A few weeks ago, I was at the Chestnut Square Farmer’s Market, doing my weekly shopping, when I walked past a booth filled with bags of various baking mixes. I almost walked right past the booth without a second glance – after all, in that area of the market, there are a lot of vendors selling pasta sauces, homemade pasta, and artisan breads, most of which I cannot eat. (You know how that is, right? Don’t you put on those imaginary blinders when you walk past these things too? And that little voice in your head tells those gluten-filled goodies “lalalalala I can’t SEE you!” This isn’t just me, is it?) But something caused me to turn my head as I walked past, and take another look at what was being sold at this table. There had to be at least a dozen different brown paper bags containing different baking mixes. Upon closer inspection, I read the labels: “Lauren’s Gourmet – Gluten-Free.” Gluten-Free Baking Mixes? At my farmer’s market? I picked one up and started asking about it. I asked where the mixes were made. (In Anna, Texas, just a few miles north of the market.) I asked if they were made in a dedicated kitchen. (They were.) I asked if there were any that were dairy-free, while simultaneously picking up one of the packages and reading the ingredients. (She told me that many mixes contained no dairy and no egg, and I could substitute non-dairy milk and egg substitutes as I needed.) While I’m not much for baking mixes, (if you visit here often, you’ll see that I change up my gluten-free flours in recipes all the time, never sticking to one blend, and mostly making things from scratch. I have more than a dozen different flours in my pantry. It’s kind of a problem when it comes to pantry space.) I was excited. Somebody in my little part of the world was making gluten-free baking mixes! After some consideration, I picked up a bag of Southern Cornbread and took it home with me.
A few days later, I made that cornbread to go along with some fresh pinto beans (Which I also picked up at the market – this is one of the many perks of shopping at the farmer’s market all the time. You can buy fresh beans!). I baked it in a glass bread pan, and let me tell you – that was some of the best cornbread to ever come out of my kitchen. It was perfectly crisp on the edges, but amazingly moist in the center, with a hint of sweetness. My husband and I ate a good deal of it that night, and it was delicious the next day as well. I grilled a slice in a pan with a bit of ghee, and drizzled just a touch of maple syrup over it. Heaven.
I was so ecstatic about this new discovery that I searched and found Lauren’s Gourmet online. I then found Lauren’s Gourmet on Facebook. I reached out to Karen, the founder of Lauren’s Gourmet, and asked if I could share more of her great products with my readers. The next day, she called me, and we made plans. I headed up to the farmer’s market the following Saturday and officially “met” Karen.
Karen is one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. Her daughter, Lauren, was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008. Like many parents, Karen was overwhelmed with how to manage Lauren’s diet and keep her healthy. Karen wanted to find a way for her and her daughter to embrace the disease, not fight it. So she started researching. And perhaps more importantly, she started experimenting. And now, in three short years, she has started a growing business selling various gluten-free baking mixes in 5 states and online.
These aren’t just any gluten-free baking mixes, either. They’re egg free. Nut-free. Many are yeast and casein-free. She doesn’t use preservatives. She makes suggestions on her instructions for dairy and egg substitutes to help accommodate her customers and their needs. Not only does she use a dedicated kitchen, but Karen has done her research to ensure that the ingredients in her mixes are tested and are gluten-free – even down to the recycled packaging (which is made partially from corn, not wheat). Karen cares very much about the quality of her product and the happiness of her customers, and it shows.
I was genuinely ecstatic about having the opportunity to review some of these products. I took home some baking mixes and tested them. I baked her Banana Nut Bread (as muffins, swapping out the nuts for dairy-free chocolate chips – Brittany doesn’t like nuts), her Blueberry Muffins (I even swapped out the eggs with “chia eggs” – which is simply 1 tablespoon of ground chia seed meal + 3 tablespoons of water for each egg, whisked together), and her Cinnamon Coffee Cake (where I substituted the buttermilk with dairy-free milk + 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar). Of course, I used non-dairy milk in all of the mixes.
The verdict? They were all delicious. Brittany liked the blueberry muffins most of all, while I fell in love with the cinnamon coffee cake. They were easy to bake – I did have to adjust baking times for the cinnamon coffee cake, as I used a different sized pan, but that was no big deal. These were all baking mixes I’d be happy to keep on hand just in case I had last-minute company, or felt like treating the kids to a special baked treat.
Lucky you, you’ll have the opportunity to try these mixes out yourself! Karen has graciously agreed to give away 5 baking mixes to 5 lucky readers – and you can choose which mix you’d like to win! Just visit Lauren’s Gourmet, and come back here and tell me which mix you’d like to win, to be considered in this giveaway.
If you have additional intolerances beyond gluten, here’s some guidance so you can be sure you choose a mix that is suitable for you:
- All mixes are dairy-free EXCEPT the chocolate chip muffin
- All mixes are yeast-free EXCEPT the pizza crust
- All mixes contain some sugar (some, like the corn bread, pizza crust, and pie crust, contain very little)
- All mixes contain corn
For additional chances to win, leave me an additional comment after you have completed each of the following actions:
1. “Like” Lauren’s Gourmet on Facebook.
2. “Like” Tasty Eats At Home on Facebook.
3. Share about this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter.
There you have it! This giveaway will end on Saturday, July 2, 2011.