Tag Archives: Healthy

{ The 2013 Gluten Free Expo – Seacacus, NJ }

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I LOVE food trade shows, it’s all about shootin’ the shit with people and sampling free food!! And if a particular vendor really takes a liking to you, you might just get some party favors to take home with ya (…l’m considering an investment in a rolley suitcase for the next show!).

This past weekend was the 2013 Gluten Free & Allergen Free Expo in Seacacus, NJ and I had the opportunity to attend with my friend and co-worker, Liz, who happens to be gluten intolerant. Although I have not been diagnosed with any sort of gluten intolerance, I have been trying to omit gluten from my diet over the past couple of weeks, in an attempt to resolve some chronic stomach troubles. Unfortunately, I am still struggling with tummy troubles, but I have noticed a significant decrease in joint/back pain since cutting back on my gluten intake. I am also not nearly as bloated and who doesn’t want that?!

My experience at the GFAF expo was thus kind of unique because I was unfamiliar with many of the products since I was new to the gluten free community, but since I had consumed gluten products in the very recent past, I had something to weigh these gluten free substitutes up against. Liz on the the other hand, was very knowledgeable about the different vendors product lines and really there on a mission to research egg-less gluten free products (her pet project is to make a vegan pizza crust for Jules!).

So what vendors were the highlights for Liz and I?!?!

{No. 1}   HAIL MERRY - Pre-packaged desserts

Most Knowledgeable About GF Baking & Best/Biggest Samples

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Like I mentioned earlier, Liz was on a hunt for egg substitutes in gluten free baking. Majority of the vendors used egg in their products, but the woman working the Hail Merry table, Claudia, was so knowledgeable on egg alternatives….and not only was she knowledgeable, but she was willing to share a wealth of information on the topic with us! She told us that chia seeds and flax meal are both good binding agents to use in place of egg, but that chia seeds are better for breads that you want to rise like banquettes, while flax meal is a firmer binding agent that is better for flat breads, crackers, and pizza crust!!!

She also gave each of us a bag of delicious macaroons to take home with us, as well as a super cute tee shirt with their logo on it! The caramel sea salt macaroons were my favorite out of the four different flavors , followed by the chocolate mint miracle tart, which was melt in your mouth goodness that I will certainly be buying in the near future!

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Merry, I hail you as my favorite vendor at the the GFAF Expo!

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{No. 2}   OMISSIONGluten-Free Beer

Best Brand Ambassadors & Best Gluten-Free Beer

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After working our way around the large room of vendors, Liz and I arrive at the final aisle of tables. We are stuffed, we are tired, we are five seconds away from calling it a day, and then we realize we are at the gluten-free beer aisle!!! Suddenly we perk up because it is time for happy hour!

Beer has never been my drink of choice, and I have absolutely zero experience with gluten-free beers, but Liz loves a good cold one and is rarely satisfied by the variety available in state-controlled Pennsylvania (as I am rarely satisfied by the wine selection!). She was all sorts of excited for this aisle and definitely hit it off with the sales rep at the Omission Beer table. She was so passionate about the brand and knowledgeable about the product. We learned that the beer is made with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, which is specially crafted to remove–or shall I say, omit–the gluten. It actually breaks the chains in the protein bonds, making it safe for gluten intolerant people to consume.

The company offers two different brews: a Pale Ale (5.8% ABV) that is bold and hoppy, and a Lager (4.6% ABV) that is much lighter but still very refreshing and crisp. Between the two, I definitely preferred the pale ale, although the Lager is the one that took the gold medal in the 2012 International Beer and Cider Competition for the Gluten Free category.

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Liz said that this beer tasted the most similar to real beer that she can remember. She noted that it didn’t have a funny after taste, which is her most frequent gripe with GF beer.

{No. 3}   THE CAKE OVERGluten-Free Bakery

Best Tasting Gluten-Free Desserts

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Liz and I ate a lot of sweets while at the expo, but I think we both agreed that the desserts sampled by The Cake Over, were by far the best! They had cookies, and cupcakes, and brownies and all of them were equally as delicious. The owner, Allison Teperman, is originally from Moscow, Russia and her bakery which is located in Lake Hiawatha, NJ, specializes in gluten-free, dairy-free, and low-fat desserts.

The stand out treats for me were the almond crescent cookies, which my grandmother always makes during the holidays. I would have never known that these European bad-boys were gluten-free if someone hadn’t told me!

Of course, Liz instantly reached for the chocolate stuff, as she is a self-proclaimed choco-holic (and I am her witness!).  The chocolate brownies were incredibly rich without being too dense or overly sweet.

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And I loved the chocolate fudge cupcakes topped with chocolate mousse!! They were outrageous and dairy free, might I add!!

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If I ever needed a gluten-free specialty cake, I would definitely go out of my way to get it from The Cake Over. Not only is the product amazing in it’s flavor and texture, but the bakers are tasteful in their cake decorations as well!

{No. 4}   GLUTENBERG – Gluten Free Beer

Best NEW Gluten-Free Product

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All of the household names in the gluten-free market were at the expo (i.e. Udis, Glutino, Glutenfreeda, ect…), but Glutenberg is a newer addition to the market….well, the US that is! Proving successful in the Canadian market since 2011, Glutenberg is available for purchase in the United States, and has already won the gold, silver, and bronze awards in the “gluten free category” at the World Beer Cup!

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There are three different brews available: (1) a Blonde Ale (4.5% ABV) with notes of pepper, floral hops, and fruity citrus, (2) an American Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) with hints of apricot, grapefruit, orange, and caramel, and lastly (3) the Red Ale (5% ABV) which is the winner of the gold medal and much more like a stout beer, with notes of coffee, caramel, and toasted nuts.

My favorite?

The Red Ale without doubt. And best of all, Glutenberg is 100% gluten free. May sound shocking that this a bragging point, but most other gluten free beers do in fact contain very small traces of gluten, at less than 5 PPM.

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{No. 5}   EVERYBODY EATS – Gluten free & Nut free bakery

Best Gluten-Free/Nut-Free Breads

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Gluten free desserts are no longer that hard to find, but good gluten free bread is another story. Heck, it’s even getting hard to find good artesian bread with flour these days! But the tides are a changing, thanks to Everybody Eats bakery in Brooklyn, NY.

The multi-grain high-fiber loaf  that they sell is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Not amazing because you’re thinking of it as a gluten free product, but amazing because its just a top quality bakery product. In fact, it was so good that I couldn’t help but buy a bag of the deli rolls to take home–6 come in a bag for just $10! And each roll serves up a whopping 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein!

Check out their website to order bread online if you can’t locate a good gluten free bakery near your home. Apparently, they freeze great too!

{No. 5}   OLA GRANOLA - Gluten-Free Granola

Best Gluten-Free Breakfast Cereal

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I eat Greek yogurt at least once a day, whether it be for breakfast or as a snack, but either way, I like it to have a little crunch which means granola! Finding a delicious granola is easy–who doesn’t love oats roasted in honey with clusters of nuts and dried berries?!? But finding a healthy, low-calorie granola that still tastes good is a bit more challenging. Now tack the gluten free requirement onto that list, and you’ll be reading package labels at the super market all afternoon! But Ola Granola has filled the gap in the market, providing a delicious Gluten-Free, 100 calorie per saving, low glycemic, non-GMO, Vegan, soy-free, kosher, 0 trans fat, whole grain granola that is 100% all natural!

They offer four different flavor varieties, but my favorite is the Chocolate Banana Chip, which is a tasty combo of crunchy banana chips and semi-sweet chocolate chunks melded with oat clusters. 1/3 of a cup is 100 calories with only 15 calories from fat!

I will say that although I was impressed with the product, I was very disappointed by their sales rep at the show. She was rude and apathetic about the product. Fortunately for the company, their product is good enough to sell itself.

My other favorite granola that was NOT at the convention (sadly) is Living Intentions Superfood Cereal in the Raspberry Detox flavor. It is all organic, raw, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO and is fortified with Zeolites, milk thistle, hemp, cranberry, artichoke, and red beet root. You can order it online or buy it at Wegmans or Whole Foods.

{No. 6}   San-J - Gluten Free Salad Dressings & Sauce

Best Gluten Free Cooking Sauces

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It comes as a surprise to many that soy sauce contains gluten, but it is true that regular soy sauce contains about 40%-60% wheat! Thankfully, there is an alternative sauce called tamari, which is a richer, smoother sauce composed of 100% soy beans. Personally, I find tamari to be saltier in flavor than regular soy sauce though, so I’d use caution when putting on sushi!

The San-J company has been making traditional tamari sauce for nearly 200 years, but they have more recently introduced a line of gluten free cooking sauces in their product offering. Many other Asian cooking sauce brands will use soy sauce as their base instead of tamari, since it is cheaper, but San-J keeps all of their sauces tamari-based.

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My favorite of their cooking sauces, in order of preference are: (1) Thai Peanut Sauce — perfect for grilled meats or pad thai noodle dishes (2) Spicy Szechuan Sauce — a spicy but delicious sauce that would be great on skewered beef and (3) Orange Sauce — which begs for some grilled chicken and fried rice!

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Overall. the expo was a success and I look forward to attending another one in the future! As for the egg-less pizza crust….well, Liz and I experiment with Flax Meal on Thursday. I will keep you posted on our findings!

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Filed under Bakery, Food Expos, Gluten Free, Tradeshows

{ Moroccan Mint Tea & Kendall’s Bikini-Body Elixir }

Over the past year and a half, I have spent more time living in hostels than my own home. And for those of your familiar with backpacking culture, you know that means a lot of free “bread and butter” breakfasts with bottomless cups of instant coffee. But hostels aiming to achieve a more “boutique feel” (a.k.a. a 5 star review on HostelWorld) use breakfast time as an opportunity to distinguish themselves by offering an occasional egg, crepe, and/or specialty beverage, which I shall refer to as the national elixir. By my third destination, I quickly realized that every country has their own sort of elixir—a natural liquid remedy (often taking the form of tea) intended to solve the problems that hostel owner’s perceive travelers may experience while visiting their country.

For example:

  •   In Portugal, we were served hot water that had been boiled with fresh lemon peels, which was intended to reduce the bloat and swelling from a late night out in Lisbon. Kudos to Portugal for creating a successful remedy that shrunk my belly and my hangover headache.
  • In Peru, it was mugs of hot water steeped with coca leaves to help combat the altitude sickness. I drank this stuff around the clock and still struggled to carry my own body weight around, but I like to think it helped.
  • In Colombia, they served us every kind of tropical fruit juice you could possibly imagine (my favorite being the coconut-lime combination). I don’t think it’s supposed to “cure” anything though, because there aren’t too many ailments one can suffer while on the beautiful beaches of Colombia!
  • In Spain, I was still drinking Sangria around breakfast time so lets just say that’s the national elixir.

And lastly, there is Morocco, which is rather well-known for it’s Moroccan Mint Tea! Although after visiting, I am convinced they just drink so much of it because the regular tap water is unsafe. I mean, why not boil out the bacteria and add some mint and sugar to disguise the funny taste, right?! Anyways, I loved it! In fact, I loved it so much that I have continued to make it on a daily basis since my return home.

And, in addition to their beautiful aroma and flavor, mint leaves also have incredible health benefits (which Dr. Oz touched on in his tv show that aired yesterday: http://watchingdroz.blogspot.com/2012/05/watching-dr-oz-51412-swimsuit-slimdown.html). Some of the key benefits of the leafy green are:

  • Helps stimulate bile production, which helps you digest fat better
  • Soothes the stomach in cases of indigestion and inflammation
  • Relieves nausea and headaches
  • Helps with respiratory disorders, coughs, and asthma
  • Helps eliminate toxins from the bloodstream

Traditional Moroccan mint tea (as I was shown to prepare by an indigenous Berber woman), has a little too much sugar to be consumed on a regular basis so I have modified the recipe to enjoy it more frequently. I will provide both recipes though, and you can choose which to make! I will say that my modified version is great for reducing bloat, which is very helpful with swimsuit season upon us!

{ Traditional Moroccan Mint Tea }

Boil out 3-4 cups of water, and pour over green tea leaves in a teapot (you can also use tea bags if you don’t have loose leaf tea available).

Immediately add about 15-20 fresh mint leaves and stir in 3-4 tablespoons of sugar.

Mix with spoon to combine and cover with lid. Allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes.

To ensure proper mixing of the ingredients, fill each of the glasses with tea and then return liquid to the pot (this prevents the sugar from settling at the bottom of the pot!).

Then pour a glade for each person, holding the teapot from a very high point (this helps the liquid to cool as it fills the glass).

Then sip and enjoy!

{ Kendall’s Bikini Slim Down Elixir }

Boil out 3 cups of water and pour over 3 green tea bags in a ceramic teapot. I like to use Chinese Green Tea from the Asian Market (Assi Market located in North Wales is great for those of you who live in Bucks County!)

Immediately add 10-15 fresh mint leaves, which I like to get straight from the garden!

Then add 1 tablespoon of agave nectar or honey to the pot and stir.

Cover pot with lid and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Garnish a glade with a sprig of mint, pour, and enjoy.

NOTE: If you don’t finish the whole pot of tea, put the leftover in the refrigerator and enjoy it chilled the following day. It makes a delicious and refreshing iced tea too!

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Filed under International Restaurants, Recipes

Berries in the Grove


305.448.2111
2884 SW 27th Ave
Coconut Grove, Fl 33133

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In addition to keeping this blog, I also post my restaurant reviews on Yelp.com (note the pretty new map to your right!). I got so excited tonight when my phone went off and it was an E-mail from Yelp telling me that I had received a message from another user. I started thinking maybe some magazine editor read my reviews and wants to offer me an internship, or at the very least someone is taking the time to comment on my posts. But no, instead I log in and see that it’s a message from a guy (using a photo of TI as his profile picture might I add) just trying to pick me up. I was so disappointed. I mean doesn’t he know that there are online dating sites for that type of thing? Newsflash…Yelp isn’t one of them. So now I am in a bad mood and feel that this would be an appropriate time for me to give my first 1 star review (and no, this isn’t just me taking out my anger on the restaurant…the restaurant, Berries, is actually terrible).

When you first get to Berries in the Grove you will be fooled (as I was) by the seemingly good menu, which offers a wide variety of healthy salads and sandwiches, in addition to homemade pastas. The problem is that they have confused healthy food with flavorless food. Nothing at this restaurant is seasoned—no herbs, no pepper, no salt, no flavor! I ordered the Berries House Salad, which has mixed greens with grilled chicken breast, tomatoes, avocado, portabello mushrooms, and manchego cheese all tossed in a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. This salad has all of my favorite ingredients, but somehow I found myself having to force each bland forkful into my mouth. The chicken was not seasoned with salt or pepper or garlic, and so it had zero flavor. The three paper-thin slivers of manchego cheese went undetected in the huge salad (shouldn’t even be listed as an ingredient in my opinion). Even the dressing was somehow bland. It tasted like olive oil with the faintest hint of balsamic vinegar. A good robust balsamic should have Dijon mustard, garlic, oregano, and a little honey.

My boyfriend’s Chicken Club Sandwich was no better either. I mean swiss cheese and bacon are two of the most flavorful ingredients I can think of (other than garlic, of course) but somehow even their flavors went unnoticed in his sandwich. Worst of all, there were a couple areas in his chicken that looked pinkish and inedible. So he just ate his fries, which of course had no salt, and left his sandwich on the plate.

Now let me state that I’m not at all a person who over seasons their food (in fact, I hardly ever pick up a salt or pepper shaker at restaurant), but I do believe that herbs and spices should be used to enhance and bring out the natural flavors of vegetables and meats. There are occasions when the flavors of a raw vegetable are so delicate and fresh that they don’t require any additional ingredients (such as a just picked ripe tomato, or crunchy firm asparagus) but the produce served at Berries is not fresh and is tasteless.

Don’t bother going to Berries, I honestly think that plain tofu may have more flavor than their food (it only receives 1 star because I don’t know how to make a half of a star).

 

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