Thursday, October 25, 2012

Curried Lentil Stew (Vegan, Gluten-free, Refined-sugar Free)

We are on week three of the hubz' meatless cleanse.  He gets one 'cheat' day per week, usually Sunday.  He can eat meat until he's gassy, if he pleases.  But to be honest, I'm really proud of him.  He's only cheated once outside of his Sundays.  (He gave into BBQ, that saucy temptress...)  And even more surprisingly he's actually been enjoying the vegan dishes I've been preparing for him.  It's been a nice break for me as well.  I typically have to prepare two separate dinners.  One with meat, and one sans meat.  So for me, because I cook for myself lastly, it's nothing more than a large plate of roasted cauliflower.  And cauliflower is great and satisfying and all those simple adjectives used to describe super simple yummy food.  But it's just cauliflower.  Nothing else.  My husband would starve to death.  So I've been getting a little help from some of my blogger friends who are more experienced in putting together photo-worthy, carnivore-approved vegan dinners.

Last week we enjoyed a few things...

Roasted Curry Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry, by Chef Amber Shea at Almost Vegan

Copycat Panda Express Orange Sauce with 'Popcorn' Cauliflower and Veggies, compliments of Chocolate-Covered Katie

My very own Southwest Veggie Pasta (which I'll blog about eventually)

Whole Grain Pasta with Mushroom Marinara and Roasted Veggies (I'll also blog this recipe!)

Amber's White Bean and Broccoli Pasta Toss

Vegan Tacos, Topped with Fresh Pico and a Side of Black Beans and Brown Rice (also on the backlog)

We also sneaked in some supposedly lightened-up desserts, like this vegan and gluten-free pumpkin coffee cake with ginger snap streusel topping.  And yes, this will ALSO be on the blog very soon, so no worries, hungry peeps.

 And just a little something I rolled up on a lazy afternoon...
I know it looks strange, but it's SOOOOOO good and SOOOOOO easy.  Whole grain tortilla, natural peanut butter, raw honey, and a lonely little banana, who was sitting in the fruit bowl all by himself with no apples to call his friends.  Poor little guy.

Now that you've indulged yourself in food porn, let's get back to lentils.  Cheap.  Extremely versatile and forgiving.  And most importantly, SATISFYING.  They fill up hungry bellies.  Yes, even those big guys who pound their chests and scream for a steak.  And cheap.  I think I paid $1.09 for an entire 14-oz. bag of lentils at Wal-Mart.  No, they weren't organic for all you food snobs.  Sorry, I'm on a budget right now.  BUT I'm willing to bet you can still find bags of organic lentils for a relatively reasonable price online, at Trader Joe's, or purchased in bulk.  And all of the veggies used in this dish are ALSO very affordable, especially when you have an awesome City Market that sells things to you at wholesale cost. 

This particular recipe was inspired yet again by one of my favorite vegan blogs on the blogosphere,  Amber and I have VERY similar tastes in food I discovered after spending hours, which turned into days, browsing through all of her drool-worthy creations.  Indian, Ethiopian, comforting, sweet stuff, and so many effortless raw desserts, which are not only HEALTHY for the body but tasty to the tongue.  You can check out her original recipe here for these curried lentils.  I didn't change much, but I did prepare them in a slightly different way, making the overall dish itself a bit thicker, more stew-like (although I'm sure that Amber's dish probably thickens up quite a bit when left in the fridge overnight).  I didn't have all the jalapenos I needed on hand, so I just used the one I had, including some of the seeds for heat, and then added some additional cayenne pepper.  (The dish was still overall relatively mild, so I would probably add more jalapenos next time.)  I also played around with the spices a bit and made them extra flavorful by using veggie both in place of the water originally called for.  And as for the lentils, I 'pre-prepared' mine so that I could actually freeze half of the full batch and pull out later in the week for a super quick and easy 30-minute meal. 

Curried Lentil Stew (makes 6-8 servings)

  • Half a full batch of 'partially' prepared lentils, red or brown (see notes on preparation)*
  • 3 C. veggie broth (or chicken stock if you're not vegan)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. EVOO or coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (the more seeds you leave in, the spicier this dish will be)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • One-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into discs 
  • 1 C. frozen peas
  • 2 tsp. sugar (I used raw cane sugar, which has the rich taste of brown sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. good-quality curry powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoky paprika
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Lots of freshly minced cilantro (I probably used close to 1/2 C., adjust to suit your taste buds)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 C.cooked brown rice 

*Preparing the Lentils:
So I'm basically just softening the lentils up a bit, using half for the recipe, and then freezing the other half.  Why do I do this?  Quick and easy, folks.  Now although I still tend to slowly simmer, on low heat, most of my soups, stews, beans, etc., I like having the option of pulling out partially-prepared lentils and then quickly stir-frying some veggies, adding a bit of liquid to bring everything together, and possibly enjoying a meal in 30 minutes. 

Take a 14-oz. bag of lentils, dump into small stock pot (soup pot, whatever you use/call it), add about 6 cups of water along with a tsp. of sea salt.  Then just bring to a soft, rolling boil and then immediately drop your heat to medium-low and ONLY allow these to simmer for 5 minutes.  They will also be soft enough to eat at this stage with some 'bite' left in tact.  Then drain the water off immediately and set aside half of what you just prepared to be frozen and the other half to be used right now.  *(If you would rather not deal with this step, you can simply add the lentils at the time you pour in the veggie broth, allowing them to cook as everything else simmers.  But be aware that you may have to add in more liquid over time as the lentils will soak up some of the liquid during the cooking process.

Cooking Directions:
1.  Heat oil in large pot (I used a large sautee pan with high edges, enough to hold the stew) over medium heat.
2.  Toss in all the minced veggies, minus the frozen peas, along with your spices, cilantro, and sugar.  Also add about 1/2 tsp. of salt to start and to 'sweat out' the veggies.  (I always salt in stages, small amounts at a time, to ensure I do not over-salt my dish.  So add in small increments, and taste along the way!)

3.  Cook all of this mixture together, stirring around from time to time, for about 5-7 minutes, or just until the veggies are becoming soft and everything is smelling very fragrant. 
4.  Slowly add in the veggie broth.  Turn the heat up a bit so you can bring this mixture to a 'soft' rolling boil.
5.  Once 'softly' boiling, add in the lentils and immediately drop the heat down to medium-low. 

6.  And now, we just finish cooking this off until most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the stew is nice and thick.  There are two ways to do this.  You can opt to cook this at just a slightly higher temp., with the lid off, until you reach your desired thickness.  Since I'm always multitasking, I chose to cover the entire thing and just allow it simmer on medium-low for about 45 minutes.  Now be forewarned.  Doing it this way WILL make the lentils very soft.  So if you want more texture, finish cooking over slightly higher heat with the lid OFF. 
7.  Finally, stir in the frozen peas, cover, and remove from heat.  And give everything one last taste, seeing if you need to add more salt and black pepper.  Then just set the entire thing on a back burner, allowing the peas to thaw out and heat up.  This will also allow the flavors to come together, the stew will thicken, and everything will taste amazing.   (The longer you allow this to sit OFF of the heat, the thicker it will become.)

Now you are ready to eat!  I served mine over prepared brown rice, but you could certainly eat it over anything, or simply straight out of a bowl with a spoon, which is what I did for breakfast the following day.  If you aren't a strict vegan and allow eggs into your diet, try spooning this mixture over the top of a few eggs for breakfast.  So incredibly filling with tons of protein (and copious amounts of fiber) to kick-start the morning. 
And yes, I totally forgot to add the peas when I made this.  They would have photographed so beautifully, too.  Oh, well.  Next time, my lovelies.  Next time.

Once again...ugghhhhhh to all these spacing issues!  I'm not sure what the friggin' heck is up with the spacing issues between the pictures and actual text.  They appear the same on my edit page and then show up all kinds of crazy on the actual published page. 

Reader Question:
What are your favorite meatless protein sources?  And have you ever tried to feed them carnivores with any success?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Roasted Curry Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry, and Other Things Carnivores Might Eat

I have a VERY diverse group of friends.  We all like different things.  Interests and  hobbies (I am the token pastry chef, thus pumping out kids' birthday cakes year round), political ideas (although I secretly think mine are superior...), religious beliefs or a lack thereof, opinions in health and wellness, and of course tastes in food.  I am married to a carnivore, yet I eat a mostly plant-based diet with some seafood and dairy mixed in from time to time.  (I also enjoy eggs a few times throughout the week.)  I keep the company of health-conscious friends who follow the 'Eat Right for Your Blood Type' diet, the gluten-free group, I have raw and vegan friends...there are the stuck-in-the-90's 'Is this low-fat?' junkies, and of course the rest of them...who eat just about anything.  (And then there's my brother...just fry it in fat and it'll be fine.)

One of the best ways to bring people together is NOT discussions of religion or politics (as my mother so warned me in my early teen years but I still decided to find out for myself, the hard way), but these words alone...'Hey, I'm cooking Thursday night!'  Suddenly I'm the most popular girl in the bunch, and I'm also the 'best chef' and nobody else knows how to turn on an oven.  *sigh*

And while I typically do not have issues finding and creating recipes for my diverse group of friends and to suit everyone's tastes, it can be a challenge to make a good majority of them solely plant-based without feeling like I am 'forcing' people to eat healthy who simply don't care about it...or that I have to fix an entirely different meal all together for myself, which is not only tiring but can appear a bit snobbish and even rude.  I never though of it this way until my husband so happily pointed out another one of my 'flaws', but I suppose it is a bit 'Here peasants, you eat this artery-clogging meat while I ever-so-elegantly enjoy this endive salad.' 

But what does one do when her husband declares he's doing his long-forgotten '30-days-with-no-meat' cleanse?  At first she internally jumps for joy...really, really high!  But next come all the frequent, subconsciously-implanted reminders that said husband IS (and will ALWAYS be) a carnivore.  And then the stress receptors start firing up in the brain.  How in the world can I POSSIBLY create something that is filling and satisfying enough for my meat-eating spouse to still remain interested in my cooking, ultimately keeping him interested in ME (and not just interested in my body parts...)?  Well, first I think to all the wonderful things that CAN be eaten with or without meat, that are equally satisfying and filling either way you fix it up.  Curry dishes with sides of brown rice were my first thought.  And whole grain pastas with roasted veggies and made-from-scratch marinara sauces.  Ooooh, and Chinese take-out inspired meals, sans meat!  And this is why I love having so many wonderful blogger friends.  We all 'specialize' in something different, thus providing a canvas with the picture already sketched out.  All I need to do is fill in the colors.  Or perhaps I'll just take the finished painting and hang it up in my house...

And this is exactly (well, almost exactly) what I did with the wonderful vegan curry I concocted last night for both hubs and myself.  Went to friend's blog.  Found recipe.  Copied.  Almost...  I have this thing about not following directions.  I know, I know.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  And there ain't nothin' broke about Chef Amber Shay's (at 'Almost Vegan') Roasted Cauliflower-Chickpea Curry(I just realized I used this same 'if it ain't broke' line in my last blog entry...I'm not going to edit it out.  It's funny when I do such things...)  It's perfect, full of curried goodness, and not too spicy (although you could certainly make it taste like the devil delivered it 'himself').  But I just like to make things my own, add my own signature I suppose.  I guess that's kind of like taking an already-finished painting, adding in a random paint stroke, and then signing your name on the bottom. works.

I'm just going to let you check out Amber's site for yourself rather than copy the recipe here.  But I WILL share with you some of the things I added and changed a bit:

  • I TRIPLED the amount of garlic used.  (What?!?  I like garlic!)
  • I used fresh,  roughly-pureed tomatoes in placed of canned.
  • I added in a cup of frozen, organic peas a few minutes before adding the roasted cauliflower.
  • I added a few teaspoons of brown sugar.  Not sure why, but it tasted really, really good!
  • I threw in some red pepper flakes for heat (my curry powder is mild, purposely to adjust heat).
  • Tossed in a few Tbsp. of roughly minced fresh cilantro...because it's good on everything.
  • AND because I did not have cumin seeds on hand, I just used 1 1/2 tsp. of powder instead.  
I then served it alongside organic brown rice and garnished the entire dish with more cilantro, thinly sliced green onions, and freshly chopped tomatoes.  The only thing that was missing was the NAAN!  (Making note to self next time...)  Otherwise, this dish was SO satisfying.  My husband enjoyed it and even asked if there would be leftovers to take to work the next morning (which is today).  I was tempted to say 'no' and then hide the leftovers for myself, but then I knew HE'D be tempted to run out for lunch and grab something convenient, like a cheeseburger.

So what else could carnivores on a no-meat cleanse eat?  Besides this awesome curry creation, here are some of my other picks and possibilities for the week:

Whole Grain Pasta with Marinara and Roasted Veggies (broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and onions)
'Copycat' Panda Express Orange Sauce with 'Popcorn' Cauliflower, from Chocolate-Covered Katie
Baked Potatoes, smothered in sauteed onions and mushrooms, with Vegetarian Chili 
Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Peas, posted by Amber at Almost Vegan
Southwest Veggie Stir-fry (bell peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli, garlic, corn, black beans, SW seasoning)
Cajun No-chicken Pasta (basically a meatless version of a creamy Cajun pasta dish I make for Hubs)
Veggie Patch Pizza
My very own Brown Rice 'n Everything Wraps  :-)

And for dessert...
Vegan and Gluten-free Pumpkin Coffee Cake (which I'll blog about soon...)
Veganized version of Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake (which I'll also blog about eventually...)
Maybe not this week, but eventually Amber's Raw Pear Tartlets, except I'll probably use apples

Ahhh.  Life is good.  :-)

Reader Question:
Have you ever done a food cleanse or diet just before the holiday season?  And if so, what kind did you do?

Monday, September 17, 2012

White Chocolate Banana Pancakes (Vegan, Dairy-free)

Have you ever just had one of those EXTREME HANKERINGS for pancakes at an extremely inappropriate time?  Or IS there any inappropriate time for pancakes?  Is it just my childhood guilt-and-shame subconscious programming kicking in, for wanting to have sweets in the afternoon?  I didn't even have a proper breakfast today!  Oh, and here's another question.  Have you ever had an inappropriately rotten banana in your kitchen, but you didn't have the heart to throw the little guy away?

(Poor guy...not his best day.)  This was my dilemma today.  Not enough banana to make muffins or bread.  Didn't feel like scaling down an already-existing recipe for two dozen treats.  Soooooo, I pranced my way down e-highway and stopped by Chocolate-Covered Katie's insanely delicious dessert blog.  If Katie's not using chocolate, she's using bananas to create some of the most creative vegan desserts, MEANT to be eaten at totally inappropriate times.  And I knew she would have some kind of single-lady something-or-other into which I could turn this red-headed-step-child-of-a-banana.

I suppose that by now you could probably figure out, all on your own, that I took that banana and made a short stack of pancakes...oh, and probably if you read the title, too.  Yep.  Katie had a perfect recipe already laid out for me...JUST for me.  But I wanted to make it my own and simply not copy someone else's work.  I know, I know.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  And certainly nothing about this recipe was broken.  But I needed something else.  Something that says, 'There's a party in these pancakes...bring your own syrup!'   So, by doubling her recipe (hey, I was hungry!) and adding some white chocolate chips and a pinch of this and that, I got exactly what I had hoped for.  Something to hit the sweet spot, calm the cravings, and help me drown out the voice of my 'inner fatty'.  And nothing against fatties.  I love all foodies...skinnies...fatties...makes no difference to me.  It's just that I have to show some restraint once in a while, or my thyroid would eat me alive.  :-)

Here you go, all you precious afternoon-or-midnight pancake eaters!

White Chocolate Banana Pancakes (makes 2-3 pancakes):

  • 2/3 C. flour (I used all-purpose)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 medium very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/2 C. + 2 Tbsp. almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. white chocolate chips (make sure they are vegan if you are strict)
  • light-tasting olive oil or coconut oil for cooking 
1.  Heat your griddle or frying pan to just below a medium heat, somewhere between medium-low and medium.  Add just enough olive or coconut oil to cook the pancakes, ensuring they will get a nice golden 'crust'.
2.  Combine mashed banana with almond milk and vanilla extract.
3.  In separate mixing bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients, leaving out the white chocolate chips.
4.  Stir the banana mixture into the dry, being careful not to over-mix.

5.  Ladle the mix onto your heated pan; sprinkle a few of the white chocolate chips on top of each pancake.

6.  Once the pancake batter starts to bubble up, it's time to flip!

7.  Finish cooking on other side, just until pancake is cooked all the way through.

8.  Top pancakes with vegan buttery spread, maple syrup, a few extra white chocolate chips, or whatever for which your heart yearns.

 Enjoy.  xx

 Reader Question:  What's the most bizarre, or unique, food craving you've ever had and actually gave into?

P.S.  Sorry for all of the spacing issues.  Can't seem to edit properly today.  Oh, well. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dessert for Breakfast--Chocolate Chip Cookie Oatmeal (Vegan, Gluten-free, Dairy-free)

What's this?  Dessert for breakfast??  Does the sound of that cause you to stir up some deeply-rooted childhood fear of punishment if you were caught, dead or alive, eating candy at the break of dawn?  Well have no fear.  You are safe in MY house (soon to be downtown loft...whoohoo!).  You can eat ALL the sweets you want in the A.M., and I won't even tell your mother.  :-) 

Truth is, I've always been a sucker for sweets.  Especially chocolate, which has always been my vice.  While I've gone through wandering and various stages of enjoying sweet and sour candy, gummies, cookies, cakes, cinnamon rolls, and even those little candy-cane-flavored-nougat candies from Christmas time, I always come back to chocolate.  Lately, the cravings come and go.  These days I'm actually finding myself drawn towards more savory meals.  Yes, an actual MEAL rather than a slice of cake for lunch.  I know, I know.  Some of us have no shame.  But one thing that will NEVER, EVER, EVER, NEVA change is what the taste buds scream for in the morning.  And the taste buds are in charge.  For whatever medical or subconscious reason, I've always loved sticking something sweet and comforting in my mouth, first thing in the morning.  Whether it's a creamy latte or modest serving of dense and oh-so-flavorful cinnamon swirl cake, my mouth could do cartwheels for that initial burst of pure happiness, the first bite that will be remembered for the rest of the day.  Lucky for me, there ARE healthier alternatives. 

 I know there are a gazillion recipes for oatmeal on the internet, on people's blogs, on Facebook, wherever.  And probably even a HIGHER percentage of them are for chocolate chip cookie oats.  See?  Chocolate RULES.  But I did steer my oats in a slightly different direction than most.  While many cooking instructions for chocolate chip cookies oatmeal incorporate a teaspoon or two of melted butter (or vegan buttery spread), I added a thick splash of fully-fattened coconut milk toward the end for a nice and velvety mouth-feel without the greasy taste of butter or oil.  I additionally tossed in a handful of raw cashews.  I know that walnuts are more 'standard' in a chocolate chip cookies, but there is an irreplaceable richness that cashews leave behind in one's mouth with which a walnut just cannot compete.

Since I like my oatmeal sweet and don't want to load up on lots of sugar first thing in the morning, I love to use stevia in place of some of the sweetener.  It's pretty typical of me to use a packet of Truvia as well as an additional tablespoon of something like honey or raw can sugar...even xylitol at times, depending on the recipe.  This time I used stevia and raw cane sugar, also called turbinado sugar.  Turbinado works so well here, due it's rich molasses-like taste and how awesomely it mimics brown sugar.  Maple syrup would be another excellent option.  Maple chocolate chip cookies with cashews??  Yes, please!  Oh, and this technically makes your oats refined-sugar free as well if you aren't using regular white or brown sugar.  Bonus points.

It's kind of silly to call oatmeal a 'recipe', but here ya go.  Another recipe for chocolate chip cookie oatmeal to add to your ever-growing collection.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Oatmeal

  • 1 and 1/2 C. Unsweetened Almond Milk (or milk of choice)
  • 3/4 C. Rolled Oats (certified gluten-free oats if you are strict on the g-free stuff)
  • 1 Packet of Stevia* (I used Truvia--may also substitute a Tbsp. of sugar/sweetener of choice)
  • 1 Tbsp. Raw Cane Sugar (or sugar/sweetener of choice)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Coconut Milk (full-fat, from the can)
  • 1/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Dark Chocolate Chips (make sure they are vegan if you are strict)
  • Small Handful of Cashews (preferably raw, they have the richest flavor)

1.  Combine the oats, almond milk, stevia, and salt in a bowl.

2.  Stir well, and allow oats to 'rest' for ten minutes.  (Helps to make the oats softer and more pillow-y.)
3.  Heat in the microwave for 4 1/2 minutes.
4.  Stir in the remaining sugar, coconut milk (use less or more, depending on how thick and rich you like your oats), and the vanilla extract.
5.  Heat an addtional 30 seconds.
6.  Allow the bowl to remain in the microwave for another 5 minutes, until the liquid has all been absorbed into the oats.
7.  Finally, just add in your chocolate chips and walnuts...and stir everything around if you want the chocolate to MELT into the oats.  Otherwise, just grab yourself huge spoonfuls and shovel into mouth quickly.


Need another idea for 'dessert for breakfast' oatmeal?  Check out 'Mounds Bar' Voluminous Oatmeal...and it also has chocolate!

*Truvia is the brand of stevia-based sweetener that I often use in my teas, coffee, oatmeal, and even when replacing part of the sugar in baked goods.  There is now also a baking blend that can be purchased, when making larger desserts such as whole cakes and batches of cookies.  If you live in a place where Truvia, or even stevia, is not readily available to you, just use a Tbsp. of any other sweetener in it's place.  (Other options are raw cane sugar/turbinado sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut palm sugar, and honey, if you're not a strict vegan.)  One stevia packet typically has the equivalent sweetness level of about 2-3 tsp. of regular sugar.

product image

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Better Batter G-free Baking Mix--A Schnazzy Review

Yes, I am a foodie.  I eat food.  I look at food.  I dream about food.  And sometimes, I drink my food from a glass.  I even window shop for FOOD.  (I wish I were joking...)  But the one thing that usually identifies an actual 'foodie' from a hungry person is that we, as foodies, READ about food.  And we do it often.  Many, MANY hours spent at the computer screen going through food blogs.  Looking for great deals on foodie magazine subscriptions.  And lots of printer ink and paper consumed in the recipe-printing process.  Being a foodie can be an expensive habit.  But just as the world requires crazy people to stick their hands in the mouths of alligators and to base jump from tall buildings, just so somebody else can write about it, the world also requires people to shed sweat and tears in the kitchen.  It's a dirty and delicious job, and I bravely accept the mission.

I have a LOOOONNNNG list of blogs on my Google reader.  And my faves come directly through my e-mail when their authors post something new over which I can drool.  And drool I do when I peep new creations over at Gluten Free on a Shoestring.  The most clever thing about Nicole's blog is that most of her recipes are centered around using only ONE gluten-free mix, a simple cup-for-cup flour replacement called Better Batter.


I DO prefer my own variation of this made-from-scratch mix, but it's always nice to have a gluten-free Plan B on standby, especially on days where I do NOT feel like pulling five storage bags of various flours from the freezer, encrusted with old, sticky xanthan gum frozen to the outside of most of them. 

Truthfully, until recently, I've only used Nicole's blog for recipe ideas with my own mix.  (I actually make this coffee cake at least once a month, replacing the blueberries with walnuts and using my own mix, and making it dairy-free as well.)  I was a bit snobbish toward flour mixes, and mostly because I'd tried nearly a dozen and couldn't find a single one I loved, or one that would actually work with replacing the flour in my own recipes.  Often times, I'd have to dramatically alter the amount of liquid ingredients, and the kinds of liquids I was using, to accommodate the flour mix itself.  When I'm paying $6.00 for a small box of gluten-free mix, it should be accommodating ME, not the other way around.  And Better Batter seems to do the trick...for the most part.

If I had not already had so much experience with creating a mix from scratch and learning about finely milled brown rice flour from Authentic Foods, then I would probably give this flour a 4 and 1/2 star rating.  Because it is probably one of the best mixes I've used to date, with the exception of Pamela's, I would not hesitate to give it a four-star rating, or at least something pretty close.  I tested this recipe with two of my own personal recipes:  A strawberry cake and chocolate chip muffins.

Sadly I don't have any pictures of the cake.  And that's okay, because I didn't exactly 'love' the cake either.  It was okay.  There was no detectable grit, a common 'symptom' of gluten-free baking mixes or poorly-devised from-scratch recipes.  So immediately gives the mix three stars.  But I found that the batter was a bit more 'elastic' than I would have preferred.  And this is because Better Batter has xanthan gum already added to its mix.  This is GREAT for people who do not want to invest in that tiny, expensive bag of glue.  (Keep in mind, a tiny bit DOES go a long way.)  But I tend to use much less xanthan gum than what most recipes call for, often only half the amount.  I use the LEAST AMOUNT POSSIBLE to provide the most lifelike result.  I want my gluten-free goodies to be GREAT and actually rival their wheat-filled counterparts.  But because the mix actually contains xanthan gum already, I would bump my rating up another half star.  This can be a real money and time saver for gluten-free peeps who hate to give up muffins and cookies due to a silly little gluten intolerance.

What gives this mix a four-star rating is due to the fact of HOW WELL these chocolate chip muffins turned out.  Here's the thing.  I could TELL they weren't made from the perfect blend of flours I typically use.  But NOBODY ELSE could tell a freaking difference.  Nobody even knew they were gluten-free.  I took these muffins (ones shown in the pictures) to an event one day, and one girl who didn't even know what gluten-free even meant was going gaga over my muffins.  Of course she appreciated that I had included enough chocolate chips to supply the armageddon.  Girl's gotta have some chocolate.  But in all honesty, after I got over the fact that the batter was fairly 'tight' in structure, the muffins turned out great.  No crumbling thanks the the amount of xanthan gum.  And barely any detectable grit.  Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, could tell these had any rice flour in them.  I think out of 100%, I detected the rice flour about 3%.  And finally, the mouth-feel is what convinced me.  These muffins were impossibly moist...and even soft!  Yes, soft.  I doubted they would be after seeing how 'stiff' the batter was.  But I now release those judgments.  I would be more than happy to pay $3.50 a piece for one of these giant gems. final verdict is this.  GREAT all-purpose flour blend for your gluten-free muffins for sure!  And I also think Better Batter is super versatile for denser desserts such as coffee cakes.  And if you want to try your hand at softer, more tender cakes...I would definitely check out Gluten Free on a Shoestring and FOLLOW her recipes exactly as written.  This IS a mix where some of the recipes may need to be developed around the mix itself.  But it worked perfectly as a cup-for-cup replacement in my non-gluten-fee muffin recipe.  And that is a TRUE testament for a well-developed gluten-free baking mix.