Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gluten Free Review #2: Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Pancake Mix

Well, I also picked up some more pancake mix. My oldest loves his pancakes so we go through the stuff pretty quickly.
Something I've noticed about GF Pancake mixes in general: they tend to be thick. We've tried three different brands and they all come out extra thick when they are prepared according to the directions. It took serious extra milk to come up with pancake batter that would run like pancake batter should.
Bob's Red Mill makes a bunch of different Gluten-Free mixes and flours. After trying some Maple Grove GF Pancake Mix we tried out Bob's.
Preparation - Nothing special to note. Even a really groggy 14 year old boy can make these. Of course the first ones were over an inch thick. After cooking those we added more milk, and a bit more. They seem to cook up fine on the griddle though. They did come out a bit browner than most and since they were so thick, you had to flip them before they formed bubbles on the top.
Texture - Somehow these came out fluffy like Bisquick. I don't know how they did it. The first batch were a bit dry. The second time we made some (the bag has 22 oz, enough for more than one breakfast) we added even more milk and they came out wonderful. Fluffy, light, spongy, amazing. This was what we were told we were going to miss with gluten-free stuff. Really a home run.
Taste - If you check out my previous review of Maple Grove, you'll notice that I reviewed their taste before their texture. That was intentional as I liked their taste very much but their texture, while not bad, wasn't all that great. I've intentionally reviewed Bob's Red Mill's texture first because it is that good. The taste though, not so good. It just wasn't pancake like. A bit too whole-grainy. A bit bitter. I think it would have been OK in a slice of bread for a sandwich but not with butter and syrup. My 8 year-old son said that it was like eating a soft pretzel. The 14 year-old didn't like it as much as he liked Maple Grove but he proved that with enough butter and syrup he can eat anything. He did make a second batch but that was because we were out of Maple Grove.
Value - Bob's Red Mill is widely available in my area. I can find it at all the grocery stores (Krogers, Tom Thumb (a Safeway variant), and Albertson's), at "Market" stores (Sprouts, Market Street, and Central Market) and at the big box superstores as well (some WalMarts and Target). I think this pressures the price down a bit. I think it's a shade less than Maple Grove per pound on special. And it does go pretty far because you have to thin it out to make decently runny pancake batter. So it's in a pretty good spot price-wise. You can also find it by the case online, either at gluten-free vendors or on, even at Bob's Red Mill's website.
Final Verdict - I'm not buying more of this stuff unless it's for a non-pancake recipe. The flavor just doesn't work for pancakes. The texture is really great though. Maybe we could doctor up the batter with sugar or some other flavors but it's just not a hit for our family as-is.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gluten Free Review #1: Maple Grove Gluten-Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

So we've dove into Gluten-Free food now, I thought I'd post some reviews of what we've tried. Since there's actually quite a few different brands out there, it's as much to keep track of what we like and don't like as it is a review for anyone else.
Today I'm going to talk about pancakes. Our family loves pancakes. Sometimes we eat them for dinner. My 14 year-old son Joseph has no problems with getting up and making them himself before anyone gets up. It used to be Bisquick or even a from-scratch recipe. Now we can't use those anymore, so I decided to try a mix. There are plenty of gluten-free from-scratch recipes out there (I'd go check out the Baking Beauties Blog if I were you, even if they haven't updated anything in months, it's still got a TON of recipes) but I didn't want to have to invest in all the different flours and starches and gums that you need. I just got some mixes. The first one I'll talk about is Maple Grove.
Maple Grove is not a big Gluten-free house like some other shops. They have a bunch of gluten-included items (we call them gluten-full at home), Belgian waffle mixes, syrups, salad dressings, maple candy. But their gluten-free mix was a shade cheaper than the Bob's Red Mill at Krogers so I picked them up. I seem to remember $3.29 a box.
Preparation - Cub Scout's Honor, I don't remember anything about the making of them. My wife whipped them up. I seem to remember that the batter came out a bit thick. But no complaints about the preparation. It was basically the same as any other pancake mix. No special gluten-free extra materials to add, no special dances to shoo away the gluten. Just mix it up and slap it on the griddle.
Taste - These pancakes came up tasting really nice, a bit sweet, with a hint of vanilla. Seriously, a hint. They did have a different texture than Bisquick pancakes though. Almost gritty. It wasn't terribly off-putting. A guy I work with whose wife has Celiac Disease told me that in general, gluten-free food tastes good, but the textures that I'm used to are hard to repeat. In fact he told me to get used to nothing having that good texture ever again. On the whole the kids thought that they were OK but they wanted to try other brands to see how they came out. So overall they were OK. Not light and fluffy like Mom used to make, but the taste was better than I expected.
Value - This is a touchy subject, because not everyone is as cheap as I am. But then again, they may not be supporting a family of eight and a half. So I actually check price per pound. Gluten-free stuff is expensive and I ain't made of money. The pancake mixes aren't at as much of a premium compared to some other stuff (like pasta or bread) though. And Maple Grove is less expensive than some other gluten-free brands. As a comparison, regular old "gluten-full" Bisquick runs about $6 for 40 oz. That's two and a half pounds. This stuff was $3.29 for a pound. Not bad. Bob's Red Mill was a little less per pound but a bigger bag (22 oz) and there was a mix from Pamela's that ran about $5-6 a pound (I think). So Maple Grove scores pretty well in the value department.
Final Verdict - The price was OK, but that may be an indication of the market for gluten-free pancake mixes. Preparation was straight-forward, no different than what you would expect. The taste was well above my expectations, better than what you would get out of most "gluten-full" pancake mixes. Texture left a bit to be desired though. At first we thought that we might pass on getting more Maple Grove for our pantry due to the texture but after tasting some others we might go back to it. It seems that getting a good taste is harder than we thought. More on that later.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Spelling Gene

OK, in our house we often talk about the "packing gene." It's the one that Kim has that enables her to put more dishes in the dishwasher than I can. It usually shows up when I think the dishwasher is full but there are still dishes in the sink. Kim exercises her "packing gene," and more dishes get crammed in, rearranged, etc.
I think there may be a "spelling gene," and that some of our kids skipped out on it. I'm a good speller. English is a tough language and I guess all the phonetic reading that I learned as a kid really came in handy for spelling. I can even spell hard words usually. Not a Scripps level speller, but I'm pretty dang good. Our oldest has always done well with spelling. The next one, not so much. The third was also great. The fourth, he's positive about it, but he's having to work hard at it. Notice a pattern?

So, the other day, the three year old and two year old have this conversation:

Isabel(3): W makes the "wuh-wuh-wuh" sound, like wuh-wuh-water, and wuh-wuh-wet.

Audrey(2): No it doesn't! W makes the buh sound, like "buh-buh-buh" sandals.

Someone missed out on the spelling gene.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Celiac Disease

A couple or three weeks ago we got a diagnosis for our 10 yr-old daughter, Allison. She's always been amazingly skinny and we thought it was some combination of genetics that she had six pack abs in preschool (my wife would still be within ten lbs. of her high school cross country weight if she weren't pregnant and I graduated HS at 6'5" and 165 lbs). She's strong and seemingly healthy, just skinny. We have asked her doctor if she were too skinny before but they just pushed us off. Too many obese kids out there to deal with I guess. Kim had taken her in for a different issue (a slight scoliosis) and the Nurse Practitioner had noticed a bruise on her arm and asked if she could run some blood tests. Kim had thought that she might show up as anemic but instead she came back positive for Celiac Disease. I'd go on about what it is and what it does, but instead I provided a handy link. Go ahead, click on it. I don't mind waiting.
So you back yet? Malnutrition. Yeah, I think all parents want to hear that attributed to their child. So then we noticed that our skinny daughter also had pale skin and dark circles under her eyes and while she could do more dips and could hold a plank position longer than any of the other kids, she got winded easily. OK, so we have to go gluten-free now. My first response was that we would all do it. I didn't want to create a "gluten-free" zone at the dinner table and I didn't want Ally to feel marginalized. On top of it, I discovered that we would have to get a second set of kitchen tools just to make sure that the gluten-free stuff doesn't become contaminated. That's the rub, it only takes a little bit of gluten to go a long way with Celiac Disease. It's can't just be about reducing the amount of gluten, you have to get rid of all of it. Just cooking some Malt-o-Meal next to her gluten-free oatmeal can mean that she gets malnourished for the next week or so. Yuck.
So since then, we've gotten confirmation (via a biopsy) that she does have Celiac Disease. We've started buying and eating gluten-free food. We've stopped making food with gluten in it and I think we'll be giving away the last of that Bisquick in the pantry sometime soon. I decided that I'd blog about it a bit. I'll be reviewing the foods that we try as well. It might get me blogging regularly again.