Simple Mills Review and Giveaway

As a graphic designer, I appreciate good packaging on a gluten-free product. Especially considering all of the ugly, dated, looks-like-it’s-been-sitting-on-the-shelf-for-twenty-years badly designed boxes and bags in the gluten-free aisle, good design really stands out to me. It’s like a little voice (in this case a big voice) is calling out from the shelf, saying: “Buy me!”SMplustypeThis is what I was pondering at Wegmans a few months ago, as a newly redesigned product line really jumped out at me in a good way: a row of Simple Mills brand mixes.  After reading the boxes and seeing the banner on top: “Inside you’ll find 7 hand-selected, unprocessed ingredients you’ll fall in love with!” the banana muffin and pumpkin muffin mixes practically jumped into my shopping cart.

Simple Mills mixes are paleo-friendly, grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free and low carb, made in a dedicated gluten-free facility and are certified gluten-free. Simple Mills “believes that when you eat better, you feel better….We are passionate about providing whole food baking mixes that are good for you, easy to make and taste absolutely amazing.”

To this we can attest. Click this link to find out more about their quality ingredients.

IMG_1053The ingredients on the banana muffins (shown above) are: almonds, banana, organic coconut sugar, arrowroot powder, organic coconut flour, baking soda and sea salt.  You just need to add 3 eggs, water and oil. We also added a sprinkle of diced walnuts.

Compare that to the crazy long ingredient lists on so many other GF products. The more processed foods are, the more ingredients they have. Once prepared, Simple Mills banana muffins have only 7 g. of sugar, 3 g. of protein and 2 g. fiber per serving!  I add 1-2 T of flax seed for extra fiber on top of that and no one in my family even notices.  :)  They just love the taste of these muffins all by themselves. No need for butter or anything else. They are perfect for breakfast or as a mid-morning school snack for my girls.

IMG_1562The 8 ingredients on the pumpkin muffins (above) are similar: almonds, banana, organic coconut sugar, pumpkin, arrowroot powder, organic coconut flour, organic spice mix, baking soda and sea salt.  Again, just add eggs, water and oil. These bad boys only have 5 g. of sugar, 4 g. protein and 3 g. of fiber per serving!  Again, I add flax for even more fiber, as that is a big issue in my household. These muffins are just as good on their own, but add a dollop of whipped cream and you may just think you are eating pumpkin pie.

After realizing how amazing these first two products were, I contacted Simple Mills and they sent us a box of their pancake & waffle mix and pizza crust mix to try as well.

IMG_1299First off, the pancakes were amazing. The above photo shows how many one box makes. I ate many of them without using maple syrup and whipped topping, which is unheard of for me. These tasted heartier and more “gourmet” than your run of the mill GF pancakes. Again: 8 ingredients. Just add eggs, milk (we use coconut milk) and oil. Two pancakes provide 2 g. fiber, 3 g. protein and other good stuff. As with any pancake mix, my family added mini chocolate chips and diced walnuts and my daughters really loved these with a little syrup and Cocowhip. Another thing I love about Simple Mills pancakes is how long they keep you satisfied for, so you don’t feel hungry an hour later like you do after eating regular pancakes.

IMG_1991Last by not least is Simple Mills pizza dough mix. And once again: 8 ingredients. Prepare it by following the directions on the box (you’ll need apple cider vinegar, oil and water). They provide a good tip on the box about putting oil on your hands when you are spreading out the dough. That really helped…

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We made an amazing dairy-free pizza with it by following this recipe: http://thewholetara.com/best-healthy-vegan-pizza/ and I’m so glad we did. Don’t expect a light, fluffy, airy pizza. This pizza crust is hearty, gourmet-tasting and crispy.  I also spread it extra thin and cooked it a little longer, because I like pizza thin and crispy. It was the perfect crust for the toppings in that recipe. I have made it twice since then and my girls & I love it. I honestly don’t think it would work as well with any other pizza crust.

For more recipes  using Simple Mills products, visit their recipe page. Lots of good stuff there…

In conclusion, I am a huge fan of this brand. I have made many batches of muffins since I found these mixes, as well as a few pizzas. I look forward to trying their other mixes once they are available in my area or I find a good deal online. We still need to try these other Simple Mills mixes: vanilla cake mix, chocolate muffin & cake mix, artisan bread mix, and chocolate chip cookie mix.  The average price of these mixes is $7.50 each from what I have found. To me, it’s worth the money in that Simple Mills products taste great, they have minimal, quality ingredients and are easy to make. I’ll pay an extra few bucks for all of those qualities in a GF food anytime. Life’s too short to eat bad GF food!

Now, for the giveaway:

Simple Mills is offering a free box of their banana muffin mix and a free box of pancake & waffle mix to TWO winners. So each winner will get 2 free products mailed to them!

Entry is simple, as always:  Comment below, letting me know what entices you most about these mixes and why you think your family would like to try them.

This giveaway ends Friday, January 29, 2016, at midnight. I’ll pick two winners randomly and will notify them by email. They will have 24 hours to get back to me with their addresses; otherwise I’ll pick new winners. U.S. residents only please. Good luck!

Banza Pasta Review and Giveaway!

IMG_1311I’ll tell you right off the bat — my family loves this pasta. Every single one of us. We bought it for the first time about 2 months ago and it is the only kind of pasta we have bought since then. I have given away my other boxes of GF pasta because they just seem so un-nutritious (is that a word?) to us now — compared to Banza pasta. I don’t want to use the word “unhealthy” because, obviously, regular GF pastas aren’t junk food, but they are definitely nowhere near as healthy as Banza pasta is… Take a look at this comparison on the box:

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When I first saw boxes of Banza in Wegmans, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the great graphic design on the packaging and then the fact that it is made from chickpeas, which my daughters and I love!  Once I got home and had more time to read the box, I realized what a jackpot I had discovered…

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Banza vs. Gluten-Free Barilla
In comparing a 2 oz. serving of Banza with a 2 oz. serving of Barilla GF (what we ate before), Banza has 8 g. fiber while Barilla has 1.  Banza has 14 g. protein while Barilla has 4. Banza has 32 g. carbs while Barilla has 44. Banza has 4% calcium while Barilla has none. Banza has 30% iron while Barilla has none. Banza is non-GMO while Barilla is not. Calories are pretty even: Banza is 190 and Barilla is 200. Banza is made in the USA (yes!) and Barilla is made in Italy.

There are a few places where Barilla wins out: Barilla has 1 g. total fat and Banza has 3.5, and Barilla has no sodium while Banza has 60mg, if those comparisons are important to you. Barilla boxes are 12 oz. and Banza boxes are 8 oz. Lastly, Barilla is probably about $1 cheaper a box than Banza.

That being said, Banza still wins hands-down in our book, and we hope we never have to go without it. Banza has everything my family needs. We all struggle to get enough fiber (and Banza really helps), one of my daughters has low iron, and we all need more protein, which is why we eat this almost every night now. If it’s not the main course, it’s a side dish…

IMG_1309We make it according to the directions and then usually saute it with steamed vegetables, olive oil, garlic and a few spices…

Our new favorite way to use Banza is sauteing artichokes in olive oil, with garlic, garlic salt and oregano, then mixing in the cooked pasta, which tastes absolutely gourmet!

IMG_1304My daughters and I all love chickpeas so we knew we would like the taste of this pasta. We didn’t expect it to taste exactly like your typical GF pasta (usually made from corn, rice & soy) since Banza is made mainly with chickpeas, but we enjoyed the taste immediately. Even my husband (who doesn’t eat plain chickpeas) loves Banza and said, “This is all we are buying from now on,” because of the nutritional content of this pasta, mainly the fiber, protein and iron, which has been a game changer for our family.

IMG_1245Another way we enjoy Banza is topped with bruschetta and pesto…but it is also good with butter and parmesan cheese, or topped with spaghetti sauce.

IMG_1239We often have it as our main course, mixed with chicken, chopped artichoke hearts and a side of GF garlic bread — a meal I could eat every day.  :)

Because regular GF pasta doesn’t have fiber, we hardly ever ate it, but now we eat Banza all the time because of the fiber….and protein….and iron, not to mention great texture and taste. It holds its shape like no other GF pasta I can think of. No more crumbly, tiny broken apart pieces of pasta. Just whole pieces from now on. We are never going back!

Check out Banza on Facebook and twitter to learn more.

And now for the giveaway, which I wish my own family could win!  ;)
Banza has generously offered to donate one free variety case (6 boxes, mixed shapes) to one lucky winner!  All you need to do to enter is comment here and let us know WHY you are so excited to try Banza. Contest runs through December 1st at midnight. Then I’ll randomly pick a winner and email that person. If I don’t hear back within 24 hours I’ll pick someone else. U.S. residents only please. Thanks and good luck!


Disclaimer: Nobody put me up to this review and I bought all the Banza myself. I’m just sharing products that we love and I was not compensated in any way. Opinions are my family’s and my own.
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Blake’s All Natural Foods Review and Giveaway

Hello from soon-to-be-snowy Buffalo!  A chill is in the air and our long winter is soon to be upon us…156561_600

Of course, with two wood stoves and lots of wood cut and ready to burn, we keep it quite cozy around here for these 6+ chilly months. That being said, we still need our comfort food and quick meals on busy nights. Some of our easiest and yummiest go-to meals for jam-packed, wintry nights are waiting just inside the freezer. It’s a relief —when you have no energy to make dinner — to find these meals that just need to be baked before satisfying the whole family’s tummies.

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This is where Blake’s All Natural Foods come in with their “carefully handcrafted, made-from-scratch” gluten-free shepherd’s pie and chicken pot pie….

Screen shot 2015-11-03 at 11.01.58 AM The main thing you need to do is plan ahead for baking time (375 degrees for 40 minutes for the shepherd’s pie, and about 50 minutes for the chicken pot pie.) And if your family has really large appetites, add a quick side dish. Other than that, just pop these in the oven and go get some stuff done til the timer rings. My entire family can attest that both of these GF meals are delicious, hearty and satisfying.

IMG_2089Blake’s gluten-free chicken pot pie boasts a tasty cornbread top crust and savory gravy, is healthy and filling (especially for a kid) and nice and chunky… As I said, there is just a top crust, which I love. It’s the perfect balance between crust and filling…

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As you break through the top crust with your spoon, you find generously sized chunks of potatoes, white meat chicken, tender peas and carrots in a light gravy…

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It makes for a very satisfying meal on a cold night, especially with a quick side like veggies, pasta or bread. Here is the nutritional information:

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Blake’s shepherd’s pie is equally tasty. After you fluff up those mashed taters, you’ll feel like you’re eating a freshly cooked, homemade meal.

IMG_2073The taste and texture of the sweet corn, mixed with the savory, mildly seasoned ground beef and warm potatoes is the perfect combination.

IMG_2082I don’t know what else to say except my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Here is the nutritional information:

Screen shot 2015-11-03 at 10.07.29 AMWe tried the “all natural” versions of these meals, but they are both also now available in organic!  And, although I haven’t been able to find it locally, Blake’s hearty beef stew is also gluten-free — and looks amazing!

You may also notice that the packaging has changed since we took these pictures, as this post, like others, has been a long time coming, and we have eaten Blake’s many times since then. Regardless of the packaging, what hasn’t changed is how delicious and wholesome these products really are. To learn more about Blake’s, please visit their website. To find their products near you, check out their handy store locator.

Now for the giveaway!  Four lucky winners will win FOUR FREE PRODUCT COUPONS each, courtesy of Blake’s (offer good up to $5.99 retail each item). There are 16 of these coupons to split between 4 of you.

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To enter, just comment below and let us know what you currently do for last-minute GF meals for your family on super-busy nights. That’s it. You don’t need to share it or tweet it or like anyone else’s page or do any of those annoying giveaway requirements other blogs have. Just comment below before midnight on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. Then I’ll randomly pick 4 winners, email them and mail them their prizes once they get back to me with addresses. If I don’t hear back from anyone within 24 hours I’ll pick another name to replace them. Easy as chicken pot pie!  :)


Disclaimer: Blake’s initially sent me 4 free products to try for this review but I have bought many more on my own since then.  I only promised an honest review and was not compensated in any other way. Opinions are my family’s and my own.
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10 Last-Minute, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free Halloween Party Treats

HallTreats2As Halloween parties lurk right around the corner, we have put together 10 last-minute sweet treats for your g-free kids and their school ghouls. Some of these goodies aren’t quite as healthy as the last 10 we posted (click here for gluten-free, nut-free, healthy Halloween treats) but they don’t take long to make, are kid-friendly and will bring rave reviews…

1)  Spooky Halloween Popcorn Hands from Yummy Healthy Easy
Kids have so much fun playing with these, plus they love the ring that they can keep…

Popcorn-Hands-32)  Peeps-topped Cupcakes from Betty Crocker
Peeps are gluten-free! Just make your favorite brand of GF cupcake and top with Peeps!

179430d8-5ba1-4ac5-af66-26ed91cae14e3)  Pretzel Bones from Simply Thrifty
I would use Snyder’s GF pretzels as they are firmer than others. Perfect for little fingers…

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4)  Macaroon Brains from Home Grown Families
Even easier: Buy already-made GF macaroons and just decorate those!

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5)  Marshmallow Pops from NJ Family
I have made these for years for my girls, minus the sticks. You can also just cover the marshmallows halfway w/ chocolate and add sprinkles. Kids adore these.

Marshmallow-Pops-e859f6fb6)  Triple Marshmallow Pops from The Cake Merchant
If you want to go an extra step and make more substantial pops, try these…

MarshmallowPops7)  Ghost Meringue Cookies from Celiac Family
These are family favorites of Heather’s, which she adapts for every holiday…

Ghostcookies8)  Strawberry Ghosts from Taste of Home
Warning: teachers might be caught sneaking these little gems…

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9)  Halloween Jello Cups from Teressa Jane
Creamy, crumbly and jiggly…what’s not to love?

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10)  Pumpkin Rice Krispy Treats from Home Stories A to Z
Is this the Great Pumpkin Patch, Linus? Set these cute little punkins on crushed GF cookies for a standout party treat…

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OR…..if you really don’t have much time, simply just bring in gluten-free candy in cute Halloween bags!  Here is a link to a 2015 PDF of safe GF candy from the Celiac Disease Foundation.

Gluten-Free, Nut-Free Healthy Halloween Treat Roundup

HalloweenTreatsHey everyone! No need to spend hours on Pinterest looking for ideas this month…
My daughters and I gathered this collection of 10 fun, easy-to-make, healthy, kid-friendly recipes from all over the web. Perfect for those upcoming Halloween parties or just special treats for your child’s lunches or after school. There is something gluten-free here for everyone, while also keeping in mind those with nut allergies…

1) Apple Mummies, from Two Healthy Kitchens
Grab that apple peeler and have some fun!

THK-Apple-Mummies2a2) Halloween Fruit Dip, from Fork & Beans
Make sweet shapes with cookie cutters, then dunk into a fruity, mild dip…

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3) Ghost Pops, from Nugget Markets
No PB involved. Just bananas, coconut, raisins and chocolate chips. Fun on a stick!

ghost_pops4) Witches’ Broom Sticks, from Thrifty Jinxy
Use GF pretzel sticks, cheese sticks and chives for this fun treat…

Witch’s-Broom-Snacks5) Jack-O-Lantern Fruit Cups, from Janice Amee’s Gluten Free
Kids will love fishing fruit out of these adorable, fragrant pumpkins with their little fingers…

get-attachment-146) Clementine Pumpkins and Banana Ghosts, from One Little Project at a Time
Perfect for little hands and little tummies…

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7) Mandarin Orange Pumpkins, from Simple Girl
Let your kids help draw all kinds of Halloween faces onto the tops of fruit cups! You could use peaches, too, in addition to mandarins…

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8) Clementine Pumpkins (unpeeled), from The Princess and the Frog
What could be simpler? Just grab that Sharpie and go!

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9) Mummy Drink Boxes, from The New Witty’s
Juice box are always a welcomed sight for thirsty kids, especially when they look like adorable mummies…

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10) Pumpkin Veggie Tray, from Taste of Home
Kids, teachers and room moms alike won’t be able to resist these little dippers…

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Do you have any other simple, healthy ideas to share?  If so, please comment below… Thanks!

P.S. If you’re not so worried about providing super-healthy snacks, here is another round-up of sweet treats, which are also gluten-free and nut free.

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I’m back!

QuoteHi everyone. Just wanted to thank you all for your patience as I know I haven’t been posting regularly for a while now. Life kept getting in the way, but I’m back with renewed interest. Various health issues (not gluten related) have been factors, as well as travel, irish dance, job searching and the weather, too, in fact. Sometimes it’s just too nice outside to be inside on the computer! Anyhow, I’m committing to posting more regularly now (my goal is a few times per month) so I hope that you find what I share to be helpful in your g-free kid’s life. Sometimes, when you’ve been at it as long as I have, you forget what it’s like for those who are new at this whole thing. I want to be there for you, though, so please comment here or on Facebook to let me know your thoughts (show me you’re out there to keep me motivated to keep this site going!) and also let me know if there is anything special you would like to see on my site. Thanks again!  ~Katie

Cinnamon chips: a GF recipe from school!

IMG_6752Yep, this recipe for “Cinnamon Chips” actually comes from my daughter’s 6th grade “Home & Careers” class, although I’d say kids ages 3+ could help make these. Of course, it wasn’t originally gluten-free since it called for flour tortillas, but by easily switching them to corn tortillas, we’re all set! My daughter made these at home today and they were awesome!  I was totally surprised by how crispy and tasty they were. Since corn tortillas are smaller we felt like 2T of sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon was way too much for this little tortilla, so instead we used this perfect-for-the-occasion Cinnamon Sugar Grinder from Trader Joe’s. Your g-free kid is sure to love cranking the grinder to cover it w/ the sweet mix and cutting it with the pizza cutter. Original recipe is below. Have fun!

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P.S.  We didn’t use parchment paper and she brushed on the water with clean fingers since we didn’t have a pastry brush. Such an easy, fun recipe for kids!  :)

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