The Other Macaroon/Northern Valley Baking Co Review & Giveaway

I love traditional Italian amaretti cookies. Made with almonds, sugar and egg whites, they are super delicious, chewy, lightly sweet and naturally gluten free. One of my favorite cookies in the universe. However, if you recall my blog post from last Christmas, they can be super tricky to get right. You have to have just the right technique. For those of us who are less adventurous in the kitchen, we can now find these cookies in stores.

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The Other Macaroon by Northern Valley Baking Co. offers four flavors of traditional almond cookies – original, mocha, orange and lemon – all made in a dedicated gluten free facility with simple ingredients and no preservatives. Macaroon paste, sugar, egg whites, and blanched almond flour – those are pretty much the ingredients that you can expect from a fabulous company like Northern Valley Baking Co.

As you know I LOVE almond cookies, so The Other Macaroon really hit the spot. I had never thought to add lemon to my recipe, but the extra zest complimented the cookie’s natural flavor beautifully. I’m a big fan and that quickly became my favorite of Northern Valley Baking Co’s flavors. I also tried the mocha and original flavors, which I highly recommend. Simple and satisfying. With the almond flour base, these cookies are also great if you are avoiding grains.

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The Other Macaroon can currently be found in the freezer section (though no baking is required – they are ready to eat!) across stores in NY, NJ and CT as well as on their website.

And for those of you attending the Secaucus, NJ GFAF Expo – be sure to look out for these tasty treats!

For more information and a store locator visit www.nvbaking.com

GIVEAWAY! Three winners will receive three bags of almond cookies from Northern Valley Baking Co! Enter via the rafflecopter link below. NY, NJ, and CT residents only. Giveaway ends Monday September 12 at 11:59 EST.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received samples of these products, but I was not paid to write this review. All opinions are my own, and I only recommend products that I, myself, use and love.

 

 

Al Nassma Chocolate Review

NOTE: This is a US review only and features the two products (chocolate bars and hollow camel) that are currently sold in the US. If you are outside the US or ordering online, please read labels. There is one item – a praline gift box – that lists “wheat flour” in its ingredients (the company is working on changing this, but I of course do not recommend this product). The company has assured me, however, that the bars and hallow camel are gluten free and are made in a dedicated facility. 

I often find that commercial US chocolate tastes chalky and are filled with extra unnecessary ingredients. There is a junk-food-quality that I can’t shake. So when I need a really special indulgence, I often look towards chocolates made in foreign countries.

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Al Nassma’s camel milk chocolates (yes, you read that correctly – camel milk!) are naturally gluten free and are made in a dedicated gluten free facility in Dubai. Aiming to create a high end, quality chocolate, Al Nassma does not make cheap substitutions to lower costs. Their base recipe is camel milk powder, cocoa mass/butter, sugar from Germany, acacia honey from Austria, and Bourbon vanilla. That’s it! Pure, simple and delicious.

Camel Milk Chocolate Bars include:

  • Whole Milk (the hallow chocolate camel is made out of this, too)
  • Spices Arabia
  • Dates
  • Macadamia Nut and Orange Zest
  • 70% Cocoa

I absolutely love the regular whole milk chocolate. The other flavors are highly complementary – distinguishable but not overpowering. Silky, creamy, gentle, luxurious – everything that I could want from the perfect chocolate bar. This chocolate is so tasty and pure that I’ll eat a whole bar far too quickly and end up wanting more. I guess the only downside to these chocolates is that Al Nassma will take all of my grocery money!

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I’m putting Al Nassma on my list of top three favorite chocolate companies ever (coming from a chocoholic like me, you know that’s saying something!). I highly recommend these chocolates as a gift. With their stunning presentation, they are perfect for any special occasion.

You can find Al Nassma bars and chocolate camels in New York at 2Beans and the Metropolitan Museum when the “Jerusalem” exhibition starts in mid-September. In California they are available at Oasis Camel Dairy (Ramona, CA) and at Chocolate Covered San Francisco.

For more information visit:

www.al-nassma.com

An extra bonus for my readers – if you are ever in Dubai, feel free to reach out to Al Nassma, mention Tasty Meditation, and they will gladly offer you a tour of their chocolate factory!

 

Disclaimer: I received samples of these products, but I was not paid to write this review. All opinions are my own, and I only recommend products that I, myself, use and love.

The Cross Contamination Myth Buster – BUSTED

One of my readers sent me this article (The Cross Contamination Myth Buster by Dimitrios Douros) and boy did it make our blood boil. It was originally published in 2014 but was reposted yesterday, and some Celiacs online are responding positively to it. I urge you to read it and while doing so know that it is 100% bull****.

A look at just a few of the MANY issues that I had with this article:

  1. He claims that we should be able to wash gluten off of any surface because proper washing can get rid of bacteria such as e. coli and salmonella.

Gluten is not bacteria. It has different properties. Gluten has a very odd sticky texture that is notoriously difficult to get rid of, especially on porous materials or equipment like colanders that are difficult to clean anyway.

  1. Using “first grade arithmetic” Douros has attempted to calculate the number of mg of gluten that may be left behind on a washed wooden spoon and the amount of flour in the air that might land on a pizza. He then claims that a once-glutened-then-cleaned wooden spoon and airborne flour would still make any affected food test to less than 20ppm.

How does he know how much flour this is? Has he measured what 1/5 of a grain of wheat looks like? This is a very complex, truly scientific topic that needs thorough laboratory testing done. What is his source? Can that source be trusted? I know many people who get sick from both of these things, and those migraines, stomach aches, and trips to the bathroom are not figments of their imagination.

  1. In reference to gluten free products that claim to be produced on the same equipment as wheat – “The only chance of cross-contamination is in the first few batches of the product to go through the line, batches that most, if not all, manufacturers test and discard if found to be cross-contaminated.”

Haha, that’s funny. Most manufacturers test for gluten? NOT A CHANCE! I talk with many companies that claim their products are gluten free, are made on shared equipment, and they DO NOT TEST AT ALL. Many other companies simply do not care because they are not targeting the Celiac market, so no, they will not discard products that they find perfect acceptable. They have a warning label on the package to cover their butts

  1. “You ask for your salad without the gluten item. And wouldn’t you know it when the salad comes you see a big pita wedge right on top!….I will remove the pita or pick around the croutons and eat the salad without a worry about getting ‘glutened’….During baking, the gluten is completely bound up in that pita or in the croutons—it is not going to come loose just to contaminate me.”

Okay NOW he claims that gluten is sticky??? This is when I wanted to throw my computer across the room. This is Celiac Disease 101. Gluten is completely bound up in the pita? Crumbs don’t fall off? Here’s an idea – take a paint brush, dip it in red paint. I’ll tell you that the paint is completely bound up in the paint brush, so swiping that brush all across your face won’t do a thing. Go ahead. Try it.

This guy should also watch my video “What is 20ppm?” to see how little it takes to cross contaminate a food.

 

It is 100% IRRESPONSIBLE, DANGEROUS, and DAMAGING to the Celiac community to tell them that cross contamination isn’t a big deal, that it’s okay to pick croutons off a salad, that all manufacturers have high quality cleaning practices and test their products.

We all have different sensitivity levels when it comes to outward symptoms. However, I know many many Celiacs who react to less than 20ppm. Shared utensils, flour in the air, croutons in salads – all of these things have made many of us sick. This guy doesn’t seem to be that sensitive. He is not a myth buster. He is writing about his sensitivity in the gluten free world. He does not represent us as a whole and should not be publishing an article like this claiming that he does.

Some Celiacs out there will read this article and trust it because they want it to be true. They want life to be easier. And then they will go to a restaurant and tell their friends and the waiter that cross contamination isn’t a big deal. And that hurts all of us. That creates more people who will tell me that I’m crazy or overreacting, when in reality I’m right and desperately trying not to get sick. This article and its assumptions are insulting to the Celiac community.

(Mic drop)

Milton’s Crackers Review & Giveaway

Today we are talking about crackers. Mostly, I enjoy making my own (yes, yes, I know. I’m that person who makes her own crackers), but during the summer time it is far too hot to even consider turning the oven on (it’s been about 105 degrees her in NYC lately, wowza!). There are far too many crackers on the market that are tasteless and have a cardboard-like consistency. Frankly, I don’t want to eat those. So I was happy to have discovered Milton’s crackers.

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Important info:

  • Certified Gluten-Free
  • Non GMO Project Verified
  • No High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Orthodox Union Kosher
  • rBST Free
  • Xanthan Gum Free
  • Peanut and Nut Free
  • No Trans Fat
  • Baked, Not Fried
  • Made with purity protocol GF oat flour!

I found that all of the flavors were wonderful, and I absolutely loved eating the crackers on their own. Because of their gentle, light and crisp flavor and texture, they also paired very well with hummus, dips, and cheese. Here are the flavors and some extra thoughts:

The flavors:

  • Sea Salt – I loved these and could munch on them all day. Would have loved a touch more salt cuz that’s how my super low blood pressure and I roll, but definitely one of my favorite crackers on the market.
  • Multi-grain – Perhaps my favorite cracker to pair with hummus because of the great roundness to its’ flavor.
  • Cheddar – This cracker isn’t trying to be a traditional Cheez-It-type cracker. It has a lighter cheese flavor so you can pair it with other foods. Or just munch on them on their own like I do. Totally fabulous.
  • Everything – I need to experiment more with the best dip/hummus to pair with the Everything crackers. A bold flavor deserves complimentary tones. If you have a good idea, please let me know!

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For more information visit www.miltonscraftbakers.com

GIVEAWAY! One lucky winner will receive a prize pack of assorted Milton’s snacks! Enter via the rafflecopter link below. US residents only. Giveaway ends Friday September 2nd at 11:59 EST.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received samples of these products, but I was not paid to write this review. All opinions are my own, and I only recommend products that I, myself, use and love.

 

Gluten Free Oats – perhaps not quite as pure as we think…

Many of us with Celiac Disease cannot tolerate oats, but for those of us who can there is an important movement happening that you need to know about.

We know that oats are naturally gluten free yet are most often contaminated with gluten-containing grains throughout the growing, harvesting, and packaging process. Those of us who choose to eat oats must look for gluten free oat companies who grow/harvest their oats in dedicated fields away from gluten-containing grains and test rigorously for gluten – this is called the “purity protocol”.

Remember the Cheerios recall last year? One of the big issues that came into light was that General Mills was not using certified gluten free oats or purity protocol oats – instead they utilized regular/contaminated oats and then used a mechanical sorting technology to remove the gluten. Many Celiacs (myself included) felt uncomfortable with this practice along with their lot testing policy.

It then came into light that this mechanical/optical sorting concept is not new. MANY of today’s trusted gluten free oat suppliers are mechanically/optically sorting their oats and selling them to gluten free companies to use in their products.  This has been going on for YEARS. These companies may have better testing policies than Cheerios and test their foods down to 20, 10 or 5ppm. However, this policy concerns me, because I do not eat any “gluten removed” foods, and that is exactly what they are doing.

Studies done by Gluten Free Watchdog have shown that “oat products labeled gluten-free are at a higher risk of gluten contamination as compared to labeled gluten-free foods as a whole.” AND “Based on conversations with the manufacturers of products testing at or above 20 ppm of gluten, oats from suppliers of purity protocol oats were not being used in these five products at the time of original testing.” Concerning? I think so.

Please note that there is no possible way to tell if a company is using purity protocol oats vs sorted oats just by looking at the label – “gluten free oats” “certified gluten free oats” or a certification symbol do not provide any insight as to how the oats are grown/harvested. You have to either contact the company or visit GlutenFreeWatchdog.com.

Gluten Free Watchdog is one of my favorite resources for the Celiac/GF community. I have a great amount of respect for Tricia Thompson. She is doing the good, hard, and necessary work, and (as far as I’m concerned) whatever she says goes.  Their statement on oats:

“Gluten Free Watchdog supports the use of gluten-free oats by the celiac disease community that are produced under a robust gluten-free purity protocol. At this time we do not in general support the use of regular commodity oats that are cleaned at the “end” of production via mechanical and/or optical sorting. We are not necessarily opposed to the use of such oats in the future if their gluten-free status can be definitively demonstrated via a rigorous testing protocol.”

Click here for:

Gluten Free Watchdog’s detailed explanation of the oat situation

Gluten Free Watchdog’s list of GF purity protocol suppliers and manufacturers – Here you’ll also find statements from Nature’s Path, Bob’s Red Mill, Cream Hill Estates, and Bakery On Main. All are using mechanically/optically sorted oats. (I know, I was surprised, too)

As I said, I fully support the opinions of Gluten Free Watchdog. So onward on TastyMeditation.com I will only be recommending GF oat-containing products that support the purity protocol.

We must all make our own decisions regarding what we eat and determine our own comfort levels, but we also have the right to be informed. Please consider supporting the purity protocol companies that are taking the extra steps to ensure that their products are truly safe for the Celiac community and do not touch gluten in the process.

 

American Gluten Free Twitter Party

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Fun! Prizes! It’s almost time for our second twitter party with American Gluten Free!

Join the fun, chat with other gluten free folk, and learn about AGF’s new and fabulous subscription box options! We’ve got some truly amazing prizes, so don’t miss out!

Wednesday August 3rd

9:00pm EST

Follow the hashtag #AGFCrew

Register with the rafflecopter link below to win prizes! (you must be present/participating at the party to win)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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GoAvo Review

I was thrilled to have discovered GoAvo at this year’s Vegetarian Food Festival. Naturally gluten free, GoAvo is an avocado spread that can replace mayonnaise in practically any recipe. Each bottle is about 85% avocado and is combined with grapeseed oil, white wine vinegar, and lemon juice. It has a fraction of the calories that mayonnaise has – 25 calories in GoAvo and 90 calories in traditional mayo.

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Important info:

  • Gluten free
  • Produced on dedicated equipment in a facility where no gluten is present
  • Soy free
  • Non GMO
  • Vegan
  • No artificial preservatives

Flavors include:

  • Original
  • Basil
  • Chipotle

I love the tangy taste and that each tablespoon is packed with nutrients. With real food ingredients, it is light years more appealing and better tasting than traditional mayo. If you’re simple/minimalistic in the kitchen, GoAvo is a great way to add some zest and fun to your dips, spreads, salads and burgers. Their website lists some awesome recipe ideas including Artichoke Tapenade, Tomato & Cucumber Salad, and Avocado Chicken Salad.

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Find Goavo across the East coast and moving westward. For more info and a store locator visit www.goavospread.com/

 

Disclaimer: I received samples of these products, but I was not paid to write this review. All opinions are my own, and I only recommend products that I, myself, use and love.