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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

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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Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com All rights reserved

Gingerbread, for so many of us, is synonymous with the Christmas holidays. There are certainly many different types of recipes available, but this particular one is one of our family’s favorites, and has been converted into gluten free, using Oma’s special recipe. Gingerbread was Oma’s specialty around Christmas and I have many fond memories of her in her tiny kitchen, lovingly preparing this delicacy, made just once a year. If she invited one of us to help her, that was truly special. It is not a ginger cake, but a true traditional German-style gingerbread. While baking, it will fill your house with the beautiful scent of its combination of spices – ginger, anise, cloves and cinnamon.  In the olden days, this type of gingerbread was made using peculiar ingredients, such as “Hirschhornsalz,” “potash” and “natron.”  Some of these ingredients supposedly provided softness to the dough, and, no doubt, insured  greater longevity of the end product. After researching these ingredients, that  makes sense, especially considering the Ancient Egyptians used some of them  for embalming purposes. Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?!? Naturally, we would never use any of these more questionable ingredients in our recipes. If you insist on their inclusion, you may do so at your own risk. However, they are simply unnecessary, and we don’t know why anyone would even want to.

Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

This gingerbread is delicious and is very easy to make. Provided you have the following ingredients on hand, you can enjoy your first taste in a couple of hours. 

Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick of organic butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup coconut sugar, or sucanat
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground anise
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4-1/2 cups gluten free flour, consisting of 2 cups brown rice flour, 1-1/2 cups tapioca flour, 1 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. guar gum
  • 1 tsp.  ground psyllium seeds
  • 2-1/2 tsp. gluten free baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. Himalaya salt
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut milk
  • parchment paper, enough to line at least two baking sheets
  • your favorite cookie cutters, such as gingerbread men and women, trees, stars, hearts, etc.

Topping Ingredients:

White chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts (optional)

White Topping:

  • 1 cup organic powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Dark Topping:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract

Measure out all the dry ingredients (flour, guar gum, baking powder, baking soda and psyllium seeds) and blend well in a bowl. Set aside.  In a large bowl, cream the butter, adding the sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, honey and spices, a little at a time. Blend well. Add the flour, about a cup at a time, to this batter, until you have a kneadable dough. Shape the dough into a thick log, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Remove the gingerbread dough from the refrigerator. Cut the log into three equal pieces. Leave out one third to roll out, and return the rest of the dough into the refrigerator, well wrapped.

Line at least two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Dust a baking board with a little sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to not less than 1/4-inch thickness. If you accidentally roll them out thinner, you will ultimately be making ginger snaps, instead of gingerbread cookies. Still very good, but a slightly different result.

Select your cookie cutters and cut out the gingerbread, placing them about one inch apart on the cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Watch this process carefully. We live at high altitude and they tend to bake very quickly. If you are at sea level, you may require an additional 2-5 minutes. Place the baked cookies on a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Keep shaping any left over dough into a ball and roll out again. Remember to sprinkle a small amount of sweet rice on the board, before rolling out another batch of dough. Repeat this process as often as necessary. When the first batch of dough is nearly used up, add another third of the dough to it from the refrigerator. If you choose large shaped cookie cutters, naturally you will go through this process very quickly, and likewise it will take a little longer with smaller size cutters.

Let all the cookies cool completely before decorating, or frosting.

Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

For the white frosting, simply blend the powdered sugar with the lemon juice. Then either spread even layers of it on the cookies, or place it in a pastry bag and decorate them to your heart’s content.

For the dark frosting, melt the chocolate chips, in a double boiler, adding the peppermint extract to the melted chocolate, combining the two ingredients very well. Again, either spread even layers of it on your choice of cookies, or use a pastry bag with the addition of a fine tip, for decorating.

Top them with your choice of white chocolate chips, dried fruit, or nuts (optional).

Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

This gingerbread will fill your house with the beautiful scent of ginger, cinnamon and cloves and stores well in a cookie tin, for several days.

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Gingerbread Cake, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com All rights reserved

This week’s TWD recipe heralds the beginning of the holiday baking season, at least for us. Anything involving gingerbread is a definite favorite in our house, invoking fond memories of baking with Mom and Oma – three generations in the kitchen, gathered around the table, cooking and baking together. Albeit a very rare occasion, made possible only during our not so frequent visits to Germany.

Instead of its namesake, today’s recipe  reminded us more of the British “treacle cake”, served on bonfire night, than the typical gingerbread, or German Lebkuchen, that we are familiar with.  Treacle cake, to the best of our knowledge, in addition to the liberal use of ginger, both fresh and dried, is made with other spices such as nutmeg and cloves, but otherwise is almost identical to this gingerbread cake.

Gingerbread Cake, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com All rights reserved

For anyone wishing to make this cake, the precise recipe can be found in Baking with Julia on page 247-248. Karen of Karen’s Kitchen Stories, is the host for this recipe and has the original directions and ingredients listed on her website.   Please also check out the contributions from the other members of our group by checking this link.

Naturally, our contribution is entirely gluten free with the following substitutions. Instead of 2 cups of regular flour, we substituted 1 cup each of brown rice flour and tapioca flour with the addition of 1-1/2 tsp. of guar gum. Since we couldn’t find espresso powder (is there such a thing?) we used instant coffee granules, which seemed to work just as well. We only had raw cocoa powder in the house and used that instead of the regular unsweetened cocoa powder. As always, we replaced the brown sugar with coconut sugar, but we cut down the recommended 2 cups of molasses to 1-1/2 cups. Other than that, we followed the recipe exactly as it is written in the book. We turned our recipe into a cake, using a 10-inch spring form, lined with parchment paper, instead of the called for baby cakes, requiring a 50 minute baking time.

Gingerbread Cake, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com All rights reserved

It baked beautifully, filling the house with the sweet and gingery smell of Christmas. What a very welcome change to the smell of house paint, that has taken up most of our spare time over the last two weeks. November and December, at least so far, have been exceptionally mild with temperatures that have allowed us to paint – a job that had been waiting to be completed for some time. The previous owners had selected a rather bright tone of red for the trim, which over time with the high UV at our high elevation had degraded into a rather unappealing orange brick red.  None of us  ever appreciated the color choice, and are happy to finally be able to change it into a more beautiful creamy white. A couple more days and it should all be done – weather permitting.

Gingerbread Cake, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com All rights reserved

Yesterday, after coming in cold and sore from painting, we finally got to taste the cake, prepared yesterday morning. It was everything the recipe promised – just not gingerbread. It was moist and rich with the predominant flavors being ginger and molasses. This cake is delicious and we would be making it again, but only for the special occasion of the holidays. It is very rich. We served it with a dollop of whipped cream.

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We promised you already  a few days ago, that our brand new e-book would be available for download. A few minor, but very time consuming, if not gut wrenching, changes had to be made. Who knew that publishing for e-pub would be this challenging? Quite frankly, print book publishing is a snap in comparison. But we did it! Received the publishing  confirmation from Lulu earlier today, meaning it could still take a few more hours (hopefully not longer) for it to be available for purchase in either our Lulu store,  the iBookstore, or  Nook store. We are ecstatic and incredibly relieved that at least the e-pub is completed. Now on to the finalization of the print and pdf versions.

To give you a little sneak preview, here is an image of the cover for

“In Celebration of the Season:

Simple, Creative Ideas for Beautiful Gluten Free Holidays All Through the Year.”

Keep an eye out for our newest “baby” on Lulu, iBooks and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store. Please give us feedback and remember to please “like” our books. Positive votes are especially welcome. ;-)

By the way, this week also marks our two year blog anniversary. Thank you to everybody who has followed our posts, commented and continues to enjoy and support our website. We have loved hearing from all of you and we look forward to more frequent posting, before the Holidays and in the New Year.

Wishing you all a Wonderful Holiday Season!


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The old year has passed, and 2011 has come at last, opening the possibilities for change and new beginnings. Before delving into this new year, we wanted to thank all of our subscribers and faithful readers for your loyalty, commentary and support throughout this past year. We hope to continue to inspire you throughout this year with  creativity, humor,  tales of our travels and new ideas involving the gluten free lifestyle. You, our readers, motivate us and continue to make blogging a joy that we treasure. We celebrate you  and wish you and your loved ones the very best for this new year. May you be graced with blessings,  joy and insights.

As a result of this blog’s success, we have joined WordPress’ new weekly post challenge, committing ourselves to posting at least twice a week, every week throughout this year. Not an easy task, but we are up for the challenge. Hopefully….!?!

We exceeded our initial goal for 2010 for this blog and reached a viewership of over 10,000.  As you can imagine we are thrilled :-)

We just feel like dancing!

Check out our previous post for the details and a list of our most viewed posts.

Moving on,  we wanted to share some thoughts to inspire you.  During the last few days of December, 2010, we took the opportunity to visit Albuquerque’s River of Lights, a magnificent display of lights, presented every year by the local zoo and botanical gardens. It was bitter cold, our frozen fingers could barely hold on to the camera, but on the upside, we managed to get some great pictures. ;-) Thought you might enjoy a few examples of the Southwest during the holiday season. We also uploaded additional pictures to Flickr.

You know that you are in the Southwest, when you come across cacti decorated with lights. Ah, the magic of lights!

Of course, the inevitable question you are presented with in most restaurants is: Would you like red or green? Chili, that is!

Nature is full of genius, full of divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.

Henry David Thoreau

 

Who looks in the sun will see no light else; but also he will see no shadow. Our life revolves unceasingly, but the center is ever the same, and the wise will regard only the seasons of the soul.

Henry David Thoreau

Harpe de Lumiere, photo by Georges Noblet

The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day. The important thing is to never stop questioning;  never lose a holy curiosity.

Albert Einstein


Love is the song of the soul, singing to God.

Paramahansa Yogananda

Love all around!

…..You may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you’ll join us,
And the world will be as one.

John Lennon

Imagine, the possibilities are endless!

Dream big, see the possibilities, allow yourself to fail. Just pick yourself up and start again. See yourself anew!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

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