There are five varieties of the new cupcake mix: vanilla bean, coconut, chocolate, meyer lemon, and red velvet ($14.95/mix). There are also four premade frostings: vanilla bean, meyer lemon, coconut, and chocolate ($19.95/24-ounce jar). I decided to try one standard mix (vanilla bean) and one of what I will call the "special flavors" (red velvet) as well as the frosting that could go on any of the cupcakes: vanilla bean.
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Whenever I am in a gas station, corner deli, or mini-mart, I'm always a little bit temped by the display of snack cakes by the cash register. Or, more specifically, I'm tempted by the Hostess Cupcakes, with their gooey, marshmallow-creamy centers. Betty Crocker's new FUN da-Middles chocolate cupcake mix with vanilla filling bears a striking resemblance to Hostess. But would the taste compare?
Target isn't generally thought of as a place to buy food. But in fact, most Target stores have huge grocery sections stocked with just about everything you would find in a conventional supermarket (except produce). They even have their own line of baking mixes called Archer Farms. With Halloween upon us, it's a great time to try out their Monster Cookie Mix, loaded with oatmeal, peanuts, raisins, and chocolate candies.
For more than 10 years, No Pudge has pretty much had the corner on the fat-free brownie mix market. But now Trader Joe's has a nearly identical version. Curious as to which has the richest fudgy flavor, I rounded up a group of friends and conducted a blind taste test.
Gluten-free baking mixes have been available for a long time at health food and specialty stores, but it's only recently that everyday supermarkets have gotten into the game. Betty Crocker now has a line of easy, inexpensive, and readily available gluten free mixes. This week I baked a batch of the chocolate chip cookies.
Lately it seems like every time I stop by a specialty food store, Ina Garten has debuted a new baking mix based on one of her popular recipes. In fact, according to her website, she now has more than twenty breakfast and dessert mixes. At this rate, she's poised to take on King Arthur Four and Betty Crocker. This week I tried out her new coconut madeleines. Dainty and delicate, they seemed perfect for spring.
Sometimes I just can't decide if I want a rich, fudgy brownie or a buttery chocolate chip cookie. So why not combine the two in one? This week I tried out Betty Crocker's Cookie Brownie Mix, and for a mere $2.50, baked up a batch of gooey brownies topped with a layer of moist, tender chocolate chip cookie dough.
Meyer lemons are prized for their thin skins, ample juice, sweet flavor, and lack of acidity. In many dishes they are preferable to regular lemons because they provide loads of citrus flavor without the lip-puckering bite. But would their essence really come through in a cake mix? Was there any actual Meyer lemon in the mix, or was it a misnomer? I put Dassant's Meyer Lemon Cake Mix ($6.99) to the test.
Two years ago, I did a roundup of standard supermarket cornbread mixes for this column and was generally unimpressed with all of them. They were gummy, thin, and cloyingly sweet. I called Jiffy, my top choice, "solid, if not sensational" and recommended doctoring it up with add-ins like sun-dried tomatoes, poppy seeds, and pecans. This year, I thought it was time to revisit the cornbread basket by comparing two readily available specialty mixes: Crate & Barrel's Buttermilk Cornbread Mix and Trader Joe's Cornbread Mix.
To make the sorbet, all I had to do was combine the mix with three cups of water, cook, chill, and freeze. A spoonful bordered on perfection: deep, pure chocolate flavor, and a consistency so smooth it reminded me more of sherbet than sorbet. The last time I remember tasting chocolate this intense, it was a press event for Michel Cluizel.
This week I decided to try McCormick's Pesto Sauce Mix, available in most supermarkets for less than $2. I was especially interested in testing the mix because the ingredient list was surprisingly short (as opposed to a veritable paragraph of unpronounceable chemicals), and the first four listed were basil, salt, Parmesan cheese, and garlic. It didn't seem like anything an Italian grandma would serve on Sunday night, but maybe—just maybe—it would do the trick for me.
"Pumpkin pie in soup form? Should I sprinkle it with graham cracker crumbs instead of croutons?" [Photographs: Lucy Baker] Forget candy corn, fun-size Snickers bars, and caramel apples. What I really look forward to every October is the pumpkin. As soon as the leaves start turning, it seems like every coffee shop, craft brewery, and gourmet purveyor goes gourd-happy, offering up everything from lattes and ales to bundt cakes and whoopie pies flavored with the sunset-hued squash. Happily, for the next month I will be reviewing a host of festive foods that are easy to prepare at home using the season's best pumpkin mixes. Maggie & Mary's, a Minnesota-based specialty food company, has an inviting website, dotted with black-and-white snapshots...
"I put the bottle of Belvedere—oh alright, it was Smirnoff—back in the liquor cabinet." [Photographs: Lucy Baker] I made vodka sauce once for a date. No, it wasn't Rachael Ray's "You Won't Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce." I'm not that sappy. It was Sara Perry's recipe for linguine with bacon and vodka sauce from her book Everything Tastes Better with Bacon. It was a memorable night and while the gentleman and I have long since parted ways, from time to time I think fondly of the irresistible contrast of smoky bacon and fragrant basil, the kick of red pepper flakes, and the hint of spice that was so hard to name (dried fennel seeds). Gutsy and flavorful as...
In the past several weeks I've had very bad luck with ordering food for delivery. As a New Yorker, this is particularly distressing, as we tend to order takeout more frequently than we turn on our own stoves. It all started with a grilled chicken salad: I asked for the balsamic vinaigrette on the side, it arrived soused in a dressing so thick it bordered on mayonnaise. I practically had to spoon through it just to find the lettuce. Then, I got a falafel platter with ho-hum hummus instead of the babaganoush I had been craving. Finally—and this was the worst of all—my sashimi entree arrived all by its lonesome, without the miso soup. I have no problem sending...
While scones certainly aren't difficult to make from scratch, I was intrigued by the different versions of King Arthur mix available at my supermarket: cherry-almond, cranberry-orange, maple-oat, blueberry, and cream tea.
In last weekend's Wall Street Journal, columnist Eric Felten addressed an interesting question—one that's bugged me for some time. Why is it that in this fresh, local, do-it-yourself culinary age, otherwise skilled and intelligent adults are often considered incapable of mixing themselves a proper drink?
When it comes to pancakes, I've always scoffed at boxed mixes such as Aunt Jemima and Bisquick. With a basic formula of flour, sugar, baking powder, milk, and eggs, why not just make them from scratch on your own? And don't even get me started on artificially-flavored maple syrup—I'm from New England, where that stuff is practically illegal. But recently, in my quest to find mixes with a bit of magic—ones that taste like the real thing, cut down on kitchen time, and are inexpensive—I came across Stonewall Kitchen Blueberry Pancake and Waffle Mix ($10). The Stonewall Kitchen company is based Maine, a.k.a. land of blueberries. If ever there was a pancake mix out there with all the flavor of...