Christmas Blessings

Lilies from my husband

My husband came home from work last week Monday while I was still cooking dinner.  He walked into the kitchen with several stems of lilies wrapped in clear cellophane.  I looked at him, then I looked at the lilies.  I looked back at him and again at the lilies as he got closer.  I looked at him one last time and said, “What the hell did you do?”

Him: “Screw you.  When have I ever gotten you flowers because I did something?”

Me: “Never.  But you rarely get me flowers when it’s not a special occasion either.”

And I messed with him a little more just because he rarely brings me flowers outside of Valentine’s, anniversary, and birthday.  Not that I want flowers all the time.  It’s more the thought behind the flowers.  Besides, they make good decor!

Our new Christmas tree

Christmas trees went on clearance at work last Sunday.  I really didn’t have time that day to check out what was left that day.  So, Tuesday, I went in a tad early to get a few things and see if any tall lit trees were left.  To my surprise there were several 7 1/2 foot trees pre-lit left.  How exciting!  Since moving to our new place, I’ve thought about replacing our little 4 foot tree.  It served its purpose while we lived in smaller apartments.  Our new place has high ceilings and the living room is the largest living room we’ve had.  That 4 footer would have looked a bit Charlie Brown-ish.  Clearance price was 50%.  Add another 10% off for my team member discount, plus another 5% for using my Red Card.  Yes, I got an amazing deal on the tree.  A better deal would have been to buy one of the display trees at 75% off.  Mess with taking it down and disassembling it before checking out?  I don’t think so.  Maybe if I didn’t have to work that night.  I still got a good deal.  It even motivated me to make room for it the next day (read as, shoving it in the corner for now because it took up too much room in the walkway where I really wanted to put it).

Cheesing with Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts from Auntie A

I lucked out and was only scheduled for 4 1/2 hours on Christmas Eve.  And, I wasn’t closing.  Those 4 1/2 hours were still stressful enough to exacerbate a migraine I had since the day before and have me nauseous.  I knew it was all stress since the nausea went away as I drove home and my migraine finally abated after a while.  While I was at work, my husband did some dinner prep for me.  I made turkey soup with leftover turkey I still had in the freezer from Thanksgiving and some of the turkey broth I made from the Thanksgiving turkey.

Turkey & Brown Rice Soup

We opened presents while the soup simmered.  We got a beautiful sushi ornament from Messa and a cute piggy ornament from Mom.  Mom also made us each an apron.  Mine is so cool it’s reversible!  She also sent us a little whisk (great for whisking up a small bowl of dressing or an egg) with a little piggy as the handle and a set of plastic measuring cups and spoons that are magnetized so they stay together in the drawer.  Messa also made me a beautiful necklace.  Can’t wait to wear it somewhere.  Auntie A & Uncle A sent us treats from back home – a few boxes of chocolate covered macadamia nuts and a big container of chocolate covered kake mochi (rice crackers).  Now that’s one thing I miss being gluten free is the kake mochi.  I used to eat it with my popcorn all the time.  Even though it’s made from rice, it’s covered in soy sauce, which means covered in wheat.  I believe my husband is enjoying it for me though.  He even took some in to share with his co-workers today.  My husband surprised me with a canning pot, utensils, and a canning book by Ball.  I asked if he was trying to tell me something.  “Get in the kitchen and cook me something, woman!”  He got a bit of stink eye for that comment.  But, I really appreciate the gift because I’ve been wanting to can, but haven’t had the tools to do it.  My best friend even put together a video for me earlier this year.  She was going to give me a lesson in person when we were visiting last year, but things got a little crazy.  She’s a bit of a canning guru and has been since college.  My husband also got me 2 of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks – Food Revolution and Jamie Cooks at Home, as well as The Spunky Coconut’s Grain-free Baked Goods and Desserts cookbook.  The presents weren’t all about food though.  I got some CD’s (Depeche Mode and Michael W. Smith) and DVDs.  Witchblade marathon anyone?

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

After dinner on Christmas Eve, I made a flourless pumpkin pie and flourless peanut butter cookies to take with us to Louisville for dessert Christmas day.   The pumpkin pie recipe was in the holiday issue of Living Without this year.  There was a little gf flour in the recipe that was supposed to settle to the bottom and form a small crust while baking.  No such luck on mine.  And forget taking pictures.  It was a mess to just get a piece out.  Plus, I wasn’t thrilled with the taste.  Too much bourbon, too much cloves.  Everything was just out of balance even though I made it according to the recipe.  I’m still eating it just because I don’t want to waste, especially since I used real pumpkin purée.

The first batch of flourless peanut butter cookies I decided I was going to use 1/2 cup maple syrup instead of 1 cup brown sugar.  The batter was a bit thin, but not so thin that it was runny.  The cookie on the right is from this batch.  There was no rolling needed since the batter was thin and as you can see, the cookies were a bit thin after baking.  They weren’t sweet enough and my husband agreed.  However, they are very moist and still are 4 days later.  Since that batch was a bust, I made another batch the next morning.  My husband doesn’t like pumpkin pie, so basically the cookies were to ensure he had something for dessert, too.  The second batch I made (pictured on the left), I used coconut crystals.  The consistency was the same as my original batch.  My hands were such a mess from rolling out the first pan of cookies that I forgot to give them a little head start on flattening out before putting them in the oven.  I was rather surprised when I pulled them out and they were spread out on their own.  Score!

My husband was on the phone with his mom while the second pan of cookies was in the oven.  It was decided that since the roads were dangerous between here and Louisville, we’d reschedule.  So, I had all these desserts for just the two of us!  My husband then decided we had to go see  Tron.  Well, sure.  It’s rare these days that I get a full day with my husband and it’s even rarer when he suggests going to see a movie.  Plans were dashed due to weather, but I got to spend all day with my husband.

Yesterday marked the end of retail madness.  Yes, I survived working my first holiday season in retail.

I am blessed!

Adopt A Gluten-free Blogger: gfe – gluten-free easily

 

Candy Carrot Coins

 

My husband will probably roll his eyes when he reads this post.  He thinks I’m in love with Shirley Braden, author of gfe – gluten-free easily.  I made some Irish Stew the other night and we had the following conversation:

Him: Is this your recipe?

Me: No.

Him: Who’s recipe is it?

Me: Theresa Hernandez’s

Him: Phew.

Me: What?

Him: If you said it was Shirley’s I was going to ask if you were going to run off and marry her.

He says the same thing about Iris, too.

He’ll catch me laughing at a comment Shirley makes on Facebook or her blog.  I talk a bit about her, too.  Especially when she and I comment back and forth on things with each other.  We have quite a few things in common and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her better over the last few months.  I can’t even remember how I found her blog, but I loved that her concept was focusing on foods that are naturally gluten-free.  It was exactly what I was doing.  As the weeks went on as I followed her and some other bloggers that she followed as well, I noticed how encouraging she is with everyone.  So, if I fell in love with Shirley, that is why.  When you are making life changes, it’s important to have people who will encourage you in order to succeed.  Shirley definitely is someone you want to hear from when need a little poke to remind you that it’s not that bad.  I picture Shirley as a force of nature.  Her compassion for those she encourages knows no bounds.  She is a staunch advocate and leader for the gluten-free community.   She’s an inspiration to all.

That said, I should share with you some of the things I made.

This year was my first gluten-free holiday.  I am used to my mother-in-law making broccoli and/or green bean casserole for our veggie dishes.  She makes a good casserole.  Since it was just hubby and I for Thanksgiving, I was able to break away from the casseroles and make wholesome veggie dishes.  When Shirley posted her recipe for Candy Carrot Coins, I was intrigued.  First, I still had no idea what veggies I was going to make for Thanksgiving.  Second, cooked carrots were never my favorite.  I love them raw.  I like them in stews and soups.  I think it’s because everyone that cooked them for me growing up made them mushy.  I didn’t like it.  It was a huge risk making them as a side for Thanksgiving, but I trust Shirley and her recipes never let me down.  I. LOVED. IT.  The honey gave it just a hint of sweet to the carrots.  Not like those syrupy yams and marshmallows I see during the holidays (and don’t touch).

 

Super-Charged Garlic Lemon Broccoli

 

I also made her Super-Charged Garlic Lemon Broccoli.  I struggled over whether or not to add this one in the post because I had mixed emotions about it.  I topped the broccoli with sautéed mushrooms and shredded hard romano cheese.  Shirley suggested nuts and dried cranberries, which I no doubt would have loved, but my husband doesn’t care for nuts in his food and he really dislikes cranberries.  I enjoyed the broccoli, but I kept thinking that it was missing something or that the romano was overpowering the dish.  I looked at the recipe again last week and realized I flubbed it.  I forgot the garlic.  DUH!  I have no doubt if I hadn’t forgotten the garlic I would be sitting here raving about the broccoli.

 

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

 

I had many intentions for dessert on Thanksgiving.  First off, I wanted to make pie using Shirley’s No Fail Press-in Pie Crust recipe.  I knew if I couldn’t make the pie, I wanted to make some of her cookies.  Sadly, no dessert was made.  My hours at work had me exhausted that week and with Thanksgiving being the first full day we had together since his sister’s wedding at the beginning of November, I wanted to enjoy it.  So, we went to see Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows before dinner.

Last week, I knew I needed to get a move on this post and I really wanted to make Shirley’s cookies.  I told her a while back that I really wanted to make the Flourless Almond Peanut Butter Cookies after she shared the recipe.  It was right before we moved to Cincinnati so baking anything was nigh on impossible.  Everything was packed.  I had two days off in a row last week and I decided it was time.  I made the Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies instead.  Call me crazy, but she shared the older post on Facebook and I saw chocolate and peanut butter.  Instant love.

 

Flourless Almond Peanut Butter Cookies

So, last Tuesday I pulled everything out and set to work.  I have to tell you, they were so easy to make that the only thing easier would have been to buy pre-made dough.  Simple ingredients.  No flours or butters to measure out.  No sugar and butter to cream together.  Throw everything in a bowl.  Stir.  Voilà.  Naturally gluten-free cookie dough.  I didn’t use chocolate chips.  Instead, I used a bar of Lindt 85% Chocolate.  I like Lindt bars because there are not a lot of additives or sugar.  I knew since I’d be using brown sugar (a rarity for me to use refined sugar) that I didn’t want more sugar making it too sweet for me.  The 85% chocolate bars are what I’ll eat when I want a little chocolate…with a little peanut butter smeared on it.

The cookies were barely on the rack cooling when I decided I had to have one.  I bit in to soft, chewy goodness.  It was just like gluten-filled cookies, but I knew it was healthier.  The dark chocolate chunks were a great balance to the sweetness of the brown sugar in the cookies.  Not to mention all the gooey chocolate I got to lick off my fingers.

Today, I whipped up a batch of the Flourless Almond Cookies.  I wasn’t paying attention when I bought the almond butter and realized I had chunky almond butter.  I had the same reaction as before.  These flourless cookies are heaven.  Especially for those who have done without cookies for so long.  The chunks of almonds just gave the cookies another texture and were wonderful.

I made both batches of cookies with all natural nut butters.  I like the nuts to be the only ingredient listed in my nut butter.  If there is a second ingredient, it is salt.  That’s it.  If you do make these cookies, make sure to read Shirley’s notes at the end and press them down just slightly if you use an all natural nut butter.  And I mean just slightly.  I did a light press on the cookies with the back of my spoon and they filled out nicely.

Yes, I’m in love with Shirley Braden’s recipes.  🙂