Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's the Season of Food Gifts!

I've been seeing a lot of debates on the pros and cons of food gifts.  I personally love giving food gifts for the simple reason that there are a lot of people in my life who I cannot afford to buy Christmas gifts for but who are special to me and deserve recognition.  Enter the food gift.  You can start stockpiling basics like chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, etc. in the weeks leading up to December so when the holidays are upon us you are ready to get cooking!  Before I was gluten free I often made jars of cookie, cake, and muffin mixes.  Obviously I can't do those anymore because I'm sure no one wants to make gluten free baked goods if they don't have to!  I thought about making gluten free cookies myself and handing them out but I wasn't sure how well they would be received.  Often when I eat gluten free cookies and cakes I exclaim how you can't even tell they are gluten free and I notice my husband getting a "hate to burst your bubble" look across his face! I honestly think I have been gluten free for so long that I can't really remember what foods are "supposed" to taste like. Therefore I thought it would be in everyones best interest if I made treats that were naturally gluten free!
Please pardon my craptastic picture by the way.  This ugly blob is chocolate fudge.  Naturally gluten free and almost universally loved.  I always use the same basic fudge recipe and I always mix up my add in.  This recipe I call:
Holiday Fudge

1 can nonfat sweetened condensed milk
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 shot of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup cashews

Heat milk to a slight simmer.  Stir in chocolate.  Remove from heat stir til melted.  Add Captain.  Stir til incorporated.  Fold in cranberries and cashews.  Pour into 8 in. square pan and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.  

Another option is chocolate bark.  Easy and fully customizable.  Use white, dark, or milk chocolate.  Use dried fruits, nuts, fancy sea salts, assorted crushed candies, crushed cookies, sprinkles, coconut, etc. Anything goes.  Just melt your chocolate (in this instance I used white), spread in an even layer on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with topping (I used cashews and cranberries).  Put in the fridge or freezer to harden.  Break into pieces.  Put in cute bags or boxes and distribute! 
I found these adorable boxes at the Dollar Tree.  I wrapped the fudge in foil and placed in the boxes.  Now all I have to do is give them away and hope they are enjoyed! 

Hope everyone has a safe and happy Christmas!  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Season's Best

Winter is a great paradox for me.  I love all the seasonal foods, the parties, buying gifts, and spending more time with family but I hate slick roads and cold weather.  This weekend we are the midst of our first real snow.  Kind of late in the year for us too.  We were spoiled by good weather too long this fall.  Hopefully it doesn't snow like it did last year.  I swear it snowed every single day for three months.  It was misery.  Enough complaining...on to the things I like this season! :)
   The best cold weather breakfast?  Cream of Rice with Eggnog and homemade cranberry sauce.  So creamy and delicious with the fabulous tartness of the cranberries.  Quick to make too.  Just cook the cream of rice with half a cup of water and half a cup of eggnog.  Then top with cranberry.  I make my cranberry sauce with orange juice and brown sugar.  Just boil the cranberries in juice til they pop, stir in brown sugar, and heat til thickened.
Last weekend we had a late Thanksgiving at my mother in law's.  My contribution was the Bisquick Impossibly Easy French Apple Pie.  Everyone raved about it.  Especially my husband.  Oddly I thought it was just okay.  I'm more of a chocolate or cheesecake dessert person though.  I will say gluten free Bisquick makes life a lot easier!  I know a lot of people enjoy mixing ten different gluten free flours together and experimenting but I am lazy and I don't have room to store all those flours so I love this mix and Pamela's mixes.
Speaking of mixes I love...Chebe.  I made the cheesy rolls for Thanksgiving and they were a hit.  Another good mix is the pizza crust.  Last night we were snowed in so I whipped up a delicious pizza.  My secret is baking the crust in my cast iron skillet. I usually go non-traditional with pizza but last night I wanted it to be like classic delivery so I just did pepperoni, mozzarella, and shaved Parmesan. I need to try making calzones with the mix soon!   
It's so nice to know that so many seasonal favorites are naturally gluten free!  Like mulled cider.  I used Honeycrisp Apple Cider and Trader Joe's mulling spices and simmered for about 20 minutes.  Then I stirred in a shot of Captain Morgan's and added a festive cinnamon stick! A great drink for a cold night.  Especially soothing when you feel under the weather.