How do you shop for a gluten-free diet in Filipino grocery stores?

A woman shopping in a grocery store

Proper food labeling regulations by the Bureau of Food and Drugs require indicating common allergens in food. However, rules specific to gluten have not been properly defined as of late. As a result, hunting down gluten will take a bit of legwork in the Philippines.

To start, let’s get to know the culprit: Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. So, as a basic rule, you would need to develop the habit of checking the back labels of items to make sure gluten is not found anywhere in the ingredients of the food you are buying.

You also have to watch out for stealth gluten, which is not as easy to spot. One example is malt. Malt is commonly made from barley and is mostly in items such as energy drinks, for its energy-giving properties, and to enhance flavor and color (So, you’d know that malt drinks, such as Milo chocolate drink, are out.)

Another thing is hydrolyzed vegetable protein, which can be a term used for hydrolyzed wheat protein, a substance that is used as a flavor enhancer in processed food like soups, gravies, and some meat products like hotdogs.

To further guide you in your shopping, here are some common grocery items that you’d need to be more careful about when following a gluten-free diet:

Bread

tastybread

We’re sad to let them go. But we have to say  good bye to bread as we know it.  Common breads on the shelves and even in your bakery is made of wheat, such as white bread and whole wheat bread. But then, you can say hello to a wide variety of alternatives that use other types of flour, such as brown and white rice flour, and cassava starch. Breads like these are safe and available in gluten-free specialty shops, and online at GERALD.ph.

Breakfast Cereals and Oats

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Breakfast cereals should also be studied carefully. Read the back labels, since some that are not even made of wheat, such as corn or rice cereals, may have malt in the ingredients.

Oats, on the other hand, are not related to the varieties of grains you need to watch out for. Studies have also suggested that oats in their pure form are safe for those with gluten intolerance. Although, household brands such as Quaker Oats state that their products may not be completely gluten-free due to manufacturing cross-contamination. So, if you’d want to be on the safe side, better to research brands and see if any of them fit the gluten-free bill.

Pizza & Pasta

Lots of pasta are commonly made of wheat. But thankfully, like bread, alternatives are available that use other gluten-free ingredients such as brown rice. You can find gluten-free penne and spaghetti to use as a substitute for your favorite pasta dishes. A great recipe to try can be found here.

Yes, unfortunately, pizza is also another casualty when going gluten-free, since your classic pizza doughs are made of wheat. But hold that thought! There are gluten-free pizzas available, and you can also play around with gluten-free pizza toppings on gluten-free crust to make your own pizza, also available on GERALD.ph

Alcohol

You can still clink a glass in a gluten-free diet. Just choose wine instead of beer or whiskey that are typically made of malted wheat.

Snacks and Desserts

cakes

Usual sweets like cakes and cookies are also out when following a gluten-free diet. But keep on scouting the grocery aisles as there are countless of other options for snacks like corn chips, or rice cakes that are waiting for you. But if you cannot let go of the cookie and cake craving, there are gluten-free options that do not use wheat, rye, or barley. And they can be as good as any other gluten-laced dessert.

If you want to be a little more careful in your shopping, also consider that some packaged snacks like nuts may be subject to cross-contamination since packaging lines are dusted with common wheat flour. Better to opt for nuts that still come in shells.

It may seem, at first, that the gluten hunt might be  taking over your whole grocery checklist. We can take comfort in the fact that most items are naturally gluten-free. Take foods such as eggs, unprocessed meats, fruits, vegetables, all-natural cheeses and dairy, and other starches such as potato and rice.

To further help, you can also visit WebMDs list of hidden sources of Gluten to arm you in your next grocery shopping.

Have a convenient gluten-free shopping!

References: WebMD, About.com, QuakerOat.com

Typical Pinoy Gluten-Free Food You Should Know

In general, those of us in the Philippines who are avoiding foods with gluten, won’t have a difficult time finding food that is gluten-free in this country. We’re happy to say it actually fits well in the typical Filipino diet. (Rice, anyone?) Most of the carbohydrates and starch sources that we have in our local dishes are commonly gluten-free.

We have already discussed what gluten-free food is, and what the common sources of gluten-free food could be, even grains you’d definitely be glad to know are gluten-free. Let’s see 3 important food items to add to your gluten-free list.

Rice

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Yes, the Filipino stomach won’t be satisfied without this Filipino dining staple. Though a lot might already be aware that rice is not in the gluten foods roster, there are still some that are quite uneasy about it. The good news is, rice is safe for the gluten-intolerant. So, it’s not necessary to avoid rice, when you are craving for it.

Sweet Potato

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Craving for a stick of kamote-cue this afternoon? Go ahead! Though it’s one of the most underestimated carbohydrates around, is lower in the glycemic index  than its other variety: the regular potato. So this is safer for those watching their blood sugar levels. And of course, it’s one of the foods without gluten (Yay!).

Rice Noodles (Bihon)

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As a rice source, we can all instinctively declare now that bihon is not a gluten-laden food. As one of the party favorites that symbolizes “long life”, noodles such as bihon, though will not literally “extend” your life, is technically safe for consumption for our gluten-intolerant friends. However, it needs to be thoroughly washed first, especially if you are not sure where it was manufactured to avoid the risk of cross-contamination[1]. Not a fan of rice noodles? There are some more pasta items you can find in your typical grocery store that are gluten-free. You can even have some home-delivered.

We’ll get to know more gluten-free foods in our next posts so, stay tuned!

Source:

  1. 4310830, 95 -. Sources of gluten – celiac disease foundation. Celiac Disease Foundation, 1998. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

What’s up with Grains?

glutenfree grains

A common assumption (and paranoia) for the gluten intolerant is that any food that is made with grains is laced with our enemy gluten. But let’s clarify. Not all grains contain gluten, but these are the culprits: wheat, barley, and rye, also triticale which is a hybrid of wheat and rye.

Another interesting fact is that pure wheatgrass and barley grass are gluten-free. What we’re concerned about is the gluten in the seeds. However, most find it less risky to simply stay away from the byproduct of these grains altogether, as they may be contaminated during harvest and manufacturing.

There are plenty of other gluten-free grains. It’s the reason why there are still bread, desserts, and even pizza and pasta out there as alternatives for those staying away from gluten.

corn

Corn for example is gluten-free, and it is one that is very readily available here in the Philippines in different forms and varieties: sweet corn, white corn, yellow corn. You can buy them fresh on the cob, frozen or canned in kernels, the white bloated addictive version binatog, served with coconut shavings (also gluten-free–getting the craving, yet?) and of course, popcorn.

filipino food

Rice and potato that a typical Pinoy consumes in pounds per day thankfully, is also gluten-free (so worry not as your pure potato fries, and unli-rice food tripping is safe. 😉 ) If you’re not on the prowl for extraordinary food adventure, the typical meal of rice plus viand, won’t actually be such a hassle.

taho

Soy is also gluten-free and soy-made product if in pure form (without extenders) are safe such as tofu (you can enjoy your tokwa’t baboy guilt-free) and warm and sweet dessert-breakfast taho. Though, since gluten might be a cross-contaminant in the harvest, transport, and storage of soy as most is grown in wheat farms, it is best to still be cautious with this item.

Here are some more samples of gluten-free grains to help when faced with such a dilemma.

– tapioca

– quinoa

– beans

– flax

– chia

– nut flours

– gluten-free oats

– sorghum

– millet

– buckwheat groats (aka kasha)

– arrowroot

– amaranth

– teff

– yucca

You may also visit the complete list from Celiac.org here.

Have some of your own tips you would like to share to help with the gluten-free diet?

Leave some in the comments! 🙂

 

Know Your Status: Are You Gluten Sensitive?

food-allergies

A good number of people already know that gluten is found in various starchy carbohydrate sources, such as wheat, barley, and rye.

Here in the Philippines, we take pride in our carbohydrate-rich cuisine. However, since gluten intolerance is still not a familiar concept to many of us, we typically do not associate gluten sensitivity when experiencing discomfort after certain meals. Allergy or intolerance, specific to gluten, is hardly even thought about.

Pandesal, typical Filipino gluten laden bread.
Pandesal, typical Filipino gluten laden bread.

Studies on the prevalence of gluten sensitivity or gluten allergy in the Philippines have yet to be published. Though we have to be aware of the possibility that anyone might be part of the statistic, especially if gluten as the cause of discomfort is not top-of-mind.

It is important also to differentiate between gluten intolerance and gluten allergy. Allergic reactions tend to be immediate and often severe, as opposed to intolerance, the symptoms of which are not immediately felt. These could gradually set in from days to weeks, the causes of which become undetectable. Both gluten intolerance and gluten allergy are abnormal reactions to gluten manifesting in your body in different ways. Gluten adverse reactions include skin conditions like eczema, digestive conditions like bloating, constipation, stomach pain, and diarrhea. And even other symptoms seemingly unrelated to digestion, like fatigue, migraines, and severe ones like seizures.

gluten-words

When adverse symptoms continue to bog you down, allergy testing and food intolerance testing would help shed some light on your concerns.

Allergy Testing

A trip to the allergist would help you determine if you are susceptible to  reactions to  particular allergens, such as gluten. Some other common food allergies are caused by milk, eggs, nuts, fish, or shellfish. Gluten and other food allergies can also be identified by undergoing a series of brief tests and interviews.

Here in the Metro, we have several hospitals and centers that conduct tests to know which food items you have to watch out for:

Quezon City

St. Luke’s Medical Center-Quezon City ranked as one of the top hospitals in the country, offers a variety of services from asthma, drug allergies, insect allergies, and of course food allergies, to determine which substance you have an allergy to, through its St. Luke’s Allergy and Immunology Department.

It is located at 279 E Rodriguez Sr. Ave, Quezon City. They also have a branch in Bonifacio Global City: St Luke’s-Global is located at Rizal Drive cor. 32nd St. and 5th Ave., Taguig.

Makati and BGC (Bonifacio Global City)

Another center you can visit in BGC is LifeScience Center for Wellness and Preventive Medicine. You can be informed through a simple blood sampling that is analyzed using their in-house Food Detective Kit, using Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) technology. This is a plate-based assay technique designed for detecting and quantifying substances, including antibodies, assisting in determining your food intolerances.

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Healthway, the mall-based clinic also offers what they call “FIT”, which is short for Food Intolerance Test. This already includes a consultation with a nutritionist for a briefing on the service and to explain the findings after the test. You can find them in Greenbelt 5, as well as other malls in Alabang, Bonifacio Global City, and Quezon City.

Manila

Manila Doctors Hospital, through its Pediatric Allergology and Immunology Department also conducts tests to determine your food allergies and food intolerances. Among its Allergology Services are allergy screening and allergy management.

MDH is located at UN Ave., Ermita Manila City

Alabang

With 30 branches nationwide, including Alabang, High Precision Diagnostics, offering Food Intolerance Testing, is also an option for you. The food intolerance test is simple. It is done through blood sampling, and can get the results of the test in two weeks.

Asian Hospital And Medical Center in Alabang also offers food intolerance and allergy testing. As with its tertiary hospital counterparts in the North, AHMC provides services for immunologic/allergic disorders, such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma, sinusitis, insect allergy, unusual vasculitis syndromes, and penicillin and other drug allergies.

AHMC is at  2205 Civic Drive, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

With the variety of healthcare providers around, tests in determining whether you have some food intolerances and allergies are now very accessible. If you may be suffering from any of the symptoms mentioned, or you have an inkling but are not completely sure, visiting your doctor and taking a food intolerance tests could be well worth it. It can help improve your health and might even save your life in the long run.

Sources:

“Philippines.” Welcome to Ranking Web of Hospitals. Centro De Información Y Documentación (CINDOC), n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

Raneses, Katherince Grace. “Getting Tested for Food Intolerance at LifeScience.”Mucking Around Manila. N.p., 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

Aventajado, Michelle. “My Food Intolerance Test – Momma ‘N Manila.” Momma N Manila. N.p., 2016. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

How do you travel Gluten-Free?

travel

Ah… the joy of travel. But only until your cravings kick in and your stomach rumbles.

If you are visiting a place for vacation, things commonly enjoyed are the sights, the fun activities, and of course, the endless array of new delicious things to try. Even if you’re only taking a business trip, eating local food would be one of the ways you can savor the experience.

But, with having celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance, you already know how frustrating it is to try to relax when you don’t know where your next safe food will be coming from.

So, what to do?

Preparation is key. Know that with just a little bit of time and effort, you can create the lovely vacation you imagine. And it will be well worth the effort.

happy thoughts

 Here are some great tips to help: 

1 – Visit online forums, especially for gluten-free dining, and find out which local places serve food that fits your gluten-free diet. Luckily, you’re not alone in your quest for a hassle-free vacation. You’d be surprised at just how many people are willing to make suggestions and give handy information on where to eat and which food items to avoid at your destination. Post your questions in forums at least two weeks in advance so that you have time to get substantial replies from fellow planners like yourself. Your trusty Facebook account is a portal to dozens of gluten-free Philippines-tagged groups. You may also find dedicated forums on Celiac.com. 

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2 – However, if you would like to give the planning to someone else, some resources organize vacations and travel around the world that are especially gluten-free. They reduce the worrying about the nitty-gritty to a minimum. Since they specialize in gluten-free travel, they will have more options for you to choose from and can make traveling a treat, especially if you’re traveling with your friends or family. One such company is The Gluten Free Travel Site

3 – Have a list of things you know are gluten-free, including food items and brands. If you are unsure of fast food places, restaurants, or even the food available at your hotel, visiting your nearest grocery store will be the next best thing. When the language barrier poses an additional challenge, Googling which familiar gluten-free brands are available locally will save you tons of worries.

lists

 

4 – Be armed from the moment you walk out your door. Pack your own airport food. It would make things so much easier if every bit of food with allergens is correctly labeled. But especially in the Philippines, this is not the case. Airport dining is limited to only a few restaurants, and gluten-free dining is not a priority. No-frills flights like Cebu Pacific, only have snacks that typically contain gluten, and so it is best to come prepared. However, some flights, like international flights of Philippine Airlines do offer some comfort. PAL provides gluten-free meals in all classes, and gluten-free snacks may also be available. All special meals on airplanes must be ordered no less than 24 hours in advance, and so take the time to call in advance. 

Want a first-hand account of the experience? Check out our review on an inflight gluten-free meal we have tried, on this blogpost.

airport

 

5- When you can, pack some food items that will last a few days. Order gluten-free in advance from your go-to gluten-free shops. Online shops like GERALD.ph will deliver to your home so you don’t have to go out to buy these things especially. Crackers, cookies that can last a few days in your travel pack may just save you a day of staying indoors dealing with unpleasant symptoms. Dry gluten-free pasta that is convenient enough to cook in a hotel suite or a BnB will come in handy and will save you a few bucks, as well.

lunch

6- Take gluten inhibiting supplements in your luggage. Let us rejoice as there are multiple supplements available in the market now that may protect you from the effects of accidentally ingested gluten. Though there are gluten-free labels in food packaging and restaurants, dining experience may still feel like a game of Russian roulette.

Brands such as GlutenEase, GluteGuard, and GutenDigest can be your new best friends. Though none of these are available yet in Manila, you can have these shipped via the HealthPost site and get them in under 10 days. Most of these are meant to be taken with strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. Be careful not to have a pizza and pasta splurge! Though, take caution about checking in these supplements, as some destinations have stricter rules for supplements than others.

Now, do you think you can hack your next gluten-free vacation? We’re here with you. With these handy tips, you’ll soon find each trip less focused on where and what you can eat, and more on enjoying the experience.

Did you know MSG is Actually Gluten-Free?

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The impact of MSG on health has been debated in more than a couple of medical journals and health-related publications. There may be sound evidence supporting the adverse effects of MSG that may be enough reason for you to stay away from it. But having gluten is not one of them.

Why is this fact important for the gluten-free intolerant?

Recognize that especially in the Philippines, MSG is everywhere. The fact that flavor enhancers like Maggi Savor and Ajinomoto are pantry staples is just one of the signs. Typical restaurants that put flavor first will use some form of flavor enhancer that contains MSG. We have to ask if we’re putting ourselves at risk if we need to stay away from gluten, but find MSG stealthily appearing in most food items we buy.

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Photo credit: Ajimoto.com.ph

If the absence of umami is driving you crazy (well, not crazy, it’s just that it’s not exactly convenient to be paranoid about all food items), know this: MSG is gluten-free.

msg structure

Aside from sounding similar, glutamate and gluten are two different substances. First, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid that is present in all protein-containing food like cheese, and meat. It occurs naturally in some food, and is commonly used as a flavor enhancer, and is responsible for the umami that can be more descriptively referred to as a savory, brothy or meaty taste. Gluten, on the other hand, is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye.

MSG is produced by fermentation using various sugars and starches, such as sugar cane, wheat and rye not being on the list.

knorr
Sinigang, a Filipino dish typically MSG flavored. Photo credit: Knorr.com.ph

Why is there a talk, first and foremost, of MSG (monosodium glutamate) being linked to gluten?

A source of controversy is that glutamic acid was first isolated in the year 1866 from wheat protein gliadin. And in 1909, MSG was isolated from wheat flour. This was the primary source of MSG until the 1960s, when other methods of deriving MSG were developed, including chemical synthesis and fermentation process.

Other sources since then have been used, which no longer use wheat.

So, if you are staying away from gluten, it can be a big burden off your chest to know that MSG is one less thing you have to worry about when you have gluten sensitivity.

Looking for gluten-free food? You can browse online shops such as  GERALD.ph for a selection of gluten-free items for delivery.

Sources:

Celiac.org https://celiac.org/blog/faq/what-is-gluten/

Sano, Chiaki. History of Glutamate Production. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009;90:728S-732S. Available at: http://www.ajcn.org/content/90/3/728S.full

Thompson, Tricia, MS, RD. Monosodium Glutamate! . Gluten Free Dietitian. 2011. Available at http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/monosodium-glutamate/

Raising A Child With Celiac Disease

It is normal for any parent to experience a roller coaster ride during feeding time with their kids. Remember those TV commercials where moms are chasing their kids with a whole entertainment production just to get their child eating a proper meal? It’s not really surprising that these happen in real life. Moms out there can testify.

But what we don’t know is that there are parents who have to make even more effort than others, especially when their kids have special dietary needs. This is perfectly the case when a child has Celiac disease.

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Though most of the symptoms of Celiac disease are identical to both adults and children, some are more generally observed with children. These include growth problems, delayed puberty, dental problems, and iron deficiency anemia (IDA).

If you have a child who has Celiac disease, here are some tips to consider:

  • Always check the food label of your groceries. It would really be helpful to scrutinize the ingredients indicated before serving those to your child. Good thing that the law requires that allergens such as gluten should be specified in the food label to help concerned consumers track the ingredients they are avoiding[2]. It pays to know what to watch out for since gluten sources are not always readily recognizable. 
  • Personally prepare their baon to school. That way, you will be able to make sure that your child will be eating the right food.
  • Teach your child what gluten is and its sources. That way, they will understand even at a young age why it is important to be more watchful with what they eat. Encourage them to gradually adjust to a different lifestyle, for them to be able to cope easily with the non-conventional approach to food as they grow up.
  • Always listen to your child when they share something about their condition. No one would know what they really feel but themselves. And it will be showing them the support they need.
  • Medications recommended by the physician should be strictly monitored. It would also be beneficial to you and your child if they would develop the habit of tracking meds time.
  • Did you know? Even some children’s toys may contain gluten especially play doughs[3]. So better make sure that their play area is also a safe spot for them. 

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Celiac disease in children might be rare to a lot of us. However, if you think that your child is experiencing some discomfort and irritation, diagnosing Celiac disease or as other allergies or food intolerance should be considered.

Moms and dads, would you like to share some other tips and your experiences while raising a child with celiac disease? Leave us a comment below!

Sources:

1.)  D. Hill, MD, Ivor, and Ann Roland Lee, EdD, RD, LD. “Celiac disease in children.” uptodate.com. n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

2.)http://www.fda.gov.ph/attachments/article/194724/AO2014-0030%20-%20Revised%20Rules%20and%20Regulation%20Governing%20of%20Prepackaged%20Food%20Product

3.) Adams, Jefferson. “More kids’ toys going gluten-free.” Celiac.com. 17 Apr. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

Gluten-Free Pasta with Buttered Scallops, Cod & Halibut

This is an excellent pairing of gluten-free pasta and seafood: scallop and Greenland Halibut fillet. A dish that is perfect to serve if you’re staying away from red meat this Lenten season.

Pasta can be a great solution for quick gluten-free meal planning. It is versatile and allows you to create a variety of filling dishes. We use Corn and & Rice Spaghetti for this dish, but you can also use Penne, Fusilli, or pasta made of Soybean or Edamame. A great selection is available here that is available for delivery.

Ingredients

Directions

Prepare the pasta according to the package instructions.

Create the spice mix by mixing paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.

Dry the halibut fillets by patting them down with paper towels. This allows for the spices to adhere well to the meat.

Rub the fillets with the spice mix, and set them aside.

In a pan, melt butter over, and add garlic and sauté until brown.

Add scallops and cook on both sides until brown, firm but cooked through.

Remove scallops from the pan and put them on a serving plate.

Sprinkle it with salt and pepper to taste.

In the same pan, with the remaining butter, add the lemonsito.

Heat until saucy in consistency then remove from pan and set aside.

Pour olive oil onto the same pan, sear the fillets for about 3 minutes.

Flip until the other side is also cooked through.

Drizzle lemon sauce on the scallops and fillets.

Pair with the gluten-free pasta.

Serve and enjoy!

Gluten-Free Lamb Roast

Roasting nice quality meat is a great way to serve up a feast. Meat being naturally gluten-free is a safe choice on a gluten-free diet. How about a nice lamb leg roast?

You only need a rub that does not use any wheat, barley, or rye, and is also not cross-contaminated with other ingredients that contain gluten. A gluten-free mustard and herbs mix is a nice baste to start with. Here is a list of gluten-free mustards to help make things easier.

Now, on to the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • bone-in lamb leg
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free Dijon mustard
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Cover baking pan with aluminum foil.

Combine herbs and spices, minced garlic, and mustard in a bowl.

Pat dry the lamb leg using paper towels.

Rub garlic mixture thoroughly all over the lamb.

Place lamb in the baking pan and roast in the oven until the desired doneness (1.5 to 1.75 hours).

Make sure to check the internal temperature at 145 °F .

Let sit 15 minutes before cutting.

Serve immediately with baked potatoes.

Enjoy!

Quick Gluten-Free Breakfast

Gluten-Free breakfast

Pancakes? Butter on toast? If you love breakfast, know that it is definitely one of the meals that would need an overhaul on a gluten-free diet. Thankfully, there are gluten-free bread options we can try that use flour other than wheat.

Try this breakfast with gluten-free bread (that’s also egg-free and dairy-free). This gluten-free rice flour, potato starch, instead of regular flour. 

What you’ll need

Coffee

Gluten-Free Sliced Bread

Your choice of Gluten-Free Nut Butters

Your favorite frozen fruits

How to serve

Spread the nut butter on the sliced bread.

Brew your coffee as preferred.

Chop your favorite fruits – raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, peaches…

Arrange on a nice plate.

Serve and enjoy!