Sunday, December 30, 2012

Product Plug: Jessica's Natural Gluten-free Granola

I don't often promote products on my site, but I recently came across something that made me so excited that I had to share it with you all.

And that something is this:

This. Granola. Is. Amazing. And because I start every single morning with a bowl of granola, I've tried my fair share of different brands of gluten-free granola over the last five years.

It harkens back to my pre-celiac days (which can also be referred to as "The Days of Bulk Bin Purchases") when I would go to my local natural food store and buy perfect and delicious granola in bulk. It was crunchy and sweet, with big chunks of honey-soaked oats and nuts - the kind of granola that (and this may be a weird way to describe something I just called "crunchy") just melts in your mouth. It's the kind of granola that I have only tasted in memory since going gluten-free over four and a half years ago, despite many attempts on my part to recreate it in my own kitchen.

Until now, that is. To me, this granola tastes exactly like the amazing bulk bin granola of my gluten-ful days. It's both dairy- and gluten-free and is made with certified gluten-free oats. And there are five different flavors to choose from - so far, I've had the Pecan Almond, Vanilla Maple, and Chocolate Chip and have been equally (that is to say, VERY) impressed with all three.

And just as a disclaimer, I stumbled across this granola quite on my own at Whole Foods in St. Louis during a holiday visit to see my family, so I wasn't solicited by the company to write a review. I have never seen this brand in Massachusetts (which is part of why I pounced on it in St. Louis and bought more bags than I could possibly have eaten during a 9-day visit). But I did find that you can buy in bulk from Jessica's Natural Foods' website and she will Fedex your order to you in just a few days for a flat fee of $5. You might even get a handwritten "thank you" on your invoice. And! If you purchase online, she'll send you 2 free bags of granola when you buy 6, making the unit price of each bag about a dollar less than what you'd find in the store (and that's factoring in the shipping cost). Totally worth it. I ordered mine on Wednesday night and it was already here on Saturday morning.

So, you know, it's up to you. But I'm just saying - if you miss granola since being diagnosed and have been disappointed by the gluten-free versions you've tried so far, I think you will love this. And I think you'll be glad you bought in bulk once you taste it. (I'm a little afraid of how quickly I will be out of granola, to be honest.)

To find out more and/or place an order, visit Jessica's Natural Foods website here. Also, to see another review and read a short Q&A with Jessica, click here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Airy Mexican Wedding Cookies

I'm a pretty predictable person, in an almost mathematical way. Overcast afternoon + pressing deadline for work or school = I will definitely be baking something. Sometimes all I really need is the pressing deadline for work or school. #masterprocrastinator

Some of the omissions in this cookie recipe may make you skeptical. No eggs? Only 2 tbsp. sugar for the entire batch of cookie dough? Add to that the fact that I decided to cut the fat down by substituting applesauce and vegan cream cheese for some of the butter, and it really makes you wonder how it could still end up being a cookie-like creation.

I know. Me too.

But trust me - these are anything but skimpy. They are light and tender and wonderfully full of vanilla, with a lovely little crunch from the pecans. Just be careful when you're eating them, as the powdered sugar may or may not explode all over your clothes when you take a bite. (Some of my friends avoided this quite deftly by just popping the whole thing into their mouth at once. have options.)

And the best part is that these take almost no time to throw together. The dough comes together in a matter of minutes, and they will be melting in your mouth before you know it.

Gluten-free Mexican Wedding Cookies (Adapted from this recipe)
Makes 20 - 24 small cookies

3 tbsp. Earth Balance butter stick
3 tbsp. vegan cream cheese
2 tbsp. smooth applesauce
2 tbsp. white sugar
1.5 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup gluten-free flour blend
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/3 - 1/2 cup powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix together the Earth Balance, vegan cream cheese, and applesauce with an electric mixer. Add in the 2 tbsp. white sugar and vanilla and continue to blend until all ingredients are creamed.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add in stages to the cookie dough batter, mixing each bit in with the electric mixer. By hand, stir in the chopped pecans.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on the parchment paper. Bake at 300 F for about 15 - 18 minutes, or just until the bottoms are browned and they are firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let sit on the cookie sheet for 2 - 3 minutes, then roll each one in powdered sugar while still warm and place on a cooling rack. Once cooled, roll in powdered sugar once more time. Store in an airtight container with layers separated with waxed paper so they don't stick together.