Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gluten-Free Indian Cuisine - fast and simple


I recently decided to try some Gluten-Free Indian Cuisine that is about as fast and simple as it gets : it comes in a can, just like Campbell's Soup or Progresso, or any other mainstream soup, and can be cooked (stovetop or microwave) on a whim. I generally avoid canned soups and the like, but this Jyoti Natural Foods Madras Sambar (Lentils with Fresh Vegetables) was quite pleasing and clearly labeled Gluten-Free.

I may not be an "expert" on Indian Food, but I really thought the product tasted like what good Indian lentils and vegetables should, and I really enjoyed the flavors from the onion, bell pepper, eggplant, carrots, tomato, tamarind, coconut, and spices that Jyoti has blended with the lentils. I found it to be a robust flavor, but not overpowering, and just spicy enough to not be overwhelming either. The soup was as good as some I have had served at some Indian restaurants, and for a much lower price.

This "soup" is actually designed to serve dual purposes: you can add just 1/2 can of water for a thicker, somewhat Indian-dal style dish, or add a full can of water for a nice flavorful gluten-free Indian lentil soup. You can definitely serve this over rice if you want, as it will make for an easy more filling extension if you want to add some carbs :)

My photo is not the best, but I was putting the soup to good use for a quick lunch the other day, and the photo was a last minute item. I think the picture at least shows what the soup-version looks like when mixed up and microwaved in just a couple minutes total. There are a few other varieties available that are also wheat-free and gluten-free (and vegan / meat-free / dairy-free too), and now that this one has passed my taste-test, I plan to try some others. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gluten-Free Chex Cereals coming June 1st, 2009


For all you fans of the famous General Mills Chex cereals products that have not been able to eat these cereals since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance, it appears we will soon (June 1st supposedly - though I presume inventory will take some time to get into the distribution channel and hit shelves everywhere) have the fortune of newly reformulated Gluten-Free Chex varieties including:
  • Gluten-Free Corn Chex,
  • Gluten-Free Cinnamon Chex,
  • Gluten-Free Strawberry Chex,
  • Gluten-Free Honey Nut Chex
Perhaps you have noticed that, for a while now, Rice Chex has been gluten-free (look for the clearly "Gluten-Free" label on front of boxes). Here is General Mills' statement about their existing Gluten-Free Rice Chex on their current Chex-based Gluten-Free Recipes page or their Chex Product Page:
Without changing the crunchy, oven-toasted flavor of Rice Chex, General Mills has replaced barley malt with molasses resulting in a Gluten Free Cereal. General Mills has taken the requisite steps to prevent cross contamination and has tested the formula based on the proposed FDA standards. Questions & comments are welcome at 1-800-328-1144.
I expect that General Mills has taken similar re-formulation steps for these other Chex varieties. And, they are to label any Gluten-Free Chex cereals clearly on the front of the box (just like Rice Chex are now) once the new formulas are out... so keep your eyes open for those labels.

I definitely applaud General Mills' action in making these cereals gluten-free, and I sure hope other breakfast cereals produced by them, and by Kellogg's Cereals and other cereal manufacturers, are reformulated to be gluten-free when such formulation seems so simple (to those of us that do gluten-free baking and food creation). I always find myself in the store looking longingly at those cereals that *should* be gluten-free, but for some reason always feel the need to add barley-malt for flavoring, or some other traces of wheat or gluten.

Now, I understand that the cereal makers are incuring additional cost and/or steps to prevent cross-contamination in their production facilities in addition to just altering a recipe a little bit... and I am guessing that is the larger issue for them. But, as more cereal recipes are engineered to be gluten-free, it would seem that the likelihood of cross-contamination will drop considerably also, and make it easier to produce even more Celiac-friendly breakfast cereals.

On a side note: I also find myself always looking at boxed cereals that, aside from OATS, would be gluten-free... but, "aside" is the wrong word perhaps, since all it would take is using CERTIFIED GLUTEN-FREE OATS in place of just run of the mill OATS to make the cereals gluten-free (in theory). But, given the price of such "certified gluten-free oats", I doubt we will see a wholesale shift to gluten-free mainstream oat-containing cereals any time soon, unless large commercial oat producers start doing a much better job at crop-segregation (farms, processing plants, trucks, etc. etc). But, I can dream :)

For now, I eagerly await the tast of some Gluten-Free Corn Chex come June of 2009. It has been so long...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Best Cheese Puffs Ever : Gluten-Free too!


I just have to rave about how awesome these Michael Season's brand Baked Cheese Curls taste: they are simply AWESOME. I am in cheese-puff heaven :)

Note: these are not your ordinary cheese-curls, but instead are "Hot Chili Pepper baked cheese curls", and if you like HEAT, and like nice crunchy and crispy cheesy poofs, you are going to be joining me in my cheese puff Shangri-la. When Michael Season's labels them "Hot Chili Pepper", they mean it... these things have some warmth to them. Awesome!

(if you click on the above at the top of this Gluten-Free Blog entry, you should see a larger, very detailed view that will make the chili pepper powder quite visible on the cheese curls).



Examining the gluten-free ingredients label reveals the secret to their heat and robust flavor... ingredients including: Chili Peppers (including Habanero peppers!), extractives of capsicum (i.e., pepper extracts!), turmeric, paprika, onion, garlic, and cheddar cheese. It all adds up to one incredibly tasty and tangy cheese puff treat. Oh, if not obvious, they are corn-based puffs, like most cheese puffs.

These are definitely my current favorite snack food of choice. And, because they are baked, they are much lower fat than other varieties. They have no preservatives, no MSF, nothing artificial. And, because they are HOT, they make a great "diet cheesepuff" since you can only eat so many before your tongue is burning to the point your brain tells you to stop, even though they taste so good :)

I found these at Whole Foods Market recently. I tried their regular variety too (which was quite nice, but minus the heat), but I am most certainly drawn first to these hot chili type cheese puffs since I really like nice spicy foods, and this is a great way to get some zip in a readily available snack.

And, these cheese curls are by far and away the best I have had, even compared to mainstream brands like Dan-Dee (i.e., Troyer Farms - big in the MidWest), or Cheetos (from Frito Lay brand), and a few others which, I have not eaten any of lately unless marked gluten-free or indicated on their web sites as such.

Another quick note: they call the crispier type "curls" and the more poofy cheese-snacks "puffs". I prefer the "curls" that are crispier and crunchier than puffs. So, my review should have been titled: "Best cheese CURLS ever, and gluten-free too!" to be 100% correct. Whether you are gluten-free / wheat-free / Celiac or just part of the population at large that enjoys cheese curls, and likes heat, these are simply wonderful. Time to go... I have some cheese curls to eat (can't let those ones I pictured above go to waste).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Kettle Cuisine - Gluten-Free Chicken Soup with Rice Noodles


My review verdict: Kettle Cuisine has produced a Gluten-Free Chicken Noodle soup that tastes like the "real thing", and with the convenience of a product that you can keep handy in your freezer. It has nice chunks of chicken meat coupled with some pretty good rice noodles (they are not "just like" real noodles, but are rather good nonetheless - you should find them plenty satisfying). The savory broth and veggie pieces round out an overall pleasing soup.

This is a Gluten-free and Dairy-Free chicken noodle soup with only 140 calories and 3 grams of fat, no MSG, no artificial colors or flavors. And, being frozen, there is no need for preservatives either. The sodium level is a bit higher than I would like, at 560mg for this single bowl, but for gluten-free chicken noodle soup in a hurry, this Kettle Cuisine brand frozen soup is worth a little extra salt in my diet.

The product comes in a 10-oz frozen container that you are to simply microwave for 3-4 minutes (my microwave took 5 minutes); no thawing is required... you just take it from your freezer (where it has a nice, long shelf-life of nearly a year), place it in the microwave, and heat. It comes in a little black plastic recyclable bowl that has a plastic-seal over it (a bowl which I am sure you could eat the soup out of if you wanted, though I chose to pour the cooked soup into a "real" bowl for the picture I took below). So, preparation does not get any easier than this: buy, freeze, place in microwave when you crave soup, done.


Kettle Cuisine has some other really interesting flavors of frozen gluten-free soups too, including New England Clam Chowder, Chicken Chili with White Beans, and Organic Mushroom & Potato Soup with Cream. I have a few more of their soup varieties here waiting for me in the freezer, and I hope to review those as well over the coming months. But, given the high quality of this chicken noodle variety from Kettle Cuisine, I suspect the other flavors / varieties will be quite nice also, and I am looking forward to them.

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.