Christmastime is here again…Let’s EAT

When I was growing up Christmas was about family, church and food. I have so many magical memories. I wish I could just do a little flash back with you! I grew up in Southern Oregon, so we never had snow for Christmas. I know no one knows what the weather is like in Southern Oregon because most people haven’t heard of Oregon apart from Portland, but it is wet and cold and foggy in the winter. We had black ice a lot, freezing fog, drizzly, misty, green and gray Christmases. But inside our tiny little house with dark brown multi-level loop carpet, there was a fire in the stove and candles on every horizontal surface. We always had a fluffy, fresh, fragrant tree, covered with ornaments made from Styrofoam and covered in glitter or tiny hand prints cut out of old Christmas cards. We had fat glass lights that had to be screwed into the sockets. And two special lights; one that was shaped like a snowman and one shaped like a house covered in snow. Topping the tree was an angel with blond feathered hair and dressed in a miniature Princess Diana wedding dress. She was glorious.

My mother started making treats before Thanksgiving and didn’t stop until New Years. She made fudge, Rocky Road, English toffee, divinity, peanut brittle, peppermint bark, Buckeyes, coconut candy balls and sometimes caramel. Plus there were cookies; Spritz, filbert crescents, butterscotch rolled cookies or sugar cookie cutouts. We always brought plates of goodies with us to visit relatives, even though they always had plates of goodies out on the coffee table for visitors.

Christmas Eve my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and various other slightly related family members would bundle ourselves into several cars and slide our way through the fog to church. The sanctuary was always full with family from out-of-town, kids home from college and people who only ever came to church on Christmas and Easter. I remember  being so impatient for the end of the service. Every year I held on to that candle with the paper ring around the bottom just waiting for the lights to go out. I never got to hold the candle once it was lit though. All the children would come forward and sing Silent Night with the pastor. If I close my eyes I can see all those points of light in the dark church. Then we would slide our way back to our tiny house filled with family. Mama would set out platters of goodies and platters from other family members would cover the dining room table. Hot coffee and hot cider would be served. I’m getting a tummy ache just thinking about it. How wonderful it was.

Well, I don’t make near as many treats as my mom did, but I still make a few. This year we are having fudge, (I just finished the second batch) macaroons (if we want some for Christmas I’ll have to make another batch of those too) and candy balls. Well, on to recipes!

Five Minute Fudge

2/3 cup coconut milk creamer, original barista style
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup sugar

Stir together in large sauce pan over low heat. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add:

1 1/2 cup miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Stir until marshmallows are melted. Pour into a 9×9 pan and chill. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

 

Coconut Macaroons

1 1/3 cup fine shredded coconut, unsweetened
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour*
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325*. Stir all ingredients together. Drop by teaspoonful onto greased and floured or parchment covered baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from baking sheet immediately.

*I have used coconut flour to make these GF, totally works.

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No Thank You, I’m Having a Smoothie…

…Because my pants don’t fit. Because what I really want is pumpkin pie. Because I haven’t eaten anything green for five days. Because I haven’t really felt hungry since before Thanksgiving. Oh, the shame!
With the weather turning colder I thought I might want a break from smoothies, but…without a healthy green smoothie to start my day I kinda fall apart (nutrition wise). Here is a smoothie adapted from Green Thickies. Just like most recipes, I don’t have all the stuff that goes into her smoothie, so I do what I can. Usually I eat pears, if I can wrestle them from my husband or oldest kid, but I have been buying pears with a purpose lately. Yeah! I had a ripe pear that no one knew about and into the smoothie it went. If your pears are small you might want to add two.

 

Pear and Apple Smoothie

1 cup non-dairy milk
1 cup apple cider (cold pressed, not clear apple juice or the alcoholic kind, unless you roll that way)
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup dates
1/4 cup hemp protein powder
2 cups spinach or other baby greens
1 apple, cored
1 pear, cored
1 banana
1 pinch pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg
splash of vanilla

Blend milk, cider, oats and dates. Then blend in protein powder and greens. Add fruit, spices and vanilla, blend until smooth.

I find I have to do T-Tapp right before I drink my smoothie so I don’t get too cold.

Can I Give Up SWEETS? Um, no.

The thinnest I have been as an adult was during my vegan experiment. However, my hair was also falling out, so perhaps I wasn’t doing it quite right. Last night I was thinking that I should make another vegan effort. The thing is, I don’t think that meat is a problem for me. I don’t have the passion for saving animals. That sounds heartless, but I like to eat meat. I know where it comes from. I ate vegan just for health reasons. Pretty sure skinless chicken breasts aren’t making me fat. Yes, I gave up meat and all animal edibles, but I also gave up sweets and alcohol.

So here I am again, facing my problem, my addiction, my passion: sugar. As I am writing this I have two tabs waiting for me to click them. The Minimalist Baker is calling me! Vegan Pumpkin Sugar Cookies! AND Easy Raw Vegan Brownies! I want to make them so much and they are vegan! Doesn’t that count for something? Am I over-thinking this whole eating thing? No, I don’t think I am.

Not over-thinking, but thinking the wrong way. I have a problem with eating sweets until they are gone. I can’t make a pan of brownies and eat one. I am greedy. Ooh, that is an ugly word! It’s true though, I don’t want to share my sweets. I want the first cookie out of the oven and I want the last one too. So, what do I do?

Either, 1. give up all sweets (will work for a time, but not a permanent solution), 2. make healthier sweets (better, as long as I don’t eat the whole recipe, negating the healthy part) 3. make small batch recipes (again, I still have to pay attention. I got into trouble with “single serving” desserts. I ate a mug cake that was almost 700 calories. That is still less than Cheesecake Factory cheesecake, but as I will never eat that cheesecake…um…did I have a point?) 4. give sweets away (I can’t eat the sweets if they are not in my house). (My apologies to any grammarians reading this post.) New Plan! I will implement all of these ideas.

I need to have sweet-free days. A dessert break, that sounds too good. A break from desserts. I know people who don’t eat sweets after every meal, they do exist. Every one has different temptations. I can walk past a slot machine and feel nothing. I cannot walk past a pan of brownies and feel nothing. Even though I know that I can never eat cheesecake, I still like to visit the cheesecakes at the Cheesecake Factory. They look so good in that case. I like to read the descriptions of them in the menu. Focus! How did I get hung up on the Cheesecake Factory? Stop saying cheesecake! Deep breath, drink of water. OK, moving on.

I can make small batch, healthy dessert recipes and give them away. Good idea. Let’s start with pumpkin sugar cookies! To make them a little more healthy, I halved the fat and added more pumpkin. One of my favorite muffin recipes Irresistible Double Chocolate Muffins, doesn’t have any added fat and uses pumpkin instead. I also used more whole wheat flour. Pretty sure I could use all WW pastry flour, but my kids might not eat them. Next objective: smaller batch, well 20 is a pretty small batch for cookies. Plus I am making these on Monday so that I can take most of them to Bible study Tuesday morning! I think that sounds pretty good.

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I decided to use a cookie scoop and not get my hands all gooey.

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A flat bottomed bowl works the best for the cinnamon and sugar.

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I  always use parchment paper for easy clean-up.

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A picture of my hand. I always wanted to be a model.

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These would look so much better if I had any talent for photography or a camera. Both would probably be good.     On to the recipe!

Vegan Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

 

Makes: 20 cookies

Adapted from Minimalist Baker Vegan Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

 

  • 1/4 cup vegan butter or solid coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (I like Farmer’s Market Organic Pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder (for thickening/binding)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

 

  • 2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

 

Instructions

  1. Add butter or coconut oil, pumpkin and sugars to a large mixing bowl and cream with a mixer for 1 minute.
  2. Mix in vanilla.
  3. Add corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, mix to combine.
  4. Add flours. Mix until incorporated, being careful not to over mix.
  5. Freeze dough for 15 minutes, or refrigerate for 30 minutes (or chill overnight), preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and position a rack in the center of the oven.
  6. Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Scoop out heaping 1 Tbsp amounts of dough and roll into balls (it will be sticky) or use a cookie scoop. Swirl dough in cinnamon sugar to coat and place on a baking sheet 2 inches apart to allow for spreading.
  7. Bake on the center rack for 10-14 minutes, depending on how you like your cookies.
  8. Let rest on pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

These stay puffy and are a bit cakey. I’ve only eaten two three, you know for research.

 

 

 

 

That Old Black Magic…Cake

I love chocolate cake. If there were no repercussions I would eat chocolate cake every day. I love it with chocolate frosting, vanilla buttercream, Ciddy Ellifson* frosting, Seven Minute Icing and yesterday for my birthday, mint chocolate chip frosting. Why had I never thought about mint frosting for this wonderful cake? Can I have a piece for breakfast? Apparently ladies my age cannot have chocolate cake for breakfast (and still fit into their jeans). When I am an old woman and wearing a muumuu, I will have chocolate cake for breakfast. I better have a smoothie before I cave!

Anyway, this is an old recipe that exists in various forms in our grandmother’s and mother’s cookbooks. The batter is thin, but it raises up perfectly into a dark, rich, moist cake. Seriously, cake! Stop staring at me! Chocolate cakes from scratch turn out so good. I don’t know why white and yellow cakes are so tricky.

Black Magic Cake

1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee, cold
1 cup sour non-dairy milk
1/2 cup oil, olive or coconut
1 tsp vanilla

Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, baking powder and salt together. Add eggs, coffee, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into greased and floured 9×13 or two 8 or 9 inch round pans. Bake at 350* 35-40 minutes for the 9×13 or 8″, 30-35 for 9 inch pans. Check center with toothpick or cake tester. Cool in pans for 15 minutes and then turn out to cool completely on wire racks.

Next post will be some of my favorite frostings!

*This frosting recipe comes from my mama, who used people’s names for recipe titles. This frosting is used for red velvet cake and is sometimes called Velvet Icing. It’s my favorite for chocolate cake. For years I requested Black Magic Cake with Ciddy Ellifson Frosting

Romantic French Toast?

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Sometimes I’m tired of eating healthy. Shocker, I know. I’m really trying to view food as fuel for my body. But food is so much more. When I think about romantic food, I do not envision a smoothie. I love smoothies, but I think one of the most romantic things is brunch. I’m a girl, what do you want? I get nostalgic about brunch. I have had some wonderful brunches in my life, not many, but a few great ones.

Jacksonville Inn in Jacksonville, OR. Croissant French Toast. I was in high school and it was a revelation. My two favorite breakfast foods in one!

Mama’s on Washington Square in San Francisco. Orange Cranberry French Toast. I was in college and again it was a revelation. I started making French toast with all kinds of quick breads. I love banana bread French toast. Now, these brunches were memorable, but not romantic. They were brunch with friends. I remember talking and laughing and having amazing food.

Five Sister’s Jazz brunch in Pensacola Florida. Fried Pork Chops, they were not a revelation. They were really good, but they didn’t change the way I saw pork chops. I was married, had a small child and a baby. I was so thrilled to sit down, listen to live music and have someone bring me delicious food. Again, it was the setting and the company and the food that made for a memorable brunch.

With food allergies dining out can be more of a hassle than a pleasure. I can’t eat French toast at restaurants anymore. I adapted this overnight French toast recipe so that I could have a memorable and romantic brunch at home. The work is done the night before so you can enjoy your coffee or mimosa or both while breakfast is in the oven.

Overnight French Toast
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Baked French Toast

1 loaf  French Bread
8 whole Eggs
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 1/2 cups coconut or almond milk
3/4 cups Sugar
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract

FOR THE TOPPING:

1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
1/2 cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 pinch Nutmeg – Optional
1/2 cup vegan butter or coconut oil

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray or grease with coconut oil.

Cube the bread and fill the pan with it.

Whisk eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla together and bowl and pour over the bread. Cover the pan and place it in the fridge overnight.

Stir the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg together and then cut in the butter/oil. Pour it into a bag and put in the fridge for morning.

In the morning preheat the oven 350*. Pour the crumb topping over the top of the bread and pop the whole thing in the oven for 45-60 minutes. Make some coffee and a mimosa and snuggle while this bakes. Serve with warm maple syrup or berry syrup or anything your little heart desires, like another mimosa.

 

Turkey Enchiladas…um, I can’t wait

I remember sitting alone at the kitchen table, I was seven or eight years old. It was dark outside, I was watching the reflection of the TV in the sliding glass door. The dishes were done, kitchen cleaned, light turned out. In front of me was the only plate not in the dishwasher. On this plate the remains of enchiladas, cold and congealed stared up at me. I was not allowed to leave the table until I finished. I hated enchiladas! They were too spicy, my mom used too many onions, I just didn’t like them. Oh, how times change! Of course I chop my onions finer and I try to make them a little milder for the kids, but I still use the same recipe my mom always did. This is my favorite enchilada sauce recipe. It was originally from a hippy cookbook my aunt had. My mom got the recipe in the early eighties and made it her own. By the time I was old enough to help in the kitchen I loved these enchiladas. We use the red sauce for turkey and the green sauce for fish. Oh great, now I also have a craving for halibut enchiladas. Break out the Vitamix, it’s sauce time!

My Gumbo

No, I am not from Louisiana, but my husband is. I had heard of Gumbo before I was married, New Orleans food sounded yummy, but I had no idea what it actually tasted like. When we were first married I tried making gumbo from a box. I didn’t think it was that bad, but apparently it wasn’t gumbo. First I had to actually taste some gumbo. There was a restaurant in Anchorage called Little New Orleans, where my husband and I loved to go. I thought it was wonderful, he thought it wasn’t too bad. Then we went to the Double Musky Inn in Girdwood. And the food there, we agreed, was fabulous. But I really didn’t try making my own gumbo until we moved to Florida, or Lower Alabama, as the area we lived is known. I actually got to go to New Orleans! I don’t really remember my first foray, but I know I started with a recipe from the Double Musky cookbook. Yes, the recipe I used came from Alaska. I have tasted quite a few gumbos and my recipe has evolved over the years. And now I have finally written it down!