The folks at Claridge Natural Foods, whose brands include Ian's, Glutino, and Gluten Free Pantry, recently sent me an assortment of products to sample. Most were products our family hadn't tried before, and boy was I glad we had the opportunity!
My box included the following: Gluten Free Pantry Chocolate Chip Cookie and Cake Mix, Gluten Free Pantry French Bread and Pizza Mix, Glutino Gluten Free Breakfast Bars in Cherry and Strawberry, Ian's "Go Bars" in both Apple Pie and Cinnamon Bun flavors, and Ian's Animal Cookies.
We must start with my favorite...the Gluten Free Pantry Chocolate Chip Cookie and Cake Mix. I followed the recipe for the cake, and all I can say is, "YUMMY!!!" I really think this is the best gluten-free cake I've ever had, and I've made quite a few in the past 5 years, some from recipes and many from mixes (Betty Crocker, Cherrybrook Kitchen, Namaste, 1-2-3 Gluten Free, Authentic Foods, and Cravings Place, all of which I'd give a very good rating, and various other brands I didn't like as much). But there was something about the Gluten Free Pantry Chocolate Chip Cookie and Cake Mix that was different...it was moister, more flavorful, and you wouldn't in a million years guess it was gluten-free. I think the "secret ingredient" in the recipe that is responsible for the moistness is the sour cream (it calls for one cup -- I used a "light," but NOT non-fat, variety). The cake had a perfect texture, with none of the crumbling or dryness typical of gluten-free cakes. Even two days later it was still moist. (At that point, I froze what little was left so my son could have a special treat to take to the next Birthday party he's invited to! The other kids will be wishing they were as lucky!) Gluten Free Pantry recently changed its packaging, so here's what the box looks like now. I meant to take a picture of the cake itself -- a layer cake that I frosted with homemade chocolate buttercream icing -- but I forgot, it was devoured so quickly!!
I'm definitely going to order more of this mix. Although it's tempting to keep making the cake, I'm anxious to see how the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies turns out! This brand -- and all the brands of the items I'll be reviewing in this post -- are available at most stores that stock a wide variety of gluten-free products. The challenge just may finding a particular product. For example, I had no problem finding Gluten Free Pantry products on store shelves (sometimes even at "mainstream" grocery stores), but I was unable to find the Chocolate Chip Cookie and Cake Mix. So, if you have the same problem, I'd suggest ordering online. I've found the best place to order this product (and all the items mentioned here) is glutenfree.com, which is an online "gluten-free superstore" offering over 30 brands and 500 products. Their prices are the best, too...the cake mix is $4.79, while other sites such as Amazon.com had it listed for around $20 (yes, $20 for the ONE box!).
I have not yet tried the Gluten Free Pantry French Bread and Pizza Mix, but I think I'd like to follow the bread recipe, as opposed to the pizza crust. There are instructions on the box for making it with or without a bread machine.
Now for the Breakfast Bars and "Go Bars"...
I personally prefer the Ian's "Go Bars" which have a rice-crispy-bar consistency. They are nice and soft and both the Apple Pie and Cinnamon Bun flavors are really tasty. I had never tried (or even seen) these products, so it's nice to have another good gluten-free snack bar to choose from, whether you keep them on-hand for a quick breakfast item or as a snack-food. They're individually wrapped and perfect for throwing in a purse or tote bag and taking with you "on the road."
Another great gluten-free travel snack are the Glutino Gluten Free Breakfast Bars, which we sampled in both cherry and strawberry. I had bought these before, in both blueberry and apple. Our gluten-free son isn't nuts about them...but he'll eat them. I think he prefers the Ian's "Go Bars." I have to agree...the Glutino Breakfast Bars aren't bad...they're just a little dry. Although I have to say that the ones I got directly from the manufacturer were "fresher" than those I've bought on store shelves! Overall, they have a good flavor and aren't too sweet. They are also egg-free, casein-free, milk free, cholesterol-free, and low-fat! If you compare the boxes for these two snack bar products, however, it's very revealing. The one I thought would be higher in sugar (Ian's "Go Bars") is actually LOWER (7 g of sugar per bar, as opposed to 13 g of sugar per bar or the Glutino Breakfast Bars). Go figure. I think which kind you prefer is really just a factor of personal preference...they are two entirely different products.
Last but not least are the Ian's Animal Cookies, which come in a 7 oz. re-sealable ziploc-style bag. They are better than other animal cookies we've tried in the past (I can't remember the specific brands we'd tried, but it was a while back, and because they weren't very good, we didn't buy them again). But Ian's are great...crispy and with a good flavor (they taste like "regular" animal cookies). Best of all, they don't have any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives...the kind of product I like to buy for my kids.
I'll keep you posted on the French Bread Mix and let you know how it turns out...