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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Send Me Gluten Free subscription box - perfect if you can't attend the expo!

"Send Me Gluten Free" is a subscription service brought to you by the same folks who gave us the indispensable "Find me Gluten Free" app and Gluten and Allergen Free Expos, of which I was a guest blogger this past January up for the San Francisco Bay Area event in San Mateo. They asked if I'd be interested in reviewing their first box and of course I responded with a resounding "YES" so they sent me a complimentary box which I was able to receive just hours before I was to depart on vacation to the happiest place on earth. While the box included 2 full size products for me to try later, the rest was a bunch of individual serving sized snacks and treats which were perfect for snacking on while in line for a ride. Here is what the box looked like when I opened it up:
Beneath the teal packing paper (which the Giggler was ready to use for one of her many crafting adventures) was the following:
Here is the full inventory from the "August Box" I received:
  1. Sevierly Good Gluten Free Organic Traditional Bread Mix (full size)
  2. Explore Asian Gluten Free Organic Black Bean Spaghetti (full size)
  3. Surf Sweets Fruity Hearts Candy (sample)
  4. Juice Plus+ Chewables (sample)
  5. Raw Rev 100 - "Spirulina Dream" snack bar (sample) + 50 cent off coupon
  6. TeeChia Sustained Energy  "blueberry date" Cereal (sample)
  7. San J Organic Tamari sauce (sample) + 55 cent off coupon
  8. Better off Red "rooibas with a Vanilla Citrus Blush" tea bag (sample)
  9. Teecino Dandelion Dark Roast Herbal Coffee Bag (sample) + 50 cent off coupon
  10. Red Apple Lipstick (sample) plus coupon code for 30% off our purchase
  11. Free digital copy of the July-August Delight magazine - Great magazine- I already subscribe
  12. Coupon for free item from Dr Praegers sensible foods products
Pretty impressive set of stuff and if you end up liking all the the products the coupons come in handy also.

I have not had a chance to try the bread mix and pasta yet but I will be sure to blog about it when I do.

As for the samples, the Surf Sweets candy were the first to go - I've had these the past 2 years at the Expo and they're delicious fruity chewy candy. But really - I'm not out looking for candy without high fructose corn syrup. Candy is an occasional treat so at least for me and my family, as long as it's gluten free I'm not too worried about its ingredient list. But hand me a free sample of Surf Sweets and I'll happily gobble it up every time!

 I've also been using the San-J gluten free tamari for years so I put that sample away for future travel. Speaking of San J, I prefer to use their reduced sodium sauce which is not yet offered in the big plastic jugs at Whole Foods like the regular sodium variety.  If you can't eat gluten, the San J sauce is essential to anyone who wants to enjoy Chinese or Japanese cuisine at home. San J also makes some good gluten free sauces such as Peanut Sauce and a spicy Szechuan although I still prefer to make my own sauces from scratch using their low sodium gluten free Tamari.

The Juice Plus+ chewables were tasty but  honestly could not figure out their purpose other than candy made of tapioca syrup and some fruit and vegetable juices. Eating gluten free already guarantees my family eats a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables so this fell flat with me -perhaps if I lived someplace where fresh fruit and veggies weren't available.

I did not care for the Raw Rev 100 bar at all. And it had nothing to do with the fact that the bar was green from the spirulina. It reminded me of the energy bars I sometimes make myself by grinding up dates, protein powder, nuts and other fruits up . Very sticky and chewy. I'll stick to my homemade bars where I've found adding some toasted oats helps improve their consistency.

The Teechia cereal would have been perfect to sample in the hotel room but I had already packed the usual Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal packets and those were always the preferred breakfast item but I do look forward to trying the cereal.

I have not heard of the Dr Praeger's products so I'll have to take a look on their web site to see where I can buy some. The fish sticks and Sweet Potato pancakes look the most interesting.

Now... what do I think about the box? All in all I was impressed. It truly is an "Expo in a Box". If you are unable to attend one of the Expos where you can quickly load up on samples and coupons then this is a great alternative. Since I have been to the last 2 expos in SF I was only new to a few of these products so in that respect I was a little disappointed. But I'm assuming over time I would start to see more new products versus seen there, done that- especially if I can't make it to next year's expo. But then again - it would take a lot for me to miss one of the expos- they are truly a fantastic use of my time to quickly get a feel for which products I like, and meet a ton of the people behind them as well as meet more gluten free bloggers.

The only negative I found was related to shipping and may have been just to to my personal situation - it used UPS Ground to get the box to my hometown post office and then it was up to my mail carrier to deliver to my house sometime after that. This presented a problem for me as the expected delivery date was 1 day after we left for Disneyland and I feared the package would sit on the porch or worse, be picked up by someone else. So.. I paid UPS $3.50 to upgrade the shipment to regular UPS Ground so I could receive it a day early and also get true door to door tracking. Had I not recieved the box free from Send Me Gluten Free to begin with I probably would not have paid to upgrade the shipping and I do wish this was just standard UPS Ground but I understand the realities of profit margins so I accept that using this lower level of shipping was probably key to making the subscription prices work out. Oh well.

But will I subscribe...that negative outweighs the positive.  The subscription price starts at $30 a box if you go month to month, and the price reduces down to $20 a box if you commit to a year.

And as a reader of this blog, you can save 20% off of any subscription length by using the promo code BLOG20. I'll be using it for a 1 year subscription as it brings the cost down to $16/month.

What do you think? Will you be giving it a try?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

San Francisco area Gluten & Allergen Free Expo Recap

Apologies for the delay in this post - I attended the expo both days - Saturday alone and then Sunday with the family. All in all it was a great experience. I met many interesting bloggers and vendors and wound up with a years supply of samples - quite overwhelming really, but well worth my time. If one of these expos is coming your way, definitely plan on attending!

Best New Products

Here are my 10 favorite products I'd never tasted before which I found at the expo:
  1. Luce's Gluten Free Artisan Bread Mix - I tweeted about this (@glutenfreetop10) - they had samples of Italian and Sourdough - both had wonderful texture- light and tasty on the inside, and an actual crust with chew on the outside - I can't even imagine what these will taste like when warm. I preferred Italian but bought 1 of each. Yes- frugal me actually made  2 purchases at the expo (the 2nd is coming up in #2...). I can't wait to try these mixes - they only require water and no rising. Stay tuned for a review once I try these out. 
  2. Hail Merry Miracle Tarts & Macaroons: These are something special. Clearly a true chocoholic is behind the chocolate and chocolate mint miracle tarts. Just a tiny bit gives you so much satisfaction!. The coconut vanilla cream was also yummy if chocolate is not your thing. My favorite macaroons are the salted caramel - very dense tasty little treats. You can order them online but the dream tarts are super expensive - 12 for $100 but that's because they include overnight shipping as the dream tarts require refrigeration.The vendor said these are in some Whole Foods but I checked my local one (Cupertino, CA) and no sign yet but I'll keep checking and when I get a chance ask the bakery manager why they aren't there.
  3. Smart Flour Frozen Pizza- A few weeks ago I blogged about how Freschetta gluten free pizza was the best I'd tasted - and it was, until I tried this stuff. OMG - FINALLY - frozen gluten free pizza which actually has enough sauce and cheese plus great taste. The crust was crisp and held the toppings well - I still prefer making my own with the Venice Bakery seasoned crusts but given this is all pre-made and I just have to pop it in the oven you will always find these in my freezer from now on. I tasted 3 flavors- all excellent: margarita, cheese and pepperoni. The pizzas themselves are on the smaller side so we'll need to make 2 for the 3 of us to enjoy versus only needing one of the Freschetta but that's OK. Price-wise they were on sale at Whole Foods for $7.99 versus $9.99 (also on sale) at Safeway. I'd expect regular price to be $1-2 more. Now these pizzas must be brand new because they re not mentioned on the Smart Flour web site so here's a picture to prove they really do exist. Definitely hunt these down at your local Whole Foods.
  4. Grains of Wellness Rice Chips - these remind me of Triscuits without the wheat. Sprouts Markets was a vendor at the expo and I sure hope they've signed a deal to offer these soon. Yum!
  5. Bacano Bakery Bread - This bread had something most gluten free breads lack - moisture. They are looking for a store front and I sure hope they decide on South Bay!
  6. Bread SRSLY - damn good sourdough- and authentic - baked in San Francisco! And available via local SF Bay area delivery via GoodEggs on Fridays - I have a feeling I will be ordering this for special occasions or more often if the Luce's mix doesn't work out for me. 
  7. P*DE*Q tapioca-based cheese bread - I tried making Pão de queijo before and I ended up with very tasty little blobs of mess. Not the case with P*DE*Q - they come frozen so they're available for a quick delicious hot bread with your meal. This stuff is very addicting! I tried the Original flavor which was great -I'm definitely curious about the Chocolate flavor. I hope to see these in a local retailer someday as I just don't like to order frozen foods - seems like a waste of energy and expense.
  8. Betty Lou's "Nuts About..." Energy Bars - especially the coconut macadamia flavor. (courtesy of Sprouts Market's booth) - yowza these are tasty. More a candy than an energy bar - I will be looking for these the next time I go to Sprouts. I also tried the Almond butter and Spirulina Ginseng flavors which were OK but I definitely preferred the coconut macadamia and look forward to trying both the peanut butter chocolate chip and cashew pecan varieties.
  9. The Real McCoy chips. Think lighter, tastier and more wholesome Dorito. My favorite flavor is the Sweet & Spicy rice chips. Just a hint of sweetness plus a little kick although the hubby thought there was too much seasoning on it. We devoured our samples as well as the larger bag we scored at the expo in minutes. I'll be keeping a look out for these at my local Whole Foods!
  10. Hornsby's Crisp Cider - now gluten free! Back when I first went gluten free, I had a bottle of Hornsby's Cider in the fridge and assumed it was safe - it wasn't. I had an upset stomach and other unmentionables 30 minutes after drinking it and then upon further research found it contained (barley) malt. So imagine my surprise when I learned that Hornsby's is now gluten free! Hornsby's is on the sweeter side of ciders but I like it. I will say though, I still dream about drinking Grower's Cider up in British Columbia which isn't available in the US so I always have a stash of my favorites (Wyder's Pear) in the fridge and will soon be adding Hornsby's to the mix. I did taste a number of the Woodchuck ciders at the expo which I must say was FUN! But in the end I'm still all about the Wyders, and now Horsnby's. I found the Woodchuck varieties good with interesting flavors, but they are not as fruity as I prefer. Note to self: plan vacation to Canada to get Growers Cider fix.

Classes

I only attended one class - Amy Burkhart's "The Latest on Gluten, Celiac and IBS: Separating Fact From Fiction". It was a great recap of the state of research and treatment for celiac and gluten sensitivity. Here are my key takeaways:
  • FODMAPS (fermentable, oligo-di and monosachcharides and polyols) sensitivity could be the root cause for folks who are sensitive to gluten. In some cases, eating a generally low FODMAP diet allowed folks to eat gluten w/o their usual symptoms. Foods which contain FODMAPS include lactose (cow/sheep/goat milk), fructose (some fruits have higher levels than others), fructans (wheat, vegetables, onions, garlic), Galactans (beans and lentils), polyols (sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol)
  • SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) - I could write a long paragraph about this but just found Dr Burkhart's web site summarizes what she covered in the class. Click here. When I had my endoscopy years ago, hoping to find an answer to my issues in the form of flattened villi, instead I was diagnosed with SIBO which could have been caused by celiac.  I had gone gluten free a month prior to the endoscopy but then did a 2 week gluten challenge so the villi were super inflamed but not flattened.
  • Omission Beer - I haven't tried this but I never will - even though it is tested for gluten, it's brewed using barley so it sounds like it's hit or miss - some folks will have no reaction while others will. For me it's not worth the risk, especially since I'm a cider gal.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

6 days and counting to the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo... some last minute tips

The Gluten and Allergen Free expo will be in the San Francisco Bay Area in less than a week! I just took a look at the vendor list which reminded me of some tips I learned last year which I'd like to share:


  1. Don't eat before going. Last year we opted for a light breakfast and then came for the 9am opening Sunday morning. By 11am we were so stuffed we were taking a small bite out of a sample and throwing the rest away - as well as turning down countless other samples.
  2. Take a look at the vendor layout when  you arrive and decide on a plan of how you will systematically cover all booths. Trying to dash between different vendors who interest you will be exhausting and you'll never see it all.
  3. Bring your family members! Last year  I brought my husband and daughter. 3 entries = 3 expo bags = 3x the samples. We were eating those samples for months.
  4. If you tasted an item and did not care for it, don't take the take-home sample. You will have plenty of take home samples you like and the ones you don't like will be the last ones you end up eating (reluctantly) or you'll throw them away. Everyone has different tastes and it's very likely that product you didn't care for someone else loved and they'll appreciate the sample.
  5. Don't be surprised if a product sample is gone if you are at the expo late Saturday or into Sunday. I was really annoyed last year when we showed up at opening on Sunday morning and found out all the Glutino pop tarts had been sampled on Saturday. The product had been announced a few weeks prior and had not made it into stores yet- so after 5 years of no pop tarts I had to wait a few months more for them to show up at Whole Foods. Hopefully there will be enough samples for everyone but I'll be mentally prepared if there's not.
  6. Load up on coupons for the products you liked/buy on a regular basis. I'll bet we saved $100 on products we buy all the time by loading up on the coupons. Another benefit of tip #3.
  7. Give honest feedback. The vendors really want to know what you think - now is not the time to be a wallflower. If there is something you wish was different, tell them. If you have a new product suggestion for them, let them know. I am looking forward to talking to the folks at the Canyon Bakehouse booth (my #1 GF bread choice by far) to let them know about how 50% of the loaves of Mountain White I buy frozen are almost impossible to chip apart the frozen slices and I end up with a bag of shredded slices to make into breadcrumbs so now I only buy raisin and 7 grain. The vendors need and appreciate this feedback, trust me!
  8. Enjoy the experience. If you cannot eat gluten, this is the place where you can eat EVERYTHING there. Quite a bit different from your life outside the expo where it's all about finding ANYTHING to eat and when you do, much of the time you're afraid you may get glutened anyway.
Have a great time at the expo!