Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gluten-Free Hits And Misses

With Christmas just around the corner, there's nothing I want more than to be spending my days in the kitchen, baking cookies and singing (yep, I belt out Christmas carols when no one's around). Unfortunately, I'm in the midst of finals, so there's been no cooking or baking of any sort this week. The only action the kitchen got was from my boyfriend making a ham quiche. Since I didn't have time, he made me a quiche (using my mushroom and leek quiche recipe) so that there would be something gluten-free for me at his friend's Hannukah dinner. It was very sweet of him, but also pretty funny how nervous he was. When I got off the subway, I had three frantic voicemails from him asking what tamari is. "Is it a spice? I can't find it! Is it going to ruin the quiche if I don't have it?" The final voicemail ended with this, "I know you find cooking to be fun and relaxing, but I don't. At all." Despite his nervousness, the quiche turned out wonderful. He simply replaced the leeks with chopped up deli slices of ham.

Since I don't have any recipes for you today, I thought I'd help you do a little holiday shopping. I love buying food for gifts. Christmas stockings are always stuffed with yummy goodies, and I think it can be fun to make themed food gift baskets, like filling one with gourmet pasta, sundried tomatoes, pesto, and cheese. Since gluten-free foods are very hit or miss, and are generally rather expensive, it can be hard to know what to buy. So if you're looking for something for a gluten-free loved one, here are some ideas on what's worth the money, and what you should leave on the shelf:

Gluten-free Hits and Misses

Bionaturae Organic Gluten Free Fusilli

Hit. I loved this pasta. It had such a great flavor that I would even eat it plain. And unlike other gluten-free pastas I've tried, it didn't dry out the next day. At $4.99 a bag, it's pretty expensive, so it's not something I'd purchase every day. But that makes it a nice gift for someone who might not otherwise purchase something so pricey.

Orgran Gourmet Natural Corn & Vegetable Pasta

Miss. Sorry, after trying the Bionaturae pasta, this just wouldn't do. It was very grainy and dry, and I had to use a lot of sauce to cover it. There's still half a bag sitting in my cupboard because I can't make myself eat it.

Liz Lovely Cookies

Hit. Warning: If you eat these, sugar coma will commence! Seriously, these taste awesome, but they come in packages of two, and who can eat just one? Not me obviously. I absolutely love these, but just a warning that if you eat more than one cookie at a time, you won't feel good after. Best to share these with a friend and save yourself the sugar overload!

Oskri Quinoa Bar

Hit. I picked this out of a giant array of bars one day because the ingredients looked healthier than most of the others. Luckily it also tasted really good! I generally stick to larabars since they have the least number of ingredients, but when I'm in the mood for something different, I'll grab an Oskri bar.

Brown Rice Snaps

Hit. I like pretty much every rice cracker I've ever tried, but this is definitely my favorite brand. I've been eating these since way before my gluten-free days started. I haven't found a flavor I don't like, and I never feel like I need something like a dip or slice of cheese to go with it. They're delicious as they are.

Pamela's Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Miss. I can't speak for other Pamela's products, but these cookies didn't do it for me. I think it was the combination of lemon and shortbread, or maybe it was just that "gluten-free" cookie taste that I didn't like, but these weren't very appealing.

Frankly Natural Bakers Wacky Walnut Brownies

Hit. Mmm....these are moist and chewy! Just like any good brownie should be! I love the walnuts in them too. They remind me of brownies my mom used to pack in my school lunch. Little Debbie's maybe?

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix

Miss. Although the pancakes looked delicious, they were lacking in flavor. I swamped them in peanut butter and jelly, but even so, they were pretty boring. Definitely wouldn't buy them again.

Nana's No Gluten Ginger Cookie

Miss. This one made me sad because it looked so soft and chewy, but just crumbled apart as I tried to eat it. It was also way too gingery for my taste.

Mary's Gone Crackers

Hit. A great snack when I'm in a hurry and need something healthy. And I love that they come in individual packages too. Sometimes you don't want a whole box! Probably because I know myself well enough to know I'd eat most of the box. Individually packaged servings can be a blessing!

Tully's Cookies and Brownies

Hit. I wrote about Tully's delicious desserts a while ago, but in case you missed it, they're awesome! Most gluten-free desserts that you buy at a store taste a little off. They're not necessarily bad; they just don't taste normal. But these cookies and brownies tasted like any gluten-filled dessert...and I had my fair share in the past, so I know!

Envirokidz Organic Panda Crispy Rice Bars, Peanut Butter Flavor

Hit/Miss? The jury's still out. Has anyone else tried these? They basically tasted like rice crispies, but with a slightly strange flavor. I think it was the brown rice syrup, and I wanted to like it, but I didn't. It had the kind of taste though, that made me think it might grow on me. You know those foods, right? The first time you eat them, you don't like them. But for some reason you go back a second time, and by the third, you're hooked.

So that's it. I hope I've saved you from spending money on something that wasn't worth it. Or even better, introduced you to something new you'd like to try! Although, walking through the grocery store today, I realized how many products I still haven't tried! What have you tried that you think was a big hit or miss?

This post is linked to What Can I Eat That's Gluten Free? Linda also has a great post on gluten-free baking mixes for gifts. I haven't tried many mixes yet, so check out her post to see what she recommends.


Linda said...

I'll have to try that pasta. I love Tinkyada, but it's not good the next day. I like the Pamela's lemon cookies, but they are kind of different, so I can see why you wouldn't like them. I think review like this are helpful to people because there are so many products to choose from. Thanks for linking up. I hope your finals go well.

Iris said...

Thanks Linda! I haven't tried Tinkyada yet, but everyone says it's great.

Just Call Me Zippy said...

This is GREAT info! I've been using the Schar pasta or the Mrs. Leepers corn spaghetti. Neither get mushy, but both are a bit disappointing the next day. I can relate to the lack of time. I brought home two recipe books from the library and haven't had time to try any recipes. Moonpie has cooked two batches of your Turkey Noodle Soup recipe using chicken. YUM! (He is actually the chef in our family and has taken on the gluten-free challenge like a trooper.) Thanks for all your wonderful recipes and information. I'll be the first in line to buy a cookbook when you publish one!:)

Jessie at GF4G said...

Iris, thanks for stopping by my blog. Yes I made the whole batch. Actually we doubled THAT. I commented back on my blog with some more tips but wanted to make sure you saw that. :)

Thanks for your reviews. Some of the products I've not found before. I do like those rice snaps! I also agree on Nana's I was hoping they would be like the gas station cookies "mamma's" I think. I found them to be too dry. Oh well

Heather said...

thank you for reviewing these products! i just started living gluten free 6 days ago and i'm loving it! of course i'm going through the trial and error phase of finding products i actually like. i just bought a bag of Bionaturae Organic Gluten Free Fusilli earlier today! I was hoping I could use that in place of egg noodles in my favorite casserole dish. I'm so glad you said they are good!

Grace said...

Very sweet of steve.

Too bad you already have a present from me...could have used this list earlier!!

love you

jblaydes said...

I like Tinkyada pasta and order it from vitacost.com at a good price. I also like Larabars the best. Will look for those Oskri bars.
Pamela's has a brownie mix that I made once that was pretty good, but does have sugar.

Iris said...

Zippy, I'm so glad to hear you liked the turkey (chicken) soup! It's very exciting to know someone actually trying these recipes. :)

Thanks everyone! It's great to know what everyone else likes too!

Sorry, Grace...

Lauren said...

Great post and info!

Heather said...

Hi Iris! Yes, I will definitely let you know when I try the pasta. I'll also be trying the cream of mushroom soup I found that is gluten free at the same time as the noodles.. it's either going to be awesome or a total failure, LOL.
Thanks for visiting me!

Yadi said...

Great post on GF products! I have actually tried the Envrokids Crispy Rice Bars, the chocolate one. They totally tasted like rice crispies to me too! I still liked them though.... probably because I like anything with chocolate in it! ;) Thanks for stopping by my blog a while back. Sorry I didn't get a chance to get back to you earlier!

fartygirl said...

OMG twins! I agree with EVERYTHING you say here. Nana's looks sooo good until you open the wrapper and peek inside. The brownies and Oskri bars are great go-to PMS snacks. IDK if you saw my obsession with Oskri sesame bars on my site... they have 90% of the iron you need for one day. All for the ladies. :)

gfe--gluten free easily said...

I keep reading about Bi-Aglut (I think that's it) pasta being amazing. Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl first posted about it. I don't do much in the way of gf specialty products, but I'd like to try that and this Bionaturae brand. The Oskri bar info is good to know as well. Occasionally when on travel, I do pick up a few bars to ensure I get my protein. Thanks. I'm sure many will find these reviews really helpful, Iris. Oh, and I like your hit or miss rating--very effective! ;-)


Christa said...

I have tried the Envrokids Crispy Rice Bars (chocolate ones)- they tasted like rice crispy treats to me too, but they had some kind of flavor to them that reminded me strongly of raisins. I hate raisins so I did not lie these bars.

Anonymous said...

Careful, Brown Rice Syrup isn't good for you. It could possibly contain arsenic!!

Meg :0]

barb kehl said...

Trader Joe's rice pasta is the best price of all that I've seen. Rice pasta gets hard when it is cold. Their gluten free pancakes taste good with butter and syrup, but they don't remind you of an old fashioned pancake.Thanks for the good ideas. Barb

Carole said...

Van's frozen gluten free waffles....a definite hit! Easy, yummy treat.


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