Seeing how gluten and I don’t always get along, I am always looking for new fun gluten-free goodies to try. Seriously, it’s amazing how much stuff gluten and wheat is in without you even realizing it. Obviously bread and crackers are culprits, but cheese? Yep. Lots of cheese products feature the big G. So when I heard about the family-owned company Riega Foods, which happens to operate in my hometown of Kansas City (What! What!) and happens to specialize in truly gluten-free products (not just products “without gluten ingredients”—this stuff is tested to ensure gluten-free authenticity of less than 20 ppm in every bite. Bam!), I knew I had to bite into it. (Hey, the site is new. I just can’t resist the food puns…) Now, Riega Foods makes two different varieties of gluten-free goodies: Cheese Sauce Mixes and Le Pain des Fleurs Crispbreads.
Riega Foods’ Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce Mixes
First, let’s cut the cheese. Er, that came out wrong. Here are the types of cheese sauce mixes I tried, minus the Pepper Jack. Seeing that I wanted to try these mixes on both pasta (a la Kraft Macaroni & Cheese) and broccoli (Is there a better complement to broccoli? I think not.), I whipped up a little of each for this taste-test. And they’re super simple to make: just add some milk (I tried both skim milk and unsweetened plain coconut milk, and they both turned out well) and whisk in. See them looking all pretty and cheesy on my stove? Note the broccoli roasting at 425 degrees in the oven and my leftover non-gluten-free Runaroni pasta coming up to a boil.
It seemed logical—at least to me—that the Alfredo should go with the pasta, and that the White Cheddar and Yellow Cheddar could be compared as a broccoli topping. So that I did. A look at the cute running-inspired pasta once mixed:
And the cheese-on-broccoli action. Looks pretty tasty, right?
Well, despite the strong cheesy flavor and the fact that it’s, you know, gluten-free, GMO- and MSG-free, all-natural and high in calcium, I found it to be just too darn salty. Like, get-me-a-huge-glass-of-water salty. Like I-just-swallowed-seawater salty. Like can-I-please-get-some-acidity-to-balance-this-out? salty. As a dipping sauce, I could only use the smallest, tiniest bit of cheese to really enjoy the broccoli. With that said—the Alfredo was much better when thinned out and spread out over the serving of pasta. Still probably a touch too salty for my taste but not too shabby.
And the nutritionals are pretty good on these. Besides all the stuff I mentioned before, each two-serving package of mix has 50 calories, 1 gram of fat, 7 carbs, 6 sugars and 2 grams of protein. The official count on sodium is 680 milligrams—which is high. But if you’re someone who is looking for a more-natural gluten-free option to the traditional blue box, this isn’t a bad way to go when paired with some gluten-free pasta. Just use very, very sparingly on veggies or in any other application.
Riega Foods’ Le Pain des Fleurs Crispbreads
Up next were the Le Pain des Fleurs Crispbreads. Although there are three varieties available, I just tried the Buckwheat.
Now, I’m no fool. I know gluten-free crackers and breads rarely taste like the real deal. (What is it about gluten that is just so wonderfully delicious?!) And, to be honest, I’ve only had buckwheat noodles before. So I’m no buckwheat connoisseur. But I found these to be really buckwheaty. (Yes, that’s now a word.) They were a powerful little crispbread on their own. Airy and light, they actually had very little salt in them (I could have actually used more—there’s no pleasing me, right?), but I really wasn’t a huge fan of the super-strong buckwheat taste. So, naturally, I did things to make the crispbreads less of a main feature and more of an eating vessel for other delicious things. Like soup. And cheese!
I topped a couple with an aged Gruyere, and it was immediately better. But not quite there…so I tried a drizzle of my latest Healthy Obsession. Oh, hello, there lover.
Yep, a little balsamic reduction and this crispbread was less buckwheat, more balanced and much, much tastier. With just 70 calories for four crispbreads, these are a gluten-free crispbread worth trying if you’re either a lover of buckwheat or you enjoy getting creative. I have to imagine these would be really good with dips, smoked salmon and any salty or funky cheese—maybe even with a little arugula. Heck, maybe even a bit of the Riega Foods Cheese Sauce Mixes, although I didn’t try it…
You gluten-free peeps out there: What are a few of your favorite g-free versions of foods that are normally not so gluten-free? Would love to hear it! —Jenn