-vitamins as part of your daily routine. As always though, consult with a doctor about large doses of vitamins, folate, etc... there really CAN be side-effects with some. Vitamin B-6 for example, in large doses, can lead to some types of neuropathy (i.e., numbness in hands/feet) and other nerve problems that you likely do not want. The only vitamin in this study that is nearly completely safe at extremely high doses (as a multiple of "RDA") is Vitamin B-12, but I will leave the dosing up to you and your doctor regardless.

Note: the excerpt I was reading was from here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Celiac Disease : The Silent Killer

Perhaps the title of this Gluten-Free Blog article is a bit harsh or otherwise scary, but I want to bring attention to how serious this disease really is, and how widespread it is becoming.

I was just reading a summary article about a Mayo Clinic study published a couple months ago in the journal of Gastroenterology, where the study looked at LONG-TERM (45+ years) mortality outcomes for people affected with Celiac disease (an immune system reaction to gluten in the diet), and the trends in population-prevalence of this disease.

Here are the key findings in brief:
  • [study] subjects who did not know they had celiac disease were nearly four times more likely than celiac-free subjects to have died during the 45 years of follow-up [I read this as: ignoring Celiac disease, and leaving it untreated (i.e., not following a strict gluten-free diet), leads to premature death, simply put]
  • undiagnosed or 'silent' celiac disease may have a significant impact on survival; [four-times higher mortality-rate is certainly significant!]
  • Celiac Disease is 4.5 times more common today than it was 50 years ago [it now affects about 1 in every 100 people in the general population], but scientists do not know why;
  • The increasing prevalence, combined with the mortality impact, suggests celiac disease could be a significant public health issue. [perhaps this is obvious after reading those prior bullet-points, right?]
The study was rather fascinating in how they came up with this long-term diagnostic information. They relied on blood samples taken back in the late 1940's and early 1950's at Warren Air Force Base (AFB) in Wyoming, and applied modern antibody-testing techniques to those blood samples to determine which participants back then had Celiac Disease and did not know they had it.

This data was then aligned with information about those study-participants' lifespans and longevity (or lack thereof) over the next 45+ years, and poof: out popped this alarming bit of information about those with undiagnosed or untreated (i.e., non-gluten-free diet followers) Celiac Disease, and how they were dying off at a rate 4 times higher than the general population!

The best thing about studies like this is not the fear that it may put into those with Celiac Disease or gluten-intolerance (though, being "scared into" a strict gluten-free diet may be the only way some people will follow the diet they should), but the important thing is increased awareness of the severity of the disease throughout the medical community. The study pointed out how testing for CD should be treated perhaps just like testing for cholesterol, high blood pressure, or other equal risks to patient mortality.

With a disease that presents with a series of wide-ranging symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, weight loss, anemia, unexplained infertility, loss of teeth or even premature or severe osteoporosis, there has to be a better way of detecting Celiac Disease (as the true *cause*) more quickly and effectively than the current hunt-and-peck approach to "diagnosing" CD that many of us have experienced.

This quote from the study says it all:
"Some studies have suggested that for every person who has been diagnosed with celiac disease, there are likely 30 who have it but are not diagnosed. And given the nearly quadrupled mortality risk for silent celiac disease we have shown in our study, getting more patients and health professionals to consider the possibility of celiac disease is important."
If you, or anyone you know, is likely to have Celiac Disease and is ignoring the signs and/or not following a strict gluten-free diet, please... point out the fact that they may be gambling with their life expectancy and that this gluten-free requirement is something to be taken seriously. And, on the flip-side, do not obsess about the numbers from this study if you follow a gluten-free diet: the study only found that "silent Celiac" (i.e., untreated) was a predictor of higher mortality.

The bottom line: maintain a proper gluten-free diet with solid nutrition and exercise, and you should remain outside the at-risk population described in this study.

Note: if you want to read the summary yourself, here is a link to it: Science Daily - CD Long-Term Study Article.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mareblu Naturals Blueberry Pomegranate Gluten-Free Trail Mix Crunch : Awesome!

[by Mike] Let me begin by saying: this stuff is simply awesome!

I have had many a "trail mix" over the years, but this product is a cut above to say the least. It is fabulous, satisfying, and made with high-quality ingredients. For me, it is trail-mix nirvana.

Mareblu Naturals Blueberry Pomegranate Gluten-Free Trail Mix Crunch is all natural, oven-roasted (slow dry roasted) ingredients that include Almonds, Cashews, and Pistachios, with a lightly-glazed coating derived from evaporated cane juice and rice syrup, with some blueberries, pomegranate, sea salt, and natural flavors that all come together in trail mix perfection!

This is a very hearty mix - as the close-up picture below makes clear (click for more detail) - lots of nuts forming the bulk of the trail mix chunks. And, those chunks carry with them a great overall flavor of blueberry and pomegranate that is present with every crunch, and enjoyable without being overbearing.

I find the balance of flavors nearly perfect, and this gluten-free snack food lives up to Mareblu Naturals claim that they wanted to "create a perfect bite-size snack that was healthy yet didn't sacrifice great taste". Indeed! They certainly did meet that goal.

The product is Peanut-free, contains zero trans fats, is gluten-free, vegan, wheat-free, Kosher, Cholesterol-Free, Dairy-free, and is made here in the USA! That last item of interest (made in the USA) sold me over a competing brand that was also at Costco at the same time, as the other one was from China, and I just do not believe the gluten-free status of some of those products given all the other notable issues with quality control in Chinese food products over the past few years. So, the Mareblu is the perfect choice for me on many levels.

We found this nice 20oz resealable bag of Mareblu Naturals Blueberry Pomegranate Gluten-Free Trail Mix Crunch at Costco for $8.99, which is substantially less than anywhere else I could find the trail mix online when I started looking around. In fact, it was less than half the price that most places want (including and their dealers), as they show a "list price" there of nearly $25.00... a price to which I say, "yeah, right!"; meaning, I would not pay that even though it is a fantastic product.

NOTE --> here is a money-saving tip: if you do not have a CostCo nearby, you can order Mareblu products directly from the Mareblu Naturals website for about the best online prices I could find. Plus, they have ALL the varieties available there, as you would expect. Shipping is reasonable (in fact, it says it is FREE over $50.00 orders) too. E.g., this bag of BB/Pomegranate is $11.99 direct vs. $8.99 at Costco.

I find the $8.99 price at Costco reasonable (as well as the not too much higher prices on the Mareblu web site) given the high-quality, hearty ingredients. I would certainly not pay that for a generic bag of "trail mix" that is just a bunch of raisins and M&Ms and peanuts; but, this Mareblu product is anything but generic - it is a quality snack food (or a dinner in a hurry - lol) that satisfies with substantial ingredients chosen to complement each other well and deliver some low-sugar, high-protein, great taste when you want it.

Mareblu Naturals makes a wide range of snacks and trail mix products in addition to this Gluten-Free Blueberry Pomegranate version, though I have yet to try them since Costco only had this one variety currently (note to Costco: get some more flavors!). The back of the bag lists varieties (visible on tehir website) like Almond, Almond Coconut, Cashew, Cashew Coconut, Pistachio, Pecan Cinnamon, Cranberry Pomegranate Trail Mix, Acai Blueberry Trail Mix, and a couple featuring my favorite thing - CHOCOLATE - like, Dark Chocolate Cashew Crunch and Dark Chocolate Almond Crunch. And , until Costco gets more, I just ordered a few other varieties online to try them out -- now I just have to be patient while they ship to me! Given the wonderful impression this Gluten-Free Trail Mix made on me, I expect similarly high-quality and delicious results in their other products, and look forward to trying them.

Everything about Mareblu Naturals Blueberry Pomegranate Gluten-Free Trail Mix Crunch said "high quality and attention to great taste, texture, and even health" as I consumed it, and it gets an emphatic thumbs-up rating from me, my wife, my parents, Nick (who seems permanently distracted lately and may not be writing further reviews for me), and Nick's father. We ALL loved this product. The only down-side: we find it difficult not to consume an entire bag in no time once we open it... this is some really great, and nearly addictive, trail mix!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Spaghetti-Squash : Gluten-Free Pasta

[by Mike] I wrote a Gluten-Free Recipes series here on the Gluten-Free Blog last year entitled "Garden-to-Plate", where I featured all sorts of homegrown vegetables grown right here in our organic garden. Some of those recipes included things like:
and now...

2009 Brings Spaghetti Squash to the Garden

Oh, how I love fresh Spaghetti squash, covered with all sorts of other fresh vegetables from the gluten-free garden! This simple recipe starts with baking a Spaghetti squash while simultaneously pan-searing some fresh zucchini, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and a bit of basil in some olive oil.

The spaghetti squash is cooked "al dente" (leaving the fibers in the squash just ever so slightly "crisp" or "firm" yet - versus overcooking), which makes for a wonderful texture just like a great "real" pasta cooked to perfection. In fact, I tried this gluten-free spaghetti squash with just olive oil and some fresh ground black-pepper (prior to topping with the tomato / zuchini sauce), and it was wonderful even served that simple.

I highly recommend these squash, and if you can not grow them where you live, hopefully you can find them at the grocery store. We are grateful to be able to grow them ourselves, especially given that (in the off-season for sure) they tend to be rather over-priced at the store. This year, we have already harvested 4 of these nice gluten-free diet products, with each being about 10 or 12-inches long by perhaps 5 or 6 inches in diameter.

Now, the only down-side to things is that we must soon leave our old organic gluten-free garden behind as we move, permanently, to our new house that has the much larger gluten-free farming area with it. Our old house has sold now (closes this week), and that means we have a LOT of work to do at the new property to get the garden ready for 2010 larger-scale production. That new "farm" will definitely include spaghetti-squash, as we have already saved and dried some seeds from the squash featured in the pictures here -- ready to plant next year. Oh how I look forward to planting an ever-increasing variety of Celiac-safe vegetables, fruits, and perhaps even grains (e.g., Millet, Teff, etc.)... if only my body keeps up with my ambition!

Looking Forward...
Nick should be back soon writing a few more wheat-free and gluten-free product reviews in the coming week once he finishes up some other business he had to take care of. I know he has a large lineup of commercial products to taste-test and share an opinion about.

And, once my wife and I are fully situated at the new house, we should have some later-season garden treats to feature on the Gluten-Free Blog in addition to other product reviews. We were lucky enough to have had the chance to plant some garden items at both locations this year, so we have plenty of squash, sunflowers, cucumbers, and even a few tomatoes at the new house that should keep us cooking up healthy dinners there... and recipes/suggestions for online too.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Give me a ‘B’ for Bard’s Beer! (Gluten-Free)

I just love these gluten-free beer reviews. Mike has asked me to do yet another beer, and you don’t see me complaining. Today’s featured beer is ‘Bard’s’ Gluten-Free Beer, The Original Sorghum Malt Beer – or so they say. I don’t know, is it the first? Well, perhaps I’ll figure that out in subsequent posts, so stay tuned for that trivial tidbit if I can locate proof of their claim. (image courtesy of Bard's home-page)
[by Nick Pacione - guest gluten-free blog author]
If you are just starting to follow these gluten-free beer reviews and opinions today, here are some quick links to my recent reviews of competing wheat-free / gluten-free products:
Ok, back on track. This bottled beer has a pretty good reputation as being a tasty brew in the gluten-free crowds, so Mike has asked me to put up an honest review. Well, let’s see how this thing ranks in aroma, body, flavor and aftertaste. Alright all you gluten-free beer freaks, here we go . . .

Oooooh, the Aroma isn’t too bad at all!
I have been asked to review these different GF beers, and today it’s Bard’s Tale! Well, when I popped the top off and poured her into a glass, there wasn’t much sign of a thick head, as the beer cohesively worked its way up the glass, where its amber hues finally rested comfortably under a thin head.
With that, the aroma wafted up into my schnozz and I was met with a pretty unique, yet familiar aroma that a beer like RedBridge would muster. Bard’s aroma is very similar to a RedBridge Ale, yet there seems to be a bit more of a molasses smell. Furthermore, it’s not as piney – as say a RedBridge, but seems to have a bit more sweetness to it. All in all, I would call the aroma pleasant and very sweet, in an aromatic sense.

Flavor, you ask?

Well, I tried the first sip and wasn’t surprised to find that it was a bit sweeter than the other gluten-free beers I have tried, but it wasn’t too sweet in the sense that it might deter a more traditional lager/pilsner drinker. This beer doesn’t have a sharp taste to it at all, but more of a sweet finish with a spicy undertone that is sure to please the pallet. Not too bad for a product that contains water, sorghum, hops and yeast. I’d give this a thumbs up for taste and could see a sharp cheddar and some gluten-free crackers going with this little number.

Ok. Don’t let the heading fool you, but the aftertaste is a bit like black licorice, so if you’re not a fan of that sticky-sweet treat, then you’re probably not going to like this beer. Now, it’s not like Sambuca or anything that extreme, but more subtle and subdued to the trained taste bud. I happen to really enjoy black licorice, so I must say that I am pleased with the aftertaste.

Bards is a great gluten free beer. It smells great and isn’t too bitter or sweet – hovering somewhere on the slightly sweeter side, its amber hues are dynamite and the flavor is tasty. If you enjoy beer and suffer from Celiac or gluten intolerance like me, then go ahead and grab yourself a few of these little gems.
It’s a pretty darn good beer and the only thing I could think of is that it might be a bit too sweet for some that like a drier, sharp beer or for those that don’t like black licorice, because there definitely is a bit of a strong molasses-like aftertaste to this one. All in all, I’d give this beer a solid 8 out of 10 for a gluten-free product. If you reach for a Bard’s beer, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Eins, zwei, drei – g’suffa! And, get ready for more... I have Green's Endeavor and a couple others on deck to render an opinion on yet.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Go Appetit Cool Soup Review : NOT so Cool!

Today's Gluten-Free product review is about the "Cool Soup" Creamy Mango Spice "drinkable soup" from Go Appetit, which is marketed as:
"...designed to provide a new alternative for eating healthy on-the-go. It satisfies the need for fruit and vegetables when there is no time to shop and chop.

The portable 8 ounce aseptic bottle (nine month shelf life) gives new meaning to the term “souperfood.”"

[by Nick Pacione - guest gluten-free blog author]

Well folks, it’s time for more gluten-free product reviews and I’m going to kick off the day with a gluten-free product called Cool Soup. This product comes in an 8oz. plastic bottle – and to be honest, I was slightly frightened when I twisted the top off and smelled this ‘stuff.’

First: The Smell...
The ‘Creamy Mango Spice’ flavor sounded interesting, but when I first popped the top and took a whiff, it resembled anything but the former and –to be honest – I really couldn’t place the ‘stench’ that came out of the container. It smelled very artificial, but after reviewing the ingredient list (mango, peaches, coconut cream and red pepper, etc) I observed that there was nothing artificial to be found. I guess the smell must just be due to the rather odd mix of fruits / vegetables.

Next: the Eating/Drinking Experience...
So, we’ve covered the fact that it smelled weird upon opening, but what does this stuff look/taste like and what kind of nutrients are packed in there. Well, here we go (grabbing barf bag). Well, I’m gonna keep this one short folks because this product – in my own opinion – is pretty bad.

The color, which was the only thing I could find that I liked about this product, was a dark yellow/orange combination. The consistency of this gruel was very thin and the flavor reminded me of – well, something awful, not to mention the aftertaste was just horrendous. Speaking of aftertaste, it’s very acidic and I’m not one to get heartburn, but I had it for a few hours after only stomaching 4oz. of this gut-wrenching stuff.

OK, so the company markets it as a "superfood" (or "souperfood" as they may call it), so, what are the nutrients, you ask? Well, there is a ton of sugar (shocker) in this 8oz. little can (22g) and only 1g of protein. Aside from that, you get a pretty good serving of vitamin A and C, but that is not enough to make up for the fact that I would rather pass on this little vial of – what smells like – putrid vegetable, fruit juice and, yeee-arrrrrrr, uh – yuck!

Conclusion (obvious perhaps!)
Man, this stuff reeks and to be honest,... I could throw up just thinking about this stuff. Was this a bad joke being played out on me? I’m beginning to think that Mike put me up to this gluten-free review just to see what I could handle (he did warn me that not all gluten-free foods and diet-products were good; then again, not all "normal" foods are good either). And, in this particular Cool Soup review situation, I was forewarned and it was understood, prior to this review, that Mike's wife had tried another flavor (a tomato-based one I believe) of this ‘Cold Soup’ and she thought it was terrible.

In the end, I’m not sure who the heck was taste-testing this product before it went to market, but there may be a good chance that they didn’t have any taste buds. All in all, Cool Soup sucks. I mean, I reverently use that word for things I really don’t like and this product – well, it just sucked.

To sum things up, I have had plenty of authentic, fresh cold soup in my time, and I recall my mother making a variety of cold soups growing up. Cold soup done RIGHT can be quite satisfying... it is not the temperature that is to blame here. This Cool Soup product is not recommended, and be warned because if you decide to try ‘Cool Mango Spice Cool Soup’ you’re NOT in for a real treat. I do not care if it is wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and what have you... this snack is pretty nasty.

Until encountering this Cool Soup product, all my gluten-free product reviews have been rather enjoyable. But, in this case, I found myself self-censoring my review as I typed it so that my full level of disgust with this soup product was presented in such a way that it was "safe for public consumption" (now if only the soup-maker had taken equal steps to ensure enjoyable consumption, this review may have been different)!

Stay tuned for some more gluten-free food and drink reviews (some much tastier products too!) I have another Schar brand cookie review coming... Bard's Tale gluten-free beer review... some tortilla chips... trail mix... and a few others on deck for the coming days and weeks.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Gluten-Free Cookies : Schar Shortbread Cookie Review

Gluten-Free Cookies!
Bring 'em on!

I continue my gluten-free and wheat-free product review series today with something we can all enjoy: gluten-free cookies.

[by Nick - guest gluten-free blog author]

Well, today Mike had cookies on the mind, and he has asked me to write another review using my own recent non-gluten-free eating experience to compare another gluten-free food to what I would expect from the "real thing".

I’m sure you folks out there have enjoyed a cookie or two in your time - - I know I have. Now, when you hear the word ‘cookie’ you’re probably thinking of your favorite cookie that you enjoyed growing up as a kid. Well, I can tell you that what we’ll be talking about today here on the ol’ gluten-free blog is your basic short bread cookie, but of course it’s gluten-free.

Today's blog is dedicated to the Schar gluten-free shortbread cookie and my opinion of it and how it stacks up (here is a picture of a few on a small plate - click to get a nice large version of the product if you want).

Mike turned me onto the brand Schar, which makes a wonderful gluten free cookie that has the look and feel of a ‘Lorna Doone’, but without all the calories. But we must remember that it isn’t called a cookie for nothing. These cookie treats are made with corn flour, sugar and vegetable oils (palm, coconut and canola), as well as eggs, honey and artificial flavors. But, I would like to add that when you compare the ingredients and fat content to your average, every-day cookie in the snack aisle, these little gluten-free buggers are much healthier than their competition (they have rather low sugar and fat grams per serving) and the Schar shortbread cookie is a wonderful alternative for snack time in your wheat-free / gluten-free household.

So, how do they taste?

Well . . . . . . for starters, when I chomped down on one of these puppies, the texture was crisp and the immediate hint of honey was picked up by my taste buds on the tip of my tongue. Since butter is not used in this cookie, there is a distinct difference between this gluten free cookie, and counterparts containing butter, but one thing is for certain,... and that is there is plenty of flavor.

The aftertaste is quite pleasant too, and Mike and I have both agreed that there is a hint of vanilla that lingers soon after the last bite. As far as the sugar content is concerned, it’s relatively lower compared to other non GF cookies, with the Schar product weighing in at only 5 grams per serving; with a "serving" being 4 cookies (28g). Not too bad. Try getting that in your Oreos. Uh, not!

Now, the one thing I’m not too impressed with is the price. A little 7 oz. bag of these gluten-free cookies cost close to a whopping $5.00 USD. Now, you can imagine why it pays to bake your own gluten-free cookies and desserts: it’s cheaper and you can – with practice – get the recipe exactly to your liking. Of course, this is a good part of why Mike and his wife created their gluten-free desserts recipes and cookbook - to help themselves and others who have the time and desire to bake their own treats do so, and save some cash in the process. But, the simple fact is, there is not always the time (or desire) to slave over a stove when you just want (or "need") a quick gluten-free cookie fix; so, store-bought cookies like this Schar Shortbread come in handy in a pinch.

The Verdict
I would conclude that these cookies are pretty tasty and go great with a glass of milk or a good English tea, but they definitely are a bit expensive (which I am quickly learning is common with gluten-free foods and diet items). So, the verdict is in and for all of us out there that have Celiac disease, are living on a gluten free diet, or for us that are just looking for a slightly healthier alternative to our buttery cookies, snacks and desserts, the Schar shortbread cookie won’t necessarily hit you in the waistline but it will definitely hit your tastebuds in a good way while hitting the old wallet up for some more cash.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Gluten-Free Beer : AB Redbridge (Nick's Review)

Isn't that a fine looking beer (gluten-free beer or otherwise)? I have to give credit to Anheuser-Busch, Inc., Brewers of Redbridge Beer in St. Louis MO, and in particular their Redbridge Beer website home page creative team, since I adapted a snapshot of their promotional picture to show here.

[by Nick - guest gluten-free blog author]

The picture certainly is nice, but how does this beer hold up to a taste test? We are about to find out.

Note: this is a continuation in my gluten-free and wheat-free beer comparison and evaluation series that started the other day with a review of Sprecher Shakparo gluten-free beer, which was my first hands-on experience with GF beer. Now it is time to compare and contrast the AB Redbridge beer...

GF BEERS: The Plot, uh – I mean the ‘Head’, Thickens
Well folks, I just cleansed my pallet with a little bit of parsley that Mike had in the ol’ fridge and I must say that, upon pouring the latest GF beer in the mug, it appears that it could be another winner.

Yes, I’m typing and drinking at the same time, but rest assured I’m cruising the web at a safe speed. This latest sampling of a GF beer is unique in the sense that I now have something to compare it to, and that’s the Shakparo beer (Sprecher product) that I enjoyed perhaps a half hour earlier.

I know all you GF fans out there are probably dying to hear my take on this latest gluten-free beer, especially given the fact that I have recently consumed "normal" beers, so here we go . . .

In summary, Redbridge, which is brewed by Anheuser-Busch, is a pretty darn good beer. In fact, I would like to call it rather refreshing, insofar as it could easily be mistaken for a non GF beer. Really? Uh, no kidding! For those of you that enjoy lighter beers with plenty of taste and a crisp finish - - this one is for you!

Upon pouring the Redbridge into a glass, the head erupted into a pillowing top of creamy goodness that hid the underlying, lightly colored amber brew. The Shakparo hadn’t nearly the same size head; in fact, it was quite diminutive in size compared to this little gem of a GF beer.

The smell: Redbridge is reminiscent of a hoppy beer such as a Sierra Nevada (a "real" - non GF beer I have enjoyed), but slightly mellower. With all due respect, these two GF beers (Shakparo and Redbridge) both smell wonderful and have two distinctly different aromas that each satisfy in their own unique way.

Now, onto the flavor. Well, if you enjoy a good glass of GF beer or the non-GF variety, you’re in for a treat. This beer could fool most beer drinkers, as it could easily pass for very hoppy-smelling ale that has the ever slightest amber hue – yet it is crisp, leaves little to no aftertaste and really goes down easy. I could see myself enjoying a few of these!

Compare/Contrast: Redbridge vs. Shakparo
So, to reiterate a bit from my previous beer review, if you like a bolder, more intense flavored beer that is rich in amber color, aroma and taste – the Sprecher product (Shakparo) will definitely do the trick. This beer is beautifully crafted and can tend to be a bit heavy, so be careful with how much you imbibe. On the other hand, the Redbridge is much lighter, refreshing and crisp on the pallet and has a wonderful aroma that definitely keeps the nose pleasantly preoccupied while you enjoy each refreshing sip.

So, which beer would you enjoy the most? Well, I must say that after enjoying a glass of Shakparo and Redbridge – the latter beer, or the Redbridge, takes the cake in my book. This beer offers plenty of aroma, color and crisp flavor that leaves the pallet clean and beckoning for another sip. If you like beer, definitely pick up a four-pack of the Shakparo and a ‘sixer’ of the Redbridge because you can’t go wrong with these GF products.

Both pack plenty of flavor and each has its own distinct attitude. Happy gluten-free beer drinking! Celiacs are not missing much thanks to beers like this on the market.

Next up in the series: perhaps Bard's Tale, Green's Endeavor, and a few others. Coming soon...

HoneyRock Cantaloupe Melon - Awesome Gluten-Free Breakfast!

[by Nick - guest gluten-free blog author]

Now that is a good breakfast!
This morning, I was pleasantly surprised that Mike had some breakfast waiting for me when I arrived at his place. He’s gotten hip to the idea that I have a pretty big appetite and he has no shortage of good eats in his kitchen. Instead of grabbing your typical American, on-the-go breakfast, such as a bagel, donuts, a McHockey Puck or any other belt-busting breakfast debacle, you can always opt for something healthier, like this Honeyrock.

I noticed that Mike was cutting up this massive melon, so I said, “That’s a pretty gigantic cantaloupe.” Well, little did I know that it wasn’t technically just a cantaloupe, but yet another wonderful gluten-free snack (or breakfast, lunch, etc) called the Honey Rock melon. Its leftover rind also makes wonderful compost too, but more about that at the end of the blog...

Have you readers ever heard of Honeyrock Mellon? Well, if you haven’t, that definitely makes two of us. For starters, this melon, by its mere appearance is huge. Relatively speaking, the Honeyrock melon has the same texture and appearance of a cantaloupe, but it’s much larger. We ended up measuring this thing and it’s 8” x 10”. So, as you can see (reference picture at top) this puppy is pretty massive. Turns out these are rather popular items grown here in Ohio as well as other States. They have a lot of Vitamin-C, Vitamin-A, and Potassium - so, decent nutrition too.

Breakfast is Served!
Now, how does it taste, smell and what’s the texture like? As I have mentioned, the Honey Rock melon looks very similar to your typical cantaloupe, but this gluten-free snack is much larger and just as tasty. So, the taste is essentially quite similar to a cantaloupe, though I almost think this fruit has even more juiciness. I am sure some individual variation exists, but this particular specimen was awesome.

The meat of the melon is sweet, tender and if you play your cards right and eat it when it’s ripe, you’d be hard-pressed to know that you weren’t eating a cantaloupe. Mike picked up that beast-of-a-melon for $3.00 USD. Unreal! Considering cantaloupes are relatively priced, you get a lot more melon for the price.

Let me go into a bit more detail about the smell and texture of the fruit now. Does it smell any different than your average cantaloupe? Does it have the same consistency on the pallet? Well, it smells just as aromatic and fruity as its relative – the cantaloupe. When you cut this baby open, she unleashes a pleasant, fruity and almost tropical aroma that pleases not only your nose, but makes your taste buds water. As far as the texture goes, let’s just say that if you were blindfolded and tried a little piece of this gluten-free heaven, you wouldn’t even know the difference between this and a great cantaloupe; and presuming you enjoy cantaloupe, you would find this fruit to be absolutely wonderful in both texture and taste, IMHO.

So, for the careful observer, it isn’t hard to see that this melon is everything the cantaloupe is, but LITERALLY you get a lot more fruit with the colossal Honeyrock. In the end, the Honey Rock melon is an over-sized cantaloupe that has all the flavor, texture and aroma as the latter, but for a bargain of a price.

Breakfast for two!
Now, I mentioned that Mike doesn’t like to waste a thing, is very conscientious when it comes to the environment, and he’s also a big-time animal lover; so, that brings us to our ‘mobile composting assistant’ that just happens to frequent Mike's back yard.

‘Sweetie’, who is a 2-year old female deer, is the daughter of ‘Sweet Tooth’ (featured on this blog before). In fact, Sweetie was featured on this blog when she was born (see: Sweet Tooth had a baby). Since then, poor Sweetie suffered a broken leg, but has returned to full health after nearly a year of seeking some caloric-boost assistance during the recovery time. Sweetie has been aiding Mike and his wife in compost-material removal (e.g., fruit and veggie scraps, and perhaps even some gluten-free dessert leftovers too) for a couple years now.

So, Honeyrock presents a great gluten-free / wheat-free food option for both humans and deer alike! I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog and melon as much as Sweetie and I have!

And, Coming Later Today...
Catchya all later today with the second in my gluten-free beer roundup series where I will review the AB Redbridge Beer and compare it to the Sprecher Shakparo beer. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Gluten-Free Beer : Sprecher Shakparo (Nick's Review)

[Mike] I reviewed this Sprecher Shakparo gluten-free beer back in May of this year (2009), and thought it would be nice to get another person's opinion of the product. When I reviewed it, I just did not have the recent experience with "real beer" (i.e., the standard wheat and barley malt containing formulas) to adequately describe how gluten-free beer(s) compare to regular beer.

So, our guest gluten-free blogger Nick Pacione is now going to share his insights and opinions of Sprecher Shakparo gluten-free / wheat-free beer, and he will followup in the coming days with reviews of Anheuser Busch (AB) RedBridge as well as Green's Discovery and perhaps a couple more (depending what we can locate at local markets for review).

One thing you will quickly notice is that Nick writes in a completely different style than I do, and he lets his personality and passion for creative writing show quite a bit. I hope all you readers enjoy Nick's style and presentation as he contributes some gluten-free product reviews to this blog...

[Nick - guest gluten-free blog author]

GF Beers: Shakparo vs. Redbridge and others
Ah, the special relationship between man and his beer has been around for countless ages. When one thinks of beer, what typically comes to mind? Well, one thing that doesn’t come to mind (at least for me) is ‘gluten-free’ beer products.

Upon drinking my first GF beer this evening (Sprecher Shakparo), I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of aroma, flavor and body that has otherwise – to this very evening – eluded me.

Recently, Mike E. asked me to sample two of his favorite GF beers and blog about them. Well, I really didn’t know what to expect after popping the tops of these two beauties (Shakparo and Redbridge), but what I found was an incredible amount of color, aroma and flavor that you would typically find in more top-of-the-line, non GF micro-brewed beers.

For starters I sampled the Shakparo Ale, which is naturally brewed from sorghum and millet. Upon pouring this beer into my glass, what struck me almost immediately was its beautiful color and powerful, yet pleasing aroma, which – to my surprise – smelled just like a spicy, pumpkin ale. Having sampled my fair share of finely crafted beers in the past, I can tell you that this beer impressed me in more than one way.

First, the color is just beautiful, which mimicked your typical pumpkin-like ale – with its beautiful deep, amber hues. Subsequently, the aroma was very similar to pumpkin ale – and had quite a strong, thick aroma.

How’s the flavor? Well, upon taking the first sip, the head mellowed, the aroma was pleasant and the flavor was – to my very surprise – fantastic. The beer leaves a fairly strong aftertaste but don’t let this discourage you because it’s something which your taste buds are prepared for . . . the residue isn’t too strong or overpowering; rather, it leaves an ironic freshness to your breath that most beer drinkers would find surprising. If you’re picky, this could be a deal breaker, but for the most part, the aftertaste is quite refreshing, if you can believe that.

All in all, Shakparo is a very tasty beer and I must say that for my first GF beer experience, I was more than impressed: I was elated that there is something out there for people with Celiac Disease or who, for whatever reason, are allergic or hyper-sensitive to gluten.

I give the Sprecher Shakparo two thumbs up!

Ah, but wait! What is this? Another GF beer to sample (AB RedBridge)? Hmmmmm. Do I hear a taste-test and comparison coming? Stay tuned . . .

Monday, August 03, 2009

Gluten-Free Blog Welcomes Guest Author: Nick Pacione

The Quest for a Guest-Author...
[Mike] I have been facing a rather substantial (and growing) backlog of gluten-free blog topics including gluten-free and wheat-free product-reviews, recipes, baking discussions, news, etc. My "to-do" list really started expanding, coincidentally, with the purchase of the new property (that includes ample farmland for our gluten-free produce and grains), and I have been overwhelmed with the work surrounding getting our prior home sold, changing address, moving, and so on.

To alleviate the backlog and start getting the Gluten-Free blogging back on track quicker, I have been searching for some assistance with all those product reviews and the like. I decided it would also be helpful if I could find someone that could offer a fair comparison between "real" (gluten / wheat containing) foods and the gluten-free counterparts.

Introducing our Guest Author: Nick Pacione
As fate would have it, my quest was fulfilled when I recently encountered a perfect guest-author candidate for the Gluten-Free Blog while attending a party at a relative's house. It turns out that, although Nick still consumes that (evil) Gluten substance all too regularly, he highly suspects that it may be causing him some issues. He also realizes that, if he has confirmed Celiac Disease, he needs to fully eliminate gluten from his diet quite soon.

So Nick and I got to talking more about the subject of food allergies and diets, and his desire to learn more about Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, and gluten-free / wheat-free diets in particular,... I could not help but notice that he showed promise as a blogging protege.

One "qualification" Nick Pacione brings to the table (quite literally) is his recent consumption of both "normal" and gluten-free foods. Ultimately he may well migrate to a totally gluten-free diet if it turns out that he has Celiac Disease or substantial gluten-intolerance, but in the mean time, he is able (and/or willing) to ingest enough of what would be toxic to us GF folks in order to make direct side-by-side comparisons of "real" foods to the gluten-free counterparts. I personally do not have this option, and have not for quite a few years thanks to Celiac Disease, and at times I wonder if my memories of "real" versions of breads, pizza, beer, cookies, cakes, and so on are still accurate; and, Nick will be able to lend validity here with up-to-date comparative experience.

So, without further delay, I will let Nick take over and give a brief autobiographical introduction before he writes his first gluten-free product review series. We will see how this goes, and what kind of reception his blogging gets, and with luck, this will produce a nice addition to The Gluten-Free Blog for a while!

Nick's Self-Intro...
[Nick] Greetings everyone! My name is Nick Pacione and you’re probably wondering who I am and why – of all things – am I BLOGGING about gluten-free products and related topics, especially if I still consume foods containing gluten?
Well, for starters I am a 34 year old Midwestern guy that – although undiagnosed – may have an allergy to gluten. In fact, I’m quite sure I have Celiac Disease, but I have yet to go through the whole ‘white coat and a ton of guess-work’ routine with any physician. As you may have guessed, I’m still able to eat most non GF foods with varying degrees of discomfort.

Being a fellow blogger and someone who really enjoys writing, Mike told me to take a peek at his blog and see if I would like to research some GF products and author some brief product review(s) as I let my taste buds compare/contrast those GF items with your everyday, non-GF products.
Needless to say, I was hooked after trying – of all things – Gluten-free beer. So here I am, very enthusiastic about trying these Celiac-friendly products, and prepared to post my findings here on the Gluten-Free Blog for all to read.

Get ready for my first series of posts: a gluten-free beer roundup as judged by someone recently familiar with a variety of "real" specialty beers. I plan to soon thereafter move onto reviews of everyday gluten-free treats including pretzels, cookies, soups, and many more (Mike has a list a mile long that he wants me to review!)

So sit back, read on, and I hope you enjoy my subsequent and soon-to-follow blog posts.
Nick Pacione

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Quinoa Bargain at Costco : Gluten-Free Super-Grain Dirt-Cheap

Quinoa: Gluten-Free Super-Grain, now at CostCo

Quinoa is a wonderful gluten-free grain that I enjoy as often as possible, and a grain that has recently grown in popularity (not just among Celiacs) in the culinary world -- and with that growth in demand has come increasing prices. I witnessed small 12oz or 1-pound boxes of quinoa doubling in price at the grocery store over just the past year, and have read many a blog about other people seeing the same thing.

Well, we were out at CostCo the other day, and I was delighted to come across this very large (4 POUND) bag of Organic Quinoa for only $7.99 (i.e., $2.00/pound), which is incredibly price-competitive and the cheapest I have seen quinoa grain in a long time.

Update (2011-August): I have added a new Costco Gluten-Free Bargains for 2011 (link) blog that extends upon this blog with updated pricing information for quinoa and a list of other gluten-free products Costco offers currently. Of course, the gluten-free recipes using quinoa (discussed below) are still very much available and useful.

Some Gluten-Free Recipes featuring Quinoa

If you are new to quinoa, you may want to check out a few different recipes we have posted here on the Gluten-Free Blog as well as on our Gluten-Free Recipes page, including those linked to in the following paragraphs. Quinoa is generally rather simple to prepare (hardly any more difficult than cooking rice), but brings much more flavor and nutrition to the table for the same effort.

Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Garlic, Pepper, and Herb Quinoa Recipe (picture below):

Gluten-Free Quinoa with Herbs
Gluten-Free Quinoa with Herbs

And there there is always the Gluten-Free Quinoa Meatloaf recipe (picture below), which I also blogged about last year with an entry talking about some of the other health-merits of quinoa in recipes like this...

Quinoa Meatloaf - Gluten-Free
Quinoa Meatloaf - Gluten-Free
There are certainly many more ways to enjoy this wonderful gluten-free grain. Sometimes we simply cook it up and use a bit of wheat-free/gluten-free tamari (soy sauce) over it. We have used it where rice would otherwise be used for various dishes as well. Fact is, quinoa is quite versatile, vegan (our meatloaf withstanding. heh), wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, high-protein, high-fiber, and all those other great things! And, as long as CostCo has cheap Quinoa available, it will be an affordable option 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.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Gluten-Free Equals Variety (of Flours)

We have been showing our house to prospective buyers recently, and quite often when we reach the basement portion of the house-tour, the stacks of Gluten-Free Dessert Recipe books on the large commercial-duty shelving gets attention. This leads to a quick discussion along the lines of "what gluten-free is" and so on.

One major misconception that people have about gluten-free / Celiac disease diets is that it is just "flour" (i.e., white wheat flour) that must be avoided. So, I quickly enumerate the wheat, barley, and rye, as well as any derivation thereof. Then comes a discussion along the lines of "what can you eat then?" and so on.

Yesterday, a couple of nice ladies that were really interested in the house for the kitchen (fellow cooking aficionados it seems!) commented something to the effect that I must be limited to just baking with rice flour due to the Celiac Disease, at which point I started listing a whole host of additional gluten-free grains/flours and the like that we bake with (both in our cookbook recipes, and in our day-to-day cooking and baking). After browsing through our Gluten-Free Desserts cookbook, I think they got the idea, and quickly noticed that we (gluten-free types) have all sorts of variety and can bake and consume everything from cookies to cakes to cheesecakes and pies, and so on.

After presenting a "gluten-free grains quick list" to a various people over the past couple weeks, it struck me how much more VARIETY we Celiac and gluten-free diet types have when it comes to our daily flours and grains as compared to the "normal" (i.e., wheat-eating) population. The typical American diet is rather narrowly focused around processed white flour (wheat-based), and some occasional whole-wheat flour, and some corn starch perhaps.

But, here is what we Celiac Disease and gluten-free consumers have at our disposal and use regularly (or, can use regularly if we choose) for our flours of choice:
  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Potato
  • Teff
  • Sorghum
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Chia Seed
  • Various bean-flours
  • Squash flours (e.g., pumpkin)
  • Cinnamon, Cocoa, and other spices (that I use in large quantities like flour when desired)
  • and many more...
In addition, it seems that we are more likely (as a group of bakers / dieters) to know about other alternatives like Agave Nectar for sweetener, and whey-protein for binders, and so on.

So, whenever I encounter the theme of "living without" (with regards to living without gluten), I can not help thinking that perhaps it is the rest of the population that is living without -- without the variety of grains, flours, and ingredients that one may otherwise never encounter or experience unless essentially "forced" (by Celiac Disease, gluten-intolerance, autism, what have you...) to try all these great alternatives to "normal" flour.

Happy variety-filled baking everyone! (and, Happy Fourth-of-July too!)