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General Mills Eat and Greet

by on August 30, 2009 · 39 comments

Earlier this week, I spent a few days in Minneapolis touring the Betty Crocker test kitchen with 50 other bloggers. We’d been invited to the General Mills first ever “Eat and Greet” where they were excited to share some new products and introduce us to the people behind the brands.  I was happy for the opportunity to attend and also, to visit Minneapolis which until now I’d perceived as a perpetual blizzard thanks to soundbites from the news.  Arrangements were made, bags were packed, and on Wednesday morning I was on a plane. I’d brought only a carry-on,  as this was to be a quick two night trip.

At baggage claim, I met a few of the other bloggers.  We boarded a bus to the Sheraton where we checked in and registered for the event.  Having been a Bake-Off contestant twice, I was happy to see some familiar faces whom I’d met only briefly during the contests.   Not to get off track, but at Bake-Off, General Mills lets employees from other divisions of the company act as runners or help in various areas as needed and they are usually as wide-eyed as the contestants. It was fun seeing them on their own turf.

After putting away my bags and calling home, I went back to the the lobby where I met up with some food blog friends — Nicole from Baking Bites, Amy from Cooking with Amy, Jennie from Picky Palate and Angie from Bakerella. We boarded the bus once again and headed for the Mill City Museum, a Minneapolis landmark which used to be a working mill but is now a museum chronicling the history of the milling industry. It was the perfect place to hold a reception for bakers and we all took pictures each other and of signs…

old mill

amy and nicole

angiejennynicole

gold medal flour sign

After a tour of the museum which an elevator ride on the Flour Tower, a walk through a room Amy called “The Betty Crocker Hall of Heads” and photo ops with a giant box of Bisquick…

1bisquick

…we sat down to dinner and talked about travel, cruises, baking, and Bordeaux. At one point, we got scolded by the MC who punished us with Bisquick trivia questions. Amy got them all right and won some coupons. Then we went back to the hotel, still kind of keyed up, and sat by the indoor pool. One of the moms jumped in with her iPhone on. That was pretty much the wildest thing that happened all evening.

Early the next morning we rode over to General Mills headquarters, a series of buildings set on a sprawling green lawn with a lake and walking trail. We were greeted at the main entrance by the doughboy, who posed for pictures and endured the usual belly pokes from a group of mom bloggers, before we were led to a conference room where they tagged our luggage with ribbons (we were told to check out of the hotel that day) before leading to large area for a buffet breakfast.

breakfast2

Next up, a short welcome greeting, intro from some long time employees, and finally….the test kitchen! I was expecting a vast, dark, place that smelled like brownies and had people running to and fro working on recipes made from cereal, but it wasn’t quite that way. It was a sunny and immaculate working kitchen, but today there was no testing in progress, but rather carnival of samples.  I took a couple of pictures from a landing above the kitchen. Unfortunately, these were taken through glass.

testkitchen1

testkitchen2

First station on the docket was the Big G cereal. We tried a few cereals and took pictures with the Trix Rabbit and the Lucky Charms guy.

trix rabbit

I took a picture of some Total.

3total

After cereals they showed us this thing called The Vault which was a phone booth type structure filled with box top coupons. Someone would go in the booth, air would be turned on, then the person in the booth tried to grab flying box top coupons. The kitchen seemed kind of an odd place to keep The Vault, so I guess it was mostly for tour groups.

box top vault

Moving on. Nature Valley Nut Clusters. At this station, like the others, we were greeted with some brand reps who were proud of their product and seemed to really care what we thought. I liked that it had actual nuts and said thanks for the protein. They said other people had told them the same thing, and at that point, I started thinking about all the research that had gone into every product.

Next door were the gluten free Chex. I thought they’d always been gluten free, but apparently there’s a new formula. I almost didn’t sample any, but there was a sweet Chex hostess who enthusiastically encouraged us to try the new flavors and went on to say how inexpensive Chex were compared to other gluten free cereals. One interesting point mentioned was how appreciateve celiacs were to be able to buy gluten free cereals in a regular grocery store. I happen to like going to specialty stores to find food items, but not everyone does and for people who have to, it can be a drag.

The Muir Glen tomatoes station was next, and Nicole and I grabbed as many recipe cards as we could. They’d made a gorgeous bruschetta, but I had a good cereal taste going on and didn’t want to ruin it. We must have been special because they invited us to join the Tomatoes Connoisseurs Club. It’s very exclusive.

4 fancy tomatoes

But we had to move on, because the smell of freshly baked cookies was luring us toward the back corner to the Simply Cookies display which shockingly, was my favorite. We met a very sharp brand rep who was ready and willing to answer all our questions while an assistant prepared batch after batch in the background.

2simplyassistant

First off, a key point. The cookie don’t have trans-fats or high fructose corn syrup and they’re made with easily recognizable ingredients. But what cracked me up (a little) was when the rep said they were aimed at a market segment called “Simplicity Mom”. I probably shouldn’t have laughed out loud, but I had this image of a woman with a subscription to Real Simple, who read Simply Recipes and went around telling people she liked to “keep things simple”. And boy, do I know a few moms like that. I aspire to be a simplicity mom, but I think I fall into the other segment of people who uses cookie dough as an “ingredient”. I can’t remember what’s it’s called….Complicated Mom?

5pbsimplycookies

6simplycookies

Now about the actual cookies, they were excellent and didn’t have much of the usual refrigerated cookie dough flavor. Also, they didn’t have that obnoxious palm fruit oil favor which I learned only certain people can detect. We had quite a lively discussion of how much research, tasting, testing, and debating goes into developing new cookies and I couldn’t help but feel slightly envious of the people on the Simply Cookies team who didn’t seem tired of talking about cookies at all.

The Yoplait Smoothies section was next, and if you ask me, they’ve got a great idea – a bag of frozen fruit chunks with little yogurt chunks. You throw it all in the blender, give it a buzz and you have a delicious smoothie in seconds. My big question for the smoothie people was why the sucralose? Why couldn’t the product be made completely with sugar or some sort of natural sugar? I felt kind of shy about asking the question and I think I may have asked it under my breath so that nobody heard. Really, the smoothies were good and the smoothie people were nice. But we were encouraged to be honest and I wondered why they had to add sucralose to other ingredients that were inherently healthy.

I got a little bolder at the next station, Yoplait Delights. This yogurt product looked like a pudding parfait, came in dessert flavors (lemon torte) and was only 100 calories per serving. Again, the product had a mixture of sugar and sucralose. This time I got a little bolder and asked why they had to use a combo of sugar and sucralose. The answe was that the sucralose cut about 100 calories off the product. Given the demand for good tasting products in 100 calorie portions, I can see why they chose to go this direction. And some tasters in the group, people who said they never liked yogurt, thought the Delights were tasty.

yoplait plus

Final stop, Yoplait Plus Yogurt. I’ve been eating Yoplait since I was 11, but can’t say I wasn’t a little skeptical about the “digestive health” claims made by Yoplait Plus. Not that I’d thought about it much because I was happy with normal Yoplait, but I recently started a low dose antibiotic for my eye and have a vested interest in probiotics. Sure, I could buy a jar of acidophilus, but it would be more pleasant to get the probiotics in a product I enjoyed eating. So I asked about the probiotics and the registered dietician on hand told me Yoplait Plus had a variety of live and active cultures – the ones you find in most yogurt plus a different pro-biotic culture that together, provided billions of live cultures. “Billions” sounds impressive, doesn’t it? It was about this time I told Nicole “Hey, better living through chemistry, right?” She laughed and I could tell she’d never heard that expression. In hindsight, I should have said I made it up.

delights lemon

Around this time, Amy reappeared and told us she’d been going through refrigerators. I wasn’t sure if that was part of the tour, but we followed her over anyway and found these adorable snowmen. We guessed they were made of icing and that they melted it, shaped it into snowmen, then refrigerated it to re-solidify.

snowmen

And that was that for the test kitchen. We waited for everyone to finish the product parade, then headed to the photography studio.

studio kitchen

First, we got to walk through the old studio which the studio director apologized for saying their new one was sooooo much better. Somewhere along the way, we stopped to walk through prop closets.

prop room 2

prop room 3

And then we were in the new natural light studio. It was a surprisingly homey and non-intimidating studio with lots of natural light, a litte table next to a window and professional photography equipment. Add to that, another not-so-shabby kitchen where they baked the food they were going to shoot.

studio kitchen 3

Aside from using a little Windex on the plates and carefully arranging food so that portions looked satisfying, the didn’t do a lot of doctoring. Instead, the made the food over and over until they got the look just right. For instance, they’d bake batches upon batches of brownies just to get the right pattern in the top and nice looking cross-section of nuts. We were also given a demo on how to cut brownies.

I’d say every blogger in the room had a deep interest in photography and this might have been the highlight of the tour for many. The best part was, they gave us a spiral book they’d made with tips on shooting food with our own, non-pro cameras. Everyone agreed the photo book was priceless. Even Todd, who found it lying on the bed after I’d come home, was extremely impressed with the photography lesson.

Next came lunch, where at one point we were treated to a quick visit from one of General Mills long time employees who told us how long she’d worked at the company, how happy she was at her job, but that she was first and foremost a mom and that like a lot of the attendees, she spent time in cyberspace looking for ways to be a better. That struck a chord with a lot of people, to be sure.

Then we went back to eating. We sat on the patio and enjoyed lunch with a few employees who also happened to love food and travel.

patio

We talked about the Minnepolis state fair and tried these humble looking yet delicious lemon squares that had a butter crust, a cake-like layer and a lemon filling that seemed to have cream cheese in it. Nicole and I were both trying to take a picture at the same time and I hope she got a better one than this. If this lemon square looks familiar, let me know because I’ve been obsessed with it for two days.

lemon square2

So that was it for the General Mills part of the trip, which for most people was a one night stay. I figured rather than fly home and arrive in Austin at midnight, I’d sleep over another night, go to the Mall of America and do some exloring. Since the Mall of America is near the airport, I bought a room at the Minneapolis Airport Hilton which has a shuttle to the mall and to the airport. I spent the later part of the afternoon walking around taking pictures of roller coasters and buying little souveniers for the family. I’ll post some roller coaster pictures later.

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Published on August 30, 2009

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise August 30, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Sounds like a fun trip. I took special interest in your questioning the use of sucralose as I have an intolerance to it. Unfortunately it’s used way too often in prepared foods.

VeggieGirl August 30, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Such a fun time!

Amy D August 30, 2009 at 2:55 pm

I love reading all about your trips you go on Anna. I have always wanted to go to Minneapolis–my college roommate was from there. I bought the Simply Cookies last week…they were very good, but there weren’t many in the package. I need more cookie bang for my buck! However, they were big!
Thanks again for a great report.

Katrina August 30, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Okay, yep, I’m jealous. ;)
Serious, “my kind of fun”.
Just wondering, is that person in the Trix bunny outfit always there, I mean, what a job.? Oh, he’s probably just there for tours. Well, I hope so. I hope he’s not there to hide around corners and scare employees.
Thanks for sharing the trip with all of us out here in bloggy land.

Heidi August 30, 2009 at 3:03 pm

I used to eat Yoplait, but have all but given it up b/c of all the sugar in it. It’s so sweet to me I can’t stomach it. I usually just eat plain with my own fruit or honey. I wish they’d just leave some of that sweet OUT rather than put sucralose in to save calories.

Funny thing, I was trying to decide between some Stonyfield yogurt and Stonyfield NEW WITH PROBIOTICS the other day… I picked it up and compared the live cultures in the 2 kinds and they were EXACTLY the same. As my pediatrician says, “Yogurt has ALWAYS been probiotic.”

Suzy August 30, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Wow. . . this is so up my alley. I’d toured the Mill City Museum before, but to see behind-the-scenes at the BC test kitchens is really fascinating. Thank you for taking and posting so many pictures.
Also, you should read The End of Overeating by David Kessler. I’m only halfway through it but it is a fascinating reality check of how food companies engineer food so people crave it. It’s all the highly palatable combinations of sugar, fat, and salt that actually re-wires the brain to crave more. Including, I’m sure, Simply cookies, and presweetened yogurt. They discuss many restaurant items specifically. I think you’d find it really interesting.

Anna August 30, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Louise, that’s interesting that you can’t tolerate it. I can tolerate it, but don’t always like the taste. I like it in things with lemon or acidic drinks.

Amy, thanks! I was worried about this being too long, but I figured if people didn’t like it they could skip it. LOL. I haven’t written a trip report in a while.

Katrina, what are you talking about? Trix bunny is a REAL bunny. He’s just large.

Heidi, I love Yoplait the way it is, but I’m not much of a plain yogurt eater. It’s too bitter for me. I do wish they’d cut all the sucralose out of the new smoothie product, though. They could make it without sweetener then give directions to add a suggested amount of sweetener of your choice. Maybe they’ll make “Simply Smoothies” for Simplicity Mom. I should have suggested that. Grrrrr.

Suzy, I wish I had more pictures of the test kitchen for you. By the time we got down on the floor, it had become very crowded and all the counters were covered with foods. I’ll look for that book. I’m pretty sure I was wired at birth for sugar, fat and salt. LOL. I am interested in the studies showing that artificial sweeteners make us crave more sugar.

Vicki August 30, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Hi Anna,

I just want to say that I’ve been following your blog for over three years now. I’ve never left a comment, but I really enjoy your blog and have learned a lot from it.

I decided to finally leave a comment because of your posts about going to the General Mills test kitchen. I used to love to look at my mom’s old Betty Crocker cookbook that she got when she was married in 1962. It has pictures of the test kitchen then. It was so bright and yellow and I’ve always wanted to see it in person. It just looks so inviting! Of course, it’s changed since then.

Thanks so much for providing so much detail on your trip!

Vicki

Tracy August 30, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Sounds like a nice event.

Sue August 30, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Fun! Your eat and greet sounds like it was really nice, and so informative!
I was going to point out the same thing about Stonyfield Farms yogurt as Heidi. Have you tried making your own smoothies with that brand of plain yogurt? I find it to be less tart than other brands. I use pineapple juice as a sweetener and some frozen fruit (blueberries are a fave) and mix it up with an immersion blender. It’s fruity and satisfying. I usually mix in some protein powder too because I often don’t eat enough protein.
I’m glad you know that we don’t live in blizzard conditions 12 months of the year, and that the weather was nice, but August isn’t usually this cool and damp. It’s been great for making everything green and lush so it’s been a treat!
I think they’ve got something going with their ‘Simply’ line of products. I hope it’s successful!

HeartofGlass August 30, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Anna, thanks for such an insightful essay–I thought your coverage was very fair and balanced–and witty. It reminded me of Nora Ephron’s essay on the Bake-Off from her collection of 1970s writings Crazy Salad.

Most of the products have made it to the East Coast at my Wegmans’. Interestingly, I’ve never seen anyone buy the ‘Simple Mom cookie dough, perhaps because it is in kind of a ‘neverland’ of marketing–people who want ‘real ingredients’ tend to make cookies from scratch, and those who use dough tend to get the cheapest, and don’t care if it has ‘pure’ ingredients or not.

There was a really interesting article on artificial sweeteners in the LA Times–most of the studies were on animals until now, but the most recent ones suggest that in humans artificial sweeteners trigger appetite:
http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-sweet-brain31-2009aug31,0,2078819.story

Anna August 30, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Tracy, I hope they get something out of it and continue to do it. They’re part of a group called Blogwell that helps companies use social media. It was a different experience than Bake-Off for sure. (Tracy’s been to Bake-Off twice as well).

Sue, now I’m jealous of your weather, but only the Summer. About smoothies, I’ve been making them with a mixture of frozen mixed berries, frozen fresh bananas, pear juice and this Sambazon frozen acai berry puree which tastes kind of strange on its own but makes a healthy (or so they say) addition to smooties. I like the challenge of making them without any dairy or added sugar. If I recall, the combo I just mentioned really didn’t need any additional sweetener. Another sweetener I like using in smoothies is thawed frozen fruit juice concentrate.

Mary, I think I might have read that Nora Ephron book in college. I don’t remember the Bake-Off essay, so I’ll have to find the book and re-read it. As for Simply Cookies, our Randall’s carries them, but H.E.B. carries the competition, which must be Immaculate Baking. I’m going to very respectfully disagree with you on the cookie dough issue because I people (all moms with young children) without time to bake cookies but who like pulling fresh cookies out of the oven to serve to friends and family. Take Joanne, the one who just got back from Iraq not long ago. She’s busy flying a helicopter etc., but she also has kids over to play with her children and she’s been known to make cookies with Pillsbury dough. We always laugh about it. She’s the kind of person I can see who’d be intelligent enough to turn the pack over and read the label.

Then there are people whose idea of simplicity is to shop exclusively at Whole Foods and not bother reading labels because they are convinced anything Whole Foods sells will meet their standards. Those same people (at least a few I know) can’t bake to save their lives, but like other moms, they want to pull fresh cookies out of the oven. These people won’t buy the cheapest brand. In fact, they probably go out of their way to find the most expensive.

Lauren August 30, 2009 at 6:54 pm

I read your blog every day and have never had the urge to post! I am intrigued by your discussion of sucralose. I am diabetic, and will admit… reading baking blogs is my weakness. I imagine myself eating all the buttery, sugary goodness. I appreciate the new trend in providing sweet foods that contain much less sugar. I am able to enjoy a fraction of the pleasure I could before I was diagnosed as a child. I love the suggestion of leaving it out and allowing people to add as much as they like, however.

Thanks for the great thoughts!

Anna August 30, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for chiming in. I was hoping to hear from someone with diabetes because I know that artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame are a part of every day life for some, maybe most (?) diabetics What I’ve been curious about, and this comes from my lack of knowledge about diabete is, can you enjoy products that have a mixture or sugar and sucralose so long as you adjust your diet or insulin accordlingly? I gues I’m used to thinking in black and white where being diabetic means “no sucrose” or very, very little and only when absolutely necessary. So it’s interesting and enlightening to me to hear you say you like the products with “less” sugar.

I have a lot of respect for people who’ve taken control over the disease and have been doing it since childhood.

Heidi August 30, 2009 at 7:55 pm

I used to eat the Stonyfield farm yogurt that you could buy in bulk at Costco, but I tell you, after I had my son, my taste buds went wonky and I just can’t handle sweet. Everything tastes SO sweet to me. I also notice that when they make something low fat, they add more sugar to compensate, so I’ve found myself buying more full or low fat products instead of nonfat, contrary to what I used to do. I’ve become very sensitive to that fake flavor of artificial sweeteners as well. I’m very interested in the research that shows fake sweeteners make you crave sugar more, as well.

As for smoothies – well we eat them all the time! I freeze lots of fruit just for the purpose of making smoothies. We almost always add yogurt or milk or both for my son. I thought it was kind of funny when I saw the Yoplait smoothie mix that had it all together. I just am hardwired not to buy prepackaged stuff. (and the Michael Pollan books certainly didn’t help!)

I think it’s funny that people assume that if you can buy it at WF it must be good for you (and the Earth). I’m not so big on them after the above books, either.

Anna August 30, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Heidi, that’s crazy about your taste change. I wonder if it had to do with hormones or taste nerves or something completely different. Anyway, I guess that’s better than suddenly finding that nothing tastes sweet. About WF, I’m a fan and love shopping at the store, but we live on the south side of town which means it’s a 15-20 minute drive on the highway. I always feel I’m leaving a bigger carbon footprint by driving all that way just to buy groceries.

Kerstin August 30, 2009 at 9:18 pm

How cool you got to see the test kitchen and meet other bloggers! Were there any photography tips that really stood out?

Rachel August 30, 2009 at 10:08 pm

ok – the fact that you laughed out loud at the “simple mom” thing and used the “better living through chemistry” quote takes my respect for you to a whole.new.level.

;)

Anna August 30, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Kerstin, some tips were intuitive and others moretechnical. The one I liked best was “keep it simple”. Also, if you have enough natural light in the room, turn off all the other light sources and use your camera’s manual setting.

Mary August 30, 2009 at 10:41 pm

An absolutely wonderful post, Anna. How wonderful you had friends to share the experience with.

HeartofGlass August 31, 2009 at 3:42 am

Anna, I just wanted to say–I wasn’t criticizing the cookie dough–just that it will be interesting to see how all of these products do in the next few months! I guess some will succeed, and some will fail.

Ephron’s essay on the PBO wasn’t 100% complimentary–she is a journalist, after all, as well as a writer–I remember her criticizing some of the dishes. But IMHO it was more because of when the essay was written–the 1970s, the era of Tang, Sugar Pops, and Jell-O pudding pops–and since I was a toddler during the late 70s, I think pretty much all suburban cuisine was pretty heavy on the mixes and packaged goods, hardly Pillsbury’s fault. Actually, it might be interesting to read the essay and compare it with how much things have changed, for the better, in terms of how America eats and what Americans expect.

In lots of ideological corners, now people are boycotting Whole Foods :P Oh well, no one can dis my Wegman’s

shelly (cookies and cups) August 31, 2009 at 6:09 am

That sounds great! What a fun trip and I agree about the “keep it simple”…;)

Anna August 31, 2009 at 6:59 am

Mary, thanks!

Rachel, better living through chemistry is one of my favorite sayings of all time.

Heart of Glass Mary, no worries!! I didn’t see your comment as critical of the cookie dough, but if it had been that would have been okay. I just don’t see the cookies being in a market category Neverland. If the product was “Simply Hamburger Helper” I would agree, but for cookies, I think even people who are really healthy eaters and who try to make things fresh would go for a cookie dough with easily recognizable ingredients, no trans-fats and no HFC because they just don’t know HOW to bake cookies from scratch. And cookies, at least to some, are a guilty pleasure anyway.

About WF, I need to read the WSJ article so I can form an opinion. I’m afraid it will get me riled up and I don’t need that right now.

Linda August 31, 2009 at 7:27 am

Anna, Thanks for this posting! When I was a high school senior,by virtue of taking what I thought was a pretty simple written test, I won the title of “Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year” at my school. I got a check for a modest amount, a certificate and a nice pin. A few years ago, I had to spend a week in Minneapolis for work, and called GM to ask about tours – I’m thinking, not only was I the winner of a very prestigious GM award :) , but I’m now a stockholder in GM – how can they deny me this? But they did – at the time, and maybe it’s still the case, they didn’t do tours for the general public. But, I still get my General Mills gift box every December, and now I feel like I’ve gotten that behind the scenes tour that I was hoping for, thanks to you!

Krystle August 31, 2009 at 7:45 am

What a fun trip! Looks like you had a blast!

Elise August 31, 2009 at 8:34 am

What a fun tour! Better yet to go through it with fellow food bloggers. Sounds like you guys had a blast.

LilSis August 31, 2009 at 8:40 am

Hi Anna,
That trip looks like it was so much fun!!! BigSis and I have already emailed each other this morning talking about how jealous we are! Maybe one day, we’ll get to go on a trip like that and meet some other bloggers. I LOVE all your photos.

I think the photography studio would have been my favorite part. That’s awesome that they shared a book of tips with everyone.

Anna M August 31, 2009 at 9:46 am

what a fun romp through General Mills land! I just discovered your blog and I have to say that I agree with the concerns you were having over sucralose and so much sugar in all those yogurt products. That’s been my biggest complaint with all these fad yogurts out there – the artificial and even natural sugar levels in them. Sugar supports growth of potentially harmful yeasts like Candida, and this works directly against the benefit of getting more probiotics in your system to balance things out in favor of teh “good” bugs. The frozen smoothie packs you mentioned sound awesome…except for the sucralose and sugar content. What’s wrong with just fruit and a natural sweetner? My choice is xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol with virutally no calories and a REALLY low glycemic index. I think it may not as cost effective as most comanies would like, however…but, with the rising cost of sugar who knows? Thanks again for the great read!
– Anna M
http://blog.nutri-health.com/

Shannon (The Mommy-Files) August 31, 2009 at 4:30 pm

It was nice to see another fellow redhead at the event :) I had a blast as well :)

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 5:46 pm

This post is amazing..thanks for sharing all the “inside” photos! I was interested in hearing your opinions on the probiotic yogurts since I had heard so many different things good and bad about what bacteria is actually in them and how much and whether they were even alive.

Our family takes and LOVES the Vidazorb chewable probiotics as they have been the only thing in a very long journey of trial and error to help our little boy with his severe Eczema and allergies. Both of our children now take the chewables for kids and love them. They are great since they do not need refrigerated which I see as a huge convenience plus!

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this!

patti August 31, 2009 at 6:14 pm

lucky you…and just how did they describe the proper way to cut brownies? What is the trick?

gloria September 1, 2009 at 1:08 pm

I’m not sure if this is proper, but I am going to comment on the proper utensil to cut proper brownies. This might be common knowledge, but using a plastic knife works every time for me and they don’t need to be cleaned off between cuts..As with all cheap plastic stuff, sometimes they break so make sure you have a few of them. I usually need a regular knife to start the cut at the crispy edges…

B September 1, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Loved the behind the scenes peak into GM. I’m curious about the taste of palm fruit oil and wonder if I’m one of the people who can taste it. Whenever I have anything store-baked or pre-made cookie dough, I think it tastes a little off and always tell my husband that it tastes fake. How would you explain the taste palm fruit oil gives things?

Anna September 1, 2009 at 1:38 pm

B, that’s a good question. I didn’t realize how much I hated the flavor of palm fruit oil until manufacturers started using it in products as an alternative to trans-fat. I discovered my aversion one day when I was at a person’s house and she started popping some organic microwave popcorn. It smelled like dirty socks and fish. I said so. She didn’t know what I was talking about and thought the popcorn tasted great.

I started tasting palm fruit oil again when using some vegan butter sticks and a trans fat free brand shortening. Then again when I tried another brand of refrigerated cookie dough. It seems to be in a lot of vegan products and while I want to use it, I just can’t deal with the flavor.

So what we found out from our talk with the Simply Cookies people was that some in the group could taste it and others couldn’t. Nicole from Baking Bites who was with me at the time, said she didn’t like the palm fruit oil’s flavor either. The Simply Cookies people said that based on their experiences, it wasn’t something that bothered everyone. Luckily, you can’t really taste it in their cookies. In fact, I couldn’t taste it at all even though the label says they use a mixture of palm oil and canola.

Also, just to keep things straight, palm oil is different than palm kernel oil. As far as I know, I never had a problem with palm kernel oil, but I believe theyve stopped using it because it’s unhealthy.

kimberlee September 1, 2009 at 3:36 pm

You are so lucky!!

AliG7 September 1, 2009 at 9:43 pm

What a great post! It was such a pleasure to meet you in person; I’m so glad you came!

Thanks!

Jenn October 15, 2009 at 10:11 pm

I don’t have time to read through comments, so sorry if this is a repeat, but are the lemon bars/cake by chance an adaptation of gooey butter cake?

Ghi Poppa February 9, 2010 at 7:39 am

What are we doing about the “lemon squares that had a butter crust”? That looks so delicious, I’m gonna forever want to eat that… Can you describe how you think it may have been made?

Anna February 9, 2010 at 7:53 am

Ha! That’s a good question. I thought about those squares on and off for a few days, but couldn’t figure out how they made them. They were definitely very buttery and the crust had a layer of cake going through it. I still think they might have been made with cake mix of some type, but I’m not sure. I’ll post it when I figure it out. Thanks for remembering :).

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