Product Review: The Gluten Free Bar

We all know how hard it is to find a protein or meal bar that meets all expectations – I myself usually end up eating a protein bar with dairy because there aren’t other options. The folks at the Gluten Free Bar were kind enough to send me some samples to try – and I’m always happy to try samples!

They sent me three flavors: peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate, and cranberry almond. That stats for these bars are quite impressive: vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, with 12 grams of protein. They’re also a decent size, which is important. Usually bars like this are “raw-” in other words, made mostly of nuts and dried fruit, which makes them very high in calories (sometime upwards of 400 cals/bar).

If I compare them to the bar I normally eat in the morning at work (some form of this) they stack up pretty well, though clearly they don’t have as high amounts of protein and fiber. They do however have less saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrates.

However, the big difference here is the ingredients: the gf bar is dairy-free. This is huge – it is extremely different to find a protein bar that doesn’t use dairy. I can tolerate small levels of dairy, but there are days when I just can’t add any extra irritants into my system (don’t we all have those days). They’re also quite tasty, with a texture that falls somewhere between a lara bar and a power bar. The bars are chewy and slightly-sweet – the peanut butter chocolate and the peanut butter are the best flavors. What I also liked was that they were rolled out into a large, thin squares which took longer to eat than the typical bar-size. They kept me full till lunch, and no stomach ache!

The only con: they aren’t available in any stores in the bay area yet, so you have to buy them online, and they are a little expensive – about $28 for a box of 12. I imagine if you find them in stores they will cost you more. But if you have the means, definitely check them out.

In all, a strong A.

Buy them here

And Now for Something Completely Frivolous: Gluten-free Marshmallow Cereal Squares

Oh Pinterest, sometimes you are silly (see this for proof), but sometimes you are genius. Because without you, I never would have thought to make a batch of these last Friday.

They are super colorful, not all that good for you, and full of sugar.  (Though they’re pretty low on fat, if I stop to think about it.) In other words, fun.

~ Gluten-Free Marshmallow Cereal Squares ~

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Vegan (if made with vegan marshmallows)

I used Trix, but you can use any gluten-free cereal you like. I was THISCLOSE to using Reece’s Puffs (for obvious reasons – they are puffs of Reece’s), but opted for the Trix because it had 1.5 grams less fat per serving, because that matters when you’re making something that is 85% sugar.  (Ssssh. It does.) Also, the squares come out looking like something straight out of a Lisa Frank-themed party, which makes this very sneezy-itchy-allergy time of year seem a little better.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups gluten-free cereal of choice
  • 3 tablespoons Earth Balance
  • 1 bag marshmallows

Melt Earth Balance over low heat in a non-stick skillet, add marshmallows. Stir occasionally until marshmallows are completely melted (a silicone spatula works wonders here), mix half of the cereal into mixture while pan is still over very low heat.

Once incorporated, add remaining cereal and smooth out into a lightly-greased pan (a few sprays of Pam will do). A baking pan about 10 x 10 will work. Let sit till cooled, cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

A Note: If you make these with a gf rice cereal, there is a certain one that many health food stores sell in bulk that doesn’t work as well in this recipe. They look like Rice Crispies (without the malt) but they’re much harder and crunchier, and don’t soften up as well after being combined with the marshmallow – they come out more crunchy than chewy. Last summer we were promised a GF version of Rice Crispies, but I have yet to see them on shelves. In the end I think you’re better off with a fun cereal. Kix would be good too!

Gluten-Free Rum Balls (or Easter Eggs!)

These rum balls, while traditionally made around the holidays, are a perfect “adult” treat for Easter – if you’re feeling particularly grown-up you could even dip them in dark chocolate. This recipe is easily adaptable if rum isn’t your thing, though coconut rum sounds perfect for Easter!

 ~* Gluten-Free Rum Balls *~

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan

A food processor is the quick way to go here, but if you don’t have one you could try crushing the  cookies/nuts with a mallet.

Best made a couple days in advance

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup gluten-free wafers (or other crisp gf cookie)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup powdered  sugar, plus sugar for coating
  • 1/3 cup rum (spiced, coconut, etc.)

I doubled the recipe, hence 2 cups of crumbs

Begin by pulsing cookies (I used GF animal crackers in a pinch, though I think there are better alternatives out there) into large crumbs – make sure you do not crush them too finely! I made this mistake initially and it made for a very gooey rum ball that wouldn’t firm up until I added extra powdered sugar. You want large crumbs, not flour. Same goes for the walnuts – if you even just chop them with a knife that works too.

Once your cookies and walnuts are ready, assemble them in a separate bowl (again, if you process everything together it’s quicker but you run the risk of chopping everything too finely); add powdered sugar.

Pour in corn syrup, and slowly mix in rum, taking care that the mixture does not become too wet or sticky. (Conversely, if it’s too dry you can add more rum.) Using a teaspoon or small ice cream scoop, form the batter into small balls and roll in powdered sugar. Let sit on parchment paper to set. If you’re having trouble working with the dough, set it in the fridge until if firms up a bit.

Place rum balls in a parchment-lined cookie tin or container and – here’s the hard part – let sit for a few days for the best flavor. If you like a very firm rum ball, you can keep them in the fridge, though honestly they get better with time if they sit out on the counter.

How many is too many? Up to you!

If you’re making Easter eggs, roll balls into egg-shapes and decorate with chocolate. You can also add cocoa powder for extra chocolate flavor!


An Especially Tasty Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Casserole

dinner2I spotted this recipe on Oh She Glows, one of my favorite food blogs, last holiday season, and little did I know what an impact it would have on this year’s Thanksgiving! Seriously, it turns regular yams/sweet potatoes into magic.

It’s sweet, but not too sweet to be a side-dish, and the topping is crispy and delicious. It’s also pretty darn easy to make. Perfect for breakfast the next morning too!

While you can make this while your turkey is cooking, I baked it the night before and reheated it at 350 while the turkey was resting; it took around 30m – just keep an eye on it. You don’t have to add the pecans, but I firmly suggest you do; they lend a very tasty pecan-pie flavor.

~* Gluten and Dairy-Free Sweet Potato Casserole *~

(Vegan Too!)

adapted from Oh She Glows

Oven Temp: 350, Pan Size: 2 quart casserole dish

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cooked
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain salt
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 3/4 cups chopped pecans

cass2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and boil sweet potatoes/yams until tender. Drain and mash the sweet potatoes with Earth Balance until smooth – leave a few chunks to keep it “rustic.”cass3

Whisk together the maple syrup, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; add to sweet potatoes. Transfer mixture into a lightly-greased (with canola oil) casserole dish.

Using a fork (or your fingers), mix together the topping ingredients until well combined; it helps to have softened butter. Add pecans last. Sprinkle topping over sweet potatoes and bake for 50 minutes, checking to make sure topping does not burn. cass5

This dish is ridiculously versatile; it works for breakfast, brunch, potlucks, dessert. Dessert especially if you are someone who likes their desserts without overwhelming sweetness. Something about the twice-cooking/baking of the sweet potatoes really improves the sweet potato texture too.

And if, when shopping, you get confused about the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, usually what is labeled as a yam is actually a sweet potato. The USDA now requires the “yam” label to always be accompanied by “sweet potato.” It’s very unlikely to find a real yam here in the U.S. Bottom line is to look for the ones which dark orange flesh and reddish-brown skin.

2sweetpotatovsyam SweetPotato2

Product Review: That’s It Bars


That’s It Bars are pretty new to the market, but they are also pretty awesome in their simplicity. They only have two ingredients: apple and whatever other fruit is on the package (apricot, pear, and cherry). They all have around 100 calories and 3g of fiber. They’re also gluten-free, vegan, and kosher.

What I like about these especially is that they’re like those fruit leather strips I love, but not so compacted, so they make for an actually-filling snack. They;re also pretty big for 100 calories. They remind me a bit of lara bars, which I love but are sometimes too high in cals for the amount you get, but without the nuts.

Just a little photoshop fun :)

My favorite so far is the apricot; oddly my least favorite is the cherry, which is interesting because dried cherries and I have a relationship. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t suing sour dried cherries, which are by far much tastier (lara uses them in their cherry pie bars). I’ve never had dried pears before, but the flavor is growing on me.

I’ve been taking these to work with me and eating them during my evening commute; they do a nice job of tiding me over till dinner. I also found that they make a good pre-workout snack that give you energy without side-aches; I think it’s probably due to the sugar/carbs from the fruit.


Someone kept sneaking into my photos…

So give these guys a try. [psst: if you want to order them try amazon because it’s almost always cheaper than grocery stores, and click the box below :^) ]

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Creamy Vegan and Gluten-Free Potato Soup

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Yesterday I had lunch with my mom at Slice of Life, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Sebastopol, and we had a very tasty blended potato and vegetable soup. It was so tasty, in fact, that I decided to make my own version. 

This recipe has many lovely attributes: it’s gluten and dairy-free (of course), vegan, filling, low in fat, high in nutrients, and cheap economical. If you buy all these items in bunches, you can even get another full recipe out of it.

~*Creamy Vegan Potato and Veggie Soup*~

Makes a medium pot of soup, or around 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 small, fit-in-your-palm size yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1/2 of one large yellow onion
  • olive oil
  • soup seasoning mix, or veggie/chicken broth (obv. chicken is not vegan)
  • any other desired seasonings; salt, pepper, etc.

Peel and wash potatoes; cut russets into 2-inch pieces and yukon’s into 1-inch chunks. Chop peeled carrots and 3 of the celery stalks into 1-inch long pieces, and dice the remaining stalk into small pieces, the same size you normally use for aromatics. Slice onion so the layers are in 2/3 inch-long pieces. image

Drizzle a little olive oil over the bottom of your pan; sauté the diced celery and onion for a few minutes over high heat, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Once the onion starts to get transparent, add the potatoes and remaining veggies, along with a healthy sprinkling of your seasonings.

I used a no-salt mixture along with a seasoning/soup mix and water in lieu of a broth. My favorite kind of soup mix is Vegeta, which I was turned onto by my boyfriend’s Russian mother. You might have to go to a European grocery or store like World Market to get it, though I haven’t actually looked for it in the regular grocery. Per the directions, you add about a couple spoonfuls to the pot of water. It’s quite tasty, but you can use bullion or broth if you like.

Add enough water/broth to just cover the ingredients, and stir in the seasoning. Cover and simmer the soup over medium-low heat until the veggies and potatoes are soft and cooked, around 20-30 minutes. Check halfway to see if you need to add more salt, seasoning, etc. Tip: if the soup has too much of a salty-vegetable flavor add something sweet, like juice or a teaspoon of sugar.

1 To blend the soup using a blender, fill it up and add just enough  of the broth for it to blend; mix on high for a few seconds until it’s smooth. If you like your soup with a little bite like I do, only partially blend the rest of the soup so that there are still chunks of the veggies and potatoes, and mix it in with the smoother first batch.

There’s something about blending the potatoes with the veggies that makes this magic; it’s thick and creamy comfort food without that heavy feeling. And the best thing? Leftovers!

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Forget Ramen noodles and all that other cheap crap people are forced to eat when they’re short on cash; this is the kind of inexpensive food that not only fills you up, but keeps you healthy too!

Spicy Homemade Tortilla Chips

2As a child, I shunned spicy things – I would put my dinner in the fridge for a few minutes before eating so it wouldn’t be hot. I even had a very strange habit of dunking Chinese food in a glass of water – what I was  thinking on that one even I don’t know. What can I say; I had quirks, and a very obliging mother.

But in recent years, I have begun to love spicy foods, and really, what’s not to love? For one, spicy foods contain capsicum, which helps fight pain and improves blood circulation. I also read a study that proves spicy foods help rev up your metabolism and promote calorie burning (of course, this only helps if you make healthy spicy food; taco bell is probably not your best bet).

However, shopping for spicy chips is not always so successful; they’re either full of fat, full of dairy, full of gluten, or have those mysterious “natural flavors,” and who the hell knows what those are?  My very favorite brand is tasty, but threatens the fit of my jeans.

Solution? Take matters into my own hands. It’s seriously simple: all you need is a bit of oil, corn tortillas, and seasonings – no deep fryer needed. You can control how much oil and salt is used, and by baking them they’re so much better.

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Spicy Homemade (and Baked!) Tortilla Chips

Makes about 3 servings (or one really big one)  

3 large corn tortillas (about 90 cals each)

1-2 teaspoons of vegetable oil,

or a few generous sprays of Pam

For spicy version: 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tablespoon seasoning blend of choice (or Costco’s Organic  No-Salt Seasoning), salt and pepper to taste.

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Mix oil and spices together in a large ziplock bag. Slice tortillas into triangles and throw into bag; shake bag until chips are evenly coated. Lay chips out on a baking sheet in a single layer, bake in a 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, until golden and not too soft in the middle.

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Eat!

Tips:

  • Three large corn tortillas will fill up a large baking sheet (I say 90-cal size because who knows what “large” could be).
  • If you want to use less oil you can lay the chips out, spray them  with oil, and sprinkle on seasoning.
  • For a non-spicy version, sprinkle oiled chips with salt and give them a squeeze of lime after baking.

Gluten-Free Blackberry Crisp

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It’s getting to that time in the summer when blackberries are not only ripe, they are so ripe that they threaten to melt in the hot sun. And there’s only one thing to do: pick them!

This is a great recipe that’s simple to make and has all the charm of a pie, without the hassle (or calories) of a crust. The oats and brown sugar also lend a lovely, crisp texture to the topping. The crisp is dairy-free and vegan, and can be easily adjusted depending on how many blackberries you have. And it’s fantastic over ice cream!

Enjoy the end of summer, my friends.

Gluten-Free Blackberry Crisp

*Adapted from the Cook Book*

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For Filling:

  • 8 cups fresh blackberries
  • 7 tablespoons granulated sugar, or sugar substitute
  • 5 tablespoons tapioca flour/starch (or other starchy gf flour)
  • squeeze of lemon

For Topping:

  • 1 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour/starch
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup butter substitute (one stick)
  • nutmeg and cinnamon to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts

For fruit filling, stir in sugar, flour, spices, and lemon. Pour evenly into baking dish or pan. Most large baking dishes – anything larger than a pie pan – will work here; I used a 10 x 10 square pan. If you have a smaller amount of blackberries, say 5 cups, you can adjust the recipe, and a pie pan will work. photo 1

For topping, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, and spices. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts. Sprinkle topping over berries.

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Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until filling bubbles and topping is golden. For an extra-crispy topping, put under broiler for a few minutes.

Serve warm over ice cream, or cool in fridge overnight for a very tasty breakfast.

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Gluten-Free Dreaming Copyright 2011.
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