A Glutenfree Christmas Wish List for those who waited till the last minute

I should know better.  Christmas season is no surprise….it comes the same date every year.  So, I really should not be getting gifts at the very last minute (and maybe even a few after the fact), but I do.  And I CAN do the budget thing; I’ve tried a few times to do the save a bit every month so you can have a great Christmas.  But in the end, I still end up shuffling things around and stressing on the Dec 15 pay day to try to do Christmas on that pay check and still pay my bills.  This year, I’m particularly bad, but by the looks of the lines in the stores, I’m not the only one.  So, for those of you just like me, who have a gluten-free spouse or friend….here is my *WISH* list and a few other things that I’d recommend to help  inspire you.

My Wish List– feel inspired to run with it and adapt for your friends!

  • waffle iron –  yes, usually these are one of those appliances that get pulled out once a year….Maybe Christmas.  However, I miss grilled cheese.  This wish inspired when I visited a little tiny cafe, called The Mouse Pad in Johnstown, CO last summer.  She made these incredible waffle sandwiches. If you use Pamela’s Waffle and baking mix, plus some fresh herbs, you have the finest Panini bread you can possibly imagine.  You can make any of those delicious sandwiches in the William’s & Sonoma Fall catalog.  Bring back the Ham and Cheese or a grilled cheese.  Make sure to include a big bag of Pamela’s baking mix.  (When it comes to Gluten free- it’s so HELPFUL to get the flour or baking mix, etc.!)
  • griddle and Panini press- this would round out the waffle iron gift.  make the waffles, then set them on the griddle and press down the cheese and oooy goodness.  I’m drooling already! Plus, I can make my own corn tortillas since I have a press and love making the tortillas, but have a too small comal.
  • TOP WISH!    Chef’s quality Anti-fatigue Mats- anyone new to gluten-free baking or who bakes a lot would deeply appreciate these.  I’m on my feet so much more since going gluten-free and double that now for dd who is in kindergarten and we are doing so many cupcakes, etc.  My feet hurt.  This would be one of those wonderful gifts and you would bless anyone with these.
  • Harry and David Fruit of the Month club – I don’t know why, but I have always wanted one of  their fruit of the month clubs.  Considering fruit is gluten-free, this would be a treat.  Those pears are incredible and the other fruits sound so divine.
  • Crockpot and Stephanie O-Dea’s Make it Fast, Cook it Slow crock pot cook book.  My crockpot broke this fall….and for people who are super busy and need to learn gluten free, this might be a fantastic gift.
  • Cake Pop and Caramel Apple Kits from Chocoley Chocolate.  You’ve missed the shipping window for those to arrive by christmas, but they’d be a very welcome gift to people if anyone is trying to actually learn how to do cake pops.
  • New Laptop- That would be why you haven’t seen me post much lately.  System issues. However, for friends who blog or are gluten-free (ok, this is probably a spouse gift!)  a new system that plays nice with the blogging programs (forgive any mis-spellings in this post; the new WordPress isn’t playing nice with my browser!   You could make blogger very happy.
  • 2nd TOP WISH!  Website customization- if your friend or spouse blogs and they are on a wordpress.com account, or blogger, etc….what a neat gift if you help upgrade their blog.  That is sort of my next step, and another reason I haven’t posted as much as I’d like.  I’m trying to figure out how to move mine over to my own domain.  Blogging is one of those things that helps people get through the gluten-free transition.
  • A gift certificate to an e-course called Inside Out– I did a write up of this class for the fall course and it’s something special. Right now they she is offering an amazing 2-fer deal that people might want to take advantage of.
  • Jules Shepard from Jules GlutenFree Flour – Free for ALL Cooking Book  (if you go this route for a friend, be sure to check out her new Daily Deals and grab some gluten-free flour to go with he book).  It’s so much easier to do something gluten-free with the tools, or the special flour!
  • A cake decorating class- somewhere that would be willing to work with someone gluten-free.  I want to learn how to decorate the cupcakes for my kids since I will be doing most their cakes and cupcakes for the next 18 years!
  • Non-food related things such as some canvas prints for some photos I took during the Balloon Fiesta this fall.  I actually won 2nd place in their contest and I think I’ve found a new hobby!
  • Mommy What is Celiac Disease– by katie Chalmers
  • Subscriptions to Living Without, Delight GlutenFree, and/or Glutenfree Living
  • Gift Certificate to AfterGlow Cosmetics – I love this company and their makeup!   Other mineral makeups make me feel like I want sandpaper for a washcloth.    These are just lovely and luscious.   There are FINALLY some articles coming out about how lipstick and makeup can affect us.  I’ve known it the hard way for over a year, but research always has to catch up with what people figure out.  It’s very expensive to replace ALL your makeup because it’s everything and at once.  So, this could really help someone if they have decided to transition over to gluten-free makeup.  If you buy a gift certificate for someone to help them change out their makeup,  if you can afford it consider also buying some nice brushes for them too.  I’m so thankful my makeup advisor reminded me of that.   They will need to replace ALL their brushes, otherwise, they just contaminate their new gluten-free makeup.

Other things I suggest, but am already blessed with

  • The Almond Flour Cookbook and the Almond Flour Cupcake books by Elana Amsterdam.  Make sure to include a bag of Almond flour for them!   If you have Prime, You can still get both these in time!
  • Heidi Kelly over at Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom posted on Facebook the other day that Santa came early with Adobe Lightroom and a macro lens for her!   That is a FOOD bloggers’ dream…..Lightroom makes things so much easier to work with.  A macro, so much fun.  I’d love to get a 105 Nikon, so that should be up top.  We do already have Lightroom and love it.
  • Pampered Chef tools- some of them are very helpful for gluten-free cooking.  I use the taco meat turner for just about anything else including separating my almond flour if it clumps and it worked really well to break up the cake for my first attempt at cake balls.
  • Asian Cooking sauces that are naturally gluten free- I haven’t written up much on these yet, but check out Meals-in-a-Minute for some amazing sauces to help eat healthy at the beginning of the year!

What gluten-free Goodies am I missing that you want for Christmas or that would be a great gift for someone?

Make sure to check out the Home for the Holidays Blogging Event- these giveaways are inspiring and have great gift ideas!

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!   Or Happy Hanukkah and definitely a Happy New Year!

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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?

SPECIAL GIVEAWAY: a Spot in the Life-Changing E-Course Inside-Out!

Going Gluten-free and transitioning from the feeling “helpless,” “lost,” and even though some of those 7 stages of grieving that are associated with a loss, is hard. Sometimes just the journey from being sick and trying to figure out why is it’s own struggle as we see with so many gluten-free bloggers. Then, even when we find the answer, sometimes we still deny. One of my favorite bloggers, Heidi from Adventures of a GlutenFree Mom describes herself as a “recovering gluten-cheater” and admits she cheated for three years. Other people, like myself, feel so helpless they give up cooking and just don’t what or how to eat. They know it makes them sick, but they feel lost. So, what tools exist for a person life to help them transition from that grieving or survival stage (in anything), to taking control of their lives, accepting their situation and loss, and turning their own life changes into helping others like Elana Amsterdam, going back to what they love to do like Jules Shepard from JulesGlutenFree, finding ways to help others learn to migrate this gluten-free maze like The Celiac Diva or becoming alive like The Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef?

Each blogger has their own story of what helped them (and please visit their sites to learn about them, how they started and went though their journey. They are incredible strong women who have “passed through” to the other side.) What helped me make that transition from survival to becoming more alive and beginning to define my own journey was an e-course I took last summer called Inside Out with by Shannon Kinney-Duh blogger of Free Spirit Knits. I know I’m still small fry in this blogging world, but I’ve started to blog and this class pushed me from saying, “One day” to actually sitting down and writing on some days.

I found out about this class from a blogger and friend Hip Mountain Mama who focuses on wonderful eco-friendly products and ideas. The “Inside Out Course” is a self paced 5 week e-course that helps people become bold explorers of their life – where they remember what’s really important and discover dreams that matter most. InsideOut helps shine a light on those inner dreams and bring them back to the surface so you can live more fully, boldly and freely (all while enriching your creativity…) And the best part is you can do it in the comfort of your own home, on your own schedule and pace while connecting to an amazing community of other life-explorers.

Shannon posts blog and art assignments every day. She helps you ask questions and find things out about yourself that you may have forgotten in the mess and craziness of day-to-day life– especially in the midst of traumas, being so ill you’re happy to make it through another day, life change, having kids, etc. Shannon is a mother herself and talks about finding balance. I’m no artist and struggled with those assignments the most, yet toward the end, I became more comfortable with the projects, and learned a lot about myself. I realized how much fear I truly carry with me, how much perfectionism is in me, etc. Even though this painting is silly, I played for the first time in ages and even discovered that I was stuck in my life – because I was doing the same pattern over and over in my painting.

InsideOut is self-paced and you only share what you want to the with the online community.

Rediscovering the things I found important

The community built over 5 weeks is supportive for those either trying to face the transitions or changes they need to make in their lives, or deal with and get through the transitions are occurring. The different assignments helped me find myself again. After 5 years of being a mom with two intense kids, being ill for years more than 10 years, and learning how to heal from that physically and mentally I needed something help me get myself unstuck from having “conditions” and “diseases” to being me and changing these challenges and struggles. I no longer wanted to let my conditions and circumstances define my existence. In this class, I remembered the things that had been important to me: things that resonated and healed my soul. I rediscovered values that I held dear, but had lost. I learned to stop and enjoy my children more, and I found an outlet for myself in my blog. I also found the courage I needed to deal with things in my life that were in a downward spiral and needed to change for my children and family.

Wow, I do have goals and things I want to do!

InsideOut helped me carve out time for myself, for my own thoughts, and begin to deal with the buried emotions of things I’d been through over the past 5-10 years, but had never dealt with.

When it came around again in the spring, I found myself taking it again, this time enjoying the art assignments I’d resisted in the first session last summer. Even though I only got through about 2 1/2 weeks of the 4 week course because we found out we were moving, it also helped me work though those feelings of grief that come with moving and begin accepting the move would be okay and stepping outside of where we were would be a new adventure.

Shannon is adventurous herself and helps coach the spirit of fear out of people. Between the community that is built in the class (online), Shannon’s journal questions to answer, art to process through and personal coaching if needed, Shannon wants to help people become “bold explorers of their lives.” I had wanted to blog for three years, and I started this blog thanks to the prompting of my class and Shannon. I also started exploring baking and playing with Gluten-free cooking, especially playing with another favorite blogger’s recipes from Elana’s Pantry. Before the class I simply stuck to the same meals and mixes. Once I took the class, I became a more bold explorer of the “gluten-free world.” It was also in this class where I learned how much I want to help people find their way in gluten-free living. I found what was important to me, and where I’d let my values be compromised. I also started to open the doors to what in my life wasn’t working, was making me unhappy, and what I needed to do.

InsideOut is back and bigger than ever. Shannon has added an extra week, (my class was 4) new projects and guided meditations to help us become who we want to be and move through the things in life that get us stuck. She has generously offered a spot to one of my readers for this upcoming class! I’m so excited that I get to give this incredible gift to one of my readers because of how much this class has changed my life. I know I have new readers struggling through these stages of grief in the gluten-free cycle…whether you are in denial and still cheating, angry, or at a “functioning but that’s about it stage.” Some of you have embraced the gluten-free life, but might want to make that next stage in your life whether it’s transition to starting a business, getting your product out there, or needing to make decisions that will be hard but necessary. Some of you have been able to “do the gluten-free thing at home, but have lost intolerant and understanding friends in the process.” This class helped me in my gluten-free journey, but it also helped my family. Even if you’re not gluten-free, but have something you need to help yourself explore and you found out about this class because you saw the giveaway, that’s awesome. Enter the drawing!

This is going to be a quick giveaway because the class starts soon, so please help get the word out for this class with FB, twitter, pingbacks, etc! I’ll be picking the winner sometime after 12 PM Tuesday Sept 6. Entries must be in before 12pm MST!

Information on the class: The Inside Out course starts September 12th and runs for 5 weeks. You can see specific information on this link:FreeSpirit Knits. It runs $99. Please contact Shannon if you have questions.

Giveaway Details
One VERY lucky reader (I’m paying for my spot so VERY lucky reader) will get to take the class at no cost. Here’s how you enter– please read these rules b/c in the last giveaway people retweeted and followed me on twitter, but never put it in the comments. Since I use a random generator and pull a numbered post, without your entry on the comment page, you won’t actually get entered!

MANDATORY:Respond with one thing you hope this class could help you attain in yourself.
Optional but highly recommended each comment gets a separate entry

  • Like my Facebook page (I’ve just created a new page) The GlutenFree Advocate and comment that you did
  • Share this article from my FB page with either your readers if you’re a GlutenFree Blogger or your friends – come back and comment that you did! (Do not try to enter on FB!)
  • Follow me (@GFAdvocate) on Twitter AND tweet the following: “Exciting #giveaway from @GFAdvocate and @FreeSpiritKnits Inside out E-course starts soon http://wp.me/p10fnB-aS!” – comment you did for your entry
  • Follow Shannon @FreeSpiritKnits on twitter (add you comment!!)
  • Mention this article on your blog and create a “pingback” – (add your comment w/ your blog so you can get some love too!)
  • Mention any other articles from my on your blog with the pingback -(and add your comment here that you did) (many seem to be interested right now if Gluten can be in lipstick or body care and why that would affect them, so you might check the article “Are your Lipstick and Conditioner Making you Sick?” out to start!
  • I only have one spot to giveaway, so even if you aren’t the winner, consider taking this class or giving the class to someone you know could use it. It WILL change your life! And it’s a great chance re-gather yourself.

    This is open to ANYONE interested – not just gluten-free friends, and not just the US. Shannon has had participants from 15 countries now, so please, enter and share etc. It’s a great place to be with people who are all working on themselves and trying to become more bold in their lives. I am so thankful and honored that she’s willing to give a spot to one of my readers.

    Thank you for reading and I wish you lots of luck because this is going to be fun! Hopefully I’ll see a few of you in the class!

    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!

    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. 😀