Crazy Russian Girls Cake is Crazy-Good!

My best friend lives in Bennington, VT and visits as often as he can.  And, when he does, he is gracious enough to bring along gluten-filled (for my wife and himself) and gluten-free (for me!) treats.  He’s lucky enough to live in a town where a local baker has taken up the gluten-free baked goods gauntlet.  Crazy Russian Girls Bakery was born out of a love of food, baking, and feeding people.  They welcome everyone with their food and it’s no wonder why. 

As I mentioned, I’m only able to inhale in these GF treats a few times a year, but let me tell you, they are delicious.  I’ve enjoyed everything from cupcakes to a multi-layered chocolate cake.  Every bite is wonderful.  (My apologies to those who are allergic to chocolate.  I’m not sure what is worse, chocolate or gluten!) 

Each cake is moist and the texture is spot on.  There’s no gritty feel to their cakes and they hold up to their gluten-filled counterparts.  The frosting is nothing to shake a stick at either, but what’s not to love about sugar, butter and cream anyway!  No complaints here.

My wife and I lived in Bennington for a short while.  It was back in the day where no one knew what gluten was, or how to be free of it either.  There was only one health food store in town selling only some of the very earliest of GF products.  I mostly made everything at home and focused on things that were naturally gluten free – like vegetables, meats, rice, and potatoes – go figure!  I wish the bakery had emerged back then – I would have been there every morning to get a coffee and a nice treat on my way into work. 

Well, I’m glad they are here now.  And … I’m even more glad that I have a great friend who brings me treats I can eat.  Yum!  And, yes, Crazy-Good!

It’s not delivery, it’s D’UDI’s!

I first want to say that I don’t work for and don’t get any kickbacks from UDI’s when writing reviews.  I just really like their products and can’t help but promote them to the GF-masses.  My wife and I had a hankering for pizza this week, and we had all the fixings including a package of UDI’s pizza crust in the freezer.  I had bought them a while back with just this situation in mind.  We went out to the garden, clipped some fresh basil, slathered on some great sauce, mushrooms, cheese, and spinach and put it in the oven.  (I want to note that my wife doesn’t always eat my GF food, especially when it comes to pizza, so she had a nice fluffy Boboli crust on the side!)

The smell wafted through the air and made its way around the house.  We were giving my daughter her evening bath as I pulled them out of the oven.  Ahh … pizza.  Nothing like it.  Picture yourself at the local joint folding your pizza, taking down piece after piece.  Yum!

I couldn’t help myself, and dug right in.  It was great.  No complaints, other than I had to make it!  Which I never mind since I know it’s GF!  The crust held up nicely and was easily folded to my liking.  I was licking my chops as I went back to the bathroom to finish up bath-time.

I put my daughter down to sleep and tip-toed down the stairs.  I proceeded to pretty much inhale the rest of the pizza, which, mind you, is really only 8 inches round – so, it’s not saying too much.  Every bite was great.  Hats off to my wife’s topping choices – she’s a fantastic cook.

To wrap up my raving … go out and get some UDI’s pizza crusts, make it at home, get a movie, maybe even some GF beer – and breathe.  It’s all good.

Food Should Taste Good – Yes, yes, it should – even when gluten free!

My brother turned me onto Food Should Taste Good (FSTG) chips recently and I am completely hooked.  I can’t seem to keep them stocked in the house.  My wife loves them too!  It’s hard to find healthy gluten free alternatives to fiber-rich crackers, and these hit the mark.  I suppose they could go on the ‘happen to be gluten free’ list, but I wanted to call them out seeing as I eat them almost every day.  They have pretty much become a cracker-substitute for me.  There’s nothing like a good slice of Cabot NY Sharp Cheddar on one of these chips.  Yum!

So … what makes them so good?!  I think it’s because they didn’t really focus on the non-gluten aspect of the food.  Instead, they focus on what makes healthy food taste good, like incredible flavors and seasonings.  People often ask me when I cook for them – what did you do to make this taste so good?  My answer is often ‘nothing’.  I let food speak for itself.  A little salt and pepper go a long way.  I think that the folks at FSTG work with this philosophy as well.  The food is good already, they are just focused on what makes it healthier and in some instances more sophisticated.

All of the FSTG chips are gluten free, cholesterol free, and are a good source of fiber (which is needed as evidenced by Bill’s recent experience).  Here are a list of my personal favorites:

  • Olive - these taste incredible.  With a little hummus or even guacamole, these chips are great.
  • Lime - Again … dip these in a little guacomole and you’re at your favorite mexican cantina – and you know it’s GF!
  • Cheddar - I know it seems odd to double up, but I do!  I eat these with a slice of cheddar on top and it’s all cheese-kwow goodness.  I would put these in the better-for-you-than-Doritos category. 
  • Toasted Sesame - these are the ones that are most like a cracker to me.  Serve these with a bit of cheese, a shmear of cream cheese or with other crudete.
  • Multigrain - hey, you asked for healthy and GF.  Here it is.  They taste great with anything, really!

I should say that all of the other flavors are great too, I’m just listing my personal favorites.  So … if you stumble on these simply packaged black and white bags of chips – grab a couple.  You won’t regret it.  Crack open a bottle of wine (yes, wine is GF!), get a nice smoked gouda for the chips, and relax – you’ve had a hard day at work!

BBQ Season Opens with UDI’s Buns!

I can’t even remember the last time I ate a hamburger without a fork and knife.  Growing up hamburgers were always being made in our house.  A little ketchup, maybe a pickle on a nice bun – yum!  We’d hang out poolside eating and swimming, then eating more and swimming more.  Those were the days!

Fast forward to today … as I mentioned in my previous UDI’s post, it’s very hard to come by a good bread for anything, let alone a good bun.  Most of the ones I’ve either made at home or bought crumble in my hands before even making it to my mouth.  It’s like trying to pick up sandcastle!  It just can’t be done. 

This past weekend – yes, the weekend before Memorial Day, I had the privaledge of sampling UDI’s new hambuger buns!  The weather was great, and my sister-in-law was visiting (also GF), so I knew it was a great time to grill up some burgers and give them a go. 

Well … without sounding to gushing – they were fantastic.  Both of us cheers’d as we began to bite into our burgers – sans fork and knife – for the first time in ages.  The buns held up amazingly to the juice of the burger and the condiments.  They didn’t crumble, get soggy, or fall apart even as we progressed through dinner.  We didn’t even toast them either! 

The texture of the bun was great.  Unlike other brands I’ve tasted, UDIs buns are not grainy and hold up to their gluten-filled cousins.  The flavor was spot on as well.  It just tasted like a bun – nothing more to it, really.

So … in short, to all you summer-grilling, beach-going, crab salads eating folks out there – turn on the heat and let summer begin – and leave the forks and knives at home!

Flatbread Company is Flat-out GF Good!

Tucked in the back corner of the Shoppes at Farmington Valley in Canton, CT is the Flatbread Company.  I’ve walked by many of times taking in the delicious smells wafting from the clay ovens.  The primary reason why I walked by was that I really didn’t think they had anything for me since I maintain a gluten free (GF) diet.  Well, this all changed last weekend when I saw a small sign out of the corner of my eye stating, “Gluten Free Pizza & Whoopie Pies Available”.  I turned towards my wife with a look of astonishment, also known as “chocolate-face” in my family, and said, “I’m going in to order a pizza to go!” 

I glanced over the menu, which primarily consists of pizza and salads made entirely with organic, local and free-range ingredients.  I chose the vegan pizza - GF style, added the whoopie pie, and waited in anticipation.  I’ve tried a lot of GF pizza along the way, including ones that you can make at home.  The ones I make at home never really hold up.  They ultimately crumble when you try to fold it in half to eat it – which is the correct method for eating pizza (I may get a lot of flack on that point – but that’s how you eat pizza!)  Other restaurants I’ve eaten at have excellent toppings and their sauce is good, but again, the crust falls slight short. 

A short while later, my pizza and dessert were in hand.  The smell was enough to make you want to tear into it immediately.  So, that’s what I did.  My intention was to wait till I got home, but who has time for that when  you have a deliciously smelling pizza in the back seat!  I took one bite and realized what I was missing – as it turns out Flatbread Company has been offering GF options to its patrons for quite some time – I never knew because I never saw it advertised until recently. 

I folded – yes, folded – the pizza in half and took a huge bite.  It was delicious!  My nose and mouth had finally agreed on a GF pizza worthy of scarfing (no, not the kind you put around your neck!)  I put a huge dent in the pie on the way home, with my wife sampling it too.  (I always have her taste GF items to keep me in check.  Having not eaten gluten for over 10 years now, my taste-buds can be askew and need some assistance in the “Is this really that good?” category.  She agreed that it was.)  I finished the rest of the pizza when I got home.  The sauce, the mushrooms, the olives – everything was fantastic.  It was all-in-all the best GF pizza I’ve had thus far.  The whoopiepie wasn’t all that bad either, trust me.  Two delectable pies in one night!

Through this, Flatbread Company is now on my list of preferred eat in/take out restaurants.  While they are primarily found in the northeast, there are a handful of restaurants as far as Hawaii and BC, Canada.  If you have one close to you, call ahead to ask if they serve their GF pizza – and if they do, pick up a pie or 2 or 3!  You won’t be disappointed.

Kay’s Naturals – A Welcome Addition to Gluten Free Snacking!

Kay’s Naturals was thoughtful enough to send us a generous sampling of many of their varied gluten free (GF) products.  We behaved like excited children opening gifts on a holiday when the large cardboard box arrived.  Having done online product reviews in the past for Qwowi.com, we were pleasantly surprised at how much Kay’s Naturals sent us; it was the most liberal product sampling we’ve ever been sent.  On that note, we can certainly understand how Kay’s Naturals must be very proud of their products.  They were excellent.

Dr. Massoud Kazemzadeh created these products with his own wife in mind, who happens to have juvenile diabetes. It is no secret that many tasty treats that happen to be GF or low in carbohydrates also happen to be of low nutritional value.  This fact concerned Dr. Kazemzadeh (Dr. Kay) and that is how Kay’s Naturals was conceived.  We appreciate Dr. Kay’s insights, because it is a noteworthy product line of high fiber, high protein snacks, which also happen to be GF.

For those of you out there who follow a GF diet, you know how agonizing it can be to approach a dessert buffet or tray at a restaurant or party.  While in one moment you are just praying that there is a fruit salad because you know it will be the only thing you can even eat, you would really rather have a gooey slice of chocolate cake.   Eating healthy is, well… eating healthy.  Snacking on fruit is not the same as savoring a piece of cake.  Kay’s Naturals strikes a balance in this notion of healthy eating.  Honestly, some of Kay’s snacks taste “healthier” than others, and we will be honest in our renderings.  Here’s the thing… Kay’s Naturals are healthy… some of the snacks are just “naughtier” tasting than others—and we mean naughty in the good way!

  1. Veggie Pizza Protein Puffs: Yum!  All of Kay’s Protein Puffs have a wonderful crunch and a nice texture.  The flavor in this one really comes out, and it’s a much healthier, yet still tasty version of “a Dorito meets a cheese puff.”
  2. Jalapeño Honey Mustard Pretzels: Surprisingly spicy!  I know, it says jalapeño, but it really does pack a punch!  For me, these didn’t feel or taste like pretzels, yet they were yummy all the same.  They were too crumbly and the wrong texture to be a true pretzel.  Overall, it was good flavor, but I could tell they were healthy.
  3. Honey Flavored, Almond Filled Cookie Bites: These little gems have wonderful flavor, in which the taste of cinnamon and almond really come through, yet the texture is airy.  While tasty and crunchy, they cannot honestly be called cookies; they are more like scrumptious cereal.
  4. Almond Delight Protein Puffs: As mentioned earlier, all of the Protein Puffs were a hit.  Their texture stands up to the non-GF snack world, and for anyone who appreciates a sincere almond flavor, these are perfect.
  5. Apple Cinnamon Protein Cereal, French Vanilla Protein Cereal, and Honey Almond Protein Cereal:  These products are lighter versions of Cheerios.  They are lighter in both texture and in flavor than Cheerios, although much higher in nutrients, so you be the judge.  For us, the flavor didn’t really come through as much as we would have liked, yet the cereal is good, and something we would purchase again.
  6. Cinnamon Toast Pretzel Sticks: These were a hit in our house, and this might have been our favorite product of the samples sent along.  To us, these pretzel sticks actually tasted like cinnamon toast, with a decent texture, and outstanding flavor.
  7. Lemon Herb Protein Chips: Let’s preface this aspect of the review by saying that we love lemon-flavored snacks.  It is rather easy to infuse a food with lemon flavor, too.  Unfortunately, we must be honest and say this snack was not our favorite and we can’t recommend it.
  8. Tomato Basil Protein Puffs: These puffs were surprisingly sweet, and almost tasted more like a sugary, tomato-y BBQ flavor.  We didn’t even notice the basil flavor coming through, which was disappointing.  They are yummy, though, and perhaps should be re-named.  Like all of the Kay’s Protein Puffs, they have nice texture and a great crunch.
  9. Nacho Cheese Protein Chips: If you are in the mood for a much healthier version of a smoky, chili-inspired version of a Dorito, these are the chips for you.  This chip is a fantastic example of a “naughty” tasting snack, which is actually delicious and healthy.
  10. Crispy Parmesan Protein Chips: Awesome!  The taste is perfect, they provide an excellent crunch and texture, and these chips are another example of a yummy snack that you would never believe is healthy, yet carries tremendous nutritional value.
  11. Sweet BBQ Snack Mix: This was another of our favorites.  This was simply great!  It provided a lovely BBQ taste, and varied, exceptional textures, which is rare in the GF snack world.  This was another hit in our household!

One last note—for anyone out there who follows a GF diet, and who is also desiring to lose weight, the Kay’s Naturals website provides a Diet Plan.  We think the Diet Plan is a realistic, affordable, healthy option for GF or non-GF folks to shed pounds.  For anyone searching for a convenient, scripted weight loss program, which is high in fiber, protein, and other nutrients, this may be a viable choice.  The program combines Kay’s Naturals cereals and snacks with other healthy, commonly-available items such as yogurt, lettuce, and canned soups, to make the diet an easy and quick way to step up one’s health, while remaining GF and low-carb.

As you can tell, we really enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy, Kay’s Naturals.  We are glad to have found some nutrient-filled GF foods!  We all know what can happen when you overindulge in GF goodies!

No toasting required: A review of UDI’s gluten free bread – Yummy!

udisgflogoMy sister-in-law (who is also gluten free) mentioned a brand called Rudi’s to me – she said that their bread was incredible.  “You don’t even need to toast it!” she said.  That’s a big deal when it comes to gluten free bread.  Most of the brands on the market fall short on that point and don’t really taste good or hold up well unless they come straight from the toaster.  So … I went a-lookin’ for Rudi’s bread, but found Udi’s instead (no relation).  Since I didn’t see Rudi’s, I thought, well, maybe I just heard wrong (yes, it does happen), so I bought the loaf of Udi’s.   Come to find out – Udi’s bread is incredible, and equally holds up to the no-toaster-required test.

Bread is very specific in quality and texture.  You need the right combination of yeast, wheat and a bunch of other things to hold it together, get those nice air pockets that burst in the oven, and to have it rise just the right amount.  This is a big cunundrum on the side of gluten free.  The yeast can be there, but the wheat can’t – and the gluten can’t either (which tends to hold a lot of things together).  So … when I pulled a piece of bread from the package and felt it’s spungy texture and quality, I was amazed.  I don’t know what they did, but I’m sure someone in that bakery spent A LOT of time, effort, and money (because GF ingredients don’t come cheap) to come up with just the right balance to make such a clone of its gluten-filled brother bread.

udisbreadI slathered on some jelly and some peanut butter and went to town.  YUM!  No toasting, just right out of the package.  Like a kid pulling a couple slices of wonderbread for his PB&J, I was in heaven.  It had been a long, long time since I had a non-toasted sandwich that I enjoyed.  I handed it to my wife for a bite and she was impressed too.  That week I finished 2 loaves of bread – PB&J, deli sandwiches, grilled cheese (dunked in tomato soup, of course), the list goes on…

Here’s the thing (and I think this applies to a lot of GF foods), I hadn’t even heard of UDI’s until about a month ago – crazy as it seems – because it wasn’t in my local health food store yet.  I’m always hesitant to try any new breads party because they are expensive and partly because nothing really holds up.  I’m glad UDI’s products are now local to me.  It’s interesting how our gluten free world becomes limited by what’s in our local grocery store or health food market.  I’ve not tried to by GF foods online because I like to read the package, smell it if I can, and look at the product, otherwise, perhaps my GF world would grow.  On the other hand, I really like giving my business to my local health food store – the Health Food Corner whenever possible.

One last thing about UDI’s – I really like their GF philosophy.  They are great artisans who want to make sure that even those of us with gluten intolerance can enjoy the simplest of things in life – a good piece of bread.  (My mouth is watering for some bread and butter now!)

So … now you know why I list UDI’s bread on my GF starter’s list.  It’s the best I have had – and I don’t have to bake it myself!  You can buy UDI’s bread all over the place.  Click here to find out where you can find a loaf near you, or you can buy some online at UDI’s Online Store.

P.S.  I still haven’t had Rudi’s yet … at some point I’m going to try it though.  My sister-in-law has good GF taste – so I trust her when it comes to these things!

Shhh!, please don’t tell anyone that I am reading the Elisabeth Hasselbeck book!!

So you’re not sure who Elisabeth Hasselbeck is…well I will tell you. She was on Survivor, Australian Outback, went to Boston College where she met her husband, retired quarterback Tim Hasselbeck. But she is best known for her hosting duties on the daily talk show the View, where she has had numerous spats with many guests. I am not going to tell you them all here, but go ahead and YouTube them and you will find them all.

So when I was diagnosed I wanted a good book, well there are many, many, many books pertaining to Celiac Disease, Gluten Free cooking and Gluten Free Living. So you ask how did I end up with the Elisabeth Hasselbeck book, I blame my mother. She mentioned it to me and being a little bit of a momma’s boy (which guy isn’t) I told her I would look at it. Well when I did I found that it was pretty good and answered a bunch of questions that I had.

The G-Free Diet, A Gluten Free Survival Guide is written by Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Dr. Peter Green is a great book for someone who has no idea what gluten even is. Through her own story she talks about how she found out about her diagnosis and how she was not listened to at first until she found someone who dug deep enough to find the correct diagnosis (which I can sympathize with because the same thing happened to me).

I like the way that the authors explain what the allergy is and let people know that it is not a death sentence, even with the fact that you can’t eat bread, and that there are many great things to make and eat. The book calls itself a survival guide and it is just that - with information about, traveling, going to parties, living with a family that is not gluten free among other topics. The one part of the book that was a little lost on me, was a whole chapter on makeup (not sure this Yoda needs makeup, could use some hair but a good foundation…not so much). The book also contains recipes for some easy to make dishes, I have not made anything yet, I am still negotiating a second Gluten Free shelf in the kitchen cabinets.

So if you are newly diagnosed or just want to know a little bit more about Celiac Disease of living a Gluten Free the G-Free Diet is a pretty great book. So you know what, tell everyone that I am reading the Elisabeth Hasselbeck book and in fact go buy one for yourself.

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