Recipe: Gluten-Free “Dirt & Worms” – Better than the original!

Welcome back to School and with all the fun school treats! Dirt and Worms was one of my favorite fun, “I can do it myself” almost treats of my school days. Of course, being gluten-free, my children haven’t experienced dirt and worms. The ingredients have been available for a while, but we never seem to have all the ingredients at once. However, this morning my husband and I were doing some photography for upcoming blog posts and reviews when I realized I have all the ingredients for “Dirt and Worms.”

I list this recipe with the brands I used because the brands are Gluten-Free, artificial dye free, and often Casein free, which I know is crucial for many readers. And, I like them…but mentioning anything else would be “Spoilers.”

So, we quickly put it together and here you go: Gluten-Free Dirt & Worms

Ingredients:

Gluten-free Ingredients for childhood treat favorite "Dirt and Worms"

1/2 cup Kozy Shack Chocolate Pudding (or a Dairy Free brand of your choice if you need a CF version)
3 Surf Sweets gummy worms (also a CF candy!)
2 crushed up Kinnikinnick Foods KToos Sandwich cookies (these are Casein free!)
optional a couple of Annie’s Gummy Bunnies and a few Surf Sweets Gummy Swirls to make it look like a little garden.

Directions
Put your worms in the bottom of a cup
Cover with pudding (I used the individual size from Kozy Shack)
Crush your GFCF Ktoos in a Ziploc or plastic bag and cover the pudding with the crushed cookies

Dirt & Worms Step by Step

To finish: Put some Surf Sweets Swirls on top to look like flowers and place some Annie’s Bunnies in if you want to have fun.
Place spoon in confection, get a big scoop, don a Fez, put spoon in mouth, and smile!

Welcome back to the simple, fun things in life! You have yummy treat and you’re now cool!

GlutenFree dirt & worms with best tasting pudding, sandwich cookies, & gummies around!

Thanks as always for reading and stay tuned for product reviews. Several product reviews coming soon!

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.

Public Apology to Turtle Mountian/ So Delicious

Last night, I issued a tweet with a photo saying always check labels. I still hold this true because so many things are mislabeled. In this case however, I discovered after Turtle Mountain sent me a direct message saying they are looking into the issue, that in this case, it was my mistake and they are doing a good job with their labeling. They asked if I still had the packaging and after rummaging thru the recycle bin, I discovered the lids were mixed up.

One says SOY FREE , the other says DAIRY and GLUTEN FREE

At my son’s birthday on Monday, I had 2 flavors of the SO Delicious coconut milk ice-cream out. We had the divine Cookie Dough and the luscious Vanilla bean. We used up one Vanilla Bean and the lids got mixed up. Someone (probably me) put a Vanilla Bean lid on the cookie dough ice-cream. When I grabbed it last night, I didn’t see the discrepancy. However, as I usually do when I eat, I read and last night was reading the back of the ice-cream container. Hey, it was the closest thing around. I saw soy listed and then the lid with the Soy Free. Forgetting we had another flavor earlier, I jumped to the tweet. I had earlier that day seen another product from another company mis-labeled. So, it’s common and frustrating. In this case, So Delicious and Turtle Mountain did everything right, including check back quickly.

So Delicious and Turtle Mountain, I deeply apologize for my tweet and hope I didn’t cause any damage. I greatly appreciate your swift response to the issue, as do my followers. And am more than happy to continue to buy your lovely ice-cream and milk products. As it was, I had figured it might simply be an oversight.

I tweeted my mistake back to @So_delicous and they graciously replied: Thank you for letting us know. We take allergen i.d. very seriously…”

Turtle Mountain and So_Delicous, Thank you for assuring customers are safe and for going through the Certified GlutenFree process as well as taking care with allergen I.d. Thank you also for your swift response and again, I deeply apologize for my mistake.

Best Regards and with gratitude,

Jennifer Peters
@GlutenFreeFinds

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!

The Hidden Danger of GREEN for Celiacs

Yesterday afternoon, someone tweeted about hydrolyzed wheat in dish soap with a big “WHY???” and reminded me of a long overdue post. Celiac and gluten intolerance do not mix well with the “Green Movement.” In fact, the more products that come out, the more I see “green” products are very dangerous for us.

There are several problems and reasons why. First, “Green Companies” like Seventh Generation, ECover, Green Works, and so many more derive their agents from “plant-based materials” and or “plant cellulose.” Sounds harmless enough to the general population, but when it comes down to it, some of the best sources, from what I can gather are products celiacs and the Gluten Intolerant avoid. When people think “wheat” in food, they even make the mistake originally thinking oh, just “wheat bread.” My sweet brother is always offering me cookies, pasta, cake because it’s made from “bleached flour” and he doesn’t make the connection. A lot of people don’t.

In the same way, the gluten-free keep our eye out for “wheat, barley, rye, spelt, oats” and rarely think about products that we don’t ingest. (That is another upcoming post). We forget that wheat, oats, rye (and yes, I’m using oats here b/c in the general population and in products they are not certified GF) are PLANTS. In fact, they have straw which produces very good plant cellulose. Corn is also used often, and many of my twitter followers must avoid corn.

Sadly, I pieced this together through the blood and tears of my three-year old son. He’s always had severe problems with chlorine. So, we had to be careful with diapers because many are bleached for them to look better. Finally, when Pampers changed their formula to their core and he started having blisters on his bum, I tried “HUGGIES NATURAL.” Those created the worst “rash” we’ve ever seen to the point where his skin peeled off and was bleeding. It was more like a chemical burn. Huggies couldn’t figure it out; their diapers are “plant-based.” At that point, I didn’t understand the “plant” issue. We found a temporary solution until another company changed their diaper core and he started having problems. It wasn’t until months later when I tried Seventh generation wipes that I got it. By then I’d learned a little more about celiac and gluten reactions. The Seventh Generation wipes would cause him to bleed as did the diapers. However, he’d react to the wipes immediately. When I’d wipe him, he’s squeal in pain and they’d leave behind red skin. Upon sitting in the diaper, the combination would make the skin on his bum peel and bleed. “These are NATURAL” wipes with NO cholorine, what is going on!?” Eventually, I noticed marketing sticker: “Cleaning agents derived from plants.” Hmmmm, what kind of plants?

Finally, I got on their website and started looking into the products. While I did find out they DO put wheat in their feminine pads, the diapers don’t contain it, nor the wipes. However, the diapers and the wipes are made with plant-based materials. It suddenly made sense- he’s so sensitive and severely reacts to oat and other grains. Until he was two, he also reacted to most of the cross-reactive foods research is are starting to discover, including corn. Seventh Generation will not guarantee their products are gluten-free, and moreover, they do not disclose which other materials they might use for their plant derived or cellulose based products. Many companies use corn as well.

In poking around on the internet for this post, I found out why we can’t get the information. The Simple Green company gives a great clue as to why we need to be extremely careful to the products we buy. In the FAQ Section on their website is the answer for so many questions:

Ingredients – Why aren´t the ingredients listed on the label? Simple Green® is non-toxic. Sunshine Makers, Inc. has had the required independent laboratory tests conducted to verify this. Therefore, it is not required by law to list the ingredients on the label. Simple Green´s unique formula is protected under the US Trade Secrecy Act. Simple Green complies with all current labeling laws for ingredient disclosure on cleaning products. Some disclosure of ingredients will be given on a case by case basis as required by physicians, veterinarians, or highway safety agents. If you want to inquire about what ingredients are or are not found in our products, please contact the Simple Green Technical Department at 800-228-0709.

Of course the plenty of people tweet and ask: “What about the big 8, Shouldn’t those be listed?” Nope. Guess what, FDA does not regulate these products because they are not food or drugs. So, these companies are not bound by the same FDA regulations to list those ingredients! That means we are still being exposed even when we are label reading every food item we buy at the store.

I’ve seen a few people with celiac disease post that “as long as you don’t ingest something, you’ll be safe.” While I have an entire article to write on this, it’s sadly a myth and like playing with fire. Here’s the problem with soaps, etc. Many soaps, lotions etc contain penetrating ingredients to get INTO the skin, especially moisturizer ones. And, the “moisturizing” ones, I’ve found are fantastic at containing wheat protein because it moisturizes. While I’m not a lab to do studies to prove just how much gets left behind, I’m guessing some of these wheat proteins will be left on the skin and when you go eat that fantastic juicy peach or strawberries with your hands, you’ll ingest some of it. (Because that’s the point, for them to remain on your skin and moisturize you.) I haven’t even gotten into the details that our skin is our largest organ and is capable of ingesting things, which means over time you get these products into your system.

With dish soap etc that contains wheat or even plant derived ingredients, you are still putting yourself at risk. I’ve heard of people throwing out their pans when they are diagnosed with celiac because many believe the gluten can harbor in non-stick material. While this is a controversy, however, we know that gluten is harder to just wash away. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be demanding gluten-free facilities for our food. We’d be happy to let companies simply wash and sanitize a machine and produce on the same line as products made with gluten. So, do we really want to wash our dishes with wheat or “plant materials” that might contain gluten ingredients?

Finally, after looking over several websites, product listings and then going into the MSDS of several products, I don’t believe most of them are any more safe for anyone or the environment. Many ingredients are still carcinogenic and I’ve found more harsh than their non-green counterparts. I’ve personally found when I’ve used brands like ECover, Simple Green, Seventh Generation, and the “green label” Windex or other main brands, I and my son are more prone to an asthma attack or breathing issues. Most still have excessive packaging. It might be more biodegradable, but in the end, we usually pay more for less product, plenty of packaging and sometimes less safe. Because we already pay two-to-five times what most people pay in our food budget, we should seriously re-examine if these green products are worth it. For now, I stick with some of the main brands without “naturally derived” or “plant based” materials and eventually plan to move to making some of my own products. I’ve already started experimenting with making my own lotion, and it’s fantastic! In the end, the most economical and environmental friendly is making our own anyway. Check out a group on Facebook called: Recipes For Natural Living. The moderator posts recipes to help make your own cleaners and even other things like brandy! Plenty of sites provide this information too. Google “How to Make household cleaners.”

Although “plant based materials” might not always contain wheat, oats etc, again, i’m grouping oats on purpose) because the companies don’t disclose which plants they use, these green products provide real dangers to celiacs and the gluten intolerant. If a company says “plant based” cleaning agents, or “plant based _________” you might consider buying something else unless you can confirm what “plants” they use.

1in133: Why It’s Such a “Big Deal” to me

The 1in133 team is “knee deep in cake” building the “World’s Largest Cake” for the First Gluten Free Labeling Summit to be held in Washington D.C, tomorrow May 4th, 2011. This is a grass-roots movement of people who care about others. One of the things that I quickly learned about the gluten-free and celiac community is that they take care of their own. The FDA has failed us for years, but people who have something in common have bonded together and created an incredible worldwide community that keeps itself safe.

Websites & bloggers such as Gluten Freeville, Adventures of A Gluten Free Mom, GlutenFree Goddess and Gluten Free Girl and the Chef are just a few people who have immersed themselves into helping others find answers that even doctors have been unable to answer.

However, there is a huge obstacle that stands in many people’s way of getting better improperly labeled food. Stores, companies, etc. mistakenly believe there are “strict standards” for a “Gluten Free label.” There are strict standards if a company is Certified GlutenFree, but not by the FDA. So, what that means to us is that unless we see that little Certified symbol, any other product claiming Gluten Free might not be. Jules Shepard, one of the bakers for this event, blogged in February posted story about Post’s Gluten Free “claim” for Fruity Pebbles. You can see the article here. They claim “certified” gluten-free, but it’s their own inside certification with no written, public standards.

Walmart has started labeling some foods: “A Naturally Gluten Free Food.” Yes, the beans in the can were at some point naturally gluten-free, but what about the modified cornstarch and other things that have been added. Other companies claim “Gluten FREE!~” right on the front of the box, but then you get home, read the fine print as you are taking the item out to cook and find out the product was manufactured on equipment that shares wheat. There is NO guarantee that product is “gluten-free.” One of the biggest “gluten-free” terms lately is “No gluten Ingredients Used.” The companies are trying to get our attention by putting that, but how are we any more sure that product is safe than a product that doesn’t label that, but still doesn’t contain wheat, barley, rye, etc.

Companies are coming up with new ways to try to entice a “gluten-free” buyer. One of my favorites for a body care line (which the FDA rule would sadly not cover), or should I say one of the most insidious I’ve seen is “This original formulation does not contain gluten ingredients.” Okay, so if you read that carefully, the original recipe doesn’t contain gluten, but the end product might. In fact, the end product might even contain gluten sources if they couldn’t source the proper non-gluten ingredient. Hugo Naturals, another body care, is also claiming Gluten Free on hair & body products that contain OAT. While Oat doesn’t contain gluten, it’s guilty by association, and even the certified gluten-free oats can cause severe cross-reactivity in some ultra sensitive people. I have seen “Oat” listed in “GlutenFree” claimed foods as well, and they are not listed as certified Gluten Free oats, nor does the product show a certification.

Although I don’t believe the government solves problems well, and I think they often create more than they solve, I do think it’s time they create a standard. Companies are finding all sorts of ways to claim gluten-free, or have the appearance of GlutenFree, without going to the trouble, cost, or even effort to ensure the product is truly gluten-free. They slap the label on, or use fancy wording to try to convince customers their product is safe. The FDA comes down hard on vitamin and supplement companies who claim any sort of “cure” or “treatment.” Yet, they allow companies to get away with claiming “gluten-free” when a product is not and it hurts and makes people sick.

I hope the 1in133 team is successful for several reasons: companies are beginning to tread the line between a false claim and outright fraud; it needs to be stopped. Consumers need a standard from which to base their decisions on. It’s tiresome to read though all the ingredients to try to also find “modified food starch” or barely, rye, malt, etc. wheat is listed in allergen statements, but I’m tired of the headaches I get from trying to figure out if a food has the other ingredients. Finally, they are fighting for everyone in the celiac and gluten-free community. Most of us tweet, blog, etc to share our experiences with others. We fight for each other, we look out for each other. The other day, I tweeted about a mis-labeling at a store. The product contained wheat; I mentioned the store b/c they follow me and I wanted them to be aware, I took a picture. I tweeted it. Why, because I don’t want anyone else to pick up that package take it home, make it, and feed it to their celiac husband or child.

It’s time the FDA took action because the hidden gluten in food is poison to those with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. My only hope is the standard will be a true standard. The standard for “trans-fat free” is a joke as the FDA allows a signifcant amount of transfats in a product to still be claimed “trans-fat free.” Furthermore, they allow for any serving size. Some companies claim something like 5 potato chips for a serving size so that they can use that “transfat free” claim. Who eats 5 potato chips? Maybe someone who’s very good at Weight Watchers, but more people eat a lot more. The FDA needs to have a clean, realistc standard for this regulation.

1in133 has set out to bring awareness to the FDA that gluten is poison to at least 1 out of 133 people. Please support them, continue to sign the petition, and make sure to include there shouldn’t be any loopholes allowed as the FDA has allowed for in the past. Keep an eye on 1in133 site tomorrow and follow them on Facebook.They will post pictures of the action! Continue to support the effort as well, and have a fantastic day. Good luck 1in133 at the Summit, and thank you for what you’ve done.

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.

Breakfast Cookies!

Lemon Ginger Cranberry Almond Scones May 2011

May 2016 note: I’ve recently pulled my own recipe up to make these cookies. My kids miss them.
However, when I pulled it up, I noticed that there was no fat in the recipe. I had eliminated the grapeseed oil from the original recipe because  it made the dough runny.  I was so used to them, I didn’t realize how dry they were at the time, but my husband always complained and didn’t like them.  

This time, on the fly, I cut in 4 Tablespoons of high quality butter and added 2-3T real half and half, closer to what a normal scone would have.   I’m also using cane sugar these days, so I used approx 1/2 cup+ 1-2T.  They turned out delicious and much better than the original, but until I can rework and retest the recipe again, you might need to play around with it. Almond Flour changes the rules of  baking because it doesn’t absorb anything, which is why these have been reworked several times. 

This is an older post originally posted in May 2011. However, due to changes in my own variations, I’m editing the original post to include some needed tweaks to the recipes. After two years, this is one of my very favorite breakfasts, and the combinations are simply endless. Chocolate chip is my default because my kids think I’m the best mom ever for letting them eat Chocolate Chip cookies for Breakfast! Moms need points every once in a while.

In January, 2011 Elana Amsterdam, from Elana’s Pantry and author of The Almondflour cookbook” posted scones recipes on her blog.  Her recipe is so easy, I’ve since memorized it and whip up a batch within a few minutes every few mornings.  The base ingredients are simple and it’s easy to adapt and change the recipe.

My decision to adapt an already amazing recipe came from an unsatisfied craving for almond poppyseed bread and lemon poppyseed bread.  Because Elana’s recipe is so moist, these are perfect for such flavors. I also seemed to have problems with browning and a few other things. So over the past 2 years, I’ve worked and reworked these wonderful gems. They always taste good, it’s just a matter of when they taste best.

I did end up making a few changes to the original base recipe in the end.  I added 1tsp vanilla into the wet ingredients. The vanilla brings out the richness of the almond flour.  I found adding 1/2 tsp baking powder and decreasing the soda to 1/2, yielded a bit better end product.  I also wanted stronger flavors, so any time I use Citrus, I zest an entire orange, lime or lemon. Finally, I’m experimenting with Coconut syrup due to the controversy surrounding Agave Nectar and liver issues I’ve dealt with off and on for a while. I switch back and forth. The coconut syrup is a bit thicker and sticker, so you may need to reduce your flour slightly.

One other important note is that I no longer roll them out or add sugar to the tops. Flattening this dough results in texture, flavor, and other compromises. Instead, i use a drop biscuit method and try to handle to dough as little as possible once it’s mixed up and rested. The creamer addition is recent after watching a FoodNetwork show and a lady talking about using cream in her scones. It hit me that is exactly what these needed!

Here is the original recipe from Elanas Pantry, Orange Dark Chocolate Chip scones.  Make sure to check out her site and recipes. She is fantastic with Almond Flour. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these variations on a Yummy treat.

Base Recipe – edited Aug 16, 2012 to reflect some tweaks that improve texture, flavor, and prep time
Adapted from Elanas chocolate Orange scones

2 cups blanched Almondflour
2t. Coconut Flour
1/2 t. Baking powder
1/2 t. baking Soda
3 T. Agave Nectar or Coconut Syrup
1 T. SO DELICIOUS Coconut Milk Creamer (I use whatever flavor I have on hand.)
1 tsp Vanilla or Almond Extract (as you feel the whim)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder and baking soda (These days, I don’t bother to sift, I use a wisk once they are in the bowl.) Mix egg, Agave nectar, creamer and vanilla then add them to the flour mixture. Once mixed, incorporate your variation ingredients from below. Let sit 10 minutes to allow the coconut flour to fully absorb all liquid. (This is CRUCIAL! IF you don’t wait, the flour will not absorb the liquid properly and you end up with texture problems as well as time issues.)

Grab two large spoons and use a drop-biscuit method onto parchment lined baking sheet. (after two years of testing, I’ve found metal works better than stoneware.) If you desire, you can sprinkle some RAW sugar on the tops (as shown in the photo), but I no longer do. Bake 9-12 minutes.  These are easy to overbake. You want the top peaks to have started browning and the bottom to have just a touch of brown. These don’t brown fully.) Transfer to cooling rack and wait at least 15 min to serve.  (i think they taste better cooled off & reheated slightly or mostly cooled.)

Cranberry, lemon ginger
This is one of my favorite variations (you can sub limes or oranges for the lemon for a completely different taste. I ended up out of lemon one day and used a lime for this recipe, it was fantastic!) By all means, add more ginger, craisins etc if you want more!
Add to the dry ingredients before adding the wet:
1/2-3/4 cup dried craisins
1/4-1/3 cup diced candied ginger. (how strong do you like ginger?)
Zest of 1 lemon (lime or Orange)
Mix and bake as directed above

Lemon poppy seed
Add and mix well with the dry ingredients:
Zest of 1 lemon, 2 T poppyseeds.

Almond poppyseed
add 2T poppyseeds to dry ingredients. Mix well. Omit the vanilla (or reduce it) and replace with 2 t Almond extract, mix with eggs and Agave, before adding to mixture.
Add sliced almonds to the Raw sugar to roll dough in if desired.

Apricot white chocolate:
Dice 1/2 cup dried apricots and add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cups white chocolate chips (use REAL white chocolate, sunspire is a good brand) to dry mixture.  To wet mixture, reduce vanilla to 1/2 or omit and add 1-2 tsp Almond extract. Roll out into sugar as above.

Chinese five-spice chocolate chip:
These are my new favorite.  Add 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder to dry mix and 3/4 cup DARK chocolate chips.

These are the variations I’ve done. Depending on a few of the recipes, sometimes I needed to add an extra teaspoon of coconut flour. Often even how freshly ground your almond flour is can result in the need for more coconut flour because the almond flour is more moist. I also love to be generous with vanilla extract, so mine might have more than that 1 tsp.

Hope you enjoy these variations of a fantastic and fun recipe!