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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.)
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    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.
     
     
    HONEY CORNBREAD KIT

    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.
     
     
    SNICKERDOODLE COOKIE KIT

    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.

     
     
    CHEESECAKE BROWNIE KIT

    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 ScratchandGrain.com 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.

     

    Snickerdoodles

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

     

    THE HISTORY OF SNICKERDOODLE COOKIES

    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.
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    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COOKIES IN OUR COOKIE GLOSSARY.
     
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    *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.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Replace Croutons With Fried Potato Cubes (Gluten Free!)

    Potato Croutons
    [1] Potato croutons plus bread croutons garnish this wedge salad. Photo and recipe courtesy Idaho Potato Commission.

    Sweet Potato Croutons

    [2] For other salads, you can make sweet potato croutons. Here’s the recipe and salad ideas from Eating Bird Food.

     

    If you like croutons on your salad (and how many of us do not), here’s an idea from the Idaho Potato Commission:

    Substitute crispy, fried potato “croutons” instead of bread. They’re gluten-free, but can be combined with conventional bread croutons for a layered texture-flavor approach.

    If you reach for the most well-done french fries, this recipe is for you!

    In this recipe the Idaho folks used the retro wedge salad. This one is loaded with bacon, cheese, potatoes, croutons (both bread and potato).

    The recipe was created by Jonathan Melendez of The Candid Appetite. He uses feta instead of the conventional blue cheese (we love either).

    Time-Saving Tip: The different salad components can be made and prepped the day before and assembled on the next day.

    RECIPE: WEDGE SALAD WITH POTATO CROUTONS

    Ingredients for 4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 medium Idaho russet potatoes, rinsed and thinly sliced or diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 large iceberg lettuce, quartered
  • ¾ cup buttermilk ranch dressing (recipe—we also like blue cheese dressing)
  • 8 slices crispy bacon, chopped
  • 1-pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • ½ cup croutons
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (substitute blue cheese)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
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    Preparation

    1. SET a large skillet over medium-high heat with the oil. Once hot, add the potatoes and cook until crispy, browned and softened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir them occasionally so that they cook and brown evenly.

    2. SEASON with salt, pepper and rosemary.

    3. ASSEMBLE the salads: Arrange the iceberg quarters on a platter. Drizzle each wedge with dressing, and top with potatoes, bacon, tomatoes, red onion, croutons feta cheese and chives. Serve immediately and enjoy!

     

     
      

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    GLUTEN-FREE PRODUCT: Pamela’s Sprouted Grain Pancake Mixes

    Gluten-free reporter Georgi Page-Smith tries sprouted-grain pancakes from Pamela’s.

    I was fortunate enough to receive the full suite of Pamela’s sprouted grain pancake mixes for review, including 6 Grain, Buckwheat, Buttermilk, Non-Dairy, Grain-Free and Protein varieties.

    Sprouted grains have gotten more attention recently for their lower levels of carbohydrates and increased levels of protein and nutrients, including vitamin C, folate and minerals like iron.

    While initially a bit skeptical about what to expect from the taste and texture of these ultra-healthy alternative mixes, I was pleasantly surprised. Kudos to Pamela’s for not resting on their plentiful laurels.

    My sampling commenced with the Buckwheat mix, because in my very slim book buckwheat is the king of flours. Typically hearty, nutty and virtuous-tasting, it is my go-to in many forms: hot cereals, pancakes, waffles and cookies.

    Again, Pamela’s did not disappoint. The expectation for these mixes, based on their sprouted grain origins, might be that they will be “grainy,” dense or extremely fibrous. This is simply not true.

    The flavor as well as texture is very light and refined with a rich, full, well-rounded flavor. Pamela’s Buckwheat pancakes were also delightfully fluffy. For extra fluff you can separate your whites and egg yolks as I did, whipping the whites into stiff peaks before folding in; but it’s probably not necessary.

    THE WAFFLE OF MY DREAMS

    On two separate occasions I attempted to adapt the Pamela’s mixes for use in a waffle iron. With the Buttermilk mix the waffles were tasty, but a bit floppy. The flavor of the mix was nevertheless delicious and should not disappoint classic pancake fans.

    The 6 Grain mix was similarly not my ideal waffle texture-wise, when I strictly followed the recipe on the box.

    However, when I substituted half of the oil in the recipe with butter, and half of the water called for with almond milk and a little extra liquid (I used orange juice and for thrills also added grated orange zest and chopped pecans) for a runnier consistency…I got the waffle of my dreams!

    Crispy on the outside, tender and flavorful on the inside the waffles were perfect, the flavor only enhanced by the virtue of eating a sprouted grain. They are also sturdy enough to freeze for later toasting for a breakfast on-the-go, that still allows you to revel in waffle delight before facing the day.

     

    Buckwheat Pancakes
    [1] Buckwheat pancakes (photo M. Kucova | IST).

    Pamela's Buckwheat Pancake Mix

    [2] The author’s favorite: Buckwheat pancake mix (photo courtesy Pamela’s Products).

     
    I highly recommend Pamela’s sprouted grains mixes for gluten-free and gluten-tolerant pancake and waffle fans: The whole family can enjoy them.

    With Pamela’s, I can say with confidence that it’s worth trying the whole range to find the one that suits you best.

    Pamela’s products are available at most large grocery chains nationwide, at e-tailers, on the Pamela’s Products website.

    —Georgi Page-Smith

      

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    GLUTEN FREE: Three Bakers Snackers Crackers

    A gluten-free recommendation from Georgi Page-Smith, who reports on GF products for THE NIBBLE.

    One of the perks of my gluten-free lifestyle is the license I give myself to eat limitless quantities of cheese.

    Years ago I indulged my cheese cravings with perhaps the best cheese crackers ever to exist (including Cheez-Its): Gluten Free Cheddar Snackers, by The Grainless Baker.

    These crackers were unabashedly rich and cheesy, with just the right melt-in-your-mouth crumb. I purchased them in bulk from a local store until they were discontinued by the store; then I stalked them online.

    One day in 2011 the crackers disappeared completely. I searched, I Googled…and I found the Grainless Baker website. It said that the company had recently joined forces with The Gluten Free Food Group and would be replacing their old products with a new gluten-free product line under a new brand name, Three Bakers.

    I joined their Facebook community and waited to hear about the rollout. I think I even wrote a sad note “beg-couraging” them to not change their Cheddar Snackers formula. And then I cold-stored the information in a mental box with other sad things and doubled-down on my brie consumption.

    Recently, however, these crackers drifted into my mind again and I went to check their Facebook page for an update. The page was defunct and a cheerful selection of Snackers were now available from the Three Bakers website!

    I swung into action and within days, four bags of Snackers—Cheddar, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chocolate Chip and Honey Graham flavors—arrived at my doorstep. That was Friday. As of this Sunday’s writing there is about one-quarter of one of the bags left. They were that good.

    Four Flavors, Cheesy Or Sweet

    The Cheddar Snackers, though not as intense and decadent an experience as the originals, are incredibly good. The flavor is authentic tangy-and-toasty cheese, and they are quite light, delivering more flavor than you would expect in such a small package. The only downside on these was the texture, which was slightly more brittle than the other Snackers.

    Use them as dippers, as croutons on salad or chili (photo #1), in a crust for apple pie or pot pie, as a garnish on mac and cheese, or as a snack with apple wedges.

    The Chocolate Chip Snackers, with only 4 grams of sugar and 90 calories per 1 ounce serving, were simply scrumptious, with a gently dissolving crumb that quickly delivers the flavor to every part of your mouth. Best of all they are not too sweet, with no cloying aftertaste!

     

    Three Bakers Cheddar Snackers
    [1] Cheddar snackers add some crunch to chili (photo courtesy Three Bakers).

    Three Bakers Snackers Chocolate Chip
    [2] Time for dessert: chocolate chip snackers with ice cream (photo courtesy Gluten Free Palate.

    Three Bakers Snackers Crackers

    [3] Just plain snacking (photo courtesy Gluten Free Palate).

     
    The chocolate is of a high enough quality to carry the cookie, without additional sweeteners. The Chocolate Chocolate Chip Snackers increase the chocolate ratio, for aficionados.

    The Honey Graham Snackers deliver a very tasty, roasty flavor— again, with a gorgeous texture. These would also be fantastic on an ice cream sundae (photo #2), or crushed up to use in a crust. I was also impressed with the low sugar level, at 1 gram per 1 ounce serving, it made it that much easier to eat the whole bag.

    All Three Bakers’ Snackers are Ccrtified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and are made with non-GMO ingredients. The whole grains provide a source of fiber and the low sugar and salt mean that you can feel good about serving them to kids.

    Three Bakers also produces gluten-free breads, buns, pizzas and more. The products are available across the country; here’s a store locator.

    For more information head to ThreeBakers.com.

    —Georgi Page-Smith

      

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    PRODUCTS: Five More Favorite Foods & Beverages

    Another roundup of some recently discovered “favorites,” in alphabetical order.

    1. BAI BUBBLES

    Bai became a hot brand with its Bai 5 line of five-calorie drinks in great-tasting fruit flavors.

    Now, the brand has a carbonated line, Bai Bubbles: a “sparkling antioxidant infusion” in 11.5-ounce cans.

    We’re not inveterate soda drinkers, but Bai Bubbles achieves a middle ground between unsweetened flavored club soda and sweet diet soda.

    Like the original Bai 5, each can has 5 calories and 1 gram of sugar, with the majority of its sweetness coming from calorie-free stevia, a naturally sweetener.

    Everyone will have his or her favorites in this refreshing line, which has 10 flavors: Apple Pear, Blackberry Lime, Black Cherry, Blood Orange, Coconut Lime, Guava, Limón, Pineapple, Pink Grapefruit and Watermelon Lime.

    Bai Bubbles is available at Walmart and other retailers nationwide. The line is certified kosher by OU.

    Learn more at DrinkBai.com.
     
     
    2. COOKIE CHIPS: CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

    We love Cookie Chips. They’re very thin and crunchy, very tasty, nicely buttery and rather small, so you can have a few without much guilt (5 cookies have 120 calories).

    Flavors include Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon Sugar, Coconut White Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Chip, Original (a buttery sugar cookie), Peanut Butter and Sea Salted Caramel; plus Gluten Free Chocolate Chip and Gluten Free Lemon Sugar.

    They’re available in 6-ounce bags and 1.5-ounce single serve packages. The latter are a good strategy, as we’re tempted to eat half the 6-ounce bag.

    The line is certified kosher by Kosher LA. Discover more at CookieChips.com.
     
     
    3. LANCE SANDWICH CRACKERS: POWER BREAK

    Lance makes dozens of different sandwich crackers, most variations of peanut butter and cheese.

    In a new direction, Lance has just launched Lance Power Break: granola crackers sandwiched with peanut butter or peanut butter and chocolate. They call it “a pumped up snack that gives you energy…

    Power Break is the first sandwich cracker with double-digit protein (12 grams), B vitamins and 13 grams of whole grain to keep you going.”

    We can’t vouch for the science, but they sure taste great. Load up for grab-and-go snacks.

    The line is certified kosher by OU. See more at Lance.com.

       

    Bai Bubbles

    Cookie Chips Chocolate Chip

    Lance Power Break

    New favorites: [1] Bai Bubbles, [2] Cookie Chips and [3] Lance Power Break granola sandwich crackers (photos courtesy their respective manufacturers).

     

    Polar Diet Double Fudge

    Snyders Wholey Cheese

    [4] Polar Beverage’s very chocolatey Double Fudge Diet Soda. [5] Wholey Cheese! gluten-free cheese crackers (photos are courtesy their respective manufacturers).

     

    POLAR BEVERAGES: DOUBLE FUDGE DIET SODA

    One of our readers turned us on to this zero-calorie chocolate fudge soda. Wowsa, is it good!

    We have long enjoyed the delicious flavored seltzers of the brand: The company does a great job with flavors and zero calories.

    But we only recently received the 411 on the diet sodas. We promptly went out and bought a bottle of Double Fudge Diet Soda…and then went out and bought two cases.

  • Drink it straight.
  • Make a diet ice cream soda.
  • Add milk for an egg cream.
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    The line is certified kosher by Diamond K. Find out more at PolarBev.com.
     
     
    SNYDER’S OF HANOVER: WHOLEY CHEESE!

    We’re big fans of Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels: so many styles from traditional to braided, chocolate-dipped, flavored pieces, sourdough and gluten-free.

    The company recently launched round pretzel sandwiches in Brick Oven Style Pizza, Cheddar Cheese and Hummus.

    But our favorite of the new products is Wholey Cheese!: crispy, baked cheese crackers with amusing Swiss cheese-type holes (or should that be wholes?).

    The line is all natural and gluten-free, in three flavors: Mild Cheddar, Smoked Gouda and Swiss & Black Pepper. The company says they have 28% less fat than the leading brand of cheese crackers

    Like the pretzels, Wholey Cheese! crackers are great with a soda or beer, or just by themselves. Try them as salad croutons, too.

    The line is certified kosher by OU. Head to SnydersOfHanover.com to see the entire collection.

    Did You Know: The same company that makes Snyder’s Pretzels also makes Lance Sandwich Crackers, Pop-Secret Popcorn and Kettle Chips: all great brands!

     

      

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