Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: Metropolitan Gourmet Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons

My first review following two whirlwind days at EXPO East comes from a company I didn't set out to see. So glad I stopped to chat.

My go-to healthy dinner used to be a chicken Caesar salad but when I went gluten-free, I found myself missing the crunch. And fell out of the habit. 

Among the gems at the show, I found my way to Metropolitan Gourmet, purveyors of gluten-free croutons and bread crumbs. Jerry kindly gave me a sample of their new garlic croutons and a box to take home. 

I must really have been missing croutons in my life. After an eight-hour day on my feet and a 90-minute drive home, I took one look at a piece of grilled chicken left over from the kids' dinner and chopped up a chicken Caesar salad...because I had croutons! 

Metropolitan Gourmet Garlic Gluten-Free Croutons
Chicken caesar salad with Metropolitan Gourmet Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons.
I always have Parmesan cheese on hand but it was lucky that my favorite yogurt-based Caesar dressing and fresh romaine also happened to be in my fridge. Voilá! 

It was delicious. MG's GF croutons were fresh, crunchy, flavorful and just the right size (thankfully not those giant ones that don't easily break and are too big to eat politely). 

In addition to being gluten-free and non-GMO certified, the products are soy-free, corn-free, dairy-free and egg-free. Their goal is simple ingredients and great taste. Mission accomplished. 

I'm looking forward to baking with the bread crumbs and trying Metropolitan Gourmet croutons to make GF stuffing for the holidays. Yum!

You can purchase them on their website under the Retail tab. Check out the recipes while you're there, too!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Natural Products EXPO East is this week!

Last year was the first year I attended Natural Products EXPO East and I was unprepared for the scope of brands I'd get to meet. I didn't even plan a full day there! This year, I am booked for two full days, so I can take my time and see all the new products launching as well as see companies I love.

I came home with a huge bag of goodies last year and ended up not doing too many reviews, due to switching jobs and to being very choosy about what I recommend. (I see no reason to do negative reviews unless a company is being negligent or intentionally dodgy.)

I'm armed with a list this year. Very excited to connect with like-minded people and introduce my readers to healthy, delicious options. 

Be back next week!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: EVOL Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese (GF) — Ah-mazing.

evol gluten free smoked gouda mac & cheeseAdmit it, sometimes you need to grab food that is pre-made. All the best planning in the world cannot predict life's little surprises (or laziness). My friends, I have a great option for you. I mean, that is if you eat dairy and love small doses of comfort food.

I spied EVOL Smoked Gouda Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese at Target in the frozen aisle and just had to try it. I am a complete sucker for mac and cheese. And making it from scratch with GF pasta is a crapshoot. It seems that most pasta I try ends up with a less-than-ideal consistency. 

Now, by the LOVE of EVOL (see that?), I can pop a single-serving of bliss into the microwave (or oven if you prefer) and 4 minutes later have a quick meal. A cheesy, tasty, perfect lunch or snack. 

Here's how they describe it on their site: "Gluten-free elbow noodles, caramelized onions and chives—All combined with an insanely tasty smoked gouda cheese sauce." Accurate.

Like bacon? You're in luck. They make Gluten-Free Uncured Bacon Mac & Cheese touted as "Gluten-free elbow noodles, crispy uncured bacon and peas—All combined with an insanely tasty cheddar cheese sauce." Again, deliciously on the mark.

This company is pretty evidenced by their mission statement: 

Try some of their frozen entrees, quesadillas, pastas, burritos...and come back to tell me if you're as in evol as I am!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Oh, Kraft, You're So Fake!

Today, I once again promised myself I would blog more. So, naturally, I looked to see if I had any posts drafted that I could publish now, before starting a fresh one. 

Lo and behold I came across a blast from the past—2009 to be exact—detailed how I had written a letter to Kraft asking them why they were willing to reformulate their products to healthier specifications in the E.U. but continued to sell their artificial, chemical version of Macaroni & Cheese to U.S. consumers. I finally got a reply [again, back in 2009] as follows:

Dear Valued Consumer,
We received your recent e-mail about our Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

We completely understand that as a parent, nothing is more important than your family's health and well-being. That is one reason Kraft Foods is so dedicated to making the safety and quality of our products our top priority.

So that is why we follow the guidelines of government agencies that are responsible for the safety of our food. In the United States, Kraft Foods only uses ingredients that have been recognized as safe for food use in accordance with U.S. Food & Drug Administration regulations. We will continue to use the current ingredients, which are recognized as safe.

Our products around the globe are different to reflect local preferences and tastes. Yet we use the same standards to select ingredients, always putting safety first.

We know some people prefer products made without artificial ingredients so we now offer more choices. For products with no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors, you might want to consider Kraft Organic Macaroni & Cheese in White Cheddar or some of the Macaroni & Cheese dinner options in our Back to Nature line. We hope you'll give them - and some of our other Back to Nature products - a try.

Just so you know, our Macaroni & Cheese products are sold primarily in the United States and Canada. Although we have a variation of pasta and cheese products in Scotland/northern England and Australia, neither has made any changes to their recipe since 2006.

Thank you for sharing your concerns. Your views on our products are very important to us and we take them to heart.

Associate Director, Consumer Relations

Kim McMiller

My 2009 draft concluded with this musing:

While I absolutely appreciate that Kraft at least (1) responded and (2) gave lip service to thinking about the safety of the ingredients its using, I cannot believe for ONE MINUTE that Kraft really believes that the U.S. Government standards are appropriate benchmark to be using. They are profit-driven and looking to suck as much money out of consumers as possible with no regard whatsoever for the health and well-being of those who purchase or consume their foods. This situation is not entirely their fault, though, since the U.S. government in all its wisdom has decided to subsidize unhealthy things like corn and wheat, making them cheap and desirable for Big Food to use. 


Today, FIVE YEARS LATER, Food Babe (if you're not following her, you really should be), through a petition, pressured Kraft so much that they gave in and promised to remove artificial dyes from SOME of their US products. 

That is a good start. If you want more details, here you go:

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. :)