Product REVIEW: Red Apple Lipstick and Eyeshadow and FLASH GIVEAWAY!

Gluten in Makeup- it’s a hot topic these days. I’ve seen a few articles in magazines and online. Some people insisting gluten is important to remove, while gastrointerolgoists still state that they haven’t seen enough evidence to recommend that makeup could affect the gluten intolerant and specifically the celiac population. Of course they are basing that statement on the fact that they don’t see more damage in the small intestine. Nonetheless, celiac disease is an AUTOIMMUNE disease that attacks the small intestine…..and as we see that with diseases like Graves, the autoimmune factor can still play a roll even if there is no thyroid to attack, it makes sense that keeping your immune system happy and not exposing it to gluten is crucial, especially since makeup or lotion covers lymph nodes and is near mucus membranes, which are parts of the immune system. (The skin itself is actually part of the immune system as well!) In addition, there has been plenty of anecdotal evidence and enough “common sense” information that women ingest their lipstick (think lip lickers, eating, etc.) that I still believe it’s crucial to have gluten-free makeup and cosmetics. Two year ago, I wrote an article on this blog, Are Your Lipstick, Conditioner, or Lotion making you sick? and I still stand by that.

In fact, just today, Elana Amsterdam posted an article about gluten in lipstick. She mentions a few lines I’ve tried. Mineral Fusion has some lovely, earthy colors, but is drying. Zuzu Luxe has an add on gluten-free sticker for their display in the store, but when you look on their site, they have a gluten-free symbol for all the cosmetics, but seem to only claim the lipstick as “gluten free.” So at this point, I personally don’t trust the purity and I’ve had problems with that line. There are several other lines that claim gluten-free but use ingredients such as Oats. I saw one line try to claim gluten-free with “barley” clearly listed in the ingredients. The bottom line is that the cosmetic industry is even less educated about gluten than the food industry. I picked up a “Cosmetic Dictionary” once only to see it define “gluten: a protein found in wheat flour.” Yikes! So, you (the celiac or gluten intolerant consumer) have to know exactly what you are buying when you buy a Gluten-free claimed cosmetic or body care because cosmetic claims are even more unregulated than food claims. And that’s a challenge because of the chemical names and herbal names (Latin??) That most of us don’t understand. Thus,
Companies that put on their websites and on the product, “TESTED free of Gluten” are by far my first choice.

Another point to realize is that most people are starting to worry about the lipstick because most people lick their lips and ingest the lipstick specifically. However, I’m a firm believer that if your body doesn’t like gluten, you’re not doing your largest organ (your skin) any favor by smothering gluten all over it. Besides, how many times do you run your hands through your hair typing or looking at something only to put your fingers to those lips? How many of us kiss a loved one on the cheek or the tops of our sweet children’s hair? I get sick with gluten in my body care. End of story. My son breaks out in bloody, oozy scales even with a small amount of oat in any body care. I hope the doctors will catch up with their understanding how much the exterior of our bodies matter, but in the meantime, there are some great products paving the way despite the lack of research.

Good gluten-free lipstick is difficult to find, partly because it’s difficult to know which ones to trust. It turns out, one company gets it. Red Apple Lipstick. They not only realize what Gluten is, but they take huge precautions to ensure their cosmetics are gluten-free. Red Apple Lipstick guarantees a 100% gluten-free, paraben free, vegan and a toxin free lip and eyeshadow line. In fact, while some companies “claim” gluten free, Red Apple certifies and lab tests their gluten-free cosmetics. Their FAQ page states: (safe for celiac) 100%. You should never have to worry about any Red Apple cosmetics. They are all lab tested to include spot testing, batch testing and rigorous procedures to keep cross contamination out.”

The product line is also soy free. Apparently they do have some regular lip pencils that contain soy, but the rest of the line is soy free. I’m beginning to look for Soy Free makeup, lotion, and hair care not only because of the GMO usage of soy, but because soy is a phytoestrogen which can disrupt hormone balance. As I said earlier, makeup coats or is near your lymph nodes and mucus membranes, so it makes sense to me to keep toxic ingredients, such as parabens and soy away from these important parts of your immune system. Soy is also one of the big 8 allergens and is in so many products, that I prefer to avoid it as much as possible in order to keep my exposure down.

Back in August, Red Apple debuted eye shadows. I’ve been using loose mineral eye shadows for a few years, that while pretty tend to put dust in my eyes and cause irritation. I actually had to stop wearing contacts if I wanted to wear eyeshadow. So, I was excited to see a pressed eye shadow finally available. I purchased one of the Smokey Magic Foreshadow pallettes, a Ruby Slippers lipstick, Firestorm lipgloss, and the sale included a Ralleybalm and wet-dry eye shadow brush for free.

I had no idea what to expect with this makeup. The colors were some of the prettiest I’ve seen in a gluten-free line. When I opened the Ruby Slippers, I was amazed. This lipstick glides on silky and smells luscious. My lips stay silky for several hours, and keep a lovely color. It’s a beautiful, red-tinged color with a shimmer that brightens up my entire face. When I tried the firestorm lipgloss, I felt sassy. It has a pop that you rarely get in a lipgloss. Left to right- Firestorm lipgloss, Firestorm Lipgloss and Ruby Slippers, Ruby Slippers 2 swipes, Ruby Slippers several swipes. (Please click on the link in the previous paragraph above to see what a beautiful color it is!) It’s a fun color which is more solid than most lipglosses, but has a huge gloss and shimmer factor. It has plenty of color to be worn alone. Here are the colors on my arm so you can see the comparisons. However, the RAL picture on the site provides a much prettier picture.

One of the things I love about the RAL eyeshadows is that they are fantastic quality, seem to be lasting, and when you purchase a foreshadow it comes with application instructions.

I’ve always prefered pressed shadow over loose, so it’s nice to get a mineral pressed shadow. These colors can be as subtle or bright as you want. They mix well with water to create a quick dramatic look, or use without to create a much more subtle look. I’ve found that even if I wish to apply the gray and blue dry, I prefer to use water to apply the buttercream.  I’ve had this Buttercream for ButterCreamalmost 2 months now, and it looks barely touched even though I use it every day. I also think using water allows for a more precise application.

 

 

Here are some swatch samples from the foreshadow- Smokey Magic. The first picture is shadows swiped several times without water.

 

In this second picture, shadows are swiped once or twice with a wet brush. You’ll notice a line of black as well. I took an angled brush and used the black with water to create a quick eyeliner. I love multipurpose makeup!

RAL’s Ralleye Balm is also lovely. I have the tub because that’s what came with my order, but I’ll probably eventually grab a stick for more control. Regardless if you prefer a tub or stick, it’s a great product to have on hand. I’m waiting for the new fall colors to come out to send in my drying lipsticks for RALs LipStick Exchange, but the Ralleye balm actually helped me to use the other products with much more comfort.

One of the things that must be a priority when switching from gluten containing makeup to gluten-free is to change out your brushes….all of them. Unfortunately, that does add up quite a bit. The problem is, you don’t want to contaminate your pure, tested gluten-free makeup with gluten all over again. Ulta has some brushes on sale at the moment if you need to make that leap. I use EcoTools for most of my makeup brushes, which aren’t on sale from what I can tell. I think Walgreens also sells the EcoTools. They are reasonably priced and last well. However, RAL carries a fantastic wet-dry eyeshadow brush. If it doesn’t end up in their sale tomorrow as a free gift, make sure to add one to your basket. It’s multipurpose and allows me to use quite a few techniques with this one brush depending if I add water or not. It’s one of my favorite brushes and I can use it in many ways.

It’s crucial to let go of those favorites and embrace all new, pure, clean product. Don’t mix your old brushes that contain gluten with your lovely new makep. And don’t mix gluten makeup with gluten-free. You contaminate your gluten-free makeup when you use the brush over your face that has the gluten makeup on it. (In other words, new foundation, new blush, new brushes too.)

One more important hint I want include: speaking of contamination, with the wet-dry, I personally do not use tap water. Our water is horrible in my city; I frequently find lots of floaties in my cups as well as mold and white rings in left out glass from watering the plants. I do not want to use regular tap water because I’m concerned my products will become contaminated with ickys and mold from our water. So, to keep my shadows safer, I use a 16 oz bottled water. I keep the water on my counter and then use the cap. It seems to provide the perfect amount of water and you can tap the side. At one point I had tried to use a shot glass with purified water and was losing a lot of eyeshadow. I’ve found I waste less shadow by limiting how wet my brush gets. Keeping a paper towel close by to help wipe off remainder of the shadow and to clean the brush is helpful as well.

Since I follow RAL on Facebook, I know they are releasing some new lipsticks and eye colors for the fall on Friday. I believe they will also be offering some fantastic discounts. I wanted to make sure to get the review of the products up before the sale because I enjoy the products, I believe it’s incredibly important to get gluten out of your body care and cosmetics and I love helping small companies. This was an unsolicited review I personally wanted to time with the sale. The products reviewed are from my personal purchase.

I hope this is a helpful review, especially for anyone who recently went gluten-free. I’m hoping RAL will eventually add blush and foundations. However, if you need something, in order to take your makeup line completely gluten-free, I’d suggest Afterglow Cosmetics or Mineral Fusion for the foundation and blushes. If you need to go inexpensive, you might try the Mineral fusion. They seem to have lovely brushes. Vitamin Cottage, and Sprouts sell them as well as Whole Foods. All three are pretty good about accepting returns if you don’t like them and not badly priced. They are probably most reasonable at Vitamin Cottage/Natural Grocers. Until RAL introduces a complete line, I use Afterglow and it compliments nicely with the RAL eyeshadows and lipsticks. I’ve used the Afterglow eyeshadows and lipsticks. While they are okay, I have decided to make the switch to RAL for my lip and eye needs. The products feel better on my face, RAL has more color in their lipsticks, and I think the quality of those lines are better from RAL. I’m looking forward to see what else they put out.

AND A SURPRISE- I contacted Red Apple Lipstick while I was writing the review to see if they’d be interested in sponsoring a giveaway in time for their sale. That means this giveaway is a flash giveaway so that the winners can get the best bang for their prize. Red Apple is going to give TWO $25 gift certificates to two separate winners- I will pick the winner TOMORROW Friday Evening, Sept 28, 12 about 7pm MST, so the winners have have time to shop and everyone else can still get the best of the sale. That means, I need help getting this giveaway and review posted on facebook and tweeted like wildfire. (To be able to access the sale, you need to join their VIP list which is on their site and they also have it listed how on their page. I joined last month and they are great about not sending you a lot of email. The only email I’ve gotten is info on the VIP sale and a coupon for this month!)
edit: Giveaway is closed. Thanks for entering.
So, to enter-
Required Enter a comment below telling me if you’ve gone gluten-free in your cosmetics and if not, why?
Bonus go to RedApple Lipstick and tell me which colors you’d want to try or which products
bonus Share on facebook, come back and tell me in the comments that you did
bonus Like RAL on Facebook and let me know you did
bonus tweet this giveaway link on twitter, and add @GfAdvocate and @RedAppleLipstic- then add a comment that you did

The rules are simple- You must comment for each entry on this page because I’m picking from this post and the comments only. I’ll use a random generator to pick the winners. Only one household per winner. Gift certificate is subject to RAL’s use and terms for their gift certificates, as well as geographic terms for RAL. I believe they only ship to the U.S. However, if I misunderstood, I will open the contest to wherever they ship.

disclaimer: The products reviewed were purchased at my expense. I’m incredibly impressed with the product and happy to help promote a company that cares about it’s customers and that’s made in the US. I approached RAL to see if they’d be interested in gifting my readers, and they accepted. I created the terms of the giveaway. I hope you’ll enjoy taking a look at their site and their products.
Thanks as always for reading.

Product Review: LUNA Protein Bar (and GIVEAWAY!)

It’s interesting when you take a sabbatical from anything. For me, this nine-month sabbatical from my blog started with exhaustion and health issues, then went to that Point-Of-View crisis with “what do I REALLY want this blog to be about????!!!!”  Finally, it crossed into realm of not knowing how to start up again. I’ve written a new blog post in my head every day for the last 9 months, but I either wasn’t ready to “tell THAT story,” or was still wrestling with my point of view.

Recently it occurred to me that we’ve entered our fourth year gluten-free and with Celiac Awareness day, I figured now is the perfect time to dive back in. How about a product review on something we buy often and a giveaway!

LUNA bars- I’m a protein bar, meal bar gal. When I was pregnant with my kids, they kept me sane. When we are darting off in the morning, late for school, I love having a bar to grab if my blood sugar is too low. I’m not much of a snacker, but when I am, I tend to go for the sweets, so a sweet tasting protein bar is a win-win for me. I’m eating protein for my body; I’m getting something sweet for that psychological need.

One of my favorite brands before I went gluten-free four-years ago was LUNA. I still remember the taste of their Lemon Zest Bar. Ooooh, that white coating with the lemon zing. Yum! I loved the Smores as well. Of course when King Soopers had the 10 for $10, i grabbed a several boxes of them. LUNA Bars were definitely one of my favorite treats. When I went gluten-free, I was stuck with protein bars that only medical professionals could buy because of the high vitamin content; the only one I could stomach was a chocolate mint.

So, in 2011 when LUNA changed their protein Bars to a gluten-free product, I was ecstatic. Where I live in New Mexico, we are two to three months/years behind the rest of the country. Things come in slow, so I had to wait a few months before I had the chance to try the bars, but as soon as I saw them, I bought one of each flavor. LUNA Protein Bars come in 5 flavors–Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Cookie Dough, Chocolate Cherry Almond, Mint Chocolate Chip. YES, I had to do a double check the label on the “cookie dough” flavor, but yes, it’s gluten free!

The Chocolate Peanut butter reminds me of a rich peanut butter fudge enrobed in chocolate. I’d say it’s one of their more rich and indulgent flavors. The Chocolate Bar is chocolate all the way and  definitely will give a chocolate fix in the afternoon. The Cookie Dough is a fun escape from the gluten-free mindset. It’s not wet like cookie dough, (and luckily you don’t have the raw egg issue either), but it’s got that fun cookie dough taste, and a thick chewy texture that is reminiscent of cookie dough. Before I opened the packaging, I pleaded with the bar that it would somehow really taste like cookie dough, and that first bite shocked my taste buds and my brain. “I’m eating cookie dough!”

Chocolate Cherries for a Lucky Gal

I’m a Chocolate Cherry covered kinda gal too. Chocolate and cherries, those will win me over. It’s not quite like chocolate covered cherries, but it’s an indulgent treat with a hint of marzipan flavor (tho less sweet and sticky) with cherries rolled in and coated in chocolate. It’s one of those divine flavor combinations. Unfortunately, this flavor has been very difficult to find in New Mexico. Our stores are only carrying the Mint, the Cookie Dough, and sometimes the Peanut Butter. However, every once in a while, I get to enjoy the Chocolate Cherry Almond. While I’m happy to share any of the other flavors with my family, if I end up with a Chocolate Cherry Almond bar, It’s mine! I hide it. I hoard it. Don’t touch my Chocolate Cherry Almond Protein bar!

And then, you have Mint Chocolate Chip. It might be the closest thing a person eating gluten-free can get to a Girl Scout Mint thin that you can buy, if you aren’t in the mood to bake. And you can get that taste year round! You won’t get the addictive crunch (which is good right, because the crunch is part of the addiction, so it’s a calorie saver), but you get that chocolate-cookie-mint taste that helps your mind escape back to pre-gluten free indulgence of those delightful cookies. I did accidentally squish one once….and it tasted even more like a Thin-Mint. So you could try that if you really want a Thin-Mint fix.

The bars contain whey and soy proteins. They seem to have struck a good balance between the two proteins. I tend to have tummy trouble with too much whey or soy protein. And I’m extremely grateful they use ONLY NON-GMO ingredients. The Parent company is CLIFF, and they were also a favorite of mine before I went gluten-free because they source quality ingredients, and they have fun unique flavors like Carrot Cake for protein bars. My kids love the CLIFF fruit ropes and a few other goodies that are gluten-free. I usually try to steer away from Soy Protein because most soy is GMO, so I’m thrilled that LUNA Protein Bars don’t use GMO soy. LUNA has a great FAQ on their site which explains more about these bars, including allergy info, quality, ingredients, etc.

Beautifully packaged treat from Luna

Last year, I received a surprise package on Sept 13, with three LUNA Protein Bars in it. On the Package, it said, “Happy Celiac Awareness Day!” That was a really fun moment to help pause a crazy day. With all the companies jumping on the “gluten-free trend” without understanding why gluten-free needs to mean gluten-free,  I greatly appreciate that LUNA is stepping to the forefront with Celiac Awareness and promoting a product they have designed that tastes good, has nutritional benefits, and helps spread Celiac Awareness because it can be a very devastating disease when it goes undiagnosed. So, when they sent me the “Happy Celiac Awareness Day” box in August this year, with a note that offered to contact them if we were interested in doing a review or giveaway for September 13, I did. This is a product I buy often, so I was excited to be able to do a review with a giveaway attached.

The bars themselves are fairly small. They are not made to be a meal replacement like other brands are. They are a tad smaller than some of the other protein bars out there. The calories are 170, but the 12 grams of protein are a great way to help have a snack that will sustain you. You don’t want to grab one of these bars when you are starving though. It’s better as a snack before your are starving….once you hit the starving mode, you’ll want two or three. (Yeah, I’ve had two or three). That’s probably fine if you are using it for a meal replacement (just remember these are protein bars -don’t want too much whey- and they also have vitamins as well). However, if you don’t want to have excessive calories, I’d suggest timing your snack before being super hungry.

I’ve seen some stores carry them for $1.19 to $1.69. For the size, I find that upper price frustrating, but that’s not LUNA’s price, it’s the stores. I do my best to grab them on either 10 for $10 sales or at the $1.19 price point. Albertsons’ seems to sell them for around the $1.19. They seem most expensive at Sunflower Market and Target, if I remember. (I don’t shop Whole Foods, so I can’t say what they cost there.) As I said before, I do have a tough time finding all five flavors in New Mexico. However, Amazon carries them for various prices, includes them in the Subscribe and Save. A few of the flavors are actually a little higher price on Amazon than I like to pay, but I can’t find the Chocolate Cherry anywhere, so I consider it an option, especially since I have Prime and don’t pay shipping. While I was looking up a few things about the bars, I also discovered LUNA has an online store as well, so you can purchase directly from their parent company Cliff. They are 14.95, which makes the bars come out to $1.24 before shipping. One of my biggest disappointments is that the stores don’t carry all the flavors. So, I’ll be bugging my stores a bit more for some of the other flavors and keeping an eye out for those 10 for $10 sale, which I think is the best price for their size.

Our family enjoys them a great deal. I do give them to my children, especially my son because it’s difficult to get him to eat and the protein is helpful. LUNA’s official statement is that the bars are more for adults, but both my kids also are deficient in some vitamins, so I’m personally comfortable with the ratios of vitamins, protein and minerals for them. We also don’t have them every day- they are a treat. My children both LOVE the Mint Chocolate Chip and the Cookie Dough.

Here, I took a picture of the Cookie Dough Protein bar. You can see the texture looks like cookie dough a bit. They are small, but tasty. If I could change two things about these bars, I’d make them bigger and have more flavors. I like them that much, I want just one or two more bites in the bar. And Luna has such amazing flavor profiles in their regular bars, I’d love to see them add some of those or expand more amazing combinations into the LUNA Protein Bar line- especially for those of us who are limited in our flavor and company choices.

Cookie Dough LUNA Bar- YUM

I hope that LUNA will consider adding more flavors, especially a Chocolate Coconut- reminiscent of a mounds bar, a Lemon Meringue Pie. and maybe something akin to Snickers Bars too since Snickers adds barley to their caramel. I would definitely enjoy those flavor escapes.

To celebrate Celiac Awareness Day and my return to blogging, Luna is graciously giving away a box of bars to two of my readers. Please read below for details. Since September 13 is Celiac Awareness day, I also thought I’d mention that LUNA is hosting a gluten free webcast with LUNA’s in–house nutritionist Tara DelloIacono Thies, and Delight Gluten Free magazine’s executive editor, Vanessa Maltin Weisbrod on Tuesday, 9/18 at 9:30 am PST – it will be all about living a gluten free lifestyle and nutrition tips. If we are going to inform and educate people about celiac, they will need a starting place if gluten-free becomes their life too! You or your friends you’ve make aware can RSVP to LUNAWebcast@accesspr.com.

Thank you as always for reading. I appreciate you greatly, and thank you to those who have followed my blog and been patient while I’ve been away.

How to enter
LUNA is giving away a full box of bars to two different people.
required entry:: leave a comment below telling me how long you’ve been gluten-free and what LUNA Protein Bar flavor you’d like to try or that’s your favorite.
optional second (appreciated) entry:Tweet this giveaway with my Twitter name @GFAdvocate, then add a comment that you did (comment must be added to qualify the tweet)
Optional third entry: Share the giveaway (marked public) on Facebook, come back and add a comment on this blog that you did to qualify the share.
Bonus entry: Share what you are doing to help spread Celiac Awareness in the comments below. Legitimate links to blog sites welcome. (I’ll figure how to get Comment Luv enabled soon, I hope).

The giveaway will close Sunday Sept 16 at 11:59 MST. I will email and announce the winners on Monday using a randomizer picker. Each winner will be emailed on Monday with a request for their flavor and their shipping information. I will use a random generator to pick the winner. There will be two separate winners. The winner will have until Wed the 19th to send me their information or I will email a new winner on Thursday and the prize for the original winner will be forfeit. Neither I nor LUNA are responsible for issues with shipping.

Disclaimer LUNA did provide me with samples and is sponsoring this giveaway. They also provided me with some photos for the post. However, I purchase LUNA bars often and am honored they invited me host a giveaway for my readers. Thank you for reading, and good luck!

Please do NOT add your email address to the comment. When you fill out the form, you include your email, which I can use to contact you. YOu don’t need to put your email in the comment. YOu can keep that private. 😀 thanks

Better Than Mothers’

I think all of us probably have that one or five things that we are saddened we’ll either never have again or never be able to share with our children once we get the mandate to stop eating gluten. For me, it was a silly little cookie, Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies– those little pink and white animal crackers with the sprinkles on them. I always hated animals crackers, but even as an adult I enjoyed those frosted cookies. They are what all the chefs on food network seem to be using lately, “whimsical.”

A few weeks ago, I woke up one morning with these in my mind..and how to make them. I went and bought some Kinnikinnick Animal Crackers, some artificial dye-free confetti type sprinkles from Let’s do Sprinklez and got out my amazing white dipping chocolate from Chocoley. Because I don’t give my children red #40 and I didn’t have any natural chocolate coloring, we only made the white ones, but the joy I got from seeing my kids have fun making this treat and then tasting one of my cherished childhood treats will remain with me for a long time. This is a perfect little project to do during a chilly day, and in between all the holiday stuff. Make sure if you color your chocolate, to get chocolate coloring. Regular food coloring won’t work. It will ruin the chocolate. I think recently Jules at Jules Glutenfree Flour mentioned Wilton’s candy melts might be gluten-free. I prefer the Chocoley because they have better taste. I use their white chocolate in all my baking now.

Without further ado, here is a chance to enjoy a novelty that we never thought we could share with our kids.
Better than Mother’s Frosted Animal Crackers

Box of Kinninnick Animal crackers (I ended up using about 1/2-3/4 box)
16 oz (approx) Chocoley Bada Bing Bada Boom Dipping and Enrobing White Chocolate (or other pre-TEMPERED candy melts)
Package of Let’s Do Sprinklez Confetti Sprinkles

I used a chocolate pot from Wilton. It gets a little hot for the Chocoley chocolate since it is real chocolate, so you have to stir it a lot and then switch to warm as soon as they are melted, but it works well when you want to include your kids. They offer fantastic sales, neat recipes and they have the most amazing “Peppermint Patty Recipe” which was a huge hit last christmas with our friends and family!

In a double boiler or something that melts the chocolate gently (DON”T USE THE MICROWAVE FOR THIS) melt your chocolate. Dip the animal crackers front and back and lay them on parchment, a silpat, or dipping sheets. Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of sprinklez and wait until hardened. I did find the freezer helpful for getting these to set just right- about 10 minutes. Enjoy and share a childhood favorite with your kids!

Thanks as always for reading. If you want another nostalgic recipe where the gluten-free version is better than the original, check out my “Dirt and Worms recipe.” What is the one thing you wish you could give your kids that hasn’t been transformed into glutenfree yet? Or what do you just MISS?

Review: Tropical Traditions Gold Label Coconut Oil

A few months ago, I was sent a sample of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Coconut Oil to review. Because I have rarely used coconut oil, except to make a homemade and better than the store “Magic Shell”, it’s taken me a while to test, learn to work with it, and find things I really like to use it for.

I used coconut oil in the past for a few things. The Homemade Magic Shell I’d tried in the past, called for REFINED coconut oil if you didn’t want the sort of traditional “fake” taste. The other brands I used were actually hard and brittle. Another brand was incredibly gritty and ended up separating. However, The Gold Label oil, an UNREFINED VIRGIN Coconut oil, is an incredibly rich and creamy oil with a very distinct coconut taste. I’ve been told you can take it straight up to help with general health, and my 5-year-old daughter loves to eat it straight off the spoon. I haven’t worked up to that point yet because it’s just so rich. For me personally, it’s like eating a spoonful of butter; it’s a fantastic ingredient, but is more of an enhancer than something to eat straight.

In addition to a lovely quality, the Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil has stored for over six months in a dark pantry and retained its taste and texture. I was a bit disappointed that the jar is clear, simply because it takes me a while to go through oils like this and I worry about light degrading them, but I have not had an issue with rancidity, which is thrilling. In fact, I recently used it for a “Pina Colada Cupcake” from the new Gluten-Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour by Elana Amsterdam. The recipe called for “coconut oil melted over low heat”, and because this coconut oil is so smooth and creamy, it melted well and helped make some great cupcakes. Just make sure the rest of your ingredients are at room temperature or the oil will clump or solidify.

In order to better understand how I could fit coconut oil into our existing diet, I played around with its properties. Sometimes that was successful, others not. I utterly failed at making pancakes and french toast in the oil, which was a bummer, but I am pretty sure it was 97% failure of the cook and 3% the cookware, or failure to use the cookware properly by the cook. I’m still trying to figure out what I did wrong or if it’s the type of pan used (stainless steel with the double copper core & Alumimum bottom to retain heat on a glasstop stove). Anyway, other than that failure, I have had mixed results in baking. I substituted the coconut oil for the shortening in Jules Gluten Free Cookie Mix. If you like super crispy cookies, then it’s a good idea. They do end up a bit brittle and lacy, but they have a fun taste and texture. If you like them more soft, I suggest playing with the ratios or only substituting part of the shortening. However, if you aren’t going to bother cooking the cookies and love a good dough, then it’s a fantastic treat. In fact, that’s how I’ve decided to get my coconut oil in, since I can’t handle it straight yet. I froze the dough and when I’m craving a treat, I cut myself a piece and eat that raw. Another benefit to this very rich oil is that I’m able to stop after about 2 slices of cookie dough!

Birthday Cookie with coconut oil frosting

One of the things I enjoyed making was frosting with coconut oil in place of shortening or butter. Knowing shortening is usually made from hydrogenated oil, I’ve gone without for over 18 years and simply have never bothered to try some of the new healthier shortenings. However, for my daughter’s birthday, we had several dairy free guests, so I needed an alternative. After playing with it for a bit, I ended up with a delicious, rich, diary-free frosting for my daughter’s birthday cookie. It works great for a winter frosting, especially if you can store the cake covered and in the garage over night, but you can’t let the frosting sit under lights, nor would I recommend it for a summer party. The softening point of the oil is about 75 degrees, and it will quickly start to melt. You also might want to have a more border frosting or lighter cover as for some people it can have some laxative qualities if you ingest too much. Unfortunately, if you live in a warmer climate, this will not be an option for you. It will melt at that 75 degree point.

Coconut Oil Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbls Coconut Milk (or regular milk)
1/2 cup coconut oil solid
1 tablespoon almond extract or to taste

Beat together sugar, oil and milk until light and fluffy. Add the almond extract at the end. Increase oil or milk if the frosting is too stiff.

Recently, I’ve started cooking more Asian dishes after finding out about a fantastic company called Meals in a Minute. They offer gourmet sauces that are naturally gluten-free. I’m learning how to stir fry and want to use coconut oil in the Thai type dishes. In order to reduce the smoke point (unrefined coconut oil has a lower smoke point than refined), I’ve been adding just a touch of grapeseed oil, which has a full 450 degree smoke point. I learned this trick from Alton Brown on an episode of Good Eats. He shows how you can improve the smoke point of butter by adding a higher smoke point oil in addition to the butter. It’s working well and I haven’t set the smoke alarms off like I used to! I’m very much enjoying this new versatility of the oil and it goes very well with the asian dishes I’m learning to cook.

Final thoughts are that this Gold Label oil will be fantastic for body care. Tropical Traditions has everything from hair care oils, Moisturizing creams and liquid soaps using the various oils. These are products I need to budget for so I can try because I think I will enjoy them. However, if you are a hobby body care products person and want to use some good coconut oil for your products, I recommend this brand. When I do use it, I don’t wash my hands if I get some on me, I just rub it directly into my skin. The soft, non-gritty, non-lumpy quality of this oil would make for some fantastic tropical smelling lotions or creams. NOTE: The summer heat has made the oil a bit more liquid with some lumps, but I also don’t need to be melted down at the moment, just whisk out the lumps.:

Tropical Traditions has set up a helpful website full of information about their products as well as recipes. They offer an informational video called How We discovered Coconut Oil as well as a Coconut Recipes Blog. I’m looking forward to trying some of the body care and other food products. I also follow Tropical Traditions on Twitter and they offer fantastic deals often as well as a “Healthy Buyers Club” so you can buy in larger quantities and at a discounted price. If you’re interested in trying this lovely coconut oil or some of the other products they offer, they are offering my readers a Complimentary copy of “The Virgin Coconut Oil Book.” You just need to click this Referral link.

Since I’m still pretty new to coconut oil, what are some of the ways you like to suggest to use it or incorporate into recipes?

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose, nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review in return for the free product. In this case, I enjoyed it and am happy to share that with you.

How Gluten Ends up in your Latte!

I love my coffee, as do most Americans. Of course, my favorite treat is a coffee shop latte with yummy flavor combinations such as hazelnut, Vanilla, chocolate etc. I don’t care if it has caffeine or decaf. I just love a good strong latte. So, of course this spring, when I started noticing that I felt crummy when I ordered coffee drinks at some of my favorite places – sometimes incredibly tired, sluggish or achy, other times migraines again, I started investigating.

I’ve had adrenal fatigue, so i thought perhaps too much caffeine and I moved to half-caf or decaf. Sometimes it worked better, but not always. Finally I started seeing trends, I’d feel yucky usually after white chocolate drink or caramel. So recently, I sat down and started going to websites of the main manufacturers of syrups. I found my problem. SOME of the coffee houses have flavor syrups that contain gluten. Of course when you ask, they don’t know. They can offer the gluten-free muffin at $4 a muffin, but they don’t know their syrups.

Here is a quick rundown of what I’ve found so far. Although your best bet is to find a coffee shop that has syrups for sale so you can look at them before ordering, In the meantime, I can give you information about four of the products to help you make better decisions. I’m ranking them by what I’d feel the most safe ordering.

Monin
I like these syrups best because they use cane syrup or sugar rather than HCFS. I don’t care about the debate on HCFS, I don’t like it because things taste too sweet. Monin Syrups also taste the most natural and authentic to me.

Monin Syrups at my local Bad Ass Coffee shop in Bernalillo, NM


Monin syrups don’t contain gluten. I emailed the company and they responded promptly (within 30 minutes!) stating their facilities don’t use gluten so there is no issue of cross-content either. The email exchange went as follows:

Good Afternoon Jennifer,

Thank you for your interest in Monin. All of our products are Gluten-Free. I have attached above a statement from our Quality Department for you to view. If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Thanks and have a great weekend

Upon Further question about the facility they answered:

Jennifer,
Our products, nor our facilities, contain any gluten. We are a gluten-free atmosphere.
Thanks again!
Ryan Niemann
Manager of First Impressions

They also provided me with a quality assurance statement

I feel very confident ordering from a coffee shop that uses Monin Syrups, (I also appreciate the shops that use the Monin chocolate and white chocolate sauces) Since finding a shop here in Rio Rancho that uses strictly Monin Brands, I’ve felt great after having a lovely latte. For those in the Abq or Rio Rancho Area, you can find Monin Syrups at Bad Ass Coffee at 965 F Highway 550 Bernalillo, NM 87004 www.nmbadasscoffee.com

This is one awesome iced latte! (yeah, it's big, I know. I got a half-caf, does that count?)

off 550 or Satellite Coffee throughout Abq. Bad Ass Coffee is actually a franchise and I’ve included a link so you can where you can find your local shop. Always check with your local shop to find out what they choose to carry though. Always, always check. However, I’d stay away from the frozen drinks from Satellite. Those are very iffy; they don’t know and I can’t remember if they use the Monin sauces or other brands for the chocolate. I didn’t feel well when I ordered one.

One thing to be wary of with coffee shops anywhere, even if they use Monin are that some shops use powder in their drinks, especially the blended ones, so you’ll need to ask about any powder they use or things they use other than a syrup and the espresso beans. (Also make sure they don’t add Malted Milk Powder)

DaVinci
I see this company and the next I’ll mention the most in coffee houses. They are easily available in stores and a great price at Sams Club (or at least used to be, my membership has expired). DaVinci’s FAQ states: Do DaVinci Gourmet products contain gluten? Most DaVinci products are gluten-free. The only product that currently contains gluten is Dulce de Leche Sugar Free Syrup. When I emailed the company to confirm this is the only syrup that contains gluten, they assured me that it is and they “”follow and adhere to strict practices and policies which absolutely prevent any chance of cross contamination.” This might be trusted simply because they also product nut flavored syrups do contain trace amounts of allergens (also on that statement.) However, personally, I’ve found I don’t feel as well when I have their sugar caramel syrups. Caramel is one of those that is touch and go anyway because some use barley to get the flavor. So, I’m going to stay away from any caramel flavor from DiVinci, but that is my personal experience.

The next two companies I will no longer buy based upon their website statements. I will not frequent coffee houses that use the next two syrups, nor purchase the syrups based upon the information.

Torani
This company’s information is interesting and extremely concerning to me. When you go to the FAQ page you get the following under the Gluten question:

Which syrups contain Gluten?

At this time, we only have five syrups, Bacon, Classic Caramel, Sugar Free Classic Caramel, Toasted Marshmallow and Sugar Free French Vanilla which is known to contain a small amount of barley which does contain gluten. We are unaware of any gluten in our other syrups.

They are unaware of any other products that contain gluten? Further down in the FAQ you see why they are “unaware” under the questions about “allergens.”

Do your syrups contain any allergens?

To the best of our knowledge, no allergenic substances* are used in the manufacturer of our syrup base (regular or sugar-free). However, the individual natural flavorings which are added to this base may have been derived from or contain derivatives of allergenic substances. Whenever possible, we have asked our suppliers to remove unnecessary allergens but we are still left with nut flavors which have been extracted from tree nuts and contain an oil derived from peanuts, and a few flavors which have a creamy note that has been derived from a dairy source. It is a difficult balance to flavor with natural products but limit the natural compounds that may be included in the finished product. * We ask our suppliers to inform us if their products contain any of the ‘Big 8’ allergens: Peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, fish, shellfish, soy, eggs or wheat. These allergens were chosen because they are responsible for over 90% of all food allergies. View the full list

Torani Sauces

From what I could gather, Monin knows their raw materials and suppliers. However, Torani, doesn’t manufacture everything in-house and they don’t know their raw materials. They don’t manufacture their syrup base and if you read carefully, they only ask their suppliers to note the big 8 allergens, which means that other syrups besides the ones they noted *could* contain barley, rye, etc and not be noted. (Another crucial reason the 1in133 movement is so crucial!) Again, Torani is only *aware* of the 5 syrups that contain the allergens and they only given information about the syrups that contain *the Big 8.* Gluten is not part of the big 8, so these syrups *may* contain gluten without Torani’s knowledge since they are not asking that gluten be removed from the supply chain. I refuse to purchase Torani or frequent coffee houses that use Torani syrups because they don’t even know what their product actually contains. And in fact, the coffee houses I’ve felt most ill from serve the Torani Syrups. This is where the term natural flavors can get you sick. I’m just thankful Torani is honest.

Starbucks
The last company that we need to be extremely careful and who I refuse to buy from anymore is Starbucks
Unlike Torani, which has decided to be unaware of the ingredients in their products, Starbucks refuses to disclose the information. Jules Shepard, a wonderful advocate for the celiac community, co-founder of the 1in133 project, and fantastic gluten-free flour creator, posted in her blog last year about problems with Starbucks drinks. You can read her post It’s a Bummer about Starbucks here. Last year, Starbucks refused to guarantee products could be gluten-free or even create precautions in their shops that would ensure prevention of cross-contamination. I think the issue started when they introduced their “light” Frappachino drink and some of the new syrups contained barley as a thickener. Unfortunately, in the last nine-months since Jules’ post, Starbucks seems to have gotten even worse with their disclosures. A company that seems so eco-conscious, fair trade minded, and world sustainable minded refuses to take the safety of their customers into account. Now, on their site under their Allergen FAQ they state:

Where can I find allergen information?

Allergen information is currently unavailable online for our beverage selections. We are actively working to bring that information to you. If you have an allergen concern, please feel free to ask our baristas to check the ingredient labels or click on our Customer Service page. We cannot guarantee that any of our beverages are allergen free because we use shared equipment and handle allergens throughout the store

In another spot Starbucks website states:
*Allergen info is not available for our drinks because of the many customization options we offer.

When I saw this, I cringed in disgust and anger. Starbucks have an entire tab about “responsiblity” that includes “local responsiblity” but they refuse to provide allergen information and blame it on the fact that they customize their drinks. Plenty of companies provide information on each of their ingredients. Mind you, you end up with grids that you have to piece your meal together, but at resturants like Ruby Tuesdays, Applebees or Chili’s, when you ask for a “gluten Free” menu, the hostess hands you Xeroxed copies of grids that have all the allergens listed. While it’s a hassle, at least they provide the information. Starbucks refuses to even offer that. A grid with all the syrups and sauces and whether they contain gluten or other allergens would allow a customer to “customize” their drink. As it stands, asking the barista if you can see the bottle and read the ingredients doesn’t work. I’ve done that and I’ve gotten sick! The syrups list “natural flavors.” And sadly, I’ve discovered i feel incredibly ill when I have something with the caramel syrup. I’m guessing that “natural flavor” contains some “natural” barley.

What I find the most interesting about Starbuck’s is that about three or four years ago, they were actually one of the first companies to offer “gluten free’ pastries. They had an amazing glutenfree almond orange cake. It disappeared and along with it, any concern for people with gluten intolerance, celiac or it seems other allergens. Sorry Starbuck’s, but while you might give people job across the globe jobs, you aren’t keeping me or my family safe. I’ll buy my coffee elsewhere.

Please remember, this is just research on 4 companies. Double check the websites frequently for yourself, especially if you have a drink and feel “off.” Suppliers change all the time in the food industry. Also remember that the individual coffee shop can still add things that might contain gluten. I know of one juice company (Inta-Juice) that uses malted milk powder in their drinks. Luckily, I found out by watching the girl dump some into a customer’s drink ahead of us. We walked out.

Take time to get to know your local coffee shop. If you can, try to arrange a time to go in when they aren’t busy and ask more about their practices. Inform them about it for their other customers. So many shops are starting to carry the “gluten-free” baked goods, but even the owners are unaware of their drinks might contain ingredients we can’t have. Most people don’t know what gluten is! If we do it in a way that is kind and educating, and shows you wish to continue to be a loyal customer, that will help.

A few more words of caution: with the summer, blended drinks are super popular. Many companies use a powder instead of brewed espresso. Sometime when they aren’t busy, talk to them about the powder and request the information on it. Explain the situation. Just don’t do it during the 8 am or 1130 rush. A second thing to keep in mind is some companies use different brands for things like sauces. I’ve learned to be careful with sauces (chocolate, white chocolate, caramel), and there are many brands of sauces. That will be part 2. Monin’s sauces do not contain gluten. There are several other companies we’ll need to investigate for the chocolate, white chocolate and caramel sauces. In the meantime, I highly recommend finding a coffee shop that uses the Monin flavors. Those seem to be the most safe and give the most information about their products. I personally think they are the best tasting and highest quality too, so it’s a win for my tastebuds and my body.

Thanks as always for reading. Please remember the Katz Giveaway. The big giveaway has come and gone, but I still have 5 products I get to give one lucky winner, so check out that article HERE and remember to comment to be entered!

Disclaimer: Please, Please remember that manufacturers change things all the time. So continue to check websites regularly. Also remember companies might use other chocolate sauces even if they use Monin upfront. And don’t blindly take my research and what I say. Keep checking out for yourself as well. These are starting points for you so you can be educated and know where gluten might be hiding in your food or drinks. Check with your coffee shop and mention the need for GF. The more patrons they see that want it, hopefully the more they will start to think it’s worth their time and effort to accomodate! Thank you!

Review: Katz Gluten Free and 2 Giveaways!

Recently, “Katz Gluten Free invited me and to participate in their Summer Blogging Spectacular.” Of course jumped at the chance! Katz GlutenFree invited gluten-free bloggers from around the web to review a few Katz products, including a few new ones, and help participate in a giveaway of their products. I figure we have three wins already– I’m always happy to try Katz products, especially for free, loved that I’d get help give away some Katz to one of my lucky readers, and the Grand Giveaway is pretty fantastic (all 40 of their products)!

In my sample box, I received their new Gluten-free Apple Pie (which can be found under Cakes on Katz site), their Gluten-free Coffee Bundt Cake, and some Sugared Snack Poppers.

In the past, I’ve also enjoyed the Katz Gluten Free Sliced Challah Bread and Chocolate Frosted Cupcakes, which I try to keep in the freezer for “emergency” kid events or parties.

Overall, there are some wonderful things about the Katz company and their gluten-free line. I greatly appreciate that they produce all their products in a “dairy free, nut free, and gluten-free” facility. Although we eat a lot of nuts in our family due to school functions and so many children with nut allergies, I appreciate great nut free products for my kids functions. Katz also takes the extra step to certify the products “Gluten-free” even though they are produced in a dedicated facility. (You never know when your sources ingredients might be contaminated!) One of the initial drawbacks I had with Katz, when I first tried their products was the amount of eggs and soy flours in their products. Although I’m not allergic to egg, it does sometimes upset my stomach. I try to avoid soy flour and products with a lot of added soy because of the amount of GMO soy used because it’s a thyroid inhibitor.

However, while preparing for this review and giving the website a good tour, I noticed Katz has an Allergy Info link and sorter. If I don’t want a product with soy flour, I simply choose “soy free” and the site sorts which products don’t contain soy. (Unfortunately, one of my favorite products the chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles do get sorted out). I noticed the pie says “dairy free, nut free, soy free” on the label and actually, all three products sent for review are dairy, nut and soy free!

Another fantastic thing about Katz is their customer service. I had an issue with an order back in May, and when I called with it they were kind, responsive, and immediately rectified it. I don’t even think I had to wait on hold or wade through the IVR systems. Customer service, especially when you are getting something off the web, is crucial. Katz was also extremely helpful when I placed the order to make sure it was shipped quickly because I had a bit of an emergency need for some of the Katz products (a wedding and need of cupcakes for dessert for a little flower girl and ring bearer).

Enough about Katz, how are the products??? Let’s start with the three I received:

Apple Pie: I live in New Mexico and I got my package in 100 degree heat. The cool bag and icepack were no match for New Mexico in mid-July. From what I can tell, Katz ships their foods that have been frozen already. My packaged had completely defrosted. My kids saw the pie, and immediately wanted a piece. I was so excited, I decided to try it right after putting away the rest of the foods. The combination of the heat and defrosting made the pie crust less flaky than I expected. However, I haven’t had a pie in three years, so i wasn’t too disappointed. The inside of the apple pie had that sweet, cinnamon spice flavor that is classic about apple pie and was definitely a delightful treat.

So, why mention the shipping issue? Well, I happened upon solution and figured my readers might want it if they encounter the same issue. So, here is the fantastic thing that happened with the pie: I left in the clamshell on the counter over night, and the next day plopped a piece of the pie in the microwave on the “reheat muffin” setting. (about 9 seconds). Clamshells aren’t great at keeping moisture in, and the combo was just enough to allow the crust to become a bit more dry and FLAKY! In this case, it might be helpful to leave the pie out for a day in the clamshell so you get the classic apple pie taste AND a flaky crust.

When Katz got word that my box got damaged and some of the taste might not have been compromised with shipping, and they resent part of the package. I received the replacement shipment after writing the main draft of the review. However, it’s worth mentioning that I got a cherry pie in this shipment. This time, no icepack or “keep cool bag,” which meant that the products hopefully didn’t sweat as much. I defrosted the cherry pie overnight and had some this afternoon. Again, the crust wasn’t flaky, but my husband describes it as “light and airy.” He also said it’s a fantastic pie, and would never have known it was gluten-free. He’s the gluten eater in the house when he can, so I make him try all my review stuff to see if it will hold up to a gluten palate. It did, he enjoyed it! Next time, I will remove the shrink-wrap from the pie before defrosting. Again, the pie was more flaky after it was left out for a bit. The conclusion for me is let the pie air out a bit before serving and you’ll get a bit more flaky crust.

It’s also worth mentioning that I love cherry pie. It’s been one of my favorite pies my entire life, and I’ve never been partial to apple. There are some that are okay, but I’ll take cherry any time over apple. So, it came as a shock as I ate my cherry pie, which is an amazing pie, that I realized if I only one I could order one, that I’d probably order the apple pie if I wanted a very special taste. Now, of course I’d want them both because I still love cherry pie, but if I could only order one for a crazy reason, it just might be the apple.

Value: The pie is small about 4 servings and is between $7.49 and $7.99 for the pie. At quick glance, this seems high because it’s a small pie, not normal size we were used to before going gluten-free, however, it ends up about $2 a slice. When I got it, I tried to cut it into tiny slices. Finally,I looked at the serving size and saw you have 4. So, 4 decent slices of a GLUTEN FREE pie- that’s actually a fantastic value! I just bought a piece of cheesecake to try which cost $4.99 for one smaller slice. I say the pie is a great deal. At the moment, Katz is offering an incredible coupon on their pies: “SummerPie1” will give you $4 off the apple; “SummerPie2” will give you $4 off the cherry and “SummerPie3” will give you $4 off the blueberry. That makes it $3.49 for a pie!

Sugared Snack Poppers

Sugared Snack Poppers: The taste of these came as a surprise to me. initially, I expected a sweet cookie. They are airy, crunchy, a dry cookie, and not extremely sweet. The sugared snack poppers have just a touch of sugar and I can tell it’s just a touch. I’m not familiar with Egg Kichel and didn’t know these are Egg Kichel until trying to figure out what they were for the review. They weren’t our favorite thing, however, upon a second or third try, I’m finding myself wanting more. When I asked my husband to taste it, he said it sort of tastes like a cookie and he’d like a cup of coffee to go with a few. The closest thing they remind him of is biscotti. Actually, they are dry and airy like biscotti, without the teeth breaking hardness that is often part of biscotti. I think by the time we finish off the package, they might become one of those addictive, good to keep around for a snack, type items. And I’ll probably be thankful you keep them in the freezer too.
Value: $4.99 for a full clamshell. Great value.

Katz GlutenFree Coffee Cake with Coffee Glaze Drizzle

Coffee Cake: this was by far my kids and my favorite treat. When Katz says Coffee Cake, they mean a coffee-flavored bundt cake, not just a special cake to go with coffee. Nonetheless, is a very special cake. First, Katz does a great job with packaging. Like many of their products, including the cupcakes and other sweets, they actually shrink-wrap the clamshell.

Snack Poppers in clamshell; Bundt Cake in clamshell and shrink wrap protection

I believe this helps with moisture retention (crucial in gluten-free cake!), shipping issues (the snack poppers were not shrink wrapped and burst open) as well as helping a bit more with freezer burn and freshness. The cake is a moist dense chocolate-coffee bundt cake and in the middle is a delicious coffee glaze. Furthermore, the cake held up the best for shipping as well as storage.

Because everything had defrosted, I didn’t want to freeze the products like the box instructs. I was concerned it would cause them to dry out. However, because I was enjoying that apple pie, I didn’t try the cake for an extra two days and once I opened it, it was perfectly moist, soft etc. I also was able to keep in and enjoy it in my fridge for almost a week! For me, I cut a piece of cake, put a good spoonful of glaze on and used my magic “reheat muffin” setting in my microwave. It was just enough to make the glaze run down the cake and soften it that last day or two. For a gluten-free item to last more than two or three days is fantastic, some might say miraculous.

Value: The first time I saw the coffee bundt cake on the website, I thought, $10, hmm, maybe not. Honestly, though I’m not sure why I thought that because $10 for a gluten-free cake already prepared is a fantastic price. Besides, I’m happy to pay $5.49 for 4 cupcakes. The $5.49 still ends up a great deal because I recently went to a cupcake boutique in town and her gluten-free cupcakes are $3.49 a cupcake which ended up close to $15 for four of us for one serving. I think I got about 8-10 slices of the coffee cake for $10. If you do a per-serving-analysis, you end up with an awesome deal for a very special cake that will impress anyone.

Bottomline: I think Katz makes fantastic products and am thrilled to see them expanding their line. They have some unique products as well as some wonderful quality products and dedication to keep the product gluten-free. I would love to see them either use dry-ice for shipping the products or NOT freeze them prior to shipping. I think the freezing and shipping causes problems with some of the products, especially in warm areas or months.

Another fantastic thing about Katz is that they offer FREE SHIPPING with orders over $30. A lot of places require a much higher minimum and shipping is often the determining factor between my being able to buy something and not. It’s pretty easy to hit the $30 mark with Katz, especially if you add a Coffee Cake to your order.
Now the really fun part! Katz is offering a giveaway of their products. Actually, they are offering 2 giveaways! First, Katz is giving away a five-product pack to each blogger’s readers. When you like Katz on Facebook for an entry in my giveaway, you’ll see some other fantastic blogs to read and enter for giveaways. Next, Katz is giving away a huge GRAND GIVEAWAY – a box filled with all 40 Katz products!

So, to enter the give away on my site for 5 products of your choice please do the one or all of the following: Make sure to leave a SEPARATE comment for each entry
1) **MANDATORY*** enter a comment telling which products you want to try or your favorite Katz products
2) follow me @GlutenFreeFinds on Twitter (leave a comment that you did)
3) follow @katzglutenfree on twitter (then leave a comment that you did, or do)
4) like KatzGlutenfree Bakery on Facebook (leave a comment that you did or do and remember you’ll have access to other blogs that are participating!)
5) enter the Katz Grand Give Away (and leave a comment on my site that you did)
6) Tweet the following: #Win 5 products of your choice from @KatzGlutenFree Via @GlutenFreeFinds http://wp.me/p10fnB-6C #Giveaway Ends 8/15

I will use a random generator to choose a winner.
RULES: Giveaway is open to US Residents only. Giveaway ends Wednesday August 17, 2011 11:59 PM EST. Winner will be chosen via Random.org. Must have valid email in blog profile or leave email in comments otherwise you will be disqualified. Winner will have 48 hrs. to confirm by email, If no confirmation in that time frame a new winner will be chosen. Please note, there might be a delay in coordinating between the winner, myself and Katz to receive the product.

I discovered Katz last fall through a similar giveaway. It’s a lot of fun and it’s always great to support a GlutenFree company, especially one that seems to care about their customers and ensure we are truly getting a gluten-free product. I think my 5 products I’d choose would be: Cherry Pie, Chocolate Cupcakes, the Apricot or Raspberry Hamantaschen, the Coffee Cake, and perhaps the Pizza Crust.

Now, I need to go enter that Grand Give away myself! Thanks, as always, for reading!

Disclaimer Katz GlutenFree provided the samples for me to review and will provide the giveaway for the 5 products of choice to one of my readers.

Product Review: Betty Crocker Devil’s Food Cake Revisited

Back in December, I did a review on the Betty Crocker Devil’s Food cake mix. You can read it here if you wish. Since then, I’ve used their brownie mix and the cake mix only one or two other times. The reason I’m revisiting this review is because I notice that it’s one of the most visited links on my blog, and in the end, I’m not as happy with the product as my initial review. However, I don’t know the etiquette of completely pulling a post, so I’m revisiting it.

Since doing the initial review, I’ve discovered Pamela’s gluten-free chocolate cake mix. I need to do a review on the cakes mixes for their own merit, but I prefer Pamela’s. One of my main issues with the Betty Crocker was that it uses soy flour. In fact, that’s a serious draw back to me. Another issue was the butter- the amount and the fact that it doesn’t allow for a dairy free version. Although a few people who commented suggested oil, I think Betty Crocker should include that. These mixes are expensive, we don’t have the money to ruin a mix. Plus, someone new to gluten-free baking might not be able to make a clean conversion. Does the butter add properties like protein that we’d need to add something else if we used oil? I think sometimes with the different properties of gluten-free flours, we can ruin a recipe super quick if we make a change. In the end, after baking with it a second and third time, I noticed it tasted more like butter than chocolate cake and was way too greasy. (And I like butter. I love Paula Dean!)

The Pamela’s tend to remain moist for a few days, but the Betty Crocker devils food definitely needed to be used quickly and overbake so easily you can mess them up within 1 min of overcooking and they get a tough, rubbery texture.

Finally, the brownie mix turned out horrendous. They actually somehow baked up hollow. I tried to make two-bite brownies for my children and they simply baked up hollow and swelled all over the pan. It was a nightmare, not to mention a mess in the kitchen. They also tasted funny.

Betty Crocker Devil’s Food Revised Score Card
Taste: 10/15
Texture: 8/15, (Not crumbly and moist, which is a treat. Tastes like cake! No one else knew GF, however very greasy)
Base ingredients: 7/10 (contains soy flour. Not a soy fan, especially if not marked non-GMO. Also starch based, which makes for light and fluffy, but high glycemic. Otherwise, ingredients are fairly basic and not too many additives.)
Added ingredients: 5/10 (no alternative for the butter if allergic to dairy)
Availability: 6/10 (can get almost anywhere Betty Crocker products are sold. However, stores tend to put them super high, they only have 3 offerings, and they are about twice the price for half the product.)
Instructions clarity: 4/5 (they are a bit odd. Easy, but not what I am used to.)
Ease: 5/5
Glutenfree Assurance: 6/10 (As of original writing, was made in dedicated facility, a sponsor of Celiac Disease association, Celiac Sprue Association Benefactor. The GF label is clear. It’s Not certified GF, but dedicated facility and no questionable ingredients like modified food starch. However, the box is extremely similar in color to one of their more gourmet cake products and the stores tend to put the two together. You could easily pick up a full gluten product if your kids are distracting you at the store. Because of the packaging, I knocked serious points off.)
Versatility: 4/10 (no alternatives for allergies. Both butter and eggs could make it unusable for some.)
Shelf life of finished product: 4/10 (gets tough and dry quick. Make it day of for best results.)

Total Score: 59
The Bottom Line: I don’t bother with it anymore. Better products exist. I’ll take Pamela’s any day. I’m at the point in gluten-free living where I won’t settle just because it’s gluten-free. If it’s not as good or better than a gluten version, I’ll go without.

Score for Brownies 0
These turned out badly, they tasted funny. They were super greasy. There is no score to bother with. I don’t suggest them, I won’t recommend them, and won’t buy them again.

Pamela’s is definitely a better choice. I’ve heard King Arthur is amazing, I need to try that one. I have not tried them because of the price point.

Thanks for reading!

Review: Wellaby’s Crackers & Cheese Ups

Wellaby's Large Crackers

In the middle of attempting to put our home on the market for our pending move to New Mexico, and in the midst of extreme stress, I received a sample package of a product recently brought to the US from Greece. Packed inside this box was a sample of every flavor of Wellaby’s Crackers and Cheese Ups. When I opened the package, I expected maybe a box or two of crackers to sample. However, I had what felt like a pantry full. On the top where these were these foil packets of delight, the Cheese Ups: “Classic Cheese,” “Smoked Cheese” & “Parmesan.”  I pulled out several boxes of large crackers with flavors such as: “Classic Cheese,” “Feta, Oregano, & Olive Oil,” “Rosemary & Onion,” and “Parmesan & Sun-dried Tomato.” Then we had mini crackers: “Original Cheese,” “Red Cheddar,” & “Grated Parmesan.”

Cheese, crackers, and nostalgic reminders of the ghosts of foods past before gluten-free days, (and so much better than the gluten versions), cheered me and my entire family. In fact, they quickly became a lifeline as my son loves crackers, my husband has always loved cheese nibs, and the Cheese Ups Parmesan were my own comfort food. I would not share that bag!I  never liked “Cheese Nibs” because despite the claims of “real cheese,” they taste gross to me. Cheese doesn’t taste like that! Although I was excited to try the Cheese Ups, which looked more like a puffed chip, I carried some hesitation with the mini crackers because I dont’ like cheese nibs or usually any cheese flavored crackers. And that’s the difference, they are cheese crackers, NOT cheese nibs or cheese flavor!

Once I tried them, there is no comparison except to say those who miss Cheese Nibs will be very happy with these delightful little bites of happiness. The larger party crackers are also fantastic. Almost all gluten-free crackers need something pretty strong to hide the ‘off-taste.’  I use them for a base to eat my favorite dips, spreads etc, so it works. However, with the Wellabys, the flavor of the “Rosemary and Onion” carry themselves so well there is no need for any thing further. In fact, I felt like I was cheating on the cracker when I put some brie on it. With that said, the “Sun-dried Tomato & Parmesan,” tastes extra lovely with a bit of goat cheese or cream cheese. These crackers all do contain real cheese, and a decent amount of it. The second ingredient in the “Sun-dried Tomato & Parmesan” cracker is Edam Cheese and a few ingredients further lists the Parmesan Cheese. These are the real deal!

“Cheese Ups.” These 3-D shaped triangles are addictive. All three adults working to pack, noted that “something about these crackers, maybe the shape, vaguely reminded them of Bugles.” However, they taste like crispy cheese & they contain 43% cheese. They were by far, our favorite of the samples, but that’s because they are simply extra special rather than the other’s falling short. The Cheese Ups are a 2008 Award winner from the International Taste and Quality Institute as well as a Silver Award winner from the 2010 Best of Expo. The best way to describe the experience is that Cheese Ups pop or explode in your mouth with their hollow insides and crispy, delicate outside.

Puffy Delicate Triangles with a hollow interior makes them addictive!

So, I probably sound like I’m writing marketing copy at this point and not a review. I simply loved the crackers. Although the large crackers can be a bit hard if you have some dental work, they are by far some of the best tasting crackers I’ve had since going gluten-free. The large crackers also were broken more in a few packages, but it didn’t affect the taste. A good friend of mine who eats gluten said, “I’d buy these any time. I don’t care if they are gluten-free, they are fantastic!”

I did like some of the flavors better than others, but that is more of a cheese preference. My favorite Cheese Ups were the Parmesan. Something about that Parmesan flavor…I ate the entire bag for dinner. Good thing it’s a small bag. I’m not as much of a smoked Gouda person, so that one my family devoured. My favorite flavor for the larger crackers was the “Rosemary and Onion.” With the others I prefered something such as a goat cheese or a cream cheese, but the “Rosemary and Onion” stood on their own. With the mini crackers, the classic cheese held its own. I think it’s a bit too strong for my taste in the larger crackers (but I was never a cheese cracker person until I was sent these, so keep that in mind!), but it’s fantastic for the mini-crackers. The one cracker I didn’t think quite tasted like the cheese were the feta crackers. They were excellent, but I couldn’t taste the feta. They were still great, but I just didn’t have that distinct feta taste like you do with the Parmesan crackers.

The only slight concern I had with the crackers is the box does not mention a “dedicated gluten-free facility” or “certified Gluten Free.” With the 1 in 133 event coming up in D.C., I knew many of my readers would want to know about this. Check out Wellaby’s website where they state:

All our products are made in a dedicated facility that solely produces and develops gluten-free products. This means that no gluten containing ingredients are used in the entire facility, thus eliminating the risk of cross-contamination.

In addition, we conduct constant lab tests to secure that Wellaby’s products always deliver the best quality and never become contaminated with unwanted ingredients.

Also, According to their site, their facility is ISO 22000, IFS and BRC certified. I actually used to work for an ISO certified company in a department that helped ensure ISO standards were followed. It’s a very rigorous standard. Knowing the company cares enough about their quality to certify and put into practice standard procedures is very reassuring, especially in light of all the companies trying to get away with “gluten-free” labeling since there is no FDA standard at the moment.

Overall, I recommend the Wellaby’s crackers. I enjoyed them immensely, and I hope they come to stores that my family frequents. I have not seen them yet in any of the Colorado Stores; hopefully maybe they are in a New Mexico store? In the meantime, you can order them on Amazon.com – just put in Wellaby’s in the search or on the Wellaby’s website.

Oh, and they are available throughout the world. Again, they are from Greece, check their map to see if you can get them in your country.

Disclaimer: Although Wellaby’s sent a the sample free of charge, I was under no obligation to write a review or a positive review. I wrote a positive review because I liked the product and think others might enjoy it as well.

The Valentine’s Marathon Event-last minute tips

Welcome to the Semi-Annual event of “Men Shopping the grocery store.” This event occurs semi-annually at Thanksgiving and Valentines Day. Although the events are similar, men of all ages, sizes, looks, and education wandering around the grocery store almost completely lost, the events are completely different.

The Thanksgiving Day event is scavenger hunt based. On this day, these wonderful men only have about a three to six hour window to endure shopping at the grocery store. They are armed with a list of obscure items their wives forgot to pick-up, but are essential to the success of dinner and the added pressure of finding the correct thing and having guests to get it right for. They often wander around the store completely lost, murmuring under the breath, or you find them staring blankly around for the store directory. The grocery store on Thanksgiving Day offers a perfect volunteer opportunity for people to go to the store just to help these poor gentlemen find these strange and obscure items.

Valentine’s Day however, is a marathon event which usually starts around 5pm on Feb 13th. While the Thanksgiving Day scavenger hunt is much more obscure, most men are armed with a specific list. On Valentine’s day the stores have several aisles pointing men in the direction they need to go. They are not as lost in the store, and there are other specific RED stop points along the way. They enter a store and have a red aisle to grab the Chocolate. Figuring out the correct chocolate and other gifts, that’s the challenge for this event. Nuts, no nuts, does she like Dark chocolate. Did she like this brand last year, or is this the brand that she can’t stand? They are bombarded with all these choices and more…and then the flowers. “Why do I have to buy flowers that are just gonna die? Now, is she allergic to these or was that something else. Oh no, the red ones are gone, now WHAT!?”

Our local grocery even made it super easy as they have cards, chocolates, and cute things all in the same aisles. The flowers will be somewhere else in the store, though there might be a little stand of wilting roses in the Valentines’ aisles, and those are also demarcated in the store with RED.

This year, 2011, the event will be extra exciting as the hours for this marathon are shortened. Usually, these wonderful gentlemen in our lives are reminded to stop at the store on the way home by their female co-workers or secretaries the night BEFORE. They stop, grab their goodies, and they have gifts for their loved ones to gift in the morning by 6 or 7pm. Sadly, this year the 13th was a Sunday, so many sweet, well meaning guys will be buying extra items: the “oops, I’m so sorry you didn’t get a gift this morning,” makeup give and the real romantic gift. I predict sales to be up this year.

I don’t know why, but I enjoy these semi-annual days. They are just sort of, well, cute, funny and sometimes give me a chance to be nice and help someone. I admit, it’s much easier to help on Thanksgiving than Valentines Day though. I mean, I like Dark chocolate, but other women like milk. I can point someone to the condensed mushroom soup and cornstarch so much easier.

Of course, if you have a loved one who is celiac, you have an extra challenge. So, for those sweet gentlemen who still need go get your wives, girlfriends, etc. chocolates or a gift in the next few hours, here are some quick tips to keep them safe:

-Gluten Free chocolates are your best bet
-Look for any labels that say “PROCESSED ON EQUIPMENT THAT shares WHEAT” DO NOT BUY,
even if it says Gluten Free- unless it carries the “Certified Gluten Free Label”
-Avoid the ingredient “modified food starch” – unless it actually says Gluten FREE on the label
Reeses peanut butter cups are tricky. Many of their “shapes” and specialities contain wheat to help them keep their shape. I suggest stay away from Reeses. I always get sick.
-Overall, I’ve been told by several manufacturers that the speciality chocolates will often contain wheat that may not be present in other “regular brands.” The best course is usually to stay away from things like the hearts or speciality shapes. Grab some red foil to wrap it, and you’ll be fine.
Russell Stover has been another where I’ve personally gotten ill.  They usually share equipment
-Many Godiva contain wheat or barley. That’s not a brand, sadly, that I don’t trust
-More and more of the Lindt chocolates are now containing barley, malt, and barley extract. Make sure to look for those on any of the chocolates.
-For those who don’t know, Whoppers are OUT; they contain malt.
Sees Candies, if you are lucky enough to have one close, they claim almost all their regular products are gluten-free. The staff is usually knowledgable and helpful. I have been warned against buying the “speciality boxes,” however.  Sees is by far my favorite AND I do great on them!!!

-I personally have not had problems with DOVE, Three Musketeers, or York Peppermint Patties, but please check the ingredients etc before you purchase.

-I personally would rather have a package not say gluten-free, but have a statement that says where the products are processed. However, that is not acceptable for many, so you might have to check with her.

If in doubt, go purchase a gift certificate for a spa, or something else.
You can also dress up some Kozy Shack Pudding. They are dye free and Gluten Free. The chocolate is divine.

Here are some links to allergen statements for you too:
Mars Candies Includes, Dove, snickers, M&Ms
Hershey’s this includes “Kisses,” “Mounds”, “York Peppermint patties”

There are of course plenty of brands out there, and a google search can help you find the brand you might need. Remember to stay away from “products processed on equipment that shares wheat,” products containing wheat, barley, Malt, barley extract, and Modified food (or corn) starch
unless the product specifically states certified gluten-free.

Enjoy shopping for your ladies, and relax at the store. You’re not alone. In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s day and enjoy your evening. And don’t worry, for Mother’s day, you have these chocolate tips and your kids to help you navigate through the store and tell you what she likes.

Disclaimer: these are not official statements from any company. Most of the chocolates I recommended or did not recommend are based upon personal experience. I’ve included a few allergen statements, but please always double check the packaging or talk with the person you are buying for. Some of us have various sensitivities. There are sometimes other ingredients such as soy that might cause problems. So please, this article is just tips, not the bible on gluten-free valentines chocolate. It’s a place to get started. Please remember everyone is different. I am also in no way trying to insult any man who does the shopping. So, if you do the shopping, please don’t take offense. 😀

Review: Betty Crocker Glutenfree Devil’s Food Cake Mix

Out of desperation because my original baking plans for my daughter’s Christmas celebrations at her preschool got messed up due to shipping issues, I grabbed one of the new Betty Crocker cake mixes to make a quick batch of cupcakes. 

The mix required 1 c. water  1 stick butter, and three eggs.  That’s it.  I find the water a bit surprising and I’m used to recipes taking oil over butter, but didn’t mind.

The mix itself was a bit stiffer than I’m used to with cake, due to softened butter rather than oil, but it was very quick and simple.  I had cupcakes in the oven within a few minutes.

I do wish they had other ways to tell if they are done besides cake tester.  Sometimes other cues such as bouncing to the touch or pulling away from the sides are a bit more helpful.  although I stayed within the time range, I did end up possibly over-baking them a bit, which may have made them a bit tough a day later.  They did not store well, they were best the first evening and next day.  After that they did get tough and eventually dry. I’m not sure if it’s the nature of the product or over-baking. It’s difficult to tell with devils food if they are done by the look. They are already brown.  I will update when I try them again.

Overall, I’ll use the mix again.  I’m impressed enough to try the other mixes they have, and in a pinch they are great.  The other thing is that Betty Crocker now labels their frosting Gluten-free.  Although I prefer homemade icing, it is fantastic to have an alternative, especially for my 5 year old who has to bring her own cupcakes to school for celebrations.  I think I know what it must’ve felt like for housewives when Betty Crocker cake mixes first came out. We all grew up with cake mixes on the shelves.  However, with the frosting and the mix now both Gluten-free, it’s like discovering all over again.

Nothing beats homemade cake and frosting.  However, sometimes, nothing beats easy and Betty Crocker took the Gluten-free mixes to the next level.  Another plus not having to drive to another city to to the health food stores.  The downside- try $4.79  for the the Gluten-free version versus about $1.79.  Super Target and Walmart carry them for about $3.79.

Scorecard for Betty Crocker Glutenfree Devils Food Cake mix

Taste: 15/15
Texture: 15/15, (Not crumbly and moist, which is a treat. Tastes like cake! No one else knew GF)
Base ingredients: 7/10 (contains soy flour.  Not a soy fan, especially if not marked non-GMO.  Also starch based, which makes for light and fluffy, but high glycemic)  otherwise, ingredients are fairly basic and not too many additives.
Added ingredients: 7/10  (no alternative for the butter if allergic to dairy)
Availability: 10/10  (can get almost anywhere Betty Crocker products are sold!  Nice treat)
Instructions clarity: 4/5 (they are a bit odd.  Easy, but not what I am used to.)
                         Ease: 5/5
Glutenfree Assurance: 10/10 (love it.  Made in dedicated facility, sponsor of Celiac Disease association, Celiac Sprue Association Benefactor, GF label clear.  Not certified GF, but dedicated facility and no questionable ingredients like modified food starch)
Versatility:  6/10 (no alternatives for allergies. Both butter and eggs could make it unusable for some.)
Shelf life of finished product: 7/10 (gets tough and dry quick, like most GF baked goods.  Make it day of or night before for best results.)

Total Score: 86
Overall, it’s an impressive mix, but the soy flour (and not a non-GMO) and lack of alternatives lowered the score from it’s potential.  Soy is also high allergen, so it loses points there. The taste and texture are fantastic. 

Best place to get it is Target or Walmart. Our King Soopers had it for $4.79, which is outrageous, considering they put the regular cake mixes on sale 10/$10 sometimes. I think I ended up paying $3.29 or so at Target.

By the way, I’m trying out my WordPress Droid app for this post, so if looks different, that’s why. I’m not sure what to expect. Happy New year, and thanks for reading!

NOTE on Product Reviews: All reviews so far have been completely at my expense. None of the products have been sent at samples for review and I have not been paid to review a product. I’ve developed a scoring system so that I can provide the most objective and consistant reviews. In the coming year, I am looking for companies who would be interested in me reviewing their products. Please contact me if you have a product you’d like to have reviewed.