Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Four more years! Four more years!

So it looks like the folks over at Frito Lay decided to celebrate my fourth anniversary of being a glutard by removing the wheat flour from their Nacho Cheese Doritos! Aww, shucks! You shouldn't have! No really, because even though they are no longer Nacho Cheesier, they're still pretty darn addictive. 

The Frito Lay website doesn't reflect the changes, but I've recently seen bags at a couple of stores that no longer contain wheat flour in the ingredient list, nor have the wheat allergen disclaimer. Let's celebrate four strong years of glutenless growth for your resident goddess by ripping open a bag of Doritos and snacking ourselves silly!*

*After verifying that the bag you're holding is actually gluten-free, of course, since it is never a good idea to just rely on what other people say. Even if that other person is me.  

Opinions about Food: Against the Grain Gourmet's Original Baguette

Like I said, I've been trying a lot of new stuff lately. I recently tried Chocolate Chex, Celia Saison (a new gluten-free beer), and Against the Grain Gourmet's Original Baguette. I wouldn't have thought to look for a gluten-free baguette, except that one of my friends recently got married and put me in charge of finding bread and cupcakes for myself and a couple of other glutard guests. Lucky for me, my trip to Whole Foods was quite rewarding. I can honestly admit that I don't often get emotional over bread... but here we go!

A little context: A lot of gluten-free bread products are unsatisfying. Like, I wouldn't wish them on my enemies terrible. Traditionally, gluten-free flours tend to be dry and crumbly, and/or have weird flavors and textures. Recently things have improved quite a bit, but I still felt like the breads I'd occasionally try left something to be desired. Until I found Against the Grain Gourmet. This company seems F'ing rad. They source local ingredients, treat their employees well, and only put real foods into their products. Essentially, they're a company by glutards, for glutards, with a completely gluten-free facility. 

Pros: Amazing texture - a soft center with a thicker crust, as you would expect from a glutenous baguette. Guessing based on their ingredient list, it seems as though they solved the dry and crumbly problem with cheese instead of using a filler or binder. This is M-Fing genius. It adds a hint of satisfying saltiness without compromising the bread flavor, and results in a moist, durable slice of bread. And you can taste the difference! Not because of the cheese, but it tastes like something a human made and not like something that came out of a lab. There isn't weird shit in this bread. And looking at the bread, I could *see* that they used *real* eggs because it had a homemade sheen that most mass-produced bread products just don't have. I hadn't realized how un-wholesome some of the stuff I had been eating was until I tried this. This labor of love birthed one of the most magnificent gluten-free products I've ever had. This baguette was delicious and durable with and without toasting. I sliced and toasted my baguette with some olive oil and garlic and it easily supported my heap of Trader Joe's Bruschetta. My friend Jane tells me that their pizza crust and frozen pizzas are also solid gluten-free offerings. 

Cons: Because it contains cheese it probably isn't a good option for anyone with a lactose sensitivity. Also, I'm not sure if their products are distributed nationally.

Overall: It is a little known fact that I had just been introduced to bruschetta and toppings prior to my gluten allergy. In fact, I may have only lived on Pop-Tarts, french bread, and cheese for a brief period of time. When my mom was first diagnosed as gluten-intolerant seven-ish years ago, I was so turned off by the gluten-free bread products that I just assumed that my bruschetta days were solidly behind me. However, Against the Grain Gourmet came along and completely changed my opinion of gluten-free bread products. Seriously. They should keep doing whatever magical thing they're doing, because their products taste so fresh and real. If you see their baguettes at Whole Foods, definitely give them a try! Two very enthusiastic thumbs up for these guys. WIN!

PS: Vermont appears to be a hotbed of gluten-free-friendly activity. Against the Grain Gourmet is up there, Celia Saison, a new gluten-free beer, is also from there (here's a non-glutard raving about it and other new beer offerings), and I had a gluten-free crepe when I was there on vacation. Maybe we glutards should put Vermont atop the list of our travel destinations!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Opinions About Food/Beer: The Alchemist Brewery's Celia Saison

Whoa, this beer doesn't have such a strong sorghum-y finish! What am I talking about? A new regional brew out of Vermont, the Alchemist Brewery's Celia Saison. Formally only offered in their pub, this beer is now in limited distribution in New England. The pizza place near me that offers gluten-free crusts recently started carrying Celia Saison in addition to Bard's - Clearly since I had never seen this before, I had to try it. Also, TWO GF BEERS IN ONE PLACE AND PIZZA??? I'M NEVER MOVING! 

I'll begin my review with some comical beer reviews from non-glutards who are clearly comparing it to glutenous beers and not gluten-free beers: Beer Advocate Reviews.

Have all the children and gluten-beer drinkers left? Good. Cuz here's an opinion from someone who doesn't have barley beer fresh in her memory as a comparison.

Pros: Celia Saison is a light-ish, citrusy beer. (Can you tell that I'm a real technical beer aficionado?) I think it is made from sorghum, but I honestly can't remember. This beer starts nicely and has a nice mouthfeel (is that a thing?), but I think its greatest strength lies in the finish. Unlike most gluten-free beers which end on notes of moldy grass (aka sorghum), or hot rusty pipe water, Celia Saison finishes pretty crisp. In case you're a slow beer drinker like me, I'll also mention that Celia Saison maintains its charm as it warms up. 

Cons: Hard to find, but worth the effort.

Overall: All-in-all, a welcome addition to the New England glutard beer scene. Hopefully they'll continue to grow so that they can begin distributing this elsewhere, too. 

Opinions About Food: Chocolate Chex Cereal

In light of some recent exciting developments in other parts of my life, this week I'll be sharing some (overdue) product reviews instead of more substantial content. 

I've been a far more adventuresome glutard than usual. Although typically I don't seek out gluten-free substitute foods aside from pasta and frozen waffles, I've been revisting these products lately. And these adventures have been fruitful. On my latest adventure, I stumbled upon Chocolate Chex. I was on a mission for Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs and, well, Mission Accomplished!

Pros: The box says 'with a touch of cocoa.' That's quite an understatement, General Mills. These little buggers are the perfect amount of chocolatey. I feel like a kid who is pulling one over on her parents because Chex is typically a healthy cereal but these are only slightly more age-appropriate than Cocoa Pebbles (which are also gluten-free). Unlike their pebbly competitor, these don't turn into soggy little rice flakes that become impossible to catch with your spoon. Their larger size means you can easily scoop up every 'touch of cocoa' in your bowl. And they make your milk taste awesomely chocolatey, not fake chocolatey. The box also clearly states 'gluten free' in huge contrasting colors and font, which is how I spotted them in the cereal aisle anyway. And Chocolate Chex make a good snack on the run, sans milk. And they'd probably make good finger food for a toddler, if you want your toddler addicted to touches of cocoa.  {End Lovefest}

Cons: They do get soggy pretty quickly. I blame all of the damn holes in the grid that let the milk in for ultimate penetration.

{Resume Lovefest}

Overall: A solid gluten-free friendly cereal option from the folks at General Mills. If you want to make your Chocolate Chex healthier, add fruit. I found that they pair well with bananas or blueberries. Chex also comes in Cinnamon, Honey Nut, and possibly Apple Cinnamon varieties that are gluten-free. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Opinions About Food: Kinnikinnick Soft Hamburger Buns

Whoa, it has been a really long time since I've polluted the internet with my reviews of food. Wait no more, because I have stuff to say! 

I'm going to warn you that I don't care about bread. Bread is dead to me. Cupcakes are very much alive but bread gets a big ol' whatever. That said, I went to a BBQ recently and the hostess purchased a package of Kinnikinnick Soft Hamburger Buns for me at a local Whole Foods. I was surprised by these buns. I had a gluten-free bun approximately a year ago and it sucked. I wish I could remember what brand it was, because it was crumbly and therefore 100% useless. These Kinnikinnick buns were the opposite of crumbly. So here's the review.

Pros: These Kinnikinnick hamburger buns taste and feel like their over-processed, super-refined glutenous counterparts. They hold up to copious ketchup, and so are useful for picnics and BBQs. They toast nicely, although they are actually really good without toasting. And they freeze well. Oh, and they are standard hamburger bun size, so you're not being cheated out of burger-holding space. Like I said, I don't really care for/about bread anymore, but these were completely functional and impressive for their ability to imitate a regular hamburger bun. 

Cons: Only four per package. This is four times as many buns as I'd ever want at once, but you might want a bigger package if you're going to an all-day event. 

Overall: Bring these along to your next BBQ so you don't have to search for a fork and a plate. Enjoy the free hand that a functional gluten-free bun affords by holding a gluten-free beer. 

Summer Shoe Hunt Update (AKA Options about Shoes)

Because I'm sure you care after I mentioned my search here, I purchased two new pairs of summer shoes. Both lean toward casual, which means I'll have to come up with something else for summer wedding season, but both seem pretty comfortable. 

1. Toms. Yeah, whatever. All the kids are doing this. But I wanted a shoe I could wear sockless and I wanted that shoe to cover my feet and be breathable. So I bought a pair of red classic Toms. They're breathable. They have the teeniest bit of arch support. They dry quickly if you're caught in the rain (which is pretty much how June has gone). They don't rub in the exactly the same place as most of my ballet flats. And the lining makes it feel like my feet are wrapped in bedsheets. They do make my big feet look a tad like skis, but I've always wanted red shoes and am currently living the dream. Win.

2. Birkenstocks. I wanted a feminine yet supportive sandal for dinking around this summer. I do a lot of dinking, so support was really important to me. I'm also kind of sensitive about my feet looking large and mannish, so I ended up getting a pair of Birkenstock Mayaris, a ladyshoe if I've ever seen one. They run a little big, so I was able to get my man-sized foot into the largest women's size. Not going to lie, they're a bit on the small side. But they're so cute that I just couldn't send them back. I feel like a girl in these sandals! A girl with supported arches and perfectly polished toes on display! The straps are lined with felt or something, so there aren't sharp edges to dig into my tender feet. I'm still breaking these/my feet in a little, but I'm calling them a win, too. Win.

So yeah, that's the conclusion to the quest that consumed me for days. I'm a winner?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Second Mac & Cheese Recipe!

I love mac and cheese. So much so that I want to shout it from the rooftops. However, it is not exactly the healthiest meal on the planet. Which is why I am so glad that my friend Kathleen posted a recipe a while ago for a healthier Cauliflower Mac and Cheese over at her blog, Perfect Recipe Project. This recipe is easier than the previous one I linked to, but just as satisfying. It also includes Tony Chachere's cajun seasoning, which is one of my new favorite things. In fact, 'In Tony I Trust,' is my new seasoning motto. Cauliflower is a fantastic vegetable addition to the pasta since it is already relatively white and flavorless ...just like noodles! Plus, cauliflower holds up better for leftovers, so you're not just left with an amorphous blob of day-two gluten-free noodles. But wait, there's more! Kathleen's recipe calls for Greek yogurt, which means that you're sneaking extra protein in along with the veggies! How clever! 

Being me, I took it upon myself to pimp out Kathleen's recipe. I used quinoa noodles, my favorites, as the pasta base (more protein!). Then I followed the directions, except: 
-I sauteed half of an onion in butter (because it was already on my counter) and added that to the mix
-I nearly doubled the amount of cheese. 50% less fat = 50% more cheese! I trust Kathleen and think her recipe is probably awesome already, but I wanted it to look cheesier while I was stirring all of the ingredients together
-I also browned some gluten-free bread crumbs with butter, salt, pepper, and a dash of Tony's and topped my mac and cheese with that before baking it (because I had leftovers)

This version has surpassed Alton Brown's as my favorite homemade mac and cheese because it is easier and healthier while still being flavorful. It is the perfect bit of comfort food for when the weather decides it should be chilly and rainy even though it is June.