Here’s Jules’ second report on the most innovative, healthy, allergy-friendly new foods on the market.

Green Valley Organics®

I sampled Green Valley’s plain and flavored (fruit-on-the-bottom) yogurts, Crème Fraîche-Style Sour Cream and probiotic-rich Kefir. Whatever preconceptions you may have about the taste of lactose-free milk products, throw them aside! I was totally impressed with the flavor, texture, subtle sweetness and nutritional profile of all these items. Because of the sweetness left after lactose breakdown, Green Valley yogurts actually require less sugar than most. Even the plain flavors of their yogurt, Kefir and sour creams are pleasantly un-plain.

Since returning from the Fancy Foods Show, I’ve used their lactose-free yogurt and sour cream in my gluten-free baking. I’m happy to report no difference in performance or taste as a baking ingredient. The younger set in my house has also been quickly converted to these yogurts as a favorite for eating straight from the fridge.

When I sat down with Green Valley Organics owner Jennifer Lynn Bice at the show, I knew I was going to like her. Bice’s parents started raising grass-fed goats for milk on their family farm (Redwood Hill Farm®) in 1968 – on what later became the first Certified Humane® goat dairy in the United States. Bice later branched out and acquired a dairy farm (Green Valley Organics®) and she carried her philosophy of good stewardship and humane practices to this cow dairy facility. Although goat milk dairy is often tolerated by those with lactose intolerance, Bice decided to make Green Valley Organics® a fully lactose-free cow dairy producer to offer yet another option to lactose-intolerant customers.

Their process of creating organic lactose-free dairy products is quite simple – they add natural lactase enzymes to the milk to break it down into simple sugars, pre-digesting it in a way and actually making it somewhat sweeter in taste. Without the use of chemicals or reducing the nutritional profile of the dairy in any way, the result is Green Valley Organic’s line of lactose-free, real dairy, kosher-certified, gluten-free products.

Bice said they pay a living wage to all their employees, providing them full health care and benefits, as well, and compensate their family farm producers with the highest pay for milk production in the industry. The farm is now powered by on-site solar panels too, and they are dedicated to bio-diversity, composting and organic pest reduction (a.k.a. barn swallows!).

If you’re not milk allergic or avoiding casein but merely having trouble with lactose (as many celiacs do), you’ll want to try these healthy choices for yourself.

Eat Well & Enjoy Life

These three “brothers from another mother” launched their alternative to traditional chickpea hummus last year in the form of edamame, white bean and yellow lentil “no chickpea” hummus varieties. Their tag line, “We know different beans about hummus,” alludes to the fact that the founders met while learning traditional hummus working for hummus giant Sabra. They came away with a profound appreciation for the dish that fed their curiosity to find new and unique beans to showcase traditional Middle Eastern flavors.

Their first foray into un-hummus innovation proved so successful that at this year’s Fancy Foods, they released four even more wild flavors (each complimented by a healthy Sabra-like dollop of “toppings” in the middle) and unveiled appealing new packaging. They call their products a “Wow flavor experience,” and, boy, did they deliver!

  • Their Classic (yes, this one is chickpea) Hummus topped with whole grain quinoa, roasted pepitas and toasted sesame seeds brought unexpected but not unpleasant, texture and delicious flavor; 
  • The punch of poblano peppers and corn topping their Spicy Red Lentil Chipotle Hummus will be a big hit with anyone who appreciates a respectable amount of heat;
  • The Wasabi Edamame Hummus with Ginger and Black Sesame Topping was unexpectedly mild, delivering just the right amount of wasabi flavor enhanced by the pronounced ginger finish, without the fire from straight-up wasabi;
  • The Sweet & Spicy Black Bean Hummus with Spicy Roasted Corn Relish Topping could easily double as a side dish itself – it reminded me of a really tasty (not at all bland) plate of refried beans.

The entire line is gluten-free and dairy-free, although their new Grab N’ Go snack packs contain gluten pretzel crisps–but, of course, I strongly urged them to change that!

Bold Organics

This newest entrant to the gluten-free frozen pizza market launched right, inviting members of the media to a Gluten-Free Pizza Party. How fun to get to choose my own toppings and meet the founder and the chef behind the label.

These personal-size pizzas* are not only organic and gluten-free, they are dairy-free and free of lactose, casein, whey (like I said, truly dairy-free), egg, peanut and tree nuts–crust and all. They use Follow Your Heart® vegan mozzarella, so some of their flavors are vegan, as well. It’s about time someone made a frozen gluten-free frozen pizza that doesn’t contain dairy in the crust!

The party was quite busy, so the pizzas were understandably undercooked as they rushed to give us all a slice. I am eager to try this brand at home so I can control the bake time and give the crust a proper taste-test. The four flavors released are Vegan Cheese; Veggie Lovers; Meat Lovers and Deluxe.

*Note: Bold Organics describes their pizzas as serving two but they seemed more suited to serving one.

Tandoor Chef®

The nation’s #1 selling brand of frozen Indian cuisine, Tandoor Chef® has an impressive line-up of 15 gluten-free appetizers and meals, many of which are also vegan. Some, like their new Balanced Vegetarian line (including dishes like Paneer Tikka Masala), are marked with their tagline, “Yin, Yang, Yum” and offer three dishes in one frozen meal. They’re also trans-fat-free, lower in sodium (from typical Indian dishes) and higher in protein and fiber.

If you’re at all familiar with Indian food, you’ll recognize dishes like Palak Paneer (spinach with cheese cubes and savory sauce) or Channa Masala (my favorite go-to vegan dish with chickpeas, onions, tomatoes and peppers). Tandoor Chef® provides some new twists, though. Their Masala Dosa is an intriguing dish of rice and lentil crépes stuffed with vegan potatoes and onions and served with a side of chutney. They also offer some varieties that are definitely not Indian, such as their Pad Thai entrée.

The plant also processes nuts, soy, wheat and sesame, so read labels carefully and call the company if you have allergy concerns. Tandoor Chef® sends its gluten-free meals out to an independent lab for verification that they are below 20 ppm gluten.

It’s refreshing to have so many gluten-free choices in frozen meals and quite handy for spicing up those office lunches.

*Note: Tandoor Chef® is celebrating February as National Curry Month by hosting a “Get Curried Away Contest.” One entrant will win five years of free Tandoor Chef. The contest closes February 15, 2012.

Follow Your Heart®

A stalwart company in the dairy-free, vegan community, I was glad to see Follow Your Heart® rolling out some new products at this show. Starting in February in Whole Foods only, their new vegan Tartar Sauce and Horseradish will be released (after three months, other stores will be carrying it, as well).

By this April, Follow Your Heart’s other new dressings and sauces will be in refrigerator cases everywhere. I sampled Pesto, Roasted Garlic, Chipotle and Barbeque—and they were quite tasty. They were full of flavor and qualified as wonderful dairy-free substitutes for “the real thing.” These new products are also gluten-free, non-GMO, soy-free and vegan. Nice.


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