Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Love With Food/G-Free Foodie GIVEAWAY!



Have I got your attention now? The giveaway is coming (I promise it’s at the end of this post), but first….

Last Wednesday was like Christmas morning! I received my very first gluten free subscription box in the mail through a wonderful company called Love with Food by G-Free Foodie.

“Love With Food helps you discover new organic or all-natural snacks delivered to your door every month. Our subscription membership starts as low as $10/month. Every month, Love With Food members will receive a curated box of unique, hard-to-find tasty snacks which varies based on seasonal themes. For every box sold, we donate a meal to several food banks such as the Feeding America Network and Share Our Strength - No Kid Hungry. Join us to help end child hunger one meal at a time!”

Seriously, what’s not to love?

All in all, I loved the diversity of the box. Of course all products were Celiac safe. But not just breakfast foods. Not just high carb cookies and treats. There was something for almost everyone – vegan, paleo, dairy free, nut free, grain free. And right at the top of the box was a handy pamphlet explaining what’s in the box and some highlights about each product’s nutritional status (ie gluten free, vegan, non-GMO, ect). 

The box included lots of snack-sized samples as well as retail-sized items such as the Bob’s Red Mill pie crust, Hail Merry macaroons, and Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips – this makes for quite a great deal. The macaroons themselves normally retail for $4-5 per package, as does the pie crust. And a lot of these products I had not seen before, so it’s a great way to sample a bunch of new allergen-friendly treats without investing in an entire package of everything. And did I mention that there were a ton of coupons, too? Yes. Lots of coupons. 

At the end of the day, I thought all products were well chosen in terms of taste, quality, and safety. And I had a blast sampling all of my goodies. It made for a fun and delicious afternoon.

Here we go, into individual product reviews:

Moringa Organic Tea by Miracle Tree – GF, Vegan, Organic
·         I’ve never been a huge fan of apple cinnamon tea, but what I did like about this brand is that it doesn’t taste like someone smacked you in the face with an apple. It’s subtle and very pleasing. I was also excited to learn that their teas are caffeine-free – as a singer, caffeine tends to dry out my voice. I’d be very interested in trying their green tea.

Zesty Nacho Kale Chips by Rhythm Superfoods – GF, Vegan, Organic, Non-GMO
·         Am I eating kale or potato chips? It’s true, it’s kale! The nacho flavor definitely came across. And six grams of protein! Makes for a nice snack. I think I might try to trick Krisopher into eating these. “Oh yes, it’s just green potato chips…” Is he reading this? Shoot.

Original Ancient Grain Granola by Purely Elizabeth– GF, Vegan, Non-GMO
·         Pleasantly sweet. I don’t eat granola much, but when I do I like a healthier granola made with high quality grains that’s not overpoweringly sweet. This is really nice. The sweetness is subtle and comes from organic coconut palm sugar rather than refined sugar. They also use amaranth, quinoa, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds instead of other more common grains/ingredients that are lower in nutrition. All organic. Be aware that it does contains GF oats in case you are sensitive to oats.

(Lyla must have deleted the picture when she sat on my keyboard. Bad kitty!)

Lightly Salted Plantain Chips by Turbana – GF, Vegan, Non-GMO
·         Very light, and crispy. Goes great with hummus!

Hemp Hearts by Manitoba Harvest – GF, Vegan, Non-GMO
·         The first thing I was drawn to on the label was that it’s made with wind power! Awesome. Then I saw that it has 10 grams of plant based protein. That’s incredible. I think I need to get these.

Roasted Chickpeas with Sea Salt by the Good Bean – GF, Vegan, Non-GMO
·         Very crunchy and lightly salted. Perfect snack to stick in your purse. I don’t love eating lots of protein bars because of high amounts of sugar and soy, so this is a wonderful alternative. Can we talk to some airlines and get them to serve this instead of pretzels and peanuts? Also comes in cracked pepper, smoky chilli and lime, and sweet cinnamon.

Sea Salt Bops by Good Boy Organics – GF, Vegan, Organic, Non-GMO
·         Oven baked potato chips with only 100 calories/bag. I tend to reach for chocolate before chips, but if I preferred chips I’d say this is a great guilt-free snack option if you’re craving something crunchy.

Almond Butter Cacao Truffle by Two Moms in the Raw – GF, Vegan, Organic, Non-GMO
·         FAVORITE PRODUCT ALERT!!! Absolutely heavenly! Just the right balance of chocolate and almond. Only 7 grams of sugar, and it even has 4 grams of protein. And there are only four ingredients – organic almonds, organic agave, organic cacao, sea salt. Not heavy. All raw. Just heavenly. I need to order some of these.

Gluten Free Pie Crust by Bob’s Red Mill – GF, Vegan
·         Receiving a whole bag of this was a wonderful surprise. I need to learn how to make pies! This may require a separate blog post, but I’m very excited to try it out. Kudos to G-Free Foodie for packaging it in an extra plastic bag just in case.

Strawberry Macaroons by Hail Merry – GF, Vegan, Non-GMO
·         FAVORITE PRODUCT ALERT!!! What is this coconut strawberry miracle that I just put in my mouth?!?! Oh my goodness, this is one of the greatest prepackaged treats I have ever eaten! If you like coconut this is wonderful, and even if you don’t the coconut flavor is not overpowering. Also, they note on the package that “we dehydrate our macaroons at low temperatures to protect the organic extra virgin coconut oil and almond flour.” Love it when companies don’t kill the nutrients in their products through processing. Way to go! I’ve gotta get me some of these! A delight to eat.

24 Carrot Orange Fruit Snack by Fruigees – GF, Vegan, Organic, Non-GMO
·         Pleasantly sweet with no added sugar. Nice so satisfy a sugar fix or when you’re on the go. Tastes more like orange than carrot, which I’m fine with.

Organic Mexican Seasoning by The Spice Hunter – GF, Vegan, Organic
·         Very nicely balanced combination of spices. I sprinkled this on chicken, onion, and red bell pepper, then pan seared it all. It came out great.  

This is a great company with an excellent product as well as a passion for charity. I highly recommend it. Find Love with Food by G-Free Foodie at:

Twitter: @gfreefoodie, @lovewithfood
Youtube: http://tinyurl.com/GFFvideos                                                                                                      

And my readers get 50% off your first box! Just follow this link: http://bit.ly/50off-GF

Disclaimer: I was not paid to endorse this company nor any of the products. I was only given a sample box and the means to do this great giveaway so you can decide how you like it for yourself!

Now here’s what you’ve been waiting for – THE GIVEAWAY!!!

If you’d like to win a box of your own, simply comment below or send me an email at TastyMeditation@yahoo.com. Tell me your name/email and one sentence on why you’d like to win! Winner will be drawn at random. Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on Friday April 3rd.

Visit my instagram @TastyMeditation for a second entry! That’s right, I’ll be giving away TWO BOXES for double the GF fun!

Happy eating!

Jessica & Lyla

Sunday, March 22, 2015

NYC Vegetarian Food Festival

Oh how I love food festivals!

Last weekend, I made an impromptu visit to the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival after hearing about the many gluten free vendors. Now, as you may or may not know, I am not a vegetarian. I do, however, love vegetarian foods. They are often very creative dishes. I also occasionally cook for vegetarians at dinner parties. So this sounded like a wonderful way to spend my Sunday afternoon.

Overall, very fun event. Very busy. Lots of hummus and protein bars. There were also a ton of booths devoted to clothing, energy resource, treatment of animals, ect., but for our purposes, we are talking about the food.

As I walked around, I realized that I needed to be careful. This wasn’t my normal gluten free stomping ground where I can throw caution to the wind and eat everything in sight. Here, I had to ask if a product was gluten free and also look at cross contamination issues if I was concerned. The representatives were generally very knowledgeable about their products, and with a room full of health conscious people, it wasn’t difficult to figure out what was right for me and what wasn’t. Occasionally I would see a giant sign that said “Certified Gluten Free”. I’d run to the table with a big smile on my face. “My people! This is where I belong!”

There were lots of interesting products that I hadn’t seen before along with some familiar brands that are expanding their lines. For example, did you know that Simply Protein is branching out from their awesome protein bars to protein chips? Say what?! Tasty BBQ flavored chips with 15g of pea protein! Amazing concept. Snack time just went up a notch.

I know you’re waiting for my top favorite booths and products, so let’s get right down to it. 

Terra Nut Cold-Pressed Superfood Snacks – I quite enjoyed munching on these as I walked around the expo. They are delicious little creations made from nuts and seeds. I was basically eating it like a protein bar, but it crumbles easily so they’re nice for salad toppings and such.

 Cocoburg – What are these? Coconut heaven! Cocoburg is a small company based in Brooklyn that hand makes raw/vegan/GF Coconut Jerky. I tried the SPICY Chili Lime (I quickly found out why they put “SPICY” in all caps – wowza! In a good way). I also tried the Ginger Teriyaki flavor. Both very unique. This is also going on my grocery list.

Palm Frites – Another great coconut product. They make coconut fries in flavors Churro, Garlic, and BBQ.

Hope Foods – Spicy Avocado Hummus?!?!?! What is this magic??? Seriously, the best hummus I’ve ever had. They were clearly labeled gluten free, but the icing on the cake was that they were serving their samples with Glutino GF pretzels and Beanfields GF chips. Thank you for doing things the right way!

Organic Living Superfoods had about a dozen different samples to choose from – raw nuts, dried pineapple, chia seed creations. I was like a kid in a candy store. They were so yummy and unique. Looking at their website right now, I’m seeing other concoctions such as Organic Dark Chocolate Covered Dragon Fruit, Coconut Fig Energy Squares, Organic Raw Sprouted Cinnamon Pecans. Ummm….yes please!

This Pie Is Nuts – Okay, I was so excited to try out this booth and meet Diana Cornell, the owner. I had heard wonderful things about her pies, and she did not disappoint. She explained to me how clean from gluten her kitchen is, and how much she cares about the ingredients that go into her foods. The Key Lime Pie and Purely Pumpkin Pie were definitely winners.

Okay, here come two of my very favorite booths….chocolate.

Brooklyn Dark – AMAZING chocolate! When I mentioned that I have Celiac Disease, the owners instantly asked me if I could have soy or sesame seeds or nuts. “Thank you so much for asking!” They take great pride in their ingredients and really seem to care about the people who they are selling their products to. Flavors include Classic Hemp, Orange Silk, Open Sesame, and Moroccan Spice. Totally amazing chocolate. Please buy it right now.

Bixby & Co – This was all sorts of amazing. And a certified gluten free sign! Like I said, one of my very favorite booths. Check this out:
Dark chocolate with sweet currants, Maine sea salt, and roasted hazelnuts.
Milk chocolate with sweet dark raisins, Vietnamese cinnamon, and roasted walnuts.
Dark chocolate with sun dried strawberries, Ceylon cinnamon, and California almonds.
All. Sorts. Of. Amazing. Some of the best chocolate I’ve ever eaten. I feel like I should put this one in all caps, as well. AMAZING. There we go.

A quick disclaimer: Please remember to double check products before you buy them to ensure that they are still gluten free. Ingredients and policies can change in large brands as well as locally made products.

All in all, quite the delightful afternoon! I hope you get a chance to try out some of these companies. Many of them (even the local ones) will ship wherever.

….so what are you waiting for?!

Happy eating!


Sunday, March 15, 2015

King Arthur Flour Brownie Mix

There are some exciting things coming up on the blog, but while I gather a little more information I have a quick product review.

My good friend Theresa and a bottle of Pinot Grigio recently visited for a girls night. We munched away on some of my new concoctions – fresh baguette dipped in olive oil and a cheesy onion appetizer. Three-quarters of the way through the bottle of wine I chirped, “I think we need to make brownies!” It was the obvious choice.

There was no time to make a new recipe from scratch – at least not when you’re a light weight and have drunk 1.5 glasses of wine – so we used a mix from King Arthur Flour. So easy! Add butter, water, eggs, and voila! Brownies!

(There is no picture of the brownies themselves. No time for that when you’ve almost finished the wine!)

My fancy alterations from the box instructions:

1.      I used half butter, half coconut oil….because it’s healthier? No, because I didn’t have enough butter to begin with.
2.      We baked them for 35 minutes instead of the recommended 40-45 in order to make the brownies really soft and gooey.

In short – best brownies ever. Theresa and I have tried a few brands and this is our favorite. Perfectly rich and chocolaty. Just perfect. I won’t tell you how much we ate, but let’s just say that Theresa’s roommates will have to fight over the leftovers that I sent her home with.

Theresa departed with the bits of leftovers, and I was left happily basking in the chocolate and wine afterglow. Until the hangover headache set in an hour later. Apparently, ladies and gentlemen, that’s what happens when you’re in your late-mid-twenties and have drunk 2.25 glasses of wine. You get the morning after feeling an hour later. 

Stay tuned for more product reviews, recipes, and coverage of the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival! Now go make some brownies!


Friday, March 6, 2015

A love letter to Bistango

If you live in New York and have not been to Bistango, you need to drop whatever you are doing, get in a cab (let’s face it, it’s cold outside) and go there right now. It is my favorite restaurant in the city. I will happily spend every birthday, anniversary –  heck let’s say every Saturday – there, elegantly dining away on white wine, pasta, and flourless chocolate cake. Kristopher and I were there last weekend, happily celebrating the two year anniversary of when we met.

Anthony, the owner of this magical place, is the perfect host. An absolute gentleman. He is very much of the reason why I keep coming back. Almost every night he can be found greeting all of the regulars and newbies at the door. And he truly cares about making his restaurant the most wonderful place to be for the gluten intolerant. I remember speaking with him a few years ago after my second or third visit. I told him about my recent Celiac diagnosis and thanked him for the care he shows towards Celiac and NCGS folks. He looked at me earnestly and said, “I’m glad you’re okay.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why it will always be my favorite spot in the city (the amazing food and atmosphere does help, too).

It goes without being said that Kristopher and I have visited fairly frequently. It’s always the site of my birthday parties, and whenever family comes in from out of town it is our go-to place. It just makes everyone happy – the gluten eaters and the non. Often times, however, I’ll have a gluten eating friend hungrily look at my dish and say, “Well, mine looks really good….but yours looks even better. Can I have a bite?” Kris has gotten into the habit of suggesting that everyone order gluten free to see how amazing gluten free dining can be.

Upon arriving for our anniversary, Kristopher and I were shown our seats and were asked if we had any food intolerances (don’t you just love it when waiters ask this right away?). We were happily munching away on GF baguette when Anthony came to our table to give us both hugs, sit with us for a bit and ask how the cook book was coming along. We chatted about recipes while Kris showed him some recent pictures. It made our night so special. He later left us to our meal and our wine, both of which disappeared slowly as we chatted away. The dessert menu came. As full as we were, we have learned that you NEVER say no to dessert at Bistango. The best desserts in the city, as far as we are concerned (and we’ve tried a lot). We shared two desserts – our favorite flourless chocolate cake and a new delicious raw cake that Anthony told us we must try.

I had every intention of taking pictures of our beautiful meal for the blog, but that idea completely flew out of my head the second our dishes arrived. So until I update this post, please enjoy a picture of a previous Bistango outing. As you can see, these desserts almost didn’t make it in time for the picture either. They are just that good. (Note: that’s the famous flourless chocolate cake! The best dessert in the house and by far the best flourless chocolate cake in Manhattan – mine comes in at second).

So on your visit:
-          Call ahead for a reservation. You’ll definitely need it on a Friday or Saturday night.
-          Say hi to Anthony and tell him that Jessica sent you.
-          Enjoy your GF baguette because it is SOO good.
-          Order any of the pasta or entrĂ©e dishes. I’ve had at least half of the things on the menu and they are all fantastic. This particular visit we chose the pizza with meatballs and pasta with spicy marinara and sausage.
-          ALWAYS save room for dessert. Order the flourless chocolate cake and at least one other dessert. Even if it’s just you. You can always take it home, right?
-          Tip them well and thank the staff before leaving to show how much you support restaurants that support the gluten free community.

Happy two years, Kristopher! Can we go back to Bistango soon?