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.