A year ago I happened to stumble upon the Gluten Free Expo when it came to my city. I had never heard of it but I saw a Groupon deal for it and I was interested. I had no idea what to expect and I was not fully prepared for what I encountered. It was every Costco or Sam’s Club member’s dream- an exhibit hall full of samples you could eat and take home. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t come on an empty stomach, but I took one for the team and ate a double sampling of almost everything that was offered to me. The first day was a bit of a food-coma blur for me, but I made sure to go earlier the next day on an empty stomach and eat a triple sampling of everything I wanted to eat. Aside from me stuffing my face and getting free food I learned a lot about some g-free brands and other allergen sensitive brands. I ate at least 5 different kinds of frozen gluten free pizza samples, a variety of desserts, and different kinds of bread and dairy free cheese and washed it all down with a variety of healthy drinks that weren’t water. It exposed me to a lot of great brands that I had never heard of and allowed me to try things out before committing to buying anything. I wanted to share my wealth of knowledge with all of you. So here are my eight favorite products that I discovered at this year’s and last year’s Gluten Free Expo.
Gluten Free Products
Sonoma Flatbread– gluten free pizza brand I can get behind. This was hard to find, I’m not going to lie because I am a pizza savant. During my time in NYC I built a very intimate and rewarding relationship with pizza shops across all five boroughs, ok maybe not Staten Island. The best pizzas I’ve had were never frozen or gluten free. In general I think most frozen pizza is horrible but the one I have bought a few times is Sonoma and the best part is that it is available at stores like Wal-Mart and Kroger and other stores I have never heard of.
Liteful Foods– This is a brand that sells everything from pancake mix to cinnamon pound cake and delicious biscuits. They have a restaurant in Dallas called Company Café that sells their foods and Back Home Barbecue. You can also order an assortment of goodies on their website.
Garden Lites– I really am trying to eat more vegetables and this brand helps me do just that. I am going to specifically talk about their muffins that come in blueberry, chocolate and banana; my favorite is the chocolate. Vegetables are the first and primary ingredients in every product. So in the chocolate muffins you get a serving of carrots and zucchini. Who eats zucchini everyday? I love to eat them in the morning if I am on the go or eat it with an egg omelet.
Ardenne Farms– I’m usually in charge of making Thanksgiving and Christmas meals at my house and that also includes desserts. Sweets are my weakness and I was very disheartened with the gluten free options of baking mixes. I know what you’re probably saying, “Nono, why don’t you make desserts from scratch?” And to that I say, “no”. Have you ever tried to make gluten free desserts from scratch? I can make some, but during the hectic times of holidays I like to cut corners where I can without sacrificing taste. So when Ardenne Farms was giving out free samples of everything from their cinnamon crumb cake to their award winning brownies I ate everything! I can honestly say this is the best box mix of desserts I have ever had. They are still fluffy and rich and no one can tell that they are g-free.
Udi’s– This is a g-free brand that makes a lot of good products and a lot of not so good products. The one product that I am hooked on, and I continued to go back for more helpings during the expo is their chicken penne alfredo. This does contain dairy but it is soooo good, and if dairy is not an issue for you, INDULGE! I always spice this up by adding some salt, paprika, Cajun seasoning and red pepper flakes. Now you don’t need to do all of that, but you will thank me later if you do. You can also add some shrimp to give it a seafood flare or sausage to make it into a Cajun pasta meal. I can’t eat this that much but I dream about it a lot.
Dairy Free Products
Go Veggie– Ok so I really try to reduce my dairy intake because it does cause inflammation. So when I saw dairy free cream cheese I knew that God wanted me to better. I used to live on a diet of bagels and cream cheese in my pre-lupus NYC days, but like so much that I used to do I had to give that up. I am a cream cheese connoisseur so I was very suspicious of cheeseless cream cheese, but it was delicious. It I creamy and comes in some yummy flavors; I’m still looking for a hazelnut flavor though. The cheese is good too it melts well and is tasty, but it does leave a weird aftertaste in your mouth.
Jam, Jellies, Preserves and Conserves
Pearl Honey Spreads– I like grape jelly and that’s it. I have never been in the market for preserves or spreads and didn’t think much about it until… I put a wooden spoon sample of her Tomato Basil spread in my mouth and I was both delighted and in awe at how these flavors came together to make something so sweet and savory and delicious. She has really unique and flavor combinations that your mind doesn’t think will work but your taste buds prove otherwise. Her spreads are vegan, gluten free, preservative free and have no artificial coloring, using all natural sugars. She has six different flavors that include: tomato basil, mango jalapeño, peach almond, pear ginger, apple coconut, and strawberry preserves. I bought the tomato basil and have put it on everything from chicken to crackers. It’s great! Get you some!
Kombucha– All Kombucha is not created equally. I was introduced to the LIVE brand that makes kombucha that tastes like soda. Do I need to write anymore? I have drastically reduced my soda intake so this was very life changing for me. Since I am obsessed with gut health and great tasting drinks this works well for me. It is a great treat when you need something sweet and bubbly without the calories and some health benefits.
**Honorable mention: Dalmatia Fig Spread- This year at the G-free expo there were not as many exhibitors as there were in 2016. However I still found a gem in the form of a fig spread. Glutino was giving out samples of their gluten free crackers, with fig spread and brie. I didn’t think much of their crackers before but now it will definitely be a light snack at my holiday dinners because of the fig spread.