Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: Against the Grain Original Baguette—ooh la la!

I've been mostly gluten-free (GF) now for more than a year. It's been a great change for me, however, I do love French bread and miss it with my fromage, vin and olives. I have tried a number of homemade, pre-made and packaged GF breads and have been routinely disappointed—dry, tasteless and many times so bad I was at a loss for mots.
Against the Grain Original Baguette

Ever optimistic, I ponied up beaucoup d'argent for a bag of two Original Baguettes from Against the Grain at my local Giant, bracing for buyer's remorse yet again.

Friends, I was NOT disappointed. I was ecstatic, elated, overjoyed. Seriously, if you have been GF for any period of time and not found a single go-to GF bread that you can splurge on, you will understand. These baguettes are frozen, which is usually the precursor to dry, falling-apart nastiness.

But not with Against the Grain. These baguettes are crunchy on the outside with a light and chewy inside that is vaguely sweet. I've used it as garlic bread, and I've eaten it plain. I love that I can pull a frozen loaf out of the freezer, microwave it and toast it—and voila! Delicious GF French bread in minutes.

Go out and buy it right now. You will not be disappointed. Plus, I want to make sure it never gets discontinued!

Review: Iloves Organic Divina Pitted Green Olives

Amazing Organic Divina pitted green olivesThis post is LONG overdue. My friend Heidi brought us a goody bag years ago that included two jars of Organic Divina olives. First of all, I love olives. Second of all, I love filthy dirty martinis, which are only as good as the olive juice. 

I've had olives of every size, shape, origin and color, and firm mild green ones are a favorite. 

These Organic Divina olives are in a class by themselves. Firm-fleshed, not too salty, sort of buttery, mild and flavorful. Seriously, simply the perfect green olive marinating in barely cloudy juice that begs for top-tier vodka. 

They are grown in Northern Greece, where they are cultivated organically--no pesticides, coloring or additives. 

I set out to buy them and had to get them on Vitacost. They are not inexpensive at $4.59 a 10.2-oz jar, but worth it and if you buy 11 jars, shipping is free (haha!). 

Olives are full of good fat and delicious flavor, which makes them a great snack. Hope you get to try them and leave me your thoughts! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review: Mr. Milkman Delivery Service

Delivery time!
Folks, my dad's friend told me to check out Mr. Milkman and, when I did, I could not contain my excitement! 

You know all the local and organic agriculture in and around Central PA? Well, imagine being able to pick and choose from many purveyors with dozens of products and have them show up on your porch in a few days. This is your new reality, my friends. 

We tried Mr. Milkman and here are some of my thoughts:
  1. At my request, they made a special delivery for our first order on Thursday, though our usual day will be Tuesday. Very accommodating.
  2. Dan, one of the owners, pulled up in this adorable truck and personally loaded our goodies into a cooler waiting on the porch. He was very nice, apologizing for accidentally giving my peanut butter ice cream to another customer and making up for it with two containers (rocky road and chocolate covered strawberry).
  3. My order: 2 dozen eggs from Nature's Yolk; pint of peanut butter ice cream, quart of buttermilk and quart of cream line whole milk from Trickling Springs Creamery; homemade 1-pound tub of FarmFriend natural butter; two pork chops (pastured); and one container of Pequea Valley Natural Yogurt (vanilla).
  4. The delivery area is huge! You Philly people and suburbanites can participate, too.
  5. If you have never had cream line milk, you are in for a rich treat. Timmy was not a fan, but Alex and I LOVED it in our morning coffee.
  6. Soy-free eggs are available. A little pricey but an excellent option for the many people avoiding soy these days.
  7. Other products: homemade sauerkraut, artisan cheese, honey, raw milk, gluten-free baked goods, Charles Chips and much more local meat.
  8. The ice cream was decadent, super delicious, but the label indicated a lot more ingredients than I expected from homemade ice cream. 
  9. The delivery fee of $4 is more than fair. The prices are in line with what you'd pay anywhere for products of the same quality that are probably less fresh.
  10. All in all, we are ordering again. Love getting fresh milk in glass containers (no waste!) and knowing where our food is grown.

Try Mr. Milkman and come back to tell me what you thought, too!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What's in My Makeup Bag, Part 1: Mascara

Finding Beautycounter's super clean skincare line has given me a renewed energy to be stricter with the cosmetics I'm using day in, day out. Until the time comes that BC debuts their makeup line, I am content with a some decent options I've found that are also good performers and not too expensive. 

First up, mascara. I have to admit my favorite is Tarte's Lights, Camera, Lashes (everyday). The waterproof version—Lights, Camera, Splashes is also in my bag. I have also often used Korres B5 & Rice Bran mascara, which is safer but harder to find. They also seem to change the formulation and name constantly.

Tarte Lights Camera Lashes Mascara
What I like about these Tarte mascaras is the performance. LCLashes seems to actually curl your lashes even without an eyelash curler. It has no discernible scent, doesn't flake, comes off easily with cleanser, doesn't irritate my eyes and isn't too expensive. LCSplashes is much the same, though it can get clumpy. It's tougher to get off, but that is true of most waterproof mascaras. 

The downside of these mascaras is that they rate a "4" and a "6" respectively on EWG's Skin Deep Database (SDD). They contain four different parabens that I prefer to avoid (and phenoxyethanol, which is a safer preservative, in my opinion).

So how did I end up with a moderately toxic mascara? Through experimentation. I have tried roughly a kajillion mascaras over the past decade or more. Everything from Dior Show, which is expensive and delivers an amazing result (but is a "5" in the SDD) to Honeybee Gardens mascara, which rates an impressive "1" in SDD but didn't work well for me. I also tried Physicians Formula Organic Wear 100% Natural Origin Mascara, which is available at drugstores, and scores a nice low "1" in SDD. But I didn't like it. It was thin and the wand was plasticky. 

Jane Iredale Longest Lash Thickening
and Lengthening Mascara
Ecco Bella Mascara from Amazon
Ecco Bella Flowercolor
Natural Mascara
Beautycounter's creative director, Christy Coleman, has recommended Jane Iredale's line for the time being, and that mascara also scores a healthy "1" in SDD as well. Another I have not tried but scores well is Ecco Bella Botanicals Flower Color Natural Black Mascara ("1" on SDD). Please let me know if you have used either of these and if you like them.

Up next, BB cream.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Review: Tate's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

As many of you know, I am trying to eat less gluten. I find that I feel less tired in the afternoon and a gluten-free (GF) protocol is suggested for anyone with migraines or autoimmune issues. Plus, I find it easier to maintain a healthy weight when I cut out a lot of empty carbs. 

The reason I cut out a lot of carbs when I am eating GF is that most GF breads, cookies, etc., are really not very tasty. If you are lucky enough to have a local GF bakery, you may find a bread you like. The only downside is that it doesn't keep long and tends to go bad before we finish it. 

One notable exception: Tate's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I found these at Wegman's and thought the packaging looked so tempting I had to try them. 

I was in for a pleasant surprise. If you like thin, crispy, buttery chocolate chip cookies, you will love these. I think they are as good as any homemade chocolate chip cookie, GF or otherwise.  

Give them a try: A 3-pack on Amazon is just a few days from your door. :)