I feel like I am so on the ball this year!
The shopping and wrapping were finished the first week in December – even the stocking stuffers which I usually leave for last because I dread wrapping them. Cookies and candy have been completed and delivered to friends and family a couple of days ago. Christmas cards have been mailed.
We’ve even had time to relax, drive around and see the beautiful holiday lights – and later today we’re headed out to see our second movie in a week!
Usually this is a hectic time of year but I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t allow that to happen this holiday season. It’s my favorite time of year and I really love to soak it all in. I promised myself I’d try my hardest to live in the present moment and really enjoy it. Something I’m not able to do if I’m running behind and frantic to cross things off my to-do list.
(These are little olive jar tongs and work wonderfully for dipping candy!)
Now there’s three days until Christmas Eve and the only things left on my important to-do list are groceries and prep for Christmas breakfast and Linner. We’ll have to see what other kinds of holiday fun we can plan between now and Christmas!
Cranberry Almond Bites
1 1/2 Cups of Dried Cranberries, soaked in water in a small bowl for 1 hour then drained and dried between layers of paper towels
3/4 Cup of Dairy Free Butter, melted
1 lb of Powdered Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon of Pure Almond Extract
1 Bag (8 ounces) of Shredded Unsweetened Coconut (I used Let’s Do Organic)
2 Cups of Sliced Almonds
14 ounces of Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk (I used two 7.4 ounce cans of Let’s Do Organic)
8 3 ounce each Bars of Theo Organic 70% Dark Chocolate Bars
Chop the cranberries and mix all ingredients except the chocolate in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until completely set – about 3 hours.
Line two baking sheets with parchment and using about 1 1/2 teaspoons of candy, roll into small balls and place on baking trays. Cover and refrigerate until completely set – 3 hours or over night.
In a double boiler melt the chocolate squares. Using small tongs (or place each ball on a large fork and scoop the chocolate over the ball) dip the balls quickly into the chocolate, shake off any excess, and place them back on the baking sheets. Repeat until they are all covered and allow the chocolate to set up. I placed mine outside to set up because it’s cold here but you could also do a quick set in the fridge for 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container.
**Depending on the size of your candies, you may have some leftover melted chocolate. You can dollop it onto parchment and allow it to cool into discs for snacking, or what I like to do is fold in some add ins that you have on hand and create another type of candy. Once things are stirred together, a little bit of left over chocolate goes a long way. This time I used gluten free Rice Chex cereal and dried cranberries – then I drop them by the teaspoon into cute little paper or foil cups. You can add any combination of things you like. Nuts, dried fruits, pretzels, cereal, marshmallows, chopped up candy canes…
Otherwise known as Pepparkakor, these are very similar to those tasty tins of ginger snaps you find at IKEA and World Market.
Very easy to make and the recipe yields about 90 fabulously crispy, and VERY spicy cookies. When you first bite into them you get the familiar spice of a ginger snap and then it ends with the heat of cayenne.
If you love a good ginger snap but like a little less spicy heat, then I would omit one tablespoon of the ginger and the pinch of cayenne. The cookies will still have plenty of flavor but won’t be quite as hot.
Gluten Free & Dairy Free Ginger Snaps
(Recipe adapted from The Cutlery Chronicles)
*Makes about 90 1 1/2 inch cookies
2 1/2 Cups of Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour Blend
2 teaspoons of Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt
1/2 Cup of Dairy Free Butter
4 Tablespoons of Ground Ginger (omit 1 Tbs for less heat)
2 teaspoons of Ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of Ground Cloves
1/4 teaspoon of Freshly Ground Pepper
Pinch of Cayenne (omit for less heat)
1 1/4 Cups Packed Dark Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup of Molasses
1 Large Egg
Whisk the Flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside. Heat the butter in a medium pan over medium heat until melted – continue to cook swirling the pan frequently until the foaming subsides. Turn off the heat and whisk in the spices, brown sugar, and molasses. Continue whisking until the sugar is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the egg and whisk again to combine until you have a smooth and glossy texture.
Pour the sugar mixture into the bowl of flour and mix with a spatula just until combined – don’t over work it. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours (I did overnight because gluten free dough bakes better when thoroughly chilled).
Pre heat oven to 300 degrees.
Break of a portion of the dough and mold into a disc. Slowly roll it out with a rolling pin. If it sticks, add a small amount of flour to the pin and continue rolling slowly. Do not flour the counter or the dough.
Place the cookies on parchment covered baking sheets and bake in 10 minute increments rotating the sheets every 10 minutes for a total of 30 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
I should never plan an exact day to post a recipe. I have a habit of promising that on Instagram and I swear, it’s like I jinx myself every time. It never happens when I say it’s going to happen. Which is SO unlike my personality.
This recipe was supposed to go up yesterday but…more baking happened, then I decided to make a big roast with veggies for Linner, then all of a sudden it was 5:00 and I realized I hadn’t even showered yet! We needed to deliver Christmas treats to some of our friends because fresh is best you know especially for the deliverer, so I quickly cleaned up and off we went. After we visited with friends here and there, we decided to do a Christmas light tour around town. After being busy for 14 hours straight, by the time we got home I was so worn out my husband took my boots off for me.
Recipe postponed until today.
I woke at the crack o’ dawn this morning to work on all the recipes I promised to share and wouldn’t you know it…the dropbox “thingy” (don’t roll your eyes at me) didn’t work right and my one hundred and something holiday baking photos didn’t upload to my computer. I have a new computer my son gave me and it doesn’t have all the ports my old one had to plug my phone in so…gasp in horror…I had to figure out the whole dropbox glitch by myself. You know when you have technical problems and you try 45 random different things to make it work the way you want it to? Well, I did that and for some reason I was able to get selected photos to upload. Hopefully that same issue won’t happen again because I don’t have the slightest idea how I figured it out.
To top it off, once the photos were finally finished uploading, I sat down to begin the recipe post – and had to let both dogs outside not once, but five different times. There must have been deer out there that I couldn’t see because the dogs didn’t even mind braving the rain over and over again. I guess I just need to keep in mind that life happens and recipes will be posted when they get posted.
One day late isn’t too bad and this recipe is well worth the wait. It combines all the yummy things into one delicious bite.
Gluten Free & Dairy Free Caramel Bites
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×11 pan with tinfoil (sprayed) and parchment paper.
For The Crust:
1 Box of S’Moreables Gluten Free Graham Style Crackers
6 Tablespoons of Dairy Free Butter, melted
1/3 Cup Coconut Sugar
1/2 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
For The Topping:
1/2 Cup of Dairy Free Butter
3/4 Cup of Packed Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract
2 1/2 Cups of Miniature Marshmallows
3/4 Cup of Sliced Almonds
1 Cup of Unsweetened Flaked Coconut (I used Let’s Do Organic)
Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until they turn into fine crumbs. Add the 6 Tablespoons of melted butter, the sugar, and the cinnamon and pulse until it all comes together.
Press the crust tightly into the pan (I used my fingers and then went over it with the bottom of a glass), sprinkle the marshmallows, almonds, and coconut over and set aside.
In a medium sauce pan melt the 1/2 cup of butter, the brown sugar, and the cinnamon over medium heat. Whisk until the butter and sugar are melted, it is ready when the mixture is thoroughly combined (no butter floating on top) and the sugar is no longer grainy. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla. Drizzle over the top of the marshmallows, almonds, and coconut.
Bake for 20 minutes until the top is lightly golden. Cool completely. When ready to slice, remove the mixture from the pan with the tin foil. Fold down the sides of the foil and parchment and cut into bite sized pieces with a sharp knife.
These bars are very rich and I often mail them and deliver them to friends in goodie boxes so after cutting them, I like to place them on a couple of paper towels for 30 minutes (no more than 30 minutes though because they’ll stick) before boxing. It helps remove any extra butter that may transfer in the packaging.
When the cold weather hits, thoughts of juicing, avocado toast, and omelettes filled with fresh vegetables seem to dance right out of my head. Then visions of baked goodies, chai lattes, hot tea, skillet dishes, and hearty comfort foods come dancing onto the scene.
I’ve been working on a grain free Dutch Baby pancake but haven’t been able to find that perfect sweet spot. This Apple Dutch Baby is gluten free and dairy free but not grain free. As soon as I can get my grain free recipe to behave properly, you’ll be the first to know.
If you’ve visited the blog lately you’ll see that it has a fresh new look – and it’s snowing! Love that little addition that WordPress adds during the holidays. I’d love to hear your opinion, so pop over and let me know how you like the new look! If you receive my posts via email or view it with your mobile device, you won’t see the new format, just a generic format. To view the new format, either click the link to the blog in your email or, if you view the blog using Chrome on your phone, you can click the 3 vertical dots at the top right of your mobile screen and click Request Mobile Site.
I have a lot of fresh baking ideas planned for the next couple of weeks along with some of my traditional favorites, so stay tuned!
Gluten Free & Dairy Free Apple Dutch Baby
For The Batter:
3 Large Eggs
3/4 Cup of Full Fat Coconut Milk
3/4 Cup of Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour Blend
1/4 teaspoon of Xanthan Gum
1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon of Ceylon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of Nutmeg
For The Apples:
4 Tablespoons of Dairy Free Butter (set aside 2 Tablespoons)
1 Large Honey Crisp Apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons of Ceylon Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons of Coconut Sugar
*Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Whisk eggs, milk, flour, xanthan, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until smooth.
Melt 2 Tablespoons of the dairy free butter on medium heat in an oven proof skillet (about 9.5-10 inches). Add the apple, coconut sugar, and cinnamon, tossing often until apples are coated and softened, about 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Rinse the skillet well and wipe dry. Place in the oven and heat the skillet for 10 minutes.
Remove (carefully!) from oven and melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of dairy free butter swirling around to coat all the edges and up the sides of the pan. Add the apples and any coconut sugar sauce to the middle of the pan and pour the batter over.
Bake until pancake is puffed and golden brown around the edges and the center is set, but still jiggles a bit like custard. About 12-15 minutes.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.
I LOVE the holidays. The change in seasons, music, crisp air, baking, shopping, light displays, gatherings, the hustle and bustle downtown, and of course celebrating the real meaning of Christmas. Sadly, I often hear people say how much they dread the holidays! The commercialization, crowds, cost, numerous family issues, and the overall rush and stress of having to prepare for what is such a big holiday for many of us.
After celebrating 48 seasons of this favorite holiday, a few of which were quite stressful even for an “all things holiday” lover like me – I know why you may be feeling overwhelmed and I can help.
Tip #1 – Organize
I create a holiday calendar. It doesn’t have to be pretty (mine isn’t), just effective. I sort out appointments and plans that have already been made and balance those out with my to-do list for the month. I figure out which days I’ll spend shopping, wrapping, baking, buying groceries, and food prepping. I put everything in one binder. Calendar, menus, baking ideas, recipes, gift lists, gift receipts, reminders, and grocery lists.
I also schedule me time (manicures & pedicures, hiking with the dogs, catching up with friends, baths and books, prayer time in the mornings), fun time (movies, dinners out with the hubby, light viewing, travel) exercise time, family time, and blog time (sharing recipes here with you, on Instagram, and managing my GFZ Facebook page). If you don’t make time, it won’t happen.
May seem a bit over the top, but I promise you – there is nothing like having a peaceful night’s rest because my brain is not spinning trying to keep track of a to-do list in my head. Once it’s on paper, it’s out of my head and my mind can focus on the present moment.
Tip #2 – Meal Plans & Baking Plans
I plan my menus based on my energy/health level and keep in mind that I TOO want to enjoy the holiday. As much as I enjoy cooking and baking, I do not enjoy catering to a house full of people who are relaxing and having fun while I am chained to the kitchen.
I break my menus down. I make grocery lists and a prep timeline. Anything I can either prep or fully make a day ahead or more, I do. I keep my prep timeline handy and I highlight everything I’ve completed as I’m going. I also use the prep list when guests arrive, then I can focus on the guests without worrying I’ve forgotten something.
Tip #3 – Prioritize
Do you want to have fun and enjoy the season or do you want it to be filled with angst, resentment, exhaustion, and debt? Not many people would willingly choose the latter…but we often do without even recognizing it!
You know how awful you feel every time you say yes to something when you really want to say no? Keep THAT in mind throughout the entire holiday season. Saying “NO” pertains to family, friends, co workers, gifts, parties, overindulging in food and alcohol, and your TIME. If you really hate visiting 6 different houses on Christmas and would really like to just enjoy a peaceful holiday at home, do it or consider hosting a big potluck and having everyone at your home instead. One stop for everyone! People will forgive you and if they don’t… well, that’s a post for another time about setting better boundaries.
Get your shopping and wrapping done early. I made a pact with myself this year that I’d have all gift shopping and wrapping done by the first week in December. If you don’t like to shop, you can buy almost anything online. If you dread wrapping, consider paying someone to do your wrapping. Or, here’s a concept so many of us forget – ask for help! Let go of the mindset that you are responsible for all the shopping, wrapping, and providing everyone except yourself with a meaningful holiday. Remember this – most people are not concerned with AND rarely notice, 90% of the things you think are absolutely necessary for a happy holiday – pare down! You really CAN relax and have fun.
Consider picking names out of a hat instead of buying for everyone, or do a homemade or Pinterest crafty Christmas. If you enjoy attending a party or two but can’t wrap your mind around the 10 invitations sitting on your kitchen counter, choose the parties you really look forward to attending and politely pass on the rest. Even if for just one year! You can also head out of town for the holiday. We have done that twice in the past 10 years and it was a really refreshing change of pace.
Tip #4 – Focus on Self Care
We know what the real meaning of Christmas is about, however, it’s easy to get caught up in all the extras. If you whip yourself into a complete frazzle, you miss out on all of the peace and magic the holiday season has to offer. The only way around holiday stress is to focus on self-care. Focusing on the true meaning, prioritizing, staying organized, being honest with yourself and others, and most importantly, taking care of your health. Once you’re stressed, it all slides downhill very quickly. Countless people are ill this time of year. We consume more sugar in the winter, get less sun (vitamin D levels drop even further), drink less water so we’re dehydrated which lowers the immune system, and we have the tendency to want to curl up and hibernate rather than getting fresh air and exercise.
Indulge in all the fun things – but in moderation and stick to your normal health routine. Say NO when you mean no, knowing that it is what is best for your health and your sanity. Make a list of all the things you’ve always wanted to do during the holidays but never had the time for – and make them happen! Celebrate! Tell your inner perfectionist worry wart to take a hike. And for crying out loud, take a pass on another holiday spent with your inappropriate uncle Fred and pot stirring aunt Sally.
Such a special time was not intended to be stressful and dreaded. You do deserve a peaceful, joy filled, holiday surrounded by the blessings in your life that have been so freely given.
It’s up to you to make it happen!
Last year I swore I would come up with a dairy free eggnog that would satisfy my cravings, but you know how that goes…the holidays came speeding up and then things got very busy and before I knew it I was running behind on even just my regular holiday to-do list.
Well not this year!
I made a pact with myself that I would have all of the decorating, shopping, and wrapping completed by the first week of December. That way, I could focus on all of the things I love so much about the holidays and actually fully enjoy them as stress free as possible.
What a concept, right? I should have been doing this every year!
For the next couple of weeks I’ll be soaking in the Christmas Spirit with light gazing and dinners and movies downtown in the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers.
Hopefully some long walks in the falling snow (if we ever get some), also a bit of travel, a whole lot of baking (stay tuned!), and of course – I’ll be treating myself to Rum Nog and spiced wine to my heart’s content!
Dairy Free Holiday Rum Nog
5 Eggs – separated, reserve 3 whites & freeze the remainder for another use
1/2 Cup of Granulated Sugar Plus 2 teaspoons – or raw sugar or coconut sugar but they will darken the color of your nog
2 Cups of Full Fat Coconut Milk
1 Cup of Filtered Water
1 teaspoon of Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of Ceylon Cinnamon
Pinch of Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract
3 Tablespoons of Spiced Rum (or more of course, whatever you like!)
In a medium pan whisk the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar until smooth and creamy yellow. Add ONE cup of the coconut milk and the water, whisk to combine. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon. About 7-8 minutes or so. Don’t heat too quickly or the eggs will scramble and your eggnog will be lumpy. Remove from heat and add the last cup of coconut milk, whisk to combine.
Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, sea salt, vanilla, and rum and whisk to combine. Set aside to cool.
While the eggnog is cooling, in a mixer beat the egg whites and granulated sugar to stiff peak. Be careful, they go from soft peak to stiff and then powdery and overworked very quickly. Fold the egg whites into the eggnog, pour into a container, and refrigerate over night.
The egg whites may rise to the top over night. You can whisk them into the eggnog for a more fluffy consistency, or you can scoop them to the side, fill the glasses with the eggnog and then dollop a bit of egg white nog on top of each. Or, you can leave out the egg whites altogether. Top with a sprinkle of nutmeg and serve.
We have one more day of somewhat summer weather this week and then we start the road to fall. We spent much of August socked in with terrible smoke conditions due to all of the fires in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Canada. All of that time spent with the windows closed and the air conditioning running 24/7 made my brain think the seasons had already changed. I found myself making soup and comfort foods like this delicious apple tart.
Now that summer is winding down, my vegetable garden has been cleaned out, and the mornings are calling for sweaters, I find myself day dreaming about all of the wonderful options for fall baking and cooking.
1 Pie Crust From Heaven Crust Portion
6 Cups of Your Favorite Apples, sliced
Juice of 1 Whole Lemon
3/4 Cup of Coconut Sugar
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of Ceylon Cinnamon
2 teaspoons of Pure Vanillla Extract
6 teaspoons of Dairy Free Butter
Add the sliced apples, lemon juice, coconut sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla to a large bowl and let sit for one hour, tossing every 15 minutes.
While the apples are marinating, press the dough into a 9×1 inch tart pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Overlap the apples in a circle starting at the outside edge and work your way to the middle. Drizzle half of the marinating sauce over the apples. Dollop the butter over the top of the apples.
Bake for 50-60 minutes (it will depend on your oven) until apples are fork tender. Cover the tart with loosely with foil at the 30 minute mark so that the apple tips don’t burn. Drizzle the tart with the remaining marinade and cool before serving.
Ahhhh…summer. We are having a wonderful summer.
I hope you are too.
We’re trying to squeeze in as much camping, hang gliding, trips to the lake, puttering around the garden, and picnics in the park as we can before the long winter arrives.
My vegetable garden is doing really well this year and has left me with an abundance of tomatoes. We’ve been having them on omelettes, in salads, in pasta, and I’ve been roasting them and freezing them so we can sneak in some tastes of summer in the dead of winter.
When we returned from camping last week the tomato vines were heavy with the weight of beautiful fruit! Rather than roast more tomatoes to freeze, I thought I’d start making home made tomato soup to put up for the winter instead.
It looks like I’m going to have to do a few batches because I can already tell it’s going to be a favorite especially alongside a dairy free grilled sandwich or a grilled tuna sandwich. The flavors are so delicious and this time I added a pinch of crushed chipotle peppers that added a hint of heat and a warm, smoky flavor.
The best part is that it’s a very easy recipe that will bring the taste of summer into a chilly winter afternoon and most of us have all the ingredients on hand – along with gardens bursting with tomatoes.
Slow Roasted Tomato & Pesto Soup
7 Cups of Red Cherry Tomatoes & Yellow Pear Tomatoes stems removed, rinsed, and dried
1 tsp of Dried Oregano
1 Medium Vidalia Onion peeled and sliced
10 Cloves of Garlic peeled
Somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Generous Pinches of Kosher Salt
1 tsp of Dried Basil
1/8 tsp of Dried Crushed Chipotle Peppers
A Few Grinds of Fresh Pepper
4 Cups of Gluten Free Chicken Broth
1/2 tsp of Coconut Sugar
3 Tablespoons of Vegan Nut Free Pesto
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add the onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with the oregano, basil, chipotle peppers, kosher salt, and ground pepper.
Roast for 2 hours.
Remove the roasted veggies, garlic, and herbs with a spatula into a medium saucepan add the chicken broth, coconut sugar, and pesto. Use an immersion blender (or put into a regular blender, then add to a saucepan) to puree the tomatoes, garlic, and onion. Simmer (slowly) for 30 minutes.
It’s been so long since I’ve done a blog post I was a little worried that I’d forgotten how! I’m finding it easier time-wise to post quickly in “real time”, on Instagram Stories and on my Gluten Free Zen Facebook page.
I do love to blog though and I like that I have a place to reference recipes and share my favorites with all of you. I’ve made a pact with myself to try to figure out how to balance life a bit better and to focus more on the things I love to do like cooking, baking, and blogging.
Spring and summer months are the best for natural light photography so I should be taking advantage of it. Not to mention the beauty of all the fresh fruits, summer desserts, and outdoor cooking that are headed onto the scene.
Hope you are doing well! We’ll catch up more on my next post and as always you can pop over to Instagram and Facebook to visit too. I do a lot of health research and reading and like to post articles on my FB page that may be of interest to you. On Instagram, I’m more loosey goosey and you can see and hear me in real time, see what I’m up to, and cook with me. As always, I only do this for fun. No earnings involved, I just have a love of wanting to teach people about healthier choices and alternative ideas about life, food, and overall health.
See you soon!
~ April xo
Nut & Groat Granola
*Makes about 3 cups
1 Cup of Organic Gluten Free Rolled Oats
1/2 Cup of Organic Buckwheat Groats
1/4 Cup of Organic Raw Sunflower Seeds
1/4 Cup of Organic Raw Pumpkin Seeds
1/4 Cup of Organic Roasted & Salted Cashews
1 Cup of Organic Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
1 teaspoon of Organic Ceylon Cinnamon
Couple Pinches of Sea Salt
Contents of 1 Vanilla Bean Pod
2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil
3 Tablespoons of Pure Maple Syrup
3/4 Cup of Organic Montmorency Dried Cherries, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Stir together the oats, groats, seeds, and cashews. Add the cinnamon, sea salt, and vanilla bean pod and stir well. Add the oil and syrup and stir until ingredients are evenly coated.
Spread onto a parchment covered baking sheet and bake in 5 minute increments, stirring between each. Once it starts to lightly brown, keep your eye on it because it will quickly burn. You want it to be browned evenly, then remove from oven to cool. About 12 minutes or so in a convection oven. It will crisp more upon cooling. Toss in the chopped cherries.
Serve with non dairy yogurt or non dairy milk, as a post workout snack, car snack, hiking snack. Anything goes!