Product Review: Bettry Crocker Gluten Free Baking Mixes (Brownies)

That’s right….Betty Crocker has come out with a new line of Gluten Free baking mixes! Those of you with Celiac disease, food allergies or sensitivities know….this is monumental. These new baking mixes can be found right in the baking isle, by all the other cake mixes. They also cost considerably less than most gluten free mixes! As soon as I heard the news, I went out and purchased some to try them myself.

This might not make sense to someone who hasn’t gone years making nearly all their food from scratch and driving miles out the way to find gluten free substitutes, but seeing those yellow boxes right up there with all the “normal” baking supplies nearly brought tears to my eyes. There they were! Mixes for Yellow Cake, Devil’s Food Cake, Brownies, and Chocolate Chip Cookies. It has been many years since I purchased something from that section of the grocery store, and it was an oddly emotional moment.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many of these mixes are also egg and dairy free, and that some of them are soy free (with no soy ingredients, but they carry the warning that they may contain soy…probably because they are processed in a plant where soy is also used). If you can’t have dairy or eggs, you can use egg substitute and soy or rice milk and have allergen free treats!

I decided to put the mixes through the Three Point Picky gluten-free test. Are they as easy to make as a regular cake mix? Do they taste as good? Are they worth the money? I’ve gotten good at making everything from scratch, so to be worthwhile a product has to either be better than I can make on my own, or as good but much easier or faster to make.

The first box we tested was the Brownie Mix. Here are the results, along with some photos!

The Three Point Picky Test (TPP):

1. Can my ten year old make it?
2. Does an unsuspecting guest notice it’s gluten free?
3. Is it worth shelling out the money when you could skip it or make it yourself?

1. The ten year old test: Middle Child did make these brownies by herself! They were easy to make, had clear directions, and only required 2 eggs and 1/2 stick of melted butter besides the mix. The only difficulty was that she needed help putting the batter into the pan and spreading it around, because the batter is very thick. She would have needed help here with any other good brownie mix, however. I do recommend greasing the pan very well, as they were a little hard to get out. However, we relied on the stoneware’s patina and didn’t grease the pan at all. Next time we will!

2. The unsuspecting guest: We gluten free families are used to food that tastes a little bit odd, after awhile you forget what “normal” baked goods are like. So I decided to test these with someone who didn’t know there was anything different about them. They passed! They are chewy, moist, and very chocolaty. They taste like any other brownie, although they are slightly more dense and perhaps a little chewier. There was no rice-y flavor. We loved them! Just like the yummy brownies from pre-gluten free days, and fast and easy too. I hate to say it, but I think they are better than the ones I make from scratch…all the chocolate chips in this mix really add to the taste and texture.

3. The budget test: Because they are more expensive than regular brownie mixes, they have to be pretty good for me to buy a mix rather than do it myself. However, it was very nice to just open a box and go. You only have to add 2 eggs and 1/2 stick of butter, which isn’t a lot of extra ingredients. It also allows for you to make substitutions if you need to! They do not make as many brownies as some mixes, but the ease of having the mix and the yummy end result made this worth the money. I will keep a box of these in the pantry all the times for unexpected guests or surprise chocolate attacks…and it helps that it’s easy enough for my kids to do by themselves!

Look how “normal” the box looks! Just like any brownie mix.
The list of ingredients (no egg or dairy, either!)
Contents of the box
Easy to follow instructionsIn goes the mix
adding butter substitute
and eggs….
the batter was a bit thick to stir
and she needed some help scraping it into the pan (but she needs help with that when we make them from scratch, too).
ready for the oven!
Yummy Brownie Goodness!

Reflections in the mirror, dimly

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12


Mountains, dusky purple swept with blue. Stones in all shades from black to sparkling white, hidden but for their humped backs peeking through emerald blades of grass. Trees of every kind, their leaves shimmering and quaking as the breeze breathes over.

Pines, their great blue-green fingers pointing up towards the heavens. Water, cold and fresh…water running over stones, weaving through the meadows, tumbling over logs.

Water sparkling in the lake, it’s playful wave-ridges catching evening light and winking it happily upward.

The wild flowers, decked in every color and style, scattered and nodding in the warm summer sun.

And stretching over it, the deep and vast and endless vault of stunning blue sky!

The beauty of creation takes my breath away.


And yet surrounded by this beauty I pause to think further, to climb a little higher in the revelry of this breathtaking view. He who created it…to look from creation to Creator! Oh, the beauty there!

To know that we live in a fallen world. To know that He has a place waiting for us, a place where this beauty is completed and perfected into the world that He meant it to be. A perfect creation, limitless in its beauty and flawless in its completion. A world we can only imagine, but one we can taste a hint of in the moments when the beauty of this world takes our breath away!

It’s in these moments I realize, all this beauty is a reflection. All this wonder is but a poor reflection, we see as in a mirror dimly. In heaven, Oh! We will see face to face. We will see what is real, more real than anything we can touch in this world. More beautiful than we can imagine, and yet familiar, too.

Oh! If the dim mirror is so beautiful, if it shines so brightly….what will the true vision be! Sometimes the longing and excitement are almost more than I can bear. I hope to see it together with you one day, my friend! What a day that will be.

This Week’s Gluten Free Menu

A little late…

Monday: Greek Scampi. This recipe came from the wonderful cookbook my step mom gave all her kids…an amazing volume full of favorites. I changed it around a bit….in a dutch oven or oven safe pan cook 5 cloves of garlic in some olive oil. Add a large can of chopped tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 pound of salad shrimp, cook 5 minutes more. Add 1/4 cup chopped Greek olives, and some salt and pepper. Sprinkle about a cup of feta cheese on top (leave cheese off of one area if you have dairy issues). Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Serve over hot gluten free pasta, I snipped some fresh basil over it since we’ve got a lot in the garden.

Tuesday: Leftover Chinese food. I made too much last week, and froze it for later.

Wednesday: Grilled chicken, peas and turnips with bacon and dill butter (another recipe from Mom’s book…from a Bon Appetite magazine), and baked potato fries. I will cut the recipe for the peas and turnips in half…but I’ll put the whole one here. It’s good for Thanksgiving!

The recipe:

8 T butter (1 stick)
4 T chopped fresh dill
8 Bacon slices, chopped (Hormel is GF)
1 1/4 pounds turnips, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 16 oz packages frozen petite peas, thawed (Mom uses less peas and more turnips…it’s better that way)

mix 6 T butter and 3 T dill to blend. Season butter with salt and pepper. Set aside. Saute bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown (you can do this ahead, or use pre-made bacon crumbles). Melt remaining 2 T butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turnips and saute until tender and golden, about 9 minutes. Add peas and dill butter and stir until peas are heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir in bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1 T. dill and serve.

Thursday: Tostadas. I am combining another Mom recipe with one we use…I’ll mix 2 cans of refried black beans (check for gluten) with about a cup of Pace picante sauce. Then cook a couple of summer squashes and some red onion until crisp-tender, and chop some fresh tomato and lettuce. Put corn tortillas (we use Mission brand) on baking sheets and put about 1/4 cup of refried beans (you can use more or less) on each tortilla. Over the beans, spoon some of the cooked vegetables. Sprinkle cheese (we use regular cheese for those who can have it and rice cheese for those who can’t…but we’ve also done this with no cheese and it’s still good) over the tostadas and cook them in the oven at 400 until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the tortillas are crisp around the edges. Serve with fresh tomatoes and lettuce and a dollop of sour cream or sour cream substitute.

Friday: We’re eating at a friend’s house, so no recipes for today.

Saturday: Quinoa with chicken, green salad. The recipe for the quinoa can be found here…I’m loving quinoa right now! It tastes great, has a great texture, and is very good for you. It’s also a great substitute for cous cous, which is never gluten free (it’s actually a pasta!).

Sunday: Chicken pesto pasta with red onion. I’ll saute some chicken with salt and pepper (about 2 chicken breasts should do it). Then make a pesto with fresh basil, pine nuts and olive oil. Saute a red onion (sliced in rings) with some olive oil until nearly caramelized, then add some frozen peas and cook until the peas are warm. Add the cooked chicken to the pan to warm it up, then add the pesto over everything and stir until combined. Serve over cooked gluten free pasta, with shredded Parmesan for those who can have it. This is also good cold!

Some Beautiful Things (gratitude journal)

Psalm 67:5 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you

219: Beautiful sunsets shared with precious family

220: Uncles who share their love of fireworks


221: The mud at river’s edge between your toes

222: Silver-gold wheatgrass against deep blue skies


223: Rolling hills of green and gold, touched with summer sun

224: Sweet red peppers from the garden

Writing


I didn’t see it coming…the brick wall that I seem to have hit while going along at a good speed, writing away. It seems to have loomed up out of nowhere, although in retrospect I can see it was there all along.

I’m fighting a difficult battle in my mind right now, one that I know with God’s help will pass. I have been trying to think of how to put it in words, but it’s not coming easily so you’ll have to bear with me.

Writing is part of me, it has been what I do since I was a child. Words flow so much more easily for me through pen and paper or keyboard than they do through speech. It’s how I speak what’s inside, how I share what burns to be shared.

I had taken a long break from writing, while my kids were very young and I was so busy with daily life that finding the time to write was hard. In retrospect, I was also running from writing…both from hearing what I would say if I wrote it all down and from the fear of what being “A Writer” would mean for me. Picking the pen (Ok, the keyboard) back up last year was a wonderful thing in so many ways. I felt the flow again, words moving through me rather than backing up and sticking inside, festering with the need to come out. I heard my voice again, and realized how much I had missed it.

But writing comes with baggage. I grew up with A Writer for a mother, and there are scars I’m running into that I didn’t realize were there. I want to say right off that there were wonderful things about my childhood. I have an amazing father who spent a measureless amount of his soul holding us together. I also realize that my mother’s problem wasn’t writing…that her writing was not the main reason she wasn’t able to be a mother. It was much, much more complicated than that. And I have been blessed through the last year of blogging in meeting mothers…wonderful, committed, loving and present mothers…who are also successful writers. You writing mothers have given me the ability to write again.

So what’s my problem? It’s not writer’s block, not in the sense that the term is usually used. I have no problem with the creative part of writing, no interruption in the flow of ideas or words. In fact, when I stop writing the ideas and words and stories just keep writing themselves in my mind…characters continue to develop, scenes are painted verbally, conversations and exultations weave themselves and wait, eagerly, to travel from brain to page. If you know me in real life, you might notice that the less I write, the quieter I am. But it’s noisy inside, believe me!

The closer I get to being “A Writer,” the more successful I am at getting the words down on the page or a screen, the more I struggle with this. I want to be a writer. I want to be a mother, first. I have a terrible fear of becoming a mother like my own was…as much as I love her, the truth is that she wasn’t able to be a mother. I grew up in the shadow of her writing, an afterthought and an inconvenience. I know now that other factors were at work, and the writing was just the most visible way that she was leaving us. But as a child I vowed that when I had children, I wouldn’t let anything else come first. And the more success and joy I have when I write, the more that dark fear comes forward. Can I find a balance? Am I spending too much time on writing, which is a me thing, and losing time with my kids?

My family used to tell a funny story about how clever I was as a toddler. How, when I needed something, I had learned before the age of two that the only way to get my mother’s attention was to crawl under the table and unplug her typewriter.

It wasn’t really funny.

Intellectually I know that my life is very different from my mother’s, that my family does come first, that I homeschool my kids and have chosen to stay home with them full time rather than work, that I am fully and wholly committed to my job as wife and mother before anything else. I know that I can and probably should use the gift that God gave me, and that doing so (as long as my priorities are in order) will build us up and provide a good example to my kids. I know that my faith makes me a new person, one that without God my own mother couldn’t have been.

But when I sit down to write, the fear claws at me and pushes me away from the keyboard. And when I don’t write, the silence deafens me and the words claw from inside, seeking a way out.

I miss my voice.

I am working on finding balance. Part of the problem is that I don’t know what that balance looks like. I have let a lot of opportunity pass me by in the last months and I have not written many things that longed to be written. But I’m not sure how much time I’ve gained back by not writing…I did most of my writing before the kids woke up in the morning, and if I got up even earlier managed to curb the urge to “check in” frequently during the day I could probably get a lot more writing done without losing face time with the kids. I know that many of you out there are doing it and doing it well, and I’d love to hear any advice you have to offer on the balancing act!

I feel like I have turned a corner, or at least I’m in the process of doing that. I’ve looked the fear in the face, I’ve named the beast. Now I just have to tame it. I’m getting this worked out because I have to work it out, I can’t have these two parts of me warring when they should be part of one, seamless whole. So thank you for your patience, and for your example. Fighting these little internal battles makes me stronger, builds my faith and helps me know myself better…stumbling helps you know your center of balance, even if it’s not pretty.

Edit: I just want to say that in talking about my decision to stay home with the kids and my struggles with writing I’m in no way saying that working (writing or otherwise) mothers are not good mothers. That’s not at all my intent, and the SAHM debate isn’t at all what this struggle is about for me. Being a mom is what I’ve wanted to do all my life, and I feel lucky to be able to do just that…the question in my mind isn’t whether or not a woman can be a good writer and a good mother, but whether I personally can be. I’ve been thinking of the Proverbs 31 woman and thinking that perhaps the “linen garments” she makes to sell could just as easily be woven with words as with wool…but balancing it with all the other things is the difficulty.

Photo: stock photo from the Big Box of Art

Still Alive…

Just a note to let you know I’m still alive…just having a couple of months in which I have been having trouble writing. There have been several contributing factors…too little time, various little crisis that needed my full attention, various neurosis that sapped my attention (writer-phobia, I’ll explain later) and then there’s that thing that happens when I’ve waited too long to post and there is too much to say and I don’t know where to start. Please forgive me! I’ll be back, I really will. I just needed a little time to get things back in order and plan ahead so that it doesn’t happen again.

I’m still here! I’ll be back…