I promise, I didn't gorge on samples at San Diego's GFAF Expo and fall into a food coma for this last week...though I might be using some of my favorite finds to fuel me through the chaos of midterms!
As I drown in papers and exams, though, I couldn't resist sharing all the details on the Expo my mom and I attended two weekends ago. For those who don't know, the Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo is the largest special-diet event in the United States and now occurs in seven cities. The goal? Educate, provide sneak peeks of companies' newest products and, of course, ensure that attendees leave with full goodie bags and an even fuller stomachs!
It's true that an overwhelming amount of amazing companies participated in the Expo - and I might have traded my camera for a spoon and fork at several of the booths (oops). But a few products in particular won over my
heart stomach and deserved to be shared!
First off, the most surprising savory favorite. After snacking on plenty of muffin, brownie, cookie and cake bites, my mom and I thought, "Why not get some protein?" when Del Real Foods offered a small bowl of their chicken to sample. I'd seen boxes of Del Real's chicken and beef in my local Sprouts before, but always figured it would taste processed or mediocre. Wow, did they prove me wrong!
The pollo asado tasted tender and juicy without any of the dryness or fat that often accompanies packaged meat. The seasoning wasn't overly spicy, but gave the chicken a punch of Mexican flavor. Next time I want to make some nachos or enchiladas without cooking my own chicken, Deal Real Foods will be my secret weapon!
On the savory side, we both also loved the crackers from Milton's Baking Company. Their chips, compared to others on the market, are baked rather than fried and made from a variety of gluten free grains and beans like brown rice, chickpeas and lentils. I also love that they are free of other allergens, like dairy, eggs, nuts and soy. A delicious gluten free and vegan chip finally exists!
At the Expo, we tried a sample of their multi grain baked chips. Crunchy without being oily, lightly seasoned and no strange aftertaste (as with many gluten free products). In our goodie bag, we also received a sample of Milton's Himalayan Salt chips. I've been devouring these babies with salsa and avocado with dinner. Good news for you? You'll be hearing more about Milton's (and possibly winning your own sample pack) very soon!
Now for the sweets! First off, the one product that Mom actually bought during the Expo: SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds. We both tried the Maple Sugar & Sea Salt flavor and couldn't get enough of the sweet-salty-crunchy combo. Superseedz also offers savory flavors, including Tomato Italiano, Curious Curry, Somewhat Spicy and Super Spicy, but the Cinnamon & Sugar is next on my stomach's bucket list.
How Mom's eating them? Sprinkled on her own oatless oatmeal - which, according to her, melts off the seeds' sugary coating to create a maple-spiced, crunchy porridge. No complaints from her! (Though she did label her bag to protect it from my gluten-eating Dad!)
Next, another huge hit for my mom and I: Daiya's new dairy free Greek yogurt. Unlike other yogurts with coconut bases, Daiya's only contains a little coconut along with other ingredients like pea protein, potato starch and fruit. And, like their other products, these yogurts are all dairy, soy and gluten free!
The booth handed out samples of the Peach flavor, and even though peach usually isn't my thang, I ate it up! The yogurt is creamy with small pieces of fruit mixed throughout. No weird aftertaste and sweet but not overpowering. Right now, Daiya also offers their yogurt in blueberry, black cherry and strawberry.
Finally, one of my favorites: Health Warrior's Chia bar, which is a GF and vegan snack bar that consistent a mainly of chia seeds. According to their website, even though one Chia bar only contains around 100 calories, it offers more omega-3 than salmon, more fiber than oatmeal and more protein than tofu.
I tried the Dark Chocolate Cherry and Acai flavors - and, of course fell in love with the new use of one of my favorite ingredients! The bars have a good balance between chewy and crunchy, and the fruity flavor pops without being overwhelming. Chia bars are the perfect size for a snack during class, but for those needing an even bigger protein boost, Health Warrior also offers a 200-calorie, plant-based Chia Protein bar. Win, win!
Attending the GFAF Expo really can't go wrong. I mean, just picture this: one huge conference room, tons of booths with free samples, and being able to eat ANYTHING in the room. (Add my blender and some comfy PJ's, and this college celiac would be in heaven.)
Besides spending time with my mom and squeezing in some food and relaxation before Midterms insanity, discovering new products to add to my diet is my favorite part of Gluten Free expos. 'Cause living with celiac is like taking a midterm - if you have the right tools and preparation, acing it can be a piece of (gluten free) cake!
*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*
Have you ever attended a gluten free expo? Tried any of the products I discovered and loved? Comment below!