Tag Archives: Gluten-free diet

Udi’s – Sample Package…put to good use

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Blurry - sorry!

So now that school is out – I have a bit more time to catch up on my posts.  Honestly, I’m so far behind it’s ridiculous.  I’m sorry to fall behind and lose touch with a few people via the blog.  That’s life with two working parents and little people.  :D  

Last month, Udi’s sent a sample box of incredible proportions to me.  Honestly, I was super surprised and wondering what the best way to taste-test and share out would be.  I decided to bring the goodies to work (high school) to share them with my newly diagnosed students and a few old-timers.  No, not any adults.  Just “old timers” as in now my  15+ year old students who have been gluten intolerant or have had their diagnosis for several years if not since they were babes.  I don’t have any pictures because I did not want to compromise the privacy of my students.  Instead, i have used the images from either my cell phone (of the box…and it’s blurry- SORRY!) or from the Udi’s website.  The reviews are from my students.

I don’t buy so much pre-packaged foods.  Not that there are not good choices in the gluten-free world any more but more because my budget does not allow for the expense.  However there are a few things that I do enjoy when money allows:

  1. Pasta (Jovial or Schar’s)
  2. Rudi’s tortillas (o.m.gosh good when torched a bit over an open flame…LOL),
  3. Glutino Yogurt Pretzels (also in my Udi’s box)
  4. and now FRESH Udi’s burger buns.  They were a hit!

Included in the sample box were the following:

  • Udi’s breads:  cinnamon-raisin, sandwich, hamburger buns and hot dog buns
  • Udi’s bagels:  Mighty Bagels and Everything Inside
  • Udi’s granola:  Blueberry Cashew & Cranberry Granola
  • Udi’s  sweets:  Brownie Bites & Snickerdoodles
  • Udi’s muffins:  Vanilla & Blueberry
  • Udi’s granola Bars:  Ancient Grain
  • Udi’s pizza crusts
  • Glutino:  Strawberry Toaster Pastry
  • Glutino:  Original Bagel Chips
  • Glutino:  yogurt-covered pretzels & regular pretzels

I gave items to the students to take home and try, eat for lunch (I have a gluten-free designated toaster in my classroom) or have at break.  Kids tended to just eat the items at their desk (unless it was sandwich/bun related).  I tasted several of the items myself (Mighty Bagel, Brownie Bites, Ancient Grain granola bars, toaster pastry, bagel chips and pretzels (both kinds, of course).  Yes, I took one for the team.  :D  Here’s our collective review of the items:  (NOTE:  all images (but the blurry one) belong to the company Udi’s or Glutino and are used with permission.)

 

  • Udi’s breads:  cinnamon-raisin, sandwich, hamburger buns and hot dog buns
    • REVIEW:  Students loved the FRESH quality (and I agree!) of the breads.  Maybe because we tend to get Udi’s breads here out of the freezer at the markets, this was a different experience.  The breads were soft and moist and much to the surprise of most – they didn’t need to be toasted!  Some felt the sandwich bread was just “meh” (I’m quoting here…lol).  But the hamburger and hot dog buns were big hits.  Once student even marched herself  down to the cafeteria to see if they would sell her a plain (no bun) burger with cheese.  (No luck for her there as all the burgers are already on buns in the cafeteria.)  I brought a hot dog bun and burger bun home for a family taste-test.  I didn’t think my kids would like it (they peel their buns off just to eat the cheese off the burgers or just the hot dog/brat).  However my girls LOVED the buns too.    GRADE:  A (if fresh); B- (if frozen)

  • Udi’s bagels:  Mighty Bagels and Everything Inside
    • REVIEW:  These were good.  (I liked my Mighty Bagel toasted and slathered with peanut butter.)  Students thought they were HUGE and more like reshaped bread than the bagels she used to eat (ahhhh…the newbie with only 6 months under her belt of gluten-free has no idea how she has been spared the dense gluten-free chews of years gone by….LOL0.  One student checked the calorie count on the side of the bag and freaked out.  She ate half a bagel (Everything Inside) and declared it delicious but that it has better flavor when toasted.  Another student (not gluten-free) overheard us talking about toasted bagels and informed us that you are not supposed to eat bagels toasted (ha!).  We offered taste tests.  He caved and agreed.  Better toasted.  OVERALL GRADE:  A- 

  • Udi’s granola:  Blueberry Cashew & Cranberry Granola
    • REVIEW:  Two students took these cereals home to gluten free family.  Both students said the granola was good but that they weren’t the granola-for-cereal type eaters.  However, their gluten free moms LOVED the cereals (one with hemp milk and the other just plain as a trail mix/snack).  These are definitely crunchy with some big bites, so I see why she chose to use it as a trail mix/dry snack.  Both moms like the fact that they could find whole grain goodness in a gluten free form with great flavor.  OVERALL GRADE:  A

  • Udi’s  sweets:  Brownie Bites & Snickerdoodles
    • REVIEW:  These treats were enjoyed during a break by several kids (gluten free and not).  All of the kids said they would not choose to eat another snickerdoodle.  They thought the cookies tasted odd and were a bit doughy. The Dark Chocolate Brownie Bites were a hit with some and another miss with others.  The semi-doughy and dense brownies were a hit with kids who like their brownies most and dense (and “barely cooked” were the words of one student).  Other students felt the brownies were far too undercooked and “pasty” for them.  They debated the grade a lot for this one.  Since they felt there were other treats out that they fit their “sweet tooth” better, this grade suffered.  OVERALL GRADE:  C+

  • Udi’s muffins:  Vanilla & Blueberry
    • REVIEW:  I think the kids (mine and the students) would have liked to have eaten just the tops off all the vanilla muffins.  The sweet topping just about sent them sailing.  The muffins were good – moist (moreso than the frozen variety we can get here) and delicious/flavorful.  High school kids said they wish the muffins would come as mini-muffins for easier packing/snacking at school.  I think I have to agree. The muffins were huge and we (my girls and I) didn’t finish ours.  GRADE:  B+

  • Udi’s granola Bars:  Ancient Grain
    • REVIEW:  Okay…. these are good.  I like semi-soft, slightly sweet granola bars.  The students liked these too but reminded me that they were “healthy”.  They are sweet though – 10grams of sugar per bar/serving.  Honestly, I could have eaten more than one.  I put two of these in my desk drawer for those days when I lose my mind and forget lunch or under plan.  Honestly, these might make the purchase on a rotation list for me.  I will stash a couple in the car for days when I’m out running around with the kids.  (Seems I always plan their meals but forget my own.)  GRADE:  A

  • Udi’s pizza crusts
    • REVIEW:  I used these to make cheese pizza for the kids one night.  They loved the crust (and hated my choice of cheese:  straight mozzarella).  I did brush the bottom of the crust with a bit of olive oil and put it on a preheated HOT HOT pan to make the bottom crunch up a bit (like a pizza stone would…. but alas, mine broke ages ago).  They are labeled “thin and crispy”.  They are thin.  But they will need your help to make them crispy.  Overall, they were decent, but not sure they would make our precious purchase list.  However, if our kids were gluten free and the rest of us were not?  It just might.  Since I am gluten free – our house is gluten free (minus the stash of kid crackers/one loaf of bread) for all things baked/cooking if from scratch.  Since I would end up making one pizza for the whole family, it would be a bit larger than these crusts are.  The crusts are perfect for 2-3 little people (with an adult helping….thanks, Dad, for cleaning up the errant cheese pizza slices that were eschewed).  GRADE:  B+

  • Glutino:  Strawberry Toaster Pastry
    • REVIEW:  Personally, it’s been way more than my years of gluten free living since I’ve eaten a toaster pastry.  Even then I think I ate a different brand of breakfast toaster thingy – but the ones I like were filled with egg/sausage and were also slightly sweet.  (How does that work?  Sweet sausage?  Ah, how little the pre-gluten free me really knew about the things in my food!)  A couple of students pocketed these toaster goodies for later – and did not toast them to eat them.  They said they wish the pastry had more filling as in “I wish it were EXPLODING with strawberry goodness…but it really wasn’t”.  Both the “ate them toasted” and “ate them raw” camps thought they were a bit chewy and wanted me to be sure to mention that one should definitely have a beverage on hand.  Another student said that she liked “feeling normal” in class when she pulled this out of her bag for a snack.  She said often kids ask her what she is eating when it “looks obviously different”.  Not a single question when cracking out the toaster pastry = inconspicuousness.  This is a golden attribute sometimes – but especially when you are simply eating because you are hungry.  And you’re a teenager (or me….LOL).  And you really are eating just to eat, not to engage is conversations about digestive ailments.  :D  GRADE:  B+

  • Glutino:  Original Bagel Chips
    • REVIEW:  “These things are ….. hard!  Well…not like ‘hard-hard’ but like “Wow.  Crunchy, dried toastette hard!”      And yes.  My student was right.  These little toasted crackers are crunchy and hard.  They reminded me a bit of seriously oversized croutons from the salads of my youth.  You know, the ones that could float on your pea soup for quite a while before becoming soggy?  Yes, these are those.  Just bigger.  Since I didn’t really bring a bunch of extra goodies to school to have the taste-test, the kids and I thought these might be nice with a tomato-basil bruchetta.  Personally, I’m going to try some for an appetizer for a party we are having soon with goat cheese and Thai sweet chili sauce, another topped with a cream cheese and salmon, etc.  You get the idea.  Nice little crudité bases.  They have other flavors – garlic parmesan and cinnamon-sugar.  The garlic-parmesan interests me the most.   The cinnamon-sugar one reminds me of some vague memory of eating crunchy toast-like things that were dry as a kid.  I cannot remember what they were…but I remember the dry crunch with the slightly sweet cinnamon-sugar flavor. (Anyone know what I’m talking about?)  KID GRADE:  D (Because they would just never imagine themselves cracking these out for snack time.)  ADULT GRADE:  B+ (Because of the potential there to build on!)

  • Glutino:  yogurt-covered pretzels & regular pretzels
  • REVIEW:  Look out.  These guys (the yogurt covered ones) are dangerous for your waistline.  I don’t know why – but I love them.  Too much, actually.  I think I ate a half a bag before I realized it.  I went out about bought two bags for students to try.  And they didn’t like them as much as I did.  I think I had a sugar-high overload and crashed after eating these…but that is what happens when you convince yourself that it is REALLY YOGURT and PRETZEL.  Ha!  Overall, these guys are a super sweet treat and they will make the list of possibly purchase for us.  Especially if I am on the road or packing a lunch.  That way I can pack a FEW in my lunchbox.  Honest to goodness, if I pack the bag, I *will* eat it.   :D   Students with a sweet tooth (self-professed) thought these were great but they also thought they were a bit too sweet.  To make up for it, everyone was munching on a combo bite:  one yogurt-covered pretzel + one regular pretzel = perfection.  I sent the rest of the pretzels in little baggies off with several kids for the day.  We mixed them half and half.  One student even added his raisin and peanut mix.  Another snack-on-the-run.  GRADE:  B+

 

One thing was clear, Udi’s and Glutino have truly heard the gluten free market demands:  soft breads, versatile treats, nutritious ingredients (those granola bars and cereals!) and good.  Simply good food.  May might be Celiac awareness month, but the truth is, those of us who live this life are educators about our life and gluten free living everyday.  Just this week a friend called telling me that she/her husband/son are going to “go gluten free for a week” to help alleviate his intestinal/digestive trouble.  (A week to clear up digestive/intestinal stuff???!!?  Don’t worry – she’s hip, she’s reading, she’s asking questions, and we are talking.)

Her first question was “Do you have any brand of Gluten Free Bread that you love?”  

Love?  Ummm…no.  Not really.  At least not one that you buy in a store.  I told her that she should most likely start by not just trying to replace their gluten-filled menus with gluten-free filled “same” because it (1) won’t be “the same” and (2) it will bust her budget.  And then it hit me… you know… the Udi’s bread we ate?  That was pretty good and if I were starting out on the gluten free diet again?  That’s a great place to start.  

THANK YOU Udi’s and Glutino for the sample package.  My students and I had fun eating “special food” with other students in the mix.  It is great fun to have something special to share with the kids who watch dozens of cookies, bagels, and other snacks be passed about on campus everyday.  The rest of the class began asking great questions about the diet and several more talked about parents, uncles/aunts, cousins, friends, etc who are gluten intolerant or have Celiac Disease.   Sharing in such a public forum certainly brought about a lot of dialogue and awareness.  

Thank you for sharing with us!  I am very grateful for the chance to share and gift your goodies to students/families who are starting out, in need of  help/advice/food, etc.  You (Udi’s and Glutino) have helped some families more than you know with your timely donations.

Happy Gluten Free Life, all - 
Kate

 

 

A long winter

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Out and About

Eastern WA

We ran away this weekend.   It was very long overdue.  Winter is hard here for us with the very limited light (although I easily admit that since it has been “very dry” in Western Washington terms, I’ve enjoyed it more).  This winter has been worse.  

In December a colleague of mine – my age, married with three kids (6th grade and 3rd) – was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer just before Christmas Break.  It blew my mind.  As someone who is well-connected in our community through his coaching, teaching, university studies, growing up nearby, etc – the hundreds – and literally thousands of people who have come forward to offer support for he and his family is amazing.  There are little pieces we all contribute – mostly watching over the hundreds of students at school who have had – and are having – a very difficult time with this.  My friends at work – his coaching buddies for years through baseball and football – are complete wrecks.   

And then another colleague (my age) committed suicide on the last day of February.  

I have been speechless and riddled with anxiety, grief, tears, and funny memories of my very sassy friend who killed himself and well… speechless.  

He leaves behind two boys (one 6th grader, and the other in elementary school) who adored him.  He was an excellent father.  A hilarious, passionate colleague – and beyond that – a troubled soul who struggled his whole life with depression.

And then winter dragged on.  The rain came back.  The clocks all changed.  And the stress of the year began to eat at me.

Frequently, my little band of 3 and I find ourselves on day trips or weekend “adventures”.  In the winter, with work, these “adventures” can be as exciting as filling the freezer by stocking up at Costco.  Yes, we are that exciting.   This March, even the simple pleasures of watching a movie together could not ease the pains of loss.  We thought about traveling for a few days to get away to places we have enjoyed in the past… but you know what?

I just didn’t want to work that hard.

I didn’t want to have to research/look-up everything, call restaurants, plan our adventures by a map with not only gluten-free but kid-friendly options nearby.    I just didn’t.  I don’t mind that traveling may not only sometimes be a bit more costly (because swinging through the random coffee shop or sandwich shop will not always produce a gluten-free option at a low-cost).    That’s just the name of the game.

But this time around, I really just wanted to relax.  With my kids.  And no cell phones, televisions, pesky to-do lists, mail to sort, email to answer, etc  And I certainly didn’t want to spend my vacation time with my nose in my cell phone trying to find a gluten-free option for dinner as we strolled through our afternoon.  (Hey…it’s been known to happen when we just get in the car and go!)

 

God's Eyes

 

I remember this little mountain retreat place that I had been to 8 years ago.  It is a renovated mountain camp – much like one you may have been to as a kid – but with updated furnishings, towel warmers in the bathroom, trails between “cabins” (duplex cabin-esque units) and random Chihuly blown glass art sculptures.  Oh yes, and an outdoor bar with its own waterfall.  It definitely feels like someone who wanted to go “camping” but well… not really.  

DSC_0038

In other words, it sounded perfect.  We could unplug.  We could explore.  The kids could be outside.  And the weather was 68-72F during the day with sunshine and a 32F cold (perfect for sleeping) at night.  My kind of place. :D

The best part?  I didn’t have to even think about dinner nor brunch.  Once we made our reservations, I let them know that I had Celiac and would need a gluten-free meal option.

HA!  An option!  The restaurant (on site) was a gluten-free haven.  Oh – and the majority of the food served was locally grown.   It was great – for every meal (buffet style) we ate there, I could eat all entrée mains (except one each meal), they had fresh gluten-free bread options for the asking, gluten-free dessert options (gf chocolate cake, white chocolate creme brulee, etc), all gluten-free salad dressings, all gluten-free salad options separated from the non-gf items in the salad bar, etc.  Honestly.  There was too much food.  (Don’t worry, we survived that disappointment…LOL)

In fact, there was so much available to me that I couldn’t help but find myself mystified why the two entrees (two different meals) that I could NOT eat were NOT made gluten-free as well. It would have been so easy to do.  (For the record, it was a pork rack roast and the next day, a ham.)  I mean really.  Could they not use tamari?

AND FINALLY, my Love and I laughed.  

Seriously – how many times have we traveled together when the only safe option for me were some plain leafy greens or something less than joyful for a food-lover like me?  And here I was, in a buffet-style restaurant with so many gluten-free options that my brain focused on what I could NOT have?!

We began to discuss how often in life we condition ourselves to see that we are trained to see.  In work.  With kids.  With each other.  With my Celiac Disease.  Surrounded by the food that the servers/chefs could easily answer the gluten-free question for me and there I was, stuck on that stinking rack roast.  

And there I have been all March.  Stuck on the loss of my colleague and the impending loss of another.

Walk OnEveryday my little people and I sing loudly (and out of tune) together in the car.  They always request their favorites.  I rarely am one to quote song lyrics, but their latest song has caught my mind.  The song is called “Carry On” by the group FUN.  The lyrics (in part) say this:

…If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on…

I’m sure I will have my damn-it, it’s not-gluten-free moments again.

I know I will continue to grieve the loss of my friends.

And I also know that the sun will shine, my kids will keep laughing, and we will all carry on.  There are many worse things in this world that having to avoid gluten.  I have never thought it was the end of my world.  I guess I just forgot to look up at the path ahead of me sometimes to see those little feet marching on.  So please forgive my latest absence.  I’ve been busy bringing my soul back from the depths of grief and setting my eyes on those little feet in the picture.

May your Spring be bringing you out of a dark winter with Love as well - 

~Kate

 

 

Gluten Free Grasshopper Cupcakes: Mint-Chocolate & Chocolate Chip

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Gluten Free Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes
Gluten Free Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes

Gluten Free Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes

A couple months ago, a colleague brought me some small gluten free cupcakes from a local bakery.  They were “grasshopper” cupcakes, she told me.  I was curious.  She handed me the box and smiled.  Said because they were gluten free, she snapped them up as she “knew someone” who could enjoy them.  I’m the lucky someone, I told her.  I thanked her profusely for thinking of me and promised to give them a try at lunch time. (It was 7AM, after all, when she delivered them.)  The school day started with the rush of students, papers, lessons, activities, things to manage, etc and soon lunch arrived.

I opened the box of cupcakes.   There were FOUR of them.  Four?  Hot dog!

And then I looked more closely.  Egad…they were CHOCOLATE!  I know this sounds ridiculous, but I am really NOT a fan of chocolate cake.  I am fairly certain my aversion to chocolate cake and ice cream stems from a not-too-fun incident when I was 6.

We had just moved in to our new house on the East Coast when my family noticed a birthday party of little girls in the nearby cup-de-sac.  Since they were all my age, I was encouraged and “included”…. and petrified.  I didn’t know any of them – but my anxiety tends to display itself as super-social behavior.  I guess it fit the birthday party mode.  What didn’t fit was the superhuman consumption of chocolate cake (GIANT portions with major frosting) and chocolate ice cream (HUGE SCOOP).  I …. well…. ended the party ill.  And never socialized with the little girls in the nearby cul-de-sac again.  (Way to kick off a new school/new school year with a reputation, huh?)

Needless to say, I was bummed to see chocolate cupcakes.  Since I had told my colleague I would let her know what they were like, I forced myself to take a small bite of one.  And wow.  They were good cupcakes!  They were light, had an airy crumb and tasted nicely.  (They were a bit crumbly…but hello? Gluten free!)  I shared the other three cupcakes with 3 of my students who are also gluten intolerant or have Celiac Disease.  (It’s amazing to me the number of kids who are gluten free now – we even have a “gluten free club” in the high school!).  They were a hit with everyone.

And I thought about going down to pick up more cupcakes from that bakery another day.  So about 2 weeks ago before Valentine’s Day, I brought the girls down there to pick up some cupcakes for Valentine’s dessert.  Everyday the flavors offered change (apparently) and I was bummed to discover that the gluten free cupcake “of the day” was not Grasshopper.  To boot, each standard (as in what you would make at home = smallish cupcake) cost $2.50 – or “$30/dozen)  (Ummmm..hello?).  Needless to say, I will not be a cupcake-purchasing Momma again for a while.

And the girls?  Well, one of them ate the frosting off their cupcake and the other took 3 bites of the cake before declaring she was “done”.  Next time I will buy one for them to split and save myself the wallet-busting heartache when I tossed the uneaten cupcakes into the trash.

But I still couldn’t get over the cupcake my colleague had given me.  So I set out to make one myself.

Recipe Testing

Recipe testing

I’m happy to report that I ditched the ratios, squashed the “dense cupcake” dilemma and discovered the best cupcake I’ve had in a VERY long time.  I have thoroughly tested this recipe (have made it at least 6 times in the last two weeks) and sent samples out and about in the world with a wide variety of testers: (1) gluten intolerant/celiac “used to the gluten free baked good” crowd, (2) my non-gluten free  but utterly wonderful colleagues who have tasted a dozen + recipes for me without complaint but great tips; (3) the toddler/youngster set in the house and with my friends; and this time – I dared request testers from my could-be-professional cake-baker buddies.  Really.  One of my colleagues could easily retire and bake cakes for big bucks for people.  (PS.  And she’s grossed out by gluten free stuff…ha!)

All of my testers have report HAPPY and DELICIOUS results.  I hope you will too.  Even the pro-baker-to-be has requested the recipe for when she may need a gluten free go-to cake. She said, and I quote “I would have NEVER known that this was a gluten free cake.  It was perfect.”   (Yes!)

A recipe tester

 

GFGrasshopperCupcakes

I hope you enjoy these cupcakes as much we have.  If you noticed, I’m trying to figure out the best recipe-print plugin for my new blog format.  Forgive me for playing around a bit until we figure it out. :D

Happy cupcake baking – I’m on to my next task:  converting this recipe for a lighter, airy non-chocolate version.  So far?  So good!

~Kate