Monthly Archives: June 2009

Taste Test: Envirokidz Gorilla Munch

Let’s be honest here. Gorilla Munch is a kids cereal. You can see the cartoon gorilla on the front of the box staring right back at you. It’s even made by a brand called Envirokidz.

But should a cereal this good be kept just for children? Its tasty, spherical puffs crunch between your teeth just right after soaking in a bowl of milk or even straight out of the box. They’re sweet, but not too sweet. Dry, but not too dry.

Gorilla Munch is a gluten-free cereal that’s so good, it spans all age groups. Its boxes line the cereal aisle at Whole Foods, and I’d be willing to bet it’s a popular choice among the regulars there.

After purchasing a sample last week to try for the office, Annette and I finished the entire box in only a few days. We took our servings by the handful, as their perfectly rich texture left no need for milk.

The taste is probably most comparable to General Mills’ Kix, except Gorilla Munch is gluten-free (Kix contains oats and therefore is not gluten-free). It’s also a good bit sweeter – the nutrition facts reveal that Gorilla Munch contains eight grams of sugar, while Kix only has two. It’s also worth noting that Gorilla Munch contains less sugar than the gluten-containing Fruit Loops, which are loaded with twelve grams. But of course, as with most popular kids cereals, sweetness is often the deciding factor for many kids whose insatiable sweet tooths are tough for companies to ignore.

So although Gorilla Munch isn’t necessarily low on sweetness, it’s better for you than many other alternatives out there. It’s also made from organic cornmeal and contains only two other ingredients – organic evaporated cane juice and sea salt. It’s hard to find a cereal more simple and wholesome than that.

Envirokidz, the company behind Gorilla Munch, markets itself as a green company, but takes a specific tilt on its environmental friendliness. Besides using 100% organic ingredients, the company donates 1% of all sales revenue to wildlife preservation and environmental education. Its website is teeming with animal facts and links to environmental organizations that target youth in particular. To date, the company has donated over $1 million to environmental organizations worldwide. The inside of the box is also lined with information about these organizations to help encourage Envirokidz consumers to get involved.

Our Grocery Guide lists four other gluten-free Envirokidz cereals, all of which have wildlife-related names – Amazon Frosted Flakes, Koala Crisp, Leapin Lemurs Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cereal, and Peanut Butter Panda Puffs. We checked for other bloggers’ reviews of Gorilla Munch, and every single one we found was positive. Here’s a particularly glowing recommendation from Li Loves David.

A quick sidenote – Some of our loyal blog readers might remember this post, which also raved about  Envirokidz cereal. We’d like to remind everyone that although we occasionally receive food samples from companies, in no way are we paid to endorse them. We received no samples or payment of any kind from Envirokidz or their parent brand, Nature’s Path. We’re simply sharing Envirokidz cereal as a favorite snack that we enjoy, and we hope you will too.

What are some of your favorite gluten-free cereals? Any other Envirokidz fans out there? Let us know!

Ingredients Swap Makes Six Flavors of Chex Gluten-Free

In a clear signal of the growing market for gluten-free foods, Chex Cereal announced recently that it has changed the ingredients in six of its eight products so that they no longer contain gluten. Rice, Corn, Honey Nut, Chocolate, Cinnamon and Strawberry Chex will now be gluten-free, providing a host of tasty, name-brand options for the GF consumer. It’s rare for a big corporation like General Mills to mess with product formulas to cater to the GF community – and it’s doubly rare for the same company to do it TWICE in one year, as General Mills has also announced its new GF line of Betty Crocker baking mixes.

A customer service representative at General Mills said the company removed barley malt from its ingredients list in order to make the product gluten-free. The representative wasn’t aware of anything that’s been added to the ingredients list, but one blog has said that molasses will be added as a substitute.

She also confirmed that the switch was the result of broad customer feedback as General Mills tries to capture a larger sector of the gluten-free market. And General Mills isn’t the only company shaking up the GF food industry – Starbucks also recently unveiled its new gluten-free orange cake.

The General Mills representative emphasized that this change is recent and cautioned consumers to check the box for the words “Gluten-Free” which should be prominently displayed across the front. Within the next month, the company says, most stores should be carrying the new gluten-free version. The only brands of Chex that are not gluten-free are the Wheat and Multibran varieties.

So what’s your take on this? Do you think more large companies will start offering GF options? Let us know!

For Gluten-Free Burgers, Elevation Rises Above the Rest

Juicy, greasy and dripping with flavor, the hamburger is a taste of its own. With each bite, this succulent layer of meat seems to melt in your mouth. Grease drips from the freshly-ground patties, your fingers still slick from those salty French fries. It’s the good life, and now, thanks to Elevation Burger, a chain that is rapidly spreading across the East Coast, celiacs can enjoy this delectable meal more easily than ever.

With only seven locations nationwide, Elevation has yet to reach most American consumers. But judging by the popularity of our local Falls Church, Virginia location, this burger chain is gaining traction, and quickly. At lunchtime, it’s rare to find a parking spot in Elevation’s lot. And once you do actually find a spot, dozens of people are waiting in line inside, standing below signs touting the burger joint’s free-range, antibiotic-free beef. Another sign informs customers that its fries are gluten-free, cooked in olive oil that touches nothing else, meaning there is no chance of cross-contamination with breaded chicken and other gluten-containing items that often share a deep fryer.

And as far as gluten-free food goes, French fries are at the top of my list, especially when they can toe that delicate line between grease and salt. Too much grease, and sogginess sets in, making you wonder whether the fries have become equal parts potatoes and equal parts grease. Too much salt, and your mouth burns with thirst after only a few bites, leaving your drink empty and your fry tray full. Nonetheless, Elevation balances the two extremes just right, and these thin-cut fries align perfectly with my 20-year-old taste buds.

Elevation also heats its buns on a separate grill from the meat, allowing those with celiac disease to order a lettuce wrap burger and French fries without the chance of bun remnants sticking to the patties. We spoke with the staff, and they seemed quite knowledgeable about the concerns of celiacs, providing a level of gluten-free awareness that is almost unheard of among fast food joints.

The burger itself is juicy and delicious. It even tastes fresh – the meat is ground on-site, offering a flavor that is unmatched by other area burger joints. Elevation doesn’t provide gluten-free buns, but the lettuce wrap is definitely a nice substitute; I found it refreshing and very enjoyable. The only turn-off was that the moisture-laden lettuce is often difficult to grip without a napkin or something else to help you hold on.

Elevation is priced reasonably – a double cheeseburger lettuce wrap with fries and a drink will set you back around $10, approximately in line with other specialty fast-food chains. Right now, Elevation Burger has locations in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Texas, but is soon expanding to Pennsylvania, New York and Florida.

The company only began franchising in 2008, so it didn’t quite make the most recent edition of our Restaurant Guide. However, the Newport Rib Company, with three California locations in Costa Mesa, Ladera Ranch and Long Beach, offers a gluten-free burger that even includes a gluten-free bun upon request. Tuttoriso of Staten Island, New York and Ivory Jacks in Goldstream Valley, Alaska are two more of the ten restaurants listed in our guide that offer gluten-free hamburger buns.

Now that you’ve heard about our favorite burger places, we’d like to hear about yours! Tell us about your favorite place and be sure to let us know where it’s located!

To learn more about over 5,000 other gluten free restaurants, don’t forget to check out our gluten free restaurant guide.

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

For my birthday this year my friend baked me a chocolate cake—lucky me! It was terrifyingly delicious, but my friend complained that dark brown chocolate doesn’t look festive. She’d rather have gluten free carrot cake on her birthday, a bright crunchy cake topped by decadent clouds of cream cheese frosting. After perusing the creative concoctions of our friendly neighborhood GF bloggers, I’m coming over to that way of thinking myself!

  • Vittoria of Deliciously Gluten Free surprised her eaters by incorporating celery, pineapple, dates, and blanched almond meal into her successful SCD Carrot Cake. Her “cream cheese frosting” is actually made from strained yogurt and butter.
  • Elana over at Elana’s Pantry also uses blanched almond meal but strives for a more traditional combination of raisins and walnuts in her gluten free carrot cake.
  • At Only Sometimes Clever, Karen posts the recipe for what she considers the Best Gluten-Free Flour Mix Ever and urges you to use it in her Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake. If you follow her advice you’ll end up with a cornucopia of flours—sorghum, brown rice, sweet rice flour, corn starch, and xantham gum—and extra goodies like oranges, raisins, pineapple, walnuts, and coconut.
  • Maureen of Hold the Gluten boasts that her Gluten Free Carrot Cake is “the moistest cake I have ever eaten!” because she blends buttermilk, applesauce, and grated carrots. Her Cream Cheese Frosting is the real deal, so get ready to loosen your belt!

Which gluten free carrot cake recipe are you going to try?

Can't Find Betty Crocker's Gluten-Free Mixes? We've Got the Scoop

Most of you by now have already heard about Betty Crocker’s new line of Gluten Free Baking Mixes. Many of you were probably so excited by the news that you went straight to your local grocery store to find them as soon as possible. And, after searching the aisles up and down, you scratched your head, because these baking mixes were nowhere to be found.

I had a similar experience this afternoon. I called a few grocery stores, and only one, a Safeway in Falls Church, claimed to have the mixes in stock. Every other store put me on hold for five to ten minutes before telling me the mixes had yet to reach their store.

This lack of availability, said a General Mills media representative, will persist until July or August, when General Mills finally ships its long-awaited Betty Crocker gluten-free product line to grocery stores nationwide. The mixes received rave reviews from one blogger, who said that a few of the mixes tasted even better than the originals.

A customer service representative said these mixes were the result of a broad customer feedback response. People wanted more gluten-free products, and so General Mills provided.

It’s definitely an encouraging sign to see such a large company debuting products that cater so specifically to the gluten-free community. The words “Gluten Free” are even plastered across the front of the box, directing these mixes toward a very narrow audience. When a company wants to go gluten-free, they sometimes use words like “flourless” to describe the variety, so that the brand will appeal to the company’s entire range of consumers, not just the celiacs. Or, as Starbucks has done, they’ll simply leave the words gluten-free out of the product’s name and indicate that the product is gluten-free on the front of the packaging.

There’s nothing wrong with this sort of marketing, but the fact that General Mills has shied away from it indicates that they believe these gluten-free mixes will see reasonable demand from consumers who shop solely for gluten-free foods. Let’s hope this is a sign that the gluten-free market has finally grown to the extent that other large companies will start unveiling more gluten-free products in the near future.

What do you think about this announcement? Have you been able to find the Betty Crocker gluten-free mixes? Let us know!

Five Quick Spring GFCF meals, cheap!

Many people with celiac disease also suffer from lactose intolerance. There are plenty of delicious GFCF recipes out there, but if you’re in the mood for just throwing together entire meals ASAP, here are some in-season suggestions that won’t break the bank:

  1. Baby artichokes, trimmed and boiled, dipped in olive oil and fresh lemon juice mix; cooked jasmine or basmati rice with chopped fresh herbs; a dollop of hummus;  and a handful of dried Black Mission figs.
  2. Smoothie of 1 banana, a cup of organic strawberries, vanilla soymilk, and a dash of orange juice; salad of lettuce, chopped prunes, 1 shallot, and chopped toasted nuts of your choice with a GF white wine vinegar/oil dressing.
  3. Stir-fry of asparagus, mushrooms, onion, and red bell pepper, cooked with ketchup and sprinkled with fresh-squeezed orange juice; cooked quinoa mixed with salt and olive oil; seedless grapes.
  4. Eden 100% buckwheat soba noodles, cooked and rinsed; slices of Asian pear; drained, cubed, and sautéed firm tofu tossed with GF sake and wheat-free soy sauce; steamed chopped Swiss chard with fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
  5. Fruit salad of blackberries, mango cubes, and strawberries spritzed with lime juice; green beans steamed, tossed with olive oil and GF red wine vinegar, and topped with lazily sautéed onions or shallots; fried polenta slices topped with GF pasta sauce.

Thanksgiving Anytime

I know, I know. It’s June and here’s a post about Thanksgiving. What on earth am I thinking?

I’m thinking about my parents, actually. When my parents were still newlyweds, my mother noticed that my father was a spare eater. That was fine with her until they visited a friend’s house and my father scarfed down the food served there like he had been starving for weeks. What food was it? Thanksgiving food, with the turkey and the mashed potatoes, the stuffing and the cranberry. Well, my mother had some pride; she immediately learned how to make Thanksgiving food and then proceeded to serve it frequently, with excellent results. My dad gained some weight and everyone was pleased.

Hearing that story got me thinking about classic American food and how it strikes a unique chord within us. Southern New Englanders line up at clam shacks for fried clams and clam chowder (Boston, New England or Rhode Island style); Southerners proudly serve biscuits, black-eyed peas, collard greens, and sweet potato pie; Hawai’ians cherish their spam musubi; the denizens of Maine wolf down fresh lobster; New Yorkers nosh on bagels; and everyone has their local pizza which is of course the very best pizza in the United States. Is Thanksgiving the one meal we all love equally? In Chicago or Texas, Connecticut or California, I haven’t noticed much of a difference in anything but the stuffing.

So because this is the American cuisine you can serve anytime and expect a positive response, I think it’s fantastic that A Gluten Free Guide has provided a great service by posting a permanent sidebar of videos teaching you how to cook gluten-free Thanksgiving food: turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potato casserole, and pecan pie. Plus pineapple cheesecake, just for the hell of it. The videos are by myrecipe.com and explained by Catherine Oddenino, who I found quite easy to understand. She mostly doesn’t mention measurements and therefore gives you an idea of how to adjust any recipe you originally have for these foods. The videos are very short; give them a try!

If you’d like more information about making gluten-free Thanksgiving food, try About.com’s page on the subject, Episode 12 of the Hold the Gluten podcast, Book of Yum’s Thanksgiving menu swap, and Simply…Gluten Free’s Thanksgiving recipe page. Treat yourself and your loved ones to some of their favorite American food this summer. Yum yum yum!

Red Mango Receives GF Certification

For the health-conscious dessert-goer, Red Mango Frozen Yogurt is tough to beat. This low-sugar treat made from real yogurt cultures is loaded with that probiotic bacteria the company claims will improve digestion and taste delicious. And guess what? It’s now certified gluten-free.

The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) recently bestowed its seal upon Red Mango, which didn’t change or swap any ingredients to receive the GFCO’s official gluten-free badge. According to the GFCO website, the badge is awarded to a company after inspectors thoroughly audit all ingredients and production procedures. Inspectors then return from time to time to make sure the plant is staying up to par.

Our Virginia offices are a few hundred miles from the nearest Red Mango location, but Kay claims to have tried it and said the product is outstanding. The company originated in South Korea before moving to the United States, where it now spreads across ten states and hopes to open a whopping 550 stores over the next five years.

Red Mango has a lot of knockoffs too – a nearby Korean bakery in Annandale, VA sells a no-name brand of South Korean frozen yogurt, which reminded us of the health-oriented Red Mango in both name and banner design. Its taste however, was a bit lacking. Its icy, crystallized texture didn’t quite match the creamy and rich Red Mango, Kay said.

Also check out Pinkberry, another fro-yo chain that – you guessed it! – mimics the Red Mango brand very closely. The article above mentioned Pinkberry as possible competition for Red Mango, as both try to obtain a larger market share in both the U.S. and abroad.

Only Red Mango has received the official GFCO certification, though Pinkberry is also gluten-free.

Have any of you tried Red Mango or Pinkberry? What did you think? What about gluten-free certification? Do you check for GFCO’s logo on products before you buy them? Let us know!

Blogger of the Month: Naomi Devlin

Naomi Devlin has already won an award for for Healthy Cooking, but we’d like to recognize her contributions to the online gluten-free community. In February 2008 Naomi began a monthly round-up of gluten-free recipes from other gluten-free bloggers like herself. This round-up is called “Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten-Free!”  According to May 2009′s host, Emilia:

Each month a blog hosts this event and decides a theme, there has been numerous themes in the past including Breakfast, Slow Meals, Tea Time Treats etc. You can find links to each month’s roundup from Naomi’s blog.

And yes, all the food in this event is always gluten-free.

Emilia chose the theme of May to be Fruit Desserts. To participate, bloggers make a recipe, take a picture, and write about it on their blogs. Then they send a link to whoever the month’s host is. If they don’t have a blog, they just e-mail the host the recipe, picture, and their name.  Check on the May round-up on Emilia’s blog, A Gluten Free Day. Recipes submitted include apple pie, banana dessert, orange cake, strawberry scones, Naomi Devlin’s lemon tarts… I know, they all sound amazing, don’t they?… and Emilia’s cheesecake with lemon and strawberries. And everything is gluten-free, so you don’t need to worry. Check out Naomi’s archives of “Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free!” at her website, Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried.

Naomi’s other accomplishments include maintaining her lovely blog and practicing as a homeopath and nutritionist in Dorset. She also works with a cancer charity, “providing low cost treatment for cancer sufferers.” Her health blog, Dorset Homeopath, is full of homeopathic information, most recently on combating Swine Flu and lack of sleep.

Congratulations, Naomi, on making the GF community a little cozier, a little healthier, and a lot more fun.

Gluten-Free Fried Chicken

Succulent, crispy, and tender, fried chicken is the must-have picnic food. Whether you lay out your blanket at the beach or bring dinner to a concert in the park, fried chicken gives your meal that homey American summer feeling. Maybe you’ve been missing this classic dish ever since you went gluten-free. Sigh no more, for the heroic gluten-free blogging community has come up with some terrific gluten free fried chicken recipes to satisfy even the worst craving.

  • Over at Rachel’s Recipe Box try some of her Oven-Fried Chicken. If you’re a food allergy superhero, relax. This recipe is gluten, dairy, soy, egg, and corn free. GFCF breadcrumbs give it extra crunch. It also calls for Italian seasoning, but “seasonings,” as opposed to pure spices, can sometimes contain gluten. Check the Grocery Guide to find brands that are definitely gluten-free.
  • Jill of Hey, That Tastes Good adapted a recipe from Chez Pim and proudly declares it The Best Fried Chicken (picture above). She coats it with rice flour and sweet rice flour but spices it with—watch out!—hot sauce and fish sauce. Very flavorful. Make sure yours are gluten-free.
  • Gluten Free Mom advises you to coat the chicken with some sort of gluten-free flour blend. She says you “don’t have to be too picky about the flour.” She also uses buttermilk and a special crispy chicken coating mix on her Gluten-Free Oven Fried Chicken.
  • Gluten Free Portland offers recipes for Simple Gluten-Free Fried Chicken, Fish, or Vegan Tofu. It’s great to have so many options! Garbanzo or Fava Bean flour mixed with paparika is recommended (some people have allergic reactions to Fava Beans).
  • Mrs. GF suggests her Miso Glazed Fried Chicken. Since miso is often derived from barley and is made of soy in all but a few cases, be careful. There is a great discussion on GF miso at Celiac.com. Mrs. GF’s chicken is spiced with pineapple juice, fresh ginger, ketchup, and hot mustard paste. Original, and probably extremely delicious!

Which gluten free fried chicken are you going to try?