Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Product Review: Nana's Nola Gluten Free Granola Bites

Being gluten free has allowed me to develop an intimate relationship with the food that nurtures my body, and as a result I've become someone more inclined to seek out local foods. Nana's Nola is a company birthed out of Flying Changes Bed and Breakfast, a B&B located in Oneonta in upstate New York, so as a New Yorker I was pleased to receive free samples of their first product: Gluten Free Granola Bites.

The bites come in a 2 oz pouch, and are the perfect size for snacking or adding to yogurt. In addition to being gluten free they are also free of soy, artificial additives, and preservatives as well as low in sodium. While they might be lacking in unnatural ingredients they are far from lacking in nutrients as they contain 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, an 2% of your daily value of calcium. Nana's uses organic gluten free oats, and has a gluten free statement that explains their cross contamination procedure: "Nola’s gluten free granola bites are produced under strict Good Manufacturing Practices in an isolated HEPA filtered “Clean Room” environment where extensive procedures are followed to make sure that no gluten is present in their finished products."

I enjoyed these bites, and thought they were a very simple concept done right. They are sweet, but not unnaturally so like many other granola. The combination of oats, puffed quinoa, and puffed brown rice made for an inviting inconsistency in texture and a great mix of flavors in every bite. This mix of 'grains' certainly sets them apart. They're sweet and simple, and certainly a product I'll eat again. You can buy a 6 pack of the 2oz pouches for just 14$ online, and the line will soon be expanding to include other products such as cookies. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Product Review: Glutino Simply Salted and BBQ Crisps

For those of us that avoid gluten summer get together's are often a good time to chow down on one of the easiest gluten free go to snacks: Chips. Glutino's line of Crisps, which are baked potato chips that come in three flavors (BBQ, Simply Salted, and Sour Cream and Onion), are a reliable gluten free snack that also happens to be lighter in fat that the usual chip. 

This month I had the chance to share the BBQ and Simple Salted crisps with friend's (both gluten free and non-gluten free) at a pirate themed pool party. Although not all that pirate-y, they were a hit with the party. Both flavors are light and crispy, the perfect texture for a good dip companion. The Simply Salted chips were nothing special flavor wise, but they hold their own as a salted chip because of their crispness. Meanwhile the BBQ crisps were a fine mix of sweet and salty, made perfect by a hint of smoke. Both bags were quickly devoured at this party, and many a friend asked for the brand name to purchase for later. I would say that is a success for the gluten free community. 

**Please Note: This product was provided to me by Glutino as part of their Very Important Gluten-Free Blogging Community (VIGFB) Campaign. However, the review reflects my own thoughts and tastes and was in no way influenced by this partnership.**

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Product Review: Ian's Gluten Free Fish Sticks and Onion Rings

Recently, Ian's Natural Foods was gracious enough to send me two of their products to sample including their Fish Sticks and Onion Rings. Both products are not only gluten and wheat free but are also soy, dairy, egg, and nut free so they are an inviting contribution to the food allergy community.

The fish sticks were a page from my grade school cafeteria years, except with a more refined twist. Coated in cornflake crumbs, they had a crunchy outer layer not softened by dipping sauces. I love my food with a crunch, so this was a welcomed change from my earlier experiences with soggy fish sticks. The fishy goodness on the inside was also far superior to any school fish stick, being made of real fish not some mixture only made of part fish. Bravo Ian's!

The onion rings were coated with the same batter as the fish sticks, but in this instance I didn't feel the combination played out as well. I felt they were lacking in flavor, although they kept their crunchy texture and did the job as an onion rings and went well with chipotle mayonnaise. I will admit though that I had frozen and thawed this product a few times before eating them.

Overall, Ian's has a great line for the food allergen community that cook up quick and these products are no exception.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Product Review: Glutino Gluten Free Wafer Bites

For me, summertime calls for lighter meals and refreshing snacks. I want something that packs flavor with less of the weight than my favorite winter treats. That's why I was happy to see samples of Glutino's New Wafer Bites in this month's sampler package.

These little babies come in three flavors: Chocolate Covered, Hazelnut, and Lemon. The chocolate covered ones are vanilla wafer dipped in milk chocolate, and are the perfect mix of sweet chocolate and dry savory wafer. Their hazelnut wafer bites are simpler, having a subtle nutty flavor that as Goldilocks would put it "is just right." Finally, I found the lemon wafers to be very sugary and powerful in flavor, reminiscent of a powdered lemonade mix. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy them, but I found myself eating these slower and in smaller handfuls than the other two flavors (which let's face it is probably a good thing).

So, what's the overall verdict? These new wafer bites are the perfect spectrum of flavor for anyone looking for a light snack that still offers some flavor. Each flavor has a place in the gluten free world, offering it's own variety of taste to your snaking needs.

**Please Note: This product was provided to me by Glutino as part of their Very Important Gluten-Free Blogging Community (VIGFB) Campaign. However, the review reflects my own thoughts and tastes and was in no way influenced by this partnership.**



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to Not be a Terrible Restaurant Manager (or Diner) When There's a Glutening Mistake

If you follow me on Facebook you know that about a month ago I had a pretty bad experience at a local restaurant I visited for the first time for a relative's birthday celebration. The restaurant didn't have a separate gluten free menu, but they had options for gluten free pizza, pasta, and other items. Upon going through the usual spiel on the phone when making the reservation AND when we went to the restaurant we learned that they had separate prep tools and locations, and well trained staff. So, we felt safe and ordered away. Unfortunately, half way though our meal we found a dirty little secret hiding in our gluten free penne:


That right there, my friends, is spaghetti. This restaurant DOES NOT carry gluten free spaghetti...Needless to say, I was immediately concerned and brought this to the waitresses attention. What followed was several discussions with the manager that started out kind on my part but which, to my better judgement, resulted in me saying "I'll be shitting my guts out for three days, thank you." at one point because he was really grating my nerves and insulting me left and right. Rather than go through what happen verbatim, I want to use this as an opportunity to take this experience and educate restaurant staff, managers, and of course diners about the best approaches to handling such a situation.

Below you'll see two sets of tips, the first for managers and the second for diners. After some tips in both sections you'll find examples of things NOT to say, some of which were said by the manager in this conversation. 

How Not to be a Terrible Manager When There's a Glutening Mistake
  1. Don't be belittling:
    • "How is your meal, except that tiny little piece of spaghetti?", "It isn't a bit deal", "You don't need to worry", laughing in general at the situation
  2. Don't accuse the patron of ordering incorrectly:
    • "You probably didn't tell the waiter you were strictly gluten free.", "Are you sure you said you were gluten free?" 
  3. Do not deny any potential symptoms that might come about from the mistake:
    • "No, that won't happen." , "I don't think that'll be the case", "You'll be fine!" 
  4. No passing the buck, or blame shifting:
    • "This is a new waitress, she has no idea what she is doing.", "The chef must have not been in the kitchen at that time." 
Overall, restaurant managers should show empathy and concern during these situations. While it is understood that all diners "eat at their own risk" so to speak, any mistake ultimately falls in the hands of the restaurant as a whole, and the manager is the face and mind of that restaurant. You want to make a good impression, not have diners cursing at you because you don't want to take the blame. When possible, try accommodating the guest, for example by removing the item from the check.

How Not to be a Terrible Diner When There's a Glutening Mistake
  1. Don't be afraid to speak up and be assertive. 
  2. Always act with grace and professionalism. 
  3. Be as polite as possible, and kill 'em with kindness.
    • "Your restaurant is disgusting!", "Who's the idiot that made this mistake?" 
  4. Don't act entitled and expect accommodations.
    • "I need you to remake this food.", "I need you to remove this from the check immediately.
The diner has a right to bring up any mistakes or concerns, especially when it relates to a medical issue that's been clearly stated from the beginning. However, ultimately, this does not give you a right to put anyone down and make a scene because mistakes do happen. When offering any criticism try to make it constructive so it can help prevent this mistake from happening to other diners. For example, try suggesting to the manager that the restaurant consider getting improved training such as GREAT Kitchen training from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spinach and Sunflower Seed Pesto

It is one of my favorite times of year! The season has finally come when my fridge is full of fresh produce, and I've been doing a lot of experimenting lately. Today I tried my hand at the second batch of pesto with greens other than primarily basil, and whipped up an amazing batch of Spinach and Sunflower Seed Pesto that I HAD to share. The recipe below is the same one I used with the kale, but note the modifications suggested at the bottom if you decide to go that route.

Spinach and Sunflower Seed Pesto




Ingredients:
1 6oz bag of spinach greens
2 cups olive oil (I used half canola oil, half extra virgin)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons seeded sunflower seeds (salted or unsalted)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon (10 leaves) fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (omit for dairy free version)
1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
salt to taste

Directions: 
1. Mix all ingredients, expect salt, in a food processor until well blended.
2. Taste, and add salt as desired. If you use salted sunflower seeds you may not have to add salt. If you add salt, mix all ingredients for a second time. 
3. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container for future use. 

Makes approximately 2.5 cups of pesto. 

You can also substitute kale, as mentioned earlier. If you do this use one medium size bundle of kale, chopped and cut from the tough stem. Omit the lemon juice if using kale.



The combo of the spinach and sunflower seeds makes this a lighter dish than your typical pesto (the kale is a bit denser in flavor). It is subtle in taste, but bold in color. Personally, I think it is a peppy addition to any summery dish from grilled vegetables to cold pasta dishes. I seriously want to eat it on everything. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Support the Pasta Flyer KickStarter Project!



KickStarter is a perfect place to find projects within your areas of interest to support. Most recently I was notified of a KickStarter campaign for Pasta Flyer, a proposed Gluten Free popup store hoping to travel to  several cities (including New York) across the USA in the fall before opening perminent locations. Lead by Chef Mark Ladner of NYC's Del Posto restaurant, Pasta Flyer seeks to:
"...bring together our love for two contrasting cultures:  rural Italy's unhurried pasta lunches, prepared by seasoned grandmothers, and urban Japan’s bustling, quick-service ramen shops."
Customers will get to create their own pasta dishes with a variety of pasta shapes, sauces, proteins, and other toppings. They can also order salads and snacks. The best part though? Every dish is designed to be ready within 3 minutes. Yes, THREE! How awesome is that? And to top it off, Pasta Flyer will strive to keep all fruits, vegetables, and herbs fresh and local, supporting your local farmers. I know I am Freaking excited!

So, if this sounds like a good idea to you (and why wouldn't it) swing on by their KickStarter and back them before July 5th. Backers can win goodies such as a free bowl at one of the pop-up stores this fall, a t-shirt, pasta and sauce mailed to your door and much more depending on your donated amount.

See their other websites below for further details:

KickStarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pastaflyer/pasta-flyer-italian-cuisine-japanese-style-andglut
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PastaFlyer
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PastaFlyer
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