Gluten Free Andean Dream Cocoa Orange Quinoa Cookies

Health Values: Gluten free, no trans fats, cholesterol free, milk free, corn free, egg free, soy free, nut free, peanut free

This was a sample I got at a gluten-free picnic, so the picture you see isn’t representative of the actual package you’d find in a store.

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I checked out the Andean Dream website for more information, and I discovered that they also make pastas and soups. Click on any of the cookie images and you’ll get the ingredient and nutrition statement. Their products are made with organic Royal  Quinoa, which is only grown in the Bolivian Andes and is ” rich in high quality proteins, vitamins and minerals, and all eight amino acids essential for nutrition”.

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When I first broke the cookie, it produced a lot of tiny crumbs, so I expected it to be dry. I was happily surprised – it wasn’t. It was wonderfully crispy and the flavor was a perfect balance of cocoa and orange. This is a real treat that stands well on its own and also goes perfectly with a cup of tea or a glass of almond milk.

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The website allows you to order their cookies directly from them and also has links to two other online sites where you can buy them, but it doesn’t mention any stores where they’re carried. I’ll be checking around in places like Whole Foods and Wegmans for them, because I definitely want to buy a package and try some of their other flavors.

5-okays

Gluten Free Lundberg Sea Salt Rice Chips

Health Values: Gluten free, wheat free, organic grains, vegan, non-GMO

Light, crisp, and flavorful, these rice chips have become one of my favorite go-to snacks.

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With just enough sea salt to satisfy that salty snack craving (but not so much as to make you blow up on water afterwards), these chips didn’t fill me up or make me feel bloated. What they did do was fulfill my love of light, crunchy snacks without guilt.

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The thing that made these a cut above was the touch of nuttiness provided by the organic sesame seeds baked into each chip.

I’d prefer it if they didn’t contain high oleic safflower/sunflower oil or caramel color, but for taste and snacky-goodness, they rate five thumbs up with me.

5-okays

Gluten Free Larabar Blueberry Muffin Bar

Health Values: Gluten free, dairy free, non-GMO, vegan, soy free

If I had to choose one word to describe Larabars in general, that would be “inconsistent”. Incredibly inconsistent. We’ve tried all of their bars now, and they’ve ranged from excellent to barely average to literally inedible. I just don’t get it.

Anyway, the Blueberry Muffin bar ranked down there in the pits, just slightly above the horribly inedible Coconut Cream Pie bar. What a shame, because blueberries are my favorite fruit, so I was excited to try this bar.

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Frankly, it tasted like Swiss cheese. My friend and I tried it together, and through downturned, disappointed mouths we both said, “Swiss cheese” at the same moment. This Larabar joined the Coconut Cream Pie in the garbage. We couldn’t even eat it.

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I don’t understand why this company is so hugely inconsistent with their snack bars. It’s one thing for a food product not to be to a person’s liking, but it’s another thing altogether for it to be just plain bad tasting. Other companies are consistent, so what’s going on in Larabar HQ?

No “okays” on this loser. Not even one thumbs up.

Genetic Engineering/Genetically Modified Organisms – GMOs – Allergy Traps!

Genetically modified foods (GMOs) are a threat to everyone – DNA from other plants and animals as well as pesticides and herbicides infused into or coated onto seeds get deep into fruits and veggies and end up on our dinner tables. You can’t wash off something that’s grown in.

On top of that, because pests and weeds continually adapt to stronger and stronger pesticides and herbicides, additional chemicals are being sprayed onto genetically engineered crops, multiplying the already high doses of dangerous chemicals we’re eating. (Great information about GMOs is in the documentary GMO OMG – see it if you can!)

Of course, ingesting chemicals is bad for everyone, but for those of us with food allergies, we run the additional risk of eating something that’s been infused with the DNA of another organism that we’re allergic to. Many agree that genetically modified crops are a big part of the reason so many of us have serious food allergies.

Don’t confuse “organic” with GMO – produce and animal products can be raised organically, but the animals can be fed genetically engineered feed which permeates their bodies and is passed on to you, and produce grown without additional chemical sprays can still be borne of genetically engineered seeds. In fact, some of the companies fighting against the public’s right to know if products are genetically engineered are companies that boast organic products and practices.

It’s not surprising that a lot of companies are spending millions of dollars fighting against GMO labeling – they don’t want us to know their products contain these “frankenfoods”. But by keeping us in the dark, we could be buying things that are making us sick….or worse.

What is surprising is that some of the companies that are proudly labeling their products “non-GMO” are actually among those fighting against such labeling – products like Larabar, which is owned by Coca-Cola. Here’s a chart with information about companies you need to know, courtesy of the Organic Consumers Association:

Although Prop 37 unfortunately failed to pass, it’s important to know about the dangerous additives in our foods and the companies involved. This chart is still relevant and informative.

Click on over to the Organic Consumers Association to stay up on the latest regarding GMOs, and share your feelings about GMOs in the comments section.

Gluten Free Organic Taza Stone Ground Dark Chocolate Bar

Health Values: Gluten free, organic, dairy free, soy free. HANDMADE in USA.

It’s so hard to find a gluten free dark chocolate bar that’s also organic, so when I found this 70% dark chocolate Taza bar, I just had to give it a try. And the fact that it’s handmade in Massachusetts made it even more appealing.

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The flavor of this bar was different from any dark chocolate bar I’ve ever had – GOOD different. It had an almost fruity undertone – at first I thought I tasted a bit of raspberry, even though there’s none in it. This could be because it’s made from Dominican cacao beans, which probably taste different from the cacao beans grown in other regions.

But I have to say, I really liked it….a LOT. The dark chocolate had a wonderfully rich flavor that made me crave more.

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It’s not as hard as you’d expect a dairy-free bar to be, and that’s a good thing. When you chew it, it does crumble on your tongue – I liked that because it wasn’t a dry type of crumbling, but rather more like lots of silky little bits spreading the flavorful joy. My friend didn’t care for the crumbling part as much, but she still liked the chocolate itself. My other friend loved the bar as much as I did.

I’d buy this bar again in a second. It’s a bit more expensive – around $5 for a 3 oz. bar – but considering all the allergens that it doesn’t contain, the fact that it’s organic, the fact that it has so few ingredients (and all of them understandable and not 24-letter chemical terms!), and that it’s handmade here in the USA, I’m willing to spend a couple extra dollars on it.

5-okays

Gluten Free Buckwheat Bread Recipe

I recently discovered a great recipe for homemade buckwheat bread that is really simple and includes no expensive/unusual ingredients. I was so excited that I made it right away, and as a person with no experience working with yeast, I found it extremely easy to make!

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This recipe requires no kneading and has very little active time.

The ingredients are:

  • 500 g (16 oz) buckwheat flour – I used Arrowhead Mills 
  • 350 ml (10½ fl oz) lukewarm water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil – I used olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried yeast – I used Red Star
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt – I used sea salt
  • 1 tsp vinegar – I used apple cider vinegar
  • 2 eggs

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I don’t have a warm place in my house to put bread to rise, so I waited until I was making dinner. After I preheated the oven for dinner, I was able to put the batter/dough in a loaf pan and put it on top of the oven covered with blankets to keep the warmth in. It rose about a 1/2 inch.

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After the finished bread came out of the oven and I’d let it cool, I cut a slice off. The outside crackled like real bread and was soft but not squishy on the inside. The consistency was nice, not overly dense like some gluten free breads. When it was still a little warm, it didn’t come apart either. Once it has been refrigerated, it does break apart more easily, which is difficult for sandwiches but not impossible – I used it for sandwiches all the time! The bread toasts very well, like real bread.

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The only thing to watch out for here is that the bread tastes like buckwheat, and if you don’t like buckwheat, you won’t like this bread. But that’s a given. I think this bread is absolutely wonderful and a lifesaver for those of us who can’t have store-bought bread or don’t want processed foods or want something less expensive than what you can buy in the store.

This recipe is by Titli’s Busy Kitchen. You can talk to Titli on her Facebook page – she does respond! And she also has a gluten free white sandwich bread recipe, which I can’t eat because of a couple ingredients I have intolerances to. Let me know if you try it in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Gluten Free Larabar Chocolate Chip Brownie

Health Values: Gluten free, non-GMO, wheat free

Working our way through the Larabar taste tests….once again, for me, this Larabar was a swing and a miss.

Not nearly as nasty tasting as their Coconut Cream Pie bar – I couldn’t even swallow the first bite and we threw the rest of the bar out – but far from being as good as their Apple Pie bar, this chocolate chip brownie doesn’t even come close to tasting as yummy as the name sounds.

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It reminded me of the early days of gluten free snacks, when cookies were so far from what a cookie should taste and feel like that they weren’t even worth buying. Today, lots of gluten free/organic companies have taken the trouble to perfect their recipes so that those of us who are Gluten Free Eaters can enjoy the same wonderful tastes we did before we gave it all up for health reasons. So why can’t Larabar do the same?

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I realize that everyone’s tastes are different, but two of us tried this bar and neither of us cared for it. The consistency was good, but that’s where it ended for me. To my tastebuds, there was barely the slightest hint of chocolate flavor (and I had to concentrate hard to find it); instead, it reminded me of pumpernickel sourdough bread. I know that sounds crazy for a gluten free product, but that flavor from my glutenous past jumped right out at me.

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So that’s my take on it, I’d be interested to hear what you thought if you’ve ever tried it!

2-okays

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