Trifecta of Celebrations

First up, a very heartfelt thank you to all who commented and offered support on my last post about my other writing life. Hopefully by outing myself as a fiction writer on this blog, I will keep up with my goals and not slack off. Fingers crossed.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

November was a big month for us as we got to celebrate a trifecta of festivities: Little Guy’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Chanukah. Rather than torture you with three individual posts, I’m lumping it all together.

First up, my birthday boy. I can’t believe this guy is TWO.

IMG_3211

Yet, I totally can because he is talking up a storm and can’t stop running around and dive bombing family members (leading, unfortunately, with his head). He also loves taking off all his clothes – and the clothes of EVERY single one of Bunky’s dolls. It’s really cute until he pees on the couch.

Last year I made him pumpkin muffins because that seemed like a responsible and healthy thing to do for a one-year-old. But a lot changes in a year, let me tell you. The kid still loves pumpkin, but that gourd has nothing on chocolate.

little guy second birthday cake

Everyone LOVED this cake. Courtesy of Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s Perfect Chocolate Cake. It really is perfect. Dense and rich and yet not overbearing at all. A sure thing for my chocoholic family. The fall foliage sprinkles were my favorite part.

Double thumbs up is the highest praise in our house.

Double thumbs up is the highest praise in our house. Little Guy only had one hand free.

little guy birthday cake close up

How cute is this kid? He’s totally trying to share his cake with me.

Which leads me to these leaf shaped sugar cookies I made for Thanksgiving. A GF Shoestring blog recipe. I highly HIGHLY recommend. My kids couldn’t eat them fast enough. And neither could my husband. Um, or me.

cookies close up

I frosted some with royal icing (not pictured), but it was a mistake. I’ve since realized that royal icing is more about making pretty decorations with a piping bag (which I don’t have). However, while the iced cookies didn’t look as pretty as I had hoped, no one complained as they were too busy cramming cookies into their greedy little mouths.

There was also chocolate pretzel marshmallow bark, because why not.

chocolate pretzel marshmallow bark

I jazzed up last year’s fail proof peppermint pretzel bark recipe and added mini marshmallows toward the end after the chocolate was cool. YUM.

Ariel view anyone? (Sorry, can’t help myself, it’s just so pretty.)

Oh, the lighting at my dad's house is just perfect.

Now let’s talk about PIE. Last year I made a cheesecake for my husband, but this year he requested (um, begged) for an apple pie. His absolute hand’s down favorite dessert.

My husband is a pie man.

My husband is a pie man.

I obliged because that’s the kind of awesome wife I am. Not shockingly, I went with another tried and true GF Shoestring recipe. I love Nicole Hunn’s pie crust recipe and helpful video. It’s worth mentioning that it’s the ONLY pie crust I’ve ever made from scratch (gluten and GF), but still, why mess with a sure thing? Here is one perfect looking slice. Seconds later it was gone, I’m sure.

apple pie

One of the best parts about Thanksgiving (in my opinion) is eating (a lot of) pie for breakfast the next morning. Nothing tastes as good, and for me, that pie must be pumpkin. Absolutely. No exceptions.

pumpkin pieLast year I made the mistake of attempting a graham cracker crust on my pumpkin pie. VERY bad move. The crust basically burnt to a crisp during the hour plus baking. Don’t cry for me because I ate the ENTIRE interior anyhow with a spoon. It wasn’t pretty, but it was good.

So, I stuck with the same decadent yet simple recipe as last year, but opted to make a double batch of traditional pie crusts to use for both the apple and pumpkin pie. This year I ate the whole pie, basically by myself (since my husband and daughter don’t like pumpkin pie?!?) but this time with the crust. It was DREAMY. I got a little fat. But it was worth it.

Besides the desserts, the other best part of Thanksgiving this year was the ease of it. Everyone was so chill and happy. It was hilarious watching Little Guy try to keep up with his cousin (three months younger but way faster) as they ran circles in the house. Bunky had a blast playing with the “big cousins” who are all college graduates. There was an adorable (though ear drum shattering) jam session with an electric guitar, a broken violin, a piano, and a mechanical singing Santa.

There was very little talk or anxiety over FOOD. Our kids ate our stuff, the rest of us ate their GF offerings, and we all shared dessert. Couldn’t ask for better, really.

Next up, or rather, simultaneously up, Chanukah.

Oh, Chanukah why are you so long?

Oh, Chanukah why are you so long?

The first night or two was sweet. Candles, singing dreidel songs, opening presents. But then a few days in, things started to go south. My husband grumbled about it, muttering about how at least Christmas gets it all done in one day. At first I defended my holiday, insisting how great it was to get eight nights of festivities, until it wasn’t. The truth is, one gift a night can be kind of frustrating for a kid. At least on Christmas the meh gifts get pushed aside for the great ones, but on Chanukah some nights end up being only meh – which translates to horrendous amount of whining around my house.

All that said, the last second to last night picture is pretty sweet. Bunky loves her waitress costume.

last night of chanukahI am pretty relieved it’s over, though. Until next year.

Now that I’ve got all that out of my system, I leave you with an image that will hopefully be symbolic of the rest of the season: may we all kick up our feet in green high heel shoes and relax.

little guy heelsHope you all survived November and I wish you the best of luck during December’s shenanigans. If the going gets tough, just be glad you’re not trapped in a jar like this poor lady. (Totally random and unrelated aside, but I am strangely in love with this picture.)

princess in a jar

My family will be spending Christmas in our pajamas watching movies. The kids will get one gift each, IF they’re lucky. Greedy ungrateful little boogers.

Just kidding. Mostly.

 

I’m so happy to be part of Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday recipe link-up! Click the badge below for more great GF recipes.

gf friday badge

Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

chocolate pic

In my home, it’s hard to bake anything without chocolate. I see recipes on Pinterest for lovely looking lemon vanilla sugar cookies and gorgeously frosted banana maple donuts, but I don’t make them. My family demands chocolate. Even Little Guy, who is not yet two, bites the chocolate chip off the top of his mini pumpkin muffin first and then goes rooting around for more. 

So when it comes to pumpkin season, which everyone knows is now (unless you live under a rock) I automatically add chocolate to my recipes, with the exception of pumpkin pie, which incidentally no one in my family enjoys but me. I thought this pumpkin + chocolate thing was universal, but after doing some reading on foodie blogs, it seems not everyone agrees.

They go so naturally together, don't you think?

They go so naturally together, don’t you think?

This recipe could go either way, but since my family demands chocolate that’s the route I take. You could skip it and frost with some decadent cream cheese frosting, or squirt some inside like the recipe I adapted mine from does, but that goes against one of my daughter’s very strict food rules, which I learned about the hard way a few years back after an unfortunate vomiting episode: cream cheese should never be sweet. Hence, the chocolate. 

No matter how you swing it, this recipe is a keeper. I made these a few weeks ago while trying to stock up on healthy school breakfasts before Bunky started kindergarten. They were so popular I made them twice that first week, and now again. It’s a great way to use a 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree, since each batch uses about a half a can. (Reason enough to double the recipe, which I haven’t actually done yet so if you do let me know how it goes.)

pumpkin big close up

Final thing before I get down to business: don’t be concerned about the seemingly long ingredient list. The spices make it appear busy, but in fact this recipe comes together very fast and easily. You know I have no time for any fussiness in recipes. Not with a kid crawling up my leg.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Yield: 9 regular size + 12 minis (or 12 regulars and a handful of minis)

pumpkin mini

[Measurements are in weight and volume because I am kind of a dork about my kitchen scale.]

1 + 1/2 cups GF Flour Mix* (200 grams)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 + 1/2 tsps cinnamon
sprinkle of ginger (or up to 1/4 tsp)
sprinkle of nutmeg (or up to 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup coconut palm sugar** or sugar of your choice (about 140 grams)
1/2 cup canola oil (90 grams)
1/4 cup milk, any kind is fine (60 grams)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (approx half of a 15 oz can is about 220 grams)
1 cup chocolate chips

* I sifted my coconut palm sugar because it’s kind of grainy and that seemed to do the trick. It made me use a bit more to get the measurement right, but I tossed the harder crunchy pieces back in the bag cause it’s great in my coffee (not to mention rather pricey).

Notice the price tag is scraped off because I can't stand to look at how much I paid for it.

Notice the price tag is scraped off because I can’t stand to look at how much I paid for it.

Speaking of the bag, look at the back! It’s the gluten free world’s very own Carol Kicinski, of the great recipe blog Simply Gluten Free and it even features a GF recipe. Score!

palm sugar carol k

Ok, finally (!) The Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line muffin tins with cupcake liners, or spray.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together GF flour mix, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, spices, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, oil, milk, vanilla extract, and pumpkin until smooth. Slowly add in dry ingredients, mixing well.

4. Now would be the time to fold in the chocolate chips. But I often leave some minis plain so Little Guy can eat some before his nap without me stressing about him having a chocolate high. I was feeling rather generous, however, so I plopped one chip in the center of his minis.

A very un-photogenic pic of my unbaked goods.

A very un-photogenic pic of my unbaked goods.

5. Fill each prepared liner about 3/4 full with pumpkin batter. Bake the regular sized muffins for about 15-18 minutes and the minis for 8-10, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let muffins cool about 2 minutes in pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in air proof container or freeze.

pumpkin big

**My (current) GF Flour Mix is 60% whole grains (millet and sorghum) and 40% starches (sweet rice and potato starch), all certified gluten free from Bob’s Red Mill that I mix myself using my kitchen scale and giant plastic canister. See here for details. But you can probably use most kinds of ready made all purpose GF mixes, including your own. If your mix already includes xanthan gum, then please – for the love of your stomach – don’t add any more.

And finally, having nothing to do with baking whatsoever, please enjoy this hilarious and adorable pic (in my humble and totally biased opinion) of my kids playing dress up, big sister style.

crazy dress up

Gluten Free Maple Molasses Muffins

Molasses muffin trifecta

When I was growing up in the 80s there were two kinds of muffins, maybe three. Corn, bran, and blueberry. I’m talking about when you went out to eat at a diner, which was something I loved doing on weekends with my family. Back then people seemed to equate bran to health. Apparently there was an actual fad (who knew? I surely didn’t when I started writing this) that was based on a study that claimed oat bran could drastically lower cholesterol.

Turns out it was wrong.

Which is not all that surprising considering this was the same era that thought eggs were the devil’s spawn and health advocates pushed chemical laden margarine over natural butter. It’s very sad and somewhat embarrassing to admit this, but I spent the first two and half decades of my life thinking butter was not only bad for you, but “gross.” Oh, the ignorance of youth!

Clearly, I have amended my opinion about butter.

Clearly, I have amended my opinion about butter.

Anyway… back then I vacillated between bran and corn, depending on my mood and how “healthy” I felt like being, which wasn’t very considering my go-to breakfast was a strawberry frosted pop tart. Picking bran made me feel good, though, and in my memory they were tasty.

So when I saw a recipe for a gluten free cornmeal molasses muffin in the New York Times, it really brought me back. There’s no actual bran in these, but they are brown with a subtle sweetness.

The first time I made these I burnt them slightly (my oven is ludicrously hot even with a thermometer) and not sweet at all. Probably because they have NO sugar. None. Zippo. I guess the molasses counts, but it made the muffins a little hardcore. Still, I liked them with honey poured on top and Little Guy devoured them!

My muffin sharing little man.

My muffin sharing little man.

Poor Bunky got a glimpse after school and, equating brown for chocolate, got very excited until I explained the no sugar thing. It was like watching a balloon deflate. My husband also steered clear of them, sugar hound that he is, but I enjoyed them, and suspected they’d be even better with some tweaking, namely some maple syrup.

And I was right! They are still super healthy and only subtly sweet, so I feel good about eating them and giving them to Little Guy. By the way, did you know how great blackstrap molasses is for you? Full of iron and calcium and other good stuff.

Here’s my adaptation below, based very much on the New York Times recipe. You could totally fold in raisins at the very end, as the original author did, but I have a near phobic aversion to cooked raisins so I did not. Feel free to go your own way here. It’s cool.

Powdered sugar helps the molasses go down.

Powdered sugar helps the molasses go down.
But mostly it makes it look pretty.

Maple Molasses Muffins: An 80s Remix

Ingredients:

  • 140 grams cornmeal (approximately 1 cup)
  • 175 grams whole grain or all purpose gluten free flour mix* (approx 1 + 1/4 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 240 grams (1 cup) low fat yogurt (I used 2% Greek Fage brand)
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup grams maple syrup
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 75 grams (1/3 cup) canola or grape seed oil
  • 75 grams (1/2 cup) raisins, very optional
* For the flour, I used my new almost whole grain blend, which is 60% whole grains (millet and sorghum) and 40% starches (sweet rice and potato starch).
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the middle. Oil or butter muffin tins. Sift together the cornmeal, gluten-free flour mix, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Pour in any grainy bits that remain in the sifter.
*Full disclosure, I only sifted the cornmeal because I was holding Little Guy and my arm got tired. I suspect sifting is optional, because mine tasted just fine. But use your discretion.

2. In a separate large bowl whisk the eggs with the yogurt, molasses, vanilla and oil. Quickly whisk in the cornmeal mixture. Fold in the raisins – if you dare!

3. Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups to the top. Place in the oven and bake 18-20 minutes, until lightly browned and well risen. Remove from the heat and if the muffins come out of the tins easily, remove from the tins and allow to cool on a rack. If they don’t release easily, allow to cool and then remove from the tins.

Makes 12 muffins.

According to the original recipe, these keep for a couple of days out of the refrigerator, for a few more days in the refrigerator, and for a few months in the freezer.

Serve with honey and/or butter on top. Powdered sugar is nice too. Also works au natural alongside a nice cup of tea.

molasses muffin dissected

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

gffbadgesmall_zpse392b4e3

It’s also posted on One Creative Weekend, hosted by One Creative Mommyand Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. * Please note, that the recipes on these two link-ups will NOT all be gluten free, so be sure to read carefully.

OneCreativeWeekendslightly_indulgent_tue

Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins GF + DF

Sugar makes my kid nuts.

my bunky

I was going to start this post with a very boring bit about not making New Year’s resolutions, but how I’d like to try baking with less refined sugar, blah blah blah. It makes me yawn just typing that. The bottom line is, well, it’s the top line. Sugar makes Bunky crazy, and since she has always been a bit extreme, even as a baby (colic), it’s best to keep the crazy down. The kind I can control, anyhow.

It’s no wonder she’s a sugar monger, since I am. We kept it away from her for as long as possible, but when you bake, there’s usually sugar in there. Quite a bit now that I’m paying attention. Over the past year + of being a celiac mama, I’ve come across more food and recipe sites than I can shake a stick at, and lately I’ve found myself veering away from the sugar bombs I usually gravitate toward and am experimenting with dates, coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey. Don’t get me wrong – I will always love the white stuff, and I doubt I will ever become one of those no refined sugar ever people, but now that Little Guy wants to eat everything we do, it’s important for me to at least TRY to keep the white stuff at bay.

This leads me to my latest recipe for yumma-licious Banana Chocolate Chip mini muffins. Which happen to be vegan, if you’re into that sort of thing.

banana chip muffins

If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember that I’m a huge banana fan. One of the first recipes I converted to GF was a modest yet perfectly delightful Banana Bread (with chocolate chips, of course).

Now this new recipe is adapted from Gazing In’s Vegan Banana Chip Muffins. I tweaked it a bit to make it gluten free and mini. I love how you can use your food processor or blender for the (wet) batter. Little Guy happens to LOVE the Cuisinart after living in mortal fear of it for months. Now I let him push the “on” button and he makes funny chirping noises as it whirls around.

Satisfied customer.

He is really into his belly.

And the muffins.

And the muffins.

The healthy thing about these suckers is that there is no oil, butter or eggs (hence, vegan) and it only uses ½ cup of sugar. If you use coconut sugar, health benefits go up. I use what I’ve got, which is usually cheapo light brown sugar, though after reading this article about how brown sugar is about just as bad for you as white, I may invest in coconut sugar, which incidentally tastes lovely in my morning coffee. But kinda pricey. Oh, it’s expensive being healthy sometimes.

muffins 1

Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins GF + DF

Ingredients:

  • spray to grease muffin tins (or butter if you’d like)
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1+1/2 cups gluten free all purpose flour (I use my own blend)
  • 3/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum (omit if your blend contains it)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar or light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1+1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (or whatever, just not the chunky kind)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (use Enjoy Life brand for dairy free)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or use butter to grease two 12 cup mini muffin tins (or one 12 cup regular muffin tin).

2. Place the bananas, coconut milk, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla into a food processor or blender and whirl away until smooth. Pause to scrape down sides and blend again.

3. In a large bowl whisk the dry ingredients together (not including chips). Then add the wet mixture to dry and stir well. Then fold in the chocolate chips, if desired.

Batter after chips have been added.

Batter after chips have been added.

4. Using a tablespoon, which is a nifty trick, spoon batter into the mini muffin tins.

Best thing about vegan muffins? You can totally lick the spoon (and bowl) without feeling like you might be poisoning yourself.

IMG_1849

Chips and no chips.

The top tin has chips, the bottom doesn’t. Little Guy gets the plain ones. They’re good, too.

5. Bake for about 10 minutes. Check for doneness by sticking a toothpick or knife in the center, which should come out clean. Let cool in tins for 5 minutes then pop them out on a plate to cool completely.

Makes at least 24 mini muffins. My last batch made 30. If you want you can make 12 regular sized muffins. If so, bake for 20 minutes.

Note: It may be necessary to hide these from your spouse. Or yourself.

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma, and Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. Click the links to find more great GF recipes.