Search This Blog

Loading...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Review of Krusteaz Gluten Free Double Chocolate Brownie Mix



 
The cost of gluten free mixes for baked goods is higher than that of their wheat-based counterparts. This irks me, because for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, opting for the less expensive item isn't an option.

So when I saw this 3-pack of Krusteaz Gluten Free Double Chocolate Brownie Mix for $7.99 at Costco, I bought it. The video is a review of this product.

Mixes versus Made from Scratch
The advantage of mixes is that most of the prep work is already done. All the dry ingredients plus the sugar are in the pouch. You add an egg, some oil or butter, maybe a little water and stir it all together. Bake. Cool. Eat.

Making brownies, or any baked good, from scratch is more work. There are more ingredients, more steps. Less uniformity of measurement and technique.

But you are also familiar with every ingredient in your homemade goods. There is no unpronounceable element, such as those listed on the side of the box of the oh-so-easy-to-use mix.

Is one better than the other? If I had the time, I would bake from scratch more often. But the mixes give me a way of making a dessert without too much fuss when I just don't have the time or energy to bake.

But What I've Noticed About Mixes
The cooking time for mixes is a real variable. The directions usually give you a 5-minute spread, and that should be about right. But too often, to get the middle cooked through, I find I need to cook it a little longer. My neighbor says the same thing.

This results in crunchy sides, such as those seen in the video. Cooling time, to, is a variable. As is the type of pan you use, and what altitude you live at. Maybe mixes aren't less fussy; they're just fussy in a different way.

It's All About Results
In the video, I make two batches of brownies using the Krusteaz brownie mix. The first was too gooey, and the second was better, but the longer cook time meant a hardened crust. Everyone cuts the brownies out from the middle and leaves a ring of brownie crust around the sides.

At the cost of gluten free pre-packaged foods and mixes, I get choosy about which company gets my dollars. The results I got from this mix aren't great, but I have one more pouch to go. Maybe, I'll try something different. Maybe, third's the charm.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Paula Deen in the Digital Kitchen



It's been some time now since Paula Deen was called out for her use of "the N word" and she has put that scandal behind her. Before she was accused of racism, however, she was also called out for failing to disclose a relevant medical condition: Type 2 diabetes.

For ordinary, non-celebrity folk, medical conditions are private, and while I feel that celebrities are entitled to their privacy, the conflict here was Paula Deen's promotion of dishes high in fat, salt and sugar – a diet that contributes to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

That revelation put a ding in her empire, but it was the use of the 'N' word that resulted in her being let go from her show on Food Network, as well as the loss of several lucrative deals with retailers who sold her wares. Paula Deen had fallen, and she couldn't get up.

Until now.

Deen is building a new empire and dubbing it Paula Deen Ventures. One project is an online cooking show. But if you want to watch her unscripted program, posted daily, it's going to cost you.

This venture is based on paid subscriptions, and Deen is betting that there are enough people out there willing to shell out their hard-earned money to watch her cook to make this enterprise profitable.

The Investment
Phoenix-based investment firm Najafi Cos. is putting a sizable chunk of change into Paula Deen's comeback – somewhere between 75 and 100 million dollars. Of course, the venture isn't just an online show; it includes cookware, restaurants, foods, and all the accoutrements of a foodie empire.

But more than that, I think, Paula Deen is investing her persona into this. She's looking for vindication, perhaps, or proof that she is a true southern belle, a woman of charm and substance, an icon that is worthy of fame and fortune. If she can't reclaim her status as Paula Deen the Queen of Southern Cooking, then all the money in the world isn't going to matter.

My father, who was fond of platitudes, used to say, "Steal my purse, you steal nothing; Steal my reputation, you steal everything."

This, I think, is what happened to Paula Deen. Her reputation not as a cook, but as a gracious hostess, as a woman of the world who welcomed all to her kitchen, is damaged. This is the empire she lost. The name Paula Deen is now synonymous with racism and disease.

If She Builds It, Will They Come?
The question now is will her loyal followers pony up the cash to watch her cook? Will they buy her merchandise and her cookbooks in support of her comeback? Will the public once again hail the Queen of Southern Cooking and allow her to re-claim the reputation that was lost?

Can Paula Deen offer the public millions of dollars' worth of southern charm? Will she persuade retail giants, global networks, and the Internet people of the world that she is, indeed, worth the investment?

I don't know. But that is one expensive reputation she's looking to buy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Turkey Meatballs in a Slow Cooker



Comfort food is a necessary part of life, no matter what sort of diet you need to follow. Comfort food gives us a kind of inner hug, a bit of a respite from the pressures and obligations of the day. A plate of pasta smothered in a sweet and tangy red sauce and topped with two big meatballs is just such a dish.

The recipe here is suited to my and my husband's particular taste, but it's easy enough to adjust and adapt this recipe to your own palate. I use sweet and earthy herbs for both the meatballs and the sauce, a classic combination of parsley, basil, oregano and rosemary. You can change up the flavorings to suit your taste; for example, you can substitute the rosemary for sage, or add fresh basil to the sauce.

The recipe is a guideline, rather than an absolute. Make this classic comfort food your go-to dish for those times when only comfort food will do.

Ingredients:

Meatball Mix
1 ½ pounds ground turkey
*Herbal mix
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs

*Herbal mix: 1 teaspoon each of dried basil, oregano and parsley; ½ teaspoon dried rosemary

Sauce
3 cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon each of dried basil, oregano and parsley; about 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
Aromatics: 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 sweet pepper: cut into large pieces

Directions:
Combine the ingredients together for the meatball mix.
Pull off portions of the mix and roll into meatballs, making them just smaller than a golf ball.
Place them on a broiler pan.
Brown them under the broiler for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix all the sauce ingredients in the insert of your crockpot. When the meatballs are browned, put them in the sauce, sinking them in so they cook thoroughly.

Put the inset in the cooker, set the temperature on low and cook for three hours.

Remove the meatballs from the sauce, and then remove the wilted aromatics.

A Word about Sodium and Fat
I use a lean ground turkey, with a low fat content. The higher the fat content of your ground turkey, the more breadcrumbs you should add to the meatball mix. If there's a lot of fat, and not enough breadcrumb, you could end up with a crumbly meatball and greasy sauce.

If you use a low fat turkey, consider adding a teaspoon of salt to the mixture. I don't add it because there's salt in the tomato sauce and that's enough for us. But a teaspoon of salt in the meat mixture will boost the flavors.

And a Final Tip
Bring all the ingredients to room temperature: the egg, the meat, and the veggies for your aromatics. This makes for more even cooking, and results in fuller flavor.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Comfort Food: Turkey Meatloaf


Traditional recipes for meatloaf call for ground beef, ground veal, eggs, whole milk and lots of salt, all of which make meatloaf a dish high in fat and sodium. Have you ever made a traditional meatloaf in a loaf pan? When you take it out of the oven, that block of meat is swimming in grease. No thanks.

It's easy to lighten up this classic comfort food, though, and still get plenty of the flavor and texture that makes meatloaf such a cozy kind of dish.

First, substitute turkey for the beef and veal. Use just one egg for every 1 ½ pounds of meat, and leave out the whole milk altogether. You don't really need it.

Add a blend of dried, earthy herbs and just enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together and that's it. No salt or Worcestershire sauce; let the ketchup glaze be the saltiness in the mix.

 Here's my recipe for Turkey Meatloaf, contemporary style:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly spray a foil lined baking dish with cooking spray

Ingredients:
1 ½ pounds of lean turkey
1 herbal mix (listed below)
1 egg
1 ½ cups of breadcrumbs
Low sodium ketchup

Directions:
Place the turkey in a large mixing bowl
Add the herbal mix and combine
Add the egg and mix it in

Add about ½ the amount of breadcrumbs and work it into the ground turkey
Add about ¼ to ½ of the remaining breadcrumbs and work them in to the meat
Add the remaining breadcrumbs and knead until the breadcrumbs are absorbed

Place the mixture into the prepared baking dish and shape into a loaf
Spread the ketchup over the meatloaf
Bake for one hour

Let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes

Serve with baked potato and sliced tomato – or whatever tickles your fancy that day

The Herbal Blend and some Variations

1 tablespoon dried onion flake
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano

The herbal blend is really the secret to taste in this recipe. Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor that fresh herbs, and hold up to the long cooking time, so use dried rather than fresh. But try different blends to find the right one for your taste.

For example, trade dried rosemary for the marjoram for a more aromatic flavor, and add a little more thyme for balance.

Try a blend of middle eastern spices, such as cumin and paprika, and nutmeg for a bit sweetness. Like a little heat in your meatloaf? Mix a dash of allspice, a dash of chili powder and a teaspoon of dried oregano for your seasonings, and balance that with a teaspoon of dried thyme.


Add a Few Veggies as Well, and Maybe Fruit

A few chopped onions, carrots and celery add texture and taste to the meatloaf, but you needn't stick with the traditional trinity of veggies. Try something different, like jalapeno peppers and corn, or chopped zucchini and onions.

If, like us, you don't like veggies in your meatloaf, make sure to add them to the dinner plate. I usually keep it simple – sliced tomatoes from the garden are my favorite. But think about add some fruit instead, such as sliced apples or put a bowl of grapes on the table and let everybody munch them at their leisure. A bite of fresh fruit makes for a nice contrast to the softer, gentler meatloaf.

And the best part of meatloaf is meatloaf sandwiches. Guilt free meatloaf sandwiches.This is comfort food, with a contemporary twist.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cinnamon Roll Recipe



One of the more challenging aspects of baking gluten free is working with dough for breads and rolls. Many gluten free recipes call for mixing the ingredients for the dough, then sort of plopping it all into a loaf pan and letting it rise, or scooping blobs of it onto a baking sheet.

Gluten is what gives dough its lift, its cohesion, its springiness. Without gluten, dough is sticky and glue-like, and kneading it is next to impossible. It's a delicate balancing act to get just the right combination of gluten free flour, leavening, and liquid to achieve a roll-able dough.

Gluten Free Bisquick, though, does seem to produce less gummy doughs and batters. I use it for my gluten free chocolate donuts and my TwoMinute Mini Cakes. But I've never used it as a flour blend for any kind of yeast based recipe.

Betty Crocker's recipe for gluten free cinnamon rolls didn't call for yeast, depending instead on the leavening agents already in the Bisquick mix. I thought the dough would be too sticky to roll out, and the rolls would be too dense due to the lack of yeast. Neither of those predictions came true.

At the end of the video, I mention the cost of the Gluten Free Bisquick Mix – in supermarkets a box can cost $5.99. With the additional ingredients, the cost of eight rolls is just over a dollar a roll. That's cheaper than paying $6 to $8 for four pre-packaged frozen rolls, but you can still get that cost down.

I have a subscription with Amazon for this product, and I get three boxes for about $11.00, which makes using the blended flour more cost effective than having to buy it in a store. There's only three cups of flour in a box, so it's still more expensive than wheat flour, but anyone on a gluten free diet already knows the gluten free flours and pre-packaged goods are far more costly.  And Obamacare doesn't cover the cost of treatment for celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Overall, this recipe is a good, gluten free recipe for cinnamon rolls. They taste great, and the dough is not only manageable, but holds the moisture through the cooking process, another issue common to gluten free baked goods. Betty Crocker and General Mills may consistently charge more for their gluten free products, but they are quality products, and this recipe produces a quality cinnamon roll.