Chip and Salsa Review: Trader Joe's and Frontera

When you need a little salty snack just before dinner or just after ice cream - seriously, there is nothing I crave more after ice cream than a salty crispy chip - there is nothing like chips and salsa. But sometimes you want something a little more exciting than white corn tortilla chips and red salsa.

 

For those days I'm a huge fan of Trader Joe's Organic Stone Ground Blue Corn Tortilla Chips (whew, that's a mouthful) with some Frontera Tomatillo salsa. I already went on my Frontera rant the other day - this Mexican restaurant makes O'Hare tolerable - and I think I've mentioned my love for TJ's in the past. But the two together are a match made in heaven.

 

The tortilla chips look and are way healthier than normal chips - full of sprouted amaranth (oh you're asking me what it is? Wikipedia says it's "a cosmopolitan genus of annual or short-lived perennial plants" so THERE), quinoa and chia seeds. Normally reading a list of ingredients like that would be a bit of a turn-off for someone who runs from super healthy foods, but these chips are salty and thick with a nice blue color so you feel like you're eating something fancy and exciting. 

 

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Alone or with normal salsa these chips are fine, but not earth-shattering. The Frontera tomatillo salsa has a beautiful bright green color with little pieces of tomatillo. Normally I'm not a fan of chunks (ugh that word is worse to me than "moist") in salsa, but the tomatillo bits are totally inoffensive and have a sweet taste with some heat behind them. The chips and salsa together here result in a substantial snack with solid, lightly salted chips that are complemented by the tang and zip of the salsa. You start eating them for the sweet and salty factor, and all of a sudden you're hunting down water because there's more heat in there than you expected. Probably about 2 fire emoji's worth. 


One of the best parts about this particular gluten free match is that you won't walk away with that bloated feeling I usually have after gorging on chips and salsa midday. The chips have very little sodium and only enough salt for a good taste, and with all those other healthy ingredients you'll fulfill a craving and without feeling like you ate something unhealthy.


What's your favorite gluten free snack when you're craving something salty? Any other outside-the-box chip and salsa combos I should check out?

Wrap Review: Toufayan

I feel like I need some really slick rap lines here. If only someone dropped a beat! And if only I could rap...

But today is not the day I create never-ending internet embarrassment for my nonexistent kids and grandchildren to tease me about. Maybe next week. Instead, here's some rap for you to enjoy while I rhapsodize about wraps.

so I'm really excited to review these wraps. A lot of what I've seen lately are wraps made with brown rice and other products that are probably pretty good but a bit intimidating as starters for a family that's just trying to make gluten free a bit more in line with the food they're used to. We bought Toufayan's Original Gluten Free wraps as our intro to this part of the Celiac-friendly world.

Sadly though these wraps have need sitting in the drawer untested for a few days. To prove to my dad that they're good, I ordered my wrap at work on one today (luckily for me they had the same brand!). It's with carving turkey, cranberry sauce, cheddar cheese and some veggies with a side salad. 

This wrap tasted like a typical tortilla, which was just what I was hoping for. It was a tiny bit smaller and less pliable than what I'm used to, almost like a flour tortilla that's been out of the bag for an hour, but not like it was stale in any way. I'm used to wraps that are rolled and then folded on the ends, but that wasn't really possible here, which was fine since there weren't really little things that could fall out of the roll. 

The biggest win here was that it didn't taste out of place. No funky flavors or surprising textures, just a normal wrap like I'd have any other day. Thanks for making this a normal experience, Toufayan!

 

What are your thoughts on Toufayan and their other wrap flavors? And what other gluten free wrap brands am I missing out on?

Sippin on Gin and...Tonic

Alright Snoop Dogg (Lion? Is it Dogg again? I'm 25 and I'm too old for this, Snoop), I see you.

Perhaps the worst part of becoming a Celiac if you're a fan of beer is giving up all that wheat. I mean, your body is definitely thanking you, but your taste buds may not be. We'll rank some g-free beers and ciders in future segments, but I today feels right to start talking about gin. Why today? Why not.

Well, to be fair: dear ol' dad is not into vino, none of us are big fans of tequila (for you hardos out there though - make sure yours says "100% agave"), from my research vodka is a bit of a slippery slope in terms of is there gluten/no gluten, rum is very sophomore year of college (but okay the Captain and Bacardi 151, Gold, Superior and flavored ones are gucci), and sadly for whiskey you can really only hang out with my boy Jack.

So, without further ado...

Time to drink gin! 

We usually stay pretty classic with Beefeater, Bombay or Tanqueray, but I bought some Hendrick's recently to go "wild" - and I'm pretty pleased with it! Not sure it's better for me than the others for the price, but sure looks cute:

 

I'll be honest with you dear reader - and it's only cause you're immensely attractive - I think plain old Schweppes is the best tonic water. I tried two versions of Fever Tree (the things I do for you!): Premium and Naturally Light. My goal was to make a version of the acclaimed Madrid "gin tonics," but I'm afraid our resources in the US just can't measure up (or at least my local packies  can't). If you're feeling a bit wild though, I am also a huge fan of Spiked Seltzer. Their gluten-free seltzers have 6% alcohol and 4 delicious flavors. They're great on their own, but substituting the Lime Spiked Seltzer for your normal tonic water really amps up your drink game. (Sidebar: Spiked Seltzer is not endorsing this but if someone there is reading this and wanted to send me some more to test...I'd be more than happy to be your quality assurance!)

I can hear you through the screen - no, this is not just a summer drink! yes, you must use real limes (although to all you lime-addicts out there: sure, spring for some extra lime juice you sassy lady)! who uses shot glasses to measure anymore?! Oh okay sorry mom. Yep, got it. Definitely will measure next time.

Enjoy this delicious bev tonight - you deserve it. And seriously if you have any details on the best gins/tonics/mixing methods or bar secrets to rival the Madrid gin tonics please fill me in in the comments! I'll owe you one (but I will measure that double shot fo sho). 

Happy weekend!

 

Breadcrumb Review: 4C

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I never thought I would find gluten-free products that are better than the gluten-full alternative. Well, except when I first made that Betty Crocker cookie mix that were so good I could pretend they were homemade. But 4C's gluten-free breadcrumbs might just outdo that. Seriously. Breadcrumbs.

We're not big on frying in our house, since hot oil is not fun and a house that smells like fried food is not super appealing the next day when the scent is still wafting around. My dad has always been a fan of chicken parm though, and he'll usually lightly fry them in a bit of olive oil in a saute pan then bake it in the oven the rest of the way. Our gluten-full version was delicious - well breaded with a bit of a crisp on tender chicken.

Using gluten-free 4C crumbs instead of the regular g-full version made this chicken restaurant quality. The consistency of the gluten-free crumbs made the chicken full-on crispy, as if we had deep fried it but skipped all the greasy parts. The chicken itself remained full of flavor and moist (what a word I know), while the crust was salty, with minimal flake and optimal dryness (no sogginess between the chicken and breading). This meal was just begging for inappropriate amounts of cheese, and alongside some gluten free Barilla pasta and Pellicano's Olive Oil and Romano sauce this was the perfect restaurant-at-home dinner.

 

Any other gluten free breadcrumb brands I should try, or recommendations for other gluten free items to add to my shopping cart?

Dough Review: Pillsbury Thin Crust Pizza Dough

Hmm. This is definitely one I'm going to need some feedback on and suggestions for. 

Im wondering if there's something better to use this for, like thin crust homemade pizza or pretzels to have with gluten free beer. But as a big-pig-in-a-blanket dough, I wasn't super impressed with this gluten free dough.

 

There was the familiar and pretty distracting scent of pigs in a blanket as they cooked, and the dough seemed pretty normal to use (except for having to grease it up to use, but a pair of gloves helped avoid making us slippery messes). Even as very thin layers wrapped around hot dogs though, this alternative came out a little too hard on the outside while staying a bit doughy where the pay toughest the hot dog. This crisp layer had a normal taste, but you definitely can't bite into them unless you're interested in fake teeth. Even cutting through with a knife was a little difficult, producing a loud bang as the knife finally broke through the hot dog and the piece jumped a little bit from finally breaking free.

What are your thoughts? Did we wrap this too thickly, or do you use it for something else? At about $6 this would be a pretty expensive pretzel but it might be worth it with Auntie Anne's out of the picture for Celiacs. Any other dough you'd recommend for these hot dog alternatives?

 

Cookie Mix Review: Betty Crocker

And right out of left field, Betty's murdering the gluten-free cookie mix after some stellar gluten-filled treats in our pre-Celiac past.

What a  winner.

I have to say this cookie mix went beyond even the gluten cookie mixes I've tried in the past. Definitely different from the commercial rolls of dough in the grocery store aisle, but this is fine because they go in the complete opposite direction.

They taste homemade.

That is basically the highest praise I can give any sort of premade chocolate chip cookies, and I think I'm a rather tough judge. The box came together with your standard add-in ingredients easily enough - my only real recommendation is to make sure you're using a rubber spatula to help meld everything together nicely. My dad had started off with a big spoon which was just catching all the mix and not incorporating everything, and we worried at first it was missing som moisture. The trick here though is to use your spatula to sort of must everything down in big sort of brushstrokes, forcing it together and incorporating it so it looks more like your standard messy dough.

 

I did add a tiny bit of extra g-free gluten extract because I think it just adds a special something. And I insisted that we let it sit for about ten minutes - just to try to give it a little time to incorporate.

These cooked up in the standard 10 minute time range. At first I worried they'd be too gooey since we pulled them out once they were golden on the top and looked ready to fall into place once they're out of the oven. When they didn't fall I worried they needed some extra time but after letting them sit for a few minutes they were just fine - chewy without being firm and with a little life to 'em. 

I think the highlight of any store-bought snack is the ability to pretend you made it from home and that it took a lot of work. If you're looking to impress, and save your Celiac self or friends and family this holiday season from a lot of pain, these should be your pick. They're not inexpensive, but to be able to dole out a gluten-free product that tastes like made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookies (that for all your taste buds know could be packed with real flour) in about 20 minutes definitely makes it worth it. Well done, Bets.

 

Gluten-Free Stir Fry Sauces

The latest how-to-avoid-gluten-but-live-normally problem for our beloved Celiacs surrounds a savory dish we all love: stir fry. A lot of restaurants say they have gluten-free options, but going to the restaurant after calling and checking has resulted in: "You can have chicken with one of these two vegetables". And that's not fair! Who doesn't want to pick their own Asian-style sauce over their steak (okay vegetarians I know you don't) with inappropriate amounts of rice to have after wayyy to many apps and soups? Well, to help avoid that nightmare I'm here to show you how to make stir fry your way at home.

I'll have a whole separate post in the next few days in our Cooking section outlining how to make your own stir fry, but I thought I'd start off today telling you about the gluten free products I use. Pre-Celiac family, I originally made stir fry with hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and teriyaki. I'm not super big on soy sauce but we always had it around.

Now in our post-gluten world, I had to rethink my sauces. Hoisin and oyster sauce still come in gluten-free versions, but teriyaki and soy are a bit trickier. One of soy sauce's primary ingredients is wheat, so it took a little doing to find g-free soy sauce. The bigger issue was really that most teriyaki contains soy, and we really couldn't find any on our first attempt. Instead, we came home from Wegmans with their gluten-free stir fry sauce.

Our new roster

Our new roster

When I was playing around with these ingredients the first time, I found that the premade stir fry sauce was a little off what I wanted to taste. It was a little too sweet and too thin, like a marinade, and lacked the flavors I wanted. So I toyed around with the hoisin and oyster, which alone without the teriyaki would have been pretty boring flavors. Together they made a delicious combination, although very different from the gluten-packed stir fries of my past.

Any suggestions on stir fry components I'm missing? Have you found a great g-free teriyaki brand?

New Cider Alert!

I'll rank my favorite hard ciders a little later this year, but I didn't want to wait to tell you about one of the newer ones out there. Rekorderlig (who you'll soon learn I'm obsessed with) is a Swedish cider company that makes some of the best products out there. As long as you like sweet, fruity cider that is.

Anyway they have come out with a seasonal winner for sure. 

 

Their Spiced Apple Cider, which comes in these pretty big 16.9oz bottles, has a small banner on it (I mean you just saw it its like an inch up) suggesting it's  enjoyed hot or cold. My new best friend at the local packie told me he tried it warm and wouldn't recommend it that way - hot as hell or bust. I wasn't sure what the best way to truly heat it up would be, and anyway I'm too impatient for that kind of trouble, so I poured some ice cubes in a glass and hit it up like Tupac. Well.

You get a few glasses out of one of these puppies, making the price tag - around $7 - sting a bit less.

I'd probably describe this as the closest hard cider to the true taste of cider, with a crisp, sweet bite. Not my favorite Rekorderlig, but a great seasonal treat!

 

Brownie Mix Review: Krusteaz

Not the most appealing name, let's all agree to that out the gate. Hopefully it's a family name?

If you're like me you grew up offering to make brownies just so you could get a few licks of the spatula in once the oven door was closed.  Ignoring the potential for stomachache or - unimaginable to kids since they feel invincible, salmonella! - you'd risk it anything to get that gooey bite, whetting your appetite for the brownies. Going along with the dangerous vibes I'm throwing out, I also like to cook my brownies as minimally as possible. There should be a little crust at the top of the pan, but as soon as you cut through I want to see a fudgy mess. No dry brownies for this lady.

Everything comes together just as you'd expect, and honestly that's more than I've been able to get out of other mixes we've tried lately. You could always throw in a few extra g-free chocolate chips you have around if you want to go wild, but this is a pretty good mix on its own.

But these are the closest to non-gluten-free brownies I've tried yet. Just like your gluten-full mixes, all you'll need is oil, water, an egg and some patience (really wanted to meld the last two together i.e. egg-cellent patience. Couldn't really make it work but still wanted you to know I tried). 

Thank you Krusteaz, for allowing me to continue to live dangerously.


Blue Cheese, Gluten's Sneakiest Mom*

Oh man. Cheese.

Like who seriously doesn't like cheese? Even the lactose-intolerant people in my life are fans. One of my favorite kinds - for dressing, dips, snacks, hell I could eat it alone - is blue cheese (or if we're important: bleu). 

Unfortunately, many/most sources recommend people with Celiac avoid this godsend since the mold (only time mold is appealing and even then still kinda bogus) used to make blue cheese's blue veins may contain wheat protein. Since this is a HOTLY contested issue in the g-free world (I may have spent a teensy bit too much time reading up on it) I think it's probably safest to just avoid for the time. 

Will someone other than the Canadian Celiac Association PLEASE let this happy family go back to making all sorts of ridiculous blue cheese dips/dressings etc?!

Until then I'm going HAM on white Stilton (Trader Joe's makes an insane one with cranberries).

 

*You Sneaky Mom!