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Last Minutes Christmas Gift, copyright 2013 gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Just a brief update on our temporary absence from the blogging scene. These last few months have been ultra busy and challenging for both of us – a new job, many new recipes being developed and tested for our upcoming new book (watch for it in the coming year as well as a rebirth of our present blog format),  a new roof being installed on our house, and sadly, the loss of our beloved cat Bhakti on September 4th. We posted about him earlier in the year, telling you about his struggle with lymphoma. What a challenging journey – so many ups and downs. He fought so hard to live, but in the end his body was too weak to sustain the life he desired. We’ll always treasure the gift of this beautiful and special soul’s presence in our lives. A peaceful spirit, filled with pure love and joy. Just thinking about him brings a smile to my face and fills my heart with joy.

I suppose this offers a nice transition to today’s post and our gift to you, our readers, for the holidays. A delicious chocolate recipe,  our “Delectable Goji Berry Chocolate Bark,” which is incredibly easy to make, as well as directions on how to make your own “Rudolph” gift bags.

To make the gift bags, you will need the following items, some of which may already be in your “arts and crafts” drawer:

  • brown paper lunch bags
  • small bells
  • red ribbon
  • glue stick
  • wiggly eyes (you can also draw then on the paper)
  • small red pom-poms (you could paint a red dot, or use a red sticker – be creative)
  • small cellophane treat bags
  • dark brown construction paper for the antlers
  • light tan paper for the ears

Most, if not all, of these items can be found in any crafts store.

Last Minute Christmas Gift, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

  1. Make a template for the antlers, trace it on the dark brown construction paper and cut out. If you make this with small children, you can  help them trace the outline of their hands on the construction paper. Cut out this design and voila ‘antlers.’ Many years ago we created some fun Thanksgiving and Christmas projects, using this idea. It is a great way to get little kids involved in their own gift giving projects.  Repeat the above steps over and over until you have the desired number of antlers. You need two per bag.
  2. Draw the shape of the ears, trace on the light tan paper (you can use the paper from an extra brown lunch bag), cut out and repeat, until you have enough to complete the number of bags you need.Last Minute Christmas Gift, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved
  3. Fold the top of the lunch bag over (roughly between 2 and 2-1/2 inches). Now punch two holes through the folded part (about 1/2 inch below the top fold). The holes should be at least 3/4 – 1 inch apart.
  4. Using the glue stick, attach the antlers on either side of the folded portion of the bag. Glue the ears over the beginning part of the antlers. Using a pencil, or marker, draw an inner outline for the ear (see  examples in the photos).
  5. Glue the wiggly eyes about 1 inch below the folded part of the bag. You could also draw the eyes on the bag. There is no need to run out and make a special purchase, especially facing all the craziness in the shopping malls and the ensuing traffic everywhere.
  6. Attach the red nose about 1-1/2 inches below the eyes.
  7. Draw a line (see photo) from each corner of the nose up to the outer corner of the fold of the bag.
  8. Fill each bag with the chocolate filled bag.
  9. String a bell on each red ribbon, thread through the two holes (start from the front of the bag – bell needs to face the front) and tie a bow.

For the “Delectable Goji Berry Chocolate Bark” you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 bars of at least 72% Dark Chocolate, each weighing 3.5 oz (100g)
  • 5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil/butter
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut sugar, or sucanat
  • 4-5 Tbsp. goji berries, or dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cashews (optional)
  • Himalaya salt, or celtic sea salt
  • 2 large cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper

Last Minute Christmas Gift, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

In a double boiler, over low heat, melt the chocolate together with the coconut oil/butter and coconut sugar. Stir constantly, until all ingredients are liquid and smooth. Pour the melted chocolate mixture on the parchment paper lined cookie sheets, dividing it up evenly. Spread it out evenly to about 1/8 inch thickness. Top the chocolate with the goji berries, seeds and nuts and sprinkle with a small amount of salt. Place the cookie sheets into the freezer for about 45 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator to keep the chocolate firm until you are  ready to place it into the cellophane gift bags. Ease the chocolate away from the parchment paper and cut into strips, then breaking each strip into  smaller pieces. Fill each bag with the desired amount and close. Place this bag inside the “Rudolph” bag, and close it with the red ribbon.

Last Minute Christmas Gift, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

From our home to yours, wishing you a most joyous holiday! Enjoy this time with your family and friends. Remember it is not about the presents, but about how to be present.

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TWD: Eastern Mediterranean Pizza, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

We actually made this recipe for the first time a couple of weeks ago, but it was late in the day and we lacked the necessary natural light to photograph it. This recipe intrigued us, since pita bread is not easily converted to gluten free, and admittedly, we have yet to make just pita bread using this recipe. Before singling out the pita bread, we wanted to just explore this dough for the pizza itself, and if it turned out  to be successful, develop it further for really good gluten free pita bread in the future. The contributing bakers  on the original recipe were Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid and you can watch the Baking with Julia PBS segment here.  Please do check out the contributions by all the other doriestas at TWD’s link here. Sadly, we are currently without a host for this recipe, but you can find the original recipe in Baking with Julia, page 156.

The recipe turned out to be quite straight forward and simple to prepare, even after allowing for our gluten free adaptations.  You do, however, have to allow for enough time to prepare the necessary sponge.  For the gluten free pita bread dough, you will need the following ingredients. Please note, we only made half a recipe, which makes approximately six small pizzas, or four medium-sized ones. The entire recipe is not only gluten free, but vegan, since with our adaptations it does not contain any meat, dairy, or eggs.

Pita Bread Dough:

  • 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1-1/4 cups tepid water (80°F-90°F)
  • 1-1/4 cups gluten free whole grain flour blend, consisting of:  1/2 cup sorghum flour, 1/2 brown rice flour, 1/4 sweet rice flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Himalaya salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1-1/4 – 1-3/4 cups all purpose gluten free flour blend, consisting of: 1/2 cup tapioca flour, 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/4 sweet rice flour (if you need additional flour, add sweet rice flour by the tablespoon, as needed)

In a large bowl, prepare a sponge, by adding the yeast to the tepid water. Using a wooden spoon, stirring in one direction only, slowly add the gluten free whole grain flour blend, then stir 100 times in the same direction until fully mixed. This is not as bad as it sounds. You can sing your favorite song, or recite your favorite poem while counting. When you are done, the mixture should look smooth and silky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least one hour, or until doubled in size. Our sponge took two hours to double in size.

TWD: Eastern Mediterranean Pizza, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

While the sponge is developing, you can prepare the topping ahead of time.

Topping:

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (we substituted a finely chopped red onion and several finely chopped green onions)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 lb. finely ground lean lamb (we did not use meat in our version, but added additional tomatoes instead)
  • 8 – 10 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped (or use well drained canned tomatoes)
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. Himalaya salt, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a heavy sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened. Then add the garlic, tomatoes and spices and cook over medium to low heat. You want to retain enough moisture. Then turn off  the heat and set aside. Please note, the topping can be made several hours ahead of time.

Now continue with preparing the pita bread dough, by removing the plastic wrap from the sponge. Sprinkle the salt and drizzle the olive oil on top  and again stir in the same direction. Now add the gluten free all purpose flour blend, one half cup at a time, until well incorporated. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface, gently working in the remaining flour. The original recipe calls for a heavy duty kneading session of about 8-10 minutes. Please refrain from doing that, your gluten free dough will never recover from that kind of abuse.

Depending on the number of pizzas you wish to make, oil two large baking sheets and divide the dough into either four or six pieces. Gently roll out each piece on a lightly floured (with sweet rice) work surface and place each piece immediately onto the oiled cookie sheets. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out, and allow to rise until doubled in height. In a warm kitchen, this process does not take very long, maybe 30 minutes. Divide the topping evenly amongst the pizzas and bake in a preheated 450°F oven, for about 7 – 10 minutes (our pizzas required 10 minutes).

TWD: Eastern Mediterranean Pizza, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved.

This recipe was a huge hit in our house, winning compliments from everyone. Definitely one we will be making again.

 

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Johnny Cake Cobbler, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

After a brief break from baking in general, we are back once again on a Tuesday, baking along with our fellow doriestas. This week we were given two options, either a Fig Crostata, or Johnny Cake Cobbler. The selection was easy, since we had just purchased the most amazing, locally grown fresh peaches at Whole Foods. The recipe actually calls for sliced nectarines and purple plums, but peaches are in season and were an easy substitution.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with our TWD baking experiments, there is usually a weekly host who supplies the actual recipe from  the book Baking with Julia. Lacking a host for this week’s recipe, we will break with tradition and supply our own gluten free version. If you are looking for the original recipe, please check out page 389 in “Baking with Julia” and/or visit the TWD website here.

Johhny Cake Cobbler, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved.

First of all, like most cobblers, this is very easy to make.  For any novice gluten free baker, this is a recipe you cannot fail at.  Provided you have the ingredients on hand, which is easy this time of year, with all the abundance of fresh fruit, you can have this dessert on the table from start to finish in under one hour. We chose peaches, but any choice of fruit would lend itself beautifully for this dessert.

To fill a 9 x 9 inch casserole dish you will need the following ingredients:

Fruit filling:

  • 6 peaches, sliced
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, or coconut oil

Melt the butter, or coconut oil (if you need to be dairy free), in a large pot over medium heat. Add the peaches, minced ginger and coconut sugar. Mix well and cook over low heat, until the peaches are just beginning to get soft. Fill into the lightly greased casserole dish and set aside, while you prepare the topping, for which you will need the following ingredients.

Topping:

  • 1-1/2 cups of gluten free flour, consisting of 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup tapioca flour and 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. Himalaya salt
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 stick (2 oz.) of butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup lactose-free sour cream
  • 1/2 cup almond-coconut milk blend

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Please note that we took some liberties with the original recipe.  We reduced the amount of flour by 1/2 cup and substituted lactose-free sour cream (Green Valley Organics, available at Whole Foods and your local health food store) as well as added the almond-coconut milk (Califia Farms) to help thin out the batter.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add the butter, mixing well until coarse crumbs form. Then add the sour cream and coconut-almond milk. You are looking to create a light pillowy dough/batter that easily drops by the spoonful on top of the prepared fruit. Spoon the batter on top of the prepared filling and bake in the preheated oven for 14-17 minutes. Your baking time may vary depending on the type of fruit used, or the elevation in which you reside. You will know the cobbler is done when the biscuit topping is golden and the fruit filling is bubbling.

Johnny Cake Cobbler, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Serve warm. It is delicious by itself but could also be served with your favorite ice cream. We absolutely loved the ease of making this tasty dessert. The flavor of the fresh peaches was absolutely phenomenal making this a favorite late summer treat.

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