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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 Diet Nibbles

PRODUCT: Ian’s Sausage Pancrepes

Really tasty: Ian’s Sausage Pancrepes. Photo
courtesy Elevation Brands.

 

More than 10 years ago, a concerned dad learned that his son, Ian, had multiple food allergies. He set off on a journey to develop a line of kids’ favorites, so Ian and other children with allergies wouldn’t have to miss out.

“Can you imagine going through life unable to eat pizza or onion rings or a chocolate chip cookie?” says Chuck Marble, CEO of Elevation Brands? “Imagine sitting down at the dinner table and everyone else gets to eat chicken tenders or fish sticks except you.”

If the rest of the line is as delicious as the Sausage Pancrepes we just demolished, everyone will be scrambling to enjoy the products. Nothing in the very tasty pancakes gave any hint of a dietary restriction. The box front told a different story: NO wheat or gluten, NO milk or casein, NO nuts, NO soy.

 

But NO here means YES, it’s delicious. The box of four small sausages wrapped in pancakes (9 ounces net weight) was an instant hit, without the need for maple syrup or any other seasoning. They went quickly, and we could only wish for a few dozen more boxes.

Ian’s manufactures approximately 40 allergy-friendly foods for every time of the day: breakfast, entrées, desserts, snacks and sides. There are gluten-, dairy- and soy-free Mac & No Cheese; gluten-free chicken patties and tenders; onion rings and more.

There’s a store locator on the website, and if there’s no store near you, you can email your local retailer’s information to their sales team.

For more information, visit IansNaturalFoods.com.

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Hearts Of Palm

Back in the day when we still seriously dieted, we created what we called a luxury salad—absolutely delicious and “luxurious” because the ingredients were relatively costly:

KAREN’S LUXURY SALAD RECIPE

Ingredients

  • Artichoke hearts
  • Hearts of palm
  • Pimiento (roasted red pepper)
  • Sliced red onion
  • Black olives
  • White wine-olive oil vinaigrette
  • Optional: frisée, radicchio or other salad greens
  •  
    Preparation

    Just combine and serve!

     

    Hearts of palm. Photo courtesy Foodesto

     

    Whenever we’re feeling diet-minded—or simply want to detox from the rich foods we eat all day, we whip one up. If you can get to a club store, artichoke hearts and hearts of palm are more affordable.

    Hearts of palm are best chilled or at room temperature, and thus best with cold dishes. Add chopped hearts of palm to:

  • Green salads
  • Cold grain salads, such as barley, tabbouleh or quinoa salad
  • Vegetable salads
  • On skewers with water chestnuts, olives and cherry tomatoes
  •  

    Some people serve hearts of palm on a crudités platter with dip, or deep fried with dipping sauce. But that, to us, covers up the delicate flavor of the hearts of palm, which at best need only a light touch of vinaigrette.

    WHAT ARE HEARTS OF PALM

    Hearts of palm are the edible hearts of young palm trees. Palm branches are harvested and cut; the bark and leaves removed to expose the tender inner core.

    Hearts of palm have a smooth, firm consistency, a snap to the bite, and a flavor similar to artichoke; they can be used in as a substitute for artichokes in a recipe. They can be either white or pale yellow, depending on whether the palms are wild or cultivated.

    Hearts of palm have only 50 calories per cup, is a great source of dietary fiber and is a good source of protein, riboflavin, potassium and, vitamin C, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, copper and zinc. The only caveat: They can be packed in water with a high sodium content.

    WHERE DO HEARTS OF PALM COME FROM?

    Due to poaching in Brazil, Ecuador is now the largest producer and exporter of hearts of palm. Costa Rica is the largest exporter of to the U.S, and Hawaii also produces some palm hearts.

      

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    GLUTEN FREE: Glutino Toaster Pastry

    THE NIBBLE’s gluten-free expert, Georgi Page, reports on another excellent product.

    Glutino Food Group has been in the gluten-free business for a long, long time, since the days when it wasn’t necessarily a cash-cow, but more of a labor of conviction.

    They claim that their strategy is to simply “shut up and listen” and I have tasted enough to honestly believe them: The proof is in the pastries! Their responsiveness to what their market craves, and their brilliance at translating it, shows in the quality of their gluten-free products. And not just the quality, but the satisfaction, which is so far unparalleled for a gluten-free food brand (and I have tasted plenty).

    Recently, I had a chance to revel in the latest offerings from Glutin: Toaster Pastry.

     

    A superior toaster pastry in Apple Cinnamon or Strawberry. Photo courtesy Glutino Food Group.

     
    A treat along the lines of Pop-Tarts, the Glutino Toaster Pastry is actually more like that snack’s older, more intelligent cousin. It forsakes the cloying frosting and the candied filling with a crisp pastry that enfolds tangy, not-too-sweet apple cinnamon and strawberry fillings. It’s that breakfast-on-the run, or that late-afternoon snack with coffee or tea.

    The Apple Cinnamon is my favorite, with a flavor profile that went far beyond my expectations. It actually tastes like apples, and coming from a Minnesotan, there are few higher compliments.

    The trick is that it is in fact made with apples, with just the right amount of sweetness and spice. The crust, after toasting, is flakily satisfying without being greasy, yet still manages to have a great mouthfeel. Each pastry is 160 calories, with only 45 from fat; and the sugar content is a completely justifiable 12g. These are comparable to—or even better than—your average healthy granola bar!

     

    Mmm, delicious! Photo courtesy Glutino Food
    Group

     

    GOOD FOOD

    Nothing in the ingredients list is scary. The one ingredient I questioned, inulin, turned out to be a naturally-derived carbohydrate—a soluble fiber that can increase calcium and magnesium absorption as well as promote the growth of beneficial intestinal flora (as long as eaten in moderation)!

    The only thing that would make these better as a quick breakfast on-the-go, would be additional nutritional supplementation. But I don’t even ask that much. These pastries have already delivered something above and beyond, as Glutino manages to do every time. The brand is my gold standard.

     

    AND A COUPON!

    But as any manufacturer will tell you, the best ingredients are costly. Some retailers won’t carry these higher price point because of that, making it harder to get your hands on the line.

    To make trial a bit more affordable, here’s a link to a coupon for $.55 off of any Glutino product. Some retailers include Fresh Direct and Whole Foods, and you can find the products on Amazon.com.

    A box of 5 individually-wrapped pastries is $4.49 (90¢ each) on Amazon; a case of six boxes (30 pastries) saves a few cents.

    Here’s a store locator.

    MORE GOOD FOOD

    I cannot wrap up this review without a rave for a few of Glutino’s other standouts. The company makes a nice range of gluten-free products, from cookies to crackers, breads and pastas. The quality of what I’ve tried is unparalleled, the flavor is flawless.

  • The gluten-free pretzel chips are a big hit! Glutino’s pretzels, with their delightful crispness and shiny malty flavored coating tapped into the dormant pretzel monster within. I found that they had the perfect balance of toastiness to saltiness.
  • I also have to give kudos to Glutino’s chocolate vanilla creme cookies—but be careful, you could easily eat the whole package. I found myself putting them out of view and tip-toeing away to avoid the temptation. They are crunchy and luscious-tasting, and the creamy filling melts in your mouth.
  • I have not tried it, but am eager to sample the gluten-free spaghetti. I have no doubt it will be spectacular.
  • The line is certified kosher by Scroll K.

     
    —Georgi Page

      

    Comments

    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

      

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    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.

      

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    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.

      

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    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.

      

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    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.

      

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    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.

      

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