Another January arrives; another Christmas now lives on in memory and hearts, only. Christmas time is truly the best time of the year. The weather, though not exactly frigid, is less harshly hot. Houses and lawns sparkle with brightly colored lawn decoration and lights. Selections from Handel’s Messiah flow through the air in random places. My favorite Bible verses from the books of Isaiah and St Luke are highlighted in the liturgical readings of Advent. I can finally watch the original The Bishop’s Wife (1947), the original Christmas in Connecticut (1945), the original Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Scrooged (1988), A Christmas Story (1983), and Elf (2003) openly without comment from family and friends. Limited edition Christmas products show up on store shelves, and we indulge in delicious, favorite foods we cook, bake, and eat only during this most glorious of seasons.
This year, we added a new treat to our canon of Christmas comestibles: gluten-free cookie coated peppermint truffles. For years I’ve made truffles by hand, but only at Christmas time. I used a fairly easy truffle recipe, rather unsophisticated but easy enough for Jacob, Christopher, and Elizabeth to help with the making and rolling when they were younger. Over the past year, however, I have devoured and re-devoured a used copy of Alice Medrich’s combination memoir and cookbook Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate (2003). Inspired by Medrich’s work to create classic ganache truffles, I decided to use her technique and recipe to make some classic truffles for Christmas. Beginning in November, I made a couple of practice batches. I wanted to know what I was doing, come Christmas time. For my first attempt at truffle-making, I made a dark chocolate cognac ganache, which I coated in dark chocolate, then rolled in pumpkin pie spice. These turned out pretty well, actually; the centers were velvety and the flavor combination was scrumptious . Continue reading
In my last post to this blog, I mentioned a new product, apple flour, that I
had serendipitously discovered while searching for something else. I have used the apple flour, and it’s marvelous. I used it to make grain-free, gluten-free pumpkin muffins for my mom, who apparently doesn’t have Celiac (although this auto-immune disease is passed through the mom, I have it, and I managed to pass it on to two of my children – it does apparently skip some generations). What my mom does have, however, is a seriously ill husband in a hospital that has seriously poor quality food in its cafeteria. One thing I can do for my mom and my step-dad during this ordeal is to provide Mom with some delicious, nutritious, minimally-processed food to keep her energized and as cheerful as possible. Since my kitchen is gluten-free, my mom gets gluten-free food by default. My step-father, sadly, is unable to eat normally for now; I will attend his nutritional needs as soon as he’s able to eat as usual. Continue reading
Before everyone becomes burned out on everything pumpkin pie spice flavored and scented near the end of this year’s pumpkin pie spice season, I have to post one more pumpkin pie spice recipe! This recipe is very delicious, and makes an elegant dessert: perfect for holiday gatherings! Full disclosure: I took this recipe from Epicurious.com, modified it a bit, as well as deglutenized it. It’s turned out perfectly every time I’ve made it. My friends and family LOVE this dessert! Continue reading
Did the name of the recipe in the title of this blog post draw you to this site? I thought so. The idea of rose pasta with rose mint pesto is intriguing, and it actually led me to finally figure out how to make gluten-free pasta from scratch. After seeing this recipe (for non-gluten-free) rose pasta the first time I opened the cookbook Aroma Kitchen: Cooking With Essential Oils, by Sabine Hönig and Ursula Kutschera, I knew I had to try it. The only way I was likely to be able to taste rose pasta with rose pesto, however, was to learn how to make gluten-free pasta, and then to make the recipe myself. This book, then, inspired me to challenge myself in the kitchen beyond the recipes that appear between its beautiful covers. Continue reading
These days are a bit harried, barreling toward Christmas as we are. Shopping, baking, and cleaning are edging out my running time; sadly, my runs are the easiest activities to give up when deadlines and other responsibilities expand to squeeze my limited time. In less than a month I will run a half-marathon for which I am currently NOT training! In some ways I am preparing for this particular half-marathon, though. It’s the Women’s Cocoa Half, in SATX on January 18th: a chocolate themed race. I’m eating plenty of chocolate these days, and baking with plenty of chocolate as well – which leads me to this quick post about the cheesecake I made yesterday. I want to have a special dessert for Phillip, our children, and grandchildren Christmas day. For the past year, my mind has been working on a cheesecake recipe, using seasonal Mi-Del Gluten-Free Candy Cane Cremes. I did a test run of my recipe this weekend, to see if it works, or whether it needs some adjustments if it does work. I am pleased to report that the recipe does work, and although I hate that whole proverbial toot one’s horn thing, I have to be honest and say that this cheesecake is one of the best I have ever baked or tasted. No kidding. I never kid about matters as serious as cheesecake. Now, I don’t have much time to put into writing a post this week, and most people don’t have time to read a long post this week, so I’ll get right to it. I want to share this recipe while we’re in the midst of the Christmas and New Year season just in case some people might find it useful as they search for a perfect, easy, gluten-free dessert to take to a Christmas celebration. Continue reading
I’ve read a couple of articles in food magazines and on food blogs recently, in which food writers bemoan the continuing love affair we’re having (at least in the USA) with salted caramel and bacon. A cursory look at restaurant menus and baking resources online show that these trends have yet to play out. Salted caramel and bacon are showing up as flavors in everything these days, for sure, and seem to have reached every last market possible. Betty Crocker offers a maple bacon-flavored cookie mix; Vosages offers a chocolate bacon bar; J & D Foods offers Baconnaise (yep – bacon flavored mayonnaise); McDonald’s offers a salted caramel sundae; and even Walmart offers a salted caramel gooey butter cake. I’m pretty sure the reason for the persistent popularity of these flavors among all stratification of society (the fad started in France, with French chefs, after all) is that anything tastes better if it has either salted caramel, bacon, or both somewhere in the ingredient list. Continue reading
Before I married Phillip, my world contained one type of dressing for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner: cornbread. My mother was born and raised in Savannah, GA, and then she and my father (also a Southerner) ended up raising my sisters and me in Texas. In my experience, no other type of dressing than cornbread existed, and no other type of dressing need exist. No matter at whose house we ate Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, no matter who was in charge of preparing the dressing, we knew we would be served cornbread dressing for dinner. Why should the case be any different? What can be more delicious than cornbread dressing, all moist and flavorful, and covered with rich giblet gravy? My Thanksgiving dressing horizon broadened a bit when I ate dinner with Phillip’s family the first Thanksgiving after we began dating. I was shocked – SHOCKED – and dismayed to sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner at which my beloved, traditional cornbread dressing was missing, and in its place was oyster dressing! Even if I were a seafood lover (which I decidedly am not), I would have rebelled at the notion of anyone making oysters the prominent ingredient in dressing. In fact, the oysters were not the only problem with the dressing; it was made with white bread! Simply white bread! Clearly Phillip’s Yankee roots were shining through his family’s tradition of serving oyster dressing for Thanksgiving dinner.
A couple of weeks ago, when we were up in the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee, I had a twinge of guilt for thinking for a second – if only a split second – that living in a geographical area with actual changes of seasons and their accompanying colors and flavors might be nice. We were mostly in rural areas, and we passed little houses and little stores that were decked out with pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, scarecrows, and all the trimmings associated with autumn and Halloween. What’s more, these dwellings and businesses were surrounded with actual trees, the leaves of which were festively and appropriately colored for the season: golds, reds, and bronzes splashed across the land.
For a nano-second I wondered whether I might not appreciate living somewhere other than South Texas, where we have but two seasons: hot and hotter. A Texas girl at heart I am, though, and a Texas girl I’ll always be, so I immediately chided myself for such heretical thoughts and counted all the blessings Texas offers, other than chilly, picture-postcard colored autumn days.
Even though the weather may not indicate as much in our proverbial neck of the woods, the calendar tells us that we are well into autumn. The appropriately flavored seasonal foods are showing up in the grocery stores, Trader Joe’s is encouraging festive dining by offering just about everything pumpkin (even pumpkin body butter, of which the store I shopped this morning was sadly sold out!). I did come away with three gluten-free pumpkin flavored items: gluten-free pumpkin soup, gluten-free pumpkin pancake mix, and pumpkin macarons (macarons are, of course, traditionally gluten-free)! I have yet to try the pumpkin soup and gluten-free pumpkin pancake mix, but I ate a couple macarons on the way home from the store (well, the drive home was taking quite a long time and I got hungry . . . . ). The macarons are to die for! The cookie part is tender and the filling is flavorful without being too sweet. I can’t wait to go back for more! After tomorrow morning’s run: gluten-free pumpkin pancakes! Can’t wait! If the pancakes taste delicious, I’ll update this post with the news.
A couple of days ago, I posted a recipe for the gluten-free peppermint bark cakes I made for my mother-in-law’s surprise Christmas-in-July 75th birthday celebration. I used grain flours in that recipe, so that the texture would be more familiar to those attending the party who are not used to the sometimes different texture of gluten-free foods. Personally, however, I use gluten-free nut and seed flours much more often than I do gluten-free grain flours these days. I believe grain-free flours are more dense with vitamins, good fats, and other nutrients. Even though dessert is, well, dessert, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be as healthy as dessert as can be while still being delicious (which means loaded with whole fat butter, raw sugar, and cocoa!). I remade the cakes yesterday, using almond, cashew, and coconut flours. It tasted every bit as delicious as the cakes I made with the rice, sorghum, and tapioca flours. I did make a little adjustment to the recipe, to accommodate the extra fat in the almond / cashew flours. I reduced the amount of coconut oil by 2 oz. Other than that, I used the same recipe I developed for the original cakes I made for my mother-in-law’s birthday party. Continue reading