King Arthur Cookie Mix

IMG_8041I love chocolate chip cookies.

No, really, I LOVE LOVE LOVE chocolate chip cookies. You get the point.

Cookies are my weakness….and brownies too, but that’s for another experiment.

It’s a real bummer that I’ve taken it on myself to try all the different cookie mixes and review them. Oh darn…. ;)

Today, I decided to try the King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Cookie Mix. It’s base is rice flour blend, which I’m learning is my favorite gluten-free blend.

The was as easy as any other mix…pour in a bowl and add a bunch of stuff to it. The recipe called for 1/2. butter/oil, which I substituted 1/4 c. applesauce for half of the oil. The mix is a cookie mix, so you can technically add up to 3 cups of your favorite mix-ins. I was thinking this recipe would be great with walnuts, cranberries, and white chunks. But I didn’t have all that and was in the mood for chocolate.

So, chocolate chip cookies was the final out come. I used the Enjoy Life dairy-free chocolate chunks.

Final verdict on the cookies: PURE AWESOMENESS! Excellent fluffy cookies without the “gluten-free” flavor. Basically, it tastes like the ‘real thing.’

These are not sugar-free, but they taste great for the occasional gluten-free treat. I do NOT however, like the price for the mix. Ugh! I think its was over $4.50! Ah, all for the sake of the blog… ;)  Back to my quest for the perfect homemade flour blend!!! :)

Kelly

Even the “animals” are gluten-free!

Eating boxed gluten-free  “convenience foods” just are crazy expensive for our family. I would open a box of crackers and they would be gone in one sitting. For some reason, gluten-free boxed foods are smaller in size/quantity,  BUT higher in price! Go figure!

My boys go to preschool twice a week, and during that time they have a snack provided for them by the school. It is usually pretzels, animal crackers, or something of that nature. I pack their snack for them to bring to school, so they can have a gluten-free snack.

I realize they are only 3, but there is quite a bit of peer-pressure that goes on at that age! I understand the need for the kids to be similar to their peers and not have that feeling of “being weird.” So I graciously try to find things to help them fit in with what the others are eating.

Jacob (age 3): “Sam brings butter-peanut  sandwiches (a.k.a. peanut butter sandwiches) to school, can I be like Sam?”

I made some gluten-free bread using some Pamela’s Bread Mix, and packed him and Logan and sandwich on that day. Both of their teachers commented on how they “couldn’t wait for lunch,” and that “they savored their sandwich.” Having a PB&J everyday would get old and loose it’s appeal, but for every once in a while, it’s special.

Okay, back to their snacks….. at first, I would take the time to pack a snack similar to if we were to have one at home:

  • cut up apples
  • almonds
  • carrots

I realized very quickly that they teachers didn’t have time to wait for the kid to eat all that. It had to be a quick snack. One of their teachers mentioned to me that another kid with a gluten allergy had the gluten-free version of animal crackers.

So, I gave them a try, and golly, they’re pretty good! AND “Jacob and Logan approved.” They enjoy their animal crackers at snack time, and they come in a few different flavors. Yes, they still cost me (an arm and a leg!) ton. But it’s half of my kids eating a serving two times a week. So I justify it. It is also only a snack for preschool.

This is my most favorite brand, K-Kritters. It’s base is rice flour.

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Until next time, *GRRRRRRROWLLLLLL!!!!!* (like the noise you make when you eat an animal cracker…..)

Kelly

Step by step: How to make homemade Rice and Oat Flour

Making homemade Oat and Rice Flour….let my mistakes be to your benefit! No, honestly, it wasn’t that bad. Here are some step-by-step directions, with pictures, to show you how easy it really is.

IMG_8026Step 1: Gather all your supplies. Food processor or blender, rice and oats. I used jasmine rice but I think next time I’m just going to use regular ol’white rice. Let’s start with Oats. Pour in Gluten-free Oats into processor and hit “on” button.

 

 

 

IMG_8028Step 2: Pour ground oats into a container, label, seal, and store in a cool, dry place. I put mine in the freezer.

 

 

 

IMG_8029Step 3: Pour rice into food processor and hit “on” button.

 

 

IMG_8030Step 4: Realize that the food processor really isn’t the right tool to grind up the rice. Not sure why…..Anyways, stand back and scratch your head and look around the kitchen for another tool. I used my hand wand mixer. I think the Nutribullet would’ve handled it too.

 

 

IMG_8031Step 5: Take the hand wand mixer out while still running and spray rice all over the kitchen. (note: you are welcome to make this step optional. It’s only recommended for the die-hard kitchen cleaner types.)

 

 

IMG_8035Step 6: Finish grinding rice and pour it into a container, label, and store in cool, dry place. Again, I store my in the freezer. This helps it from becoming rancid.

 

 

 

IMG_8037Step 7: Enlist a munchkin to help clean up from problem on Step 5. Thankfully, (or weirdly) he loves the taste of raw rice and was happy to help.

 

 

 

*Update since trying this: I found that my Nutribullet, using the grinder, worked AWESOME on the rice

Happy Baking!!
Kelly

Making homemade flours

Another wonderful gift I received for Christmas was a food processor. I got this from my 4 wonderful children and husband. (LOVE! XOXO!)

Since we are a family of six, on a budget, I like to keep our food costs down. I’ve mentioned before that buying pre-made mixes and flour is expensive, but it is still cheaper than buying a pre-made gluten-free product. So I justify it, to a certain extent.

My quest has been to start making my own flours. Before I got my fancy new tool, I was limited on the flours I could make. Oat Flour was super easy and my blender could handle grinding it up small enough to bake with. But I was limited on the other flours I could make.

….until now….

I’ve been researching making how to make my own rice (brown and white rice!) flour, bean flour, almond flour, etc…. and what exactly to do with it all to make a product that my family and I would want to eat. (More to come on all that…)

So, I’ve made oat flour —EASY!

And now, thanks to my new food processor, I’ve moved up to making my own rice flour! I’m off to Sprouts to buy some bulk rice, and from everything I’ve read, making the flour is as easy as: pouring the product in, hitting “on,” and storing in the cool place until used.

Anyone else experimenting with homemade flours?

Faster than a…Nutribullet!

http://i00.i.aliimg.com/photo/v0/128022788/NutriBullet.jpg

I am proud to say, that I am a new owner of a Nutribullet!

My parents surprised me with one for Christmas, and in the two months since, it has been very loved and used!

The approach of the Nutribullet is to take regular fruits, vegetable, nuts, and seeds, put them in the container and BLEND them to make a quick and easy smoothie to consume on the go. It blends the ingredients so small that it is very easy to drink.

Nutribullet suggests making a smoothie with 50% greens (such as spinach or kale), and the other 50% fruit. Finally sprinkle fats, such as nuts, over the top. Since we have been blending for quite some time now, I can tolerate the flavors of “green smoothies.” But if the idea of having a green smoothie isn’t your favorite, and you want the benefits of greens in your diet, Nutribullet suggests starting off with smoothies as low at 25% greens and work your way up as you get used to the flavor (or mindset!!!).

The great thing about mixing greens in with fruit…and I’ve said this time and time again on this blog!….you CANNOT taste the greens, especially a mild one like spinach, when you mix it with fruits. But you get the awesome benefits of the greens!

My favorite morning blend:

  • 1 hand full of spinach
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • a few chunks of pineapple
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of pumpkin (because I HATE orange/squash veggies…and know I need to get them somehow!)
  • 1 banana

Talk about your hardy breakfast!!! If I run that morning and need a few more carbs to keep me going for the morning, I might mix in 1/4 cup of oats.

Happy blending!

Kelly

Experimenting the gluten-free way

Baked goods in my house go way too quickly. I don’t make them all the time, but when I pull out a batch of chocolate chip cookies…forget it…it’s gone by that night. Yes, six people really can eat 24 cookies in a day! So, I save the baked things for special times, or when I’m feeling in a “sweet kind of mood.” (um, yes, women, you understand!)

Since September of 2011, I’ve been experimenting with various different gluten-free flours and baking mixing. I shared with you about Pamela’s, which is my first go-to choice for mixes. But I try to have an open mind.

When we started our adventure, I baked solely with coconut flour. I liked the flavor and texture of the finished product, but hated the fact that coconut flour required so much liquid and eggs!

So, I slowly started moving to almond flour. My husband loved my baked goods with almond flour, but he’s a “fat lover”…and I’m a “carb lover.” So whenever I ate an almond flour cookie, I was left unsatisfied.

After almond flour, I was discouraged and just started following other peoples ideas from their recipe books. I also discovered the line of Bob’s Red Mill products. I realized very quickly that I hated the Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free products. I couldn’t figure out why. Then recently, I realized, it was the sorghum flour that I dislike….VERY MUCH SO! *bleh!* Apparently, I’m the only one in the family that can taste the sorghum flour.

Anyways, I have gotten away from Bob’s Red Mill and started experimenting with Pamela’s, King Arthur, and also Betty Crockers Gluten-Free line. I have learned the flavors that bake up nicely, have a great texture, and also have a wonderfully great taste! I noticed my top picks for all my pre-made mixes all have “rice-flour blend” for the base. I think I need to readjust my thinking on flours!

Whenever I try out a new mix, these thoughts go through my mind:

  1. Does it taste like the wheat-flour alternative?
  2. Does it bake nicely?
  3. Is it easy to make?
  4. Does the smell in my kitchen make me want to devour every last bit of it?

If I answer “yes,” to all the above, it get the “Kelly Seal of Approval.”

From trying the pre-made mixes, I have learned what I like to bake (and EAT!). The pre-made mixes can be expensive, especially for a family of six. I feel like all of our experimenting has helped me learn the World of Gluten-free….so maybe my next mission will be to make my OWN gluten-free flour blend!!

But everyone has different taste buds and cravings.

Would love to hear your favorites!!

Kelly

(picture from: whats4dinnertonight.wordpress.com)

What’s THAT?: ‘Xanthan gum’?

I am fairly new to having this in my pantry. I bought my package back in September…I think…and even though I’ve been slowly using it (when the recipe calls for it!), I still have most of the package left. That is because when a recipe calls for it, I only have to use 1/4 teaspoon or less!

So what in the world is this stuff?

Xanthan gum is a fancy little ingredient that food companies put in products to make the ingredients bind together. It’s in salad dressing, crackers, chewing gum, toothpaste, spices, ice cream, etc, etc. You get the point? It’s everywhere!

In short, it’s the sticky stuff that holds your food together.

Why is it in your pantry?

Well, in regular wheat flour baking, gluten holds the bread, muffins, etc. together. But in gluten-free baking, there is not much holding the baked product together. By adding xanthan gum, it helps stabilize your cookies and make them chewy…without all the crumbs.

How much do I use?

One of my books, “Simply Sugar and Gluten-free” by Amy Green, says: “My general rule for using xanthan gum is 1/4 teaspoon per 1 cup flour when making cupcakes, cookies, and muffins, and 1/2 teaspoon per 1 cup flour for cakes.”

If you add too much to your recipes, you will end up with a rubbery sort of mess. So it’s kind of a chemistry project!

Kelly

Pamela’s Gluten-free mix products

I’m not big on buying premade gluten-free stuff. I do buy the boys gluten-free animal crackers for school, but that’s about it. In August, on a trip to Colorado, I discovered Pamela’s Baking and Pancake mix. And oh my gosh, it is the…BOMB! ;)

It is more expensive than regular wheat baking and pancake mixes, but for a gluten-free mix this stuff tastes and acts very similar to wheat products. And it’s still way cheaper than buying the products pre-made. You can get it in most stores, but I buy it from Amazon (3- 4lb bags for $47.49). It lasts our family of six about 4 months. I make cookies, pancakes, waffles, and muffins with it.

Pamela’s has another product I’ve been really enjoying….especially lately!….Gluten-free Bread mix. Our family doesn’t eat much bread, but it is nice to have a bread mix around for the occasional “hey, I feel like a PB&J today.” The bread made from this is awesome! It holds up really well, and in a tastes test against regular white wheat bread, I bet I could fool you! ;) Anyways, I want to try to make pizza crust with it sometime. More to come, I guess!

(No, I don’t get paid commission by Pamela’s…I just really love their products!!) My last recommendation is Pamela’s Chocolate Brownie Mix. Another great product with great results. This is great for the quick “Oh no, I’m suppose to bring a dessert!” mix. Two great things about this product: 1. No sugar. It uses honey and molasses; 2. On the packaging there is several different options to make up the brownies. If you want less fat, follow this direction. If you want egg-less, follow this direction. If you want cake-like, follow this direction…and so on. Anyways, great product. Love, love me some chocolate brownies!!

Happy Baking!

Kelly

I’m alive…really!

So it’s been 2 months since my last blog entry. I’ve got a good reason, I’ve been sick!

Right now, I’m stuck at home with strep and I swear, if I have to call into work one more time….. ugh!

Okay, so being sick has really been getting me down. It throws off my work schedule, my kids, my home life, and my food. Yes, my food. For some reason whenever I’m sick, my “get well food” is saltine crackers. Apparently, so I heard from friends, this isn’t a common food and in fact is nasty. I’m supposed-to be eating chicken noodle soup or something of that nature.

Over Christmas, we celebrated with my family at our house for a few days and then left for Florida to visit my husbands family. It was a wonderful holiday season, and as we all know, it’s hard to maintain diet-exacto. ;) So I would generally make healthy choices, but the cookies….and the bread….and the other things….that all make up the holiday’s, were scattered into my holiday daily plan.

My thoughts: “Well I can tolerate it!” and “I’ll just run it off in the morning.”

Ugh, boy was I wrong. I got back from vacation and had some how managed to loose 3 pounds, and my diet was still a little off. Yes, I ate my perfectly wonderful fruits and veggies, but I sprinkled in some more of my holiday foods (cookies, etc.). I was home, and it was January, but I was still in “holiday mode” with my food.

Then the pains started. Severe pains. Like rolling on the floor, shoot me in the belly, pains. I thought I was…I don’t know…something was off.

The pain would go on for six to eight hours. Then it would end as quickly as it came on, and a week later !BAM!—hit with the severe pain again! I could almost count down until it would hit. Every 7-8 days the pain would hit. After the third round of this Shawn said “enough is enough,” and took me to the doctor. To which the doctor referred me to the ER immediately. (Apparently, serve stomach pains aren’t good thing in the “doctor world.”)

The ER doctor ran his series of scans on me, to which it showed nothing. He then confidently announced (based on nothing) that I had ulcers and I should start on Prevacid, and also referred me to a GI doctor. Afraid of the stomach pains coming back I immediately started on the meds and called the GI doctor.

Within four days of taking the Prevacid, I felt worse, all the time. I realized that it was not the right medication for me so I took myself off of it and started feeling better over the next few days. All while this is going on, I realized eating my go-to-sick-item, saltine crackers, made me feel better, temporarily.

Finally, two weeks after the ER visit, my appointment for the GI doctor arrives. (YAY!) He examines me, takes a looks at my sonogram and lab slips from the ER, and asked me tons of questions. He suggests two separate tests, both of which are approximately $2000 each. (Yeah, I have insurance, but really don’t want to get into that right now….)

One comment he did make to me, at the end of the exam was “You know, a lot of these tests come back as gluten-intolerance.”

Because our insurance “rolls-over” in March, we decided to wait until March for the tests. But in the mean-time I started immediately (back) on a gluten-free diet. Yup, I’m following my rules. Holiday’s over. Time to re-commit to what I believed in the first place.

And guess what…..

Day #12 with NO severe stomach pains!

Keep ya posted!

Kelly

Dear Little Brother…

The daily writing prompt of today was:

“Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.”

I don’t really follow writing prompts, but decided to take today to do something a little out of the ordinary. This letter is to my “Little Brother.” I’ll keep his name a secret in case he IS actually reading my blog and would be totally embarrassed to see his name here. “Little Brother” and his wife just recently visited for Thanksgiving, and I meant to ask if he had glanced at my blog, since it began 6 months ago. Anyways, guess a letter to him would be good.

Alrighty! Okay, well, here it goes (take in mind that I come from a very, extremely sarcastic family….):

Dear Little Brother,

I really wish you were reading my blog. Why? Because I am your way-cool older sister.

Although you may have ZERO interest my blog subject, I do occasionally post pictures of your awesome nieces and nephews. I also have a Facebook page where I post pictures of your nieces and nephews and also blab about food. And on a side note, I do KNOW that you love food. I just witnessed you feasting, at my house, on my food at Thanksgiving. Well, guess what?! I talk about food, A LOT, on my blog! So, stop on by a take a read sometime. ;)

So, in summary: you like me so-so…READ MY BLOG. You love your nieces and nephews….READ MY BLOG. You like food and enjoy eating….READ MY BLOG.

With lots of love and sarcasm too,

Your Big Sister