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Archive for October 4, 2017

GLUTEN-FREE PRODUCT: Scratch & Grain Baking Kits Are Not Just For Kids

Gluten-free writer Georgi Page-Smith writes that Scratch & Grain Baking Kits are not “just for kids.” While the line was created so that children could easily make a batch of cookies or brownies, the quality is so fine that households with no kids can just dig in.

During a recent cornbread jag I requested a sample of Scratch & Grain’s organic and gluten free Honey Cornbread Kit, in order to broaden my horizons and see if there was anything I was missing about the corn arts.

Little did I know I was about to enter a realm of flavor and texture that was heretofore undiscovered within my experience.

Scratch & Grain specializes in baking kits—conventional and gluten-free mixes for cookies, cornbread, cupcakes and more—which allow the user to compose, mix and bake their own treats from pre-portioned, labeled and numbered ingredients. This system accomplishes a few things:

  • Your home is infused with the aroma of fresh-baked yumminess.
  • For busy families, Scratch & Grain provides a way to teach kids (or spouses, for that matter) about the art of baking sans drama or anxiety.
  • It’s economical, sparing the need to load up on costly organic flours and ingredients that enhance the recipe but that are unlikely to be used by their sell-by date. (I’m addressing this in part to the circa-1972 can of cream of tartar that my mother has been saving to hand down to her grandchildren.)
    But all of this convenience and efficiency would be pointless if the goods themselves were not ravishingly delicious.

    The gluten-free Cornbread, Snicker Doodle* and Cheesecake Brownie Kits that I tested produced tender, delicious results that I am confident will apply across the whole line.

    Unpacking the Honey Cornbread Kit was in itself a bit of fun. All of the ingredients are neatly packaged in clear sachets, with handy numbers on each one indicating the order in which they should be added. Helpful tips on the back of the box provide for variations and suggest add-ins.

    The Cornbread Kit contains a not-unreasonable level of sugar per serving (13g), but I am ever-wary of sugar and a bit of a purist. Following a tip on the box, I happily left out most of the cane sugar but used all of the honey granules and brown sugar.

    The results were quick to come, making me look like a domestic goddess. They were so deliciously tender, with a buttery, toasty flavor, that my spouse (normally a bit austere in his diet) ate giant pieces of it warm and then stealthily battled me for the last wedges.

    I did not use all the cane sugar provided in the kit, but I believe that would have yielded the sweeter, moister experience that is pleasing to many.

    The beauty of this cornbread is that it is appropriate for breakfast, as a mid-afternoon snack, or with a bowl of greens for dinner. This is a recipe I recommend trying, whether you are a cornbread aficionado or someone who is cornbread-curious.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: You can also add some minced jalapeño to a cornbread mix. It’s our favorite way to enjoy it: less sugar and a bit of heat.

    I will admit I have never been a huge fan of the cinnamon-sugar cookies known as snickerdoodles, though I acknowledge their place in the cookie pantheon.

    But Scratch & Grain’s organic, gluten-free Snicker Doodle Kit* won me over. The robust aromatics of the cinnamon and the addition of flax seeds into the dough delivered a rich, spicy and substantial cookie that would please children and adults.

    The dough again had a buttery, caramelly flavor that made a good vehicle for the cinnamon sugar coating. The baked cookies had an ever-so-delicate frill of crunchy caramelization around the edges, adding a new dimension to the snickerdoodle formula.

    Snickerdoodles tend to be fall cookies, perfect for a with apple cider or warm mulled cider, or with tea—plain black or spiced.

    This is the cookie to offer company for an old-fashioned welcome. It will remind guests of their favorite granny—even if she didn’t bake—it’s that cozy and comforting.

    I also found this kit to be a great base for other add-ins. For me it was ground black sesame seeds, but chocolate chips would create a nice fusion, too.

    See the history of snickerdoodle cookies below.


    Gluten Free Cornbread Mix
    [1] Gluten-free cornbread, packaged with honey granules that you can use in the bread dough or to make honey butter.

    Gluten Free Snickerdoodle Cookie Mix
    [2] Snicker Doodle Cookie Kit, one of three gluten-free cookie varieties.

    Scratch & Grain Chocolate Truffle Cookies Gluten Free
    [3] Chocolate Truffle Cookies, the gluten-free line’s best seller (photos #1, #2, and #3 courtesy Scratch & Grain).

    Cheesecake Brownie

    [4] There’s also Cheesecake Brownies Kit. This photo is from The Cozy Cook, who offers her own recipe.


    While the other kits struck a somewhat virtuous note, the Cheesecake Brownie kit was, in a word, decadent. The quality of the chocolate was elevated and not too cloyingly sweet. Even with my omission of half of the bag of chips, it delivered a rich, luxurious wave of chocolate flavor.

    The cream cheese streaks made a nice counterbalance to the intensity of the chocolate and coaxed me into enjoying a combination that I wouldn’t normally try.

    I do think you could leave the egg yolk out of the cream cheese streak and not miss it. The whole concoction stayed moist into the next day, but they may not last that long in your household!
    If I had one reservation about Scratch & Grain it would be the moment that I had to toss the adorable little plastic bags, now emptied of their ingredients, into the trash. I would be quite content to see the company use paper for certain ingredients, or something more recyclable.

    Scratch & Grain’s gluten-free line will keep me happy for quite some time, and I have no hesitation recommending any of their products for superior, wholesome flavor and ease of use.

    Products are available from and in certain Whole Foods markets. Check the the store locator.

    —Georgi Page-Smith
    EDITOR’S NOTE: You can buy a sampler of all four gluten-free mixes, for yourself or as a gift for a GF loved one.



    recipe for a conventional cookie (not gluten-free) from Cookies And Cups.



    A snickerdoodle is a drop cookie made with butter, sugar, flour, baking soda and cream of tartar†, and rolled in cinnamon sugar. The classic recipe creates a chewy cookie with grooved lines on the surface.

    “Though some prefer to omit the cream of tartar in snickerdoodles,” says the Huffington Post, “purists will contest that it’s not the classic cookie without it—more like a plain cinnamon sugar cookie.”

    And without leavening, it’s as flat as a gingersnap—which may be what some people are looking for (we prefer the puffiness from the cream of tartar).

    Some recipes use eggs for a richer, moister cookie; some use oil instead of butter. Recipes can produce soft or crisp cookies.

    According to an extensive article on Bakemore | WordPress, the earliest known print reference dates 1889. The cookies became very popular in New England and Pennsylvania during this time.

    What about the name?

  • Some sources say the name is of German origin, derived from Schneckennudeln, referring to cinnamon-dusted sweet rolls. But the snickerdoodle is an American invention.
  • It may make more sense that the Pennsylvania Dutch‡, who spoke German, transposed schneckennudeln to snickerdoodle, a fun-sounding name in the U.S., home of Yankee Doodle.

    *Scratch & Grain uses two words: snicker doodle. The conventional spelling is one word, snickerdoodle.

    †The purpose of cream of tartar, a mild acid, is to react with the baking soda to leaven the cookie (cause the dough to rise).

    ‡ are a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants. Most emigrated to the U.S. from Germany or Switzerland in the 17th and 18th centuries.



    RECIPE: Slow Cooked Pork Tacos

    Celebrate National taco Day, October 4th, with this recipe from Melissa’s The Great Pepper Cookbook.

    Prep time is 30 minutes, total time is 3 hours, 50 minutes.

    The recipe is made in a Dutch oven, but you can easily make it in a slow cooker.


    Ingredients For 12 One-Cup Servings

  • 3 dried pasilla negro chile peppers, stems and seeds removed
  • 5 dried New Mexico chile peppers, stems and seeds removed
  • 5 dried de arbol chile peppers, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ¼ onion, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons ground cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 6 pounds bone-in pork butt roast
    Basic Garnishes

  • Avocado slices
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Fresh salsa
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Red onion, chopped
  • Sour cream
  • Tortillas and/or taco shells
    More Garnishes

  • Jalapeno, sliced
  • Jicama, shredded
  • Lime wedges
  • Radishes, sliced


    [1] Slow-cooked pork tacos (photo courtesy Melissa’s).

    Pork Butt
    [2] Pork butt, also called Boston butt (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    Pork Shoulder
    [3] Pork shoulder, also called picnic shoulder (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    1. BRING 6 cups water just to boiling in a large saucepan. Add the dried chiles and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Drain the chiles over a bowl and discard 2 cups of the chile water. Retain the remaining water and chiles.

    2. HEAT the oil in a large straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

    3. COMBINE the chiles and their water in a large bowl with the onion mixture, broth and next 5 ingredients (through cumin). Place half of chile mixture in a blender, taking special care: The hot food expands rapidly, causing a risk of scalding.

    To be safe, before blending remove the center piece of the blender lid to allow the steam to escape, secure the lid on the blender, and place a towel over opening in the lid to avoid splatters. Process until smooth. Repeat the procedure with the remaining chile mixture.

    4. HEAT a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the pork, fat side down; cook until browned, turning several times, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chile mixture, and bring just to boiling. Reduce the heat and partially cover. Simmer until the pork easily pulls apart with a fork, about 3 to 4 hours.

    5. REMOVE the pork from the heat and let it cool until it can be handled, about 30 minutes. Shred the pork and serve with the fixings with warm tortillas.
    Here’s the history of tacos.

    Pork butt has nothing to do with the butt—the rear end or behind—of the pig. The rear of the pig becomes ham (including prosciutto and serrano hams).

    Instead, pork butt is a cut from the shoulder of the pig. But it isn’t the same as pork shoulder.

  • Pork butt, also called Boston butt [photo #2], comes from the thicker section of the shoulder. The meat is more intensely marbled, giving it a richer mouthfeel. It is easy to shred when slowly-cooked, and is popular for barbecue and shredded pork.
  • Pork Butt got its name in Colonial times. As less popular cuts of the pig, the butt and shoulder were packed into casks or barrels, also called butts, to ship out. The name “Boston butt” caught on.
  • Pork shoulder, also called picnic shoulder [photo #3], is from the thinner end of the shoulder. The cut is used for meat that is cooked to hold its shape, and will be sliced or chopped.


    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Taco Day

    Lorena Garcia's New Taco Classics

    Mexican food lovers who like to cook should pick up a copy of Chef Garcia’s book. You can read an excerpt of it at Google Books.


    On October 4th, National Taco Day, you can:

  • Buy some tacos.
  • Make some tacos.
  • Expand your taco horizons with a book on tacos.
    In Lorena Garcia’s New Taco Classics, the Latin American chef covers approaches to tacos and other street foods of her native region: arepa, empanadas, tamales.

    “While I take inspiration from classic renditions of favorite Latin American dishes,” says Chef Garcia, “I make them my own by experimenting with savory and sweet notes, with contrasting elements, with flavors that brazenly cross culinary and geographical borders.”

    She inspires you to think outside the taco shell—and inside, too.

    You can see a partial galley of the book here.

    Here’s the history of the taco—invented by silver miners in the 18th century—plus THE NIBBLE’s own suggestions for thinking outside the shell.




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