I do not know how it happened, the quick passage of time that seems to have sped me from Halloween to New Year’s with scarcely time to blink.  I had so many plans to come here, to journal the success and failure of my first holiday season gluten free.  I wanted to write of the challenges of baking both gluten and dairy free.  I wanted to be able to say “just do this and you’ll be fine”.  I can still say that but the “do this” may be just a tad on the vague side since I never actually came here to write.  The laptop’s glow has filled my kitchen as I pulled up recipe after recipe being careful not to get floured hands near the keyboard.  It has not seen the quick paced tap of my fingers as they dance across keys making words come to life.  I meant to. I regret the lack of words and memories that will fade away but I can not regret the way I spent my time this holiday season.  There were long days and nights in the kitchen, yes.  There were also evenings in sis’s backyard with the fire pit and the smores – gluten free girl’s Oreos work fabulously for smores, though I still want to tackle her graham crackers one of these days.  There were movies cuddled up with my Sweetie and more family get togethers than I can count.  Time was spent well, even if it was not cataloged here.

This holiday season, it was one of learning curves.  It was a time of trial and error and learning to trust my gut instinct in my kitchen. (I’m still working on that one, but Sweet One’s learned my buttons well.  ‘I dare ya’ usually spurs me into action) It was a month of marathon baking sessions and learning to let the house get a bit cluttered in the process.  It was packing my freezer full, re-packing it in a failed attempt to jam more in, and a short drive to sisters house and her blessedly empty freezer.  It was standing in tears of frustration at my tiny kitchen, non-existent pantry and well stocked refrigerator only to laugh at the joy of working through it all with the man who managed to somehow keep up with the number of dishes I am capable of dirtying when I am in marathon mode.  It was multiple holiday meals at multiple family tables and sighs of contentment as we ate. It was putting bites of food into relatives mouths and watching their eyes explode with joy.  That’s the moment I lived for this busy season.  That’s the one that kept me going when the hour grew late and there was still a pile of recipes on the list for “tonight”. I had to learn all over again to make foods I have been making since my seventeenth year.  Then there were the foods I had never tried to make before and discovering the blessing of making things from scratch that I had always purchased in jars.  Those were beautiful lessons.

It’s nearly New Year’s now and I’m not sure just how that happened but I know that a few pounds of flour and more than a few pounds of butter disappeared along the way.  I know that the caramel apple cider I used to get at Starbucks tastes even better sipped at home to the steady beat of rain drops on the window with Sweet One at my side.  (The splash of rum? That was a dandy idea!).  Caramel is just not that hard to make, and the rewards are lovely.

This was not the way I meant to write it all, the wonders of this first gluten-free season.  It was not meant to be put here in one lump at the year’s end. Still, this is the option left to me and in my renewed spirit of “no regrets” I pulled out my crumpled up, liquid splashed recipes with the sharpie pen scrawled across them.  Here, are the things we enjoyed this holiday season and where applicable my slightly neater notes as to my own alterations to someone else’s creations.  I do not write my own recipes, I just mangle what others before me have done :)  So far, it’s working out splendidly for us and those we feed.
I’m going to skim right over Thanksgiving.  I was still unsure of what would work and what would not, so I did what I do best.  OVERKILL.  No, it was not necessary to make eighteen different things in two days time.  Almost all of it being both gf and df for the precious little girl who came to town.  There were cookies, granola bars, muffins, and pies.  There were rolls, and dressing, and cranberry sauce.   There was uncertainty and duplication and a very frantic me sending a very calm and wonderful him to the store when I ran out of ingredients.  And again when I ran out of ziplocs and foil.  Baking dairy free for a highly allergic five year old meant a lot of covering already  scoured clean baking sheets with foil.   (Note to self – buy more tapioca and corn starch than you can possibly imagine using.  You will use it.  Remember this next year.  Also, the store only stocks 2 boxes of sweet rice flour at a time.  Start hording it early.  Kiss that amazing man who buys you this flour regularly because he was told approximately six thousand time that this flour is the saving grace of all gf baked goods.  Remember to crank the music up and laugh lots, the most amazing memories are waiting to be made).  I found this chart and used it to convert all my non weight based recipes.  This was completely worth the time it took, the baked goods were reliably wonderful and I feel much more confident that I can duplicate those results.  Also, doubling recipes is far easier this way.   Eleven year old boys find kitchen scales fascinating :)  It is quite easy to convince them to “help” however it will take three times as much time as it takes to do it yourself.  The laughter and joy are worth the extra time, and the moment when he asked of his own accord “Aunt Ally is this flour a heavy one or a light one” and I realized he actually understood what we were doing . .  . completely priceless.  (and apparently  my version of skimming is rather long winded)
With that, we arrive at Christmas.
Christmas 1 -
  • Sweet Potato Appetizer – I made a double batch of these.  In between bites people begged for the recipe and requested I make them at every possible opportunity.  We liked them with feta but loved them with peppercorn chevre.
  • Cranberry Roast - I doubled the sauce, using a homemade pureed cranberry sauce, and after cooking took the juices and whisked in  a cornstarch/water mixture until it thickened).  I leave out the raisins but that’s just because I hate them and since I’m the cook in the house I get to cater to me :)
  • Sweet Potato Mash – I just boil them and then mash them with greek yogurt and butter.  Gluten Free girl taught me to mash them by hand, and not until after they had cooled enough to not produce steam.
  • Artisan Bread (I used Gluten Free Girls “Crusty Bread” recipe out of her new cookbook, it NEVER fails to come out beautifully)
  • Salad
  • Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake – I used the Oreo cookies as the base of the crust and it was lovely.  However, it was much more lovely when I used good grade cocoa powder rather than the Hershey’s.  The Hershey’s batch was “okay”.  A quadruple batch of the “good cocoa” batch disappeared in less than a week.
  • Eggnog – Sweet One just about refuses to share this.  It really is “the best” egg nog ever.  Also, it doesn’t make me ill like the store-bought stuff.  The texture is far creamier without that sickening thickness that store-bought egg nog has.  We’ve made two batches and fought over them both times.  We don’t use nearly the amount of rum she calls for however :)
Christmas 2 -
  • Ham (purchased at Costco) with this glaze
  • Ham Gravy – This was made with the verbal instruction of two very . . . adamant women.  In the end it was the juice of the ham, a cornstarch/water thickener, and milk.  Proportions were based on their hollering demands advice.
  • Cornbread Sage Dressing – a family recipe I never seem to make the same way twice.  However, MUCH more chicken stock is required gf than “standard”.  Also, the addition of garlic and shallots was lovely.  Adding the herbs to the butter worked well to infuse a bit more flavor than mom’s.
  • Rolls - I use a slightly different combination of flours than written in the recipe.  Also, in my oven they required 9 minutes, I learned to pull them out just BEFORE they seemed done to me in order to retain the soft loveliness.  Over-baked is even worse in gf world than in regular baking.
  • Cranberry Sauce – I add the zest of 1/2 a lemon and then the juice from the same 1/2 lemon.  I add a bit of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg too.  Even cranberry sauce haters devoured it :)
  • Green Beans (thawed frozen green beans, sautéed in butter with garlic, thyme, marjoram – Sis had a recipe but only 1/2 the necessary ingredients.  Love ya sis.)
  • Cranberry Cheesecake with Oreo cookie crust – this makes a RIDICULOUS amount of cheesecake batter and was almost a disaster but it tasted sooooooo good.  I didn’t follow their cranberry sauce recipe, I was too lazy to make three different batches of cranberry sauce for two meals so I just used my standard with an extra dash of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla stirred in.  No one complained.
  • Mashed Potatoes (sis made them)
  • Sweet Potato Bake (sis baked it)
  • Deviled Eggs (which are the BEST reason to have a holiday – the calories in these babies don’t even count when they taste that good!  However, this too was sis’s recipe and since they are her specialty I won’t share that one here)
  • Apple Pie (sis’s and sadly not gf but I know she loves me anyway)
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