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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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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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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Tried & True Sugar Cookie Recipe

Something possessed me to make sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day, and I’m so glad I did. The recipe is below. It’s the same one my Mom used when I was growing up — the only thing I substituted was the flour….These cookies are light tasting, yet durable and have the same great taste I remember as a little girl — many years before going gluten-free. I hope your family will enjoy them as much as ours does!

11107_827108964027722_5543272435459073473_nSUGAR COOKIE RECIPE:

Cream together:
• 1.5 cups confectioner’s sugar
• 2 sticks softened butter

Then add the following:
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1/2 tsp. almond flavoring

Mix together and gradually mix in:
• 2.5 cups GF all purpose flour
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1 tsp. cream of tartar

Combine well and refrigerate dough in ball for 2-3 hours.
When ready, preheat oven to 375.
Roll out chunks of the dough on parchment paper or clean counter, using flour on your roller. Cut out the shapes and place them onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for about 8 minutes or until edges start to brown. Let cool completely.

After they cool completely, make frosting by mixing confectioner’s sugar w/ a little milk and adding a little almond flavor to taste. Add more confectioner’s sugar to thicken. Mix until just spreadable. Enjoy!

Sweet ways to surprise a g-free kid this holiday season

Supporters, this one’s for you!

Is there a g-free kid in your life?  Are you this child’s teacher, “Room Mom”, aunt, uncle, neighbor, Sunday School coordinator, friend of the family, or relative?  Well, all it takes is a little bit of effort on your part to make this g-free kid feel welcome, valuable, and loved for that upcoming school, church or family party.

Your event is likely just one of many that he or she will attend this month, and I can almost guarantee that many other party planners will not think ahead to include gluten-free treats. Sure, there may be fruit, veggies and other naturally g-free foods — which is great — but kids are kids, and a sweet, safe, great-tasting treat is always a welcomed sight. Especially when the “other kids” are gushing about how amazing the donut holes, cupcakes and cookies are, while all the g-free kid is allowed to put on his or her plate is the healthy stuff…

This is where you come in — to light up that g-free kid’s eyes, and to see the gratitude come shining through… So take a bit of time and a few dollars and be the one to make that kid’s day!

Most likely, there is a gluten-free section at your local grocery store. If so, check it out. This time of year there are multiple seasonal offerings that you can pick up, such as these ready-to-enjoy treats:

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There are also several brands of peppermint & chocolate-drizzled popcorn available right now, and plenty of other year-’round goodies. These types of ready-made treats are your safest bet, as you can bring in the package for the child or their parent to read, so they can feel secure that they can indulge safely. Make sure you see the words: “certified gluten-free” or “gluten-free” on the label. Whatever you end up buying, please remember to bring the packaging, as many g-free kids are (understandably) wary of eating anything they can’t prove is gluten-free.

If you’d like to add a little something extra to a plain food, just clean your countertop, spread out some wax paper and drizzle chocolate over plain Snyders of Hanover GF pretzels, “Boom-Chicka-Pop” popcorn, or dip marshmallows in chocolate (you don’t need sticks) and decorate with sprinkles, like you see in the next three photos:

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If you’d like to take it to the next level and bake them something, it’s probably best to check with the g-free kid’s parent first to make sure you do it safely. There are things you need to know and certain ways of doing things in order to make the end result a safe bet. And, no, these are not hard things to do…

Things like cleaning your counter work space well of all crumbs before you start the recipe. And using wax paper, aluminum foil or parchment paper on your cookie sheets, so you are not baking where wheat ingredients just were. Believe it or not, even a small amount of cross contamination can really make super-sensitive kids (like one of mine) sick, so please trust in simple measures and go along with it. Use squeaky clean bowls & utensils for mixing, scraping and removing cookies after baking — or better yet: buy and keep separate ones designated only for GF foods.

Here are some more tips on avoiding cross-contamination. Read it over and let the g-free kid’s parents know you understand the importance of following these measures, or whatever additional measures she requests. As one of these parents, I can tell you how uncomfortable and awkward it is to ask other adults to do these things, and how much easier it is when someone shows that they are happy to do whatever it takes for their awesome, generous & thoughtful gesture to work out well in the end.  🙂  I can also tell you how extra awkward it is having to decline something I don’t trust to be safe…

If they give you the go-ahead, here are 3 super-easy, gluten-free cookie recipes:

3cookiesA) Four ingredient cake mix M&M cookies (You just need GF cake mix: Aldi’s Live G-Free brand is good and cheap, eggs, butter and M&Ms)

B) Flourless Fudge Chunk Cookies (Calls for dark cocoa powder, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla extract, egg white and choc. chips)

C) Three ingredient peanut butter cookies (peanut butter, eggs and sugar) (not for school parties, for obvious reasons)

There are many things you can do beyond these ideas to make that g-free kid in your life feel special, and to bring a tear of gratitude to their parents’ eyes. Whenever anyone in our lives does any of these things for my g-free girls, they earn some serious bonus points from all of us, and we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts.  🙂

Any more ideas or tips?  Feel free to comment….

Grain-free pumpkin pancake muffins

IMG_5186Here is a recipe that my daughter and I created yesterday on an unexpected rainy, fall morning…

I have been grain-free for almost a month now (never felt better) and have been craving some kind of paleo baked good to have for breakfast. My morning apple just wasn’t cutting it any more, so we came up with these pumpkin pancake muffins which really hit the spot!  They are super-moist, soft and delicious….

Grain-free pumpkin pancake muffins:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin tin with Pam. Then mix together:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup 100% pumpkin puree
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • dash of ginger & cloves, or whatever spices you like in pumpkin pie
  • dash of salt
  • diced walnuts
  • mini chocolate chips

IMG_5188Batter will be thick. Divide equally into a 12-muffin tin and smooth tops over with a spoon. Bake for 15-20 minutes until done (ours took 18 minutes). Cool a bit, loosen edges and put pancake muffins onto a wire rack to cool.

My girls love them with whipped cream and say they taste just like pumpkin pie. These will be impossible to keep to myself.  🙂  And that’s okay — we will just have to make more!