Gluten-Free Smart Store Review

Gluten Free Smart Store

I’m so pleased to be sharing a great new resource that recently launched – GlutenFreeSmartStore.com

I recently wrote about how difficult it used to be to find a good tasting and healthy gluten-free pasta and how today there are so many more choices available. But despite the larger selection of gluten-free foods on the market and better labeling requirements, we all still have to be vigilant about reading labels and making healthy choices.

Just like any diet, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to eat gluten-free. A lot of gluten-free prepared foods are packed full of sugar, soy, corn and highly refined flours. Thankfully, this is where GlutenFreeSmartStore.com comes in. All “Smart Approved” products listed on the website are pre-screened by award winning chef and educator, Kathy Smart, and must be free of soy, refined sugars, flours and simple carbohydrates, contain a good source of fiber and protein, and be low on the glycemic index.

Whether you’re new to the gluten-free diet or a pro, do check out this new site to discover and support the great vendors that are creating healthy food choices for us all!

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Gluten-Free Pasta Review

Gluten-free pasta review

When I first went gluten-free about nine years ago, one of the things I missed most was the convenience and delicious taste of pasta. Back then, the only gluten-free pasta available on the market was made out of white rice (mushy, bland, translucent… gross!) and so I basically resigned myself to a future without it.

Luckily though, as awareness and interest has grown for gluten-free foods, many brands have stepped up to the challenge and filled this void. I’ve been testing a number of different gluten-free pastas over the past few months, and here are my reviews (in no particular order):

President’s Choice Organics Brown Rice Pasta

Ingredients: organic brown rice, water
Varieties: Fusilli (my favourite!), Penne (hubby’s favourite), Spaghetti
Pros: Certified organic, simple ingredient list, no corn or soy
Cons: Needs to be rinsed with cold water after cooking, or can get mushy. Only available at Loblaws and RCSS.
Verdict: EXCELLENT! Made from whole grains that have been certified to be grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers, this full bodied pasta is definitely one of my favourites… and because it’s a private label brand, it tends to be one of the most affordable.

 

Life Choices Gluten-Free Macaroni & Cheese

Ingredients: Wholegrain rice flour, White Cheese Sauce Mix: Cheddar Cheese (milk, bacterial cultures, salt, microbial enzymes), salt, disodium phosphate, (a natural emulsifier), xanthan gum, citric acid (from lemons).
Varieties: Macaroni with white cheese
Pros: Fast and easy, soy-free and egg-free.
Cons: Unless I’m cooking the whole box, I’ve never really been a good judge at how much cheese mix I should be using/saving!
Verdict: When I received a sample of this product from Life Choices, I admit that I was at first a little skeptical about the product, since the first thing that came into my mind was the fluorescent orange stuff that I used to eat as a student… Fortunately I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that not only is it really delicious, it also comes with a simple ingredient list and is made of whole grain rice flour. This is a wonderfully nostalgic treat!

 

Catelli Gluten-Free Pasta

Ingredients: White rice flour, brown rice flour, corn flour, quinoa flour, monoglycerides
Varieties: Fusilli, Penne, Spaghetti
Pros: Only gluten-free pasta I’ve tried that doesn’t require the post-cook rinse. Probably the truest textured pasta on the market, great if you like you pasta al dente.
Cons: Contains corn (for those who are allergic), although it is non-GMO.
Verdict: I picked up a sample of this pasta at the recent Gluten-Free expo in Toronto. For the people who are real pasta aficionados, I would recommend Catelli’s gluten-free pastas. This is ultra easy to cook, and as I mentioned above, does not require the “post-cook rinse” in cold water which many other gluten-free pastas need in order to not turn into mush. You will definitely fool all your family and friends with this great gluten-free pasta!

 

Rizopia Organic Brown Rice Pasta

Ingredients: brown rice flour, water
Varieties: Fusilli, Penne, Spaghetti
Pros: Organic, whole grain
Cons: Needs a post-rinse, or can get mushy
Verdict: I’ve been enjoying this brand of pasta for years. It’s a little more tempermental to cook and if you don’t get the timing just right it can be a bit chalky or mushy. The trick to cooking this brand is to remove it from the heat just before it reaches your desired softness, then drain it, rinse it, and pour a bit of oil over it as it rests. This, by the way, is the general trick I use for all gluten-free pastas, not just this one. Overall, I am still happy to recommend this brand.

There you have it! This is just a roundup of some of my favourite gluten-free pastas. Are there other brands of pasta that you’ve enjoyed and would recommend?

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RECIPE THURSDAY: Soft and Delicious Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie closeup

I admit I always feel this twinge of jealousy whenever I walk down the cookie aisle in the grocery store and see a box of decadent looking chocolate chip cookies for insanely low prices. But, as I always tell myself, because I’m gluten-free, it saves me from caving into the temptation of gorging on cheap (i.e. subsidized) unhealthy food.

So my solution, as always, is to experiment a little in the kitchen and makes something oh-so-much-better! A gluten-free chocolate cookie that is soft and delicious and melts in your mouth, made with simple ingredients and lots of love :) These cookies do not keep very long… but then again, they probably won’t last very long either!

A note on the ingredients: I have used xylitol as a sweetener in this recipe. Xylitol comes in a white granular form, similar in structure to refined sugar, but slightly more coarse. It is derived from birch or from corn and is used as a 1:1 substitute for sugar. A 2003 study in California showed that xylitol promotes (yes, you read it right… promotes!) dental health and is not readily metabolized by microorganisms, which means it can be used during candida or other similar parasitic cleanses. You’ll find this ingredient in health food stores and online retailers like Well.ca. You can also just use honey instead in this recipe, and just adjust by withholding some of the water.

Ingredients:

2 Eggs
1/3 cup Grapeseed oil
1/2 cup Xylitol
1 tsp Vanilla extract

1-1/4 cups Brown rice flour
1 cup Sweet rice flour
1 tbsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp Sea salt
2 cups Semi-sweet chocolate chips (be sure to read the label carefully)

Up to 1/2 cup water to adjust for moisture

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Beat eggs until thick and creamy, then add in oil, xylitol and vanilla, mixing well.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together flours, baking powder and salt.
4. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, mixing well to combine. Cookie dough should be the texture of thick Greek yogurt – just able to hold its shape, but still very moist. Add water 1-2 tbsp at a time until desired texture is reached.
5. Stir in chocolate chips.
6. Drop by tablespoon onto prepared cookie sheets and bake 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool before serving and enjoy!!

This recipe is a slightly modified version of my carob chip cookie recipe. For more delicious and healthy gluten-free recipes, check out my book!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie

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