I recently had the opportunity to sample quite a few products from Mixes from the Heartland (thanks Teri) out of Amarillo, Texas.  Here’s a list of the items that were included: Bean Soup Mix; Tex-Mex Pasta Soup Mix; Spinach-N-Chives Dip Mix; Beer Cheese Soup Mix; Cream of Mushroom Soup Mix; Apple Cinnamon Coffee Bars; Corn Bread; and Brown Rice Penne.  Now that’s a lot of sampling but, as always, I happily ate my way through each an every product so that you, my readers are well-informed.  Yes, it took a few weeks to work my way through but I am glad to help provide insights about new companies that cater to us Celiacs.  Oh, and Mixes from the Heartland must know that I am all about convenience because there were really minimal steps involved to turn their pre-packaged dry mixes into warm, satisfying meals, cool dips, and fresh bread.

First up was the Cream of Mushroom soup mix.  Now, I have to confess, I had no idea that each mix made so many portions (I have no sense of proportion – you should see my buying furniture, I think everything fits).  For this mix all you need to add is 2 tablespoons butter and 6 cups milk and whisk it until it dissolves.  It really could not be simpler – okay, you do have to stir it while it is heating, but come on – easy peasy.  In a few minutes (literally) I had a piping hot bowl of soup – and here’s the best part – the taste.  It was rich and creamy (and I used Skim Plus), full of flavor and not too salty (which is always a concern of mine with pre-packaged mixes).  In fact, none of their mixes were even remotely salty but still full of flavor.

For the Tex-Mex Pasta Soup there are actually 3 steps, one of which is adding the mix.  This time you simply brown and drain 1 lb. of sausage (they recommend spicy so who am I to argue).  You then bring 7 cups of beef stock to a boil and toss in the beef, crushed tomatoes (I used plain vs. spicy), and simmer for 15 minutes.  What you are left with is a hearty soup that will warm (and fill you) on the coldest of days – and I can personally attest to that.  It is definitely not a soup for sippers because this is a meal and a fully rounded one at that (well, toss a bit of cheese on the top like I did and you’ll be good to go).

The next soup that made its way into my rotation was a savory Italian Bean soup that was ready to go, again, in minutes.  All that is needed is 8 cups of water, 2 cups of crushed tomatoes, and if you like a bit of ham or sausage thrown in at the end.  I opted to keep my version vegetarian.  This mix was wonderfully spicy (but not overbearing) with three different varieties of beans that made for the perfect legume trifecta.  I have to admit I am not a fan of tomato-based soups but the 2 cups in this recipe was just the right amount so as not to be overly acidic.  The folks at Mixes from the Heartland clearly know what they are doing.

The final soup is one that I no longer see on their site but I hope it will soon be featured again because it was different and fabulous.  It was a Beer Cheese soup mix that was really out of the ordinary in a very, very good way.  I mean what is not to like?  You have gluten-free beer and cheese – need I say more?  Well, I will.  This was clearly not for the dieters among us but it made for a decadent, rich, for lack of a better work cheesy bowl of goodness.  Top it with some gluten-free croutons and you essentially have a meal.

Moving on to the dip category for a bit I decided to make these for nibbles over two evenings.  Again, like all of the mixes I sampled, we are talking no-brainer prep here.  You simply add sour cream or a sour cream and cream cheese blend to a bowl, mix-in the dried dip packet, chill, and voila – perfect dip.  I tried both the Spinach-N-Chives and Cucumber mixes and loved them (as did my non-Celiac other half – who actually raved about all of the products).  What makes these dip mixes so different is that absence of a ridiculous amount of sodium that one tends to find in most soup/dip mixes.  These dips had a much more subtle flavor that was every bit as good as traditional dip mixes without a bunch of fillers, flavorings (mostly artificial), and your daily amount of sodium in a spoonful.  I made one batch with the cream cheese/sour cream blend and one with just sour cream and actually preferred the sour cream alone but that’s just me.  Also, having been impatient and not really chilling a bit of the first batch before indulging – I can safely say that the company is indeed correct in advising you to chill it well before serving.  I actually had some of the leftover dip the next morning and it was so thick I spread it on some gluten-free toast – DELISH.

Somewhere in between my soup and dip extravaganza I sampled some of Mixes from the Heartland’s brown rice penne which cooked up nicely and withstood even the cheesiest of sauces I could top it with.  This leads us to the final and quite possibly most surprising item that I sampled – the Apple Cinnamon Coffee Bar mix.  I have to confess, when I first looked at the package I was thinking, cool, coffee cake but you actually put coffee in the mix to give the it a rich, mocha taste that is truly unique.  The bitter bite of the coffee paired with the sweetness of the apples plays perfectly off on another and creates a harmonious balance of sweet decadent goodness.  Also, being, as I like to call it “baking challenged” these are really foolproof…eggs, cold coffee, butter, mix, bake…done!

I have to be honest and say that I was not sure what to expect with these mixes and was really not holding out much hope – but I was proven completely wrong to judge.  I suppose my previous experiences with store-bought pre-packaged mixes needed to be cast aside (as do yours) because these mixes are unlike anything you will come across sitting next to the Hamburger Helper in the supermarket.  These are wholesome, simple, real ingredient mixes that are fast to whip up and make enough to feed a small army – well, at least a couple of hungry Celiacs.  Do head on over to their site and check out their offerings.  They are currently offering free freight on all orders over $100 and $10 freight on those under $99.  I mean those are some good shipping costs plus they will even throw in a surprise sample with a $25 purchase.  It’s a no-brainer…log-on and give them a try.

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