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Sugared Cranberries (and Adjusted Expectations)

Expectations.  Good intentions.  Those blasted things trip me up every time!  As I sit here (yes, yes, at 8:02 a.m.) typing this and eating rum cake (I know, I know!), I think about all the blogs that rattled around in my head--brilliant, witty blogs with amazing recipes--blogs that I ruminated over and which, ultimately, I never managed to get posted...well, frankly, I am frustrated.  Frustrated with myself, and life, and everything else that seems to conspire to thwart all of my best intentions.

My Christmas holidays were a whirlwind.  We scuttled from one person's home to another, trying to make sure no one felt left out, but ending up feeling a bit left out ourselves.  The holidays can be an exercise in frustration (bordering on futility!) for those with food allergies.  It can be too much to expect others to be able to accommodate our needs, but it can feel a bit like moving house to take a day's worth of holiday fare to another's house in order to feel like we are not just sitting around watching everyone else eat.

This was my first holiday season since being diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis.  I thought going gluten free was a hurdle last year, but this was . . . more.  More exhausting, more frustrating.

I ended up decided it was easier (and safer) to eat at home and then go to visit family afterwards for the opening of the "extended family" gifts.  We had Christmas Eve at my in-law's house, which left no time to baking or early preparation of anything.  After getting up at 4:00 a.m. Christmas Day to put the turkey in, then re-awakening to the sound of screeching children around 6:00 a.m., then running late after watching our kids open their gifts from Santa, my menu had to be cut dramatically.  This was our first year to NOT have homemade "Neil Gaiman Cranberry Sauce" and cranberry relish.  The fresh green beans were cut from the menu.  I didn't even have time to make gravy before we had to gulp down our food and run off to see extended family.

Later, at Destination #3, everyone else ate cakes and pies.  But, alas, they were not "me-friendly."  I had not expected it to be.  However, it had not dawned on me that, in our trips to and fro, I had not had time to make myself a gluten-free vegan pumpkin pie.  I was now acutely aware of the void.

A litany of car troubles, a much-needed surgery for my husband, and general school and kid stuff had encroached on the holidays and now . . . they are over.  Where did they go?  I never got around to enjoying them!  Where is my hot apple cider?  My pumpkin pie?  My homemade mincemeat I meant to make?  We never made it to see Santa this year (although he did send a lovely letter and a video)!  There were not enough Christmas Light drives with sleepy kids, with their tummies full of hot cocoa, murmuring a sleepy "oooohhhh" from the back seat as we drive through the displays.

The older I get, the more I realized that I have impossibly high standards for the holidays.  I am not sure that I will ever have a year where I have baked "enough" or done "enough" to meet my own impossible standards.  So, as I scrape the last of the rum cake from my plate, I turn my thoughts to this New Year.

I want more peace, more affection, more compassion.  I want to cut myself a break.  I want to enjoy the little things, and stop obsessing over everything I did NOT accomplish.

So, in that vein, I am posting a recipe.  It is a little slip of a thing that doesn't take long, but requires a bit of patience (or passivity...depends how you look at it...its all in the attitude!).  The payoffs, however, are remarkable...the stuff of legends as far as my children are concerned.

Sugared Cranberries

For the simple syrup:
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 7 whole cloves (optional)
  • 3 cups water

The star of the show:
  • 1 package fresh cranberries (about 3 cups)

For rolling:
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (or take 1 cup granulated sugar and run it through the food processor for a few pulses)

Mix the sugar and water (and the cinnamon sticks and cloves, if you are using them) in a saucepan.  Cook over over medium heat until boiling.  Simmer for about a minute, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and pour into a bowl or Tupperware container.  Make sure the mixture is no longer boiling, then add the cranberries.  Cover and refrigerate at least eight hours (overnight works well, too!).  Drain the cranberries (but save the liquid, the resulting simple syrup it is perfect for spiced tea or holiday cocktails).  Make sure to remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves!

Put the superfine sugar in a shallow bowl and gently roll the cranberries in the sugar to coat evenly.  I will be honest here . . . this part is boring.  To make them lovely, you kinda need to roll just one or two at a time (this is NOT one of the cases where you can just toss it all in a giant zippy bag).  But the result is gorgeous.  So, if you have little ones, this is a perfect job for them (just remind them to wait until after all the cranberries are done before licking their fingers).  Or, if you owe your mother a call, you could roll the berries while she tells you all about your Great-Aunt Estelle and why they aren't speaking.

When you have had your fill, store the leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a day or two (assuming they actually last that long).

They are also LOVELY in a simple glass jar presented as a hostess gift.  If you are a very savvy guest, you could also present the hostess with the jar of simple syrup to use in her New Year's cocktails.

The best part is that the rolling of a small berry is the hardest bit of it.  Actually, it is rather relaxing . . . rolling it around in lazy circles.  Not sure about you, but I could use a bit more lazy and relaxing.  I will put that on my list for the new year.  Right under:  don't expect so much from yourself all the time.

Hopefully this new year will be full of new recipes, warm memories, and happy holidays...whichever ones you happen to celebrate.


Spiced Pecans to Save Your Turkey Day

It's November.  Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  The next thing you know, it'll be Hanukkah and Yule and Christmas and Kwanzaa and a veritable cornucopia of winter festivities that will keep you baking and partying until your head spins.  Whew!  Who needs a glass of heavily spiked eggnog?  (Or vegan wine, whatever your poison.)

Now, lets say that, with Thanksgiving looming, you're heading to the in-laws and you really should bring something, but you're so unprepared and haven't a clue what to do because you just don't have the energy to try for the umpteenth year in a row to wow them with your latest culinary masterpiece.  And yet, you are loathe to bring something store-bought.

If you've got just about an hour and a half to kill (most of this time being spent reading that novel you've been trying to finish while keeping an ear out for the oven timer), I've got just the thing for you.  It's simple, it's delicious, it's absolutely seasonal, and you could do it with your eyes closed (almost).  Or, you know, while you're blogging.  Like me.

What follows is one of only two die-hard traditions I have for the holidays.  It is a recipe that has been handed down through my family for, well, at least three generations.  (I'm a little foggy as to whether my dearly departed grandmother started this one, or if it was handed down to her by her own mother.  Or maybe it was her mother-in-law . . . hmm . . . family history I'll have to clear up at some point.)

My grandmother made these spiced pecans every year, without fail.  That is, until she died when I was sixteen.  I went several years after without them, until the day I wised up, realized what I was missing, and called my aunt to get the recipe.  Her first response was to chuckle.

     "What?" I asked, nonplussed.
     "Do you know what your grandmother used to go through to make those pecans?" asked my aunt, in her silly-mortals voice.
     "Er, no . . ."
     "I asked her for this recipe years ago, and she told me that she would roll each pecan, by hand, first in the wet mix and then the dry mix, one by one."
     Dramatic and much impressed pause.  "She didn't," says I.
     "She did," said my aunt.  "She would spend an entire day, sitting at her table, making pecans."
     Another dramatic pause.
     "Well, I said to hell with that," my aunt continued.  "I'll tell you the shortcut.  And if your grandmother ever knew how much time she wasted . . . "
     "You never told her?" Me, horrified and amused all at once.  If there's one trait that truly defines my aunt, it's her audacity.  She takes after her mother.
     "I never had the heart to," she said, all heart herself.

So, here it is in all its glory, my grandma Lillie's recipe for spiced pecans--revised.

Lillie's Legendary Spiced Pecans (Revised)
*One quick rule of thumb to remembering this recipe is that everything is in ones.

1 lb. shelled pecan halves
1 egg white
1 Tbsp. cold water
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl (large enough to easily mix around a pound of pecans), whisk together the egg white and cold water.  Add the pecans and stir well until the pecans are thoroughly and evenly coated.  Set aside.

Combine the sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a gallon size plastic baggie.  Close the bag tightly (make sure to leave ample air inside to create space) and shake vigorously until the sugar/salt/cinnamon is evenly blended.  Carefully dump all of the pecans into this bag with the sugar mixture, close tight (again, with plenty of air for mixing space), and shake the contents like crazy until all the nuts are coated and there is no more loose sugar in the bottom of the bag.  (This, my dear friends, is what has saved my aunt and I hours and hours of work every holiday season since my beloved, hard-working grandma passed from this life. May she never find out that we're cheating.)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easier cleanup) and pour the coated pecans onto the sheet, spreading them out as evenly as possible.  Bake the pecans in the oven, taking them out to stir every fifteen minutes, for a total cooking time of one hour (not counting the time it takes to stir, so you'll have to restart your timer every time you put them back in the oven).  Stirring them every fifteen minutes like this is essential.  Otherwise, you end up with, as my aunt puts it, "the worlds largest praline."

Let the pecans cool completely and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.  Needs no refrigeration and will make your in-laws very happy.  Also, they make great little jarred, tinned, or cello-bagged holiday gifts.

Much love and good eating,



Time for Fall Cooking and Molasses Ginger Cookies

The changing leaves and brisk wind has made me eager to begin baking again.  I have long considered Halloween to the be the official start of the Holiday Baking Season.  This year is no exception.  I have started the process of converting all of our beloved holiday recipes to gluten free and vegan versions.  I decided that I needed to work on the recipe for Molasses Ginger Cookies so that we could be snacking on these which I tried to figure out how to make Pecan Pie, but without pecans since I am allergic to them now.  Yep, some of these conversions are going to be tricky.  This recipe, however, is moist and gingery, with just the right bite of molasses.  It conjures memories of raking leaves on a brisk day, picking up fallen pecans, and hurrying inside once my toes got too cold...only to find hot apple cider and cookies fresh from the oven.

Ginger Molasses Cookies

1/2 (1 stick) of vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. molasses
Egg replacer equivalent of 1 egg
1/3 c. teff flour
1/3 c. oat flour
1/3 c. brown rice flour
1 c. sweet rice flour
1/4 c. tapioca flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Extra granulated sugar for coating 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease cookie sheets.
  2. Beat vegan butter and brown in a large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until creamy.  Add molasses and egg replacer.  Beat until well blended.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Whisk to combine.
  4. Add flour mixture to vegan butter mixture.  Beat until dough forms.  
  5. Roll dough into generous one inch balls and press one side of dough ball into granulated sugar in shallow bowl.  Then place dough ball on cookie sheet and flatten slightly.
  6. Bake approx. 10-14 minutes,  or until set.rest on cookie sheet for about one minute after removing from oven, then move to wire rack to cool.  
  7. Store in airtight container.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.


Ditch the Box: Easy Spanish Rice

If, like me, you've been making quick Spanish rice "out of a box" to round out your Mexican/Spanish meals for all these years, you'll be happy to know (or, I'm assuming you will if you're bothering to read this blog) that I have cracked the code.  I have done a little reading and a little experimenting and have deduced that making your own perfectly marvelous Spanish rice from scratch is really no big deal.  I have also confirmed, as I long suspected, that the convenience of boxed Spanish rice is a scam.    From this hypothesis I will further theorize that ALL flavored boxed rices are no more efficient or "easy" than their from-scratch predecessors, but I will have to prove that theory in future experiments.  For now, let's turn to Exhibit A.

Rice A Roni Spanish Rice Ingredients
This stuff has been a standard in my household for years.  No longer.  You see, what I want out of food is something that tastes good, is nutritious, and is as natural and simple as possible.  And I mean really natural, not what our food industry calls 'all natural.'  How natural is it if it's been stripped of its nutrients, then a small handful of isolated nutrients are added back in to give us the bare minimum?  How natural is it if the flavor has to be enhanced with MSG and there are things in the ingredient list you've never heard of and couldn't guess what plant or animal they came from, and it's not some exotic foreign food.  It's something they came up with in a lab.  As Michael Pollan says, "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

To add to the list of complaints, if you click on the caption under the Rice A Roni image up there, you'll see that WHEAT is listed as the second ingredient on the label (and a soy product is just a little further down).  Rice, once one of the most allergy-friendly grains on the planet, the stuff that has sustained millions across the decades, has now invaded our grocery shelves in the form of little boxes and bags (the flavor packet is right in the box, so convenient for the busy working home maker) laced with more allergens and lab-invented ingredients than was ever necessary to make a good, flavorful pot of rice.  For some of us, this stuff will kill you.  Allergic to wheat and/or soy?  Stay well away from boxed flavored rice.

And now the good news, my personal salvation: perfectly good boxless Spanish rice.

Spanish Rice


2 c. long grain brown rice
Dollop of  Olive Oil (1 or 2 Tbsp.)
1 can (14.5 oz or thereabouts) diced tomatoes
1 can (14.5 oz or thereabouts) diced tomatoes and green chilis
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (totally optional, Terri)
1 1/2 - 2 cups broth (chicken, veggie, turkey, whateva')


Chop your onion however you like it, big chunks or little disintegrating bits or somewhere in between (I'm not going to tell you how to run your kitchen).  Heat up your dollop of olive oil in a medium-sized pot and cook the onion until it's nearly translucent (or you can go for full caramelization, your choice).  Add the minced garlic in the last few minutes, since garlic cooks very fast.  At the same time as the garlic, add the rice and stir constantly over medium heat until some of the rice starts to brown slightly.

Add the tomatoes, tomatoes and chilis, any spices if you're going to (see below) and broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover, letting it simmer for 35 - 45 minutes, depending on your stove and your rice.  Start checking it at about 30 minutes.  If the liquid isn't all absorbed, let it keep going.  If, at around 40 minutes the rice has absorbed all its liquid but it's still a touch underdone, add a 1/4 c. liquid, put the lid back on, and cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Fluff the finished rice with a fork.  Eat it with something yummy and Mexican.  And know that you have thwarted The Man by making something good from scratch... and it was easy.  :)

*That's the basics.  Feel free to spice it up from there, if you wish.  I've seen recipes that call for a tsp. or so of oregano, or a few dashes of cumin, or even some fresh cilantro thrown in at the end.  Go wild.  You'll notice that my amounts on the tomatoes are approximate.  I understand that many of our wonderfully resourceful readers might be using their own canned tomatoes (not store bought).  If that's you, I commend you, and understand that your cans are probably not exactly a store-standard 14.5 oz.  Use your best judgment.  If you want to use fresh tomatoes, use 2 if they're very large, and maybe 3 or 4 if they're kinda' small (eyeball it).  Do not strain your 'maters.  You want all that juice in your rice (it will make up part of your liquid), and a few tomato seeds never hurt anyone (honestly, I've done it with whole tomatoes and never even noticed the seeds).  Then, of course, you'll have to add your chilis (even if they're mild chilis, or even bell peppers - you need it for depth of flavor).  One or two of those little cans of green chilis will do the trick.  But, if you're pulling all this produce out of the garden, you probably already know what kind of peppers you want to use, and again, I'm not one to stop you.  You can make it as hot or mild as you wish.  This is your show.

Go forth and cook food.

~ Angela


Homemade Gluten Free Vegan Noodles

When I first found out that our family was going gluten free, the recipe that I nearly cried at losing was my home made chicken noodle soup.  I could not figure out how to have gluten free noodles that tasted like homemade.  I did not want rice noodles, and I am allergic to quinoa--so those are out.  Plus, I am allergic to eggs...so it decent noodles for a hearty chicken soup seemed to be getting further and further out of my grasp.  In desperation, I started experimenting.  (Necessity being the mother of invention and all that...)

What I came up with is somehow al dente yet tender.  It can be rolled a bit thicker and used, dumpling like, in a hearty soup, but can also be rolled paper thin.  My kids adore these noodles, and I simply do not make my chicken noodle soup with any other noodle.

Before I go any further, I have to admit...these are starch based.  In order to get the texture I wanted this was what worked.  No apologies.

Also, I am posting this (temporarily) without a photo.  I will be making my chicken noodle soup soon, so I will post the photo (and the recipe for the soup) then.

Gluten Free and Vegan Noodles

1/2 c. tapioca starch
1/2 c. cornstarch
3 tbs. potato starch
1 1/2 tbs. xanthan gum (yes, tablespoons...noodles have to be able to bend a lot!)
4 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer (combine this with 6 tbs. very warm water, whisk until frothy, and set aside)
1 1/2 tbs. vegetable oil
  1. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  2. Take the the Ener-G egg replacer and water mixture and add the vegetable oil, then add to the dry ingredients.
  3. Work the dough into a ball and knead it a LOT.  No, seriously...a lot.  It will take a minute or two for the starches to combine and become easier to work with.  (If the mixture does not combine well after a few minutes of kneading, you can add a tsp. or two of warm water.)
At this point, you can either put the dough in a large plastic zippy bag in the fridge and let it set up for a few hours before rolling and cutting into noodles.  Or, if you are like me, there is no time.  In that case continue to...

     4.  Coat your rolling surface with potato starch and roll to desired thickness.

(Fair warning, they do expand a bit in thickness when they cook, so roll them a bit thinner than you want them to end up.)  Also, I often use the pizza cutter to cut the noodles.  Works great! 

The noodles cook in about ten minutes in boiling water (or just throw them right into your chicken noodle soup recipe)! 

I have used these noodles in my homemade Chicken Noodle Soup and Chicken Alfredo with great success.  (Although, with the chicken allergy, these are now actually Turkey Noodle Soup and Turkey Alfredo at my house...I am just too lazy to train myself to call it something else after 39 years.  I'm just happy that I actually got around to modifying the recipe.  I really missed noodles!)


Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes on a Crisp (Almost) Autumn Day

Around our parts, the past weekend had the decided feel of Autumn!!!  I responded to the brisk breeze with the need to make something warm and spicy.  In the interest of full disclosure, I feel the need to publicly declare my love of pumpkin.  I adore pumpkin.  So, what better to kick of this glorious change in weather than with PUMPKIN PANCAKES!? 

I modified my old recipe to make it Gluten Free and Vegan, and let me tell you...you won't miss anything.  It is really amazing.  And, yes, I confess, I really DID eat the first pancake folded in half, dripping with syrup, while I stood over the kitchen sink.

Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes
Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

3/4 c. sweet sorghum flour
1/2 c. potato flour (NOT potato starch)
1/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. teff flour
1/4 c. oat flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 tbs. ground flax seed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer, mixed with 6 tbs. warm water (mix well before adding)
2 tbs. oil
1 c. + 2 tbs. almond milk
2/3 c. canned pumpkin

Combine the Ener-G Egg Replacer and warm water, set aside.  In a large bowl, combine all the "dry" ingredients and mix together.  Add pumpkin, almond milk, and egg replacer.  Pour mixture into approx. 4-inch rounds on hot griddle.  Flip when the surface starts to bubble.

This will make about 12 four inch pancakes.  I normally double the recipe and have a few left over that I can refrigerate and then microwave the next day for a quick "school day breakfast."  The cooked pancakes keep just fine for about 6-7 days in the refrigerator.  For longer storage, store in zippy bags in the freezer.

I have been known to make up several batches on a weekend just so I can make sure to have some on hand during the week.

Also, my daughter has used these as the base for several sweet "snacks," topping them with Nutella, pumpkin butter, and honey butter.  Seriously, I have no idea where she gets these ideas.  Right...moving on.

My next fall inspired recipe will be Gluten Free Vegan Molasses Cookies.  Did I mention I love Autumn?


Carrot Cake Oatmeal, or "How to Deal with a 5:30 a.m. Carrot Cake Craving"

The inspiration for carrot cake oatmeal came to me around 5:45 on a Tuesday morning.  It was not really a conscious decision, "Hm, I think I will make some...yes, yes, that's it...Carrot Cake Oatmeal!"  No, it was more like, "Huh, geez, we got a lot of carrots.  I should probably use those before they go bad..."

The kiddos adored it, the sweetness of the carrots meant that we did not need to add much sweetener (yah!), and my mind quickly started reeling at all the ways I could tinker with it...dollop of sweetened, whippeed cream cheese in top, anyone?

Two generous servings whip up really quickly (and, yes, I am considering making a baked version of this, the only problem is that carrots react with baking soda and result in the carrots turning green...they are still perfectly fine to eat, but not as aesthetically pleasing...).

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

1 c. gluten free oats
2/3  c. shredded carrots (approx. one largish carrot)
2-4 tbs. agave, honey, brown sugar, or other sweetener of your choice (depending on how sweet you like your oatmeal, and how sweet your carrots are!)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of salt
2 tbs. raisins and/or shredded, unsweetened coconut (optional)
2 tbs. toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)

In a large, microwave safe bowl, add gluten free oats and just enough water to cover the oats.  Add the shredded carrots (the carrots will release additional water in the oatmeal), and remaining ingredients.  Microwave for 1 minutes, stir, then microwave another 1 minute or so (this depends on your microwave, so check after 30 seconds).

Depending on your idea of "sweet" and the sweetness of your carrots, you may need to add additional sweetener.  Or, in the alternative, if you plan on going with the sweetened cream cheese, you may want to go easy on the sweetener in the actual oatmeal.  You decide...I promise not to judge.

I also made on batch of oatmeal with a dollop of whipped cream cheese, for this you just take 2 oz. vegan cream cheese, 2 tsp vegan butter, and 1 c. powered sugar and whip with a hand mixer, then dollop on top of your carrot cake oatmeal or, better yet, bury it in the center of the oatmeal and let it melt a bit and cling to spoon as you delve in!

This is one of those super easy recipes that can also help ward off a mad carrot cake craving at 5:30 a.m. on a Tuesday...not that I know anything about that.


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