Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix from Bob’s Red Mill

Have you ever seen an allergen-free cookie that looked this good?

I find gluten-free cookie mixes among the hardest to make without eggs and butter.

The folks at Bob's Red Mill sent me this Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix and I was excited to try it. Rather than the usual rice flour mix, this one uses garbanzo bean, sorghum, and fava bean flours.

Instead of one stick of butter, I used one stick of Earth Balance shortening. I used Ener-G egg replacer for the one egg. The mix calls for two tablespoons of water – I used three.

It’s a little bit different than most mixes I have tried – after mixing you will have a very crumbly dough – even after I added an extra tablespoon of water I wasn’t sure it would hold together, but I pressed on (literally). Don’t choose this mix if you don’t want to get your hands dirty. I formed balls from the dough, which baked up very nicely. By the time I took them out of the oven my cookies looked exactly like classic chocolate chip cookies, and they tasted exactly like chocolate chip cookies.

I think we have a winner!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Still Searching for Allergen-Free and Gluten-Free Haircare Products

I have been on a quest to find the best gluten-free and allergen-free haircare products on the market. My food allergies tend to manifest in skin rashes (among other symptoms), and anything I use on my skin that contains food allergens can make me miserable for days.

I should begin this review by saying that I am fussy. My aging hair likes to be pampered, and I don’t want to have to work too hard in the shower after a workout at the gym. I should also remind you that I call it as I see it. I don’t feel the need to provide a positive review just because I got free product (which in this case, I did).

I was excited when the folks at Morrocco Method sent me a variety of samples of their shampoos, conditioners, and styling products to try. I was less excited after I tried them. On the plus side – they are gluten-free, allergen-free, and vegan. They are made of raw, natural, organic ingredients. They contain no phosphates or chemicals. They do contain a lot of clays, ingredients from the earth and sea.

The first thing I noticed was the color – most of the products are mustard yellow or brown. Okay, I could live with that. They have no noticeable smell as you use them (as some completely natural products do).

But (here it comes) they were difficult to use. I had a heck of time working the product into my hair. Likewise, it was difficult to rinse out. When all was said and done, my hair was left feeling very dry, and even after adding more leave-in conditioner, I was unable to get a comb through my hair.

The quest continues…

What allergen-free and gluten-free skincare or haircare products do you use? What should I try next?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Look What I Made!

I consider myself very fortunate to live in New York’s Hudson Valley region, where the Culinary Institute of America is located. Over the years I have spent some time in the CIA’s kitchens. Last weekend I took a class on how to make chocolates and confections. Yes, of course it was the chocolate that got me there.

This was not an allergen-free class – lots of milk and butter went into the chocolates – but since we weren’t using wheat I didn’t need to worry about gluten. Luckily, I was able to eat everything we made in class. When I make these at home I will use some of my favorite allergen-free ingredients.

Of all the baking and cooking classes I have taken so far, this one may have been the most fun. Keep in mind that I’m the kind of girl that is very happy to eat chocolate chips straight from the bag, but most of the fun in this class was learning the techniques. Who knew that chocolate could be fun to play with?

To make these:

We started by dropping ganache circles (using a pastry bag):

We let them set, them use out hands to round them into balls. We let them set longer while we tempered the chocolate.

Then we dipped the chocolate balls into the tempered chocolate, and decorated.

Ans this  is what I brought home:


Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Square One Organics Superfoods for babies and toddlers, announced earlier this week.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Square One Organic Superfood for Babies – Review and Giveaway

I’ll be honest, I don’t think much about baby food these days – my boys are both older and when they’re home they’re eating lots (and lots) of adult food. But Square One asked me if I wanted to try their Superfoods for Babies and I was intrigued. I can imagine that if you’re trying to feed a food-allergic baby it’s tough to find great options, and a little scary as you go.

First, yes! This babyfood is organic, top 8 allergen-free, and gluten-free.
They are essentially pure purees. Nothing added except water. It’s about as close as you can get to making your own baby food. In this case, Denise Henderson made them for us. As a mom of twins, one with food allergies, Denise had to find a solution and Square One was born.

My superfoods came to me frozen – you just pop them in the freezer and thaw as you go. I have to say I love the way these are packaged. They are sold two to a pack – in ¼ cup sizes just like those applesauce containers you stick in lunch boxes.

Since I have no babies in the house (and don’t plan to anytime soon) I decided to try baking with them. Fruit purees work really well as an egg replacer. I made one of my favorites – Pamela’s Products brownies.

Usually I add one cup of oil, one cup of applesauce, and ¼ cup of water. This time I substituted mango puree for the applesauce. Two little containers, and I was good to go – didn’t even have to measure.

My brownies were perfect!

So yes, I am suggesting you can bake with these, but – some of you have babies and young children to feed, hence the giveaway. You can enter to win your own gift pack worth $50, which includes:
  • 12 pack of Square One Organics Superfood Purees
  • Two week supply of SQ1 Daily Journals
  • Square One Organics Children's CD featuring 2010 American Idol Winner Lee DeWyze
  • Shipping and Handling
Now, before I go further and tell you how to enter, I need to tell you I am a HUGE American Idol fan. Just saying…

Okay back to business – How to enter:

Required: Visit the SQ1 facebook page, click the "like" button, and leave a comment here that you did so.

You can enter as many additional times as you want by doing any of the following:
1. Follow SQ1 on Twitter
2. Subscribe to the SQ1 e-newsletter.
3. Tweet about this giveaway (unlimited times). (You can do that easily by clicking the little bird below this post, or you can craft your own tweet.)

For each entry, leave another comment here so I can be sure to count you.

The giveaway ends at midnight on July 3rd.
The winner will be announced on Tuesday July 5th. Be sure to come back and check to see if you have won!

If you want to purchase Square One Super Foods, you can find them at, peapod, and at the Square One website.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Crunch Granola

I have always believed that it’s okay to have chocolate for breakfast, and apparently Enjoy Life agrees. They sent me a sample of their new Chocolate Crunch Granola to review.

As with all Enjoy Life products they are free of the top eight allergens and gluten, and made in a dedicated facility. I think it’s fair to say that Enjoy Life makes some of the safest products around for those with food allergies.

This granola uses the famous Enjoy Life mini-chips, combining them with brown rice flakes, other rice-based ingredients, flaxseed, sweeteners, and oils. It’s surprisingly crunchy, given that there are no nuts. It’s not low-calorie (180 calories per ½ cup) or low-sugar (11g per serving), but it is a great treat for breakfast.

I tried mine with hemp milk, which added a bit of a nutty taste, and like most chocolate cereals, the milk took on a chocolate milk taste after a minute or so. While I liked it as a cereal, I think this granola makes an even better treat eaten dry. Try mixing it with raisins and dried fruit for a trail mix. It would also make a great addition to a school lunch box for snack!

Have you tried it yet? What do you think?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Enjoy Life’s Mega Chocolate Chunks Provide New Options

Just the other day I was chatting with my mom while baking, and she asked what I was making. When I told her I was working on a dinner roll recipe she was surprised. “It’s not chocolate?” she asked.

“Well I can’t make just brownies and chocolate cakes,” I responded.

But… if you’ve visited here before, chances are you know I love chocolate. And there are days when only chocolate will do…

Like yesterday, when I decided to try the new Mega Chunks chocolate chips that the folks from Enjoy Life Foods sent me.

The best things about allergen-free chocolate are:

1. It’s always dark chocolate. (I was never a fan of milk chocolate anyway.)

2. They are made with the best ingredients.

3. They now come in all sizes and shapes.

For a while, allergen-free chocolate options were limited, and if you needed chocolate chips made without soy lecithin, the only option I could find was Enjoy Life’s mini chocolate chips. The mini-chips tasted great, but they disappeared in brownies and muffins.

Sometimes you just need a substantial chunk of chocolate. Are you with me?

With the Mega Chunks, Enjoy Life gives us that – with the same great taste, and the same ingredients (no milk, nuts, soy, or gluten). These are substantial enough to eat by the handful (yeah, I admit it), they are great for melting down, or adding to chocolate muffins.

I love the chocolate options I now have for allergen-free baking. Between these chocolate chunks, the mini Enjoy Life chips, and Divvies chocolate chips, I have every size I need!

What do you love about allergen-free chocolate?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kelapo Coconut Oil in Banana Coconut Muffins

It’s been so hot and humid here in the Northeast that I haven’t wanted to turn my oven on. But today when I woke up and discovered it to be a cool crisp 70 degrees outside (with that as the expected high for the day) I decided it was a perfect baking day.

As you know, I’ve been nuts (no pun intended – because we all know coconut is not really a nut) I have had a jar of Kelapo coconut oil sitting in my pantry for a couple of weeks that the folks at Kelapo sent me to review. Yes, I could have used it to cook, but I really wanted to bake with it, because I am fascinated at how coconut oil works when baking. Of course the best way to test it is with a tried and true recipe – in this case I modified my banana muffin recipe to make them banana coconut muffins.

But first, a science lesson: Do you know the melting point of coconut oil? I usually keep coconut oil in my pantry, and I’ve written before about how coconut oil works as a replacement for shortening or butter because it’s a solid at room temperature. But when I took my coconut oil out of the pantry this morning it was liquid. It had been hot, but I didn’t think it was hot enough for coconut oil to melt.

A quick search on google told me that the melting point of coconut oil is 78 degrees. In this case it didn’t matter since I was using it as an oil (and would have melted it, if needed), but a couple minutes in the fridge would bring it back to a solid state.

Now, onto the muffins!

Banana Coconut Muffins

1 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour
1 cup Namaste Foods Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend
½ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 tsp Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 4 tbsp water
¼ cup Kelapo coconut oil
½ cup So Delicious coconut milk beverage
1 tsp vanilla
3 bananas, mashed

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes
Tip: add the bananas last to keep them a little bit chunky

I have tried a lot of coconut oils, and Kelapo may just be the best yet. I liked the taste; it doesn’t scream coconut like some coconut products do – instead it has a smooth mild coconut flavor. The oil was light enough not to weigh my muffins down. Baking without wheat and eggs can be tough. The Kelapo coconut oil didn’t add any heaviness to weight the muffins down. My muffins were light and fluffy (and I don’t use that word often when baking allergen-free!)

Frankly, I expected the muffins to taste good, and I expected I’d like working with the coconut oil, what I didn’t expect was that I got some light browning on the top and sides of the muffins – so rare when baking allergen-free.

I’ll be using more Kelapo products for sure. If you want to try it, Kelapo is offering 20% off on orders through June 30th. Use coupon code: Allergy Free (case sensitive). I think I'll stock up on some too!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Super Simple Breadcrumbs Using Erewhon Gluten Free Cereals

When I was a kid, Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies were my breakfast cereals of choice. Looking back on it now, I wonder if that was because the wheat-based cereals bothered my stomach too much.

Fast forward to 2011:

Among the many goodies I came home from the BlogHer Food Conference with were some coupons for Attune Foods products. I was excited to learn that Attune Foods makes Erewhon cereals. I have wanted to try the new gluten-free corn and rice cereals and I love it when I can find great gluten-free products off the shelf!

One of my favorite uses for corn flakes is as breadcrumbs. They are ridiculously simple to make. Just throw the flakes into your food processor or blender and voila!

Add salt and spices, if it makes sense with your recipe. Corn flake breadcrumbs work really well in meatballs and stuffings, and they make a great breaded topping for chicken. Puffed rice cereals can be used the same way. Try it and let me know what you think!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It’s Farming Season in the Northeast

For the first time this year my family joined a Community Supported Agriculture project. We had been on the waiting list for years, and I jumped at the chance to join when out name came up. After weeks of wondering about what it would be like, and worrying about whether I would know what to do with a rutabga or bok choy, I picked up my first stash this week.

Here’s just a sample of what I got to take home this week. I armed myself with a couple of veggie cookbooks, and I’m ready to steam and mash that rutabaga.

I am really looking forward to fresh greens every week, but I’m most looking forward to the pick-your-own berries. I’m dreaming about fresh raspberry crisp, and homemade jams, and blueberry muffins. Don't those strawberries look juicy? I only got to pick a few this week, but guess what I'm having for dessert?

Do you belong to a farm project or grow your own? What’s your favorite summer crop?