Normally, when I write a post, I start it out by saying “This is Marie,” so you’ll know that it is me and not Grant, but that seems strange when we have a picture on the side of somebody else. I’m contributing a tiny little post about a tiny little muffin. Look at them right here, being held up by their baker, Frannie. Aren’t they cute? Actually, I’m going to take a moment to talk about food allergies; if all you want to know is what I thought about the muffins, that’s in the last three paragraphs.
For a considerable portion of our baby’s infancy, he had eczema. Not the worst case ever (that would be his sister) but plenty of his baby pictures show him with big red scratched-up streaks all over, especially on his face. Poor little man. Anyway, I was convinced he had allergies to all sorts of things, because he’d flare up when I ate certain things, dairy and tomatoes especially. So I struggled with that for a while and finally put him on formula. The change didn’t help much because he was actually NOT ALLERGIC to any of my favorite suspects, although I remain convinced that the worst flare-ups were way too consistently and closely associated with certain foods to be totally coincidental. Anyway, this is a long way to get around to explaining why I read a lot of articles at Scary Mommy like this one and this one and getting even less sleep than I might have otherwise either worrying about things I couldn’t control, or obsessively trying to find recipes which excluded whatever allergen I suspected that week.
That is how I had come to walk a few yards in the footsteps, although not in the shoes, of parents with food-sensitive children. So when we got the invitation to try some gluten-free muffins, I was much more interested than I might otherwise have been. A good many folks who don’t actually have celiac disease or other sensitivities have found the gluten-free diet to be helpful in a variety of ways, so a few years ago I decided to try living gluten-free for a week. I figured that even if it didn’t do anything for me it would still be an interesting thing to try, and I was already reading all my food labels anyway for those sneaky dairy additives because of my lactose intolerance (just because butter and yogurt SHOULD have very little residual lactose when produced by traditional methods, doesn’t mean the stuff wasn’t added back into the product during processing! Resources like this link were useful to me when trying to figure things out, like why I kept feeling bad after eating things fried in butter when my Dad insisted there should be no lactose in it) I didn’t actually get any particular benefit from going gluten-free, though a week isn’t a very long time to truly test it out. Also, the products available at the time, approximately 2003, were best described charitably as “less than exciting.”
Frannie was motivated to start her business when she became home bound for a time due to health reasons including food allergies, a pretty significant motivation to make good-tasting food that would make her feel good after eating it! She has come up with six recipes: chocolate chip, zucchini, blueberry, lemon zest, banana, and vegan banana. These are baked at Pure Knead, a bakery in Decatur that handles exclusively gluten-free and allergy-friendly products. Yes, that looked redundant; it is for any of you out there who hate that common disclosure about possible cross-contamination on so many other food labels, and then still wonder about packaged foods even when the disclosure is not printed on them. According to her site, the muffins have been certified by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO) as gluten free. The fruits, vegetables and eggs are also organic.
Frannie’s purpose wasn’t only to provide people with a tasty organic, hormone- gluten- and primary allergen-free experience, but also to help parents be good hosts for play dates or unexpected guests with special dietary needs. The muffins come in freezable packages for convenience. I decided, therefore, that it would be appropriate to give these the most stringent possible test. My toddler and teenager got to try the chocolate chip version – after dinner. The toddler said “Num num um” while gnawing at his, and then smiled and pointed at the chips, adding “choklit!”; he didn’t finish, but eating half a muffin and picking out a few chips to eat individually after finishing a substantial dinner is pretty good for 2 1/2. The teenager downed the whole thing in a few seconds and then shrugged and said it was OK but she would rather have tried the lemon zest, which as far as I’m concerned is a comparable endorsement to the toddler’s when translated from teenager-speak. Consider that a double win, there.
Now for my own opinion: of the three kinds we tried (blueberry, zucchini and chocolate chip), the blueberry was best for both flavor and texture. The muffins have a pleasant, sweet smell which was a good surprise in a packaged product. Generally, gluten-free baked goods are challenging to the palates of those who are used to the lightness and chew that the gluten protein provides; that mouth feel is hard to replicate. Frannie has done a good job with the texture, which is soft, moist, and not too dense, so her muffins are worlds away from the sand/cardboard blends that I tried a decade ago. While there is a graininess to all non-white-wheat products that true adherents won’t enjoy, anyone who prefers brown rice over white or who is used to whole grain bread will appreciate these. I found that they grew on me and was glad that my trial pack had a few extra in it.
I would recommend these muffins to anyone who either has food challenges themselves or needs to be prepared to handle them in others, as well as people who don’t want candy for breakfast and/or need something to keep in their desks at work. In a market where so many muffins are so sweet that they ought to have frosting and a birthday candle on top, this is a good sturdy workmanlike food that won’t make your teeth hurt but is still sweet enough to feel like a treat. They are available in multiple locations including one of the major grocery chains, and you can check the company site for specifics if interested: www.FranniesGlutenFree.com.
(Our sample of this product was at their invitation, and our samples were complementary. It’s our policy to always note when we’ve received our meal without charge. If you would like to invite us to your restaurant’s media events, or to try your products, please drop Grant a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
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