Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Series...

The fun has to end sometime right?
Makes me sad.
Happy December to everyone.
I hope you enjoyed learning new recipes and new traditions.  Next year will be bigger and better.  I'm already thinking of great things.
A big thank you to all those that participated.  Thanks for sharing your secret (or not so secret) recipes and your fun traditions...some that I'm going to remember for next year.  Thank you so much.
And thank you to you readers for following along with this fun series.

Here's the round-up of all the tasty recipes and if you would like to read more about them, the title is linked back to the original post.


Gluten Free Wassail Punch


Main Dish:


Gluten Free Christmas Eve Layered Pudding

Gluten Free Chocolate Coconut Bars

Gluten Free Butter Mints
Gluten Free Chocolate Pretzels

Gluten Free Riskrem
Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake
Gluten Free Caramels

Gluten Free Mousse de Chocolat (and French traditions)

Merry Christmas everyone!
I hope that everyone had a good holiday season.
And Happy New Year!
Hope everyone is safe, happy and healthy.
2012 is looking to be a great year full of great gluten free food and more fun along the way.
Here's to another year of being gluten free and not starving!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

French Cuisine & Christmas Traditions: By Haleigh H. Burgon

Intro: Bonjour and Hello! My name is Haleigh Heaps Burgon and I am married to Erin’s cousin Gavin. I’m thrilled to be able to share a few of my thoughts on Christmas, food, and France. As a little introduction, I first traveled to France with my grandmother and aunt during the summer after my 8th grade year. After three weeks, I was hooked: I studied French at BYU and then went on a semester abroad to Paris. At the end of those four months, I was even more passionate about the French culture. One year later, I moved back and worked as an intern to the dean of the business school at the Université Catholique de Lille. Throughout each of these sojourns, I was invited into many homes and was fortunate to devour many delicacies from the various regions. I could drone on and on about dozens of my favorite cheeses, desserts, and hors d’oeuvres, but I’d better stick to the point.

A Christmas Memory: Growing up, each year on Christmas Eve, one of our Danish relatives would make traditional rice pudding with slivered almonds and raspberry coulis, and before arriving, she would hide one whole blanched almond in the bowl. So, after dishing out a portion to everyone at the party, each person would try to eat his/her bowl in hopes of finding and hiding the whole almond. If you were lucky enough to find it and keep it hidden in your mouth until the last person finished his/her bowl, you won a fabulous box of chocolates and some money!

Christmas Cuisine Traditions from France:

Many of you may have heard of a bûche de noel Yule log cake, but the following tradition is one you may not recognize: It is known as “les treize desserts”. Here is a little history and then I’ll explain how I did my own version of it: The thirteen desserts are the traditional dessert foods used in celebrating Christmas in the French region of Provence. The "big supper" (le gros souper) held on Christmas Eve ends with a ritual 13 desserts, representing Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles. The desserts always number thirteen but the exact items vary by local or familial tradition. The food traditionally is set out Christmas Eve and remains on the table three days until December 27. The first four of these are known as the "four beggars" (les quatre mendiants), representing the four mendicant monastic orders: Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinian and Carmelites. Raisins (Dominicans) Walnuts or hazelnuts (Augustines) Dried figs (Franciscans) Almonds (Carmelites). Oftentimes the main dessert is a bûche de Noël. The biggest dessert, which represents Christ, is always the most delicious and most complex to make. A few other examples of common desserts used are dates, representing the foods of the region where Christ lived and died, two kinds of nougat, symbolizing good and evil, winter melon, pain d'epice (spice bread), etc… Here is a picture of what a French spread would look like.

With my family, I did my own thirteen desserts evening and we included: Clementines, kettle corn, mince pie, cinnamon bread, mixed nuts, almond tuille cookies, madeleines, chocolate cake, pain au chocolat, gingerbread cake with a lemon spread, cheesecake bites, white chocolate dipped Oreos, homemade peanut butter cup cookies, Danish rice pudding with strawberry sauce, vegetables with dip, and a cheesy spice dip. Every single dish was delicious! I think this should become a family tradition each year! However, I’d like to find away to incorporate symbolism into each dish, like the French do.

A Recipe: I’m sorry, I’ve probably taken up way more space than Erin had hoped for…so I’ll quickly leave you with one of my favorite French dessert recipes. It is so simple, but something they eat often and when you can find authentic French chocolate bars to use with a high count of cocoa, it makes all the difference in the world.

Mousse au Chocolat (Serves 4)

4 ounces semisweet chocolate (splurge a little for the high cocoa content bars)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large eggs, separated

Pinch of cream tartar

1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions: In a double boiler, (Or a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water-make sure it doesn’t actually touch the water) melt together chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat, and transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks, stirring well. Let cool to room temperature. (Be careful not to curdle the eggs-let it cool just a tad before adding them.)

In a large bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff. Whisk a third of the whites into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remainder of the egg whites. (Fold gently, you want your mousse to be as fluffy as possible).

Whip cream until it holds soft peaks, and fold into chocolate mixture. Chill until set, about 1 hour.

This can be served with an apple tart as my French host mother did (picture) or any other dessert you choose.

This is naturally gluten free, so no adjustments need to be made. I hope you enjoyed hearing a little of the food related history of France and that you all are enjoying your holidays. I too keep a food blog with my recipes and if you’d care to check it out, go to Merci…-Haleigh.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Homemade Hot Chocolate

One of my favorite family Christmas traditions actually takes place on Christmas Eve (and is then repeated on Christmas morning!) We get out my mom's Christmas china set with beautiful tea cups and saucers; and by candle light we drink rich hot chocolate while listening to Christmas carols. We have tried several types of hot chocolate over the years but one of the best is homemade hot chocolate! And since you can never have too much, we have hot chocolate again with Christmas morning breakfast! Try out the recipe and see if this is something you want to start as well!

Homemade Hot Chocolate

1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 c. sugar
4 c. milk (any type will do, but the higher the fat content the richer the hot chocolate!)
cool whip or marsh-mellows or any toppers you like!

In a medium sauce pan, combine chocolate powder and sugar, and 1/2 cup of milk. Stir over medium heat until it just reaches a boil. Stir in remaining 3 1/2 cups of milk and heat through, but do not boil. Remove from heat and if desired beat with rotary beater or immersion blender until frothy. Top as desired.
Makes about 5 8oz. servings.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

New Year's and Caramels

I'm Catherine, one of Erin's cousins from Cincinnati, Ohio. (You might have seen my sister's post on tourtière, our Christmas Eve tradition--she talked about Michael, seen posing above by our tree.)

Even though it's Christmas Eve, the tradition I'll share here is a New Year's Eve tradition we have at the Daun house. Once a year my mother allows a short break from the household ban on junk food and we each "order" foods we wish to splurge upon. In early years we would all go grocery shopping together, loading up the cart with donuts, blue Powerade, cream puffs, and little hot dogs. The pickings have changed over the years to sushi, shrimp, cheesecake, and Yagööt frozen yogurt, but the concept is the same--a dinner of usually forbidden or rarely-enjoyed snacks. As Grandpa Smith said on one visit, "That is not dinner."

Since this year we will be in Phoenix, Arizona for New Year's Eve and Day (our lovely cousin Tori Neil is getting married on the 28th!) my family had our junk food feast tonight, on Christmas Eve, and it was wonderful!

My recipe is caramels--my mother likes to give little bags of treats to neighbors and friends, and this year we gave out handmade and hand-wrapped caramel candies. Although totally unrelated to my holiday tradition, the caramels are gluten-free, easy to make, and fun to share. Enjoy, and merry Christmas!

2 c. white sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. butter
1 ½ t. vanilla extract

Combine the first five ingredients in a saucepan and stir them all gently together. Let the mixture come to 248° F (if you don't have a candy thermometer, this is the firm ball stage), remove it from the heat, and stir in vanilla extract. Pour it into a either one pre-buttered 9x13 pan or two pre-buttered 8x8 pans. Let it cool, then take out the block and cut it into pieces, whatever size you want. Wrap the pieces in wax paper and twist the ends.

Friday, December 23, 2011

pure decadence...

i'm pam, another sister-in-law to erin, and i'm happy to be posting to a blog that is truly heaven-sent! my mother was diagnosed with celiac disease back in 2000, and meeting up with erin three years later meant that something as simple yet important as a homemade birthday cake was suddenly back on my mom's menu. (this has become her traditional fall birthday cake, and it is one of thee best cakes i've ever devoured!)

when i think back to the christmas eves of my childhood, i'm reminded of a special tradition centered around one of my favorite indulgences - chocolate. for many years my family spent such magical winter nights next door at my grandparents' home, where a box of our favorite cummings chocolates would be passed around the room until each person had secured one of its treasures. before partaking, we were handed a toothpick with which to "eat" our chocolates - so as to savor each "bite" while christmas stories were read by the fire. this tradition was in remembrance of the luxury of a simple christmas chocolate in my grandfather's humble home as a boy - always accompanied by a toothpick, and never a second helping. i was reminded of the spirit of gratitude on those special nights - the spirit of christmas.

and in the spirit of chocolate, this is to-date my favorite gluten-free chocolate dessert. it is rustic, yet luxuriously decadent, and perfect for a holiday gathering. small slices will receive big praise. merry christmas everyone!!

flourless chocolate cake

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces + more for the pan
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder + more for the pan
1+1/4 c. heavy cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 lg. eggs
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. crème fraîche or sour cream
1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar + more for dusting

heat oven to 350°. butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with cocoa powder. in a medium saucepan, heat the butter with ¼ cup of the heavy cream over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth; remove from heat. in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder; whisk in the chocolate mixture. transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, 35 to 40 minutes. let cool in the pan for 1 hour. run a knife around the edge of the cake before unmolding. using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream with the crème fraîche and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar and serve with the whipped cream. (original recipe found here.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

pancakes & memories.

hello lovelies! my name is annika. and i blog here and here, where you will often find ramblings & photos. i am married to erin's husband's brother.... in other words, we're sisters-in-law! :) i think erin is awesome. so nice and positive.

basically, when i met erin i had NO idea what celiac disease was or what it meant. all i knew was that i loved me some rolls, pasta, and cookies! so when i found out erin couldn't have these wonderful things..... i felt bad....... but then i tasted her cooking, and knew she was getting by just fine. :) i have never tasted anything erin cooked that wasn't scrumptous.

let me start by telling you one of my very favorite christmas memories. of course, every childhood christmas was very special. but the christmas that sticks out the most was just two years ago, when i had my sweet baby girl on the 12th of december. it was such a magical christmas. i loved that baby more that i could have ever imagined. the memories i have of rocking her next to the christmas tree are ones i will always hold very near to my heart.

i've never been much of a breakfast person. before i had hallie and started staying home with her, i usually grabbed whatever was easy and fast and rushed out the door to school or work.

but when i had the mornings to myself (and my newborn!) i started making breakfast a lot more, and i must say, i've become a breakfast person! (as long as it's not before 8:00am!)

pancakes are my VERRRRRRY favorite. so i leave you with a gluten-free pancake recipe!


and thanks for reading!

gluten free-pancakes
1 cup High-Protein Power Flour Blend
¾ cup buckwheat flour or millet flour
⅓ cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1¾ cups milk, soy milk or rice milk
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
3 large eggs or ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

1. Preheat a griddle to medium (350°F).
2. Whisk together the flours, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, combine milk, vegetable oil, honey and eggs (or applesauce). Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix gently with a fork, just to combine.
4. Spray the griddle with vegetable oil or lightly grease the surface.
5. For each pancake, spoon ¼ cup batter onto the griddle and cook until bubbles begin to form on the surface and edges start to dry, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook another 2 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom.
6. Serve warm or keep warm in an oven set on low heat.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gluten Free Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

Remember me?
Erin, who??
Hasn't this past month been so fun!
(And it's going to continue)
I had to share another tradition:
my December Birthday!
Yep, yesterday I celebrated with my husband, kids, and these beauties:

Gluten Free Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies!

Everyone always asks, what's it like to have a birthday around Christmas?
Well, for all I know, it's great!
I have never had an issue, or felt "ripped off".
I think that it was because my mom and husband do a great job of keeping the two days separate.  
Birthday presents aren't wrapped in Christmas paper and it's not a "Christmas Party", it's a birthday celebration and it's just one more thing to add to the fun festivities!

Yesterday was a great day.  One of the best.
My husband and daughter made breakfast while I exercised, recipe to come.  My brothers and sisters surprised me with a Gurgle Pot, more on that later.  And my dream came true and my parents got me a Silhouette Craft cutter, more on that too.  
My husband and kids got me a new pair of running shoes, which I tried out and I swear they made me run faster, I'm so spoiled.
We then (we being husband and kiddos) went swimming at our community center and had a great time.  Both girls are such water babies, this summer is going to be great!
Next we had a friend watch the girls and Paul and I finished up some Christmas shopping and had the most wonderful dinner at the Rodizio Grill.
It was amazing!  And most of the menu is gluten free!!
It's a Brazilian-style steakhouse where the guys brings the different meats around and gives you a thin slice.  The tri-tip was my absolute favorite.  And they also have these cute little appetizer bread roll things, not sure what they are called that are made out of yucca flour, so GF and so delicious.  They have a nice Parmesan flavor to them.
Hungry now.  
Well, sign up for the Rodizio club and you too can get a free meal on your birthday!

On to the cake.  
My 3 year old danced with joy when we got to blow out all the candles, which I almost did in one breath!
I am such a sucker for Red Velvet anything, so I knew these were going to be good.  The brownie part is moist and dense, with a light cheesecake swirled on top.
They were amazing.
And kinda Christmas-y.
Hope you enjoy!

Gluten Free Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 t. red food coloring
2/3 cup GF mix
1 t. xanthan gum
1/4 t. salt

8oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line an 8 inch square pan with foil and grease.
In a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate chips together.  Stir until very smooth and there are no lumps.  Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla and red food coloring. 
Add flour, xanthan gum, and salt.
Stir in chocolate until just combined.  
If you want a deeper red color, add 1/2 t. more red food coloring.
(I just used 2 t.)
Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.  Drop onto prepared brownie batter.  Swirl with a knife.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until cheesecake is set and a toothpick comes out clean.  
Refrigerate overnight.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Riskrem (Norwegian Christmas Dessert)

First things first: I'm kind of an outsider here because my family isn't gluten free.  But I promise I ran my recipe by Erin first to make sure it's okay for those of you who do eat gluten-free diets. :)

And I'll apologize now because my post is so long!

My name is Tammy, and I keep a food blog called Fish Food Favorites (our last name is a type of fish).  Erin and I met our freshman year of college; we lived a few doors away in the same dorm.  Since she had to pass our door to get to hers, she'd often pay a visit to my roommates and me at curfew.  I remember one time she helped us polish off a carton of ice cream when she looked at the ingredients and saw that it was safe for her to eat.
Tammy & Erin (probably April 2003).
Fun times.  I've got so many awesome memories from my college experience.  Not to mention I met my husband that year (it just took him a couple years and a mission to Japan to figure out we were meant for each other).  Right now my husband, Matt, is in his third year of dental school.
Me with my hot husband and awesome little boys (July 2011).

It's hard for me to pick out one favorite holiday tradition because they all seem so intertwined to me.  We did the same thing every year as far back as I can remember, and it ran like clockwork.  (Well, mostly.)  My dad served a mission for our church in Norway (as did his father and both brothers), and we do have some Norwegian blood in us (as well as Danish and Icelandic--my great-grandmother was a full Icelander).  Because of that, some of our traditions and traditional foods are Norwegian.

Christmas Eve went something like this: Prepare the smorgasbord/feast together as a family (though some years my mom was locked away in my parents' bedroom while she furiously finished wrapping presents).  Stuff ourselves full of all the little finger foods we had made (including smørbrød, which are little open-faced sandwiches with all sorts of stuff on them).  Clean up.  Go look at Christmas lights.  Come home and eat riskrem.  Get ready for bed.  Read the Christmas story in Luke 2.  Open one present (usually from one of our cousins).  Family prayer.  Go to bed.

Christmas Morning: Wake up.  Chill with my two older sisters and wait for Mom and Dad to wake up (my husband won't let me sleep in on Christmas morning anymore, though--he's up before our kids are because he's so excited).  Dad checks to see if Santa came; tells us he didn't and receives the "yeah right, Dad" responses.  We line up in the hallway while Dad lights a fire, turns on the tree, etc.  Go see what Santa brought us.  Stop and have breakfast (Norske Vafler--not gluten free, or I'd post that one, too).  Sit around the tree and take turns opening presents.  Have to pause while grandparents and other relative call us.  Finish sometime around noon or 1pm (my husband is just itching by this time because his family does the complete opposite of what mine does).  Spend the rest of the day eating feast leftovers, talking to family on the phone, and trying out our new stuff.

So you see, I love it all.  My husband and I are still trying to work out what our own traditions will be when we stop going to our parents' houses for Christmas, but we're thinking we'll work some of both families' traditions in, along with incorporating a good deal of Japanese food.

Riskrem (pronounced "rees-krehm") is basically what it sounds like: a rice cream dessert.  But's not rice pudding.  By custom, Norwegian families would take a bowl of riskrem to the barn on Christmas Eve and leave it out for the Fjøsnisse (sometimes referred to simply as nisse or nissen), the guardian of the home and farm.  It's wise to remember him because he can be kind of a trickster, and if you really anger him, you may find your crops have gone bad.

Traditionally in Norway, one whole almond is hidden in the batch of riskrem.  Whoever finds the almond in his or her dish receives a yummy prize of a marzipan candy shaped like a pig, though in my family the prize was typically some See's candy or Smil (a Norwegian candy similar to Rolos).  Sadly, I'm the only one who's crazy about marzipan, so the pig is never an option.

My dad always eats the riskrem by the bowlful; for me, it's been a food for which I've had to acquire a taste throughout my life.  But I hope we can always make a place for it in our family's Christmas traditions.
Riskrem (Norwegian Christmas Dessert)

3/4 cup medium or short grained rice
4 cups milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 pint cream
Berry syrup of choice (suggestions: strawberry, boysenberry, raspberry)

Cook rice, milk, and salt covered in a double boiler over low heat, stirring occasionally, until nearly all the milk is absorbed (about 1 1/2 hours).

Remove from heat and stir in sugar and almond extract, then cool in refrigerator until cold (overnight is best).

Whip the cream and fold into the rice cold rice mixture.  Serve with a little berry syrup poured over the top.

If you want to check out Rodgrot, the other recipe I was going to share (but didn't have time to make), click HERE.  (Again, I checked with Erin to make sure it's gluten free.)  It's also Norwegian, and we'd sometimes have it at Christmastime, usually if I got around to making it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


My mom is from Canada and my dad served his mission in Montreal so my family has a fair amount of respect for French-Canadian traditions.  Every Christmas Eve, we have a tourtière, which is a French-Canadian meat pie.  It’s delicious.  We also make a Bûche de Noël, complete with marzipan or meringue mushrooms.

I don't have any pictures of tourtière.  Sorry!

I can’t think of any particularly memorable Christmases; however, Christmas with little Michael (big Michael now!) is always funny from year to year.  He can always be counted on to enthusiastically open all of the large, wrapped gifts and squeal in excitement when he sees the contents.  Whether the gift is a frying pan, a dvd for the three girls—my sisters and I— or a car cleaning supply for my dad, Michael will be highly energetic, shouting, “Wow!  Look!  Look!”  He’s very sweet.  This past Christmas, we stood at the top of the staircase to prepare for the big reveal (we’re not allowed to scurry downstairs; my parents arrange the gifts and we get ready) and he whispered in Catherine’s ear, “Catherine, I got you scarf.”  No surprises!  :)

Here’s a gluten-free recipe!


-2 lbs meat
-1 onion chopped
-2 cloves garlic minced
-1/2 cup water
-1/2 tsp. nutmeg
-1-2 tsp. cinn.
-1/2 tsp. ground cloves (optional)

Simmer meat, onion, garlic, and water in big covered pot over low heat for 2 hours or until all water has dissolved. Personally, I like to cook the meat for 1 1/2 hour covered and then remove the lid for the last 30 min. or so. I find this makes the meat more tender. After meat is cooked, add in spices, taste, and adjust if needed. It is better to add too little spices at first, then too much.

~1/2 cup brown rice flour
~1/3 cup potato starch
~1/4 cup tapioca starch
~3-4 Tbs sweet rice flour
~1 tsp. cornstarch
~2 Tbp sugar
~1/2 tsp. baking powder
~1 1/2 tsp. xantham gum
~1/2 cup butter
~2 egg
~1 Tbs lemon juice

Combine all flours, cornstarch, baking powder, and xantham gum into bowl. Cut the 1/2 cup butter into chunks and place in bowl. With a fork cut the butter into the flour until the butter is pea sized. Combine 1 egg and lemon juice in separate cup/container and then pour into dough. Gently combine the liquid with the dry ingredients using a fork. Once combined dough should hold together well, if it is to dry add just a tsp. of water at first, if more is needed add another. If dough is too wet, sprinkle white rice flour onto ball of dough. Place the ball of dough onto wax paper and wrap together, then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour before adding the filling.  Once dough is refrigerated for one hour, unwrap the dough and place between two nicely floured (with white rice flour) wax paper sheets. If dough starts to stick to paper add a touch more flour. Roll out the dough until it is about an inch longer all around than pie pan. Remove one wax paper and place pan on dough. Flip the dough over and you are set with the first crust. Then place the filling in crust, recipe located below, and repeat the rolling process with the other ball of dough. Remove one wax sheet and flip dough onto top of pie. Then crunch the sides together with your fingers making whatever design you please. Before placing into the oven brush a beaten egg over top and sprinkle with sugar, then cut 4 slits into pie in a design or simply poke a couple holes with a fork and put that masterpiece in the oven. Cook at 350 F for 40-45 min, or until golden brown on top. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hot Chocolate or Heart Attack in a Mug

Hi all! I'm Jenny from An Apple for the Crafter. With the holiday season upon us I have been in a bit of a blogging rut. I have to thank my dear friend Erin for pulling me out of it. Erin and I have known one another since high school. I was also lucky enough to go to college with her, in fact, we even student taught together at the same school. Erin has always been one of the kindest, most beautiful people I know.

I've been really excited to post because Erin and I went to a Christmas dance together, in a group, our senior year of high school. I rummaged around all my scrapbooking stuff until I found my old high school dance pictures. I found the picture but Erin isn't in it! We picked her up last and so her date, Stuart, is holding a stuffed Santa Claus instead!

I'm the one in blue.

I'm actually glad I went through all this mess though. While this adorable Santa is no replacement for Erin, he is a great holiday tradition maker. My mom made this stuffed Santa forever ago. All throughout the Christmas season my siblings and I would move Santa around the house when no one else was looking. His arms and legs are really thin, and therefore quite pliable so we could put him into some weird positions and places. We would sit him up in the rocking chair with his hands behind his head. Sometimes you'd find him standing on his head next to the grandfather clock. Once, he was spotted asleep under the Christmas tree. It was so much fun to try devising creative things for Santa to do, or places for him to appear (like in high school dance photos!)
My husband and I have continued this tradition on a smaller scale. We have the ever famous Elf on the Shelf. He isn't quite as versatile but we have fun hiding him from one another nonetheless.

Now on to the recipe!

First, I should warn you that this recipe will ruin Swiss Miss and other powdered hot chocolates for you. Second, people will begin asking/expecting you to make this recipe for holiday parties. Third, it is SOOO good because it is literally just chocolate that is hot. :)

6 Pints of Half and Half
12 Bars of Hershey's Chocolate
1 Can of Spray Whipped Cream

Big pot
Big spoon

Break up the bars into the pre-measured little pieces. I break or cut them further into half just to speed up cooking time.
Pour the half and half into the pot.
Begin slowly adding the chocolate and stirring constantly.
Once the chocolate has melted you can ladle the drink into mugs. Make sure everyone has a spoon because as the drink cools it starts to get a thin film on top, like pudding. I always have the spray whipped cream on hand to add on top because it helps cool the drink faster.

This stuff is so sweet and rich that it counts as dessert to most people. Our friends and family request this recipe every Christmas. I hope you like it too!!

This is mostly a picture of my husband's cool lens mug but it is the only picture I have of our hot chocolate!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chaos and Old Memories...

My favorite Christmas memory has got to be my Gramma Gordon making cinnamon buns for us - she's Canadian, they call them buns - it took me years of being made fun of to stop calling them buns...  She would come to our house for Christmas and it seems like the oven didn't stop for the duration of her visit.  But here's the kicker - no recipe...  She just tossed stuff in.  My sister and I have both tried to take notes during her cinnamon roll haze and both ended up with completely different recipes; neither of which was anything close to the heavenly flavor Gramma created.They were the most divine rolls you can imagine, all fluffy and soft, gooey and smooshy in the middle.  She created paradise.  I know you're on pins and needles - I want that recipe!  Nope, still don't have it. 

That's me, 40 weeks pregnant and attempting to get down Gramma's recipe. 
The pie-man and my mother.
Second memory.  My Dad makes pies.  They are the best pies it the whole world, he makes them every year and my sisters and neighbors beg for them.  They are the prettiest pies you've ever seen, perfectly browned, cute little designs on the top.  Who would have thought you could make a good gluten free crust.  My Dad has been gluten free almost my whole life, back when nobody knew what in the world celiac was - even doctors and the only place you could buy anything was to special order!  Anyhow, back to pie.  He served a church mission in France and apparently learned there, although his mom is the Bun Queen so there was probably a seed planted somewhere along the way.  Ready for another kicker.  I don't have that recipe either.  He's another one of those 'toss whatever in the pan and see what happens' chef.  So my goal, when I fly in to visit them in February!!!  Is to finally get a pie recipe - and I'll share it with Erin and she can share it with you :)

Okay, finally a recipe - Sour Cream Banana Bread.  THE BEST banana bread in the ENTIRE WORLD.  Yes, it's gf. No memories attached to it, other than I try really hard to make it a few times a month and it's always gone in a day.


  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups (I like Bobs Red Mill but that's because I can always find a good deal:)  )  All GF purpose flour
  •   2 heaping tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 cup chocolate chips - best if they are the little one, or chop them up a bit, they tend to fall to the bottom.


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease four 7x3 inch loaf pans. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Stir in nuts. Divide into prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Want another recipe just because I'm craving them right now.  Take a pretzel - glutino are my favorite brand (and the link is the cheapest place I've found them)  put a Rolo on top, then bake for a few minutes to soften the Rolo, then put a pecan on top.  Yummo.  I've seen them with M&M's instead of pecans too.  Still, yum :)  And really easy to pass out for Christmas goodies to your neighbors.