Cluck Cluck! TJ's Gluten Free Stuffing Review

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This is a super delayed post. Like, so delayed I wrote the original version a month or two after Thanksgiving 2016 and the original opening told people that although the post was delayed, the could go screw. Imagine my delight then that I find this right before Thanksgiving 2017 - right as I’ve been reminding myself to stop at a Trader Joe’s For another box. Thank you past Kerry for taking care of Future Kerry!**

 

Since our family went gluten free for holidays, we haven't attempted to make any stuffing. We weren't huge on it for Thanksgiving anyway, but last year I was really jonesing some (this is where my mother would pop in and say "Kerry you never CRAVE anything I just don't believe that" -  just want you to know my life and everyday struggles) and luckily we had a box of Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing downstairs. 

I'll be honest - I wasn't expecting much. Something about pre-packaged bread  (gluten or no) in a box ready to use tends to lower expectations. But this was a huge freaking win! I could eat it all the time. Everything came together so well, just by following the basic instructions.

 

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What resulted after a quick mix and bake was one of the most amazing, homemade-knockoff sides I've ever made from a box! With such a simple mix, I ended up with a (Food Word Trigger Warning) moist mix that had some amazing crispy pieces - the best part to me - after a few minutes under the broiler. The gluten free bread "croutons" in the mix wasn't noticeable versus gluten full bread in a typical stuffing; maybe because gluten bread is typically stale for this recipe so the xantham gum I usually note immediately wasn't noticeable in a baked mix? For whatever reason, the bread was perfect, the seasoning was noticeable without being overwhelming, and I really appreciated not having to do any extra sautéing or prep for additonal ingredients to end up with, as the Great British Bake Off would say, "a showstopper."

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Once again, Trader Joe's swoops in with the win - thanks for redeeming another foodie event.

 

Are you a fan of traditional US Thanksgiving and leftovers? Any gluten free faves?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Klippy's Cookies Review: Cookies R Us

Does anyone else have cookie cravings that involve you stopping for a half tub of dough on the way home from work? No? Oooooookay then.

While I love a good Tollhouse tub since you can make a few cookies on the go (or just have a spoonful before bed), there really aren't any saveable gluten free cookie dough offerings. I was impressed then when I was traveling in San Francisco recently and came upon Gluten Free Klippy's cookies at a local coffee shop (fine it was a Starbucks - I was dying and there wasn't a Peet's nearby I'M SORRY). 

After noticing the big "Gluten Free" label, I was struck by the softness of the actual cookie. Tactile people offending other shoppers by touching everything at the register, unite! Typically there's a serious issue with gluten free bakery items staying fresh and soft (see: my first and last attempt at making gluten free bread).

Klippy's is a San Francisco Bay Area company, with a variety of nut free, gluten free and, as you can see with this particular cookie below, vegan options. Locally you can also purchase the kind of amazing cookie dough tubs I so adore. In addition to chocolate chip, you can find Snickerdoodle, Ginger Spice, Old Fashioned Oatmeal, and Chocolate Sea Salt; along with speciality GF flour blends. They only had chocolate chip, but sadly at $5 a cookie and with a well-stocked carry on already I definitely couldn't afford additional options if they'd had them.

 

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So how was it? It smelled amazing, and was one of the softest and most freshly-baked packaged cookies I've come across in a while (gluten free or full). Since I'm an amazing daughter - and due to the high price and lack of space mentioned above - I sacrificed the single GF cookie for my GF dad. He decided it was delicious! I would have warmed it up for a few seconds but in a true dad spirit he didn't want to waste any time getting that cookie from the bag to his face. 

You can buy their dough and cookies online, but with the cheapest option ($54 for 24 cookies) coming in around $2/cookie - as long as you hit the $48 minimum for free shipping - I'm honestly not sure if I'd give it a go. Bringing cookies home directly from the city they're manufactured in makes sense, but I always wonder about quality for bulk items being shipped across the country.

Heres hoping I'm wrong and others have had these delicious treats shipped all over the place! Have you tried Klippy's cookies? Any feedback or suggestions for your favorite local GF snack?

June and Jazz (JK, just Bagels)

Well, theoretically there could be jazz too, that's totally up to you. Nothing better than some jazz on the way to work in the morning when you're in bumper-to-bumper traffic and pumping your A/C to max. Speaking of A/C: it's June! How did that happen? I feel like I blinked and we showed up here, and as Beyoncé would say, "I ain't sorry" about it. I am sorry though that I haven't posted in so long. Let's remedy that.

Bagels! Although some might focus on a summer bod, I say summer is time to enjoy life, and bagels are definitely a part of life. Especially now that there are delicious gluten free bagel options. Today we kick it off with Sweet Note's "Plain...but extraordinary" gluten free bagels. I was a little nervous at first when I saw these bad boys in the freezer aisle since they're not as large as the regulation gluten-filled bagels I'vet experienced, but after reading all sorts of rave reviews online I couldn't pass them up. My dad immediately went for a breakfast sandwich, and while it was a great vehicle for his egg-and-cheese needs, he said they would be even better with cream cheese. He described them as very dense and heavy - which in my world is just what a bagel should be - with a distinct texture that doesn't really match that of gluten bagels but isn't at all bad. I think the best way to get these going is to slice in half, microwave for a little while (30 seconds or so) then toast them, to give them a chance to perk up and toast properly instead of trying to stick them right in the toaster.

Sweet Note has a range of flavors, from always available plain, cinnamon and everything to seasonal favorites like French toast and tomato basil and online exclusives like poppy, salt and something called "Unicorn Rainbow." They seem to have an ample assortment of "Ugly Bagels" you can order online based on their three main types, and there's a big note on their site about new availability at CVS, not sure of the assortment there. Their products are all gluten, soy, dairy, nut and egg free, plus they're vegan (if that matters to you, if it does Yes I hear you announcing it from here!!).

Really excited to find some great gluten free bagels! If only they were a bit cheaper...

Any favorite Sweet Note flavors I need to try? What do you out on your bagels?

Just Got Paid: Money Money Money Money (and Alcoholic Seltzer)

For all the late '90s/early 2000s music fans in the house, happy Friday from my best friends *NSYNC (still a big debate: *NSYNC or 'NSYNC? Even iTunes can't seem to figure it out). For the more hip crowd, "Hello Friday." However you say it, the sentiment is the same: work is over! Time for a drink, a nap, and an outing (or just catching up on your DVR queue, no judgement).

Yesterday at work I sampled a new alcoholic seltzer during our "Thirsty Thursday" hour (Yes, I can't believe it's a real thing at work either). Sadly, that brand -Nauti Seltzer - is delicious but not gluten free.  I really wanted some alcoholic seltzer after that though, so I stopped in at Wegman's today (full disclosure: it was for champagne and their fresh-squeezed OJ for mimosas tomorrow) and was excited to see a new line of alcoholic seltzer, and this brand is gluten free!

I'm sipping on a Truly Spiked & Sparkling alcoholic seltzer right now, poured over ice with a lime wedge. This is really a perfect evening seltzer, with the taste of a real seltzer and only a slight malt liquor taste that Spiked Seltzer has that reminds you this is not something you should take while you go out to run your errands. Unless you walk or take public transport to do your errands, in which case drink away!

There's "hint of" Pomegranate, Grapefruit&Pomelo, and Colima Lime flavors in six pack bottles at a 5% ABV - I went with the lime since it seems like the most traditional way to rate seltzers, and the most versatile option for my potential drink combinations. I didn't notice anything special about the Colima part, just got a regular hit of lime flavor, but my sister made a fabulous suggestion that the lime version would be a great "tonic" to switch up the usual vodka tonic.

The most interesting thing about these seltzers right now though is that they're part of Boston Beer Company, who owns Samuel Adams. The seltzers are clearly marked on the bottles and packaging as gluten free, but other than the related articles I've found searching it that link Truly to BBC, I can't find any homepage or site dedicated to the product. It's really exciting to see a major beer company moving into the gluten free market and I'm looking forward to what their next move will be, although it is strange there's no major marketing right now devoted to this product line. 

Pricewise these are right on par with other alcoholic seltzers of similar sizes, but other than the slightly less boozy taste (which goes along with slightly less booze) of Truly versus others like Spiked Seltzer, there really isn't much of a difference. I'll definitely try out the other versions as well, and likely use this as a base for other drinks where I'd use the higher proof seltzers to drink on their own. Still, beautiful packaging, great taste, and I love having another option in the alcoholic seltzer world! Nothing like a little competition, especially when it's gluten free. 

Happy weekend!

 

I Still Love You, TJ: Brownie Crisp Review

Oh, Trader Joe's. I should be sad that after ages of insanely delicious gluten free food, you've finally let me down with a product. I mean, the white sandwich bread, hard shell tortillas, waffle mix, and cornbread mix are all game changers. It feels like I've gushed in every post I've written about my boy TJ at an almost embarrassing level. But instead of feeling disappointed in Trader Joe's because of their lackluster Brownie Crisps, I almost feel relieved.

I saw a tweet raving about these gluten free brownies, so as soon as I saw them in the house I was Ready. To. Go. From the moment I opened the bag though I started to realize this wasn't going to be as exciting as I expected. The brownies are indeed "crispy," but in a way that they look more dehydrated than anything else, and their crispy-ness results in a bunch of broken down pieces as they jostle around in the bag.

My ideal brownies are served hot and just barely cooked, where you end up with a fudgy gooey mess full of pieces of chocolate; so I probably wasn't the ideal tester for this crispy prepackaged version. Even so, these definitely let me down since they had very little true chocolate flavor, broke apart into billions of crumbs in your hands on the way to your mouth, and had that xantham gum feeling (where your teeth almost feel like they're sticking together) that I've documented my hatred for in the past. 

Trader Joe's, thank you for reminding me that no one is perfect. Next time I need some brownies though I'm going straight for the at-home gluten free brownie recipe I have on deck.
 

Sauce Review: Pellicano's

A post is coming soon on homemade tomato sauce - the easiest, simplest, most delicious version you can make and pretend you're Italian with - but for all of those days you want something you can stick in a microwave or on the stove for a few minutes, there's Pellicano and their Olive Oil and Romano Cheese sauce. 

Growing up, most of the (jarred) tomato sauces we used tasted just fine, but they were so acidic my stomach of steel always hurt later on, even with a big glass of milk. Once I discovered the magic of homemade sauce, I started to seek out the more basic prepared sauces - I don't need sauce with mushrooms (which I hate anyway) or a ton of preservatives. 

Almost every time we've used the Pellicano sauce I haven't looked at the jar before dinner; but the sauce is noticeably better to the whole table before anyone mentions the brand. This is a simple sauce, with all the promises of organic, simple and fresh produce everyone seeks out today, but unlike some of its competitors, it does everything right. There's this natural sweetness that I'm super into, even though the Olive Oil and Romano Cheese is advertised as having no added sugar. That's a real testament to the quality of the tomatoes, and helps me focus on what matters most in my pasta world: making it rain cheese on my plate.

All of the basic elements of sauce I'm looking for are here - sweetness with a tiny bit of tang, a slight enough cheese flavor to appreciate the addition but not enough to keep you from adding more, and an inoffensive texture. Unless I'm using a very basic pasta sauce or, preferably, making sauce at home, I'm not one for big chunks of tomato. I'm the same with salsa - give me the joy that is pureed tomatoes as a restaurant-style salsa; don't make me poke around the chunks of tomatoes and peppers for dat good good! Yuck. Pellicano has a great texture that can then be amped up if you want - say, if you want to throw in some ground beef for lazy-wannabe-meatballs or just saute some broccoli or zucchini to add for a pasta stir fry. Pellicano's not trying to be more than a sauce vessel for the (gluten free) carbs and cheese on their way to your face, but their sauce is straight up delicious on its own.

#MakeItRain

#MakeItRain

We found Pellicano at Wegman's, where it's clearly marked gluten free (to the left in the image), but a quick online search shows it's available in a bunch of places. Their website also advertises a whole bunch of products, from a "thick, rich, red" Traditional sauce to a Vodka Cream, as well as "Texas Brand" food products. I'm not sure how many of these other items are gluten free though so let me know if you find or use any of their other products!

Trader Joe's Brown Rice Pasta

Yassss! We're finally getting sun again! I can't tell you what a huge difference sunlight makes - just a few minutes at the beginning of the day when you get up and when you leave your office/school/where ever you spend your day makes such a difference. People are suddenly kinder and have loads more patience than they did a month ago. Knowing that we're at the tailend of the dreary, freezing months and only a week and a half from Daylight Savings leaves people visibly happier, a huge weight off our collective shoulders.

When the world goes from this...

When the world goes from this...

With that in mind, let's talk about the food that will go with all those fresh garden veggies headed our way! Or at least the ones we're picking up at winter farmers markets or grocery stores near home.

...to this!

...to this!

As I've found out over the past few months, I am a huge fan of Trader Joe's - specifically, their gluten free products (I've always been a fan of their samples and cheap wine bins!). Even thinking of just their pancake mix, sandwich bread, and taco shells, they seem to have a gluten free product for whatever you're in the mood for. Today we're venturing into their pasta world, but in a less direct way than you're likely expecting. Instead of going the real Italian pasta dinner route, we treated TJ's Gluten Free Organic Brown Rice Penne like, well, brown rice. 

We started off with small pieces of chicken breast seared in a little olive oil on the stove, then added in green beans, zucchini, and finally a whole can of tomatoes (San Marzano or any related brand is perf). Once the pasta was ready, we served our high-in-protein-and-veggies-low-in-hating-yourself-after-eating stew of sorts over the penne, which was cooked just like any regular pasta.

I would definitely recommend serving this brown rice penne as a fun brown rice side instead of a standalone pasta. Between local gluten free pasta and versions as simple and accessible as Barilla's gluten free pasta, there isn't really a need to settle for a pasta that doesn't taste like it's gluten-full cousin if you don't have to. On it's own the brown rice penne is chewy and flavorful - ever so slightly gummy but not in a way that turns you off at all. I treated this as a brown rice that had a cool shape, and as that it was a delicious side for my dinner. As a standalone pasta though it didn't have the traditional bite or flavor that I was expecting, and was a little too dumpy for what I was expecting - there was nothing wrong with it, but not a true pasta in my book (although I'm Irish so...).

If you're looking for an additional carb to complement stewed veggies or maybe even as a mac and cheese though, this could fit the bill. I think that's where we're headed next - mac and cheese world. This guy seems like he can manage a big hit of cheese and some time in the oven. I'll let you know how that goes!

Nine Veggie Tortilla Strips (You Won't Even Realize You're Healthy - Swear)

Last week I mentioned my newest obsession- winter farmers markets. What's better than some fresh seasonal veggies, local honey, cheese, vino and other treats in a warm sunny place during a freezing cold winter? Pretty much nothing, other than Beyonce. My mom came along this week to check out a market I've already been too, and she was definitely impressed! There's something so soothing about a huge greenhouse full of beautiful flowers and samples. The food trucks outside didn't hurt either! 

Just don't google the ingredients.

Just don't google the ingredients.

 

My mom and I split up, as I sampled dairy-free ice cream made from a coconut base and some iced chai made from all sorts of healthy things I'd never heard of before. When we met later on, I wasn't sure her purchase - Number 9 Nine Veggie Tortilla Strips. I haven't seen many successful veggie-packed products (V8 will never get me going, thanks) and wasn't expecting much out of these, but my mom swore the samples won her over, and bought three bags (two Veggie, one Ancient Grain) at three bucks a pop.

Fast forward to home, where I'm getting ready to go out to dinner but definitely could use a little something to tide me over. My dad had just opened the Nine Veggie and some very mild salsa we had in the fridge, so I gave them a go, and holy moly are they good. Like regular tortilla chips but WAY more delicious in ways I never thought tortilla chips could be.

The Nine Veggie have a good orange tint, and up to the second you bite into them they have the look and smell and very very slight taste of a blue Dorito. But don't let looks deceive you (and, weirdly enough, that makes them even more appealing for me)! Once you start chewing you realize that on their own they are savory and salty, with the best aspects of vegetables that you would't notice in the chips unless you reminded yourself what they're made of. For instance, there's the warmth you taste from a pan full of roasted carrots, combined with the sweetness of butternut squash and sweet potato and the almost-like-there's-already-salsa taste of tomato. Combined with just the right amount of salt per bite, these guys pack a major punch. 

I'm eating them plain right now to describe them to you (god am I helpful!), but these really bring up any salsa you have, or as strips would be an excellent vehicle for guacamole. Number 9 also sells salsa, which like their chips all contain at least nine vegetables. I'd definitely check these out too since they clearly have some kind of a brain trust going if they can make veggie tortilla chips this addictive.

Once I've popped open the Ancient Grain I'll let you know if you should obsess over those too, since they're both certified Gluten Free. From their site it looks like you can find these primarily in New England and New York, but keep an eye out and beg them to expand so you can continue to scarf down salty foods while pretending you're a healthy person!

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

Happy Valentines Day! Well, belated but the thought's still there. Here's hoping you had a wonderful day with others or appreciating the fact that you're the most hilarious, intelligent, fabulous person you know. With pancakes. If there was nothing else, there should have been pancakes.

If there weren't; get off your lazy bum and grab a box of Trader Joe's Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes & Waffles Mix, we're making 'em now!

Although I am the type of person that goes all in with their pancakes - butter and syrup are both musts (hey, why not if we're already carb-loading?!) - I definitely would recommend one or the other here for people that aren't big on toppings, since you'll want a little something to brighten up the typically-pancake-like-flavor. Which is to say, pancakes are made to embellish! They are your blank food canvas to make as exciting as you'd like, so go wild!

The pancakes come out looking just like gluten-full pancakes - thick and golden, with those perfect batter waves throughout and soft layered edges. Taste-wise they're pretty much on par as well: dense, not too doughy, and with a good balance that compliments anything you add in - think berries or chocolate chips - or on top. 

My biggest qualm with these guys was the way they were layered. I was able to use my fork to cut off pieces - a must in my pancake world - but once I broke off a piece it almost immediately separated into a top and bottom section. I don't think the pancakes themselves were too thick, but something in their little pancake hearts (ha! Pun intended) decided to quit once a section was cut off. Every. Single. Time. This was not an issue in terms of taste, but it was a little bit annoying, especially when tinier pieces kept breaking off resulting in a few pancake-crumble-syrup-roadblocks on my plate. Again, not a major issue, but a different experience to be aware of, especially since the syrup and butter hadn't permeated the top layer, forcing me to keep adding little pours of syrup here and there to give the bottom layer some love.


All in all, I left with a nice full stomach and a little sugar high that encouraged my Gilmore Girls-watching binge, so a big thanks (as always) to Trader Joe's for being an enabler! Have you tried Trader Joe's mix? Any other favorite gluten free pancake mixes or recipes?

Fresh Gluten Free Pasta: Valicenti

RMamma mia indeed! When we started hitting Minnesota-temperature weather in New England this weekend, I racked my brain for something to make this weekend a twenty tiny little bit less sucky. Luckily, I had stopped at a farmers market (indoor obviously I'm  not a total psycho) the weekend before and picked up something amazing. Back to that in a second though - let's talk about farmers markets. 

One of my best friends from college works out in Western Mass helping to support farmers markets, and mentioned to me this week that very few people know about all of the winter produce and other local goodies you can grab at winter farmers markets. I felt super proud of myself for attending one that very week, but I only found it by searching local events in Facebook. Now I have plans to hit up new farmers markets for the next few weekends! And really, how can you not: a warm, sunny place (I was in a greenhouse) full of samples - wine, cheese, jam, veggies, rubs, syrups, coffee - and cheerful vendors who actually want to talk to you about what they're growing or making. 

Even bigger-picture than that, in these frigid New England winters it's next to impossible to chat up a stranger, unless you're asking the cashier at the grocery store about their day as they ring you up or trying to snag the last two seats at the bar as the couple currently occupying the spot is preparing to leave. There's not the same stop-and-chat mentality that exists when the world warms up and so do, apparently, everyone's personalities. So the opportunity to share a short friendly conversation and feel like a real person instead of a snowman waiting for May is an understated treat.

On to the food! One of the vendors I was super excited by was Valicenti Pasta Farm. Their website seems to be down right now so I'm linking to their Facebook page, but click on that link in the future because I've seen their site and really liked it! 

 

Founded by Michelle and David Valicenti in 2008, Valicenti Pasta Farms creates fresh pasta and sauce that they sell in their shop in Hollis, New Hampshire and at local farmers markets. When I popped by their stand, Michelle was working, with huge coolers behind her and a chalkboard of fresh pastas and sauces in front. At first I just glanced for fun, thinking how great these would be if only I'd found them pre-Celiac diagnosis. Then I noticed the gluten free section. With fresh pasta and ravioli that is prepared separately on its own equipment, the Valicentis are making dreams come true for Celiacs and those who have gluten intolerance. 

I asked about the Casarecci, and Michelle pulled out a container with pasta that looked like green beans! These bad boys are made with spinach and upon closer inspection are almost shaped like long figure eights. Since my dad prefers plain foods, I figured this was a safe bet to start trying out the Valicenti products, and Michelle patiently and kindly chatted with me as I thought all of this out loud.

 

We had this pasta with a tomato sauce we had at home, ground hamburger and cheese - just the basics to feel out the pasta (although of course I had a few pieces plain!). This is chewy, dense, almost sweet pasta, with beautiful flavor that understands your hunger and cooks up in only 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Even though it was perfect with a red sauce, we decided it could also go well with a simple butter, or olive oil and garlic, or light cream sauce with lots of veggies. Really this is the best kind of pasta because it works with absolutely everything, since it's so delicious on its own. 

In addition to the gluten free pasta options, there was also a selected variety of gluten free ravioli. I'll be ordering some of these for myself in the future, but they're a little too exciting for my dad so we'll stick with the more standard pasta varieties for him. Some of the ravioli offerings include Brown Butter and Sage-Roasted Sweet Potato, Pasture Raised Braised Beef, Slow Barbecue Lamb with Carmelized Sweet Potato, and Brussels Sprouts with Guanciale and Grana. Gluten free offerings are a limited selection of these that appear to switch depending on farmers market, so go in with an open mind and prepare to be surprised!

 

Valicenti also offers a pairing sheet to take with you, matching ravioli with a series of quick 1-4 line sauce summaries, so you can cook like the best of 'em! Next time I'll be buying both pasta and rav, and I'm thinking I'll throw in their own sauce in the near future. A huge thank you to Valicenti Pasta Farms for identifying a need in the gluten free community and filling it with your delectable fresh pastas! We are totally in your delicious debt.

Beer Review: Ipswich Celia Saison

It's too early to talk about drinking, you say? It's Tuesday morning, you say? Come on kiddos! Live a little! Unless you're at work or operating a motor vehicle; which honestly on Tuesday morning it's probably 90% likely you're doing one of those. So fine! You win. Party pooper. Use this to plan ahead for later - unless you're free from jobs and cars after hitting the lottery in which case have one for me please! I'll be working when this post is scheduled to appear.

Back to the beer! As part of the enduring gluten free beer tasting series, I purchased a whole bunch of single beers for my dad and had him rate them. Up today is Ipswich Celia Saison. Right off the 12 ounce-bottle-bat you can tell they're going for a certain crowd. The cheerful nude woman poised atop oranges and vases (the vase part confuses me but, um, okay?) pretty tastefully announces that this is going to be a Fancy Beer. Which I'm really into - there's something about making an announcement with your label instead of just using words to explain what you're offering that says "Not only am I artsy AF, I put a lot of work into my marketing because I'm proud of my product." Am I reading too much into one label? Probably. But I felt like good things were coming here.

Other positive attributes of Celia Saison: made without gluten (Sorghum and a Belgian yeast strain), made locally (for New Englanders that is), and a 6.5% ABV. My dad decided it was smooth, with a "subtle orange taste" which made me think of Blue Moon. Reading up on Celia Saison, the "spicy" taste of Sorghum is mentioned in accompaniment with the previously mentioned Belgian yeast strain, and the company also touts their Curaçao orange peels and Celeia hops.

At $2.79 for a single bottle, Celia Saison runs in the higher end of the gluten free beer we've sampled in this experiment. I'd recommend it as a treat with a fancy dinner if available, or for a craft beer-style bev to sip at one of those "What's your favorite book right now"/semi-hardo-I-only-drink-beers-no-one's-heard-of events that you don't really want to go to but know will give you some good stories for later. I'm also interested in Ipswich's other gluten free options - are there any? Their website is under construction and, other than ringing endorsements of the Celia Saison, I couldn't find anything else for them that was g-free relevant.

Have you tried Ipswich Celia Saison? Any favorite gluten free beers you'd recommend?

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

How there are people in the world that still haven't heard of Ben & Jerry's baffles me. How have you lived this long?! This little beacon of lactose-love founded in Vermont brings so much happiness, be it in the form of a pint of at a tiny, tie-dye store. If you ever make it up to their factory, you can take a tour and sample potential new flavors (when I was there I sampled the Strawberry Cheesecake before it was released!) and buy purple mini shovel-shaped spoons and "Body By Ben & Jerry's" shirts. There's all sorts of festivals and adventures during the summer, so if you're ever looking for a road trip stop, pencil this in.

For all those other times you have ice cream cravings though, a pint or visit to a store more local to you will have to do. Ben & Jerry's carefully tracks what is in each type of ice cream, and marks pints with anything they may contain "wheat," "nuts," etc. instead of saying it's gluten free. If you head to a shop though you'll be treated to a list of exactly what types of ice cream and sorbet you can have.

We stopped at the Thayer Street location in Providence this weekend after an afternoon venturing around the RISD Museum (something else you have to add to your road trip list!!). The woman serving us asked if my dad's gluten problem was severe, which is apparently a standard question there to ascertain what precautions to take while scooping. Dad responded he has Celiac, and she went out of her way to open a new Chunky Monkey and gave him two very hefty scoops. 

Thanks to Ben & Jerry's for making the gluten free experience easy, and for making your ice cream so freaking good. Phish Food forever!

Beer Review: Bard's Gold


Next up in our gluten-free beer series: Bard's Sorghum Beer! Bard's touts their American Lager as "The Original Sorghum Malt Beer," and since I'm not a gluten free beer historian I'll give it to 'em. Created by two Celiac friends, Bard's offers one type of 4.6% ABV beer. In these scenarios I always wonder if this is a warning sign. Is the company  not happy enough with their single product to feel comfortable trying something new? But maybe it's the opposite - once they feel they've perfected a product why not put all of their  focus on distributing and advertising it.

Either way Bard's seems to be doing just fine with their sole Sorghum option.  My dad enjoyed a bottle watching the Patriots (pre-loss for Patriot Nation) and described it as having good "drink-ability" that's great for watching a game, depressing as that game might be.

At around $2 for a single bottle (remember this was part of a tasting challenge? Although if you buy single beers all the power to ya I guess), Bard's is a little cheaper than the average gluten free beer. Knowing it's naturally gluten free provides an extra sense of comfort, and although it isn't setting off any earth-changing-gluten-free-beer-alarms, for a clean, relaxing enjoy-the-game or drink-with-a-burger beer you really can't go wrong!

Happy Friday! What are you drinking tonight?

Against the Grain's Pepperoni Pizza

 We unknowingly hit the gluten free food jackpot preparing for this weekend's snowstorm when we picked up a new frozen pizza!  My dad's coworker whose wife has Celiac said Against the Grain was the best prepared gluten-free pizza around, so much so that he liked eating it with her as much as he likes gluten-full pizza. And who can ignore that kind of endorsement! We heard it was at Whole Foods so expected to only find it at high-end supermarkets. Imagine our surprise when my sister and I found a whole array of Against the Grain options while carb-loading at the nearest grocery store after the gym!

 

Our store had all three varieties of Against the Grain's pizza: Three Cheese, Pesto, and Pepperoni. We grabbed a Pepperoni and my dad opted to add red pepper slices to make things a little more exciting. 

Even before it was ready, we could tell it was a promising 'zza: it had a nice thick crust out of the box, not the normal thin crust of gluten free pizzas we're used to, and it had that beautiful smell of a fresh crusty pizza while heating up in the oven.  I've mentioned before that our oven tends to cook things a few minutes earlier than expected, which held true here; we took the pizza out when the cheese was bubbly about 2 minutes earlier than recommended.

Just the look of this pizza was exciting! So we took a few pictures, sliced it up and dug in. 

Dee-lish. Seriously, this is really good pizza. The crust itself was the best part - it was flaky and chewy like pastry dough, with a delicious cheesy taste. Most of the time when there's a thick crust on a pizza it's not a good sign, since it doesn't usually have much of a taste and you need to dip it in some marinara to enjoy it at all. Not so here. Although the crust is dense, it is wicked (as we say in New England) flavorful and tasty on it's own. The cheese was stringy and gooey, and although the sauce portion was relatively light you don't really notice until you're writing a post about it later. I think that's a good sign that the whole pizza worked well together though - usually you only notice one aspect of your food if it's really good or really bad, but if the food itself is delicious you shouldn't have to think too much about the individual aspects. Food philosophy! I'm going to have to think through that a bit more though, at the moment it's just a defense of why it's okay there isn't much sauce so I'm not sure it applies as a rule to other food experiences. More on that another day.

What a success! The whole family agreed that this was a real win, and at around $11 for a pizza it's a great deal. Although we could all eat it for dinner, it's good to know that if the rest of the family wanted to order a (comparatively) cheap pizza one night, we throw an Against the Grain pizza in the oven on the way to the takeout and all eat together when we're back. There were Against the Grain pizza shells in the gluten-free frozen section as well, which will be fun to play with on nights everyone wants to make their own pizza. 

Any favorite Against the Grain products or other gluten free pizza brands we should try?


Trader Joe's White Sandwich Bread

Success! Finally. I feel like there should be trumpets going off or something. After a long few months of various gluten-free bread purchases and a failed homemade gluten-free bread experience, I'm psyched that my dad has finally found a favorite gluten-free sandwich bread.

Trader Joe's White Sandwich Bread has really delivered, according to my dad. Although the bread is on the smaller end, like pretty much all gluten-free varieties we've found, we've been able to keep it in a drawer instead of a freezer, and my dad can't get over the taste. The ability to make a sandwich (or maybe two) for lunch without pulling a few slices out of the freezer to defrost overnight or toast a few hours before taking them to work is a huge benefit. And for someone who's always liked plain white sandwich bread more than the whole-wheat options, finding a simple and delicious brand for easy lunches takes away a lot of the stress of the last few months and planning what to eat in advance.

It looks great too! With some nice density it's chewy, and even with the classic little air bubbles of gluten-free bread it looks like the gluten-full bread we're used to. I can't get over how many new avenues it opens up - now toast with jelly for breakfast, bread as a side with pasta or soup, or even a little PB&J snack are all options again! I wonder how it would work as a crumb topping for haddock..definitely something I'll be trying out since we're constantly going back to TJ's to restock! 

Lots of credit to Trader Joe's for making their own insanely good bread option for Celiacs! Although our closest store doesn't have a gluten-free section, I've been continually impressed by the gluten-free options we've found throughout the store over the last few months.

What's your favorite gluten-free sandwich bread? Any other favorites at Trader Joe's I should stock up on?

Beer Review: Steadfast Pale Ale

Recently I stopped at one of the larger liquor stores (or "packies" if you're from New England since they're package stores) near work on my way home, and bought a bunch of singles of different gluten-free beers that I hadn't seen before. It seems like most places have Omission, Redbridge, and Glutenberg as their standard gluten-free/gluten removed beers, so this seemed like a fun way to check out a whole new variety of gluten free beer without the job of having a whole pack to finish after you basically decided if you liked it or not after drinking the first one (Yes, I did just say drinking is a job).

So this post will begin a series of four gluten free beer reviews from what I found on this trip. First up: Steadfast Beer Co. At the store (where prices are among the lowest I've found in New England), a single bottle of their Pale Ale will run you about $2.50. There were two options in that section for Steadfast: the Pale Ale and a Blonde Ale. I picked the Pale Ale since it looked a little more up my dad's alley, but looking at the website and based  on my dad's review of this I think we're going to have to start stocking up on all sorts of Steadfast products.

Steadfast's motto is "Gluten Free Beer for Beer Geeks," and their website has five interesting year-round and seasonal beers from a Pumpkin Spice Ale in the fall to a 2nd Anniversary Bier de Garde. Everything Steadfast makes is completely gluten-free, meaning they're brewing with gluten free products instead of removing gluten later in the process like Omission and other gluten-removed brands.

The Sorghum Pale Ale is described as a hoppy, citrusy, medium-bodied beer on the tag at the store, and online as having "Notes of burnt sugar, bread, and caramel followed by spicy alcohol flavors and a hint of molasses sweetness. Mid-sip, look for an explosion of hop bitterness and grapefruit-like hop flavor, and brace for a lingering dry finish mingled with tropical fruit notes." My dad isn't someone who's going to mince words though. As his endorsement, he noted that it's has one of the highest alcohol contents of the gluten free beers he's found (true at 6.8% ABV), and that it tastes to him like a hoppy IPA. This is ringing praise from someone who preferred a high-test hoppy beer back in his gluten-full days.

It's comforting to know that there's a brand out there that really gets it - not only are they making a product you know is totally safe for Celiacs, but it's also made by people who appreciate the art of craft beer. Although I'm no beer expert, I love knowing that there are gluten free options for the fam that don't make you feel like you're missing out on anything. Definitely going back to the store for a few packs of these!

Have you tried Steadfast Sorghum Pale Ale? What else do you recommend we try from Steadfast?

Cornbread Review: Trader Joe's Mix

 

What a week! After a busy (and cold! -8°! But more on that in another post) week in Southern Minnesota, I was so happy to sleep in my own warm bed and start cooking again. My first day home we went with chili (a post in the Cooking section tomorrow) and Trader Joe's "Baker Josef's" Gluten Free Cornbread Mix for a comforting and homey dinner.

This had nothing to do with the mix itself but I just liked the way it looked when the wet ingredients were added. Yes I'm a weirdo.

This had nothing to do with the mix itself but I just liked the way it looked when the wet ingredients were added. Yes I'm a weirdo.

Other than the milk, egg and oil, the only thing that's really required of you here is elbow grease. You'll start off by whisking together everything except the mix itself, then slowly pouring in the mix and whisking that in. You're supposed to mix that together for 2-3 minutes which involved just enough arm strength for me to regret not using our new KitchenAid stand mixer. But now I'm strong! And I have one less bowl to clean. Okay I'm still completely weak and will never be able to do a single pull-up. But still one less bowl to clean.

 

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While mixing everything together, I was annoyed to find little lumps. As previously noted, ever since gym class in elementary school where I would be told I could stop if I'd just do one pull-up and could still barely dangle from the bar, I am not upper-body strong, but that didn't stop my irritation that those little clumps wouldn't go away. Upon closer inspection though I realized they were pieces of corn! And any other small pieces were cornmeal, which is normal for cornbread. So all was forgiven.

After letting these stand in a greased pan for ten minutes, the mix baked for about 18 minutes (less than the recommended 20-25) when the top looked golden and a toothpick came out clean.

On to the fun part:eating! Overall grade of this cornbread would be a solid A. The texture was spot on, with the expected rich cornbread flavor with minimal xantham gum (my biggest gluten-free enemy!) problems (where it makes your teeth feel like they're sticking together as you chew) and a beautiful texture. Beautiful probably seems a bit over-the-top here, but I loved that this cornbread tore apart as I'd expect, and was chewy and dense and would bounce right back when you stuck your finger in a piece like gluten-full cornbread would.

Normally we'd only have cornbread at restaurants, so there was something especially fun about fresh out of the oven cornbread pans everyone slicing their own piece instead of eating what came with their meals. I'm usually more of a chips-and-chili gal myself, but with this particular recipe I'd call it a huge hit. We didn't even think of adding butter at the table to this cornbread, which seems like an indicator of good cornbread. All in all I'd call this a huge success! Definitely going back for this easy and quick mix again.

 

 

Any other gluten free cornbread faves? Have you tried Trader Joe's gluten free cornbread mix?

 

 

Cookie Review: Immaculate Cookie Dough

C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me! Isn't it weird that a song like that is totally ingrained in whole generations every time they're thinking of a treat? That millions of people identify with a furry blue creature that encourages excessive consumption of anything edible nearby? 


Anywhoo. We've had these Immaculate Gluten Free Chocolate Chip cookies in our fridge for a while now, ready to test out. They come prepared as break and bake cookies, and look just like any old break and break style cookie would when you're preparing them. As I've found to be the trend with gluten free items, the recommended baking time is a little off from what looks best with the product - in this case cooking them for a normal time leaves them a bit crispy-looking. Full disclosure: I usually purposely underbake cookies to leave as much of the gooey, potentially salmonella-ey dough available for my immediate consumption. So this may have a little more to do with personal preference than it does with the actual baking time.

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These cookies had a good amount of crunch on the outside of the cookie, while maintaining a soft, chewy center. The ratio of cookie-t- chocolate-chip is never as high as I'd like, but this was a pretty traditional rationing. All in all, these tasted like any sort of gluten-full premade cookie, with one teeny tiny exception that I might be called a nitpicker for: the small bit of xantham gum bite at the end of chewing. Maybe it's because I noticed it while making a crumb cake a few weeks ago, but after spilling it during that episode and experiencing the true gummy catastrophe that occurs when it's mixed with water on land (the counter), it was easy to notice it at sea (while eating the cake. Is that a really gross metaphor? Ugh it probably is. But whatever sticking with it). There's this barely noticeable little gummy taste at the end of chewing something with xantham gum, almost like thinking your upper and lower teeth are going to stick together for a millisecond. For most people it's probably not an issue, and honestly for the first few bites of something I don't really notice it. Even so, it's definitely worth noting just in case someone tells me I'm not alone in my irritation!


All in all, I'd say these are pretty tasty cookies. They wouldn't be my top choice, especially after the magic of Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cookie Mix, but they'll definitely fit the bill if you're looking for a quick and easy option.


Have you tried Immaculate products? What do you think about these cookies? Any other gluten free break and bake brands I need to try?
 

The Definitive Ranking of Hard Cider 2015

Pretty big claim huh? A definitive ranking. I'm going to stand by it.

I'm sure your first question then, if you ignored my ego and choose to read on (and thanks by the way), is: how much do you know about cider? I guess I'd have to answer that I only know as much as I drink. So a lot.

I started to love hard cider when I was in Oxford for a summer. In betwixt (I'm sorry momma I had to do it to 'em [Drake]) classes and high table dinners, my friends and I would try not to trip on the cobblestones as we dragged ourselves in pub after pub. Here I learned the true joy of real cider. All I'd tried in the past were the (to me) overly sugary ciders we had in the US, like Angry Orchard and Woodchuck. Now, don't get me wrong, these are pretty good. But only as standalones, never to be compared to the real cider I've had in Europe. That cider has a real taste to it; instead of relying on sugar it brings out light sweetness or fruity flavors that make you want to substitute it for your typical drink of choice, instead of only drinking it because everything else you wanted is gone.

Waitrose love me back, please! You and all your beautiful ciders.

Waitrose love me back, please! You and all your beautiful ciders.

I'm going off of that list of cider - but keeping myself within the restraints of cider you can currently buy in the US. This is a great range to try out, or look out for if you don't have any available locally right now.

Alrighty, here we go!

 

5. Magners - In England and Ireland, Magners and Bulmers are two distinct brands, but here in the US you'll just see Magners. We're limited to two US brands - original and pear, and while both are pretty standardly delicious ciders, I would really bump them up on my list if their Bulmer's Strawberry and Lime or Berry Berry popped up around here. I would buy boxes of that stuff. Until then, US Magners should definitely be added to your list - go Original!

 

 

 

4. Crispin - Crispin is an easy go-to when you're craving a classic cider. When I first tried Crispin ciders back in the US I was a bit surprised because they didn't taste at all like I remembered in the UK. It took me a little while to realize that was because I was trying their US ciders, and once I found their Browns Lane, which is advertised as their Classic English Style cider. This had all the basic tastes of English cider I was missing - it's dry and bubbly with a little bit of a lingering sweetness that makes you want another sip. You'll feel refreshed, but not overwhelmed. The larger can also makes you feel like you're getting more of a pint glass serving in a pub instead of the smaller cans or bottles a lot of ciders are served in in the US. This is not a drink so sweet you'll chug it, and not something so dry you need to add anything to it.

 

 

3. Strongbow -  So this is a tough placement. A lot of the time I'd argue that Strongbow is near the bottom of this list. In England when you order it you should 100% ask for some blackcurrant juice on top. In my experience it's readily available and just ups the ante here. In England though I'd usually forgo this at the pub to get something on tap with a nice high ABV, or go for my Swedish pal below on this list. At the local Tesco or Waitrose if I was feeling cheap (aka always) I'd buy the 2 liter of Strongbow or the store's equivalent and mix it with something else (pretty much always Sprite). Because it was pretty dry and bland - but cheap! - I never really ordered it at home, especially since we don't have blackcurrant juice really. But I ordered it on tap a few nights ago on a whim instead of my usual bottle of Magners, and this new version (online it says the Gold Apple is a new recipe, but a few people have told me it's the same old version rebranded) was insanely good. Just the perfect amounts of sweet and dry with moderate carbonation and reminders of everything I missed in England. I've yet to try it in bottle form here, but after that first (and okay second; the things I do for you!) glass I had to move it up on our list.

 

 

2. Downeast - For a non-English cider Downeast is at the top of my list. In terms of overall ciders though I don't go out of my way to buy this at liquor stores ("packies" where I'm from), but if it's available at a restaurant with dinner it's usually on my list. Their Original blend is a fun surprise **spoiler alert** - if you order it in a bar you'll receive a can and a glass, and along with the cider you'll probably get a whole lot of unfiltered cider, making a big cloudy mess that looks and tastes more like non-alcoholic apple cider than any other cider on this list. Downeast falls right in the happy center of my cider spectrum - more sweet than traditional English ciders but not flavored like some others on this list (or like typical American ciders). Their Unoriginal blend is great too, and if you ever make it to Boston for a tour you're in for a treat. The cidery itself is pretty small, but there are loads of free delicious samples from the helpful team, and after you can grab a drink at a bar-during-the-weekends/long-desk-during-the-workweek and play baggo/cornhole on the loading dock. 

 

DRUMROLL, PLEASE...

 

 

1. Rekorderlig - Rekorderlig is an absolute powerhouse in my book. Everything they do is right for me. I've dabbled in their Wild Berries, Strawberry & Lime, and Peach-Apricot in the UK and was psyched that I could have the first two and a few more here. I mentioned this Swedish company a few weeks ago when I tried out their Spiced Apple Hard Cider, which it looks like is branded as a Premium Winter Cider in the UK. Rekorderlig doesn't follow the traditional English method of dry cider, but since I drank it there it falls into the same category in my mind. Their ciders are flavored and sweet, with surprising combinations and beautiful colors when poured into glasses that make you feel like you're on a summer vacation. When you need a little bit of fruity, saccharine goodness there's nothing better than a nice cold glass of one of Rekorderlig's signature flavors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ciders I Miss:

Tesco Cider - Although it doesn't win prizes for the best taste, there are fewer things more fun than buying a super cheap 2 Liter of alcohol at a supermarket and adding a little Sprite. Saves money on going to the pub and allows you to invite as many people over as you'd like without spending a ton of money on drinks. Honestly this is a nostalgia factor vote, but if you go to a Tesco with friends and don't leave with a 2L of their cider and a lemon-lime soda to flavor it up a little you have failed me entirely.

Kopparberg - How is this sweet classy brand available in 30 countries and the US isn't one of them?!?! Baffling. Mixed Fruit and Elderflower & Lime absolutely slay here. They still come in second in my world to Rekorderling, but that doesn't mean I don't want the option!

Bulmers - I said this above, but please come home to me! Home being a pretty general term referring to anywhere I am. Please.

 

Ciders I've Yet To Try:

Citizen's Cider - This guy is next up on my list! While there are a whole bunch of flavors, I'm super intrigued by the fact that The Full Nelson is a pretty high-test cider that's dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops. Citizen's Cider advertises this as a cider for beer drinkers, and I'm hoping it'll be a good transition for the Celiacs in my family who really enjoyed a high-test hoppy beer on the weekends and are on the hunt for a similar experience. I'll keep you posted!

 

 

 

 

 

What else is my list missing? Prepared to fight me on my placement? Any other cider companies want me to check them out? I'm always ready to taste test :)

Candy Review: Unreal Peanut Butter Cups

Uh oh. Are you getting a little midafternoon hangry? Trying to make it through work - or pretty much anything - at this point in the day is near-impossible. Like who created this weird midday? I guess that's why Happy Hour was made. Right in that awkward in-between time when you're tired and hungry and just ready to move on to dinnertime.


Instead of going full "Monster," I'm hitting up my chocolate stash. Usually for chocolate and peanut butter I go for the classics - Reese's cups - but from reading up on them it seems that there are a few types that aren't gluten free (unwrapped minis and seasonal shapes, according to Hershey's website). So instead when I was picking up my latte at the latte-love-of-my-life *Peet's Coffee and Tea* I picked up Unreal Peanut Butter Cups in dark chocolate.


First of all, these bad boys have really clean and attractive packaging. Silver wrapper, real-looking picture, and a nice big clear Gluten Free badge. I brought some with a coffee to my dad at work, who was a big fan. Reese's are definitely a crowd-pleaser, but there's something a little extra refined about dark chocolate with a coffee or glass of milk that makes you feel like you're enjoying a real treat. These are a bit more expensive than your normal peanut butter cup, but after reading the packaging and Unreal's website it seems well worth it - eating sustainably-sourced food without the preservatives and junk we're used to. I'm looking forward to trying other gluten-free Unreal snacks, and moving past this funky time of day to dinner!
Any thoughts on Unreal? What are your favorite gluten free midday treats?