I know it might seem like it, but my transition to a clean, vibrant, healthy diet didn’t magically happen overnight. I didn’t wake up one morning and start slurping kale smoothies and mowing down alfalfa sprouts. It took time, evolution in my taste buds, and some redefining of what I saw as food. And thankfully, there were a handful of store-bought products that I was able to lean on to get me through those first few weeks.
Yes, whole foods always trump anything you can buy in a box, carton, or can, but there is no shame in using such things to aid your transition into healthier eating. And with consumers becoming more conscious in recent years of what's going into their food, many companies have responded by producing some really great products that you don't need to feel so bad about bringing home.
Like a lot of bloggers out there, I occasionally get PR offers to receive products to try and potentially review on this site. To be completely honest, I turn down those offers most of the time. They're always conditional, of course: "...and if you like it, you can share it with your readers...." Before I even try a product, however, I often know whether it is something I'd feel comfortable sharing here. If I know I won't (because their cross-contamination prevention is sketchy, the product doesn't align with my personal values in some way, etc.), I politely decline. I only want the best for you guys, and I can't hawk something I don't believe in.
Back in July, I received an e-mail from the Philadelphia tourism marketing office, asking if I'd like to try out some products local to the area and, if I find anything I particularly enjoy, pass them along to you. This sounded like something I could get behind. Chris and I try to eat/support local as much as we can, in part because we are aware of the many, many reasons why this is beneficial in the grand scheme, and in part because local ingredients tend to be fresher and better tasting. While Philadelphia isn't precisely our local, it's still very close by. Plus, Chris grew up less than an hour out of Philly, where his parents still reside, so there is that connection as well.
And seeing as how this is a gluten-free blog, I was kindly assured that everything they sent would be gluten-free.
When the box arrived from Philly Homegrown, I was pleased with the selection and excited to try the offerings. There were nearly a dozen in all. After much tasting and cooking, I came up with only a handful of items that I would like to recommend to you. Those things that I'm not recommending weren't necessarily bad, but these are the ones I feel enthusiastic about, the ones I'd specifically seek out myself. I humbly suggest trying them out for yourself as well.
And don't worry, we ran everything past our in-house quality control before the tasting even began.
I have what one could call an obsession, maybe even bordering a full-blown addiction. I have a virtually insatiable desire for Kettle Brand Sea Salt and Vinegar potato chips. Really, it's a problem.
All through childhood, I was never a huge fan of potato chips. And then I grew up and stumbled upon Kettle Brand. Their chips are the perfect thickness for a truly satisfying crunch and do not have the same greasiness that is characteristic of so many other brands. I used to love the Cheddar Beer flavor, which has been discontinued and would now be off limits anyway (barley malt, anyone?). The Backyard Barbeque: delicious. The krinkle-cut Salt and Pepper: tasty. The Sea Salt and Vinegar, though? My absolute favorite. Ever.
If you love the intense, biting tang of a salt and vinegar chip, try these. I will warn you, however, they will ruin you for any other. All I have to do now is open the bag to know that a chip will not compare. When you open a bag of Kettle Brand's, your senses are instantly assaulted with that sharp, stinging vinegar scent. And the salty, tongue-eroding flavor leaves my taste buds literally aching for more.
I can't not eat a whole bag. I've resigned myself to the impossibility of it. Were I not concerned for the nutritional ramifications related to the fact that I'm eating potato chips, I could easily put away two whole bags. Probably three. I could go on. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I dream of the day when someone ponies up some money or a shiny prize to test just how many bags I can consume. I can put caloric concerns on the back burner for cash and prizes.
And the caloric concerns are an issue. This is largely because I get stuck in a cycle every so often and (this is where the addiction part comes in), for an entire week or more, I will sit down with a bag every night. I am not exaggerating, and this is something that my twice-a-week Pilates sessions just can't stand up against.
But I think I have found a solution: baked potato chips from Kettle Brand.
Chris and I used to order pizza, oh once, maybe twice a week.
There's an amazing Italian place just two blocks down the street from us with doughy, chewy coal oven pizza. I don't think that the sauce consisted of anything more than, sweet, hand-crushed tomatoes, and each pie was covered with bright, white slices of fresh mozzarella and a few leaves of basil. I still count it among the best pies I've ever had. We ate it often, and with relish.
Then there were those nights, usually on weekends or a late night after a long and stressful day at work, when we craved the kind of pizza that promises to arrive in thirty minutes or less. You know, the kind that comes with garlic-butter sauce on the side and makes you feel a little less human post-consumption?
In any and all of its forms, we loved pizza.
And then I went gluten-free (cue dramatic music).
For obvious reasons, it was immediately apparent that we would no longer be ordering our pizza, so we began to search for GF alternatives. Fortunately, we very quickly came across a well-reviewed, packaged pizza crust mix has changed the way we think about pizza for dinner. Chebe pizza crust cooks up thin and crisp and cracker-like. The blend of dried herbs in this mix was unexpected the first time we made it, but is very good and goes surprisingly well with any combination of toppings or sauces. We now buy it in bulk and always have it on hand for a quick and easy dinner. We have truly come to love this pizza.
Anyone who has ever practiced yoga, meditation, or studied the eastern religions is likely familiar with this salutation. One can find many variations on the translation, but my personal favorite is, "The light within me honors the light within you."
I first encountered the word nearly four years ago when I started practicing Bikram yoga in a funky, steamy studio on the lower east side. The woman who owned the studio had short, spiked pink hair and nearly everyone that practiced there had at least one tattoo. Participants ranged from petite and tautly muscled women to tall, round men. We came from all over the city, for many different reasons, to sweat and stretch and breathe here together, sometimes packed so tightly that our mats were mere inches apart. I still recall it fondly as one of the most open and welcoming places I've been in this city, and, looking back, it seems quite appropriate that we finished each of our hour and a half long sessions by honoring each other in unison, "Namaste."
When I began living gluten-free and seeking out alternative food options, I was instantly brought back to the hours spent in that studio upon discovering Namaste Foods. What a wonderful name for a company dedicated to producing products free of not only gluten, but many other allergens. On the About Us page of their website they explain, "The essence of the phrase is simply that the best part of me wishes you well. And we do wish you well. In seeking to offer you delicious allergen-free foods, we nourish the body. In nourishing the body, we hope to help nourish the mind and the spirit so you can enjoy optimum health."