Friday, November 21, 2008

Gluten Free Soup and Campbell's Gluten Free List

In the past week or so the weather has changed -- all of a sudden it's freezing in Albany, we're breaking out the wool sweaters and winter coats, running our cars in the morning before we leave for work, and everyone seems to be coming down with some sort of cold, flu, or bug. This is the time of year that I traditionally go into pack-rat mode, stocking up on canned goods in the event of bad weather - and with all the germs flying around the major staples to have on hand include ginger ale and chicken soup.

I've been looking for some good, gluten free canned soups - especially chicken soup - to have on hand. The last time I went to the grocery store I was very excited to see some promising-looking Campbell's soups - I picked them up, noted the ingredients, and called the company with the UPC. Well, I have (sort of) good news and bad news. The bad news is that the soups I called up about were not on their gluten free list.

Now, OK. I understand that there are certain additives in some soups. I'm not asking for a mainstream, gluten free chicken noodle soup, but chicken and rice soup is not gluten free? Seriously?? I purchased a can of Campbell's Select Harvest Healthy Request Savory Chicken and Long Grain Rice soup. It looked like a decent chicken soup, and these ingredients looked promising:

Chicken stock, roasted natural white meat chicken, carrots, rice, celery, contains less than 2% of: lower sodium natural sea salt, garlic, onions, modified potato starch, flavoring [milk], yeast extract, chicken fat, potassium chloride, carrot juice concentrate, salt, sugar, natural flavoring (salt, onion juice concentrate), rice starch, chicken flavor, citric acid, parsley, spice.

Now, none of these ingredients look particularly damning to me, but according to Campbell's neither this soup nor their condensed chicken and rice soup are gluten free - in fact none of their soups are listed on their official list of gluten free items! I'm sorry, but how hard would it be to make that soup above gluten free? Or if it is safe, then stop with the CYA answers?

Anyway, since it doesn't look like Campbell's is going to get their act together any time soon, there are a couple of good chicken soup options that have been verified as gluten free.

They include Hannaford brand Chicken and Rice condensed soup (last verified this summer), as well as Kettle Cuisine All Natural Chicken Soup with Rice Noodles (seen in Paradise Natural Foods in the frozen section). If anyone else has verified gluten free soups (especially chicken) I would love to hear about them!

That said, Campbell's did send me a list of their gluten free products (current as of October 2008). So for what it's worth, here goes the list:

Swanson Broth & Stock Aseptic
  • Natural Goodness Chicken Broth
  • Chicken Stock
  • Chicken Broth
  • Beef Stock

Swanson Broth Canned
  • Natural Goodness Chicken Broth
  • Chicken Broth
  • Vegetarian Broth
  • Chicken Broth with Garlic

Campbell's Tomato Juice
  • Tomato Juice
  • Low Sodium Tomato Juice
  • Organic Tomato Juice
  • Healthy Request Tomato Juice

V8 Splash Smoothies
  • V8 Splash Smoothie Strawberry Banana
  • V8 Splash Smoothie Tropical Colada

V8 Vegetable Juice
  • V8 Vegetable Juice
  • Low Sodium V8 Vegetable Juice
  • V8 Spicy Hot Vegetable Juice
  • A-C-E Vitamin Rich V8
  • V8 Fiber Vegetable Juice
  • Organic V8 Vegetable Juice

V8 Splash & Diet V8 Splash Juice Blends
  • V8 Splash Tropical Blend
  • V8 Splash Strawberry Kiwi Blend
  • V8 Splash Berry Blend
  • V8 Splash Fruit Medley
  • V8 Splash Mango Peach
  • V8 Splash Diet Tropical Blend
  • V8 Splash Diet Berry Blend

V8 V-Fusion Blends
  • V8 V-Fusion Strawberry Banana
  • V8 V-Fusion Tropical Orange
  • V8 V-Fusion Peach Mango
  • V8 V-Fusion Pomegranate Blueberry
  • V8 V-Fusion Acai Berry
  • V8 V-Fusion Light Strawberry Banana
  • V8 V-Fusion Light Peach Mango
  • V8 V-Fusion Light Pomegranate Blueberry

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gluten Free Pizza at Uno's!

Lisa posted a blog that made my morning - Uno Chicago Grill has finally started testing their long-promised gluten free pizzas!

They've updated their gluten free menu to include cheese and pepperoni pizzas, and they're currently testing the new pizza in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and parts of Massachusetts. Unfortunately they're not available in New York yet, but they hope to roll out their new pizza to all stores in 2009 - and for us folks in the Capital District, New England isn't that far of a drive, especially when the closest Whole Foods and Trader Joe's is in Amherst!

The article can be found via QRS magazine.

Thanks, for making my day! If you've tried Uno's gluten free pizza, please let me know about it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

DAFFI - Dawn's Allergen Free Foods, I is Hungry

I've had the pleasure of corresponding with Dawn from KD's Fish Fry regarding her new line of allergen-free foods.

I've written about KD's before - they're a wonderful establishment and one of the few (but thankfully growing) number of restaurants in this area that cater to celiacs. We've made stopping by KD's a tradition before heading up to SPAC for concerts, it's so convenient and a huge treat for us.

A celiac herself, Dawn started cooking up allergen-friendly foods for customers who asked, and has started up a new line of frozen goods along with the fare offered at KDs's. She's put a lot of work and effort into tuning her recipes, so much that after relentlessly campaigning with manufacturers to produce a wheat, gluten, dairy, egg and soy-free margarine to no avail, she now has a patent pending on a vegan butter alternative free of all the allergies listed above. Now that is dedication!

Called DAFFI (Dawn's Allergen Free Foods, I is hungry!), her new line is composed of home-cooked tasting food free of wheat, gluten, dairy, egg and soy and include a diverse menu with foods like chicken or eggplant parmesan, chicken cacciatore, chicken francaise, asian chicken, eggplant rollatini, beef stew, lasagna, and jambalaya - and a ton of mouth-watering desserts: chocolate zucchini bread, pineapple upside down cake (yum!), cookies, apple fritters, cinnamon buns, cupcakes and a cookie cup chocolate mousse - just the sound of that makes my mouth water.

The last time we stopped by, KD's started stocking their freezer. My husband and I can't resist trying new gluten free products, so we tried the chicken parmesan, apple fritters and cinnamon buns, and of course stocked up on her amazing oatmeal raisin cookies! He ended up enjoying the chicken parmesan the next day at lunch - and we shared the desserts. Everything was amazing, but my husband's favorite remains her oatmeal raisin cookies, which are very good (and impossible to tell that they're gluten free). We've gotten to the point where, if we head up to Saratoga we call ahead of time just to make sure those cookies are in stock!

DAFFI will have an official kickoff meeting this Thursday, November 20th, from 5:30 to 7 PM. If you're in the area, stop by KD's Fish Fry (418 Geyser Road, Saratoga) for information and samples. Registration information is located on their page. They're also feeling out the level of interest in a Celiac/food allergy support group in the Saratoga area.

Unfortunately I have other obligations this Thursday and as much as I like to I won't be able to attend the DAFFI kickoff. But I'd love it if some of my readers would go - not only is it great information, and I'd love to hear your feedback on the event, but it's so important to encourage and support the local businesses that are helping make our gluten-free lives that much better.

Please let me know how everything goes! (And when you go, definitely try those oatmeal raisin cookies!)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bangkok Thai Bistro

Friday evening we went with some friends for a birthday dinner at Bangkok Thai Bistro in Schenectady. It's a Thai restaurant and martini bar (sushi is also available on the menu). They also have karaoke on Wednesday - Friday evenings and offer discounted movie tickets to Bow-Tie cinemas.

I'd heard good things about the place, and the moment we walked into the restaurant, we were hit by this amazing smell and knew the food was going to be good. When we sat down we ordered a round of drinks (Since they advertise their restaurant as a martini bar, I just had to try one of their specialty drinks, so I ordered a flirt-ini).

We were very impressed that the menu said (in bold) to see your server with any dietary restrictions. I asked our waitress about gluten free options, and she had a chef check off all of the safe dishes on the menu. There were a lot of options, including the following:
  • Chicken Sate - Marinated, char grilled chicken on skewers, served with peanut sauce
  • Tom Kai Chicken - Chicken soup made with coconut milk and gal angal
  • Sweet and Sour - Choice of meat sauteed with fresh garlic, ground peppers, mushrooms and baby corn, in a light brown sauce
  • Green Garden - Choice of meat steamed with green vegetables topped with house peanut sauce
  • Fish Coconut (Steamed or crispy) broiled fillet of fish topped with panang curry sauce
  • Thai Curries - Red, Green, Yellow, Panang, and Masaman curries
  • Thai Inter - A combination of crispy duck, scallops and shrimp served with bell peppers, baby corn, and mixed vegetables in a panang curry sauce
  • Bistro Duck - A half duck served crispy and topped with bell peppers, string beans, snow peas and bamboo shoots in a green curry sauce
  • Bistro Curry - Combination of shrimp, scallops, squid and mussels sauteed in a panang curry sauce
Obviously, since menu items can change over time, I'd double check their list of safe items, but this is a pretty good list of choices! Several of the dishes are marked with a level of spiciness which can be adjusted either way for personal taste.

I'll admit that I didn't order anything gluten free - I couldn't resist the drunken noodles - but my husband tried the Thai Inter and really enjoyed it. We both cleaned our plates! We had both gone to the gym before meeting at the restaurant, and I thought my portion was perfect but my husband was still a little hungry - if you have a large appetite you might want to consider ordering an appetizer first.

The prices aren't that bad either - dinners usually range between 10 and 20, though the alcohol is pricey - 6-8 dollars for a mixed drink is a little steep, especially when it's small-ish and kind of weak.

Overall we were happy with our experience and have added Bangkok Thai Bistro to our list of restaurants to visit regularly. And a sweet end to the evening? Walking back to our car we saw that Villa Italia was open late, so we stopped in and bought some of their delicious almond paste - and gluten free - cookies!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Review: Enjoy Life boomCHOCOboom bars

The final Enjoy Life product on my list of reviews is Enjoy Life's boomCHOCOboom chocolate bars. They're dairy free chocolate bars made with rice milk, which I have to say is a great idea for choco-holics suffering from allergies. Unfortunately, my husband not only cannot eat gluten but he also can't have chocolate, so he was out of these taste tests we well.

There were three chocolate bars: crispy rice, dark chocolate, and rice milk chocolate. The crispy rice one looked the best, so I tried it first. I have to say that it was different - not as sweet as say, a Nestle crunch bar, and with a bit of a heavier, thicker texture. Honestly, it didn't taste like milk chocolate to me, but I was definitely reminded of dark chocolate. I liked the crunchiness of the crispy rice, but one square was more than enough - I wouldn't ever be able to eat a whole bar in one sitting (that's a good thing though!).

Next on me life was the rice milk chocolate bar. This had the same heavy, thick texture that the crispy rice bar did, and again it wasn't as sweet. I was reminded of dark chocolate again - it's definitely not as sweet as mainstream milk chocolate bars. Without the crispy rice there was a more noticeable difference from other chocolate. Again, one square was enough, though I didn't like this one as much as the crispy rice bar.

Finally, the dark chocolate bar, was just way too dark for me. I am not very objective on this - I'm a girl who eats Dove milk chocolate all the time and I have never been a fan of the very dark stuff. Still, I think people who do like extremely dark chocolate may like it a lot better. The only thing I can say, is that it needed something else in it - like a caramel filling or something - to offset the bitterness.

Overall, they're a little pricey compared to mainstream chocolate and not something that I'd buy regularly without allergies. That said it's a great idea for people who have problems with nuts or dairy and I'd especially recommend the crispy rice bar for people who can't have regular milk chocolate, and if they came out with a "sweeter" chocolate bar I'd definitely give it another shot. No paws on this review, because chocolate is bad for little puggles. :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Review: Enjoy Life Not Nuts! Beach Bash Nut Free Trail Mix

Continuing the list of Enjoy Life product reviews, we came to Enjoy Life's Not Nuts! Beach Bash Nut Free Trail Mix. This trail mix was made up of sunflower seeds, dried pineapple, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and dried apricots. Now, my husband wouldn't touch this stuff (he's not a fan of sunflower seeds and absolutely detests anything that ends in the word "berry" unless it's strawberry milk), so this review was all me. It looked pretty decent - I mean, how can you go wrong with sunflower seeds and dried fruits? Looking at the ingredient list I was pretty impressed as well - all the ingredients were 100% natural. It's nice to know exactly what you're putting into your body, and be able to pronounce all the ingredients!

I grabbed a handful and have to say it was pretty tasty - albeit addictive. Since Vince wouldn't have any of it I brought it back to the office. A handful of that all week staved off a 3 PM break to the vending machines - where the trail mixes were full of salt, sugar, chocolate and preservatives - and it seemed to be a much better choice. I'll be honest - I'm not usually a trail mix girl so I don't know how often I'd buy it, especially for just allergen-free me - but I can see it for a good snack to stick in the carry-on luggage during a plane ride. And I'm sure that it's a blessing if you have a peanut allergy!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Review: Enjoy Life Soft Baked Snickerdoodle Cookies

Next on the list of Enjoy Life products to review is their soft baked snickerdoodle cookies. We'd seen them in the store but always passed them by with a "oh, gluten free boxed cookies can't be that good!" So come testing day, we opened the box to try them and saw that, again, they didn't look that appetizing. But, in the interest of science, we each (nervously) took a bite and were pleasantly surprised! Soft, chewy, and cinnamon-y with the texture of a "regular" cookie, this one was a surprising winner!

Now, we've traditionally baked snickerdoodles in the past and they don't taste exactly like the snickerdoodles I remember from Christmastime - but you can taste sugar, cinnamon and spices and it's a good cookie for a snack. My hubby - though he has a huge sweet-tooth - doesn't like many desserts and ended up polishing these ones off pretty quickly!

My one complaint was the packaging - they come in a very light plastic tray with a sheet of plastic. I see their site also promotes individually wrapped cookies - that's more convenient and wouldn't make the cookies go stale right away, but it would be nice to have either a box-full of individually wrapped cookies for freshness, or a seal-able bag to lock in the freshness of the cookies.

Otherwise, these were pretty darn good. Phoebe the puggle loved them, more importantly Vince my hubby liked them, and we'll probably buy them again. Phoebe'd give this product three-and-a-half paws out of four. :)