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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Gluten-Free

PRODUCT: Zego Gluten-Free Energy Bars

In these modern times it often seems like everything is moving at hyper-speed, and one of the first things to suffer is the quality of your diet (or your kids’ diets). Amplify that by gluten sensitivities, and the struggle to eat sanely on-the-go gets even harder.

Enter ZEGO, a new line of virtuous gluten-free and allergy-friendly energy bars made mostly from organic sunflower seeds, but also including such nutritious ingredients as brown rice flour, pea and rice proteins and quinoa. The sweeteners are agave, brown rice syrup and tapioca syrup.

The ZEGO bar aims high in trying to be safe for every palate and proclivity. In addition to being vegan and gluten-free, there are no nuts, no soy and no dairy (though the bars are careful to note that the facility they use also processes nuts and some of the banned ingredients above).

So ZEGO could even be safe for those following the au courant anti-inflammatory diet. To feel even better about your purchase, ZEGO donates 20% of its profits to the Campaign for Better Nutrition—far above the 5% or 10% we are used to seeing from other brands.

“But how does it taste?” you may ask, intimidated by ZEGO’s credentials. The answer is: delicious!

 

A welcome new energy bar that’s gluten-free. Photo courtesy Zego Snacks.

 

ZEGO has launched with two flavors, Sunflower, with a hint of caramel, and Chocolate with a crunchier texture.

  • Both bars have a consistency reminiscent of a PowerBar, but without the TMJ-inducing toughness of that product. ZEGO are mercifully soft and chewy.
  • Of the two flavors, I definitely preferred Sunflower, with its potent butterscotch-like flavor; but I certainly admired the rich aroma of the Chocolate bar and demolished it the minute I was done with the Caramel.
  • The bars are sweetened with combinations of Agave and brown rice syrups. The chocolate is a Dutch cocoa, but the company’s hope is to replace it with a Fair Trade brand.
  •  
    ZEGO is available for $2.50 per at retailers, and $29.99 for a box of 12 bar, at Amazon: Chocolate and Sunflower.

    The packaging is recyclable—of course.

    —Georgi Page

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Sara Snacker Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

    We’ve written about Sara Snacker cookies in the past, a business that began a decade ago in Sara’s college dorm room in Arizona. These days, the mother of three runs her business from New York City.

    We enjoy most of the line very much, and are always happy when a new sample rolls in.

    This week, we trued the company’s first gluten-free, dairy-free cookie: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chippy.

    While they don’t come out of the package looking like much (there’s a lot of cookie “dust”), they go into the mouth tasting great. We couldn’t stop eating them. The 12 cookie balls lasted maybe 24 hours.

    The ingredients are all natural, and include creamy peanut butter, crunchy whole grain oats and semisweet chocolate chips.

    In addition to a gluten-free recipe, the cookies are certified kosher by Star-D.

    There’s a store locator on the website. The retailers are largely on the East Coast, but you can shop online at SaraSnacker.com.

     

    Peanutbutterlicious, gluten free, dairy free and kosher. Photo courtesy Sara Snacker.

     

    There are 12 cookies per bag; the bags are sold online in lots of three bags ($22.50) and six bags ($36.00). Any peanut butter lover who observes a gluten-free diet will be very pleased.

    Or, in our case, a peanut butter lover who isn’t on a gluten-free diet can happily make them disappear.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Harvest Snaps, A Delightful Riff On Vegetable Chips

    Tomato Basil Lentil Snaps. Photo courtesy
    Harvest Snaps.

     

    We have a new favorite crispy snack to enjoy with beer, wine and Martinis. We love them with soup, too. And for general crunching.

    Harvest Snaps are a line of gluten-free snacks made largely from peas (70%) or lentils (65%). Both legumes are packed with nutrients: calcium, folate, iron, potassium and vitamin B, plus highs level of protein and dietary fiber.

    Harvest Snaps have 50% less fat, lower sodium and more fiber than regular potato chips.

    And they have more pizazz. Harvest Chips are deftly seasoned for a sizzle that goes well with a drink. Flavors include:

    Lentil Snaps

  • Onion Thyme
  • Tomato Basil
  •  
    Snapea Crisps

  • Black Pepper
  • Caesar
  • Lightly Salted
  • Wasabi Ranch
  •  
    If you “Like” the brand on Facebook, you’ll receive a buy-1-get-1-free coupon.

     

    The line is non-GMO, including the canola/sunflower oils used to fry the chips (most canola oil is made from genetically modified seeds). The crops are grown “in rich Canadian soils that stretch across the regions of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.”

    That’s agricultural poetry!

    WHERE TO FIND HARVEST SNAPS

    Harvest Snaps are available at the national’s top retailers:

    Albertsons, Andronico’s, Basha’s, BJ’s, Bristol Farms, Costco, Dominick’s, HEB, Ingles, Kroger, Lucky, Publix, Raley’s, Ralphs, Safeway, SaveMart, 7Eleven, Smart&Final, Spartan Stores, Sprouts, Stop & Shop, Target, Von’s, Walmart, Wegnan’s and Whole Foods Market, among others.

    If you need help finding them, here’s the store locator.

    Retail buyers are notoriously tough; but all they needed to do was taste Harvest Snaps. They’re probably as hooked as we are.

     

    Our favorite flavor, Snapea Crisps in Wasabi Ranch. Photo courtesy Harvest Snaps.

     

    Discover more at HarvestSnaps.com.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Bare Fruit Apple Chips

    An apple never tasted better. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Our favorite packaged sweet snack, Bare Fruit apple chips has expanded the line to two new “flavored” chips. The lineup now includes

  • Chili Lime Apple Chips
  • Cinnamon Apple Chips
  • Fuji Red Apple Chips
  • Granny Smith Apple Chips
  • Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips
  •  

    They’re as satisfying as candy—in fact, much more so, since they’re a guilt-free, all fruit and just 50 calories per bag. Each bag is the equivalent of eating an apple, so you also contribute to your recommended daily fruit and fiber servings.

    Caramel Apple is perfect for Halloween; all varieties of these naturally sweet chips (no sugar added but a special baking process caramelizes the apple’s natural sugar) are great for:

  • Dieter Gifts
  • Glove compartment, desk drawer, gym bag, etc.
  • Stocking Stuffers
  •  

    Here’s our favorite packaged salty snack, which also should be on your stocking stuffer radar: HalfPops, fiber-filled half-poppped popcorn that we like even better than conventional full-popped.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Lovely Caramels, Vanilla & Chocolate Swirl

    The Lovely Candy Company of Woodstock, Illinois is committed to all natural, gluten-free and non-GMO candies made from the best ingredients. Its products include caramels, fruit chews and licorice.

    We love good caramels, and devoured the two bags we received: Original (vanilla) and Chocolate Swirl. We also received Fruit Chews—not our thing—which were devoured by the rest of THE NIBBLE team.

    Buttery and soft yet chewy, no dentures or fillings will compromised by these tender caramels. They’re made from brown rice syrup (a lower glycemic* sweetener), sweetened condensed whole milk, butter, dried cane syrup, molasses, vanilla and lecithin, with chocolate liquor† added for the Chocolate Swirl variety.

    Our preference is for the Chocolate Swirls, which are less sweet than the Original. We’ve earmarked them for stocking stuffers.

    But give us either flavor—the contents will disappear just as quickly.

    The line is certified kosher by KOF-K.

     

    We couldn’t stop eating them until the bags were empty. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     
    We’ve seen the caramels at a number of specialty food stores; there’s a store locator on the company website.

    Or, head to Amazon.com for:

  • Chocolate Swirl Caramels, $5.50 for 6 ounces, a 4-pack for $19.96 or a 12-pack for $59.88
  • Original Caramels, 6 ounce bag, 4 pack and 12-pack
  •  
    You can also find the Fruit Chews on Amazon.
     
    ABOUT BROWN RICE SYRUP

    Brown rice syrup, also called rice bran syrup and rice malt, is a low-glycemic sweetener. This means that its complex sugars are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream—usually a boon for people with diabetes (see the next paragraph). It’s about half as sweet as table sugar and one-third as sweet as agave syrup/nectar.

    Although brown rice syrup has a GI (glycemic index) of 20,* it is not recommended for diabetics. That’s because its sweetness comes from maltose, which causes spikes in blood sugar. But, check with your healthcare provider if you are a diabetic who’d like to try brown rice syrup or products it contains.

    *Table sugar has a GI value of 60-65. Pure maple syrup maple syrup has a GI of 54.

    †A misleading term, chocolate liquor contains no alcohol. It is a thick, gritty, dark brown paste. Here’s a longer explanation of chocolate liquor.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Treat House Gourmet Rice Krispies Treats

    Looking for gluten free treats, mini treats, kosher treats or simply something new and fun? Head to Treat House, a sparkling new establishment that serves up a great selection gourmet Rice Krispies treats.

    The flavors include:

  • Kid Delights: Birthday Cake, Bubble Gum (garnished with a piece of Bazooka), Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Pretzel, Cookies & Cream, M&M, S’mores and Red Velvet.
  • Sophisticated Flavors: Almond Cranberry, Cappuccino, Caramel Sea Salt, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Raspberry, Lemon Zest and Salted Caramel.
  • Seasonal Specialties: Fall specials include Pumpkin Spice (topped with a candy pumpkin, for Halloween) and Maple Pecan.
  •  

    An assortment of creative, gluten-free treats. Photo courtesy Treat House.

     

    Read the full review, and think of Treat House for gluten-free Halloween or holiday treats.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Blake’s All Natural Comfort Food

    Lobster mac and cheese: elegant comfort
    food. Photo courtesy Blake’s All Natural.

     

    Comfort food: does the term need an explanation? Those favorite foods from childhood, rich with nostalgia (and often, rich in calories), are so satisfying. For a brief period of time, they can make you feel that all’s well with the world.

    Apple pie, banana pudding, beef stew, chicken pot pie, chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken, a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and meatloaf…the list goes on and on.

    Depending on your ancestry, there will be additions from foreign lands. Borscht with boiled potatoes and sour cream and bagels with chopped herring or smoked whitefish are on our list.

    Blake’s All Natural Foods specializes in frozen comfort food entrées from American and U.K. traditions. The line consists of all natural, frozen meals. They get popped into the oven or microwave, wanting only a large side salad to round out a convenient, healthful, and delicious lunch or dinner.

    There are individual portions and family-size:

     

  • Mac & Cheese: Chicken Mac & Cheese, Lobster Mac & Cheese (family size only), Old Fashioned Macaroni & Cheese, Veggie Mac & Cheese
  • Old-Fashioned Macaroni & Beef
  • Pot Pies: Chicken Pot Pie, Garden Vegetable Pie, Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pie
  • Shepherd’s Pie (gluten free)
  •  

    Most varieties can be cooked in either a microwave oven or a conventional oven. For the pot pies, you’ll want to use the oven so the lovely crust will crisp delightfully.

    For more information and to find a retailer near you, visit BlakesAllNatural.com.

    The products are made from scratch by actual people (not machines) in small batches by hand. The ingredients are all natural, the poultry and meats antibiotic- and hormone-free, the cheese rGBH-free.

    There’s also an organic line that includes most of the varieties above plus All Meat Chicken Pot Pie and Upside Down Chicken & Waffle Pie. The organic meals contain at least 70% organic ingredients and some varieties are 100% organic. The organic vegetables are also used in the all-natural line.

     

    Pot pies are made in three varieties, one with a gluten-free crust. Photo courtesy Blake’s All Natural.

     

    We tasted a few varieties—all comforting, some requiring a bit of extra seasoning (a tablespoon of grated Parmesan, a shake of nutmeg, some fresh-cracked pepper). In particular, the sauce for the Veggie Mac & Cheese was very buttery, but not cheesy enough for us. A couple of heaping tablespoons of Parmesan solved that!

     
    ABOUT BLAKE’S

    The company traces its origins to a 25-acre farm purchased in Concord, New Hampshire in the Great Depression the farm’s first season in 1929. Clara Blake’s son Roy grew up to farm award-winning turkeys.

    In the third generation, grandson Charlie was experimenting with his grandmother’s recipe for turkey pot pie. With a dozen pies in 1970, he sold out in 20 minutes. For the next 40 years, he sold turkey and chicken pot pies throughout New England—through modern distribution networks, not the back of the van.

    Charlie’s daughter Amy and her husband joined the business, and expanded the line to accommodate the wishes of their own young family—a fifth generation that one day may be the face of Blake’s.

    Grandma Clara would be proud.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Something New For National Whole Grains Month

    Just because it’s National Whole Grains Month doesn’t mean you have to flock to the brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Good as they are, why not try something new—something you might enjoy as much or more? Because whole grains are not only good for you; they’re delicious.

    Thousands of years ago, many more grains were cultivated; in modern times, the majority have fallen out of fashion. Yet, with focus on the important health benefits of whole grains and the recommended 3-5 servings daily, these largely-forgotten nutritional powerhouses call out for your attention.

    All of the ancient grains are very healthful and excellent sources of protein and dietary fiber. They’re a less expensive way to add high protein to your diet, with minimal fat. You may know farro, quinoa and other newly “discovered” ancient grains, but how about these four?

    1. Amaranth. Amaranth was first cultivated 8,000 years in Mesoamerica. Like quinoa, is actually a seed, not a grain. Like quinoa, it is a whole protein, containing all of the essential amino acids (the amino acid lysine is lacking in many grains); and is gluten free. Amaranth contains unusually high-quality protein and is higher in fiber than wheat, corn, rice, or soybeans. Use it place of corn grits in your polenta. Try this Amaranth Polenta with Wild Mushrooms recipe.

     

    Quinoa cakes with spinach, feta and lemon-dill yogurt sauce is a healthier take on spanakopita. Photo courtesy PaniniHappy.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    2. Kamut. Kamut is a trademarked term for khorasan wheat, an ancient relative of modern durum wheat. It originated in Egypt thousands of years ago. Legend says that Noah brought khorasan wheat on the ark, hence the nickname “Prophet’s Wheat.” The grain has inherent sweetness and a buttery taste; it also delivers iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc, plus 7 grams of protein per serving. Try using it in a vegetarian main course, such as Kamut Grain and Shiitake Risotto with Thyme.

     

    Banana bread made with teff. Here’s the
    recipe. Photo courtesy
    52KitchenAdventures.com.

     

    3. Millet. Millet was cultivated in China some 10,000 years ago, making it one of the earliest cultivated grains. It was revered in ancient China as one of five sacred crops*. Whole grain millet is a good source of protein, essential amino acids and fiber. Quick-cooking, easily digested and naturally gluten free, millet has a mild, sweet flavor and can be served in sweet or savory preparations. Try it as a hot breakfast cereal. Serve it as an alternative to rice in salads and stir-fries. Serve millet with a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper in place of mashed potatoes. Add a crunch to deviled eggs, salads and other recipes with toasted millet seeds (recipe). You can also add uncooked millet to breads for a crunchy texture and a hint of sweetness.

     

    4. Teff. Teff is an ancient North African cereal grass, and the smallest grain in the world. The germ and bran, where the nutrients are concentrated, account for a much larger volume of the seed compared to more familiar grains, which provides its “nutritional powerhouse” standing. One serving of whole grain teff averages 4 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of protein and nearly one quarter of our suggested daily calcium intake. Cook or bake with it: Here’s a delicious Apple and Pear Crisp made with teff.

    There’s more to consider, of course. Here’s a complete list of whole grains:

    Amaranth, barley (but not pearled barley), buckwheat (kasha), bulgur (cracked wheat), chia/Salba®†, corn (whole grain corn or cornmeal, yellow or white, but not grits), farro (emmer wheat), flaxseed, grano, hemp, Kamut® (khorasan wheat), millet, oats (oatmeal, whole or rolled oats), popcorn, quinoa, rice (black, brown, red, wild), rye (whole), spelt, sorghum, teff, triticale (a barley/wheat hybrid), whole wheat.

     
    *The list varies by source. The Classic of Rites, compiled by Confucius in the 6th century B.C.E., lists broomcorn, foxtail millet, hemp, soybeans and wheat.

      

    Comments

    GLUTEN FREE: Among Friends Hand-Crafted Baking Mixes

    Phil ‘Em Up combines chocolate chips and
    dried cranberries. Photo courtesy Among
    Friends Baking Mixes.

     

    Our gluten-free products editor, Georgi Page, tastes lots of gluten-free baking mixes. We’re as happy as she is when she finds something she likes.

    One of the hardest things about being gluten-free has been the difficulty of not being able to have a cookie when I want (need?!) one. Without even realizing I was using it as a crutch, I resorted to making homemade granola, and snacking on that.

    It was only when I got a chance to try Among Friends “Phil ‘Em Up” Chocolate Cranberry Cookie mix, made with Oatmeal flour, that I realized just how big the hole in my cookie-loving heart had been.

    Among Friends Hand-crafted Baking Mixes come in regular and Gluten-free varieties. All have healthier, better-for-you ingredients.

     

    The gluten-free line-up includes Phil ‘Em Up, the oat-y chocolate cranberry mix I baked; Shane’s Sweet-n-Spicy Molasses Cookies; CJ’s’ Double Chocolate Cookies and a Trish the Dish Crisp Mix.

     

    The names accurately capture the homey taste and flavor of the end result: toasty, tasty, hearty cookies that are relatively low in fat. The oat cookies I sampled have a very sturdy texture provided by the oat flour, so they’ve got plenty of fiber, without the grittiness of rice flour.

    They also have a faint salty, coconut-y aftertaste that I loved. Some gluten-free products have a mysterious aftertaste that is faintly bean-like, or raisin-y, but that is not a problem here.

    The chocolate chunks are rich but not so plentiful as to be a distraction, and the cranberries retained a chewy tartness. The cookies made me forget I am gluten-free.

    And, I got 14g of whole grain in my serving of two cookies.

    Among Friends’ mixes are made with premium GMO-free ingredients, and the price point of $5.99 reflects it. You’re also getting Callebaut chocolate chips, which are top-of-the-line.

     

    Nice enough to give as gifts to your GF friends. Photo courtesy Among Friends Baking Mixes.

     

    They are a breeze to make. The only advance planning needed was setting out a half stick of butter to soften. Then, you’ll be popping cookies into the oven 5 minutes after opening the adorable packaging (with “stretch of the day” tips on the bottom of the bag).

    For more information about Among Friends Baking Mixes, check the website.

    Here’s a store locator. You can purchase the cookies at Whole Foods Markets, Meijers and Sprouts (coming soon) and online at Amazon.com and AmongFriendsBakingMixes.com.

    — Georgi Page

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Black Rice Tortillas, Exotic & Gluten Free

    Yes, there are gluten-free tortillas from Rudi’s and Udi’s that have been lifesavers for Mexican food fans who follow a gluten free diet.

    But now there are even better ones: black rice tortillas from Food For Life. Exotic, gluten free, vegan and yeast free, they are ready to be turned into:

  • Crust, e.g. for chicken pot pie
  • Croutons (cut into strips, fry and season)
  • Mexican favorites: burritos, empanadas,
    enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas
  • “Mexican lasagne”
  • Sandwich wraps
  • Tortilla chips and nachos (cut into triangles and bake into chips)
  • Tortilla “pizza”
  •  

    Gluten-free wraps are dramatic as well as tasty. Photo courtesy Food For Life.

     
    WHAT’S BLACK RICE?

    Black rice, also known as purple rice and forbidden rice, is a group of rice types that are black or dark brown when harvested, but turn purple when cooked.

    Unlike refined white rice, black rice is a whole grain loaded with fiber, 18 amino acids, iron, zinc, copper, carotene, vitamins, minerals and anthocyanins (the same antioxidants that are found in like those found in açaí, blackberries, blueberries and tart cherries, and give all of these foods their deep pigments).

     

    Quesadillas with a twist. Photo courtesy
    LeslieLovesVeggies.net.

     

    In ancient times, black rice was reserved exclusively for Chinese emperors—thus the name forbidden rice. (See the different types of rice.)

    Today, you don’t have to be royalty to enjoy black rice—you can buy it at almost any natural foods store and online. It makes an especially glamorous rice pudding: Thai black rice pudding with coconut milk.

    A healthier alternative to traditional wheat flour tortillas, these black rice tortillas are tastier, too.

    One thing to watch out for: We didn’t see an expiration on our package and left them out at room temperature. The tortillas are actually pretty fragile: the shelf life is five days at room temperature. But they’ll stay fresh for three weeks when refrigerated and one year frozen.

     

    The tortillas are certified kosher by KOF-K.

    Here’s a recipe for homemade gluten-free tortillas.

    Here are some of our favorite gluten-free products.

    For information on gluten intolerance, visit the Celiac Disease Foundation.

      

    Comments

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