New to me ciders

Beer tour 2011, I mean, Family tour 2011, wrapped up last week and I came back with TEN new to me ciders to try.

While there are 11 bottles in this picture, I’ve had the Woodchuck special reserve before (all 12 bottles of it :) But of the others, I had never seen them. So into our bottle collection in the trunk they went.

So far, I’ve tried the Peach Hard Cider from Bean Blossom Hard Cider made by Oliver’s Winery in IN. The cider was incredibly light and fruity, more peach cider to me than apple cider with peaches. Would I buy it again? Unlikely. Am I glad I tried it? Certainly. And now I’ve got the funky bottle to show for it.

Look forward to a few more reviews. I’m not sure I’ll review them all, but hopefully I remember to post about the notable ones.

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Jovial cookies – product review

I had time to kill Friday evening after finishing errands and before the ManBeast needed to be picked up from campus. As I am wont to do when I’ve got time to kill on the west side of town, I decided to wander around Whole Foods. I was fiending for something, but I didn’t really know what.

I found these cookies way down on the bottom shelf of the cookie section. They didn’t even have the ‘gluten free’ shelf tag that Madison’s Whole Foods seems to think belongs on a lot of products. But they did have a ‘certified gluten free’ stamp on the back, so I decided to go for it. In line with my mention the other day that I don’t actually care for chocolate cookies/cake, I picked up the vanilla cream filled version. I paid $4.39 for the box, which contains 6 packages of 2 cookies each.

The cookies, as you can see, aren’t very big. But they are tasty. I’d finished half the box by that night. And the rest were gone the next day. So much for low carb and avoiding sweets.

The cookies themselves are indeed crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside, which is how they are described on the back of the box. And my sweet tooth didn’t feel assaulted by the cookies either. To me, they tasted nice and lightly sweet, unlike so many supermarket cookies that I remember eating. I didn’t feel like I was overloading on sugar by eating half the box (though, I’m sure I was). The cookie part itself had an almost spicy quality to it without me actually being able to identify any spices in it. It is definitely the filling that gives the cookie it’s sweetness. The filling isn’t exactly what I’d call creamy, but it had a reasonable texture that fit well with the cookie part.

Overall, I’d buy them again if I was looking to splurge.
Apparently, they’ve even got some information up about how the cookies are made! And I’ve got to say, I love a company that puts their ingredient list and nutritional information in an easy to find location on their web page.

Braswell’s Raspberry vinaigrette – product review

I’m still eating salads every day for lunch. You can imagine that occasionally I need to change up the dominate flavors in that salad, and the easiest way for me to do that is to change the dressing I’m using. Last week, between trying to save a few bucks to avoid buying olive oil until I got paid, and needing a new dressing flavor, I scanned through the salad dressing aisle at the grocery store. You can imagine that between requiring a gluten product and my propensity to avoid ‘processed’ foods, it was a bit difficult to find a dressing that not only sounded good, but also fit my ingredients requirement.

Hidden on a bottom shelf, way off to the side of the massive quantities of salad dressing offerings at Woodmans, I found a few bottles of Braswell’s salad dressings. The raspberry vinaigrette sounded good, and seemed to fit my requirements. Home with me it came.

I’m not sure why I didn’t realize it while I was in the store, but this dressing has no oil in it. And well, the oil in my salad dressing is often the major source of fat for my daily salad. Something that I think is essential to my daily functioning. So I was a bit disappointed in this dressing. It was indeed raspberry flavored and it had a reasonable consistency. The poppy seeds in the dressing seemed to be merely decoration, as I never tasted anything poppy flavored. If I buy it again, I’ll definitely be cutting it with some olive oil to give it more dietary oomph. The higher likelihood is that I might try to figure out how to make more dressing flavors at home.

About midweek last week, I started experiencing severe acid reflux. Severe acid reflux is one of my primary symptoms of being glutened, but I had none of my other usual symptoms (migraine or stomach woes). I’m still not sure if I was glutened, but I emailed the company to double check that the salad dressing was indeed gluten free.

I sent them this kind email:

Good afternoon!
I recently found your line of salad dressings in my local grocery
store (Woodmans, Madison, WI). The ingredients list sounds,
particularly for your raspberry vinaigrette, like the kind of dressing
I would like. But as someone with celiac disease, I often like to
double check that prepackaged food items are indeed gluten free. I
see the ingredients for this product don’t list anything that should
have gluten, but is your dressing line indeed gluten free?
Many thanks!

Three days later I got this response:

gfpumpkins,
The only dressings that do contain gluten are:
Ceasar Dressing
Ranch Lovers Dressing
VO Ranch Dressing

Thank you,
Kristen Boyett
Customer Service/Sales
Braswell Food Company

So if you are looking for a decent tasting, no oil vinaigrette that also needs to be gluten free, you might want to Braswell’s dressing line. I’m also oddly excited to have a reusable carafe too!

Product Review – Back to Nature Sesame Seed Rice Thins

Today has been one of those days. I woke up RAVENOUSLY hungry. As in, ate twice what I normally do for breakfast and was still hungry. Yet full all at the same time. Annoying, especially since this has happened to me before and I don’t know how or why or what to really do about it. I’ve also had a headache since before I woke up, which this morning I attributed to being hungry, but it hasn’t gone away despite caffeine, food, water, and naproxen. I also don’t apparently have my preferred migraine medication with me, so it looks like I’ll have to suffer until I get home. I have last resort migraine medication with me, but like I call it, I use it as a last resort. I’d be out for about two hours if I take it. No thanks, I’d like to finish the DNA extractions I started.

So here I sit, shoveling more food into my face (the below reviewed crackers and peanut butter) in a continuing attempt to not feel hungry while my DNA pellets, hoping against all hopes that my head will just stop it all ready.

Back to Nature – Sesame Seed Rice Things – Gluten Free Crackers
The ManBeast saw these on the shelf at the grocery store a few weeks ago, and as I’m a sucker for trying new products, I bought them. Apparently they aren’t new; doing a google search I found reviews from 2006. But based on what those said, what I’m guessing is new is the ‘Certified Gluten-Free’ stamp they now carry. For those who aren’t versed in this type of certification, it’s a way for us Celiacs to know that the product has met certain testing thresholds and is certified to contain below a certain amount of gluten (10 ppm). When I see this stamp, I can rest assured that the product is truly gluten free.

Long story short, if you’re looking for a rice thin, these are as good as any. Crisp, not overly flavorful in any odd way, even the sesame flavor isn’t overpowering. Edible. In other words, nothing special. If you’re looking for a cracker? Keep looking. I’d suggest the ones Glutino puts out. These aren’t really crackers in any sense of what I think of when I hear the word cracker. Today though, they are a fabulous peanut butter delivery mechanism.

If you like rice thins, these ‘cracker’s are for you. If you’re not fond of rice thins in general, don’t waste your money, these taste just like the rest of them do.

Product Review – Stubb’s Smokey Mesquite BBQ sauce

As promised, here is a product review for one of the Stubb’s bar-b-q sauces (hey, that’s how they spell it on their bottle!).
A quick note: If you are gluten free and are going to seek Stubb’s products, make sure you double check the ingredients. They reformulated all their flavors to be gluten free back in July, but some places are still working through back stock. Read here and here to get the full back story on why I’m writing this post.

We decided to start with the Smokey Mesquite flavor since that is the one that had gluten in it the last time we tried it. The ingredients are pretty much in line with how we eat (in this case, no high fructose corn syrup and no gluten): water, tomato paste, sugar, molasses, brown sugar, distilled vinegar, salt, honey, natural mesquite smoke flavor, corn starch, spices, contains less than 0.5% of: onion, garlic, caramel color, guar gum, xanthan gum, corn syrup, tamarind, natural flavor.

The flavor is pretty much in line with how I like my BBQ sauces. It’s lightly sweet without being overpowering. There’s a touch of sour, but only a touch. I can’t stand sour BBQ sauces. And then there’s the depth of flavor. I can taste a number of different tastes, but none of them overpower anything else. Lightly tomato-y, hint of garlic, a slight smokey flavor. There’s also a slight zing to the sauce. Not spicy in a painful sort of way, but one that lets your tongue know it’s there.

We’re using the sauce to make ribs today. First the ribs get slathered in a spice rub the ManBeast likes working with. They get put under the broiler for a few minutes, and then put into the crock pot with a chopped up onion and the entire bottle of BBQ sauce. After about five hours on high, we should have tasty fall apart ribs for our dinner. And a wonderful smell infusing our apartment.

Wood Chuck Pumpkin Cider – product review

If I don’t do this one tonight, I might forget. And then you might miss this product, if you haven’t already.

I’m a fan of Wood Chuck Cider. I generally buy their Amber for gatherings where I’ll want a bottled beverage, but will happily consume the 802 variety too. The others? Bleh. No thanks. Especially the pear and the granny smith.

This season was the first season that Wood Chuck has experimented with a Private Reserve run of Pumpkin Cider. Holy yumminess! This stuff was good. I let it warm up slightly like the bottom of the box suggested (perhaps I’ve also been listening to the beer drinking Man Beast a bit and actually absorbing the fact that beers aren’t meant to be drank stone cold directly from the fridge).

This has been my favorite cider thus far. Out of all the ciders I’ve tried. There was depth and complexity of flavor. I enjoyed the 6th bottle just as much as the first (though I didn’t drink them all in one night). It’s definitely still a cider, but I enjoyed the additional flavors and the definite smell memories of pumpkin type desserts. The down side? They only ran a very small batch and I’ve only been able to find this at one local store (Woodman’s on the west side in case you’re interested). Unfortunately I don’t venture to that area of town often and I haven’t found it elsewhere, so there is the possibility that the one 6 pack I picked up a couple of weeks ago will be the only one I get. Perhaps this weekend I’ll have to look for more. You should too. Unless you’re in Madison. I don’t want competition after all ;)

Udi’s white sandwich bread – product review

I think it’s time for me to start doing some product reviews. More in the ‘Hey, I found this tasty thing, you might want to try it to’ sort of way. Though I’m sure at some point I’ll also want to post a ‘Hey, this product sucks, don’t waste your money’ (and eating gluten free for 7.5 years, I’ve got a list of those).

First up: Udi’s gluten free white sandwich bread

I’ve been gluten free for 7.5 years. Up until a few years ago, I’d tried almost every gluten free bread on the market. I’ve also made bread at home my share number of times. This was of course before I just gave up on bread (for the most part). I’ve eaten my fair share of Ener-G Tapioca bread (hint: don’t waste your money). I’ve spent my $9 on Whole Foods sandwich bread (hint: makes great grilled cheese). But honestly, most gluten free breads suck. They need to be kept refrigerated or frozen, else they go bad QUICKLY. And they have to be toasted to be edible, which I don’t really like for regular sandwiches. But really when you get down to it, it’s often a lot of money to spend on a very dissatisfying product. Hence why I don’t/didn’t buy bread often.

Not Udi’s white sandwich bread. This stuff is addictive. In a very VERY bad way (especially if I’m trying to cut down on refined carbs). The bread is sold frozen, which had me worried with the first loaf I purchased. But you can let it thaw, and then? *It can stay on the counter for upwards of a WEEK without growing fungus!!* And the second best part? You don’t have to toast it for it to be edible. In fact, to me, it triggers standard white bread memories (which are vague, and not to be trusted likely). But the single best thing about this bread? It’s actually edible. It makes me want to make sandwiches again. On a regular basis. I grew up packing my lunch every day for school. Sandwich, cookies, banana, homemade iced tea. Pretty much from elementary school all the way through high school. I love me some sandwiches.

Summary: If you’re looking for good edible from the bag gluten free bread, buy Udi’s. I think I’ve spent about $5.65 or so on a loaf, and the loaves are small, but for a once in a while let’s have sandwiches thing, this is now the only bread I buy.