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Gluten Free Facility

I started this company so that people with food allergies safely and comfortably could join in with everyone else. The standard of “Treats You Can Trust” therefore has penetrated every aspect of our decision making. This includes careful ingredient sourcing, allergen testing, and doing all of our production in our own dedicated facility free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy. It certainly would have been easier and less expensive to use co-packing (the very common practice of hiring a manufacturing facility to make a company’s products along with a wide variety of other companies’ products), but as the mom of a child with food allergies, this endeavor was to me worth doing only if I could do it at the standard I would want for my own child. My son’s allergist had shown me research finding 6.5% clinically significant cross-contamination in shared facilities with peanuts, meaning that 6.5% of other products in the facility contained enough traces of peanuts to potentially cause an allergic reaction. So when he told me not to feed my son anything made in a shared facility with nuts or peanuts, I listened. Hard to find any treats I still could feed my son, I eventually built my own facility and baking company.

What began as an effort toward inclusiveness for children with food allergies became about trying to include everyone, regardless the age or special dietary need. Whether a child in a classroom, a teen at a party, or an adult on a coffee break at work, everyone wants to be included at snack time, where the food enjoyment typically is part of the social connectedness.  HomeFree cookies therefore, in addition to being free of the 8 most common food allergens (except soy lecithin in some), also are vegetarian/vegan, kosher pareve, low sodium, non-GMO verified, and whole grain, and some are low glycemic.

You guessed it – that’s where gluten free comes into all of this. Despite common misconceptions, gluten is not actually an allergen. (For more information on differences between celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergy, see: http://americanceliac.org/celiac-disease/.) Therefore, offering gluten free products was not part of the original plan. Unlike with food allergies, a trace of gluten doesn’t pose a risk for potentially life threatening anaphylaxis. Yet for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten cross-contamination certainly is important to avoid. A couple of years ago, in order to get closer to including everyone, we chose to offer some gluten free products by using tremendous care in our facility, and with the validation of certification by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO). We have conducted regular tests for gluten traces and never had a positive test. Yet as HomeFree ‘Treats You Can Trust,” a leader in the industry for allergen safety, I have wanted a dedicated gluten free facility in order to have the highest standards with regard to gluten as well. I finally made the difficult decision to let go of or convert a few of our core organic products in order to make our current facility gluten free. I apologize to those of you whose families long have loved and depended upon these treats. I hope you will love equally what we continue to offer and develop. I also hope that you will value with us being able to serve HomeFree cookies to pretty much everyone! No matter with whom you share your holidays this season, essentially everyone will be able to enjoy the same treats together.

So, you want to know what is actually changing, right? Just our products made with barley or with (non-gluten free) organic oats. We are fully discontinuing only two items: our award-winning coffee cakes and our large chocolate chocolate chip cookies. We did, though, stock up a bit on the boxed cookies, so you still can order those briefly while supplies last. Also, our large chocolate chip cookies (70% organic) are remaining but becoming all natural gluten free. Yes, we still have stock on those originals, and the new ones are also Non-GMO Verified and have almost the same taste and texture as before! They also now are free of the most common 8 allergens (no soy lecithin anymore) and they are certified vegan. Why not still organic? It has been difficult to find a sufficiently stable, affordable supply of organic gluten free oats for wide store distribution. But organic continues to be important to us, so for those of you willing to pay a bit more, we soon will make available in single serve some chocolate chip cookies that are both organic and gluten free. We welcome your feedback on the changes, on hopes for future products, and on anything!

We wish you happy holidays, with plenty of tasty treats for all!

Jill  

Cookie Bouquet Supplies

- Box of HomeFree Cookies (minis or soft bake, I’ll tell you about both)

- HomeFree Natural Chocolate Chips

- Powdered Sugar

- Sticks (at least 8” long)

-  Aluminum foil

- Paintbrushes (1-4, assorted sizes)

- Styrofoam (make sure it fits in your holder)

- Sharpie Markers

- Tissue Paper

-  Holder can be a Mug or Flower Pot  (I got mine at the dollar store and will decorate it with sharpies) **Make sure it can withstand being heated to 150 degrees F

- Any other fluff or ribbons to decorate with

Actual Step by Step

  1. Lay out all of your supplies

Image 2. Melt the chocolate adhesive… Not sure how? Visit this site for some direction http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/tools-and-techniques/questions-about-cooking-with-chocolate2.htm

Image3. While chocolate is melting lay out a tray and cover it in aluminum foil

Melted Chocolate4. I decided to do the big cookies first, so I put four of them face-down on the tray. The flatter side of the cookie was face up.

Layout5. You will have time to lay the stick into the chocolate so don’t rush. I used a small unused paint brush to drizzle the chocolate onto the back of the cookie. For the big cookies I used two lollipop sticks for extra support. I got these sticks at JoAnn Fabric, but popsicle sticks work just as well!

 Lollipop Sticks6. After you have placed the sticks on top of the first chocolate layer add another layer of chocolate to cover the sticks.Step 1:

First Layer

 7. Repeat this process for all of the big cookies and then set aside or in the refrigerator so the chocolate hardens.

Image

8. Next you will repeat the process with the mini-cookies. These cookies are crunchy so they are plenty sturdy and will only require the support of one stick.

 Mini VanillaImage

 9. After you have done all of the mini cookies and placed them in the fridge your new focus is the mugs. 

Minis on a Stick

 10. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees F. Now…Have fun! Decorate the mug with a sharpie marker and doodle, write, be silly!

11.After you have created the next Mona Lisa, place the mugs in the oven for 30 minutes. Baking the mugs makes the writing permanent.

Mugs

 12. Turn your attention back to the cookies. By this point the adhesive chocolate should be hardened. If not, do not panic, just wait a little longer.

13.While you are waiting take the powdered sugar and repeat a similar process that you had done when melting the chocolate. I just added a bit of water and then stirred in the sugar until I got the consistency I wanted. This will be used for decorating so you want to be able to see the white. 

White Icing

14. Now go check on your cookies, if they are hardened feel free to take them out and paint all over them with the chocolate spread or powdered sugar. 

Minis Iced 2

15. Return them to the fridge and allow them to harden again.

16. Check on the mugs. If the time is up take them out and allow them to cool before you handle them.

17. At this time you can wrap your Styrofoam in tissue paper to make it look cute.

Styrofoam Wrapped in Tissue

18. When the mugs are cool, place the Styrofoam in the mug and begin to press the cookies on sticks into the foam.

19. You can take the cookies out and decorate them further like I did here, or keep them plain. Either way!

Decorated Minis

 20. Arrange them however you like and then finish by decorating with ribbon, tool or whatever else you like!

21. Voila! You have a cute homemade treat that everyone can have!

 Be Mine

 

sweetforsweet

Need recipes for the chocolate chips and melted vanilla icings? Refer to Allergen Free Baking cook book by Jill Robbins. It is readily available of the HomeFree store site!

 cookbook

As described in the Whole Grain Council’s blog, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently released a memo of new requirements for increased whole grains in schools. Generally speaking, the guidelines now require that at least half of all grains served are whole grain, that these can be calculated in increments of one quarter of a grain, and that a serving of whole grain is sixteen grams. Two servings per week can be
from desserts.

I think of these requirements as the doorway not only to improved nutrition for our children, though they certainly are that, but also as the doorway to a terrific opportunity to make our school lunch programs more inclusive. That is, as food service directors need to re-source basics like pizza, noodles, bread, and cookies, this is an opportunity for them to do so with thoughtfulness also about the other dietary needs of their students. They thereby can address successfully two important issues at once.

It is no coincidence that I am writing these words during allergy awareness week and celiac awareness month. In addition to the approximately 1 in 20 Americans now avoiding gluten, 1 in 13 American children, including my son, now have food allergies. Continue Reading »

Reader's Choice Bigger 1
We want to let you all know how much we appreciate you, our online community! You have been wonderful here, as well as with requesting HomeFree cookies in stores, schools, camps, and other locations, and of course with your enthusiastic support helping HomeFree win About.com’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Allergy Friendly Sweets of 2012. Continue Reading »

I am delighted to have our first guest blogger – our new bookkeeper Barbara. It amazes me what she can create with some HomeFree cookies, pudding, and her imagination. I’m especially impressed that she so well rose to the task of making it allergy friendly and gluten free.

Since I myself am new to banana pudding, I look forward also to seeing more traditional recipes from you all. Please share any version you like – from your grandmother’s to your children’s creations, anything that is fun and tasty. Let’s keep them nut free though please, and if there are allergens or gluten, please label that clearly. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Jill

Banana Pudding with Gluten Free Vanilla Crunchy Crumble

Banana Pudding

Hi! My name is Barbara Anderson and I am the bookkeeper at HomeFree, LLC in Windham, New Hampshire. My passion in life is baking, so you can imagine how enthusiastic I am to be employed at HomeFree! I have worked in the food industry for many years, and have currently been accepted on the Consumer Advisory Panel at King Arthur Flour Company. I also do testing for Cooks Illustrated. I look forward to testing (and of course tasting) new creations in the allergen free venue. Continue Reading »

A Cookie Company with a Conscience

Windham, NH – February 28, 2012 – HomeFree, LLC today announced that it has been officially certified as a B-Corporation by B Lab, a nonprofit organization dedicated to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems by creating a new class of corporations required to create benefit for society. HomeFree is the maker of delicious, all natural or organic, ready-to-eat whole grain cookies and coffee cakes free of common food allergens including peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy.

Jill Robbins, HomeFree founder and president, states “We believe manufacturers have a responsibility to be good corporate citizens. We support B Corp because it values, models, and encourages corporate contribution to society by setting a measurable standard. The more companies join together, the more that standard will become the norm.” Currently, there are over 450 Certified B Corporations across 60 different industries who have officially committed to publicly report their social and environmental performance using B Corp’s established third-party standards. HomeFree was founded in order to address a social issue: The physical and emotional challenges faced by people with special dietary needs, including the 1 in 13 American children with food allergies. HomeFree makes it easy for families and schools to offer healthful treats that include everyone. Other ways in which HomeFree demonstrates B Corp values include: providing education and consultation, contributing to allergy related organizations, offering a flexible work environment, and considering the environment in its production decisions. For example, HomeFree cookie cartons are made with bio fuel and wind power. Continue Reading »

Allergy Friendly Company Supports “Non-GMO” Movement
and “Just Label It” Campaign

WINDHAM, NH – January 20, 2012 – HomeFree, “treats you can trust,” today announced that it has received Non-GMO Project Verification of its newest line of gluten free allergy friendly mini cookies. Specific varieties include chocolate chip and chocolate chocolate chip for grocery and food service. Also verified are HomeFree’s new vanilla mini cookies, which were a finalist for Best New Food at Natural Products Expo East 2011 and also were recently awarded recognition from Shape Magazine for being a delicious, healthy snack. The Non-GMO Verification adds to HomeFree’s health related certifications, making it easy for consumers to select healthy choices.

Certifications carried by many of HomeFree’s products include: Organic, a good source of whole grain, kosher pareve, vegan, and gluten free, and HomeFree additionally offers options that are heart healthy, low glycemic, low sodium, and meet SB-12 nutritional guidelines for schools. Now consumers will additionally find the Non-GMO Project Verification stamp on these HomeFree cookie boxes. HomeFree’s products have always been Non-GMO, but HomeFree is now taking this additional step of joining in and supporting the verification program. The Non-GMO Project is the only third party verification available in the U.S. and Canada for rigorous best practices for avoidance of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).

Founder and president of HomeFree, Jill Robbins, is an avid supporter of the food allergy community which ties into her making the choice to pursue Non-GMO Project Verification. “As a mother of a child with food allergies, it concerns me that there are currently no reliable, definitive tests which can predict whether or not proteins in genetically engineered foods might trigger an allergic reaction. In establishing HomeFree’s exceptionally high standards for ‘allergen free,’ it has been important to us not only to source ingredients without allergen cross-contamination, but also to source ingredients that are non-GMO.” Continue Reading »

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