Update on Gluten-Free Bisquick and Hamburger Helper

bisquickThe news about gluten-free Bisquick and Hamburger Helper coming to market took the gluten-free world by storm. Both products were introduced at the Celiac Disease Foundation Conference in May of this year. Both Bisquick and Hamburger Helper are owned by General Mills. To date, their gluten-free website (Live Gluten Freely) lists over 250 gluten-free labeled products put out by the various General Mills lines.

There have many estimated dates floating around the internet about when the two new exciting gluten-free products from General Mills will hit the market. According to the company representative I spoke to, each product is presently in production and is expected to start showing up in limited stores in late June/early July. The items will have a more widespread release hopefully in August. General Mills expects the Hamburger Helper to hit store shelves first, with the much anticipated Bisquick to start showing up quickly thereafter.

So far, the Bisquick and new Hamburger Helper flavors have been a hit with the people who got to try them at the CDF conference. Because the products are not listed on any General Mills website yet, I don’t have the ingredients list. Even so, the one thing we know will not be in the items is gluten! Bisquick is one of those things that brings back childhood memories. It’s such a versatile mix – making everything from pancakes to dumplings. Hopefully, the gluten-free version will also be quite versatile as well.

There will most likely be many gluten-free recipes for the new Bisquick posted on the Live Gluten Freely website. There are now many gluten-free dessert recipes posted there that utilize the gluten-free mixes from Betty Crocker. Did you know the gluten-free yellow cake mix from the line can be used to make carrot cake? Check out this easy recipe for it. General Mills is really embracing our quickly growing market in a big way. It seems that the powers that be at the company have figured out what a loyal customer base we are. That’s something some of the other large food companies haven’t quite grasped yet.

With the gluten-free version of Bisquick hitting store shelves soon, it’s likely that the companies that are dragging their feet in response to our market will soon have to get serious about trying to get their piece of the gluten-free pie. According to the Grocery Guide, at least thirteen companies already make gluten-free pancake mixes like Bisquick’s. So is Campbell’s really going to let Progresso have all the mainstream gluten-free soup business? Is Kellogg’s willing to let Chex have most of the mainstream gluten-free cereal business? It’s doubtful that either of those things will happen and that means that even more exciting gluten-free products will soon be on their way to store shelves!

*General Mills would like to remind consumers to carefully check the label when looking for the new gluten-free items. Not all Bisquick or Hamburger Helper products are going to be gluten-free. There will be gluten and gluten-free versions available and each item will be appropriately labeled.

Update on Gluten-Contaminated Grain Flours

When Tricia Thompson’s report about contaminated gluten-free grains came out recently, it was shocking. There are many people who prefer to make their own gluten-free flour mix and they report that doing this saves them a substantial amount of money. The fact that many naturally gluten-free grains tested positive for substantial amounts of gluten is unsettling, to say the least.

Due to the overwhelming response Tricia got regarding her extensive grain contamination study, she’s posted a follow up article about the situation. It looks like she came to the same conclusion that I did after I read the initial report. It might be a good idea for people to buy gluten-free labeled grains, including those made from what would be considered naturally gluten-free items like buckwheat, millet and even rice flour.

The test results that Tricia’s study revealed might explain why some people complain of getting sick when baking with pure buckwheat flour or other naturally gluten-free grains. If people have to buy gluten-free certified flours to mix their flour blends, it’s likely to cost them more than if they just buy a ready-made mix from a company like Pamela’s or Jules Gluten Free (for example).

Rice flour that is not labeled gluten-free might cost $.99 at an Asian specialty food store but gluten-free certified brand is closer to $4. Buying a bunch of different flours to mix up your own blend might not seem like such a good idea anymore. Why would anyone spend more money to do that than they would have to pay for a ready-made flour mix? I‘ve always been so thankful that companies are making safe, tested and truly gluten-free flour mixes and blends for those of us who are not interested in making our own flour blend. After reading both of Trisha’s disturbing articles, I’m even more thankful for those companies and their great products!

Below are some of the gluten-free mix companies that routinely test their finished products to ensure their gluten-free safety. Please note that this list is NOT comprehensive – it’s only a list of the brands that I personally have purchased items from multiple times. There are countless other gluten-free companies that also test their products for safety. Feel free to add your own favorite gluten-free companies (that make gluten-free mixes) in the comments below. As always, everyone should purchase the products they are comfortable consuming.

  • Gluten-Free Naturals
  • Jules Gluten Free
  • Pamela’s Products
  • King Arthur Flour (gluten-free line)
  • Cherrybrook Kitchen
  • 123 Gluten Free
  • Gluten-Free Pantry
  • Arrowhead Mills
  • Betty Crocker (gluten-free line)
  • Simply Organics (gluten-free line)
  • Namaste
  • Mixes from the Heartland
  • Bob’s Red Mill (gluten-free line)
  • Breads by Anna
  • Tracys Treats

Gluten-free Granola Bars without Nuts

nonuttinimage.phpBack in my gluten eating days, I was not much of a granola bar fan. When I was in the mood for something like that, I preferred the Quaker Oats chocolate chip bars over any other type. Those bars are chewy, quite chocolaty and very tasty. They did not have a dirt like flavor like some other bars and they were crunchy without being too hard.

Last month, I read a review of some bars I’d not heard of before. They are called No Nuttin’ bars. As the name implies, there are no nuts in the  product line – and they also happen to be gluten-free! The bars contain oats, but they are pure uncontaminated oats that are tested for safety. According to celiac experts both in the U.S. and abroad, only about 5% of people with celiac can not tolerate safe gluten-free oats. That number might be similar to that in the general population. It’s so wonderful to be able to eat safe, gluten-free oats. In my case, doing so has led to a healthier cholesterol level!

People that don’t eat gluten-free oats would not be interested in the products from No Nuttin’. Each bar is just over 1 oz. and has 130 calories and all of them contain gluten-free oats. There is either 7 or 8% of the RDA of fiber in the bars, depending on the flavor. Those include:

  • Chocolate Chip
  • Double Chocolate Chunk
  • Apple Cinnamon
  • Raisin

So far, I’ve tasted every flavor above except the Double Chocolate Chunk. They all tasted great – possibly better than the Quaker bars that contain gluten! At least, they taste better than I remember,  as it’s been almost five years since I’ve had one of those. The bars are really excellent in every way and are in a league of their own. The taste and texture is perfectly pleasing and there is no odd aftertaste. There is no dirt like flavor to them and you can actually bend the bars without them breaking.

Here is only the problem with these bars. I think they are somewhat addictive. It’s kind of hard not to scarf a whole bar really fast. I never have that problem with any other bars, including KIND bars and Larabars. I routinely eat only half of those bars and my husband eats the rest. He loves bars so he’s always game to take care of my left-overs. It would be a real stretch for me to share No Nuttin’ bars with anyone. The bars are a great size for me and are perfect to keep in the car and take on trips. The ones with chocolate chips might not be a good idea for car storage in warmer month, of course.

One of the most interesting things about No Nuttin’ is how the company came to be. The owner’s children have nut allergies and when they decided to create the bars, they wanted to make them free of as many allergens as possible. The products are free of a lot more than nuts and gluten. They are free of just about eveything except great taste! *Some items contain soy.

  • Peanut Free
  • Tree Nut Free
  • Dairy Free
  • Egg Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Sulfite Free
  • All Natural
  • Trans Fat Free
  • GMO Free
  • Whole Grains

Excerpt from the No Nuttin’ website:

Nonuttin’ Foods Inc. was founded in November 2002, 5 years after our youngest child was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy. As our daughter began school, we discovered a number of children and adults bringing food products with peanuts, nuts or traces of these to school despite a “nut free” policy. In particular, we saw many granola bars. This caused us to search for a nut free granola bar that we considered healthful . When we couldn’t find any granola bars that were healthful, we created one of our own.

In addition to trying three of the granola bars from the line, I also sampled the Vanilla Caramel Granola Clusters and the Energy Explosion Trail Mix. The latter is pretty good if you like that kind of product. The vanilla flavor in the Vanilla Caramel Clusters was a bit strong for me, but it’s an extremely popular product in the line up. Sample packs are available through online ordering. And if you don’t want to try bars containing oats, the Grocery Guide lists 40 brands, each of which that sell various types of gluten-free granola bars. The last thing I have to say about these bars is that they should have been included in the new gluten-free product line up at Starbucks – no doubt!

Mixes from the Heartland Gluten-free Products

Sweet_Potato_Brownie_Mix_w1__85699_zoomOver the last few years, I’ve noticed (gluten-free) magazine ads for a company called Mixes from the Heartland. The company produces one of the largest gluten-free product lines in the U.S., in a 100% gluten-free facility. The company is one of the only gluten-free businesses producing bulk size mixes for commercial use. Their versatile mixes are sold in many parts of the world and is based in Texas.

I’ve never seen Mixes from the Heartland products in stores in our area, but the company contacted me about trying some of their products. Needless to say, I was excited for the opportunity. The company recently created a Gluten Free Buying Club. You can join for a year or a lifetime. The fees are nominal and being a member gets you lower pricing on the already reasonably priced mixes. For non member purchases there is a flat rate for shipping of $10 on orders under $99 and FREE shipping on orders over $99.

When my mixes arrived, I immediately noticed that many of them were for things I’d never seen gluten-free mixes for. Things like Tropical Coffee Bars, Impossible Coconut Pie (a revolutionary product!) and Sweet Potato Brownies. Since we love sweet potatoes, we had to make those next. The name itself it just too intriguing – we had to find out what Sweet Potato Brownies tasted like!

The brownies call for ½ stick of butter and two eggs. That’s it – super simple. However, mixing it up took a bit of elbow grease even using a sturdy bamboo spoon and the batter is too thick to pour so ignore that part of the instructions. Once the ingredients are mixed thoroughly, the batter can be spread – not poured – into the pan. It took about 28 minutes for the brownies to cook completely in our oven. They bake at 325 degrees instead of 350, but luckily I didn’t automatically turn the oven on without reading the package first.

Once the brownies cooled for about half an hour, I could not resist trying at least a tiny piece of one of them. They smelled delightful – a hint of cinnamon and vanilla wafted through the kitchen. The brownies were moist and unlike any other brownies we’ve ever had in terms of texture. The taste of them was simply delicious! I don’t think I can convey what they really tasted like but it wasn’t that much like sweet potatoes. Maybe a touch of sweet potato flavor was there, but it wasn’t overly obvious that the brownie mix contains sweet potatoes.

In the future, I might add chopped pecans to the mix and someone else suggested topping the brownies with a cream cheese frosting or glaze. One night, we topped the brownies with a tiny bit of canned whipped cream and love them that way too. It would be hard to imagine messing up these hard to describe incredible treats! I also recommend trying the magical Impossible Coconut Pie from this line. Anything that has a crust that I don’t have to create separately is right up my alley!

More information from the Mixes from the Heartland website:

Allergen Facts

  • No eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, oats, barley, rye, or wheat in the factory.
  • No bean flours are used in any products.
  • Factory is allergen controlled.

Eliza Testing

  • Every raw product that enters the factory must be certified by the producer that it can pass an Eliza Test.
  • This means products in our plant test 5 parts per million or less for wheat.
  • The University of Nebraska does our Eliza Testing.  All reports are sent to the Celiac Sprue Association (CSA)
  • Mixes From The Heartland Inc. is CSA certified and we are very proud to say that all our products carry the CSA seal.

Product Summary

  • All natural, no preservatives, most products are low sodium, cholesterol-free, and low calorie.
  • Beans and fruit are all freeze dried and contain no preservatives. Makes cooking soups and meals easier.

*Special thanks for Mixes from the Heartland for my incredible mixes and for donating 50 mixes for my event in Chattanooga tomorrow!

Snyder’s Gluten-Free Pretzels Make the Grade!

GFSticksThe new gluten-free pretzels from Snyder’s of Hanover recently rolled out to Whole Foods stores and some health food stores around the country. Although initially the company took a while to decide to have the products certified by GIG’s Gluten Free Certification Program, the company did come around and do the right thing in the end. The trusted GIG symbol is right on the front of the package. On the bag I bought, it’s actually a sticker, not printed on the bag. The first run of bags was printed before the company completed the rigorous GIG certification process. Also noted on the bag is the following allergen information:

  • Diary Free
  • Casein Free
  • Egg Free

The pretzels are low in fat, made from all natural ingredients and made in the U.S.A. They contain soy and the allergen statement indicates the product is made in a facility that handles peanut butter. I was under the impression after speaking with Snyder executives a couple of months ago that the pretzels were run on the same lines as wheat products, but that information is not noted anywhere on the package. It matters not to me how the pretzels are made, just that they are indeed gluten-free. Since GIG doesn’t put their respected stamp of approval on anything that isn’t truly safe, that’s all I need to feel comfortable trying the product.

Snyder’s of Hanover has been in the pretzel business since 1909 so you might say they know a thing or two about making great tasting pretzels. However, trying to recreate a gluten product into one that is gluten-free can be tricky for the most talented bakers and chefs. Though I’d heard nothing but nice things about the taste of the gluten-free pretzels from others who had tried them, I had to make up my own mind about the taste, of course. There are few pickier people than me when it comes to gluten-free replacement type foods. Some people that know me well wait for me to try something and if I like it, they’ll spend their money on it. They say that if I like a product, they will either like or love it.

The 8 oz. bag of pretzel sticks was only $2.99 at the Whole Foods in Atlanta. Upon opening the bag, I noticed the pretzels were bigger than any gluten-free version I’ve had before. The size isn’t important to me – all that matters is how they taste. I’m happy to report that the pretzels are delicious! After I scarfed down a few of them, I kind of freaked out and thought I’d picked up gluten pretzels by mistake. Nope – the big gluten-free was there on the bag, along with the reassuring GIG symbol. The pretzels are very crispy and have a buttery flavor which I really enjoy. However, since they don’t contain butter, dairy or casein, I’m not sure where that taste is coming from. Other reviews I’ve read also mention the buttery flavor.

Because it will take me a while to eat a whole bag of pretzels, I put them all into a Sterilite container immediately. Those (and Snapware) are the only type of plastic ware that keeps my gluten-free cookies, crackers and snacks – such as pretzels – fresh enough. We use them for ice cream cones, cereals – anything with a crunch goes into a Sterilite container. The containers are sold at Publix and Target in our area.

I love the twisted pretzels from Glutino and will continue to use them in my Chex party mix. If you are looking for snacks from somewhere other than Glutino or Snyder’s, the Grocery Guide lists nearly sixty brands, each selling various types of gluten-free chips and pretzels. However, the pretzel sticks from Snyder’s are a fantastic option to have! Now that I’ve tried them, I really want to taste the gluten-free certified Multi Grain Tortilla Chips from Snyder’s of Hanover. Getting 12% of the RDA of fiber from a snack food is very appealing to me!