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I heard the bells on Christmas Day.
Their old familiar carols play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat.
Of peace on earth goodwill to men.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

 

 

 

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The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.
~Jay Leno
 
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. 
~Norman Vincent Peale

 

 

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.  Don’t clean it up too quickly.  ~Andy Rooney

 

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Roses are reddish
Violets are bluish
If it weren’t for Christmas
We’d all be Jewish.
~Benny Hill

 

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The worst gift is a fruitcake.  There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.  ~Johnny Carson

 

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And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?  It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.  ~Dr Seuss

 

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Happy Holidays!

[Start playing your hee-haw music]

Turkeys live on my street. And around my street. And on the next street over – and let me tell you,  the dang things have not figured out that if a car is approaching, they should run off the street, not into it. I digress.

[Cue end of hee-haw, begin playing theme from unsolved mysteries]

But there is a mysterious aura surrounding these turkeys.

Why, you ask?

Every year around the summer they appear, and get larger/fatter accordingly. And then, around the end of every November, they disappear. Surreptitiously.

There are several possibilities here:

1. (Being the most biological reason) They migrate. Because it’s cold. And they only have feathers, unlike their neighbors the woolly sheep. (Do turkey’s even migrate? They’re not very aerodynamic.)

And you thought going home for Thanksgiving was hard...

2. They disappear into the bushes for all of winter. Again, it’s cold. (But the chickens seem to handle it ok…)

3. They hide from me. Seeing how many times I’ve very nearly hit them with my car, I don’t blame them.

Really, dude?

4. [The final and most morbid of all the possibilities] We eat them. Thanksgiving + chubby “free range” turkeys has very few outcomes, most of which don’t really end well for said turkeys. But would you want to eat turkeys that ran around all day? Would they be gamy? And I’ve seen some turkeys that are huge; these, not so much.And I like the idea that they aren’t all, you know, stuffed.

It’s a mystery.

Suggestions?

In other news,  instead of making a complete Thanksgiving dinner a la last year, I will this year be making: pies. Gluten and dairy-free pie recipes to be posted soon, featuring pumpkin pie and healthy(er) pecan pie! (I’m also thinking of making mini mandarin orange curd tarts. We’ll see.)

I woke up this morning to a slightly-overcast grey sky, and thought to myself; “must.have.baked.goods.” And when you’re gluten-free, this usually means you make them yourself!

I’ve decided that my motto for baking these days is to take normal recipes and adapt them to my dietary needs with as few substitutions as possible; I made some coconut chocolate-chip cookies from a gluten-free mix the other day, and while they were good, they had an odd taste not like their floury counterparts. My dad even remarked that they “tasted like your hand wasn’t in them.” So I have no problem with using my trusty text The Cook Book  and, er, putting my hand in it.

Thus…

Sunday Morning Walnut-Raisin Scones

400 Degree oven, serves 8

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2 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (from an all-purpose mix, or I mixed brown and white rice and soy flour. For extra sweetness try adding some coconut flour – yum)

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tbsp baking powder (5 if you use a flour with no baking powder already added)

1/4 tsp salt

Sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice (if desired – but it’s good)

1/3 cup Earth Balance buttery sticks, cut in pieces

2 beaten eggs

3/4 cup soy milk (you could also use yogurt, as original recipe calls for whipping cream)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup snipped raisins (or any fruit you like)

extra soy milk, sugar

1003101206-00 1. Combine flour, 2 tbsp sugar, baking powder, and salt in food processor, cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs . Add pumpkin pie spice.

2. In another bowl combine eggs, dairy, and nuts/fruit. Add all at once to flour mixture, pulse a few times until combined (or use a fork till just moistened).

1003101204-00 3. Turn dough on a floured surface and knead by folding over 10-12 times (dough will get smoother). This is where gluten-free dough can be difficult, but if you work with a floured board/hands and add enough flour so the dough isn’t too sticky, you’ll be fine. This dough is also particularly good at sticking together, unlike some recipes.

1003101200-00 4. Work dough into 8-inch circle, and cut into 8 wedges. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. (The more milk you use, the more the scones crack a bit on the top.)

1003101201-00 5. Place wedges 1 inch apart on parchment paper-covered baking sheet, bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes or till golden. Delicious served warm!

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Now I’m not a going-to-church kind of gal, but there’s something about Sundays that remind me of special breakfasts with family. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a chilly morning and the smell of an oven.

Happy Sunday!

UPDATE: See the NEWER version of this recipe on my Gluten-Free site, Gluten-Free Dreaming, HERE!

 

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One of my favorite parts of summer is the time when all the blackberry bushes start to ripen, around the end of July. When I was younger we had several bushes in our backyard, and they would always be ready for picking right when we got home from yearly camping trips. Last year I of course had to make a pie with the fresh berries, and it was super-easy because I could use pre-made pie crusts. But this year, being gluten-free and all, things were a little more difficult. I tried searching the internet for a simple gluten-free recipe, but everything either had odd ingredients or was endlessly complicated. I basically try to make everything the same, but just minus a few certain ingredients, like flour and dairy.

Therefore I used my tried and true The Cook Book Berry Pie recipe, with a few changes. *

Gluten-Free Blackberry Pie

Ingredients:

For the bottom crust:41F3Y1ZK9XL._SS500_

– 1 1/8 cups all purpose gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s mixture of several flours)

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 1/3 cup Earth balance buttery spread (vegan, gluten-free sticks)

3-4 tablespoons cold water

For the crumb topping:

– 1/2 cup all earth_balance_sticks_vegan_store_vivagranolapurpose gluten-free flour

– 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

– 3 tablespoons buttery spread

– 1/2 cup GF oatmeal

For the fruit filling:

– 5 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)

– 3/4 to 1 cup sugar (I used half sugar, half Splenda)

– 1/3 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour

– 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel/zest

 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. To prepare crust (double recipe for two crusts, though gluten-free dough can be difficult and hard to get a perfect top crust with, hence the crumb topping): Using a food processor (or pasty blender) add flour, butter, and salt, pulse until mixture resembles cornmeal with a few big pieces. With processor running, quickly add the 3 tbsp cold water through feed tube, stop processor when all water in added; scrape sides. Process with two pulses, remove  and shape into a ball. Place in fridge until filling is ready. ** You may need to add extra water with gluten free dough, when I made it I accidentally used 6 tbsp and it came out good.

3. For crumb topping: Stir or use food processor to combine flour, oatmeal, and sugar, cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Set aside.

4. For the filling: In large bowl stir together berries (if just washed try to soak up excess water with paper towel), sugar, and thickener (flour). Add lemon peel. GENTLY toss berries until coated.

5. Roll out bottom crust on a well-floured board and transfer to pie-pan; gluten-free dough can be hard to work with, you may have to press it into the pan with a floured hand.  Pour filling into pie shell, cover top with crumb topping.

6. Bake for 25 minutes covered with foil at 375, remove foil and cook for another 25-30 min, until filling bubbles and crust is golden. Filling may be not very firm, but will set up. Cool on a wire rack or in fridge before cutting/eating.

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Ta-Da!

This pie turned out pretty perfect, and I meant to take a picture of the full product, but as you can see, it didn’t last very long….

This pie can also be made with 5 cups of any other berry, with slightly different quantities for the filling:

 

 

Berry Filling      berries     sugar   thickener (flour)
Blueberries       5 cups 2/3 to 3/4 c     3 tbsp
Raspberries       5    3/4 to 1 c     1/3 cup
Mixed Berries       5 1/2 to 2/3 c     1/3 c
2 c blueberries, 2 c halved strawberries,
1 c black/raspberries

 

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If you have leftover berries, freeze them for later by first washing, laying them out on paper towels to dry, patting dry with paper towels, and then storing in an air-tight container.

There’s not too much crust in this recipe, so I’m going to pretend that’s it’s pretty healthy…and I think it is regardless, with all those antioxidants. Enjoy!

* Basic recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens The Cook Book, Limited Edition.

“Pssssst: I’m gluten-free!”

While some might think that everything is being commercialized these days, (which I agree is not always the best thing) the mass marketing of products can sometimes be good!

Case in point: my local Target (what? it’s not like I said Walmart – that’s gross) is in the process of converting to a fresh-market store, and has greatly expanded their food section; basically it’s like a regular grocery store now. I was today very happy to see that, in their baking aisle, they now carry more specialized products, specifically Gluten and Dairy-free baking mixes! So with only ingredients from Target I can actually make Easter cupcakes that my mom and I can, you know, eat. And since I didn’t have to make it all from scratch, it was quite quick and easy.

These may be the cutest cupcakes I have ever made by the way (though I stole the idea from my aunt, who makes them every year, only with carrot cake. Sorry for the not so great photo.)

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So, for all you gluten-and-dairy-avoiding folks out there, here’s the recipe I used.  (to make 12 cupcakes)

For the cake:

Betty Crocker Gluten Free yellow cake mix. Now you might be thinking that since this is a regular supermarket brand that it might be less tasty and healthy than the organic or health-store versions. Not so. So far this is the best (for consistency, taste, and texture) that I’ve come across; Bob’s vanilla mix, for example, was not good – it had a very strange taste and a too-airy texture. The ingredient list is very short for BC, and there’s nothing that you won’t find it any other gluten-free mix.

To prepare the mix, you simply need eggs, gluten-free vanilla (available in many stores these days), and butter. Of course, I used Earth Balance spread, which is everything-free and works great in baking, to make it without dairy. And as I’m always looking for a way to cut fat out of recipes, I used half-butter and half-applesauce (organic, Trader Joe’s with no added sugar; it has an amazing apple smell). I also added a handful or so of sweetened coconut.

– For the icing, I used Betty Crocker whipped Butter-cream, which, surprisingly has no dairy and is labeled gluten-free. (of course, it’s not the healthiest, but it’s better than many of the other icings out there. Though Target does carry a brand of natural vanilla icing I’ve also seen at Whole Foods if that’s more your style.)

– The decoration is made using coconut (dyed green with a couple drops of food coloring) to make the “nest/grass” and jelly beans (with spots) to make the “eggs.” I also threw in a couple marshmallow bunnies, cause they’re darn cute!

The result? The best gluten-free dessert I’ve made yet! Usually I can always tell the difference but these are just as good as any wheaty-milky thing.  The applesauce and coconut don’t stand out as strong flavors, but they kept the cake moist and chewy – it didn’t have the weird-light texture of normal cake mixes.

So, to everyone out there with dietary restrictions, don’t lose hope; just because you can’t eat the original, doesn’t mean you can’t still have some version of your favorite holiday food! (Maybe one day scientists will find out that gluten is actually really bad for people, and we’ll be saved because we already don’t eat it…or something like that.) And it even Target can provide options for those with limitations, who knows what will happen!

Therefore, since Easter is a time of rebirth and renewal; have faith in whatever seems fitting, and Happy Easter! 

P.S. Go for the ears.

I’m in summer limbo.

I don’t have to start work until next week, and yet I can’t really go outside and do summery things, due to the pollen circulating through the air. And who shall I blame for this? Well, I could blame the SSU student health plan, which has terrible prescription coverage. Or I could blame Allegra for never going generic and trying to rip people off at the pharmacy. Or I could blame Claritin for not being ineffectual in general. Jury’s still out.

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Therefore, there are a few options left for me to do today;

1. Shopping – generally this is a good distraction for me, but since I have bills looming over my head and spent mucho dinero on fruit at Costco yesterday (and I did not buy a hot dog, congratulate me!) I really shouldn’t. Though I do want to buy another copy of The Deathly Hallows since I lent it to my mom months ago and she let it get exposed to some sort of dampness.

2. Library – hmm, I do need books, having just finished Helen of Troy, which I do highly recommend. However, there is the small matter of owing fees to the local library, of how much I do not know, therefore going to the library could cost me more than shopping. Potentially.

3. The gym – sigh.

4. The couch – my present location, watching What Not to Wear, wondering why my life is dull, yet relishing in the dullness. Another sigh.

5. Make low-calorie carrot cake – very temping, and tasty option. Curious? Here’s the recipe. Yet I have no ingredients to make them, therefore a trip to the store would be needed, and there’s that money thing again. Dang. Plus I’m not sure if running the oven on a hot day in a house with no air conditioning is a smart thing…

6. Swimming – ok, not really an option, but I wish.

Ok, so for the next half hour or so, I think I’ll be doing #4, and then showering.

You are so jealous of my life right now. Admit it.

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