Keeping it simple can keep everyone happy.
My philosophy with my kids on many things, like movies, treats, outings, video games, and more has always been, “Don’t tell them what they’re missing and I don’t have to be the big meanie.”
This is harder to accomplish as they get older, but I’ve tried as much as I can to foster an attitude of simplicity. When I see my kids’ faces absolutely light up at the prospect of walking to get an ice cream cone or receiving a big bowl of fruit for their birthdays, I rest assured that they are not scarred for life because I haven’t allowed them to watch every new movie, patronize the ice cream man twice a week and have extravagant, expensive, birthday parties.
They appreciate the little things, and they are happy. They are content. They even get excited about things that to some kids would be mundane.
No Presents at the Birthday Party
Last year my son Paul, age 5, had his first “kids” birthday party. We kept it simple and taught him about service to his community by asking for donations to a local organization that feeds hungry schoolchildren sack suppers instead of gifts. He then had a special day out with his parents to make 100 sandwiches and pack bags for over 2,000 kids. It was amazing, and he couldn’t wait to do it again this year!
Check out my article over at Simple Organic today for 5 Ways to Host a Simple, Low-Waste Birthday Party. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to keep it simple for kids, since I’ll need some new ideas for next year!
Picture the average child’s birthday party: streamers, balloons, cake, ice cream, pizza (all on disposable plates), presents stacked in one corner, plastic goodie bags stocked with cheap toys for all the children to take home.
Now let’s imagine the waste created by the disposables, the wrapping paper, and all the little junk toys that eventually get thrown out by the other kids’ parents.
And if you’re a Simple Mom trying to be anti-materialistic in our culture of “more”, you may also cringe at the contents and quantity of the gifts for the birthday kid.
I know I did… [Read the rest by clicking HERE.]
Our Experience so Far with Gluten-Free Cake Mixes
The last two weeks I’ve been trying to share as much as I can with you about our trials with the grain-free and gluten-free lifestyle, and today I get to review two GF cake mixes we have tested in the last six months.
You all know I’m a good compromise girl when it comes to food. I may try to make healthier birthday cakes, but I’m not going to say “no white flour, no white sugar, ever.” Once the child turns 12-18 months or so, it’s too difficult to actually leave the house and still hide the fact that there is a world full of junk food out there…
So I didn’t worry about getting whole grain, perfect birthday cakes. We tested a white pound cake from Mixes from the Heartland last fall for my husband’s birthday and a white cake mix from Bob’s Red Mill for Paul’s kid party this weekend (If the MftH link doesn’t work, try this one.).
Overall, I was super impressed. I didn’t expect them to taste much like a “regular” cake mix, but, more or less, they do. The world of gluten-free living, although two or three or four more times expensive, is not without flavor and wonderful mouthfeel.
The biggest surprise is how thick the batter ended up, and the fact that it doesn’t settle while baking. I didn’t know this the first time round and ended up with a funny lump in the middle of the cake from the bowl scrapings:
How are the Ingredients?
Both companies are clearly making an effort to have a cake mix that’s on the healthier side. You’ll notice some whole grain flour (rice) and even a strong commitment to non-GMO ingredients in the Mixes from the Heartland.
Ingredients: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix
Whole Grain Sorghum Flour
Baking Powder (non-alum)
Natural Vanilla Powder (Sugar, Cornstarch, Vanilla Extract)
You add: 3 whole eggs, 1/2 c. vegetable oil (I used melted butter), and 1/2 c. water
Pros and Cons
I like that there’s no trans fats or seriously weird ingredients, which always made me squeamish when I read the sides of big brand cake mixes. “Sugar” being ingredient number one is never good, though. The cake was easy to make and work with.
Ingredients: Mixes from the Heartland Vanilla Pound Cake (here)
brown and white rice flour
(non GMO) corn starch
non aluminum baking powder
natural vanilla powder (non GMO corn starch, vanilla beans)
You add: 3 whole eggs, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup vegetable oil (I used melted butter).
Pros and Cons
A good effort to be healthy-ish, and I appreciate the mention of non-GMOs. However, is it only because the list combines brown and white rice flours into one item that sugar isn’t first? I wonder.
My big problem with both items I’ve baked from this company (also tried a Sweet Potato Brownie mix, delish), is that the times listed for baking are ridiculously too short. I baked the pound cake in an 8×8 pan instead of a loaf pan, so I sort of expected the thinner batter to need less than the 50-60 minutes called for. (I also thought the company should have offered multiple cake size options, not just a loaf.) By 30 minutes I had put foil over the pan because the top was browning too fast, and the cake needed 75+ minutes to bake. The brownies literally needed double the baking time called for to pass the toothpick test. Good thing they were tasty!
I have to pick on one other issue. I have a number of products from Mixes from the Heartland, and all of them boast “low sodium!” or “sodium free!” or “no cholesterol.” I wrote on the package “silly.”
The savory dinner dishes, like the hamburger helper wanna be that we tried, are only low sodium because they taste terrible until you add salt. And correct me if I’m mistaken, but doesn’t baking powder have baking soda in it, which contains sodium? The baked goods that claim “cholesterol free” are a joke, since you must add eggs and oil to bake them. Seriously. I’d rather see this company, which is well-run and makes good stuff, focus on being gluten-free and leave the rest of nutrition to the eater.
The Important Part…Did People Like the Cakes?
At Paul’s birthday, there were 3 or 4 kids out of ten who did not like their cake (from Bob’s Red Mill). Both of my kids loved it…then again, they kind of love anything with sugar because it’s a rarity, and kids are almost always picky – same thing happened last year with my half whole wheat spiced cupcakes. Who can say?
The adults in the family think it’s good. Just good, though, not amazing. It doesn’t quite have the “cake” flavor nor moisture of standard boxed mixes like the ones that add pudding (and are surely NOT healthy at all!). At least this one doesn’t have trans fats.
The Mixes from the Heartland pound cake was moist, the perfect density, and tasted like…a cake. That’s honestly the best compliment one can give, right? Nothing stood out to be odd or different.
I have one more box to try, from King Arthur Flour. I’m curious to compare!
Have you baked gluten free “processed” foods? How did it go?
Have a great, low-waste day, and come on back tomorrow for TWO gluten-free and grain-free giveaway opportunities!
By the way, did you see that the new free eBook is available? Is Your Flour Wet? Soaked, Sprouted, or Soured: Grains Recipes from Our Kitchens to Yours pulls together 45 recipes from a whole bunch of great food bloggers, and you can download it FREE right here.
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
Disclosure: Both companies sent me cake mixes for my review, but nothing else changed hands. I never guarantee a positive review, only an honest one! I’m supposed to be an affiliate for Mixes from the Heartland, but their program is not working right now. ??? See my full disclosure statement here.
I’m entered in Simple Lives Thursday blog hop!