Redbridge Gluten Free Beer

Redbridge is a gluten-free beer made by Anheuser-Busch, who also makes Budweiser (the American version, not the awesome Czech beer, which is now being sold in the U.S. as Czechvar), Michelob, Becks, and others.  This beer is made, according to the label, with only water, fermented sorghum (sorghum, corn syrup), hops, and yeast.  A 12oz bottle is 127 calories and contains 0 fat, 12.3g carbohydrates (<1g sugar), and <1g of protein.

But really, you didn’t come here to read all the technical details of this beer, you want to know how it tastes.  Well, as an amateur zymurgist who brewed his own beer and felt Guinness stout was a little too light for polite company, it has been difficult to adjust to these lighter gluten-free beers.  However, as my palate slowly loses it’s memory of greater things, and by taste testing among friends who usually drink beer with a color closer to straw or amber than caramel or pitch, the overall impression is, “That’s not bad, it reminds me of an <insert one> Miller/Coors/Budweiser.”  If you are looking for a beer, it is a nice choice.  On a warm day, with a nice slice of (gluten-free) pizza, it is reminiscent of those times before a Celiac Diagnosis when a bottle of beer made for relaxing afternoon.

Thankfully, my wife likes Redbridge and at $30-35 for a24 pack of 12oz bottles, we can keep a case or two around should some friends stop by.

Reusable Swiffer Cloths

If you have one of the Swiffer handles, and it seems like everyone does even if it is in the back of a closet because of having to buy the clothes, break it out again because you can still use it to keep your house clean.  Without ever buying another swiffer cloth again, saving you tons of money in the process.  If you like doing something good for the earth, this will also keep some trash out of the landfill. The big secret is:

Use a Dish Towel

Voila! The convenience of a Swiffer in a reusable form with something you probably already have in your kitchen.  Seriously.  The hooks that hold on a Swiffer cloth are perfect for holding a towel.  Dry, the towel picks up dust, dirt, and pet hair just fine. In combination with your favorite spray cleaner the towel will mop floors quickly and easily.

Using this method has kept the floors in our kitchen and bathroom clean for years, without having to break out a mop.  Cleaning the floors has turned from a project that needed to be planned:  in order to move the furniture, corral the children and animals, bring the mop and bucket out of storage, fill it up, wet mop, let it all dry, move everything back, release the children and animals, into a routine cleaning task that only takes a few minutes a week.

Give it a try and let me know how it works or if you have other suggestions for how to make other disposable products reusable.

Tinkyada Rice Pasta

Tinkyada, the brand of wheat free / gluten-free rice noodles with the cartoon rabbits on the packaging, has become the staple noodle choice in our family, largely because of availability and price. Some other brands of pasta that are better in certain shapes, such as De Boles Corn Spaghetti, but are not always on the store shelves. With Tinkyada, that is not a problem and it is consistently between $3 and $4 per pound.

Any place a wheat based pasta would be used, these rice noodles can go. Macaroni and cheese, whether baked or creamy, stuffed shells, beef and macaroni, or spaghetti. Our favorite dish is lasagna and 9 sheets of lasagna noodles are enough to fill a 9”x13” pan 3 layers deep, 3 noodles wide.

For our extended family members who are not used to a gluten-free foods, the lasagna is a gateway meal to realize that GF isn’t that strange. Though they may eat lasagna with us several times, eventually they will look at their fork and quizzically ask:

“Scott, I thought you couldn’t eat pasta?”
“I can’t.”
“Then how are you eating this?”
“It’s gluten-free lasagna.”
“Really? It’s so good! I never would have known.”

And on we go through the rest of the meal contented that we will eat together many times, happily, even though the food is gluten-free.

One recommendation I will make when using these, or any other rice based noodles, is to follow the Easy and Energy-Saving Cooking directions rather than boiling the pasta for the whole cooking time. Though Tinkyada states their pasta is not mushy, it can become super sticky if under cooked, and slimy if over-cooked. Perfectly cooked is a very fine line and the energy-saving method provides a more consistent meal every time.

If you are new to the gluten-free lifestyle, you can’t go wrong stocking up on Tinkyada you eat pasta regularly. Save those more expensive GF pasta for special occasions knowing you can eat well, at a fair price, any time you want with Tinkyada.

Simple Homemade Cleaning Solution

Keeping a house clean with two small children, two cats, a teenager, and two adults, isn’t easy.  Cups get spilled across a table where they ultimately run into a crack and drip onto a chair, a child, and the floor.  Potty training leads to new, interesting, leaks and deposits.  An unwanted meal is strewn across the kitchen floor.  Inquisitive faces get pressed onto every glass surface in the house.  Dirt and mud are tracked into the tile entryway, up the carpeted stairs, and across the wood laminate in the kitchen.

One of the weapons in my arsenal against keeping our house closer to  than pigsty, is having an effective all purpose spray cleaner.  Something that can cut through dust and fingerprints, and finger paint, on glass and be turned to laminate, linoleum, or tile with the next pull of the trigger, and all wiped down or mopped up by whatever is on hand, be it a cotton dishcloth or the cotton/poly blend t-shirt recently removed from a happy yet filthy toddler.

That cleaner of choice is made with vinegar, alcohol, and a little bit of soap.

In a spray bottle, mix together:

1c distilled white vinegar
1c rubbing alcohol (recommend 70% or higher)
1t dish soap

If you want to make this cleaner with something that you don’t have to worry as much about should a young child get to it, I have made this cleaner with vodka (specifically Tito’s, smooth to sip and gluten-free)  before as a test and it worked well.

I should warn you, the alcohol and vinegar combination can leave a strong odor in the air you might find disagreeable, but it goes away in a few minutes.  Because of the alcohol, which will evaporate, this is for spot cleaning or mopping up small areas.  Don’t go spraying down every surface in your house with it, I don’t want you to get light headed.  It may also be flammable, I haven’t checked, so beware of open flames.  I know, it’s a long list to watch out for, but have you read the warning labels of other things you bring into your house?  This isn’t nearly as bad.

Now whenever there is any cleaning that requires something tougher than a rag and a bit of water, give it a spray with this cleaner and wipe it up.  For something that is really ground in or stuck to the floor, formerly chewed then spit out day-old raisins or that sticker you didn’t notice for example, give the offender a good heavy spray and let sit for a minute or two.  I haven’t found any foodstuff or residue that this hasn’t been able to loosen and remove.

Schar Gluten Free Foods

Schar, a German company dedicated to making gluten free foods, has become my go to brand for high quality gluten-free baked goods. As I write this article I am eating some of their short bread cookies. The cookies have a crisp first bite followed by the thick chewy crumbs of a good short bread and begin with a buttery taste on the tip of the tongue and finishing with a smooth vanilla. They are simply a good cookie.

Before I wax too much about this new find, Schar is such a loved company in my household because the quality of the products is very high, they taste good, and all with a texture close to a non-GF product. Thankfully, Schar products are also easy to find in my local grocery stores.

Prices, as with most GF products, are higher than something made with wheat. When, however, compared to boutique or specialty companies rather than a larger manufacturer the prices are similar.

So far, in my years of eating gluten-free I have tried the Vanilla Wafers, Chocolate Hazelnut Bars, Crispbread, Ladyfingers, and Shortbread Cookies. All of these left me satisfied; I did not want to reach for something made with wheat, barley, or rye.

Schar offers products that go beyond good-enough and are absolutely great.

If you cannot find these, or other, Schar products at your grocery store, Amazon has them for sale.


Best Lightweight Upright Canister Vacuum: The Hoover Windtunnel Air

Cleaning a house that contains small children and pets needs to happen quick and effortlessly.  Part of my strategy for that is a good vacuum cleaner.

After years of using an inexpensive Dirt Devil, in badly need of repairs, the search for a new vacuum cleaner began.  As an obsessive researcher, I looked around, read reviews, checked prices, and talked to friends.  Finding a vacuum with consistently good reviews, even when spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars, was difficult.  After weeks of searching, and with a budget of $200 or less, a friend recommended that we consider a Hoover, as Hoover was the only brand that they considered worthwhile, and this is from someone who has a family member that works for Electrolux.

The only question was: Why Hoover?

The response: Hoover had the least returns when my husband sold vacuum cleaners.  I wasn’t sold, but after reading general reviews for Hoover, they were no better or worse than the other brands.
I happened upon the Hoover Windtunnel Air in a local store, double checked it had decent reviews, and bought it without a second thought.  On getting it home and using it, I’m very pleased with the purchase.

The Good:

Great Suction:  This vacuum picks up more than I expected.  Compared to our old vacuum, this one easily picks up twice as much dirt and dust, including pet hair.  Pet hair isn’t a problem at all including the cats’ seasonal shedding.  I want to put the fabric attachment on and vacuum the cats directly, but don’t think either one would like it.

Long Reach:  Combining the tool handle, crevice tool, hose extension, and hose, this vacuum gives close to 12 feet of reach to use the accessories.  You have more than enough reach to clean a set of stairs or get at cobwebs in the corner of your basement.

Long Cord:  27 feet.  Plugged into a centrally located outlet, I can clean the entirety of the upstairs, or basement, and a set of stairs.

Washable HEPA Filter:  Replace the filter only when it will no longer come clean when washing.  And it will trap 99.9% of dirt and dust.  What’s better than that?

Lightweight:  Weighing in at 12lbs exactly according to my scale this vacuum is easy to lift, carry, and take where you need, making cleaning easy.

Easy Empty Canister: Unlock the canister, hold it in a trash can, and push a button on the side, and the bottom swings free to empty out the canister.   Clean hands, less mess, less dust back in your now clean rooms.

Brush on/off switch: Transfer quickly between carpet and hardwood floors with the press of a button.

The Bad:

On-board Tool Storage:  Stuck right beneath the cord storage a small clip extends to hold the crevice and combined carpet/upholstery tools.  This little clip does a poor job of holding the tools, and after having the tools pop off every time while vacuuming we now store them in a drawer.  A more secure clip or enclosure would be better to keep these items in place.  Not a deal breaker, but annoying to reach for the tools and find them on they have fallen off in another room.

Items Stuck in the Canister:  Paper and other crinkly items get stuck between the air-outlet cone and the side of the canister, and don’t always empty out, so I have to reach in to untangle them, or wait until they become unstuck with a future vacuuming.  Another minor annoyance.

I won’t claim to be a vacuum expert, and use ours mostly to clean up the carpet, but the Hoover Windtunnel Air offers great features and power for the price.  Refurbished, I paid $120 and get a noticeably cleaner house for that money.  You can also buy them used or new at Amazon.