Gluten-free Halloween

One more sleep until Halloween!

I not only love Halloween for the surplus of chocolate, but I love dressing up. It’s fun to be something “different” for the evening or for a party. When I was a kid I used to plan my costume months and months before!

Wouldn’t it be neat if we could dress up to be able to enjoy all the gluten-filled candies like KitKat bars and Coffee Crisps? Only in our dreams, right? 

Fortunately there are a few gluten-free candies we can still enjoy. My top five favourite gluten-free Halloween candies are:

  1. Nestle Aero
  2. Cadbury Dairy Milk
  3. Maynard’s Wine Gums
  4. Maynard’s Fuzzy Peaches
  5. Chiclet’s Gum

Gluten-free halloween candy

What are yours?

National Oatmeal Day

I kind of love how there seems to be a celebratory day for everything nowadays. Why not celebrate the little things in life, right!?

Like oatmeal…

The top five reasons I love oats:

  1. Gluten-free oats exist – thank goodness!
  2. Oats make the best desserts – I love crumbles and crisps.
  3. Granola is one of my favourite foods. I like it with yogurt, on top of salad (try it!), as a dessert and straight from the bag as a ‘trail mix’.
  4. Overnight oats…they’re the best breakfast creation!
  5. Oatmeal is one of my favourite comfort foods. The smell is very nostalgic and reminds me of my grandparents house in the morning – they love their oatmeal!

I used to love Quaker Oats Chewy Oatmeal Bars…but sadly they aren’t gluten free. I always carried them around in my bag in case I needed a snack and I didn’t think they were too sweet or too crunchy. They were just the perfect combination of everything.

I had tried many different gluten free granola bars looking for the similar tastes and textures of my favourite Quaker Chewy Bars but it wasn’t until I stumbled across No Nuttin’ Granola Bars by Libre Naturals and found the gluten free equivalent (that was a great day).

They may not be exactly the same as Quaker, but they’re very close.

I just love them. They’re chewy, flavourful and similar in size.

The flavours include: Raisin, Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Chip. Apple Cinnamon and Chocolate Chip are my favourite. YUM – I am craving these as I type this review.

Gluten Free Granola Bars

DSC03735
The unfortunate part is that they’re not very accessible. I have had a hard time tracking these bars down!

Many health food/specialty stores have them, but they’re not in the big grocery store chains yet.

Check out their store locator to find a store near you

I usually buy mine at FEAST on Queen St. W, but I’ve also found them at The Specialty Food Shop located in SickKids.

Not only are these bars gluten/wheat free, they’re also free of the top ten allergens. No eggs, fish, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, mustard, sesame seeds, shellfish, soy, or sulphites. Pretty great eh? You would think without any of these ingredients they may be tasteless, but they are the total opposite – they’re amazing.

The only thing I would love is if they were sold in boxes of five or six – I’ve only found them to be sold individually.

Libre Naturals also makes amazing oatmeal to go. Pop off the lid and follow the instructions – which includes pouring in boiled water and letting it sit for a few minutes with the lid on – and voila, your breakfast is ready. The flavours are delicious and the oatmeal is nice and filling.

Gluten free oatmeal
Happy National Oatmeal Day, oatmeal lovers! What is/are your favourite thing(s) about oats?

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Mini Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pies

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians!

What is your favourite Thanksgiving food?

Ever since I was introduced to Glutino’s Perfect Pie Crust mix, making gluten-free pies has been very easy. I love the buttery flavour and flakey texture. I had to get creative when I realized I didn’t have a pie dish at the cottage, so I made mini pies in a muffin tray!

These mini pies are a great dessert to please all of your guests. Make a few fillings and just fill the pies up – then everyone can enjoy their favourite flavour. Although this post is too late for this year’s Thanksgiving, keep the idea in mind for Christmas (or for my American readers, try out this recipe for your Thanksgiving celebrations).

I followed the instructions on the Glutino Perfect Pie Crust box, but I adjusted the amount of time I baked them for. I did bake the base for 15 minutes, but then once filled and topped with the top layer of crust, I only baked them for 25 minutes.

You can use whichever pie filling you want, but for my pumpkin pie filling I made the following:

Pumpkin Pie Filling:

1 cup pureed canned pumpkin
1 cup condensed milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Empty one cup of pureed pumpkin into a saucepan and heat for about five minutes. The process of warming the canned pumpkin helps to remove the taste of tin. After, whisk the pumpkin, sugar and condensed milk until smooth. Add in the eggs and beat. Stir in the spices and then allow the filling to cool.

While the filling is cooling, follow the instructions on the Glutino pie crust mix.

*I found chilling the dough for 30 minutes was plenty of time, rather than the full hour the instructions on the box stated. 

Mini Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Enjoy!

….And remember, pie isn’t just for dessert, it’s perfect for breakfast too 🙂

It was a Feast!

As I sit down to write this blog post, my stomach has started to rumble and I am salivating just thinking about what I’m about to share.

           

Almost after a year FEAST opened its doors, I finally made it down to load up on their delicious food.

FEAST is located at 881 Queen St. W and is heaven on earth for those with various food allergies/intolerances. Wendy and Neil opened their shop in summer 2014 after they were both challenged with having to adapt to food allergies and sensitivities. Wendy and Neil said “love at first bite was very hard to find, so we set out to change that for ourselves.” Thank goodness they did because after savouring their meet pies and donuts, I couldn’t believe I was eating something that was free from all common allergens, including gluten, nuts and dairy.

Photo credit: The Toronto Star, Michele Henry
FEAST ensures all of their ingredients and products have not been cross contaminated with the distributor or manufacturer, they also train their staff on BASICS Allergen Training for the Foodservice and Food Retail Industry program, which was developed by Anaphylaxis Canada and TrainCan INc. Staff have to sign an agreement stating they won’t bring any gluten or the top eight allergens into the store for consumption. All they do and practice is very reassuring for those will allergies – whether severe or mild.
I loved how every item on display was paired with an ingredient card and Wendy was able to verify if any other ingredients had been used or not. My mom came along with me to FEAST after we were at a wedding show downtown (yup, I’m getting married!) and she is very allergic to garlic. Fortunately there were a few items that were totally garlic free – it made my mom’s experience just as tasty as mine.
Since I had been waiting to try FEAST for months, I stocked up on a few items to try later. There was no way I could have picked between the three donuts! I’m glad I did, because each one was just as good as the next.
For lunch, my mom and I both had The Beefeater pocket pie pastry and the Tropical Caramel chocolate. I was so happy with what I was eating that I didn’t even want to socialize. I hadn’t had a pastry in years! The pocket pie was warm and savoury with the perfect crisp around the edges. The meat wasn’t an overpowering taste, as I was able to taste the parsnips and tarragon as well. Mmm, so delicious! I enjoyed the Jerk Chicken pocket pie pastry the next day and it was just as good. It wasn’t spicy and I could taste all of the various spices…so delicious. A few weeks later I went back and tried the Vegan Curried Black Bean. These are the best gluten-free creations…my stomach is rumbling thinking about them! My mom, who can eat gluten loved them just as much as I. She couldn’t tell it was gluten-free and she usually can taste the difference…now that says a lot!

For dessert I had a couple of the chocolates. The Tropical Caramel, which tasted exactly as it sounds and I ate the Cherry Bomb later on in the day. Both chocolates were decadent and satisfying. Not too sweet and the flavours within the chocolates were very easy to taste.
FEAST doesn’t just sell their in-house baked goods, they also carry a wide variety of allergen-friendly products. Most notably, my favourite granola bars (which are very difficult to find) – ‘No Nuttin’ by Libre Naturals. They remind me of Quaker Oat Chewy Bars.
 
Enjoying lunch on a beautiful day. The seating looks out onto Trinity Bellwoods Park. 

 

Look at all of FEAST’s acknowledgements and features. Zoomer, Toronto Star, Toronto Life – very exciting! 

 

Last, but certainly not least, the donut trio. Mmmm. The picture says enough doesn’t it? Can you believe these are gluten-free, dairy and nut free?
OK – top to bottom: 
On Top of Coconut Mountain Donut: Vanilla cake donut with chocolate glaze and toasted organic coconut chips. YUM. 
Cinnamon Sugar Sprinkle Donut: Vanilla cake donut with organic cane sugar and cinnamon. Although hard to choose…this was my favourite out of them all. 
Triple Chocolate Love Donut: Chocolate cake donut with salted chocolate glaze and raw organic cocoa nibs. I certainly fell in love. 
 
If you live in Toronto (or the GTA) and haven’t yet been to FEAST…go! It’s unbelievably good (you’ll have to taste it to understand) and also reasonably priced. Whether you have allergies or not, this is the place to check out in the Queen West area. I can’t wait to go back, if only FEAST was closer!

Pretzel Love

February 14th: the day of pink, red, chocolates, roses and love. Happy valentine’s day!

It’s a chilly February 14th in Canada, lots of snow on the ground and frosty air – it makes a great excuse to cozy up with your loved ones, sip on hot chocolate and eat Glutino Pretzels. Glutino kindly sent me their new pretzel flavours to try and they are definitely a treat. I have a huge sweet tooth, so if I had to choose my favourites out of the bunch, I’d have to pick the Fudge and Salted Caramel (yum!). Although theses pretzels are flavoured, they are very versatile. You don’t just have to snack on them from the bag, you can incorporate them into various recipes.

Try the following pretzel incorporations to jazz up your next snack or meal.

Honey Mustard
Notes: lightly dusted with a sweet honey flavour and a zest of mustard.
Try crunching them up and coating chicken or fish with them before baking.

Fudge
Notes: creamy, milk chocolate goodness surrounding a salty crunchy pretzel – the perfect combination of sweet and salty!
Try chopping them up and topping greek yogurt with berries – a healthy dessert parfait.

Buffalo Style 
Notes: Have you had buffalo wings? You know the flavour I’m talking about then – a little bit of heat with a lot of flavour!
Try dipping them in hummus or guacamole.

Salted Caramel
Notes: crunchy, sweet, caramelized and salty – the best flavour combination you will ever try!
Try pairing these gems with the Fudge variety, it makes for a tasty salted-caramel-chocolate treat. They’re also delicious crumbled on top of apple sauce.

There are so many delicious pretzel variations, but the easiest is by far snacking straight out of the bag! What is your favourite way to eat pretzels?

A ‘Free-From’ Gum

I would have never known that gum could contain gluten…or animal by-products, nuts and/or dairy. To my surprise, some gum does, which can make it tricky for those who are gluten free, vegan, etc. Many of us know that a variety of gums don’t contain sugar, but their artificial counterpart aspartame. Aspartame may be harmless to our teeth (according to our dentists who sneak us sugar-free gum after dental appointments), but aspartame may also be causing harm to other parts of our body (such as causing headaches, dizziness, nausea, etc.).

It’s tough to find gum that is allergen free, but it’s harder to find gum free of aspartame. Fortunately there is PUR Gum, the world’s #1 selling aspartame-free gum that is also vegan, gluten free, nut free, dairy free and non-gmo. The alternative sweetener they use is xylitol, a natural sweetener derived from corn fibres. 



To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of most natural gums because they get stuck in my teeth and lose flavour within seconds. However, PUR Gum is nice because it has the same consistency of any other mainstream gum and the flavour lasts longer than other natural brands. If you’re looking for something to quickly freshen your breath, I would recommend PUR Gum, but if you want something to chew on for a while, I wouldn’t recommend it. The one downside to PUR Gum is that the flavour only lasts five to eight minutes. I like popping a piece of PUR Gum after a meal or if I feel like chewing on something for a couple of minutes, but it doesn’t deliver a long lasting fresh taste.

As the name indicates, PUR Gum is truly very pure and only includes a few ingredients, such as xylitol (natural sweetener), gum base, natural flavours (spearmint, peppermint, etc.), gum arabic, caranuba wax and tocopherols. The gum comes in a variety of flavours, including wintergreen, peppermint, spearmint, pomegranate mint and their two new flavours, which I got to review, cinnamon and cool mint.

The cinnamon flavour reminds me a lot of Valentine’s day cinnamon hearts. The cinnamon is very strong and is a tad bit spicy. There aren’t many natural cinnamon flavoured candies or gum, so this is a welcome addition to the world of natural, allergen-friendly products.

I didn’t love the cool mint flavour. It’s not very flavourful and doesn’t last as long as their other mint flavours. It’s nice if you want a subdued mint flavour, but I wouldn’t choose this as my first choice.  

My favourite PUR Gum flavour is the spearmint. It’s not overpowering but offers a kick of freshness after a meal.

Have you tried PUR Gum? What is your favourite flavour? 

Potato Chip Crusted Sole

Fish and chips are one of those foods that I just don’t get enough of. Merely because most restaurants don’t have the gluten free option and frozen GF breaded fish isn’t the same. I will always remember the amazing GF fish and chips I had when I was in London last year…the fish had the perfect ‘batter to fish’ ratio and it was fried to a golden crisp.

The amazing gluten free fish and chips from Grill on the Square in London

When Glutino sent me their Baked Potato Crisps with the idea to use them to coat meat, I couldn’t resist the thought of crunchy, salted, potato coated fish. The end result didn’t mimic the taste of fried, battered fish, but it did create a welcome, crunchy taste to a relatively bland white fish.

I really enjoyed cooking and snacking on Glutino’s Baked Chips. They are very similar to Lay’s Baked Potato Chips, but of course Glutino’s BBQ flavoured ones are gluten free (whereas Lay’s are not). I thought that the Simply Salted chips were very salty, but when used to coat the fish, the saltiness wasn’t as noticeable.

This recipe is super simple and is perfect for a quick meal when you don’t really feel like putting much effort into cooking (i.e. – after a summer afternoon on the dock or in the park).

Potato Chip Crusted Sole

1 bag of Glutino Gluten Free Simply Salted Potato Crisps (or any other type of chips)
4 tbsp mayonnaise
4 large pieces of firm white fish (sole, cod, halibut)

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium-size bowl, crush the chips with a large spoon or fork. Crush to a desired size (I crushed mine until they were about 1/2 an inch). Coat the top of each piece of fish with a tablespoon of mayo and dip the mayo side into the crushed bowl of chips. You could opt to coat both sides of the fish with the mayo and chips, but the side facing down on the baking sheet could become soggy. 

Once all of the pieces are coated, place them in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the chips are golden and the fish is thoroughly cooked through.

A Simple Vision, A ‘Pure + simple’ Brand

When a brand claims that it’s pure and/or natural, I wish to believe that they are telling the truth. When a brand’s name states a claim, I want to trust that the ingredient list reflects the name. Sometimes company’s will state that their product is pure or natural, when really there are only a couple of ingredients in their list that are. Pure + simple, a Canadian skincare line and holistic, Ayurvedic spa, delivers the promise that their name on the bottle states. 
Within the past year, I have become more aware of ingredients in beauty and skincare products. I am very conscious and aware of what I put in my body, but I haven’t always been mindful of what I put on my body. It’s crazy to think of all the chemicals and harsh ingredients that are in everyday beauty products that may not be causing visible damage externally, but could potentially cause harm internally in the long run. Our skin soaks up everything we put on it!  
When I discovered Pure + simple online, I did my research and read into their ingredients to determine if they were actually ‘pure’ and ‘simple’. True to their name, all ingredients were simple to understand and extremely pure. They also are natural and some ingredients are even organic. I read several reviews to gauge what other Pure + simple users were saying about the product and the majority of reviews were very positive. I was excited to try the brand. 
They say it takes a couple of weeks to a few months to see any drastic changes in skin when beginning a new skincare regime or using a new product, so I took that to heart when starting the line of Pure + simple skincare products. 
The products I reviewed are all gluten free, vegan and nut free (except for the Pure Skin Face Oil, which contains nuts). 
I really love this mask. It’s cooling, calming and my face feels very refreshed when I wash it off. Sometimes I find that a mask will leave my face feeling stripped and tight, but this does the opposite. My skin feels nourished. I actually have it on while I’m writing this post! The mask is suitable for all skin types and is best known for its hydrating and calming properties. When I first got the mask, I was using it once a week, now I only use it a couple times a month. It has lasted quite a while and you don’t need too much to cover your face. It’s a gel consistency and smells like cucumber and aloe. The bottle indicates to keep it on for 15-20 minutes, but sometimes I will get wrapped up with what I’m doing and will leave it for 45 minutes. I would recommend this mask to anyone, but particularly those with breakouts who want a bit of relief. It doesn’t magically cure your breakout after 20 minutes, but it does help in calming inflamed skin. 

The one thing that frustrates me with skincare products are moisturizers. I find that moisturizers will either be too oily, or not oily enough and leave my skin feeling dull and dry (something that a moisturizer should not do!). I am so excited to say that the Pure + simple Skin Softening Moisture Lotion is the best face lotion I have ever used. It is lightweight, without being too light and not doing the job. My skin doesn’t feel oily after I apply it and it soaks into my skin nicely, allowing me to apply makeup without having my face feeling heavy. The aroma is very lovely, with an underlying rose scent, while not being overpowering. Before I was using this lotion, I had tried another all-natural lotion that unfortunately clogged my pores and didn’t do anything for my skin. I began to wonder if ‘all-natural’ actually had any benefits in healing skin. Fortunately it does and I have to say that since using this lotion, my skin has become more clear and soft. The bottle has lasted me about four months, and I use two pumps twice a day. I will definitely be getting another bottle once this one runs out.
I’m not going to lie…I was a little nervous using this at first because I thought that it would add extra moisture that my face didn’t need. After my aesthetician told me I should start using it prior to applying moisturizer, I did and I am very happy with the results. I’ve been using it for three weeks now and I can confidently say that I have seen an improvement in my skin tone. My skin is beginning to look more even and it feels more hydrated. The Pria Cocos Extract in the ingredients is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and skin sensitivity. I can vouch for that – it has made a huge difference in my sensitive skin. I apply one pump after cleansing my skin and once it’s soaked in I apply the Skin Softening Moisture Lotion. 
This mighty bottle of pure oils can be another addition to your skincare regime. I don’t apply it to my face due to the fact that I find the three-step regime I’m doing now works well for my sensitive skin and I’d rather not add in a fourth product to disrupt any of the improvements that have been happening so far. I have been using it as an overnight hand moisturizer though and my hands have never felt more soft! The oil is supposed to be great for helping to reduce breakouts and congestion and contains ingredients that help balance the skin’s own oil production. I’m planning on introducing it in a couple of months after I see how well the serum has worked. 
Everyone’s skin is very different, so these four products I tried may not work for your skin. There are, however, several products that Pure + simple has for a variety of different skin types and conditions. The price of the products is high, but a little goes a long way and the quality reflects the price. I would highly recommend checking out their site, or taking a trip to one of their stores in Toronto. They also offer a variety of spa services…their ‘Urban Renewal Facial’ is on my list of things to-do! 
Have you tried any products from Pure + simple? I would love to hear what you think – add any reviews in the comment section below!

Soft, Chewy and G-Free!

When was the last time you had an un-toasted piece of gluten free bread that didn’t crumble? Good question, right? Last year when my family and I were in London, England, I was thrilled to find an amazing gluten free bread that was chewy, soft and didn’t crumble in my hand. I wanted to bring boxes of the bread back with me…but my suitcase didn’t have the space. 
A few months ago Glutino came out with their new, transformed bread. I was surprised at how big the slices of bread were, but I was even more surprised at how delicious the bread tasted. It is soft, chewy and has the elastic-y consistency that gluten bread has. The best part about it is that it doesn’t crumble…it doesn’t even crumble before it’s toasted. Hallelujah! 


The white bread is your typical, plain, white bread but it would be delicious for grilled cheese. It’s also good smeared with a bit of butter as a side to a big bowl of chilli or pasta (carb overload!). 
I really like the multigrain bread, the crunch from the rice bran makes it flavourful and it is the perfect base for a sandwich. I even like eating it plain with a bit of butter. 
My opinions for the best gluten free bread always seem to be changing, but I attribute that to the the ever evolving gluten free industry and the challenge to perfect the best tasting product. Six years ago when I purchased my first loaf of gluten free bread (for $8), the slice was the size of the palm of my hand and the texture was like dense banana bread that was only good when toasted and smeared with nut butter. The fact that this bread tastes good on it’s own and is almost the length of my full hand says a lot…it’s also only $5-6 (depending on where you shop). 

Have you tried Glutino’s new bread? How do you like? What is your favourite gluten free bread? 

Sweet Tortillas with Tropical Salsa

Sweet tortillas and tropical salsa with a warm caramel drizzle. What the hack? Yup…I did a total hack of the ever so popular salsa and chips. After discovering Udi’s ‘What the Hack’ food contest, I thought I would come up with a clever dish of my own. Unfortunately the contest was only open to US residents, but I still had a fun time pretending I was participating in Chopped [Canada]. The whole idea was to choose one of three Udi’s products and then a few ingredients from their six key ingredients (which included: pineapple, coconut, nut butter, chocolate chips, parmesan cheese and jalepenos). The recipe was a hit and was demolished very quickly. It’s a light summer dessert perfect for ending a Mexican-inspired meal. You can either serve them as individual plated desserts, or buffet style with the option to dip into the salsa. 
Sweet Tortillas & Tropical Salsa
1 pack of Udi’s Plain Tortillas 
2 cups of chopped pineapple 
1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup dulce de leche 
2 tbsp cream 
Preheat oven to 450°F. 

Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle each tortilla to coat (set aside half a tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar mixture for the salsa). Place tortillas on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until golden and crispy (be sure to monitor the oven as some ovens bake quicker than others – you don’t want these to burn). 

Meanwhile, combine the chopped pineapple, coconut and remaining cinnamon sugar in a bowl. 

To make the caramel drizzle, combine the dulce de leche and cream in a small sauce pan, stirring until combined. Make sure it doesn’t burn.
Once the tortillas are baked, cut into quarters while still hot. Set aside to cool. 
To assemble, place one tortilla on a plate, top with two tablespoons of the tropical salsa and drizzle with the warm caramel sauce. If you’d rather serve this in a buffet-type setting, place the tortillas in a bowl next to the large bowl of tropical salsa for people to dip into. 

 Enjoy! These are very easy to make and delightfully refreshing! Let me know how you enjoy them!