Gingerbread Snowflakes

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Why not gingerbread men? Well, I did bake gingerbread men, and then came to the realization very quickly that I am nowhere near artistic enough to decorate them. Trust me, I tried. My husband was even sweet enough to come into the kitchen and reassure me by saying they were “fine” and “unique”. So now they are in a plastic bag ready for munching by people in the privacy of our own home, who don’t care what they look like.

I have to say that I do love the snowflakes though. Thought they turned out pretty well for a mother who raised a child who got in trouble the first month of  first grade for drawing stick people, (which his mother taught him to draw!). Evidently the crazy person they called “teacher” thought he should be more artistically advanced.  You’ll be happy to know though, that I handled it very nicely and appropriately instead of yanking her hair and drawing a stick figure on her forehead  like I wanted to.

Hmmm..how quickly a sweet blog about gingerbread can turn in a totally different direction…

Anyhoo. The gingerbread is delicious. And although I truly do not have an artistic bone in my body, the decorative part didn’t turn out half bad.

Gingerbread Snowflakes

**The dough needs to be refrigerated overnight before rolling and baking**

Preheat an electric oven to 375 degrees / convection oven 350 degrees

1 Cup Shortening

3 1/2 Cups Mama’s Almond Blend Flour (plus more for rolling)

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Molasses

2 Eggs

2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

2 teaspoons Xanthan Gum

1 Tablespoon Freshly Grated Ginger Root

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cloves

In a heavy-duty mixer beat shortening to fluff for about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add half the flour, all of the sugar, molasses, egg, vinegar, baking powder, xanthan gum, grated ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat until thoroughly combined. Add remaining flour slowly and beat until combined.

Divide dough into 3 discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate over night.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Flour your rolling surface, roll out one disc at a time and cut into desired shapes.

Electric Oven – Bake 6 minutes or until edges are just slightly browned

Convection Oven – Bake 8 minutes

Remove to cooling racks and cool completely before decorating

My Corner Of The World

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Jack Frost

Look out! Look out!
Jack Frost is about!|
He’s after our fingers and toes;
And all through the night,
The gay little sprite
Is working where nobody knows.

He’ll climb each tree,
So nimble is he,
His silvery powder he’ll shake.
To windows he’ll creep
And while we’re asleep
Such wonderful pictures he’ll make.

Across the grass
He’ll merrily pass,
And change all its greenness to white.
Then home he will go
And laugh h0 ho ho!
What fun I have had in the night.

C.E. Pike



An Attempt At My Grandma’s Divinity

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I cannot tell you how thankful I am that my grandma never owned or knew how to operate a computer.

Why?

Because I have some of her handwritten recipes and handwritten notes here and there in some of her cookbooks. Handwritten in a font that is only hers, not pounded out on a typewriter or recorded on Microsoft Word. I recognize her writing, which ties it to her, which wraps it around precious memories that I have of her. This is our second Christmas without her and believe me, although time might heal all wounds, Christmas will never be the same without her.

Thankfully, my memories of her are still crisp and clear. And although I miss her deeply and wish she were still here, I can close my eyes and go through all the files in my mind that are filled with memorable events, lazy summer days, and many, many, holidays spent watching her in the kitchen. I was able to spend a lot of time with her throughout my life and I just can’t even imagine what growing up would have been like without her. I can’t believe that I spent 41 Christmas’s with her and they sped by so quickly.

Please make sure that if you are able to spend Christmas with your favorite grandma this year, that you take the time to really soak it in. Remember her perfume, the softness of her wrinkled hand, the pretty sparkly pins she always places on her coat or scarf, the beautiful costume jewelry she wears, all of your favorite memories you have from over the years, and most of all remember that she isn’t just “grandma”. She was once a young girl, then a teen, then a young woman in love, a woman who faced triumphs and tragedies over the years, and loved her children as much and as deeply as you love your own.  A whole person, with a whole life prior to being “grandma”.

Dedicated to Mary Virginia Faris 1917- 2009

This is for you grandma, I finally was able to make your divinity! Not quite the same without you here to celebrate, but it brings back wonderful memories. Miss you deeply and love you always. ~ April “Ree”

Grandma’s Divinity (In her words)

3 Cups White Sugar

3/4 Cup Karo White

3/4 Cup Water

3 Jumbo Egg Whites Beaten Foamy (the recipe she wrote for my mom said medium, I beat mine to stiff, next time I would do medium)

1 Cup Nuts – Chopped (I did a scant cup of pecans, I don’t like mine too nutty)

Vanilla (Grandma never used a recipe or measurements so I just glugged a dollop of vanilla in)

Bring sugar, water, and syrup to boil. Boil until small bits dropped in water form threads or hard ball – this part is important otherwise, you’ll have to beat it for ages. (She also didn’t own a candy thermometer, I used one because I wanted to make sure I had it at hard ball. This was the fun part for me when I was little because she always used to let me eat the solidified sugar out of the cold water.)

Drip syrup into mixed egg whites and beat until loses its gloss and will stand by itself. Add vanilla and nuts and beat. Drop by teaspoon on wax paper.

This makes a nice large batch.

This gave my Kitchen Aid a major workout. My grandma only owned a hand mixer…shocking that it didn’t blow up! I guess “back then” they actually made kitchen appliances to last. My mom told me last night that my great-grandmother beat her divinity by hand with a whisk on a flat, bone china, platter. Can you imagine?

Cranberry and Pepita Bark

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This is so easy! Also a great recipe for kids to help with as long as there’s supervision with the melting of the chocolate. The options are endless, you can really put anything you feel like on top. Crushed pretzels, all different types of salted nuts and dried fruits, crushed cookies, cereal, granola, crisp bacon…almost anything.

Cranberry and Pepita Bark

12 Squares of Dairy Free Chocolate (I use Baker’s Semi-Sweet – 1 1/2 boxes)

Pepitas (Small seeds from a pumpkin or squash that are toasted and salted)

Dried Cranberries

Chop the chocolate into smaller pieces. In a double boiler (or a glass bowl over a pan of lightly boiling water), add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the hot chocolate onto the parchment. Spread with a spoon. Sprinkle with seeds and dried fruit. Allow to set up completely before breaking into pieces and storing in an airtight container.

Nut Clusters

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So…this recipe comes with one warning and one disclaimer.

The Warning:   Under NO circumstances should you allow children to help with this recipe. Melted sugar is hot and will burn your arm off if you get it on you. Personally, I wouldn’t even allow them in the kitchen unless they are older – like 35. It’s just not worth the risk.

The Disclaimer:  These are nice and crunchy. Not too crunchy to eat and enjoy, however, if you’ve been trying to hold off getting that $700.00 crown for that tooth that’s been giving you trouble, well…this might not be the snack for you.

There, now that I have all of the legalities out of the way, I also need to tell you that this recipe takes some patience. First a lot of patience, then a lot of speed so it doesn’t set up and turn into a mountain of nuts and sugar.

Nut Clusters

3 Cups Granulated Sugar

4 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter

1 1/2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Can of Mixed Salted Nuts

*Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Heat the sugar in a heavy-duty saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and a dark amber color. This takes some time (at least 20 minutes) , because if you do it too quickly the sugar will burn. You are technically not supposed to stir it, but I can’t help myself because I get too worried that it will burn. This is in the beginning stages when the sugar finally begins to melt. Once it melts all the way (now the sugar is in the danger zone) and becomes a dark amber color (not too dark!), remove it from the heat and add the butter and vanilla.

It will bubble and sputter a little bit…I moved mine to the back of the stove so that it wouldn’t be a danger to anyone if something went awry.

Stir until the butter has completely melted and the vanilla is incorporated. Add the nuts.

QUICKLY pour the mixture out onto the parchment covered baking sheet. Begin to pull it apart into small clusters with spoons and set aside. Once it cooled a bit more (maybe 2 minutes into it) I tried (carefully) to separate the clusters with my fingers, it was much easier than the spoons. If there’s another adult that can help you, that would be ideal. It’s possible that some of it will harden up on you before you can get it into clusters. Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Double Chocolate Chunk Rum Balls

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What’s better than a booze laden rum ball? A double chocolate chunk booze laden rum ball, that’s what.

Chocolate Rum Balls

(These need to snuggle up together in the refrigerator and rest for at least 5 days before serving.)

1 1/2 Cups Pecans, finely chopped

2 1/4 Cups Finely Crushed (I used my food processor) Gluten Free/ Dairy Free Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Pamela’s) About 2 Boxes

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

2 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

2 Tablespoons Dark Corn Syrup

1/2 Cup Dark Rum (I used Meyer’s Dark Rum)

Extra Powdered Sugar

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until fully combined.

Pour powdered sugar onto a dinner plate. Roll dough into teaspoon sized balls and place on plate of powdered sugar.

Sprinkle powdered sugar on the bottom of a medium-sized plastic or glass container. Roll rum balls around in the powdered sugar on the plate to cover and place in the prepared container.

Continue to do this with the remaining dough, layering parchment paper between each layer. Cover the container so it is airtight, and store in the refrigerator. Allow them to rest for at least 5 days before serving.

A Cheesy Lunch

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Do you ever have one of those days where it’s hard to get out of bed, it takes forever for your face to wake up, and all you can think about is comfort food? Well, I probably don’t even need to say it, but I’m having one of those days. I woke up thinking about the cup of sipping chocolate I had at Chocolate Apothecary a few days ago.  They made mine with almond milk and it was To. Die. For. Then, I had leftover pesto pasta with spicy sausage for breakfast. We still have no snow and have been dealing with clouds, clouds, and more clouds, with an entrance of pea soup fog every now and then. Perfect weather for comfort food.

On my way to the grocery store to purchase items forgotten yesterday for baking, I at least was able to stop myself from pulling into Starbuck’s for a hot chocolate. But only because I knew it would be a disappointment after the perfect cup at Chocolate Apothecary.

I returned home to begin my candy making and while I was licking the chocolate spoon and scraping the bowl (pepita and cranberry bark – recipes coming soon) I thought to myself, “Self, wouldn’t a grilled cheese sandwich and a goat cheese salad be delightful for lunch?” And believe me, I was right. Maybe my whole day will be like this, I don’t know, but I do know that life is much too short to not have one or two little indulgences every now and then.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Grilled Cheese Sandwich

2 Slices Gluten Free Bread (I prefer homemade or Udi’s)

Dairy Free Butter

Daiya Cheddar Style Cheese

Salt

Butter both slices of bread on one side. Sprinkle with the tiniest amount of salt (dairy free butter is not salty enough), place in a skillet, add the cheese, top with remaining bread. Cook on medium low (this dairy free cheese melts nicely, but you need to give it time) until golden on one side. Flip. Cook until golden and cheese is melted.

Goat’s Cheese Salad Dressing

(This will make extra, it keeps nicely sealed tightly in the fridge.)

1/2 to 3/4 package Goat’s Cheese

About 1/2 to 3/4 Cup Olive Oil Mayonnaise

About 1/4 cup or so of Rice Wine Vinegar

Ground Pepper

(You can also add fresh or dried herbs, chives, parsley, etc. depending on what you are serving with the salad.)

Place all ingredients in a bowl, smash the cheese with a fork and stir to combine thoroughly. Place salad in a large bowl, spoon some dressing over it and toss until salad is coated.

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

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I’ve spent most of the morning surrounded with ribbon, tissue paper, gift wrap, and the absolute cutest gift tags you’ve ever seen. I’ve also watched 3 holiday movies, compliments of the Watch Instantly feature on Netflix. Yesterday I had to make a little trip to the doctor  because I was feeling under the weather. I was given and antibiotic and ordered to take it easy for a few days and rest. I can hear some of you snickering already. Yes, yes, I know, I’m not a good “rester”.

I’m sure I looked like a reindeer in the headlights when I heard the doctor, who oddly enough had gray hair and a gray beard and was quite jolly, say the dreaded word. “You want me to what? I just finished a marathon house “do over” and I’m way, way, behind on Christmas. Rest? It’s Christmas time for Prancer’s sake. There’s shopping to do, presents to wrap, and cookies to be made!” Jolly old Santa, uh….I mean the doctor, didn’t feel one bit sorry for me. In fact, he went one step further and scolded me for waiting so long to come in. He even wrote me on his naughty list and prescribed some black and white pills (resembling coal… possibly?) and sent me on my merry little way, causing a very large disruption in my plans for the day.

So, here I am at home (not out shopping or baking), trying to earn my way back onto the good little girl list. I’m doing my version of resting. Staying in my pajamas, wrapping gifts, and sneaking a holiday smoothie in.

You might think it’s too chilly this time of year for a smoothie, but it’s not. This one is spicy and soothing, you might even say naughty and nice, and just what Santa….um…the doctor ordered.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

About 1 Cup Almond Milk

About 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree

About 1 Tablespoon Sugar

About 1 Tablespoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

About 1/2 Banana

About 1 Heaping Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

About 1 Cup Ice

Place all ingredients in order in a Vita Mix or heavy-duty blender and blend until smooth.

A Reprieve From The Daily Grind – My Corner Of The World

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Ahhh…how I love it when life is organized and things that have been in complete chaos are back in order! Yesterday I was finally able to wrap up a long list of little things that needed to be done so I could focus on decorating for Christmas.

This is by far my favorite time of year and I was beginning to worry that we were going to be so swamped with house “stuff” that we wouldn’t be able to relax and enjoy it. Luckily, I was wrong. Yesterday was spent decorating, today will be spent finishing up some gift shopping, and over the next couple of weeks our house will be filled with the comforting scents of Christmas baking. I can finally feel a little of that Christmas spirit filling up the house and an excited anticipation of the holiday days to come. Lots of family visits, wonderful meals shared together, and the wrap up of another year where God blessed us tremendously and got us through some monumental changes in our lives. Now if we could just get a little bit of snow as the icing on the cake…

Gluten Free Pantry’s French Bread

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Bread is obviously the number one thing that people who have to go gluten-free miss the most. Or maybe I should say real bread, that really tastes like bread. Since I went gluten-free I’ve only found three breads that I like. Udi’s breads and bagels, a recipe that I tweaked a little from a gluten-free cookbook, and Gluten Free Pantry’s french bread mix.

The first time I tried Gluten Free Pantry’s mix, I did not like it at all! But because gluten-free baking can be kind of persnickety, I decided to give it another try with my own flair. I’ve made it numerous times with all kinds of additions since then and have loved it every time. This is also the bread that I use to make gluten-free croutons and gluten-free bread crumbs (minus the herbs).

A french bread pan is a must. They aren’t expensive, just look around in your local kitchen stores. If you’ve never made gluten-free bread it’s important to know that it doesn’t react like regular bread dough. Most gluten-free bread mixes come out more like a batter that needs to be spread. If you place it onto a baking sheet or stone, it will spread out and end up too thin and a little weird. But don’t fret, it’s incredibly easy. Much easier than making “real” bread.

Italian French Bread

1 Package Gluten Free Pantry French Bread and Pizza Dough Mix

Olive Oil

Eggs

Almond Milk

Honey

Cider Vinegar

Sea Salt

1 Heaping Tablespoon Dried Oregano

1 Heaping Tablespoon Dried Basil

1 Heaping Tablespoon Garlic, diced

Mix the bread dough according to the directions except substitute the water with almond milk, use olive oil instead of regular oil, use sea salt instead of regular salt, and add the oregano, basil, and garlic and mix on medium-high for 4 minutes instead of the suggested 2 minutes.

Line the french bread pan with parchment. You probably don’t have to but I hate washing bread pans and baking sheets so I always line them with parchment. (I also think that cookies and breads bake more evenly when using parchment.)

Dollop the batter as evenly as you can on each side of the pan.

With a spoon, spread the batter and even it out into the shape of baguettes.

Place in a warm place (I used the warming drawer in my oven) to rise for about 40 minutes.

Whisk 1 egg in a small bowl. Brush over both baguettes and then slit each loaf down the middle with a very sharp knife.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven (375 if you’re using an electric oven) for a minimum of 40 minutes. Gluten-free bread isn’t necessarily done when tapped on and makes a hollow sound like regular bread. I always cook mine for the amount of time the recipe suggests plus 5-8 minutes longer to ensure that the bread isn’t too moist in the middle and is going to collapse when it cools.

If you can stand it, allow it to cool a little bit before slicing so the loaf doesn’t squish down. We can never make it that long. If you’re careful when you slice off a hot piece, it will be just fine. And really, there’s nothing better than fresh bread out of the oven, so don’t miss out!