Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Quick background:  about a year ago, I found out that I am allergic to wheat.  Since then, I have cut out almost all sources of the offending grain.  While I feel so much better when I don't eat wheat, I desperately miss a good loaf of crusty bread, and a killer chocolate chip cookie.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that Betty Crocker makes gluten-free baked goods mixes.  I have tried other gluten-free mixes from Trader Joe's and the local health food store, but I was curious to try one made by a major food corporation.

Two weeks ago I bought and made a box of Betty Crocker GF brownie mix.  Maybe I've gotten used to gluten-free baked goods, but I thought the brownies were easy to make and pretty tasty.  Not as tasty as a regular, wheat-flour-based brownie, but if it's this or nothing, I'll take it.  Riding on that success, I decided to try the cookie mix.

To make the cookies, you first mix softened (but not melted) butter with vanilla and an egg, then add the cookie mix.  I figured it would be better to use an electric hand mixer to combine the ingredients.  It turns out that it didn't really matter what I used.  Why?  Because while the box said that the batter would be crumbly, that was a mild understatement.  You know how, when you make a regular batch of chocolate chip cookies, you can just scoop some batter out of the bowl and it holds together on its own?  Well, this batter was ridiculously crumbly, and I had to smush it together in an effort to keep the cookies intact.  Didn't quite stop the cookie sheet from being covered with crumbs, but whatever.

The finished product wasn't particularly cooperative, either.  If I tried to remove the cookies before letting them cool enough, they'd break apart.  If I tried to pick one up off the cooling rack too soon, it'd fall apart.  Do you notice a trend?  Yeah, who wants to eat cookies with a spoon?

I have to say that they taste pretty good.  Again, maybe it's because I'm used to gluten-free flour now, but the cookies are definitely passable.  But it would have been nice to hold a cookie and take bites instead of shoving it into my mouth before all of the zillions of pieces crumbled all over the place.  And there is no reason why it took ninety minutes from mixing to baking to cooling.

Conclusion:  I will not be buying this mix again.  Instead, I will continue to purchase Lucy's cookies.  They're really tasty, come in four flavors, and they come out of the package ready to eat.

Grade:  B-

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Anyone Other Than Me

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like, who I would be, if circumstances were different.

Who would I have become if my family didn't move out of state after my freshman year?  I attended a very  small school - maybe 125 kids per grade.  By the end of freshman year, I was going through a rough time.  The girls I had been eating lunch with had edged me out, forcing me to eat with others.  Would things have come full circle?  Who would have asked me to the prom?  To the graduation ball?

Who would I be now, if at age five I had met the boy I would later grow up to marry?  I am constantly taken by surprise by how many people grew up and returned to the town where I now live.  What would it be like to watch my hometown change and morph over time, before my eyes?  Would I be able to evolve as an individual, or would I have been bound by who I was as a teenager?

How would my life be different if I were more easygoing, and one who greased the machine rather than bucked it?  I have encountered several people in my current hometown who, for whatever reason, seem to just flat-out dislike me.  It seems as if my mere existence bothers them.  I wonder what it would be like if I always knew the "right" thing to say, and how to play the game.  Would I be able to stand up for myself, or would I be a complete doormat?

What would it be like to be known as "the pretty one" instead of "the smart one"?  I don't think I need to elaborate too much on this one...

Don't get me wrong; I have no desire to change my life.  I love my husband and I love my kids.  But sometimes I wonder how my life might be different in different scenarios.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blood on Their Hands?

Like most people, I was shocked and horrified by the recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ and 19 others, six of whom were killed.  The Congresswoman was at a political event outside a grocery store when she and the others were shot.

Some people feel that Sarah Palin holds some responsibility for this tragedy.  She has been quoted as saying, "We don't retreat, we reload" and her Political Action Committee website contained images of Democrat-controlled districts with crosshairs on them, as if they were targets at a gun range.  Others also feel that so-called political pundits such as Rush Limbaugh ("liberalism is the greatest enemy this country faces") and Sean Hannity ("There are things in life worth fighting and dying for, and one of them is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn’t become the speaker.") and their inflammatory remarks may have incited suspect Jared Loughner to commit such a horrific act.

Now, I am no fan of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, but I am not sure how much I blame them as individuals for what happened in Arizona.  To me, accusing them of inciting a man to murder is not too different from accusing Judas Priest of encouraging a teen to commit suicide by embedding messages in their music.  Yeah, it's a no-brainer to say that putting crosshairs on the picture of a Congressperson on your PAC website is tasteless at best, and I would have thought that most people (especially those who share their opinions on television and are seen by millions) would think better, but obviously some did not.

I think the current political culture of finger pointing and fear mongering is more responsible than any one individual or group of individuals.  And both liberals and conservatives alike are equally guilty of perpetuating this.  Instead of focusing on specific issues or expressing their own personal or party beliefs, the extremists attack the opposition, usually via ad hominem attacks, red herrings, and straw man attacks.  Since the major broadcast and cable news outlets at best carry a slight bias and at worst promote a party agenda, it is difficult for the general population to determine exactly what is truth.  (If it's truthiness you seek, fear not, head on over to Colbert Nation.)

Can it be stopped?  I don't know.  I would like to think that there can be a return to true, fact supported news reporting, but when journalism takes a back seat to pundits expressing their personal beliefs with no factual support (or worse, expressing ideas that they might not believe in but know will get ratings), we have a huge problem.  And if none of us care enough to seek out the truth, if we keep watching the biased news channels and accept their talking heads' words as truth, then I suppose we all have blood on our hands.