21 November 2009

raw revolution

The latest victim in my food-in-bar-form obsession is Raw Revolution. I bought Raspberry & Chocolate, Chocolate & Coconut, and Chocolate & Cashew varieties from Gluten-Free Mall.  

I'm suspicious of "raw diet" marketing. It seems so gimicky. Many healthy snacks are already raw by virtue of them being dried or fresh, rather than processed. But by adding the word "raw" and some flashy packaging (often plastic-wrapped, which bugs the heck out of me), suddenly plain old dried fruit is expensive and trendy. I also have an issue with the use of "live food" on the package, because where I'm living, live food is the mosquitoes that geckos eat (or the geckos that my cat eats).

However, I do like bars for snacks on the go, and you can't beat their convenience when hiking or traveling. So I decided to ignore the "raw" and focus on the chocolate. 

Big mistake. "Health food" chocolate just doesn't taste the same as Ghiradelli chocolate. The bars weren't bad tasting, especially the raspberry one, which had a nice, strong raspberry flavor. But it wasn't like eating a chocolate bar. 

I didn't really like the consistency of these bars either. Remember those slabs of colored clay you used to get in elementary school? It's sort of like that. Only stickier, because of the dried fruit. How "unprocessed" is a food really, when it's all mashed up and forced into bar form? It may not be cooked, but it still had a lot of mechanical help.

Besides food in bar form, another recent obsession of mine is fiber. These bars are fairly high in fiber, so that was my main reason for giving them a couple chances. Unfortunately they are also a bit too high in saturated fat for my liking. I have to admit that these bars kept me full for quite a while after eating one. The Raspberry & Chocolate bar may make occasional appearances in my repertoire, because I do love chocolate, I liked this better than the Jocolat bars, and I like variety and choices. But I enjoy too many other fatty foods to make this an everyday treat.

Raw Revolution bars are sold no where in my neighborhood, except online. You can purchase directly from Raw Revolution, or a number of other outlets such as Amazon.com and Gluten-Free Mall. I don't think I'm going out on a limb by suggesting you can probably find them at your local Whole Foods or REI.

In running news, it hasn't been going well. Mike and I have both been sort of low-energy and flu-like this week. But my arch pain has subsided, my knees feel good, and I'm playing tennis this morning. I'll be back to running again in no time.

Image from Raw Revolution.
I purchased these items on my own from Gluten-Free Mall. This is not a paid review.

11 November 2009


No one can argue that one of the greatest products to come out of Burundi is Fruito fruit juices. Fruito takes local pineapple, juices it, and bottles it. Voila. There's no sugar added. You get a bottle of 100% pineapple juice every time. It tastes magical. They also make a passion fruit juice that has some sugar added. Real cane sugar, which I think is a real treat. 

The Fruito company is also an inspiration for local businesses. A Burundian nurse who used to work at the U.S. Embassy here had an idea for a juice company and applied for a grant from the Embassy. She got it, and with a lot of hard work, she's now one of the most successful entrepreneurs in town. Nearly every restaurant and store carries Fruito. People buy it in cases from the bottle depots. (We certainly do!)

A cold Fruito on a hot day (which nearly every day is) is one of the best things in the world. When I got home from my run this morning, Mike made me a mango smoothie with Fruito passion fruit juice. It was just what I needed as a reward, since I hadn't really been in the mood to run. 

Unfortunately for most people, Fruito does not leave Burundi often. You'll just have to come here and try some for yourself.

09 November 2009

gluten-free thanksgiving

I'm reposting my Thanksgiving post from two years ago, with some light editing.

Thanksgiving can be the most depressing holiday for a celiac. It's a whole day that centers around food. And no one wants to feel left out of the festivities. Part of being a celiac isn't just the food, it's the psychology of standing out in a crowd or having to worry about every bite. I've found that I hate standing out with the "special meal." I want to fit in and eat the same food as everyone else. Thus, the most comforting thing for me is being invited to the home of someone who is aware of the simple steps that can be taken to make a gluten-free Thanksgiving that's delicious for everyone.

Turkey. Make sure it's gluten-free. It seems like a no-brainer, but some turkeys are injected with, I don't know, delicious turkey flavor I guess. Whatever it is, some of those injection juices contain gluten, so check the ingredients on the turkey before you buy it.

Stuffing. If you absolutely must serve grandma's traditional bread stuffing, bake it on the side rather than in the turkey. Gluten can be transferred. If you want to stuff the bird, use a rice stuffing or a pure cornbread stuffing. Check those packages of cornbread mix--some add regular flour. Make sure the cornbread is made from pure cornmeal or corn flour. If you add sausage to the stuffing, make sure it's a GF sausage. Sometimes wheat is used as a filler. MSG is okay, though. It's not gluten, it's a corn-based additive.

Gravy. Use cornstarch instead of regular flour.

Potatoes, squash, and other vegetables. They are inherently gluten-free. If you're adding sour cream or cream cheese to mashed potatoes, though, check to make sure modified food starch is not on the ingredients list.

Cranberry sauce. Check the cans and tubs for wheat, modified food starch, or suspicious "natural flavoring."

Rolls and bread. These can be tricky because most GF bread just isn't as good as the regular stuff. (Although in my family those terrible, tasteless snowflake rolls were always served. I've learned to just skip the rolls altogether.) It's one thing I'd rather politely decline than eat a GF substitute.

Dessert. Traditional pies take a little effort. But I think it's worth it. The celiac doesn't want to be eating plain old GF cookies while everyone else digs in to pumpkin pie. At Whole Foods and many other specialty health food stores you can buy GF pies frozen. Some health food stores also contract with local bakeries for fresh pies. GF pie crust mixes and recipes are readily available if you want to bake your own.

Appetizers/snacks. Corn chips are safe as well as vegetable crudites. Make sure dips are free of modified food starch and wheat. Have two cheese plates: one with GF crackers and one with regular crackers.

If the celiac or the parents of the celiac are making the bulk of the meal, I'm sure you'll be making it gluten-free and none of the non-GF guests will even notice. If you are inviting celiac guests and they ask if they can bring something, tell them "Yes!" Celiacs need to be assured that we have some control over our food.

I give thanks to my friends and family members who help make my life a little easier when it comes to eating.

07 November 2009

bob's red mill holiday baking sale

Two sales announcements in one morning! Bob's Red Mill is having a sale on holiday baking essentials, including gluten-free flours, baking soda, baking powder, brown sugar, xanthan gum, and gluten-free oats. There's no promotion code, just visit the Monthly Specials page to see the discounted prices. Note that not every product on the specials page is gluten-free, so read product information carefully before ordering. Most products can be ordered in bulk.

Disclaimer: I'm just a fan so spreading the word to others. As of yet, I'm not accepting free samples from Bob, but Bob, if you're reading, I wouldn't say "No."

glutenfree.com sale

This morning I received an email saying that for the month of November glutenfree.com is offering 10% off orders of $75.00 or more. Enter the code "november" at checkout for the discount. Unfortunately I cannot find a definite end date for this promotion, and the email I received says "DISCLAIMER: Please verify this information before applying it to your situation." I don't know if they're referring to the promotion or the presence of non-gluten allergens in the food, quite honestly. So, if it's near the end of the month, shoot them an email or call them first to confirm the sale is still going on. It's a bit of work, but you get a discount that pretty much covers the cost of shipping. Sometimes every little bit helps, right?

Glutenfree.com has a huge selection of products, including the brands Glutino and Gluten-Free Pantry.

A disclaimer of my own: I'm not getting anything from glutenfree.com; I'm just a fan who shops there often.

06 November 2009

gluten freeda's instant oatmeal

When I'm traveling I like to pack instant hot cereal for breakfast. Whether I'm at a hotel breakfast buffet or firing up a camp stove, I can get hot water, which means I can get a decent breakfast if I have my cereal with me. 

But my last few trips haven't been successful, breakfast-wise, because I've been unable to find single-serve packets of instant, gluten-free hot cereal. For awhile I was eating a quinoa flakes cereal, but I haven't seen it lately. Everything else I saw wasn't instant, or wasn't in single-serve packets (which really are the best for traveling). I was excited when I finally found Gluten Freeda's gluten-free instant oatmeal.

I bought the variety pack, which includes two packets each of the flavors Banana Maple, Maple Raisin, and Apple Cinnamon. I've been testing them at home this week in preparation for a trip to Kenya next month, part camping, part hotel stay. They all smelled great when opening the packets, so I was certain I'd found a substitute for my Quaker Oats instant oatmeal packets.

The actual taste wasn't as flavorful as the scent led me to believe. All I could taste was oats. No apple, no cinnamon, no maple. If I wanted plain oats, I would have bought plain oats. They definitely need a boost of honey, brown sugar, or cinnamon. 

On the health and nutrition side, all three flavors have a good amount of fiber, 4 grams per serving, and they all contain flax. They kept me pretty full on both running and non-running days. I'll be having a bowl as pre-hike breakfast this weekend. And I'll be taking them along with me to Kenya next month. The convenience and the fullness factor more than make up for the lack of flavor (which is something I can fix on my own easily enough).

My sources indicate that Gluten Freeda's instant oatmeal is becoming more available in mainstream grocery stores. (Since I live thousands of miles from the nearest mainstream grocery store, I can't see for myself.) I ordered mine from Gluten-Free Mall

Image from Gluten-Free Mall.

04 November 2009

gluten-free fitness

Hey, I've been profiled as a gluten-free athlete! Check it out at the Gluten-Free Fitness blog. Thanks Erin!

Be sure to bookmark Erin's blog for lots of gluten-free fitness information.

01 November 2009

netrition.com, lara bars, and choices

My running hasn't been particularly stellar lately. A series of busy late nights and poor food choices drained my energy this week. I'm getting back on track today, starting with a nice breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and nuts. I'll drink a lot of water and maybe treat myself to my cook's gluten-free vegetarian mini-pizzas for dinner.

Earlier this week I received my first Netrition.com order. It included a huge supply of Lara Bars. I generally try to save them for an occasional snack, and no more than one a day for a regular work day (i.e., a day I'm not hiking or traveling). But several times this week I gorged on two or three at a time as meal replacements for quick breakfasts or lunches on the go. Busy. Poor food choices. Too much of a good thing. Cue the sugar crash. I love all the dried fruit packed into each bar, but too much of it makes me burn out. And while they are a decent source of fiber, they can also be high in fat (especially the ridiculously yummy coconut cream bar).

A friend turned me on to Netrition.com as a cheaper supplier of Lara Bars than Amazon.com. Netrition.com sells the Lara Bars at one flat rate, unlike Amazon, which sells different flavors at different prices. They have a huge selection of flavors and they're all included in the flat-rate shipping (unlike Amazon, which gets different varieties from different sources, and thus has various shipping rates). So until an even better deal comes along, Netrition.com is my new source for Lara Bars.

They have a small selection of other gluten-free goodies as well. I'm not big into the supplements and weight-gain or weight-loss scene. I don't need or want low-carbs. So a lot of their gluten-free items are useless to me. However, I did find some gluten-free vitamins, which I often take with my post-workout snacks. I also tried a new brand of corn chips (new to me at least). 

Like many gluten-free searches, they only include products that advertise themselves as gluten-free. If you know of a specific brand that's gluten-free, but doesn't necessarily scream it at you from the label, you may still be able to find it by searching for that specific brand. The brand of chips I was looking at are all gluten-free, but only one variety of them popped up in the gluten-free search. Overall, though, since they had my main shopping need, I was satisfied with using the site.

We can't always make the best food choices. Other parts of life get in the way. But we have to be able to recognize those choices and allow ourselves to make the bad ones when they're unavoidable, then reset ourselves when time does allow us to make those better choices. Lara Bars are yummy, but they are not a meal. This last week proved that I cannot survive on them alone.



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