Flour gets dash of whole wheat

By Bonnie Tandy Leblang and Carolyn Wyman Universal Press Syndicate
8 November 2006
Deseret Morning News

Healthy Choice All-Purpose Flour Blend With Ultragrain. $2.29 to $2.49 per 5-pound bag.
Bonnie: Earlier this year, in our review of King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour, I mentioned ConAgra Ultragrain, a whole-wheat flour that looked and acted similar to white. At that time it was available only to food companies and restaurants. But now Ultragrain is available in Wal-Mart stores and some supermarkets as an ingredient in this new Healthy Choice flour.

Because Healthy Choice All-Purpose Flour is a blend of 70 percent refined white flour and 30 percent Ultragrain, you can substitute it in your recipes without having to make adjustments and with minimal, if any, taste difference. You will be adding some good-for-you whole-wheat nutrients -- approximately 9 grams of whole grains per quarter-cup of Healthy Choice, in fact. King Arthur's offers more than three times that but also requires making minor adjustments to the quantities (and to liquids) in all recipes. Using Healthy Choice will be much easier for all but experienced bakers. I suggest everyone buy and use Healthy Choice in all their baked goods.

Carolyn: I have nothing against whole grains, if adding them to foods doesn't ruin their taste (as it didn't in the Kashi frozen entrees we reviewed just a few weeks ago). With baked goods, I think that's harder to do (Whole Grain Chips Ahoy! is a prime example). That could be because sweets are so important to me. I'm even tougher on a whole-grain baked-good ingredient such as flour. It's one thing to waste money on a bad-tasting whole-grain cookie; it's another, much worse thing to waste time and effort making one from scratch.

That was my sad experience trying to make chocolate chip cookies with King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour, which was the only white flour-like whole-wheat variety available in supermarkets until Healthy Choice All-Purpose Flour came along. I would never use King Arthur White Whole Wheat again. But I will happily finish my bag of Healthy Choice, which is, to be fair, mainly regular white flour and only 30 percent fiber-rich white whole-wheat.

I used it to make a recipe Bonnie gave me years ago for Chocolate Zucchini Bread, and it came out as rich and thick and delicious as it did the last time I made it with 3 cups of regular white flour. (Of course, the 3 cups of sugar and 1 1/2 cups each of oil and pecans also probably had something to do with its deliciousness.) In fact, my only complaint is about how my arm is now aching from hand-grating the three zucchini it contains. But that's Bonnie's fault, not Healthy Choice's.

McCormick Finishing Sauces. Red Burgundy Wine, Roasted Chicken Gravy With Herbs, Roasted Beef Gravy, Creamy Mushroom, and Honey Mustard. $1.99 per 5-ounce stand-up pouch.

Bonnie: Now with just a snip on the corner of a packet and 45 seconds in the microwave, you can top your food with one of McCormick's five new sauces. The question is: Would you want to? I wouldn't. I'd rather let my food stand on its own, or prepare a quick gravy or light sauce from the pan drippings, with some flour, herbs and perhaps a splash of wine and/or spoonful of mustard. Sure, these are simple and convenient, but why hide the taste of something that's freshly cooked with a sugary or salty additive-filled sauce? Perhaps noncooks like Carolyn need to mask the taste and texture of foods they've made with finishing sauces. Not me.

Carolyn: The name Finishing Sauces makes this McCormick product line sound fancy. But these are really just much more conveniently packaged versions of canned gravies. Heating up canned gravy requires dirtying up at least one bowl or pan; these warm up in the microwave in their own stand-up pouches. Two are also slightly different and better than the usual canned gravy. But only slightly -- specifically the less viscous and more-flavorful-than-canned Red Burgundy Wine and the more unusual Honey Mustard.

But the main advantage here is packaging so good it makes me hope McCormick will expand this line to include smaller pouches or even packets of shelf-stable gravy for singles and small families. Kettle Bakes Pretzel Chips. Original, Fully Loaded, and Honey Dijon. $3.29 per 7-ounce bag.

Bonnie: Kettle Brand makes potato chips so tasty that it's almost impossible to eat only one serving. I can't say the same for its new baked pretzel chips. These Pretzel Chips do contain only 1 to 3 grams of fat per serving, or 6 to 8 fewer grams than Kettle's irresistible potato chips, but they're neither tasty nor satisfying.

I'll stick to my store brand or the Snack Factory's lower-in-fat Pretzel Crisps (Original, Garlic and Everything), which are similar in shape and concept to these Kettle Bakes.

Carolyn: Kettle says it created these Bakes Pretzel Chips in response to consumer complaints about the dearth of portable healthy snacks. But Pretzel Chips are not the answer. They may be healthy but, as Bonnie just suggested, they're not a satisfying, stand-alone snack.

These are the perfect size and shape for dipping, though, into peanut butter or a soft cheese spread, such as Alouette or whipped cream cheese. And that whipped cream cheese would go especially well with the bagel-like Fully Loaded. Those would need to have been thicker and stronger -- like Bonnie's Snack Factory Crisps -- to serve with slabs of cheese. Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat" (Quirk). Each week they critique three new food items.

© Universal Press Syndicate