Friday, 26 September 2014

Sendme Gluten Free Box Review

Everywhere you turn these days, subscription boxes seem to be the next big hype for all of us foodies out there. While the initial expense of such a service has steered me away from them, I have always been intrigued with whether or not the cost was worth the excitement of receiving a random assortment of goodies each month - especially with the surge of new gluten free products hitting the shelves daily. And frankly, gluten free products are expensive and there’s nothing worse than shelling out hard earned cash for a new gluten free snack that ends of being a total let down (come on - we’ve all been there). Hence the draw to a subscription service, where they will send you a whole box of randomly sized, randomly chosen products to try at a nominal fee. With another not-so-incredible gluten free snack unfinished in my trash can, I thought I would contact the nice people at www.sendmeglutenfree.com to see if they could hook me up with a trial box to review so I could see what all the fuss was about.
Fast forward a few weeks and low and behold, there was a lovely little orange box waiting for me after work one day.


    
Now I will admit, I had high hopes for this little orange box. See, the people behind the Send Me Gluten Free subscription box service also run the Find Me Gluten Free phone app, which has aided me in finding a non-death food option more times than I can count. Easily my favorite and most often used app; it is a fabulous tool for finding gluten free food places all over the US and for providing unbiased, honest reviews from real gluten free peeps. So, I assumed that these people (they have their own media group - www.glutenfreemg.com – how cool is that?) knew what they were doing when they branched out into the subscription box world. And I was not disappointed.
Per the website, each monthly box will have 8 to 12 products of various sizes that can range from food items to personal care items to household items. Here is what my disassembled box (the September box) looked like:


I received 12 items in total: 9 food items, 1 pair of chopsticks (to go with the Pho), and 2 personal products/household items, plus an assortment of product coupons. I really liked the food variety in the box, as it had a baking mix, snacks (snack bar, granola, chips), treats (candy, cookies), easy to prepare meals (soup, wannabe Lunchable™), and cooking spices. It definitely showed that they were trying to appeal to a vast audience with their selections. The highlights of my box were definitely the GoPicnic meal and the cooking spices. I had never heard of or seen either of these brands before and was delighted by them to say the least! Of the 12 products included, I had only come across four of the brands before. Since I have been GF since 2005, I was seriously impressed by this! And my only dud so far? A soy-based snack bar that I probably would have tried at some point otherwise and been upset that I had wasted the money on it.
So am I sold on this particular subscription box service? Absolutely! It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I honestly had to stop myself from devouring all of the items in just one sitting. It is so awesome that I am planning on asking Santa for a subscription this year (hint, hint).
Want your own subscription and can’t wait for a loving relative to get one for you? Here are the details: The subscriptions boxes are sent out the first week of each month and can be set up on four different payment plans: auto-bill month to month for $30, prepay 3 months for $78, prepay 6 months for $144, or prepay 12 months for $240. Sound a little pricey? How about a discount code for all of our loyal readers? Use BLOG20 for 20% off any subscription length to set up your own subscription.
Even better - how about a FREE BOX giveaway from yours truly?

(This is an example of the variety of products that may be found in a box, not the actual contents of what you will receive, since it changes every month…that's the fun of it!)

Over the next week, enter a comment on this review with your name, email address, and what kind of product you would like to receive in a monthly delivery box. A randomly selected winner will receive the Send Me Gluten Free subscription box for the month of November. Unfortunately, this service can only be sent to continental US addresses (including PO Boxes) at this time– but I was promised that they hoped to expand soon (cross your fingers UK!)



Written by K Goodrich, USA     

Monday, 11 August 2014

Amys Kitchen

Convenience foods – normally the first thing to go when one hears “Gluten Free Diet.” The frozen dinners, canned soup, staple go-tos when you get off work late, hubby is out of town, or the simple thought of cooking dinner makes you want to scream. Being on a Gluten Free Diet tends to rule out most things on the inner aisles of the grocery market, less the boring staples of rice. Or at least it used to. Since becoming GF in 2005, I have watched the availability of special diet food go from a game of Hide and Seek at Whole Foods to the forefront of regular chain grocers. Along the way, certain brands have popped up as being leaders in this new industry of providing yummy foods for those who cannot partake in the norm quick meals. Among these brands, is Amy’s Kitchen, Inc – a company specializing in providing unique, allergen and special diet products in all different mediums.

Over the years, I have tried various Amy’s frozen products, from the dinners to the pizzas with mixed results. A lot of their products are multi-category products, aka Gluten Free and Vegan, which can be surprising if you do not realize this when you are eating a burrito and get a mouth full of tofu. Not Amy’s fault by any means, but it makes me pay more attention when grabbing one of their products. Now if you are on a multi-category diet, than obviously this is a bonus for you. With this knowledge in hand and the assignment to write a review, I decided to venture into another category of Amy’s products – good old canned goods.

Since changing my eating lifestyle (or being forced to for that matter), I have missed the ability to have canned soup available for speedy meals at home or on the go. As a household of two full timers, there are some days when there aren’t enough leftovers for lunches the next day or the previous night’s dinner is not something re-heatable (aka fish in a work place microwave – you don’t want to be that person). These moments are perfect examples of the need for easy traveling meals that require minimal effort. So I headed over to http://www.amys.com/ to see what products they offered that would fill this need. And frankly I was shocked at how many products were available under the GF product category. One could seriously scroll down forever looking at all of the options (A kid’s meal?! Who knew!!). I had no idea that Amy’s produced so many varieties of items, from pot pies to desserts. Saying I was overwhelmed is an understatement, but after a few minutes, I was able to shift my attention to the canned goods. I chose a few to look for, as I knew that all of the items would probably not be available at my local grocer. Once at the store, I settled on two – the Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque and the Organic Hearty Spanish Rice and Red Bean Soup

Down to the review – overall I enjoyed both soups greatly. The tomato soup is fantastic, especially when paired with a GF grilled cheese, as I like to do. The chunks of tomato are a nice spin against traditional one note tomato soups and the ingredients taste very fresh. While I enjoyed the tomato bisque more, the red bean soup was also delicious and different from a typical soup. Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, I was distinctly drawn to this item for cultural reasons. That being said, it does not compare to Mom’s homemade rice and beans, but for a meal in a pinch, it hits the spot. I did add a bit of spice to mine, but that is obviously a personal taste addition.

In general, I am very pleased with the offerings at Amy’s – especially for those among us who prefer meatless, gluten free and dairy free meals. The variety is limitless and fills an essential lacking in the category of special diet convenience foods. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for new Amy’s products at my local stores and you should too! You will not be disappointed.



Written by K Goodrich, USA                                          

Friday, 18 July 2014

Black Farmer’s Daughter Gluten free meatballs, sausages, and burgers….



We were delighted to be asked to review some gluten free meat products from The Black Farmer’s Daughter. Finding what my husband (who is gluten intolerant) calls “decent” burgers, sausages and meatballs that are gluten free, is hard. When I did a bit of research, the products we tried were reasonably priced when compared with their non-gluten free competitors. I could make my own, but most of the time, as a busy, working mother, making my own meatballs and burgers is not a job high on my list of priorities, so finding these as a staple for our menu for family meals was very exciting.

All the products are high quality, and tasted good. We have tried gluten free products before, and they can often be quite dry. We were impressed with the moistness and also texture of all of the items. We tried and tested gluten free beef and pork meatballs, gluten free beef burgers and pork& apple burgers and gluten premium pork sausages and premium pork chipolatas.
It was hard to choose which product we liked best. I think if we had to choose, the burgers, would be a close first. The pork and apple burgers, were frankly, amazing. I am not a big pork fan, but these burgers were tasty, succulent, cooked well, and disappeared from our plates fast. The normal “my beef burgers” were also delicious. We have since bought them for ourselves, to have at a BBQ, where they received many compliments. I was almost tempted to claim I made them myself.
The meatballs went into a gluten free family meal, of meatballs in a tomato based sauce, with gluten free gnocchi, and were also a hit. I have made my own meatballs, before using a gluten free breadcrumb mix, but these are handy to have as a staple for meatballs. My children enjoyed them, and my husband also liked them. I have found that with other gluten free meatballs, when you “brown” them, before you put them in sauce, or even when you are cooking them, they can tend to disintegrate. These stayed firm, and cooked well. The also re heated well then next day, for lunch.

The sausages were also very good. We used them for a BBQ and also for a casserole. They cooked well, and went down well with both gluten and non-gluten intolerant members of the household. Gluten free sausages can sometimes be greasy, and stuffed with lots of horrible things to make up for the lack of wheat based “rusk” that helps to give a sausage it’s texture, but these were not at all oily or greasy, and also tasted good cold, as left overs.
All the products are made with high quality British meat, with a high percentage of meat in them. Both of these things are important, when feeding my family, one because good quality, well sourced meat, is something I like to feed my family, we would rather spend money on quality products and eat less, than cheap, chemical filled, meats. Also, as someone who tries to support British producers as much as possible, having meat that is from Britain appeals to me.

We were very pleased with all the meals the products went into, and have since bought more of them. I would definitely recommend them, both because they are gluten free and tasty, which is important for those on a gluten free diet, or who suffer from gluten intolerance or coeliac disease, but also to those who are not gluten intolerant, because they really are so good, and you cannot tell that they are gluten free. 

Written by K.Reekie

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Gluten Free Cook Book


Having been married to someone with a gluten intolerance for 13 years, I have taught myself a lot about what someone with gluten intolerance can eat and what must be avoided. I have to admit that I only started looking at actual recipes and cookbooks targeting the gluten intolerant market, recently, when I decided I wanted to branch out with my cooking.
I have avoided things like pies, quiches, and desserts that usually involve a crust or pastry, because frankly they seemed a bit intimidating, but I was very excited when this recipe book arrived, because it has lots of recipes for things I would normally be too nervous to try. We all know that gluten free bread, pastry and pie crust can either be wonderful, or be hard, tastles and brick like if it goes wrong. My husband very much misses things like pies, and pastry, so he was also excited to try some of the recipes.
The book is very easy to read, with very realistic pictures that make you think “I can make that” unlike some recipe books, where the pictures of the intended dish can look intimidating, before you have even started cooking.
It’s not just a recipe book, though. There are sections at the beginning of the book, which are incredibly useful, even for someone like me, who has been cooking gluten free for a long time, and I would definitely say this would be a handy book to give to friends or family who want to cook for someone with gluten intolerance or coeliac disease. The Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid section are very informative, and it also has a good section explain what coeliac disease is, and why it is so important for a person with this disease to adhere to their gluten free diet. I actually found this section very handy, preparing a meal for a friend who has just had a baby, who has coeliac disease, because although we avoid gluten, my husband does not struggle with issues like cross contamination, so for me to be able to read about what to avoid and how careful to be, was helpful, so I didn’t produce a meal for my friend, that made her unwell. The section on children with coeliac is very informative, particularly for parents looking at what to pack in school lunches, or when preparing for parties or other events.
There is also a section on what you can substitute for when you would normally use a gluten product. I would never have thought to use gluten free cornflakes as a topping alternative for gratins or for coating foods that needed a crispy coating. I even made fish fingers using this, and it worked really well, and my children were very amused to know they had eaten cornflakes as part of their dinner. The pantry essentials list on page 13 is vital for anyone trying to establish a supply of gluten free basics.
What we particularly liked was the section on eating out, as that can be a real problem for someone with a food intolerance, allergy or illness like coeliac. Finding a place that can serve you food that is safe and tasty for you to eat, can be tricky, we used to struggle, in the early days after my husband was diagnosed as gluten intolerant. Now, of course more restaurants and cafes, and eating places are becoming very aware of the need to cater to individuals and families with food intolerances so it is getting easier, but the practical advice in this section with information on everything from drinks, to starters, main courses, puddings, snacks, picnics, fast food, avoiding cross contamination and what to avoid was very sensible and easy to make sense of.
The recipes themselves are easy to follow, and range from very basics things like sauces, and stocks, to soups, salads, main courses and desserts. I found myself trying out things we would never normally try, or avoid because of the gluten problem. My husband ate bruschetta, for the first time in years, and was delighted.
My children’s favourite meal made from the recipe book were the vegetable pizza on page 31. I slightly adapted the recipe using non-dairy milk for my son, (dairy intolerant) but they enjoyed helping me make the pizza dough and eating the cooked results. As I normally buy a ready-made gluten free pizza base, to make my own, was great.
My particular recipe favourites were the Pancetta/Broad Bean risotto, and the braised lamb with dumplings. I have never made gluten free dumplings before, but they were really easy, and you cannot tell that they are gluten free.
I attempted gluten free pastry and biscuits, with pleasing results. As I have mentioned, I have always steered clear of making my own, because of fears that they wouldn’t turn out well, but was very pleasantly surprised and I made the Country Apple cake on page 94, for a dinner with friends, one of whom is also gluten intolerant but very fussy about what she eats, because she finds gluten free products, in her words “bland and heavy” so tends to avoid them and eats a very simple diet, and she enjoyed it, and I recommended the book to her.
At the back of the book is an Information File, with lots of contact details and resources, as well where to buy certain products, and also suggests other cook books and recipe sources.
I have to say, I really like this recipe book, and will be making sure that I send a copy to my mother in law, who also eats a gluten free diet, and would love to be able to branch out more, in her cookery and recipes. I also think it is a very handy “basic” book for those starting to cook gluten free, or to give to someone who cooks or prepares meals for a gluten free family member. It makes preparing delicious meals for someone with a gluten intolerance or coeliac disease much easier.
As someone who also cooks for a family member who is cow’s milk intolerant, I found it easy to take the recipes and substitute what I needed, too, which was very helpful.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a resource, with meals that are easy to prepare and actually taste as good as they look.  You can choose this perfect gift for him and her here.

Written by K.Reekie

Monday, 7 July 2014

Almond & Zucchini Cake




This weekend a very lovely friend of mine invited me over for tea. She isn’t gluten intolerant and had been hunting around apparently all week for a good recipe. The cake she made tasted spectactular and I have to say I was enjoying it so much I didn’t take a photo. However when I asked when it came from she assured me she’d followed Martha Stewarts recipe to the letter and I have to say it looked identical too!


Almond & Zucchini (courgette)

Ingredients
o    
1  1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus 5 tablespoons, (about 60g) room temperature, plus more for pan
o    1 1/2 cups almond flour (spooned and levelled)
o    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons potato starch (spooned and levelled)
o    1 1/4 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
o    1/4 teaspoon fine salt
o    3 large eggs, room temperature
o    1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
o    4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
o    1 cup finely grated zucchini (from 1 medium zucchini), squeezed of excess liquid
o    8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
o    1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch round, 2-inch deep cake pan. Line with parchment and butter paper. Whisk together almond flour, potato starch, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Set a large heatproof bowl over (not in) a pot with 1 inch barely simmering water. Add eggs and whisk until foamy, about 1 minute. Whisk in brown sugar and continue to whisk until mixture is fluffy and sugar is dissolved, 3 minutes. Remove bowl from pot and, using a mixer, whisk on high until mixture is thick and pale, 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in melted butter, flour mixture, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and zucchini. Pour into pan and bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in centre comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cake cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Invert onto a cake platter.
  4. With mixer, beat together room-temperature butter, remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla, and cream cheese until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar and beat until combined. Spread on top of cake.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

FreeGo - new gluten free products website

Recently we were asked to review a new health food online shops –FreeGo. I tend to find most od these online shops have the same brands and the same products of gluten free and while the price might be difference there is in fact little to tell them apart. Imagine my happy surprise when I went on the site and was greeted by a range of names & products I hadn’t heard of. Companys from Italy, China, the US & France; FreeGo have searched for gluten free products all over. They still have some familiar names in the gluten free world such as Nairns and Ilumi but along side this new names (at least to  me) such as Breads from Anna, Luces, Portlebay and many more.  
Luces Artisan Bread - Just look at that crust!!
 the FreeGo website you can either search by meal i.e. breakfast, lunch, kids meal or by product. They have a large range in each section and on price comparison worked out cheaper than my local health food shops. I did a comparison shop and even including the delivery which was 4.99 (free for over £30) it was still cheaper than buying in store. Which to me is a huge bonus since I find you pay a premium for not being able to eat gluten. Currently they are also offering £10 off a £20 order when you sign up to them today.

I ordered a selection from the Freego site about 2ish in the afternoon and was rather happily surprised when it arrived the following day by DPD. They will shortly be arranging it that you can choose your day for delivery if you don’t wish for next day as well so stay tuned for that. The packaging was good without any extra unnecessary’s which you get with some. And as to the products? Well we selected:

Luces Artisan Bread, Chia Seed & Nut Mix, Chocolate Chia Muffins, Pumpkin Bread Mix, Coconut Sugar, Bobs Red Mill Flour (£2 cheaper than Ocado) and a couple little extras all for £40. None of which (apart from the Bobs Red Mill & Coconut Sugar) have I found in my trawling online and in any of the shops I’d been in.
I was rather impressed by the products, the diversity found on the site, the delivery & the price. Not only that but they also offering articles on gluten free living and will soon also be including recipes. Definitely a new gem for us gluten free sufferers! 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Costa Coffee - Gluten Free Chicken and Basil Salad Wrap Review


I love a bit of lounging around in a coffee shop, they are an ideal location for meeting other mums with kids, or for just hanging around in with my four year old. Informal seating and a bit of music to drown out the kiddy noises means we can relax and enjoy five minutes of calm.

But normally in a coffee shop I have to grab a packet of crisps and try not to look at the tempting gluten filled cakes on offer, and I don't even attempt a glance at the sandwiches. Sure, there will be a sad looking boxed salad, but I don't want to faff with that while my family are eating some sort of delicious panini dripping with cheese and an almond croissant.

But these days are no more! This weekend we popped into Costa Coffee in Trinity Leeds, grabbed a good spot with two sofas, and I had a lovely gluten free feast with my family.

Costa have brought out a Gluten Free Chicken and Basil Salad Wrap which uses Newburn Bakehouse's rather nice seeded gluten free wrap, and is licensed by Coeliac UK. The wrap was squishy and soft, the filling was lovely and not too salty (I find coffee shop sarnis normally way too salty for my taste), and there were actually four of these wraps ready and waiting in the sandwich chiller. They are priced at £3.75, the same sort of price as the other sandwiches too, which is refreshing, and the wrap is also dairy free.

Not only did I demolish a whole chicken wrap, I also got my hands on a gluten free chocolate brownie and two wee little gluten free cherry bakewells, which I shared of course. The brownie was squishy and yummy, and the bakewells were very nice too. My husband was more than willing to taste test the brownie and bakewells, even though he is a gluten eater, and didn't say no to second helpings which is always a good sign.

Overall I had a lovely gluten free lunch, with no worries about what I was going to eat, sat on a nice squishy sofa with my husband, while my little boy assembled some Lego we had bought that day.

Well done Costa for developing a gluten free savory offering I really enjoyed, the wrap is a great addition to their gluten free sweet things.