Nuts.com Products (and Recipes)!

Hi guys! I was so excited to receive an email from a representative from Nuts.com asking me to tell you all about their great products. They were kind enough to send me a couple of their products to try out (yay free stuff!).

First up, black walnuts!

Now, black walnuts are like regular walnuts, but with a much more unique flavor. They’re also full of great health benefits; they contain more protein per ounce than any other tree nut, and they are very low in saturated fat, and high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (those are the good ones, they help maintain good cholesterol!). They come shelled and ready to go in the package, and I decided to make some pumpkin muffins and toss some of these in there! (I apologize for the lower quality photos, I forgot to bring my nice camera home so I had to make do with my iPhone camera)

These were really good! We used some pumpkin muffin mix that we got from Trader Joe’s. The muffins were fluffy and moist, and the walnuts provided a great crunch (I also added some chocolate chips, because a little chocolate never hurt anyone right?) I liked the walnuts in the muffins, but be warned, they are a little bit of an acquired taste. I probably wouldn’t eat them by themselves, but the unique flavor works pretty well when you put them in other things.

Next, pine nuts!

I never thought to eat a pine nut on its own, but I tried one and it actually tasted really good! It kind of reminded me of a sunflower seed. They have a great flavor that goes well in any kind of dish, and toasting them brings out even more nutty flavor! Like the black walnuts, these are also high in monounsaturated fats, which are great for heart health. They also contain nutrients that naturally increase energy levels (because who couldn’t use a little energy boost?). Anyway, the first thought that popped into my head for how to use these in a recipe was in pesto. But no, that’s too expected. I had to do something different. I didn’t want to blend them up into a sauce—I wanted to showcase them and their flavor. So I decided on a pasta dish with fresh tomatoes, artichokes, garlic, and basil. Heres the recipe! (Again, low quality pic, sorry 😦 )

Pasta with Tomato, Artichoke, and Pine Nuts

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What you’ll need:

  • 1 package Tinkyada Brown Rice Spaghetti (or whatever spaghetti you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • one 8.5oz can of artichokes, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • a little bit of oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan

How to make it:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté the pine nuts and garlic until light brown (I didn’t use all the oil for this step, just enough to toast the nuts and cook the garlic)
  3. Add the rest of the oil, tomatoes, artichokes, basil, and oregano and let it simmer for a little bit, and season with salt and pepper
  4. Toss in the pasta, and serve with grated parmesan

This really was such a delicious, fresh dish, and it allowed you to really taste the pine nuts. I can’t express how much toasting the nuts brings out the nuttiness; it was just so good. I will definitely be adding this recipe to my regular lineup.

Finally, the kind folks at Nuts.com sent me some gluten free snacks to try out. I got roasted chickpeas, veggie chips, and half-popped popcorn.

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The chickpeas were really really good. I’ve been wanting to give chickpeas a try as a healthier alternative for a snack, and they exceeded my expectations. I’ve been sitting in my dorm snacking on them since I got them. I think they taste kind of like a cross between a peanut and a sunflower seed. It’s great. Some friends on my floor had a little sampling session in the hallway and they liked them too! So the chickpeas have been college student approved. Now the next two snacks were kind of a toss up; I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about them. I’ll talk about the veggie chips first. I didn’t think I was going to like them that much. Well, correction, I knew I would like the sweet potato chips, I wasn’t sure about the carrots, squash, taro, or green beans. Yes, I said green beans. Someone made green beans into chips. And surprisingly, I liked them. And everything else in it for that matter. They each have a unique flavor, and I really like it. As for the half-popped popcorn, the name is literal—it really is only popped halfway. I was imagining the weird pieces of popcorn that don’t get fully popped when you microwave the bag. But these were not that. They are delightfully crunchy in just the right way. I really enjoyed them! I’m happy to have these great snacks as options for hanging out in my dorm. I might just have to order more when I run out!

I’m so happy that I got to try these products, and a big thank you to Nuts.com for sending them to me! They’re definitely worth a try!

Although I was not paid for this review, I received free samples of Nuts.com products. However, everything I’ve said in this review is my honest opinion and reflects my own personal experiences.

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Graduation!

Guess who’s high school’s newest graduate? This girl!

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I’m so happy to finally be done! I am free. I made it. It doesn’t quite feel real yet; it’s still sinking in that I am now a college student, not a high school student. I have New Student Orientation at UDel in less than a week. I keep having to stop and remind myself that this is actually happening and I’m not dreaming!

Anyway, after the graduation ceremony, which was very nice, I was faced with the difficult decision of where we would go for our celebratory dinner. Actually, it wasn’t that difficult—kind of a no-brainer really—Earth Pizza! I got the Four Cheese Sundried pizza, which had their special cheese blend, goat cheese, parmesan, sundried tomatoes, and (extra) roasted garlic. And let me just say, pizza is the best celebration. It was delicious! I also mixed it up and got the Chicken Tenders as an appetizer and those were awesome. But since I’ve already reviewed Earth Pizza and shared my dear love for it, we’re gonna talk about the delicious food we had at my graduation party.

So on Sunday, my family and I had a little party to celebrate with everyone. And obviously the ever important part of having a party is what food to serve. Since we all know I have a  slightly obsessive love for pasta, that is obviously what we had to make! We made penne vodka, which consisted of the two very difficult steps of cooking a bag of Tinkyada penne, and pouring Victoria Vodka Sauce over it. A lot of work, I know. My mom also grilled up some chicken and made a nice little salad to have with it. It all was wonderful!

And now, even more important, dessert! My mom made one of my favorite cakes, Strawberry Shortcake. Strawberry Shortcake always feels so summery and fresh and light to me. And it’s always delicious! For the cake, we used Wegman’s Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix. All you need is 4 tablespoons softened butter, a large egg, and 2/3 cups of milk. Then just cream your butter and 1/2 a cup of the cake mix with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes, then add the rest of the cake mix, egg, and milk, and combine it all together.  Then pour it up in the pan of your choosing (we used a big 9×11 pan since we were serving a bunch of people) and bake it for 35-38 minutes in a 350° oven. After the cake is totally cooled, it’s time for the topping! We whipped up our own fresh whipped cream to put on the cake (which is seriously a hundred times better than the stuff in the can). All you have to do is use about 8-10 ounces of heavy cream, about a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, and powdered sugar to taste and whip it with an electric mixer. I could literally just eat this all day straight out of the bowl. It’s just heavenly. So after you’ve resisted eating it all before it even hits the surface of the cake, spread it all over the top evenly. Then slice some strawberries and lay them all over on top of the whipped cream!

gluten free strawberry shortcake

Another option for this cake assembly would be to make two smaller round cakes and put them on top of each other with whipped cream and strawberries in between and on top. No matter how you put it together, it’s going to be amazing. I am crazy for this cake. I’m literally eating a leftover slice as I write this. It somehow feels like a healthy version of cake, probably because it’s a little lighter with the whipped cream and fresh strawberries instead of a sweet, heavy frosting.

Overall, I celebrated my graduation with some pretty awesome food. And what better way to celebrate is there than with that? I can’t wait for this next chapter of my life at the University of Delaware. It’s going to be so exciting and new and fantastic! And I am so ready for it. I will now leave you with a picture of my decorated graduation cap that I love. 🙂

graduation cap

Just to let you guys know, next week I will be heading off to Europe for my cruise (YAY), and I’m not sure if I will be able to post anything in that time, so it may be a while til you hear from me next, but I can’t wait to share my stories from the trip!!

Chebe Cinnamon Rolls and Breadstick Mix

Being diagnosed with celiac makes a girl miss some things. Like what, you ask? Here’s a list:

  • Soft fluffy bread
  • Real pizza (although I’ve found some acceptable substitutions, like this and this)
  • Deli subs (it’s just not the same to make my own)
  • Really giant burritos (like Chipotle, just a good ol’ flour tortilla stuffed with a ridiculous amount of food)
  • Freshly baked bagels
  • Broccoli Cheddar soup in a bread bowl from Panera
  • Classic Chinese dumplings (these fill the void, but I miss being able to order them from Chinese restaurants)
  • Ice cream cones

And finally, I miss cinnamon rolls and breadsticks (like good, Olive Garden breadsticks). Which leads us to this post! I was so excited to find both of these from Chebe in the grocery store.

chebe gluten free cinnamon rolls

So cinnamon rolls. The classic ooey gooey sugary roll of goodness that everyone loves. Let’s start off with how they’re made. You combine the mix with 3 tbsp oil, 2 eggs, and 2 tbsp milk. Then you knead the dough all up, roll it out with a rolling pin, and spread it with 1 tbsp of butter and sprinkle a mix of 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tbsp butter onto it. Then you roll it all up, cut it into pieces, and bake them in muffin tin cups for 16-18 minutes or until nice and golden brown. I was told that this process was quite unpleasant and a lot of work (I didn’t make them myself, my lovely mother made them and they were ready when I woke up, which is the best way to wake up in the morning). The mix doesn’t come with any icing to drizzle on top, which is an essential part of cinnamon rolls, so we made our own with 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 tbsp milk.

chebe gluten free cinnamon rolls

Please don’t be fooled by the slight ugliness of these cinnamon rolls. They taste much more beautiful than they look! They did end up being much tinier than I expected them to be, just because I always think of the giant gluten rolls that I used to eat. These were more like cute lil bite size cinnamon rolls. They were really good and nice and soft, but just a tiny bit too sweet for me, but let’s be honest, thats how cinnamon rolls are supposed to be.

chebe gluten free breadsticks

Next up is the breadsticks. Not only are these breadsticks, which I miss dearly, but they are garlic onion breadsticks, which makes them ten times better. These were also a little bit of a hassle to make. You combine the mix with 2 tbsp oil, 1 cup shredded cheese (they say sharp cheeses are best, but we used a combo of Mozzarella and Parmesan Romano), and 2 large eggs. Then you blend in exactly 1/4 cup milk, and knead the dough with your hands until it’s smooth. I want to emphasize exactly 1/4 cup because it is going to seem like you need more because it looks dry, but trust me, it will come together! Next you divide the dough into twelve pieces and roll them into 7 inch sticks. We also added a step of sprinkling some grated parmesan and garlic powder on top of them. Then you put them into a baking sheet, bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned, and enjoy!

chebe gluten free breadsticks

These are awesome. I couldn’t stop eating them. When I saw how thin I had to roll them I was worried they would be crispy crunchy breadsticks instead of soft fluffy breadsticks. But they ended up being perfectly crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside. Not only was the texture wonderful, but the flavor was also fantastic! Nice and cheesy and garlicy and delicious. These are great to pair with a nice bowl of pasta to soak up some sauce. But I was just eating them as a snack because they were so good.

Chebe also has some more dry mixes that I will definitely try now that I know how amazing these were. These cinnamon rolls and breadsticks were able to fill the space of two foods I’ve been missing, now on to finding the rest on my list!

Find Chebe products near you

Girl Scout Toffee-tastic Cookies

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Ah, Girl Scout cookies. Everybody loves them. Samoas, Tagalongs, Thin Mints…I miss them dearly. As mentioned in my “About Anna” page, I am a proud member of the Girl Scouts (and recently got the official notice that I earned my Gold Award, yay!!), so that means for years I have been selling cookies, as well as buying cookies from myself. So when I heard that there were gluten free Girl Scout Cookies, I had to buy them immediately. If I’m being honest, if I could choose from the whole list of GS cookies, I would not choose these Toffee-tastic cookies. But since they’re my only choice, I went with it (although I read on this site that there is another kind of gluten free cookie called Trios that’s “made with real chocolate chips, real peanut butter and certified gluten free whole grain oats,” which I would probably prefer, but they weren’t available).

girl scout gluten free toffee-tastic

So the description of these Toffee-tastic cookies is “rich, buttery cookies packed with golden toffee bits bursting with flavor.” They were pretty good! The flavor was kind of like a shortbread cookie. I am a soft cookie kind of person, but this was more of a crunchy, crumbly one, which isn’t necessarily bad—that’s how a butter cookie should be. The toffee bits were tasty too. The only problem I had with them was that it’s the kind of thing that gets stuck in your teeth, but the flavor was worth it. I think these are the kind of cookies that would taste really good if you crushed them up and put them on top of ice cream.

Overall, these Toffee-tastic Girl Scout cookies were pretty good for a gluten free cookie. Obviously they cannot compare to the delicious, gluten-filled alternatives, but I will take what I can get. I really hope next year I can get a hold of the other gluten free GS cookies, Trios. They sound very appealing to me. But until then, I will wait and eat my Toffee-tastic cookies.

Click HERE to find Girl Scout cookies near you!

girl scout gluten free toffee-tastic

Trader Joe’s

First, I have to thank my beautiful niece for asking me to guest author a column on her blog! My name is Catherine and I started my gluten free journey about a year before Anna was diagnosed with celiac. I don’t have celiac disease, just an intolerance to gluten, but the difference without gluten is remarkable. My stomach used to hurt all the time, I felt bloated, tired, and unhealthy. I feel my best when I am doing a more primal diet without any grains but, as a working mom of two kids, pasta and pizza are often the quickest things to make for dinner.

Which brings me to my post today. I knew my first post would have to be about one of my favorite places for pretty much everything yummy. Trader Joe’s! This place has amazing gluten free finds and the prices are just as amazing!! Gluten free is often pricey so not only can you do almost your entire weekly shopping in one spot, but your wallet will thank you for it. I can’t tell you how many times I would get ‘sticker shock’ at the health food store when buying gluten free. Finding Trader Joe’s has been a huge relief to me and my bank account.

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Simple Mills Banana Muffin Mix

It’s been a while since I wrote a new product review, so here you go!

I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for a good muffin at breakfast time. Especially a fresh, warm, just out of the oven muffin. Simple Mills Banana Muffins totally hit the spot. These muffins are not only super yummy, but also healthy! They only have the best, most simple (get it, Simple Mills??) ingredients in them. The ingredients are almonds, organic coconut sugar, arrowroot powder, organic coconut flour, baking soda, and sea salt. So not only are they gluten free, but everything in them is just naturally gluten free. This is also true for all Simple Mills products—they are all naturally gluten free, and all almond based. They’re even made in a dedicated gluten free facility!

Simple Mills Banana Muffin Mix

I wanted to add a little something extra to them, so I added about 1/3 cup of chopped pecans. It was nice to get little bits of crunch in the muffin. As for the muffin itself, it was so delicious! As I said in my King Arthur Flour GF Muffin Mix review, it’s not very easy to find muffins that aren’t dense and dry. But these were a different kind of awesome from the King Arthur Flour muffins. While those were fluffy and chocolatey, these were perfectly moist and nutty and banana-y.

simple mills banana muffins before and after

Simple Mills also has plenty of other products! As far as muffins go, they also have chocolate and pumpkin muffins (I have the chocolate mix in my pantry ready to be baked and devoured). They also have mixes for chocolate chip cookies, bread, pancakes/waffles, pizza crust, and vanilla cake. You can visit the Simple Mills website to look at these mixes in more detail, as well as the ingredients they use and where you can find products near you. I will definitely be trying more of their products in the future, but for now I will just enjoy my banana muffins.

simple mills banana muffins

 

Feel Good Foods Gluten Free Chicken Dumplings

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If you’re ever wondering what I eat for lunch everyday, probably three days out of the week it’s these dumplings (the other four is most often some form of pasta dish). These things are sooo good, and if you’ve ever tried to find a restaurant that offers gluten free dumplings, you know that it’s almost impossible. Since I’ve been gluten free, this is the only way I’ve been able to get my fill of delicious little dumplings, and I am not complaining. They are so easy to make, and I also added a little step to make them even better!

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There was actually quite a long time that I stopped eating these dumplings. A few months ago, they redesigned the dumplings. When I bought this new version of them and cooked them in the pan as usual, they all got stuck to the pan and fell apart into a pile of mush. From that point on I stopped buying them. However, about a month or two ago I decided to give them another chance. I took extra precautions to make sure they wouldn’t stick to the pan (which means I sprayed that whole pan with a nice thick layer of canola oil before adding the water), and they turned out perfect! Which ended up making me upset that I went so long depriving myself of perfectly good dumplings for one little mushy fiasco. So now I happily enjoy my yummy little pockets of chicken and joy all the time!

So let me get into how they’re made. I start by coating my pan in canola oil first, for reasons I have already mentioned, then add 1/2 cup of water (I usually do a tiny bit more because 1/2 cup doesn’t quite cover my whole pan) and a tablespoon of canola oil to a large nonstick pan and let it heat up. Then add your dumplings and put the lid on the pan. Each box has 9-11 dumplings (could they not settle on a single number??), but I have gotten boxes with 12 (I call them lucky boxes). I cook mine for 10 minutes, and that is technically when the box says you should be done, but I like to do a little more.

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So, the box claims that after sitting in this pan, the liquid will evaporate and the bottom of the dumplings will get brown. This has never happened. So after the 10 minutes, I take the dumplings out and empty the liquid out of the pan. Then I put the pan back on the stove and add some sesame oil to start heating up. Then I put the dumplings back in the pan, and fry them in the sesame oil until they are brown and beautiful. Trust me, this makes them so much better than they would be if you just ate them after the 10 minutes.

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So once your dumplings are browned to your liking, you can plate ’em up and enjoy! Oh, I almost forgot the dipping sauce! Inside the box is a little packet of sauce that you can leave out to thaw while the dumplings are cooking. Now, I love soy sauce, so I add a bunch of it to the sauce that comes in the packet, just because that’s my personal preference. So once you have your sauce and your dumplings all ready, then you can enjoy. And you don’t have to eat them for lunch like I do; you can have them as a side for dinner if you’re having an Asian dish, or as little appetizers at a party. No matter how you eat them, they will be delicious!

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