Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hanging out with Hudsonville

I was blessed to be asked to spend the day with the folks at Hudsonville Ice Cream
learning about their practices, production and products.

I'll have to admit that prior to this trip, I didn't know much about Hudsonville ice ream. I knew they were a Michigan company and I know that just over a year ago they took great strides to label their gluten free products. (25 flavors to be exact!) And after spending time touring their facility and learning more about them, they may have just won over this girl as a loyal customer.

Hudsonville Creamery was started (as a co-op) in 1895 and they started making their first ice cream in 1926. That means Husdonville has been around in some capacity for over 100 years! But as I learned a year ago, Hudsonville no longer resides in Hudsonville. It's made a few moves in its lifetime, and it is now located in Holland. But even though the address has changed, the commitment to excellent ice cream hasn't.

As consumers are interested in supporting local more and more, so is Hudsonville. I was amazed to learn that all of their dairy comes from within 60 miles of their plant. They actually receive milk to the facility that was milked from the cow within the past 12 hours! They took us over to Pyle Farm, located in Zeeland to meet the dairy farmers that they work with. It was such a blessing, as I think far too often for this country we take where our food comes from for granted. It reminds me the hard work that these people do every day to make sure that the food the comes to our table is great in quality and superior in safety.

Nate Pyle and his family have been part of this farming community since 1848.
But don't let the long history of Hudsonville fool you--- they are not a company that is stuck in the past. They are concerned about consumer interests and needs and are constantly innovating to make their practices safer and to keep our taste buds tantalized.

A little over a year ago, Hudsonville hired Ray Sierengowski to be their Director of Product Development. Ray has been involved in the food science industry for over a decade and has been excited to help Hudsonville develop new flavors and products. He told us that when he interviewed for the job, he impressed upon them the need and the public's desire for natural products.

And it was out of that dream that the new Hudsonville Naturals line was born.

While the FDA still hasn't defined what "natural" means on a label, Hudsonville is striving to set the bar high. Their new naturals line has NO HFCS, no artificial colors or flavors, and no milk that contains rBST. The cane sugar in their ice cream is even non-gmo.They don't even use beet powder to punch up the pink color in their Naturals Strawberry Ice Cream. The only red and pink found in that container is from the strawberries themselves. This line has had such resounding success in its first two months that they are looking to switch some of their other flavors to "naturals" as well. (And they hinted that a pint line may be in the works....so I highly suggest following them on Facebook to get the latest news!)

Not only did they tell us about their processes, they took us through through the entire plant, allowing us to ask questions. As a person with Celiac Disease, I asked about the steps that they take to prevent cross-contact, especially as they have flavors that do contain gluten. They have a very detailed allergen matrix which lays out what flavors can be run after others. If there is any concern, they will shut down the complete system and flush it. This is no small order, as it takes hours. Not only do they take allergen safety steps in their facility, but they also offer training for scoop shops to educate them on allergens. While this is primarily done through their website, they are also willing to drive out to scoop shops to give in-person education.

This package just came off the line. Their -40 degree freezers turn it rock hard within 90 minutes.

They are also incredibly generous. I was moved when I heard that they often donate ice cream tubs to local mission shelters. They even keep a freezer in the back of the plant, by the loading bay, to give ice cream to the drivers to take home to their families. They have the most amazing lounge/ kitchen area where their staff can eat lunch in peace and quiet. They treat people with integrity around here. Amazing!

There are so many other great things that happened on our tour, but I don't want to ramble too long.But I want to hear from you. Which of their flavors would you like to see as part of their "Naturals" line up?

Ray holding the door open for us at lunch at New Holland Brewing. What a gentleman!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kalemazoo Chips

If someone would have told me when I was in college that I would someday 
be eating kale and loving it, I might think that you didn't know me all too well.

Fast forward to today, and I think they're fantastic. I've had a few different brands of kale chips, some that tasted cheesy, chocolatey, spicy. And they've been from around the country - California, Texas, etc.

But now I can feel good about eating healthy kale chips, made in the state of Michigan, made with organic ingredients, and that my dollars also go to educating children.

Kalemazoo Chips was started by Hether Frayer when she was figuring out what to do with the plethora of kale that she had in her house. After a few years of recipe tinkering and creativity, she finally came up with recipes that she felt good about and thought tasted great. Kalemazoo Chips were born. 

They come in two flavors- Lemony Kick-It and Lime Coconut. While they are both good, I'm a fan of the lemon and my husband is a fan of the lime. They're great by themselves or served with a sandwich.

One of the neat things about this product, is that their profits go towards funding the Fresh Food Fairy. This is an education program geared towards elementary kids, teaching them the benefits of eating vegetables. The Fresh Food Fairy even has a blender bike, in which kids can pedal their way to a tasty treat and think about the energy that is needed to process the food we eat, as well as the health benefits of exercise. 
 They also talk about what is means for something to be "Fair Trade," and how workers and farmers should be treated fairly for their work and how the earth should be treated with respect. 

You can go to the Fresh Food is Fun website to see where you can purchase them locally, or buy them directly from them online. You can also purchase their seasoning packets to make your own homemade kale chips, if like Hether you find yourself with a bounty of kale and are unsure what to do with it!

***I was provided product to sample and review, but am in no way paid for my comments. 
My opinions and thoughts are entirely my own. ***


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Al Dente Gluten Free Pasta

I love learning about new gluten free foods, and even more so when they are made right here in the state of Michigan. Add in that it's made in a dedicated gluten free facility AND it's certified gluten free by the GFCO, and I'm beyond excited.

Al Dente's new gluten free pasta is worth knowing about. This gluten free pasta is made from beans, but has been specially treated to remove any bean after taste. Because it is made from beans, each two ounce serving has 6 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, plus it only has 65 mg of sodium. The benefits don't stop there though- it is also soy free, egg free and dairy free, as well as containing no genetically modified ingredient and it's kosher.

Al Dente pasta was generous enough to send me a package containing one of each of the new gluten free pastas. Their spiral pastas come in three flavors- Pure & Simple, Spinach, and Garlic Parsley. As healthy as it appears, I was so eager to see how it tasted.

As I was considering how I wanted to prepare the Pure & Simple the other night, I noticed that there was a recipe on the back of the bag. As it was similar to what I had in mind, I chose to go with their recipe for Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli.

Do you notice the number 3 on the bottom right hand corner of the bag of pasta? That's because this pasta cooks in only 3 MINUTES! And that was a big help the night that I made this, after spending all day helping my husband pack up his classroom for the end of the year.

Although Al Dente calls their pasta "spirals," I felt that they were closer to egg noodle pasta. Which is AWESOME because I can never find gluten free egg noodle pasta! This pasta cooks up nice and tender, and benefits from a little simmer in the sauce that you're making, just to marry the flavors. Not long, just enough for them to get acquainted. :)

This pasta was SO delicious. It was so good that I'm definitely sold on buying more. You can purchase their 8 oz. bag for $3.99 on their website. You can also currently find them in these following stores-

Arbor Farms
Plum Markets
The Cheese Lady (Grand Rapids)
Chelsea Market
Holiday Markets
Joe's Produce
Johnny Pomodoro's
Market Fresh Beverly Hills
Market Square (Birmingham, West Bloomfield)
Papa Joe's
Produce Station
Polish Market (Troy)
Relish Green Grocer
Sawall Health Foods
Vince & Joe's

***Meijer does carry their non-gluten free pasta. Please feel free to let Meijer know that 
you'd like to see the gluten-free varieties carried at their store too! ***

Beef Stroganoff made with the Garlic Parsley pasta
Even better, they are letting me giveaway a box of their gluten free pastas, containing one of each flavor. Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win. Remember, you can earn points by doing each of the 5 items, and can earn extra entries by tweeting each day from the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***While I was given product for review, I am in not being paid for my comments. 
My thoughts and opinions are completely my own. ***

Friday, June 12, 2015

GF Weekend Update June 12 2015

In the news
Celiac Disease and Neuropathy
In recent medical news, a connection between Celiac Disease and neuropathy was found. Of specific mention were links between ALS and Multiple Sclerosis. Reporters in this article went as far to say that all patients with Multiple Sclerois should be tested for Celiac Disease. And the article also reinforced, as I ALWAYS say, that people need to be tested before switching to a gluten free diet.
On a personal note, I think that Fibromyalgia patients should be tested for Celiac Disease as well.

In the kitchen

As many of us know, Aldi has their own gluten free line called liveGfree. During May's Celiac Awareness Month, they launched a "special buy" selection of gluten free items. (Special Buy items are only available for a short time.) One of the things I was most eager to try was their Angel Goof Cake Mix.
This is the first Angel Food Cake I have ever made, and I must say it was EXCELLENT! It was so good I went back and picked up the last box of it they had at the store.
We tried several other items in their recent Special Buy that were a hit, such as the Southwest Veggie Tamale Bites and the Cheesecake Sampler. Not all items were stellar though- their All Purpose flour was a dud. Baked goods tasted spongy and the pancake recipe on the back turned out pancakes that tasted more like biscuits than fluffy golden flat cakes.

In the mail
Every once in a while companies send product to me (or give me free product to try at expos.) Recently I won the weekly #HealthFriday Path Of Life Instagram giveaway. I met the Path Of Life crew recently at the Chicago GFAF Expo. They have a wide range of products, from quinoa to garbanzo beans to chocolate covered fruit.

We paired the Southwest Quinoa with our Tamale Bites. The mango in the Southwest Quinoa paired nicely with the black beans and roasted corn in it. I'll be sure to look for it when I'm at Meijer next. Their products are also available at Walmart and Sam's Club.

In my opinon
Even with a gluten free label, you need to ask about how products are made. I recently heard about a great company that stated that their product was gluten free, but inquired more when I read that their product was made in a shared commercial kitchen. In those instances, it can be hard to prevent cross-contact.
Especially as you go to Farmer's Markets this summer, make sure to be vigilant in asking vendors questions when they market a gluten free product. Just because they have a sign (or even a label) that says gluten free, it doesn't mean that it's truly under 20 ppm. And as always, gracefully ask questions. Admittedly sometimes I forget my manners and sound more like a policeman interrogating a witness than sounding like a concerned, possible client.

What were the gluten free highlights in your week?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Renee's Gourmet Pizzeria

 Heaven is real. I've been there. Well, at least gluten free heaven.

Renee's Gourmet Pizzeria is a 100% gluten free, nut free restaurant in Troy, MI. 
And it's ALL good. 

A little background about this restaurant. Renee's opened a little over a year ago. This is a family owned restaurant, created because their daughter has Celiac Disease and Eosinophilic Esophagitis
As they understood the need for a dining establishment with 0% chance of cross-contact, 
they took a big chance that their need would also meet the needs of others. 
And boy has it! They're even hoping to open another location!

  Knowing that we would be filling our faces with gluten free calzones, we started the evening off with a Fattoush salad. The large was more than big enough to share between the three of us. 
Unlike traditional fattoush, their salad does not have pita chips.

 My husband is allergic to shellfish and pork, so we opted to get individual calzones, instead of getting large pizzas that may or may not have pork on it. I ordered the Albanian, filled with feta cheese, veggies and sauce. Renee ordered a barbecued chicken calzone, made with Sweet Baby Ray's sauce. It was SO good. 

My husband ordered their Mexican calzone, filled with ground beef, olives, jalapeno peppers and cheese. He was the lone person with enough restraint to not stuff himself at the restaurant and brought half of his home. He actually thought it tasted even better at home after letting everything "meld" together. 

These are all made with their homemade dough that they make from scratch. I can't wait to go back and try their pizzas. They serve both thin crust and deep dish pizzas AND they have dairy free cheese available for those who need it.

And not only can you get a great meal there, you can get dessert too! These are deep fried cinnamon sticks served with a frosting dipping sauce. I can't even begin to tell you how good these are. 

As if the cinnamon sticks weren't enough, we ordered an elephant ear to share as well, per the suggestion of the table next to us. I'm so glad they suggested it. It reminded me of a Pillsbury toaster strudel without the filling. It's amazing on its own, but I can just imagine it covered with apple pie filling.

So if you live near Troy, Michigan, you need to go here- whether you eat gluten free or not. 
And if you don't live near Troy, it is SO worth the drive.
You won't regret it, I promise! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kahn's Kitchen Paleo Granola

We love granola in this household. My husband has it in his lunch, literally, every day. And as a Celiac who is also oat intolerant, finding totally safe, delicious granola can sometimes be a tall order.

Recently, my friend Jordan a.k.a. King Gluten Free mentioned his love for a New Jersey granola named Kahn's Kitchen. When I realized that it was paleo, and therefore grain and oat free, I was SO excited! I was even more ecstatic when Jason Kahn, the owner of the company reached out and offered to send me some.

They didn't send me the tray- that was mine. :)
Enclosed in the box was one 10 oz. bag of their Cinnamon Raisin granola, as well as three 1.5 oz packges of their, Original, Crunchy and their Cinnamon Raisin granolas. Their 1.5 oz packages are perfect as a mid-day snack, as they are just over 200 calories. I ate the Cinnamon Raisin mini-bag first, and it was delicious!

 It's loaded with all sorts of tasty bits- "Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Cinnamon, Raisins, Honey, Olive oil and sea salt." And at $9.99 for a 10 oz. bag, it's cheaper than the Larabar Renola that I've been buying lately.

I find my favorite way to eat it so far is sprinkled on top of a bowl of cottage cheese and natural applesauce.

As the ingredients for the Original and the Crunchy are the same, I asked Jason to explain the main difference. He said that while the Original is great for a snack and will generally hold its shape, the Crunchy is cooked longer, crumbles easily and is really delicious as a cereal. 

So thanks again to Jason for sharing his delicious granola with me, and props to Jordan for introducing it to me.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Taste Guru April 2015 Review and giveaway

The gang at Taste Guru were gracious enough to send me another box. I was so excited to see two large items in this box, instead of just one. I had recently purchased the Italian Penne Modern Table meal at Whole Foods, and it was far from cheap. The value of the meal and the Namaste pizza crust mix together is $14 alone, plus other additional items. This box is truly a great value.

The Modern Table Mediterranean meal is tasty, and the Italian Penne meal is even better. These meals are made with lentil pasta- full of fiber and protein. They are also full of oat fiber. Unfortunately, I'm still oat sensitive. I ate it anyway, but I ended up not feeling well later in the week. They are a great quick meal, but as always, make sure you read labels first.

I really enjoyed the Curry Crunch from Zouq foods. It had a tart yet sweet taste that really hit the spot. I'm eager to try to find these in my own store!

The Tree Hugger gum is good, and it's great that it's made without artificial colors. I don't like mango, so I put the Matt's Munchies in my husband's lunch. He said it was okay.

I'm not a coffee drinker, but my husband is a coffee connoisseur. I'm sure he'll be trying the Bio Coffee soon. It contains wheatgrass, but their website states that it is gluten free. I don't quite understand how wheat grass is gluten free, but Delight Gluten Free has an article that helps to explain it.

I've had the Gluten Free Bar before. Proud to say that they are made in my home state of Michigan. I think the Cranberry Toasted Almond is my favorite of their products. They have a new "bites" line that are really tasty too! Elliott, one of the Gluten Free Brothers, gave me a package of the new PB+J bites. They are SO good!

SO if you haven't heard about Tate Guru before, here's a quick run down.
They are one of the multiple monthly subscription box companies that offer gluten free items. They have been around for a few years and have upgraded their packaging and their boxes, which I think is an improvement. (Follow this link from when I wrote about them in 2013.)

Like other companies, they offer different lengths of subscriptions, from one month all the way to a year. These are great for a gifts, as care packages for those away from home, or for those looking to try new things every month. It's especially great if you live in a city with few gluten free options.

They send out their boxes at the end of the month, so if you've recently subscribed, they should be sending out the May box to you shortly. If you're interested in subscribing, you can easily do so by clicking on this link here!

Even better, I'm going to give a box away to one of my readers for free! They gave me an extra March box, and instead of making the delicious Better Batter brownies and eating them all by myself, I'm going to pass them on to you.

Just enter using the handy-dandy Rafflecopter giveaway and winner will be chosen at random on May 30th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway