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!