Disappointed in Mrs. May

In the San Francisco airport looking for some gum and a good beach read, I stumbled across a few gluten-free snacks I’d never seen before.

Although, I am sans kids and have no new need to buy GF for myself, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a new product–Mrs. May’s Almond Rice Stix. They come in a couple different flavors, but I chose the Mango Strawberry.

Honestly, I didn’t have high hopes as I opened the bag. Even the picture on the front of the bag looks like these “stix” would live up to their name and be dry, hard, and tasteless. My husband’s comment was something along the lines of ” those look awful.”

Although these weren’t the worst things I’ve ever tasted, they did live up to my low expectations. Dry is an understatement. Crunchy–certainly, and slightly sweet, so I guess there’s some truth in their advertising. The cane sugar that they use as the glue to keep it all together also got stuck in my back teeth, so if you don’t want to risk losing a filling, steer clear.

If I was starving and had no other options, sure I’d eat these, but I’d have to eat the whole bag to feel like I actually ingested any calories. Yet there are plenty with 130 calories and 4 grams of fat in each serving and 4 servings in this tiny bag.

Definitely not a kid-friendly choice, by my standards and I know Nora would turn her nose up at it after one bite, give it the silent “no” headshake, and throw away the rest.

I am constantly amazed at the unappetizing foods that make it into full production and show up on store shelves. Was there no taste-tester panel that could have nipped this product in the bud before it hit the market? Or am I the only the one that thinks these aren’t worth the money it takes to make them?

Somehow I don’t think it’s just me.

So good gluten-free sugar cookies

Six years ago, we left all our family and moved to a state where we knew no one. Over the years, we have been lucky enough to have found some wonderful friends in our own backyard. With them, we have created a new family, with our own set of traditions.

Although I was a bit apprehensive about it at first, there is one neighborhood tradition that stands out as my favorite. It’s something you don’t see (or hear) too often anymore — caroling. That’s right, I said caroling.Caroling

There’s really only a small window of time where such an activity would be deemed acceptable by your child — let’s say from age 3 – 12, before it becomes a dreaded, forced activity of embarrassment.

CarolingMy older daughter is 10, and I know that it won’t be long before she decides she has outgrown the activity. This year was more spectacular than most, as there was an inch of crisp white snow on the ground, with more falling lightly as we went from house to house.

And in light of last Friday’s horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, I couldn’t help but pay extra attention to the beauty of the night, the excitement in their voices, and the joy that we brought to our neighbors,  particularly some of our oldest residents, as our group of 9 kids belted Feliz Navidad at the top of their lungs.

What does this have to do with sugar cookies? Every year, before we venture out, the kids always make a craft at a neighbor’s house and delight in a festival of gluten with pizza and cookies. This year, I brought a frozen gluten-free pizza (which was a bit of a flop) for Nora, and tried my hand at gluten-free sugar cookies, based on a recipe from Nicole Hunn at glutenfreeonashoestring.com. I only made some minor changes to the recipe, so this is more of a recipe review, but I included my changes in the recipe below, as well as the link to the original, so you can decide which one you’d like to try.

On to the review — maybe I’m just starting to become immune to the taste and texture of some gluten-free foods, but I thought these cookies were just what she promised — amazingly close to what you’d find at the bakery in the local grocery store.

Just like with chocolate chip cookies, there are two camps of sugar cookie lovers — those that love an uber-buttery crispy cookie and those that prefer the softer side of Sears. Oh sorry, I meant sugar cookies. I think I’ve had too much sugar. Anyway, I usually lean toward the crispier side, but when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. All in all, these got a lot of smiles, and compliments from non-celiacs.

Gluten-free sugar cookiesgluten-free sugar cookie
Makes 24 cookies
Adapted from Gluten-Free Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies at Gluten Free on a Shoestring.

Ingredients:
1 cup gluten-free flour mix
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 TBSPs confectioners’ sugar
10 TBSPs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra large egg at room temperature, beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Gluten-free colored sugars

Directions:
• Preheat your oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat, or spray with gluten-free nonstick spray.
• In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar.
• Mix in the butter, egg, and vanilla.
• Mix on medium speed.
Note: My dough started out looking very crumbly, so I added another two TBSP of butter to what the original recipe called for (grand total of 10 TBSPs), and let the mixer run for about 5 minutes. Have patience–the dough will come together.
• Separate the dough into two balls.
• Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on your clean countertop and dust rolling pin. Roll the dough out to 1/3-inch thickness.
• Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Sprinkle with gluten-free colored sugar and place on baking sheet.
• Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies begin to look golden.
• Transfer cookies to cooling rack.

Enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk.

I’m not a huge fan of frosting on my cookies, but in case you are, the frosting posted on the original recipe at Gluten Free on a Shoestring looks quick, easy, and delicious.

Also, I have a feeling that I could make these even better next time by pulsing the flours in the food processor for minute, or maybe even just sifting them.

Share the love: I can never get enough cookies. Which ones top your list?

7 kid-friendly gluten-free staples

There’s no doubt about it–going gluten-free is expensive!! And frustrating! And often disappointing. When a new gluten-free product makes an appearance on our grocery store shelves, I grab it like it’s the last iPhone on the store shelf. Which is crazy, because it’s not like there’s a horde of people fighting me for it.

Here’s how the scenario often plays out. I run home and tell Nora I’ve found a new cracker (or whatever) for her to try. She eagerly takes a hearty bite with a light in her eyes. Then her chewing slows, the light fades, and she shakes her head “No.” And into the trash it goes. Sometimes, I force myself to keep it, thinking it will get better by turning stale in our pantry. Trust me, it doesn’t.

Through our countless trial and error episodes, we have found many products that we love, sometimes even more than the original. Here is our first list or recommended kid-friendly foods. These products are ones that I buy regularly now and they have been taste-tested by some of the most picky children (and adults) I know.

1. Udi’s Sandwich Bread
I didn’t want to select just one particular kind of bread because I know there are some kids who will only touch white bread. Our current favorite is Omega Flax & Fiber.

2. Gluten-free Corn Pasta
I haven’t found a brand I don’t like yet. Since we discovered it, corn pasta is preferred over all others in our house for it’s nearly normal texture, taste, and “chew.”

3. Annie’s Gluten-free Rice Pasta and Cheddar
The one exception to my corn pasta rule is this box macaroni and cheese. Preferred over the creamy frozen version, this was gobbled down by a slew of kids who didn’t know it was your regular blue-box mac-n-cheese. And they came back asking
for seconds.

4. Rudi’s Gluten-free Plain Tortillas
Bring back taco night! With these, we never have to worry about the tortilla crumbling apart or tasting like cardboard. And we are happy to have quesadillas back on the menu!

5. Pamela’s Gluten-free Baking & Pancake Mix
OMG. I think that was our actual response when we first tried these heavenly pancakes. Now we cannot live without this mix in our house. Make pancakes, crepes, or use it for baked goods in a pinch. So delish.

6. Gluten-free Honey Nut Chex
Ok, so this is a bit of a cheat. But one year ago the gluten-free cereal choices were much more limited for us. Now, several brands have started to adorn the GF label. Honey Nut Chex brought a bit of normalcy back into breakfast.

7. The Great Organic Beef Hotdog by Applegate
Never fear, Applegate hotdogs are here to save your summer BBQ. We brought these to all our summer gatherings, and never had to worry about mystery ingredients. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and casein-free, but also full of flavor and snap!

If you happen to shop at Whole Foods, I do know that they have a policy that you can bring back any food, even if it is opened, if you don’t like it. I haven’t inquired to see if other grocery stores honor the same policy, because quite frankly, I’m one of those people who say they will return something and then I never do.  If you are thrifty and more organized than me, check with your local grocery store to see if they have a similar allowance. It could save you from throwing your money away on food you
don’t enjoy.

Share the love: Do you have favorites to add to this list? Bring ’em on!