Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cereal, Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

My allergic son is almost 13 so our family has had many years of trying allergy-friendly products. Although the choices continue to improve, many of us still secretly wince when we hear the words "gluten free" thinking that we will once again be tasting that all too familiar dryer, blander, not-as-good-as-the-real-thing cereal. Oh come now, no head shaking is needed. We have all been there so why deny it? No reason to tell anything but the truth between friends, right? But what happens when we do find that one product that actually does taste good? I am here to say that Attune Foods has managed to do just that.

Now before I begin, can I just share the definition of attune from the merriam-webster dictionary? And I quote " Attune - to cause (a person, company, etc.) to have a better understanding of what is needed or wanted by a particular person or group." Can this be anymore obvious?! I admit, I am a picky gluten free eater because I was not born eating gluten free and I know what both taste like. It's like they just get it- plain and simple. Except that the twist is also just that- plain and simple is anything but plain and simple. Confused? Picture time then-

I received two boxes of cereal from Attune Foods- a box of Quinoa & Chia and a box of Buckwheat & Hemp. They each look fairly plain, simple but this is deceiving! The Quinoa & Chia was slightly bland at first dry munching testing (yes, that is my official term). But then, it's got a boomerang effect. The flavor pops out and takes you by surprise. And when you add some non-dairy milk it's as if this is the gluten free answer to a better version of a Raisin Bran-type cereal. It's nuttier, crunchier and it stays crunchy in the milk. After just  few bites, I was hooked and I was mad because I had to save the cereal for the recipes that I was going to try out. The sad, sad feeling of having to put the box down and walk away.

Then, the Buckwheat & Hemp- oh my! Dry munching revealed a sweet and smoky treat because of the hemp but add some dairy-free milk and suddenly, it turns sweet. How?! The flakes were a thick, crunchy texture and the crunch was awesome. Not at all what I expected and I love when that happens. This is what I was looking for so yes- I see the connection of "attune".  Plus, protein in cereal and fiber that are healthy sources...you all know how I am a protein addict. My only question - why the 9 ounce boxes rather than your typical 10 1/2 or 12 ounce package? I mean, I get the whole marketing thing, overhead, budgeting, etc. but maybe try it out for awhile and see how it's received? Just my two cents.

Cereal is Just Cereal- WRONG!!! Think people, what else can you do with these protein-stuffed flakes?! I say, "Let them eat cake."... non-dairy ice cream cake, that is. No? How about two?!

Non-Dairy Ice Cream Cake with Supergrain Crunchies
Vanilla Blackberry Cake ~
1 Small spring form pan (4.25 inches)
8 Scoops vanilla non-dairy frozen dessert of your choice (4 top, 4 bottom)
1/4 Cup Enjoy Life Foods chocolate chips
1/2 Cup Erewhon Buckwheat & Hemp cereal (crushed)
6 Ounces blackberries, smashed

Using a small spring form pan placed in a bowl (to prevent dripping), fill it half way with a vanilla frozen dessert mixed with chocolate chips. Sprinkle with crushed cereal. Top with vanilla frozen dessert mixed with blackberries. Place in the freezer until set.

Once solid, remove the sides and store in an airtight container to prevent freezer burn. Allow to sit out for about five minutes to make slicing easier. Promptly return uneaten portions to the freezer to prevent melting.

Makes 1 (4.25 ounce) 2-layer cake

Vanilla, Strawberry & Chocolate Cake ~
1 Small spring form pan (4.25 inches)
4 Scoops vanilla non-dairy frozen dessert of your choice
3 Strawberries (washed and cut into bite-sized pieces)
1/2 Cup Erewhon Quinoa & Chia cereal (crushed)
4 Scoops of your choice of frozen non-dairy chocolate dessert

Using a small spring form pan placed in a bowl (to prevent dripping), fill it half way with a vanilla frozen dessert mixed with strawberries. Sprinkle with crushed cereal. Top with chocolate frozen dessert. Place in the freezer until set.

Once solid, remove the sides and store in an airtight container to prevent freezer burn. Allow to sit out for about five minutes to make slicing easier. Promptly return uneaten portions to the freezer to prevent melting.

Makes 1 (4.25 ounce) 2-layer cake

What, you can't have dessert because you haven't had lunch yet? You are in luck because I happened to whip together a gluten free pizza using the cereal too!The great news is that you can use either flavor or you can mix and match.

Gluten Free Supergrain Pizza 
1 1/3 Cups Erewhon Supergrains Cereal, crushed fine (we used a combination of both)
1/2 Cup tapioca flour
1 Teaspoon xantham gum
1 Tablespoon gluten free baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon sea salt (I used Real Salt)
1/4 Cup oil (I used walnut but any non-sweet oil will do)
3/4 Cup water
1/2 Teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 Teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Sauce and toppings of your choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients first, then add the wet ingredients. If the mixture is too loose, add small amounts of additional crushed cereal. The mixture will resemble wet oatmeal.

Spoon into an 8-inch glass pie plate and form into a crust, using the spoon. Make sure to build up the sides just a bit more than the middle. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the crust is firm and thoroughly cooked.

Remove from the oven and top with sauce and toppings. Bake until bubbly. (This will be a softer crust so you may need to grab a fork and knife.)

Makes 1 8-inch pizza

Treats and More Treats What do I always do with small amounts of leftovers? I have found that mixing most anything with marshmallows creates a fast and easy treat. AND, since this would also include a gluten free protein bonus, why not. Simply prepare the treats as you would any other "krispy" treat. If you are wondering about a better marshmallow, try using Dandies Vegan Marshmallows. As you can see, both cereals were disguised quite well. But then, I wasn't quite happy. Not happy with the pictures, not happy with the overall treat effect. What makes everything (almost) always more tempting, more sinful? Chocolate! Melt, dip, cool and slice. It's like the crunchy candy bar that you have been missing all of these years (but with protein and fiber). And, well, you know we all need a bit of fiber because (ahem), well no details necessary.

NutriSon Approved This, in itself, is a huge feet to tackle! NutriSon is highly picky and when he asked for more of these cereals and raved about how good and crunchy they are, I made a mental note to pick up a few more boxes to have on hand.

Why I Respect the Products I checked out Attune Foods website and there were so many things that I love about them, I can't even tell you. Well, I can tell you some of them. Their products are dairy free, they boast of using only non-GMO ingredients and they even offer label information on their site for those who are unsure about what is labeled as gluten free.

I was also concerned because I noticed that some products contained walnuts and other foods that set off a red flag for our family. I was quickly given information from the customer rep who stated "We manufacture our Erewhon cereals in a separate facility that's dedicated as a peanut, sesame, tree nut and dairy free facility. And, in case you're wondering about gluten... they are not made in dedicated gluten free facilities as products that contain gluten are occasionally processed on shared lines at different times. Before any Erewhon Gluten Free product is produced, machinery is thoroughly washed between production runs and gluten containing products are removed from the area to prevent cross contamination. Then each batch is tested for 10 PPM of gluten or less throughout the production run. In the unlikely event a test batch indicates 11 PPM gluten or more, the entire batch is discarded so no product that contains 11 PPM or more ever makes it into any Erewhon Gluten Free Certified product."  Still, in keeping with typical Nutrimom fashion, I had NutriSon sample a small bit (one for eahc day) just to make sure all would be well. I'm happy to report that it went fine and we have another addition to our cereal family.


I want to extend my thanks to Attune Foods for requesting a product review and allowing me to give m honest opinion. I feel it is always necessary to be honest to help others the very best that I can. Please make sure you check out these cereals as well as their other items at http://www.attunefoods.com.





Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Vote & Be Entered To Win!

Nutrimom Needs Help! (Please) 


photo courtesy 123rf.com

My Dairy Free Dream  is having a Spring Kitchen Recipe Contest and my "Grab-N-Go Gazpacho" recipe is 1 of 10 finalists! Every person that votes will also be automatically entered to win a 1 year supply of My Dairy Free Dream products! The winner will be announced THIS Thursday, June 19th on their Facebook page so please vote ASAP.

Thank you~


To vote: 
1) go to https://www.facebook.com/MyDairyFreeDream?sk=app_303561899745219&brandloc=DISABLE&app_data=chk-53a0cf3301e00

2) Find my "Grab-N-Go Gazpacho" and click on VOTE

3) Scroll to the bottom, accept the Terms & Conditions & click Submit

4) PLEASE SHARE so others can vote too (as they will also be entered to win!) 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Are You Smarter Than a Pizza Pie?

Recently, I stumbled across what is (in my opinion) the world's best gluten free pizza! Well, not stumbled..I mean, I didn't fall over it and there is was but it was handed to me, literally. It was love at first bite. And when you know, you know.

How did it all begin? I was walking through the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo one day...I guess nobody else is singing this in their head but me. Focus- but I was truly walking through the Expo, surrounded by so many wonderful foods when there, on the corner was a table with pizzas being cooked. My immediate instinct said shy away but then my Nutrimom voice kicked in and said "You won't know unless you ask!". Just an FYI, the Nutrimom voice is tends to be right (sometimes a tad pushy but mostly right). So NutriDaughter and I eyeballed the vendor, listened in to what he was telling others and before I could say anything else, I was given a piece of pizza to try.....(eyes rolling into the back of my head, drooling all over again) I bet you are dying to know what it looked like, right? Check out this never before seen up close and personal photo direct from the home of Nutrimom herself (pizza compliments of Smart Flour Foods).

I mean, oh my gawh, right?! Have I peeked your curiosity? Wanna know more about Smart Flour Foods???? What? I didn't hear you- THERE YA' GO!

What I most love about this company is the fact that the crust is not only gluten free but it's made with ancient grains like sorghum, amaranth and teff (know how I love my protein). Wanna know what else? They are also free of egg, soy and rice*. And, I bet you are wondering about the other ingredients too, right?

Here's where I am going to share what is on their website so as not to confuse the facts "The cheese is free of synthetic hormones, and the pepperonis are made from all vegetarian fed pork that was never administered antibiotics. All the pizzas are preservative free. Our crusts are soy free, dairy free and kosher, in addition to being gluten-free. And because our crusts, like all of our products, are based on the Ancient Grains sorghum, amaranth and teff, they offer great nutrition."

You can only imagine my excitement when I arrived home to a frozen box of my very own Smart Flour pizzas to try. (Did I mention that I love my job?!) And not only did they send one but they sent one of each variety and some plain pizza crusts. This also sent my family into extreme overload of squealing accompanied by extreme insistence that we eat them right that very second. But in true Nutrimom fashion, I put them into the freezer to finish up my other projects first. By doing so, I also cursed myself- I had planned to have a nice pizza party in the backyard with all of the pizzas but alas, the clouds opened up and I watched as it lightning and thundered outside. But even forces of nature do not stop me- an impromptu indoor pizza party was in order. And just to make sure that we were in full force Smart Flour mode, we decided to pose in Smart Flour form, all of us sporting glasses. You may also note that the weather does not do my hair justice but I had gluten free pizza- a plethora of pizzas and that trumps good hair any day.

 
Smart Flour pizza is on the right
Um, How's the Serving Size? Glad you asked, I took a side-by-side picture of our long-trusted gluten free "other brand" pizza vs. Smart Flour Foods pizza. Smart Flour was a tiny bit smaller but not by much and because it was (in my opinion) more filling than other mentioned pizza, this would not deter me from purchasing it again. Perhaps, if we all request very nicely, then Smart Flour Foods (might) consider adding  an option for a family size pizza???? Pretty pleeeeeeese! Just a thought.

Garden Margherita Pizza- Just the pizza, not the drink, gosh people! This pizza was the cheesiest gluten free pizza I have ever eaten. Usually when we get the other brand, we add extra cheese because it always seems, well, lacking but the Smart Flour Garden Margherita Pizza was perfect, PERFECT! The crust was crispy on the outer edges but softer on the underside and the tomatoes were so fresh, they tasted like I had picked them from the garden and put them on myself. It actually squirted juice at me when I bit into it. When was the last time you could say that about a frozen pizza let alone a gluten free frozen pizza?

Classic Cheese Pizza- Of course, who doesn't love just a great cheesy pizza ( I do, I do!). The Classic Cheese Pizza was still just as great with the overabundance of cheesiness but I noticed the tomato sauce was not overpowering either (not too sweet, no icky processed flavor) and with the crust, it tastes a lot more like a traditional (gluten-filled) pizza crust. This is a plus for gluten-free lovers as I have found that many gluten free items tend to just miss it in the taste and texture factor.

Uncured Pepperoni Pizza- Ok, first off, you did notice the word "uncured", right? A huge plus to start off with. Nitrates have been very difficult to avoid and let's face it, we all like to have a treat now and again so what an awesome surprise that this was one less thing we would have to worry about. The Uncured Pepperoni Pizza  was a complete blend of that yummy, sinful pepperoni treat mixed with the gooey, cheesiness and the still wonderful crust.

Then came the part that I always love to do- what can I do with this product other than a pizza? I was given just two plain Smart Flour Original Pizza Crusts so I had to think carefully. Should I fail, I would be left with one less crust and I would be disappointed in myself. I do not accept failure- I improve upon it.

My first use- what does everyone always have in their fridge? Leftovers! For us, it was leftover burrito meat & beans, homemade guacamole and tomatoes. Can we say the world's easiest and tastiest Mexican pie? Simply heat oven, prepare the pizza pie crust as directed, add ingredients and prepare yourself for a new twist on a fiesta. What good are leftovers if you can't use them for another new meal and what good is a product if you can't do the same? Thinking, thinking, thinking...I am always thinking. It's a blessing and a curse.

When a Pizza is Not a Pizza- I mean, come on, everybody makes pizzas with pizza crusts, right? (yawn) And the crust is SOOOO good, so tender, not greasy and flexible. Flexible? Yes, look at it! And the taste was something that it took me awhile to figure out but once I did- woo hoo!!! Who says a pizza crust has to be used for a pizza? And how long has the gluten-free community been searching for an awesome, tasty tender sandwich alternative? Since, well, I'm not quite sure how long but I'm pretty sure for a long, long time. With fingers crossed, I heated up my second pizza crust as directed (minus the glasses) and I prepared the ultimate gluten-free sandwich wrap. Yes, it was as good if not better than the picture shows and yes, it was everything that I have been missing since I shy away from bread now. The plus- no dry, crumbly mess like many other gluten-free breads and wraps. Instead, I just smiled and ate. When was the last time you did that while eating a gluten free wrap and meant it? (And by meant it because it actually was good, not just passable)

Do you have any idea how delectable this was?!!! I swear that Smart Flour Foods puts something in their crusts to make you want to eat more (I think I saw that on a show somewhere, right?...do you think they would tell me?)

But wait- did it pass the lunch packing test? Anyone who packs their own lunch with gluten free products knows that (sadly) many products just don't stand up to the lunch packing test. Example- you prepare your wrap the night before or even that morning only to take a bite into a rock-hard wrap, almost cracking your teeth thus sending you to an emergency dental visit, causing extra bills and money loss from then throwing away the rest of the product in disgust. As difficult as it was for me, I cut off a portion, wrapped it in foil and left it overnight. The result- not as soft as when I originally made it, a tiny bit chewy but definitely not rock-hard and inedible. Perhaps if it was done the morning of lunch packing rather than the night before, it would be even better. Ultimately, no broken teeth and no broken spirit. Maybe, just maybe, that is why their logo is smiling.



Am I Smarter Than a Pizza Pie? With confidence, yes! Only because I decided not to use it as just a pizza. Otherwise, with all of the great protein-filled grains and natural ingredients, it would have won. Where can you find them? It just so happens that Smart Flour Foods pizzas are featured at Mellow Mushroom locations! However, I do recommend calling ahead to discuss cross-contamination issues to be safe. You can also find them right at their website, Facebook and even Whole Foods.

I cannot express the gratitude I have to Smart Flour Foods for asking me to post a review for them. I appreciate that they put so much effort into making great products and for keeping their customers interests and health in their best interest. I know many of us ask how we can begin to find healthier foods, better ingredients and trusted companies but isn't it wonderful that it could start with just one little pizza?


*They DO produce other items that contain egg however, this is the information that I received when I inquired since NutriSon is highly allergic to eggs "Our facility in Austin that makes our food service crusts does also produce a couple of items (blondies and brownies) that have egg in them.  There is a very slim chance of contamination there, but it is very slim.  Our retail crusts are made at another facility where there is not any egg contamination possibility." Retail crusts = frozen items that we purchase :)








Thursday, June 5, 2014

SunButter is the Best Butter


(Left) Original (Right) Natural No Sugar
I am proud to say that not only am I an official SunButter Blogger but one of the perks are getting to try out new products that they have....talk about a win-win! The latest SunButter item that has just come out was their Natural No Sugar Added. I know what you are thinking, why mess with a good thing but I have to say, this is my personal favorite yet! What's in it? Two ingredients- sunflower seed and salt. Simple yet very tasty. The consistency seems much smoother and easier to stir. And because I am a visual person, I am sharing the side-by-side comparisons to prove how smooth it is. I mean gosh, how did they get it so smooth?!

The taste - still that good, old SunButter flavor but not as strong and (dare I say) if you miss peanut butter, I personally think this is pretty close to that peanut butter taste. No hard feelings meant- just trying to relate to those fellow peanut less homes out there. I have learned that when you find a really good substitute for foods that you miss, I need to stock up on it and tell the world so that they know it's out there too.

What Did I Do With It? You know that I always try to come up with unique and different things to do with foods, especially since people often feel as if food allergies hinders what they can do with foods. I say, not so! It's just about how to think of new ways to utilize what foods you can have. What I wanted to share with all of you was the idea that my daughter got all by herself. I'm sure you will see that she thinks outside of the box like I do (well, outside of the SunButter jar!) When I asked her what she would do with SunButter if she could use it in any way, she sat up in bed and said "Finger paint that you can eat!" I was so proud of her idea that I promised to share it with all of you. (To view her video, please click HERE .)

And of course, with the weather being so cold for sooooooo long (well, it seemed like it anyway) I whipped up some Simple SunButter Muffins that were very well received.

Simple SunButter Muffins
1 Cup white rice flour
Egg replacer = 1 egg
2 Tablespoons raw honey
2 Tablespoons Winona Pure Sunflower Baking Spray
2 Teaspoons gluten free baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ Cups milk dairy milk of your choice
2 Teaspoons Natural No Sugar Added SunButter
Enjoy Life Foods chocolate chips and 8 Mega Chunks

Preheat oven to 450°. Line a muffin pan with baking cups and set aside. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the Mega Chunks. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling half way. Top with one Mega Chunk. Bake approximately 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 8 muffins
In the midst of the experimentation process, I came across a few pet peeves- the dreaded "Second-Hand SunButter"- blah! I love SunButter as much as the next person but I get grossed out when I find remnants on the outside of the jar (not to mention, what a waste!) or on my kitchen faucet handles. Washing hands- a plus but reaching and feeling that weird squish and not knowing what it is at first...(shuddering) I know that I have issues and I am ok with that. And I am willing to bet that many of you are reading this and saying "Yes, OMG, me too!" Eating and cooking with SunButter is definitely ok but finding it in unexpected places it just kinda creepy and ooky.

After I had my mini grossed-out fit, I began thinking of foods... and I wondered what it would taste like to make a fried chicken recipe with SunButter. I did have a brief Elvis moment but I pushed that right out of my head and continued. I will warn you that this recipe is strictly an oven fried chicken- DO NOT FRY IT! I did and I wound up with this icky,brownish muck. (Hey, who knew SunButter did this when cooked?) Well, now I know and you just live and learn. In my defense, there are no statements that warn you of this (tee hee).


Oven Fried SunButter Chicken
This will be a tender, slightly crunchy fried chicken with a creamy taste to it

2 Cups Glutino Gluten Free Pretzels (chopped fine)
1/2 Cup cornmeal mix
1/2 Teaspoon paprika
1 Teaspoon sea salt
1/2 Cup Natural No Sugar Added SunButter
1 Pound chicken fillets (cleaned and pounded thin)
Winona Pure baking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the chopped pretzels, cornmeal, paprika and sea salt.

In another large bowl, scoop out the SunButter. Place the chicken fillets into the Sunbutter, coating the chicken with less (rather than too much) SunButter. Transfer the fillets to the crumb mixture, coat and place onto an ungreased baking sheet. Spray each prepared fillet lightly with a bit of baking spray.

Bake for 10 minutes, then gently flip. Continue baking another 10 minutes or until no pink remains inside of the chicken.

*Optional- are you a spicy chicken lover? Try adding a bit of hot sauce into the SunButter bowl before breading.

Serving sizes may vary depending on how you cut them

But Wait, There's More! Yes, this time NutriDaughter and I were both beaming with ideas to try out. We put our Nutri heads together and we each came up with one more recipe but with two variations. How about a delicious, tempting hot beverage? Oh, maybe some hot cocoa drizzled with some warmed SunButter? The result was a hot cocoa that seemed like a liquid candy bar. It hit all of our "must have" sensors.

Sinful SunButter Cocoa
2 Cups dairy free milk of your choice (we used sweetened vanilla almond)
4 Tablespoons sugar
5 Tablespoons cocoa
1 Teaspoon sea salt
1/2 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Teaspoon coconut oil
3 Tablespoons Natural No Sugar Added SunButter
*Optional- Marshmallows, chocolate chips or chocolate shavings

In a medium pot, combine all of the ingredients except for the SunButter and optional items. Stir with a whisk until the milk becomes hot and frothy. Pour into mugs.

Warm the SunButter on low (just enough to make it liquidy but not too high or it will begin to chunk together).

Add optional toppings to the prepared mugs and drizzle with warmed SunButter.

Makes approximately 2 cups

 Too Hot For Cocoa? Yes but we have that covered too! (this is where the dual recipe comes in). Remember fudge popsicles? Is it me or is it truly impossible to find a dairy-free version out there? No need, you can make your own!

SunButter Fudge Pops
Simply use the prepared recipe for "Sinful SunButter Cocoa" and pour it into the sections of a mini muffin tin. Top with your choice of options (marshmallows, chocolate chips or shavings, crushed allergy-friendly cookies), drizzle with softened SunButter and freeze.

Once frozen, remove the tray and let it sit on a counter top for a few minutes to soften enough to remove. Caution- these soften very quickly so keep an eye on them. If they become too soft, simply put back into the freezer to reform and repeat.

Once softened, remove and place in an airtight container. Enjoy as needed.

Makes approximately 18 pops

But I like Non-Frozen Desserts- That's ok too, dessert is dessert, right? Most of us have cookouts during the warmer weather and what is the most awesome cookout dessert? S'MORES! But alas, how many times have you not been able to find a suitable, safe gluten free cracker to make a proper s'more? We didn't either so we skipped the cracker, went straight to a chocolate sandwich (thank you Enjoy Life Foods) added a touch of Natural No Sugar Added SunButter and the SunButter Challow was born! (Challow....Chocolate Mallow) Can we say YUM! Well, we did in between licking fingers and making more.

No Funky Experiments? Ha, don't kid yourself. As I said, I try all sorts of things with foods. I was looking at my feet (because you do when you start to wear sandals and open shoes). My heels are a bit dry. Not so ladylike. So with some strange looks from my family, I grabbed some SunButter that night, a pair of comfy socks and I went to town. Weird, yes but you never know unless you try, right? I do admit- it is kind of horrifying to look at...kind of like baby diarrhea on your feet (sorry, SunButter, no offense meant). What do you expect- it was not meant for feet but for eating.

The result- not really sure if it worked as well as I hoped it might. My feet were softer but they were also kind of orange looking for a bit. I don't think using the SunButter was any different than using a deep moisturizing lotion. If you do try it, I recommend heavy socks and slippers as the SunButter oozes through the socks pretty easily.

Finally, Are You Done Now? Admittedly, this was a longer post than usual but I had to share it all. I HAD to! I do want to thank the folks at SunButter for allowing me to do what I do for them. I am so excited that they keep coming up with new products that are always great for us as well as allergy-friendly. I know that some other products claim that you can "taste the rainbow" but I think this is a much better rainbow to taste~














Wednesday, June 4, 2014

They May Take Our Lives, But They'll Never Take Our Freedom (foods)

Do you remember when you were a child, how excited you got when your mom would give you those mini boxes of cereal? It was like a special treat. All of the colors, the sugary goodness and the yummy, syrupy milk that you got to finish it off with. Sitting in front of the television, watching Saturday morning cartoons (which doesn't even happen now) and just munching down on cereal in your jammies. Life was so easy then, so less complicated. There were no worries about the dyes and artificial sweeteners, no mentions of GMO's and certainly no guilt for your parents feeding you those foods that kept you so happy.

Flash forward to now- the cold, hard fact is that we are faced with a growing concern of what to feed our families. We are bombarded with health issues and which foods are actually safe to eat. We are forced to check labels and contact companies and then check again. Who knew growing up would be so difficult? And why can't we still watch Saturday morning cartoons! (Flintstones theme playing inside of my head).

I thought all of this was gone until I met a representative from Freedom Foods at the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in Georgia. There was a table laden with colorful cereals and so many samples- you should have seen my childrens' eyes popping out of their heads. But when I was asked if I wanted to try some, I hesitated. "I promise you, this cereal will surprise you." He started to explain that Freedom Foods products are manufactured in Australia and are free of gluten, wheat, nuts, soy, dairy and egg. This peeked my curiosity so I tasted a sample. Definitely a possibility. When I told Michael that I was a Food Allergy Consultant he handed me an entire box of Tropico's with his card and we decided that we had to get the word out together about these products.

The cereal box sat in my office for two weeks, which absolutely drove my children bonkers. The rule is that nobody touches any products that I need to review until I have taste-tested them first and taken my photos and notes. Why so strict? Because just once, I tried to allow a small tasting to everyone else and I was left with an empty wrapper, unable to give a review. And besides....it is just as fun to be able to silently torture my children. Come on, as a parent, this is just a given. The result? Our entire family loves this cereal (including my picky son who promptly finished the box the same day).

The Taste-Test The cereal reminds me of a cross between Fruity Pebbles and Fruit Loops. The colors are not as bright and vivid as other sugary cereals but they are still colorful. (This is a good thing- no bright orange and greens means no artificial colors or additives). There is no odd aftertaste, as sometimes found in many gluten free products and they are still just the right size for a toddler snack. Well, what the heck- for an adult snack too!

I also decided to pull the label information to compare ~
                      Fruit Loops*  Tropico's**
Serving Size:  1 cup                1 cup
Total Fat:       1.1 grams         0.5 grams
Sat Fat:          0.5 grams         0 grams
Sugars:           12.9 grams       8 grams
Protein:           1.1 grams        2 grams

* found at: http://www.nutrition.und.edu/foodpro/label.asp?locationNum=08&locationName=&dtdate=8%2F9%2F2011&RecNumAndPort=034013*1
** found at http://www.freedomfoodsus.com/tropicos/

Still Not Sure? I know, these may just be numbers to you. But what I do recommend is that you go back and check the ingredients of the other cereal and see what is listed.

INGREDIENTS:  KELLOGG'S FROOT LOOPS (Sugar, corn flour blend (whole grain yellow corn flour, degerminated yellow corn flour), wheat flour, whole grain oat flour, oat fiber, soluble corn fiber, contains 2% or less of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut, soybean and/or cottonseed), salt, red 40, natural flavor, blue 2, turmeric color, yellow 6, annatto color, blue 1, BHT for freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid), niacinamide, reduced iron, zinc oxide, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B12.)
ALLERGENS:  Wheat, Soy Beans. NOTICE TO CUSTOMERS - Because a food manufacturer may change the ingredients and nutritional content of its food products without our knowledge, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional value and contents of each food item. For more detailed information on a food Product, please contact the unit manager or the food manufacturer directly
You will notice many of the listed ingredients are artificial colors and dyes. Now, let's check the Tropico's ingredients:  Gluten Free Flour Mix (72%)  (Rice, Wholegrain Sorghum & Non-GMO Maize (Corn) Flour), Cane Sugar, Psyllium, Natural Colours (Turmeric, Fermented Rice Powder, Gardenia Flower Extract, Sweet Potato Extract), Rice Bran Extract, Tricalcium Phosphate, Salt, Natural Fruit Flavour, Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamin, Folic Acid). Hmmm, see, I know what all of those ingredients are. 

But, What About the Sugary Milk?!  No worries, I have this covered too! I am happy to report that although the leftover cereal milk does not have any hint of orange or pastel in it, it still leaves you with that milky after snack. I am also happy to say that NutriDaughter's first comment when she was done was "Hey mom, the milk still tastes good but there's no colors. Probably because it's all good stuff." Smart girl..wonder where she gets such wonderful information from?

Final Thoughts This cereal is a new must-have kitchen staple for us. The fact that the ingredients are healthy and I can let my children have (what they consider to be) a fun breakfast every once in awhile keeps all of us happy. The downside- I'm not sure I can find them easily in my area (sad face) but I intend to try to get them here. I also contacted the company to ensure our allergy concerns were covered and this is the fast response that I received "Thank you for contacting Freedom Foods. Our Bars and Cereals do not contain egg. Our biscuits however do contain egg and is processed in the same line of the bars. There is a cleaning  process in place to ensure that there is no contamination."

I was happy to see that they are not only listed with SnackSafely but they also partner with great organizations like National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, Canadian Celiac Association and the Non GMO Project (This turns up the warm fuzzy effect). Support and partnering tells me that this is a company who is serious about what they do and how they do it. I understand it's easier said than done but my wish is that all companies follow suit. I think it's best said as seen on the Tropico's box itself "These days, it's not enough to be health-conscious, we also need to be allergen-conscious." I believe this can be done, one box at a time.