Wednesday, April 28, 2010

thinkThin Dessert Bar - Chocolate Covered Strawberries

I reluctantly picked up a "thinkThin" dessert bar in the Chocolate Covered Strawberry flavor. I had several of the thinkThin bars before - mainly their chocolate and peanut butter varieties - and have been dissappointed. Usually the texture is so disgusting that it reminds you of the original style Powerbars that were aweful. Ernie couldn't even manage to eat a full Chocolate Brownie bar.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by this new flavor variant.  The bar was sizeable, comparable to a Luna bar or other mainstream protein bars.  I was attracted to the flavor name since very few bars have strawberry flavors.  At first bite, you taste a faint hint of strawberry coupled with the chocolate exterior coating. It looks similar to a 3 Musketeers bar with the soft and fluffy center covered in dark chocolate.  With an additional bonus of 15grams of protein, the bar kept me rather full for three or four hours which is much longer than others that I've tried. 

Overall, this product gets a 7 out of 10. I'd try it again, but there are so many other bars to choose from. I haven't landed on one favorite brand just yet!

200 calories

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cafe - Gluten Free Bars

I did some poor grocery shopping this week since I wore heels to the local Whole Foods and didn't feel like walking much. Sad excuse. The only aisle I manged to make it down was the gluten-free snacks.  The reason I tell you this is because I am down to gluten-free bars for lunch rather than a healthy salad with grilled chicken or something like that.

Today's lunch (in addition to an apple, pineapple and bean salad) was this gluten free Cafe bar in a Lemon Sesame flavor.  What attracted me to this bar was the sophisticated and clean packaging showing a product image while maintaining a natural look and feel.  I know there were some other varieties available, but the lemon one was intriguing because it's not as common as, say, chocolate brownie.

While the bar is a bit on the smaller side, this product gets a good review in my book.  I'd say 8.5 out of 10.  When you open the package, a lemony aroma releases and reminds you of a fresh lemon on a summer day.  The first bite is chewy yet crunchy from the sesame and flax seeds.  The taste is mild with hints of lemon and the balanced taste of sesame.  It reminds me of this Chinese treat I had growing up that were made with sesame and honey.

It's also one of the first gluten-free foods I've seen that is fortified with vitamins, minerals and prebiotics. This could be the next trend in Gluten-Free foods since it has already hit the mass market (think: Activia yogurt).  Most of the gluten-free foods out in the market today are 'raw' or 'uncooked' or free of dairy, eggs, soy, tree-nuts etc.  For those of us who only have a gluten-allergy and not all kinds of common allergies, this bar is a definitely a product worth including in your arsenal of gluten-free foods.  It may, however, contain traces of tree-nuts and soy since it's manufactured in a shared facility so tread cautiously if you have additional allergies.

0.95 oz.
Calories: 130

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Enjoy Life soft baked Snickerdoodle Cookies

One word: AMAZING!

Following major disappointment by the Raweo cookie yesterday, I didn't have high expectations for this snickerdoodle cookie.  After a very short run around Wrigley Field last night, I broke into this box of cookies on my counter.

The cookies come in a little tray, similar to the Samoa Girl Scout Cookies (I think they call them carmel delights now).  In fact, a co-worker was walking buy and exclaimed "Ohh! Girl Scout Cookies!" to which I replied they were gluten-free cookies so she would walk away and I could devour every last bite. 

There are 12 cookies in each box and they aren't very large.  However, from the moment I picked up the cookie to the very last crumb, the texture, sweetness levels and flavors were balanced just right.  The cookies are soft and chewy just like a fresh baked gluten cookie. The slightly cinnamon flavor mixed with the sweetness of dates, apple and pear juice and brown sugars create a delightful taste. 

I have to confess that between 9pm last night and 11am this morning, I have already eaten 6 cookies! Guess I'll have to add a couple extra laps around Wrigley Field to my run next time.

These cookies get a rating of 9.5 / 10.  If it were peanut butter chocolate chip, I'd give it a perfect ten.  But knowing that Enjoy Life promies to not use the top 8 allergins, I know we'll never get a peanut butter cookie.  I will definitely try the chocolate chip, double chocolate, happy apple, lively lemon and no-oat "oatmeal" varieties.

Serving Size: 2 Cookies
Servings per container: 6
Calories: 130

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blessing's Alive and Radiant Foods - Mega Raweo

What a bust.

While I was crusing the snacks aisle looking for good tasting gluten-free foods to try, I landed immediately on this Raweo(TM) made by Blessing's Alive and Radiant Foods because you can feel the softness of the cookie through the package. Some of the other cookies were hard as bricks and I quickly passed on those.  Despite all of the positive reviews of the Pamela's brands, I chose the Raweo because of its relative softness.

Let's face it. The mega sized cookie didn't have much going for it other than the fact that the cookie looked and felt super moist and fresh.  Based on the packaging (and yes, let's judge the book by its cover for just a moment), I would assume this is a new venture start up, handmaking foods in a shared kitchen, using a packaging machine with a "As Seen on TV" red logo stamped on the box, and lables fresh off the nearest desk top printer.

I'm not even sure how this product got distribution at Whole Foods.  Isn't there some law in the US that you have to include the Nutritional Panel on food products?  Well, we can see here that the Office Max Label does not include any nutritional information.  It merely states the ingredients on the side of the front label.

The cheap packaging is child's play and there's even a trademark violation on the label.  US Trademark rules say that you have to add a "TM" to indicate a trademark.  This package says "RM". Major Typo. Additionally, they've modified the trademark of "Raweo" to say "Mega Raweo" in the same font and typeface.  You can't modify the trademark since it'd be a violation of your original trademark.  Lucky for them, they can just go into Microsoft Word and fix their label template.

Moving onto the taste of the product.  This is why gluten-free foods have a bad name, and why people who can eat gluten wouldn't touch this with a 10 foot pole.  The coconut is overwhelming and if you have been reading my other posts, you know I don't like coconut. The cookie looks like it should be chocolatey, but the minimal carob doesn't bring anything to the party leading only to disappointment.  I don't have much more to say about the taste other than I didn't finish even a third of a cookie that cost me $3.99. That should tell you something when the girl whose nickname growing up was "cookie monster" doesn't even want to take another bite.

I rate this a 3 out of 10. A valiant attempt at making a soft cookie, but it falls flat at the taste.  I'll also take a moment to throw a "what the heck?!?" to Whole Foods for stocking this product.

For a chocolate fix, opt for Nature's Divine Brownies. Still the best ready-made sweet treat to date.  If you're feeling crafty, try Betty Crocker's cookie and brownie mixes

3 oz.
??? Calories

Go Raw Bars

I went on a bit of a spending spree yesterday at my local Whole Foods buying several gluten-free bars, cereals, cheese curls and cookies to try out so I can share my review with you.

I'm currently snacking on a Go Raw Banana "Bread" Flax bar.  The package is chock full of information, marketing and other tid-bits of information such as "family-owned".  Through all the clutter, they still manage to include a window so you can see the flax seed covered product. The back panel contains all kinds of information about the company, their mission, and other product disclaimers.

The bar itself is quite thin - maybe a half cm or so, yet 6" long and 3" wide.  I thought the bar would be crunchy but once you open the package and tear off a bite, it's quite leathery at first. This texture is probably why the bar is so thin - so you can actually tear it off into smaller bite sizes without looking like a total slob like when you bite into a thick and way too chewy bar that gets stuck in the crevices of your teeth.   Although the texture at first touch was unexpected, you quickly get used to it.

The ingredients are Flax Seeds, Banana, Coconut and Date.  The flax seeds provide protein and bulk, the banana it's primary flavor, the coconut some added texture and the date holds everything together.  At first bite, you can taste the hint of coconut which I could do without since I don't like coconut.  However, as you continue eating, the flavor of the banana comes through with only a hint of crunchyness from the organic flax seeds.  The date paste adds a little sweetness as well.

Overall, I'd give this one a 7 out of 10. On product alone, I would have probably awarded a 6, but the company's committment to a sustainable operation (solar powered facility, biodegradable packaging coming soon) and the organic ingredients bump up the total score by a notch.

At a steep price of $2.99 per bar (the most expensive one purchased yesterday), I will continue trying other gluten-free bars before returning to Go Raw for another flavor.

1.2 Oz
120 Calories

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wheat Grass and Barley Grass in Naked Juice Green Machine

Having just returned from my trip to Jordan, I have no food in my house and have been too tired to go to the grocery store... Today after my morning work-out, I picked up a Naked Juice.  It's been awhile since I've been making my own juices and smoothies, but I figured it was a quick way to get the same nutrients and vitamins. I went directly to an old favorite - the Green Machine.  After downing the entire bottle in less than 10 minutes, I was waiting for a conference call and read the ingredients wondering what made this green liquid so tasty.  Apples, bananas, kiwi, mango, pineapple, broccoli, spinash, barley grass, wheat grass, ginger, parsely... wait a second, back up. Barley Grass and Wheat Grass? Crap!  Are these gluten free? I know wheat grain and barley grain are not gluten-free so I was suspicious and went to my favorite information source: Google.

I found this website that basically said that the grass shouldn't have gluten, but it's still not certain. Bottom line: avoid wheat, barly and rye grass.  Rats!  I suppose I'll see if I have a headache, joint pain or muscle pain in the next few hours. From here on out, I'll pass on the Green Machine drink and opt for other Naked Juices that don't contain wheat or barley grass.

Here is what one poster shared on the bulliten board:
Q: Is barely and wheat grass safe to use in a gluten-free diet? What about sprouts?

A: According to information from USDA research chemists, specializing in wheat gluten and cereal proteins and a statement from the American Association of Cereal Chemists, gluten is found only in the seed kernel (endosperm) and not in the stem and grass leaves. If the grass is cut from a growing plant and does not include the seed kernel, it should be safe for persons with gluten intolerance to use. Wheat and barley grass are promoted as having superior nutrients, however the nutrient composition of the grasses is not superior to eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, which would be overall more healthy and less expensive than using this supplement. Bottom line is that I would stay away from it at this time and eat more fruits and vegetables! My personal and professional choice is not to use these products. Instead, rely on a variety of gluten-free grains, fruits and vegetables for a nutrient-rich diet. Feel that you must include a grass in your diet; I would recommend alfalfa grass instead of the wheat or barley grass.

As for sprouted wheat or other gluten-containing grains. These are sometimes used in breads that claim to be gluten-free. In talking with many of these bread companies, they claim their breads have no gluten, but none can guarantee that the seed kernels are completely removed before the sprouts are used or that their products have been tested for gluten content. This presents an unacceptable risk for persons with gluten intolerance. GIG does not recommend these products on a gluten-free diet.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Buckwheat flour potential expands for gluten-free bread options

By Stephen Daniells, 15-Apr-2010

A combination of buckwheat and rice flour may produce gluten-free breads acceptable to consumers without the need for hydrocolloids, says new research from Eastern Europe.

The findings could lead to enhanced products for the blossoming gluten-free food market, worth almost $1.6bn last year, according to Packaged Facts, and experiencing a compound annual growth rate of 28 per cent over four years.

Sufferers of coeliac disease have to avoid all gluten in their diet, but diagnosis is not the only factor. Other sectors of the population, such as those who have self-diagnosed wheat or gluten intolerance or who believe gluten-free to be a healthier way of eating, are also strong drivers.

But against this backdrop of popularity, there have been concerns that some gluten-free products on the market made with rice, corn and potato flour and xanthan or guar gum to improve texture have sub-optimal levels of essential nutrients.

The new research, published in Food Hydrocolloids, reports that consumers accepted gluten-free bread prepared with the mixture of rice and buckwheat flour, which were formulated without the need for additional hydrocolloids, including guar gum, xanthan gum, and HPMC

There is increasing focus on the potential of alternative grains like buckwheat to formulate gluten-free foods with additional nutritional benefits.

Indeed, according to the Serbian researchers, “most of the gluten-free products are on starch or rice basis with the addition of different types of hydrocolloids. However, the gluten-free formulations containing gums as the gluten replacements lack in fibres and nutrients.

“Therefore [we aimed] to prepare gluten-free product which would contain rice and buckwheat flour, which is known as nutritionally improved [flour],” they said.

Formulation details

Led by Aleksandra Torbica, researchers from the Institute for Food Technology at the University of Novi Sad formulated a range of gluten-free products with varying ratios of rice flour to buckwheat flour of 90:10, 80:20 and 70:30. The researchers used by husked and unhusked buckwheat flour.

Results showed that the unhusked buckwheat flour-containing products were less stable with weaker protein networks than husked buckwheat flour-containing products.

When tested by a panel of 10 trained tasters, and despite the differences between formulations and varieties of buckwheat flour, all “all six combinations of tested gluten-free breads were sensory acceptable”, said the researchers.

Nutrition benefits

Previously, scientists from the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York reported that replacing standard gluten-free flours with those made from ‘alternative’ grains like oats and quinoa may improve intakes of protein, iron, calcium and fibre.

“By adding three servings of gluten-free alternative grains, the nutrients (fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate and iron) are improved,” wrote the researchers, led by Anne Lee, in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

Supply issues
In a review in the journal Trends in Food Science & Technology (2010, Vol. 21, pp 106-113), it is noted that, despite the successful formulation of gluten-free products using these ‘pseudo-cereals’ “availability of these products in the market is still quite limited. More research is necessary to fully exploit the functionality of these seeds as gluten-free ingredients in the production of palatable products which are also nutritionally balanced”.

Original Article

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On Vacation

Hi Readers!  I'm on vacation until April 17th so check back later for more updates!


Monday, April 5, 2010

A very happy Gluten Free Birthday Party

Saturday was Ernie's Big 28th birthday.  We hosted friends at my condo for a Mexican Fiesta with lots of gluten-free treats.  Here was our menu:

Mexican Corn Bread: this bread did not taste gluten-free, though I messed up the recipe and added 1/2 cup butter instead of 1/4 cup.  It did taste rather buttery.  The corn bread took a LONG time to make - probably about two hours in total. 

Jalapeno Poppers: Jalapeno poppers were a hit!  They're healthier than the deep fried version and were pretty much gone within the first 30 mintues of the party.

Mexican Chicken Casserole: I liked this the best and felt like a solid contributor to the heartyness of the party.  Later that evening, we ate more of the chicken casserole stuffed into soft corn tortilla shells.

Pico de Gallo: this recipe first surfaced on the blog as a salsa topping for our Mahi Mahi.  It's very tasty with tortilla chips.

7 Layer Taco Dip: I think the trick to a good 7 layer taco dip is adding the taco seasoning to the refried beans and also mixing the cream cheese and sour cream. 

Bean Salad: I was skeptical of the bean salad but it was actually a good additioni to have some more veggies to the spread.  I hope this freezes well, as we had a lot left over!

Ernie's famous Guacamole: Everyone loves the guac, it's always gone in a flash. 

Fruit Salad: A mix of pineapple, grapes, apples, pears, oranges, strawberries, etc.  The left overs have become our morning smoothies.

Cookie-Brownie Bars: I love Betty Crocker's new gluten-free mixes.  These taste just like the real thing! No one really noticed that these were gluten-free!

Cupcakes (ok, these were the only treats not gluten-free):  I used Pillsbury's Easy Frost frosting from a can which tasted quite good and was very easy to apply. I highly recommend this - though I hear it's tough for cake decorations. Ernie's attept at my graduation cake was with this frosting can!  There were still about 15 cupcakes left.  I could have skipped making these, but then how would I know how fun Easy Frost is?!

Stay tuned for a video of Ernie's birthday break-dance...

Pico de Gallo

1 ripe avocado, cut into ½ to ½ inch chunks
2 plum tomatoes, cut into ½ inch chunks
1 cup chopped red onion
1 jalapeno pepper or serrano chile, seeded and chopped
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a large glass bowl, and mix gently with a spoon. Set aside. You can prepare this salsa up to a few hours before serving and store it in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Cookie-Brownie Gluten Free Bars


1 box Betty Crocker Gluten Free chocolate chip cookie mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla
1 egg

1 box Betty Crocker Gluten Free brownie mix
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom of 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, stir cookie ingredients together until soft dough forms.  Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto bottom of pan.  The cookie batter will look crumbly.
3. In another bowl, stir brownie ingredients until well blended. Drop batter by tablespoonsful evenly between mounds of cooking dough.
4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until cookie portion is golden brown. Cook completely, about 1 hour. 

Original recipe from

Super Moist Mexican Cornbread

3/4 cup cornmeal (I use Bob's Red Mill Corn Meal)

1 1/4 cup gluten-free flour (I use Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour)
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup cream style corn (pureed in a blender)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg, beaten
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
1-3 jalapeno peppers,depending on your desire for heat, finely chopped
1 - 4 oz. can of green chiles minced and drained
1 1/4 cups grated, monterey jack or cheddar cheese, or a little of both
3/4 cup skim milk


In a large bowl add the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sea salt, and sugar and mix well.

Saute the onion in the olive oil for 25 - 30 minutes, starting out on medium high heat and then lowering to low after the onion starts cooking. Stir frequently. At the end of 30 minutes the onion should have cooked down to about 1/2 of what you started with and be a golden brown.

Add the minced garlic and saute an additional 5 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic. Stir constantly.

Remove the onion/garlic mixture to a small bowl

Add a little more oil to the pan and saute the jalapeno for 8 - 10 minutes on medium high heat.
Add the jalapeno and green chiles to the onion/garlic mixture.
Now add the cream style corn, butter, milk, and egg to the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Do not over mix.
Stir in the onion, garlic, jalapeno, green chile mixture, and cheese till just mixed in.

Pour the cornbread mixture into a greased 9 inch square glass oven-proof dish. Bake at *375 for 25 -30 minutes.

If you like a little more heat in your cornbread, don't hesitate to add more jalapenos to the recipe.

Original recipe from

Mexican Chicken Casserole

1 large onion, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups chopped cooked white meat chicken
1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 corn tortillas, cut into fourths
1 cup shredded fat-free cheddar cheese

Lightly spray an 11x7x1-1/2 inch baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350°F. Sauté the onion in 1/4 cup water in a medium skillet until tender, stirring often. Add the tomato, chicken, broth, chili powder, salt, cumin, and oregano.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer 5 to 6 minutes. Layer half the chicken mixture, half the tortillas, and half the cheese in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken and tortillas.

Reserve the remaining cheese. cover the casserole and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

Original Recipe from

7 Layer Taco Dip

1 (1 oz) package taco seasoning mix
1 (16 oz) can refried beans
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (16 oz) container sour cream
1 (16 oz) jar chunky salsa
1 large tomato chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch chopped green onions
1 small head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 (6oz) can sliced black olives, drained
2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese

1. In a medium mixing bowl, blend taco seasoning mix and refried beans. Spread the mixture onto a large serving platter.
2.  Mix the sour cream and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Spread over the refried beans.
3. Top the layers with salsa. Place a layer of tomato, green bell pepper, green onions and lettuce over the salsa, and top with Cheddar cheese. Garnish with black olives.

Ernie and I don't like black olives so we skipped these.

Original Recipe from

Bean Salad

1 (14.5 oz) can black beans
1 (14.5 oz) can dark red kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans
1 (14.5 oz) can pinto beans
1 (10 oz) can corn cernals
1 tbsp olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tbsp chili powder
1 lime, juiced
1 (8oz) jar chunky salsa
1 pinch dried parsley

1. pour beans and corn into wire mesh colander, rinse under running water
2. In a large mixing bowl, toss beans and corn together with oil, cumin, chili powder, lime juice and salsa.  Sprinkle with prsley, cover and chill.

Original Recipe from

Baked Jalapeno Poppers


16 jalapeno chiles
1 1/2 cups of cream cheese, room temperature (I used on 8oz package)
6 slices of bacon, cooked until crispy
3 Tbs grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp crushed garlic or 2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups cheddar cheese grated

Fry bacon until crispy. Lay on Bounty paper towels to drain grease.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Rinse peppers, slice stems and cut jalapenos in half lengithwise.

Take a small smoon and remove as many seeds as you like.  The heat is in the seeds and membranes. Be careful when removing seeds as the oils are very hot and can burn your skin. Don't touch your eyes! Use rubber gloves if you can. My hands were burning for an hour or so after seeding the jalepenos.

In a medium bowl, add cream cheese, parmesan cheese, and garlic. Mix well.  You can add back seeds that your emoved if you want hot jalepeno poppers.

Crush bacon with hands, remove as much fat as possible and add to the mixture. Stir until well blended.

Spray cookie sheet with Pam.

Using a spoon, mound cream cheese mixture into jalapeno pepper and top with cheddar cheese. Push the cheese into the cream cheese mixture so it sticks.

Place stuffed jalapeno popper on cookie sheet.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until cheese is melted.

Original Recipe on