It's been a while since I did any product reviews and since I now have more of a readership of people who are both kosher and gluten-free I thought I'd start doing product reviews more regularly of products that have a hechsher (a kosher certification) and are also gluten-free. Everyone accepts different hechshers, so use your own judgment or consult your local halachic authority if you have questions. In addition, I'm hoping these product reviews will be just as useful for readers who are halal or vegetarian/vegan, or who are just plain ol' gluten-free and looking for some new GF products to try!
NANA'S NO-GLUTEN COOKIES
Kosher Certification: Kof K Pas Yisroel - Pareve
Info for Special Diets: All gluten-free products are vegan and contain no dairy, no refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, cane or beet sugars, cholesterol or trans fats.
Review: I wanted so much to like these cookies or at least find them edible. After all, there aren't that many products on the market that are reliably gluten-free, vegan, have no refined sugar and are reliably kosher. So I was terribly disappointed the second I bit into the No Gluten Cookie Bars - Berry Vanilla. They were incredibly grainy, had weird crunchy unidentifiable hard bits in them, and had a weird berry flavor but no actual pieces of berry. They were impossibly dry and I couldn't really taste any vanilla - But ultimately, I don't think there's any flavoring that could have countered the horrible, inedible grainy, crumbly texture. I couldn't bring myself to take more than two small bites, and when I had a friend take a bite they spit it out.
The Nana's No Gluten Chocolate Cookie was more edible. It was very, very mealy - It tastes like they use a coarse grain rice flour instead of a finely ground one. But it at least tasted pretty chocolatey. I can definitely a child enjoying this cookie. I didn't enjoy it and could only bring my chocoholic self to eat half of it, but it is a healthier option for parents with food-allergic kids they prefer not to feed sugar to.
I hate giving bad reviews, but my conclusion about Nana's products is this: If these taste good to someone, I would guess it's because they have gotten use to substandard gluten-free products. Folks, you don't have to settle for low-quality products that don't taste like real cookies! If can make good gluten-free vegan cookies at home, why can't a professional baking company make an edible product?
You can purchase Nana's No-Gluten Cookies here or at your local health food store or Whole Foods.
PEREG QUINOA MIXES
Kosher Certification: Badatz Ateret Shalom, Badatz Yoreh De'ah, CRC of the US and Canada, and the Orthodox Union (OU) - Pareve
Info for Special Diets: All products marked gluten-free. Vegan, pareve, no sugar. No visible nut or soy ingredients but I haven't been able to verify that their spice mixture is free of these allergens.
Review: Who needs boring old rice pilaf when you can have all the flavor and texture of a pilaf combined with the unbeatable nutritional profile of quinoa, that legendary "supergrain" that's not really a grain at all? I took this photo at Kosherfest back in the fall. I discovered and tasted and photographed so many new kosher gluten-free foods, and then promptly neglected to ever do a comprehensive post about my discoveries. Oops. Then a few months ago I went to Rockland Kosher, a huge kosher grocery store in Monsey, NY. Among a bunch of gluten-free goodies I found there, they carried Pereg Quinoa Mixes, which I'd tasted at Kosherfest and loved but didn't think I'd find in any stores near me. I bought two different flavors - Quinoa Mix with Vegetables and Italian Style Quinoa Mix. They also make one with mushrooms.
These quinoa mixes come in convenient plastic jars so they can be easily poured for measuring. They contain all natural ingredients, and of course are gluten-free. The ingredients include spices, raisins and dried vegetables - No MSG or preservatives. No rinsing is necessary, unlike with quinoa bought in bulk. Just follow the simple directions on the package and you end up with a fluffy and attractive quinoa pilaf that has a good amount of flavor to it. I love these mixes - Though I make my own quinoa pilafs from scratch, sometimes I just do not have the time to cook. I'm not a fan of plain steamed quinoa, so having a mix like this means I can have a flavorful side dish in a short amount of time without resorting to nutritionally-empty packaged white rice pilaf.
I really enjoy these pilafs and am excited to see them on the American market. My only suggestion for improvement is that instead of following the directions on the package I recommend using vegetable or chicken stock in place of water, to add more flavor to the quinoa. I also recommend sauteing the quinoa in the oil for more than 20 seconds before adding the water.
You can purchase Pereg Quinoa Mixes here or at your local kosher grocery.