The busier I get, the more tempted I am to give in to the convenience of packaged goods. One of my daily goals is to eat like my grandmother did - whole foods, fresh ingredients, seasonal dishes - with nothing out of a cardboard box. But that can be a difficult goal to reach. So I get really excited when I discover a convenience food that is natural, free of ingredients I can't pronounce, and most importantly, tasty.

March 03, 2009

The busier I get, the more tempted I am to give in to the convenience of packaged goods. One of my daily goals is to eat like my grandmother did - whole foods, fresh ingredients, seasonal dishes - with nothing out of a cardboard box. But that can be a difficult goal to reach. So I get really excited when I discover a convenience food that is natural, free of ingredients I can't pronounce, and most importantly, tasty.

That's why I was happy to discover Naturally Nora, a company that produces all-natural baking mixes. They make cake mixes and icing mixes with delightful names like Sunny Yellow, Cheerful Chocolate, and Cookie Cookie. As I was pleased to see on the box, their ingredients are things you might find in your kitchen, not in some laboratory. Free of artificial flavoring, preservatives, and hydrogenated oils.  The short list of about 8 ingredients  looks refreshingly simple next to the 18+ ingredients in typical grocery store baking mixes.  Best of all, I can actually pronounce every single ingredient!

Nora, the company founder, set out to create a healthier option for her family. (In my opinion, she has succeeded.) Her mixes are as convenient and easy-to-use as others on the market. The dry mixes contain no dairy or soy, and they can be prepared without either, if you're lactose-intolerant or allergic to soy. (The instructions suggest using vanilla soy milk in place of dairy and swapping butter for margarine.) The batter works for two 9-inch round cake pans, one 13-inch by 9-inch pan, or 24 cupcakes.

(Keep reading to hear about my TK Test...)

The TK Test: I used the chocolate cake and chocolate icingmixes, with 2 percent milk, to bake a double chocolate cupcake. Theywere a hit in the Test Kitchens. They had a classic flavor, but thecake was especially moist and dense and the icing was smooth andcreamy. I am often bored with cupcakes if I don’t get icing in everybite, but the cake was rich enough to keep my attention regardless.

Now I realize that dessert is dessert-- full of sugars andcarbohydrates -- but I felt a little less guilty about this indulgence.Knowing exactly what I was putting in my body comforted me. When I'mcooking with real ingredients, enjoying any food (even sweets) inmoderation seems like a safe and reasonable way to live.

Full Disclosure: We don't plug products in exchange forpayment from the companies that send them. Marketing and PR folks oftensend unsolicited products, from gear to foods, to our editorialoffices. Frequently, they end up discarded on the freebie table. Ifsomething looks promising, though, we might test it. Only when we runacross an occasional exceptional find will we write about it to shareit with you.

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