The Squirrel & The Bee Grain Free Bakery + Bonus 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.

One of my friends recently told me about a bakery that was featured at a farmers market in New Jersey that had the best paleo/gluten free snacks. I instantly asked, “Is it The Squirrel & The Bee????” – “YES!” And we had a love fest chatting about their delicious granola and muffins.

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The Squirrel and the Bee is a 100% gluten free bakery in New Jersey. They offer a wide variety of muffins, breads, sandwich rolls, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, tarts, pies and even ice cream cake. All of their items are gluten free and grain free. Much of their menu is also dairy free, vegan and suitable for the paleo diet. 

My favorite product (so far) from their bakery are the pumpkin and blueberry muffins – when I’m out all day teaching fitness classes, it’s a snack that I can feel good about. The base of nut flour and coconut flour helps keep me fueled and satisfied for several hours. I appreciate the focus on nutrition, high protein, and healthy fat.

They also make THE BEST granola that I have ever tasted – Goodness Grainless Granola. I’ve tried both the Pumpkin Spice (perfect for fall!) and Vanilla & Cinnamon. While I could happily munch on fistfuls straight out of the bag, I highly recommend both flavors as the perfect crunchy ice cream topping – they’re excellent on top of coffee ice cream!

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Goodness Grainless is:

  • 100% gluten free and made in a dedicated facility
  • Grain free (no oats!)
  • Dairy free
  • Refined sugar free
  • Peanut free
  • Soy free

The Squirrel & The Bee is located in Short Hills, NJ. Shipping is available across the continental US. I also hear that they are at a few farmers markets in NJ!

For more information and to order visit

http://www.goodnessgrainless.com/

http://www.squirrelandthebee.com

GIVEAWAY! One winner will receive a prize pack of treats from The Squirrel and the Bee/Goodness Grainless! Enter via the rafflecopter link below. Continental US only. Giveaway ends Wednesday September  27th 11:59pm EST.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thank you! – Top 20 Gluten Free Bloggers

Sending you a GIGANTIC thank you! Because of your support I’ve been voted as one the Top 20 Gluten Free Bloggers in the 8th Annual Gluten Free Buyers Guide! I’m super thrilled and honored to be among this group of amazing bloggers. Being an advocate for the Celiac community is a very important part of my life, so this recognition means the world to me. Thank you so much for your support!

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There are more awards to be given! This is your chance to vote for your favorite products and resources. Help other GF folk learn about your favorites – you may even find some new gems yourself! Click here to vote anytime between September 5th-October 10th. One voter will win a $50 Amazon gift card courtesy of the Gluten Free Buyers Guide.

Please consider voting for Tasty Meditation in the Best Gluten Free Blog category!

Thank you again! 

GFAF Expo in Secaucus, NJ Oct 14/15 + Giveaway!

It’s been on my calendar for almost a year now – the GFAF Expo is coming back to NJ October 14th and 15th! I’m thrilled to be returning as one of their official bloggers. It is truly one of my favorite events of the year – a place for Celiac/gluten free folk to come together, learn, and support each other – there is so much joy in that expo hall every year!

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Do you love free samples? I do. The expo will feature dozens upon dozens of gluten free vendors, many of which are also very allergen friendly. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about new products as well as sample treats from east coast GF bakeries.

Great expo features:

  • Free samples and raffle drawings
  • Free seminars hosted by notable members of the gluten free community.
  • Opportunities to buy products directly from vendors.
  • The hall is divided into two color-coded sections. Both are gluten free, but one section is specifically nut free, as well.
  • Secaucus is about 7 minutes away from the Port Authority Bus Station in Manhattan. It’s about a $7 round trip ticket, and the bus lets you off right at the expo. www.njtransit.com/pdf/bus/T0320.pdf

I will also be there representing the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group – please leave a comment and let me know if you’re attending! I’d love to meet up. One of the best part of attending the expo is chatting with other Celiac/GF folk. 

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Need a ticket?

  1. Members of the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group receive 30% off their ticket price with the code NYC30 or by clicking here. If you are not a member, check out our group at www.meetup.com/Celiac
  2. Interested in volunteering at the expo and getting a free ticket? Click here. 
  3. Ticket giveaway! I’m giving away three Adult Single Day passes. Enter via the Rafflecopter link below – giveaway ends Friday September 15th at 11:59 pm EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more info please visit www.gfafexpo.com/locations/2017-secaucus-nj

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this. As an official blogger for the expo I am receiving a comped ticket. All opinions are my own, and I only recommend products that I, myself, use and love.

Gluten Free Watchdog’s FDA Citizen Petition

Many of you are aware of Gluten Free Watchdog’s ongoing efforts to encourage the FDA to enforce their gluten free rules. She has now submitted a citizen petition to the FDA docket. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to come together as a community to help create change. Gluten free must mean gluten free. 

With her permission I have copied/pasted GFW’s recent email. Please see below and consider taking two minutes out of your day to comment/share.

Best,

Jessica

 

 

Gluten Free Watchdog’s Citizen Petition has posted to the FDA docket. Please read the petition and comment. Please ask others to comment too. The petition is available at: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FDA-2017-P-5118

Sample comment to cut and paste into the docket:

Too many products are labeled gluten-free yet contain ingredients (e.g., barley malt) not allowed in labeled gluten-free foods. I support Gluten Free Watchdog’s citizen petition asking FDA to establish new reporting and investigation processes to address facial misbranding violations under the gluten-free labeling rule.

What is facial misbranding? We are defining facial misbranding to be when a product label displays a “gluten-free” claim but the ingredients list includes an ingredient that is prohibited under FDA rules from being contained in any product labeled “gluten-free” (e.g., barley malt, barley malt extract, barley malt syrup, wheat [except in limited circumstances with clear additional markings and language]).

What is an example of facial misbranding? Chips labeled gluten-free yet containing barley malt extract are facially misbranded. And soy sauce labeled gluten-free yet containing wheat is facially misbranded.

Is facial misbranding that big of a problem? Yes. See Foods Labeled Gluten-Free Yet Containing Barley Malt Ingredients available at: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/foods-labeled-gluten-free-yet-containing-barley-malt-ingredients/ and Products Labeled Gluten-Free Yet Containing Wheat-Based Soy Sauce available at: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/products-labeled-gluten-free-yet-containing-wheat-based-soy-sauce/

What we are asking of FDA:

  1. Electronic Consumer Reporting

FDA should establish a reporting system on its website for consumers/consumer groups to electronically report Facial Misbranding to FDA. Because Facial Misbranding is plainly evident from the face of the label itself, the reporting would need only require the uploading of product photos that illustrate the gluten-free claim and the ingredients list (e.g., the photos attached as Attachments 1 through 6), along with a simple form for consumer input of relevant information such as product name, “Best by” or “Use by” dates and lot numbers.

  1. Warning Letters and/or a “Facial Misbranding Initiative”

In order to curtail consumer exposure to misbranded and dangerous products, FDA should routinely issue a Warning Letter based on Facial Misbranding within thirty (30) days of receipt of an electronically submitted report demonstrating Facial Misbranding has occurred.

Alternatively, FDA could implement a “Facial Misbranding Initiative” under the Gluten-Free Labeling Rule, utilizing consumer submissions and information collected through other methods of surveillance.

What you can do to help:

  • Comment on the petition
  • Ask others to comment on the petition
  • Spread the word about the petition on Facebook, Twitter, and blog posts
  • Use #EnforceGFRule & #ReclaimGF

Digital Kitchen Scales & Gluten Free Baking + Escali review

When you bake gluten free do you find that your recipes don’t turn out quite as good as you’d hoped? Why did your cookies spread out more than the ones in the picture? Why does your bread taste so dense? You might be missing a simple tool that could help take your baking to the next level – a digital food scale.

In my gluten free baking adventures, I’ve realized that it can be notoriously difficult to measure gluten free flour with a regular measuring cup. You’d be surprised at how often you might be packing in much more flour than your recipe calls for, creating overly starchy baked goods. And don’t get me started on teaspoons – when I got my first super precise scale I was shocked at how off I was when measuring small amounts of ingredients like baking soda.

I’ve also found that we generally overestimate portion sizes. Using a digital scale is a great way to become more aware of exactly how much we’re eating. You’d be surprised – that dollop of peanut butter that you thought was one serving might actually be three. For those who are trying to lose weight, simply become more mindful of their eating habits, or are following plans like the low FODMAP diet where portion size is critical, a food scale again is a very important tool.

My digital food scale is the most-used device in my kitchen. Unfortunately, I have gone through four food scales in the past five years, and darn it I’m ready for one that works and works well!

That is when I found the Escali L600 High Precision Digital Scale.

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Pros:

  • I measure mostly using grams. Most scales have a 1g or even 2g increment, which can seriously mess up a recipe, especially when measuring small amounts of things like baking soda or baking powder. This scale measures in 0.1g increments. Perfect!
  • It also measures in ounces (great, because I measure protein portions this way) and several other units including grains, pennyweights, troy ounces, and carats. Anyone have a diamond they need measuring?
  • A tare feature that allows you to reset back to zero. This allows you to subtract the weight of a container or measure multiple items in one go.
  • It also has a few features that I haven’t fully explored yet including item counting and cumulative memory.
  • It uses 4 AA batteries, which is great because they are easy to find. You can also purchase an optional power adapter for this model.
  • Automatic shut off after four minutes of non-use to help preserve the battery. One of my old scales used to turn off randomly in the middle of using it, which seriously messed up several batches of pancakes.
  • The platform rotates which makes it very easy to clean!
  • A backlight option for the digital display.
  • So far they seem to have good customer service. The last scale I had – I had no way of contacting the company when it broke.

Cons:

  • Honestly I don’t have any complaints so far. I think the scale is top notch. The only thing I felt I missed was that I couldn’t find instructions for setting the platform on the scale, but it wasn’t a problem in the end.

Not a con, but something to be aware of – the scale has a capacity of 600g (roughly 21oz), which (depending on your flour blend) is about 3.5-4.5 cups of gluten free flour, not including a measuring bowl. A sure way to kill your food scale is to put too much weight on it. I’m choosing to use a very small, lightweight measuring bowl (seen in the photo) and only measuring a few items at a time before transferring them to a bigger mixing bowl. Keeping my scale happy and healthy!

Note: This scale has a one year warranty and a two year professional guarantee in case a defect is discovered. I got the scale in July 2017 and will update this post in the future to let you know how it’s holding up compared to my other scales.

Overall, I am thrilled with this scale. It is precise, extremely sensitive, and just what I was looking for to make my gluten free baking creations the best they can be.

The Escali L600 High Precision Digital Scale retails for $84.95. Their other scales range from $35-$100. And they have free shipping!

For more information visit www.escali.com/scales/kitchen-scales

 

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. 

Team Celiac at the NYC Marathon!

Exciting news from The Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University – there will now be a Team Celiac at the New York City Marathon!

From their website

“Team Celiac is the principal community fundraising program for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. All funds raised from Team Celiac Teammates and Friends go directly toward the Center’s research program.”

“Train with Us and Gain access to professional support via

  • The Center’s Clinical team
  • The Center’s Nutritional Counselors
  • A Physical Training Program customized for Marathon Training
  • Pre-race gluten-free dinner
  • Custom two-piece uniform and race day gear.”

If you are interested in running with Team Celiac, donating, or have questions please visit www.celiacdiseasecenter.columbia.edu/teamceliac

Cheers!

Jessica

Opinion – Not a fan of the Nima Sensor

I am not a fan of the Nima Sensor, and I’m going to tell you why.

Disclaimer – Several of my readers wrote to me expressing their own doubts and concerns about Nima and asking for my opinion. The following opinions are my own. This is meant to be a discussion, so please feel free to contribute. I own a Nima Sensor (which I paid for myself), and these are my experiences. It is not my intention to sway readers for or against Nima. I am simply discussing my opinions. Many of you know of my hero, Gluten Free Watchdog, an invaluable expert in the gluten free community. I will be referencing several of her articles about the Nima Sensor. Please also keep in mind that the FDA has defined gluten free as less than 20ppm. Some GF certification organizations require a food to be less than this. I am aware that some extremely sensitive Celiacs react to 20ppm. Nima’s chemistry is optimized for 20ppm.

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I was among a group of gluten free bloggers invited to informational events with the Nima team before the product was released. If you remember my post from two years ago – “The Nima Sensor – A Game Changer” – you’ll remember that I was incredibly excited about this product, so much so that I preordered my sensor the second it went on sale. I also loved the Nima team. The creators were kind and seemed to really want to do some good in the world.

Some facts:

The cost – $279. The capsules cost about $4.87 – $6.08 each and are not reusable. And they expire within about six months.

Nima doesn’t work on:

  • Fermented foods
  • Soy sauce
  • Pure vinegar
  • Beer
  • Alcohol
  • Xanthan and guar gum in their pure form
  • Bright colored food
  • Hard food such as uncooked pasta and dry beans
  • Nima has not been validated to test for gluten in medication or non-food products such as makeup. If tested, the Nima team cannot make claims about the accuracy of test results.

Problems with the sample size

Watch Nima not pick up cross contamination in GF crackers that came in contact with wheat

When using Nima, you only test a pea-sized sample of food. This means that if you have multiple items or components on one plate, it may be hard to get all of those into one capsule, and you’ll end up having to use multiple ones. If you use three capsules for one meal, that’s about $15-$18.

Also, because you are only testing a small amount, Nima may not find the gluten in food that has been contaminated. Remember, cross contamination is not necessarily evenly spread out throughout a dish. The Nima team recommends testing likely areas such as grill marks on a piece of chicken, but there is no guarantee that it will find a hot spot of contamination.

Example – you order a gluten free pizza and test 1/2 pea-size of crust and the other 1/2 pea-size of cheese. The Nima results in a happy face – no gluten found. Is your pizza gluten free? Who knows. All you know is that the pea-size sample you tested is.

A false sense of security 

Watch Nima test non-GF oats and a recalled box of Cherrios and result in a

happy face/”no gluten found”.

Gluten Free Watchdog also describes spotty cross contamination in gluten free oats.

I’m worried that the device is giving the community a false sense of security. Celiac Disease is highly emotional, and many of my followers have expressed that the hardest part is the social aspect. I’ve had too many occasions where I sipped water at a restaurant while everyone else ate pizza. We all want to believe (myself included) that this device will give us comfort and allow us to regain control. We want to fit in. We don’t want there to be any problems. We WANT this device to work. 

The Nima team emphasizes that it’s important to still ask questions about how food was made and where it was prepared. But will consumers end up relying too much on the device itself? 

Several people I know tested Cheerios (click here to read more about Cheerios’ questionable gluten free status). When I explained to them how spotty cross contamination can be, particularly when it comes to gluten free oats, they all replied that they would continue to eat Cheerios anyway because Nima gave them the answer they wanted to hear.

Testing under 20ppm & damaging reputations of truly gluten free businesses

Nima once said that foods under 20ppm occasionally may test positive for gluten, but that is rare. Now Nima publicly admits on their site, “For foods containing below 2ppm, Nima reported ‘gluten found’ 7.8% of the time.”

This is highly concerning to me and brings up some other important questions – What is the percentage for under 10ppm? And under 20ppm? Even though the device is “optimized for 20ppm”, logic shows that greater than 7.8% of food under 10 or 20ppm will test positive. 

Click here to see five foods that Nima detected gluten in, yet tested below the limit of detection of 1ppm when tested with the R5 ELISA method.

I worry that restaurants and companies that are doing an excellent job may have their reputations unfairly tarnished.

Imagine this – you go to your favorite restaurant and test a dish. It comes back positive for gluten. You question the manager and the chef. They swear that all of their ingredients were gluten free and they took their normal steps to prevent cross contamination. What do you do? Do you eat the dish? Do you stop going to your favorite restaurant? Did your food have 2ppm in it? 10ppm? 100ppm? There is no way of knowing because Nima cannot tell you.

And then that information gets logged into the Nima app. Other Nima-owners can see your test results, and perhaps they will start avoiding that restaurant.

I refused to bring my Nima with me to restaurants. I thought it would be irresponsible of me to potentially tarnish the reputation of a restaurant that is doing a great job because the device that I was using had no way of telling me how much gluten was actually in their food. 

Now before you say, “Any amount of gluten that it detects is too much”, let me ask you – is less than 1ppm too much gluten?

And before you say, “But so-and-so said that their Nima saved them from eating unsafe food at a restaurant,” let me also ask – did that person also send their dish to a lab to have it verify that the dish contained over 20ppm? Maybe it was gluten free and maybe it wasn’t.

And of course, I am certain that Nima has saved people from ingesting gluten – if a sample has over 20ppm Nima will most likely find it (unless it is a food that Nima cannot test for like soy sauce) – but how many times has it prevented someone from eating food that was totally safe? How many times has it damaged the reputation of an excellent company? It is a question of consistency. 

I also see a lot of social media posts of people testing certified gluten free food and getting upset when Nima says “gluten found.” Do you disregard the testing requirements of the certification bodies?

Testing a food multiple times

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At the request of other Celiacs, I tested quite a few foods including this bag of gluten free potato chips – labeled GF (company tests ingredients and finished products), the bag was new/unopened, samples gathered with a new plastic spoon that had been sealed in plastic. Nima came back with a “high gluten” result (likely over 100ppm). I tested a second sample from the same bag with a new spoon – happy face/ “no gluten found”.

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We also tested this gluten free brownie twice with the same precautions. The first test came back “low gluten”, the second test came back “no gluten found.”

What do you do? Do you eat these foods? Or do you stop trusting the companies? How many times should you test a product with Nima to feel satisfied with its answer?

So Jessica, what are you currently doing with your Nima? 

Remember I wanted Nima to be our community’s savior. However, mine is currently collecting dust in my cabinet, and I don’t plan on ordering any more capsules. My personal opinion – a costly gadget that makes my gluten free dining experience even more expensive yet still leaves me unsure as to my food’s actual gluten free status is not a gadget that is useful to me. For my needs, I don’t think the technology is there yet.

The way I see it:

“No gluten found” – No gluten was found in your pea-size sample. Is the entire dish gluten free? Nima doesn’t know.

“Gluten found” – Nima found gluten in the sample, but it might be less than 2ppm. How much gluten is in it? Nima can’t tell you.

Sure, the Nima team will emphasize that the device is another tool for your toolbox. I ask – is it a consistent/accurate tool? And does it leave you with more answers or more questions?

Click here to read more concerns from Gluten Free Watchdog.

 I know others out there may disagree with my feelings about Nima. Again I will stress that these are my opinions based on information provided by both Nima and Gluten Free Watchdog. This is meant to be a discussion, so please feel free to leave a comment – what is your opinion of Nima?

 

 

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review, and I did not receive any product samples. All opinions are my own.