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from Gluten-Free Goddess

You’ll find the recipe here!

And with this recipe, we wrap up my Holiday 2010 Baking Marathon. I didn’t make a single savory item- not from scratch anyway. It was all about sugar and flour and fruit this year for Wootie. After making this pumpkin cake (like 6 times) from The Gluten-Free Goddess, I thought I would try out another of her recipes for Christmas dinner with my family. You might recall that my sister has trouble with gluten and soy, so again I turned to the source of what has become one of my favorites. This cake was really good, but it was almost too reminiscent of the pumpkin bundt- I think due to the buckwheat flour. Still a really tasty, moist and satisfying cake! Spicy and weighty, with little fruity chunks of heaven. I’ve never used cranberries in the kitchen, so there’s another item to cross off my list of things to try. I have some leftover, so we’ll see what else I can come up with. Any suggestions?
One of my favorite things about this cake is how pretty it is. The colors are so festive, and the way that sugar glistens on top is quite fetching, if I do say so myself. Topped with some Coconut Bliss, and things became REALLY FETCHING. It was a really nice way to wind down our busy Christmas day.

from ExtraVeganZa by Laura Matthias

4 medium pears, ripe
1 1/2 c vanilla soy milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c maple syrup
2 1/2 tbsp whole or sifted spelt flour (I used all-purpose; she says any other flour works well)
2 tsp arrowroot powder
1/8 tsp cardamom, ground

Peel, core, and slice the pears into thin, bite-size pieces. Place them in a medium saucepan and saute on medium heat, stirring the pears so that they do not stick to the pan. Be sure to use ripe pears, as they will help provide enough juice to keep the pears from sticking. Add the ground cardamom and continue to stir.

In a separate bowl, place the remaining ingredients and whisk them together thoroughly. Pour this mixture into the saucepan with the pears and whisk together. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue whisking for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the mixture evenly into 4 small dessert serving bowls. Chill the pudding for a couple of hours until set. Serves 4.

For Christmas morning, we were invited to my husband’s family’s farm for a potluck. They had decided on a theme of Turkish Breakfast- did you know that Saint Nicolas was from Turkey? It was really nice having a theme when trying to pick out food to share. It ended up being a really great brunch: the hostess and her daughter made bagels (the highlight for me- they were SO GOOD and chewy!). My mother-in-law made some delish potatoes fried in olive oil, and my sister-in-law made lentil soup, which was so good it made me mourn the fact that lentils and I don’t get along. There were some egg dishes as well, though I didn’t pay much attention to those… and we had this pudding after we cleared the dishes from the main course. There were also cookies served along with it, but they weren’t vegan.
I chose this pudding because of the cardamom. And because I love pears. Who doesn’t? Cardamom is a key flavor in the Turkish food and drink. The simple ingredient list, as well as the potential for transportation, were what sold me on this recipe (I made two double batches, and just chilled them right in the pots I cooked them in that we transported in the cooler). Aside from peeling and cutting the pears, this pudding was really easy to make; just a bit time consuming (we had 16 pears to prepare! Thank goodness Mike was a willing helper with that. Plus he got me a sweet new knife for Christmas, so that made it go faster too. xo!). Once those pears were in the pot, things went pretty quickly, and it began to look like pudding within a few moments of adding the whisked ingredients into the soft cooking pears. We ended up having a LOT of leftovers, so when a little vegan-pizza-and-cocktail party descended upon our house the night after Christmas, I was prepared with plenty of dessert for all.
The flavor of it is pretty intense with the vanilla, but I’m not sure it was the best vanilla flavor. I might try plain soy milk next time, and use some vanilla bean scrapings for a more genuine flavor. The texture of the pudding is really good. Which is weird to say about pudding- but it’s not uniform! There’s the pudding, and then there are the pear chunks. I think adding some granola in there would be over the top yummy for brekkie. Oh, and baby loved it. It was just the fuel she needed for her first horse ride!

Hi there. Oh! You two haven’t met? This here is my favorite cookie in the entire world:

Candy Cane Cookies

adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, First Edition

1/2 c Earth Balance vegan margarine, at room temperature
1/2 c shortening
1 c confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill egg substitute, mixed with 3 tbsp warm water
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
6-8 drops red food color, optional (I didn’t use a natural food dye here, but by all means, go for it if you’d rather!)
1/2 c crushed peppermint candy

Heat oven to 375F. Place parchment paper on your cookie sheet. Mix thoroughly margarine, shortening, confectioner’s sugar, egg substitute, and flavorings. Blend in flour and salt. Blend in food color, then crushed peppermint candy.

Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into balls, then flatten into discs. Place on the prepared cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart. They don’t spread much, if at all. Bake about 9 minutes, or until set and very light brown (check the underside of one). Once the cookies have cooled on the sheet for a few minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

One of my favorite food memories is associated with this cookie. My mom made them for Christmas when I was in Kindergarten, and she packed one in my lunch. I don’t think I’d had them before because I remember falling in love with a cookie for the first time during a sunny recess in that California schoolyard. I was lost in the almondy goodness, the density that is almost like shortbread, with that hint of salt taking the edge off the sweet. I was a changed person.
Originally this cookie is supposed to be shaped like a candy cane- with only half of the dough getting the red food dye- then you twist two 4-inch ropes together, and curve them to shape them like canes. However 1) I lack the patience for this, 2) My candy canes would continue to grow larger as I made them, 3) They would always be burned on the ends or raw in the middle- and in the case of the larger ones in the end of the batch- a dreadful combo of raw AND burned. I had to adjust. Plus, spending that much time working with dough meant more opportunity for me to consume said dough. As heavenly as the dough is… it’s not meant to be.
This is one of those cookies that people seem to either really love, or they’ll simply tolerate. I always make a double batch in case I find myself surrounded by a group of people that fall into the former category. Plus, they’re a nice cookie to have on a platter at a party- they offer some contrast if you have a lot of darker cookies and fruitcake bars, like I did this year. They refuse to go unnoticed!  I also tried a new (to me) recipe from this book:

Peppernuts

1/2 c shortening
3/4 c brown sugar (packed)
1 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer, mixed with 3 tbsp warm water
1/2 c molasses
1/2 tsp anise extract
1 tbsp hot water
3 1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper

Heat oven to 350F. Mix thoroughly shortening, sugar, egg replacer, molasses, anise extract, and water. Blend in remaining ingredients. Knead dough until of right consistency for molding.

Using a melon baller, scoop dough into 1-inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes, or until golden brown on bottom. Store in airtight container.

These were so-so. I had hoped for something spicier! They were also a little dense and dry, but the recipe suggested storing them with a slice of apple for softer cookies. That’s something I should have tried, but the only apple I had was one that I wouldn’t be slicing until I made my apple cake for Christmas dinner- and that wasn’t happening for a few more days! Still, these are a nice cookie when you’re looking for one that isn’t as sweet. I will make these again, mostly because I’m curious about what they would be like with more anise extract (the original recipe calls for 3 drops of anise oil, not available in my store- I don’t know how it would compare to the extract so I used a modest amount), and I’d use more white pepper. I’d also make the cookies a bit bigger- in hopes of finding a softer center! The cookies were good, they all disappeared, and baby girl loved them. I just want them to be divine.
Also on my cookie platter this year: Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles, and Fruitcake Bars, both from this, my favorite cookie book. I also made a whopping SIX batches of these Spicy Maple Glazed Walnuts from Shutterbean to give along with my cookies to neighbors and as stocking stuffers and hostess gifts. Spicy and sweet and very well received.

Happiest of Holidays to you, dear reader! Here are a few things that I’ve been working on this past month. The secret ingredient is LOVE! With a few shots of caffeine….

Here is a Cuddle Kitty Toy that I made for the lovely little girl that I watch regularly. I’ve missed her over Winter Break- her mom is a teacher. I’m sure they’re having fun together… Still, I can’t wait to see her next week.

You might know how fond I am of making multiples when crafting- and you might recall how much I enjoyed making this Collapsible Shopping Tote. Well, I had made a set of 4 since the original post, and given them away as gifts, and got such great feedback (and loved using the original that I made myself), that I just had to share the greatness of this tote with the rest of my loved ones. Here are nine of The Twelve Totes of Christmas. I hope that they are all well used!  This pattern alone has made One Yard Wonders one of my favorite sewing books so far!

And last, but definitely not least, a gift for my sister. From (drum roll please…) Prudent Baby.

I just knew I had to make these for her when I first saw this tutorial. Jacinda sold me on those fabric covered buttons like nobody else could. And let me tell you, they were even more fun than I was expecting. So satisfying! I can’t really describe. I got so into assembling them that after I finished 10 of them (yeah I only needed enough for 8 napkin rings, but they came in packs of 5 and I COULD NOT STOP), my thumb was really sore from shoving them together. It hurt so good! I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Aren’t they fabulous? These are actually the completed napkin ring closures. A fabric button sewn to a regular button. I used embroidery thread and an upholstery needle- it got complicated with plain old sewing thread.

Here is the other side of the napkin ring, with the unexpected side of the button closure. How slick would it look with the fabric covered button here too? I wanted to show you variety though, so… Here.

Another reason that I was so interested in this one was the button holes. I haven’t done any on my new machine, which I got last March, and I figured it was time. One of my more recent goals is to challenge myself with sewing projects, so here we go, right? Due to the thickness of the project, the button holes did not come easily. But my mom came to the rescue! She suggested that I put a piece of paper under the project as reinforcement before I try to sew the button hole. Prior to doing so, the feed dog (those grippy teeth that hang out just below the presser foot that help to move your sewing project along while the machine stitches) wasn’t moving the project at all, and my blood was boiling! It was almost Christmas and I was supposed to be wrapping this gift, instead of being 16 impossible button holes away from finishing. NO! So, yeah. Plain old printer paper works. Just a little piece. Give it a try.

Now, to start scheming for next year’s gifts…

A week before Halloween, I decided to make this costume. In the past, I would have these HUGE costume birthday parties the weekend before Halloween, and in the last few years, I’ve somehow lost the urge to spend an entire month preparing for my birthday drinking weekend. I was actually really let down by myself; that I wasn’t eager to find or make the perfect costume for my little one- something that I’d always looked forward to doing as a mom. But that urge kicked in as I was dredging through the limited selection of reduced price costumes online a mere seven days before my favorite holiday. I saw a costume like the owl one pictured above in a virtual shop that my bestie showed me back in August, but it was too springtime flowery and too spendy. It haunted me as Halloween got closer. Finally, when it seemed that I already had too much on my plate between trying to finish up a commissioned portrait, taking a watercolor class, and the rest of daily life, the urge really struck.
Six days before the holiday, we headed out to the fabric store to purchase our fabrics. I used scrap felt for the eyes and beak, a scrap of fuzzy fleece for the chest and face, and the rest is purchased flannel, perhaps about a yard in total. I did a few sketches, and used an existing hood from one of her sweatshirts and a tighter hat as a guide for the owl’s head, and then constructed the rest of it on my own. I must say, I work best under pressure. Because in those six days, I was able to finish a 3×4 foot portrait of my nephew dog, prepare this cake (for the 4th time, with raisins, BOMB!) for mine and my mom’s birthday, spend a day with mom, learn some new watercolor techniques, carve some pumpkins (see below) and bust this costume out.
I’ve taken some pattern drafting classes in the past, and I must say, if you like to sew, and want to learn to sew your own clothes that fit perfectly, I highly recommend seeking some out. It definitely helps if you are one of those people who enjoys visualizing and translating a three dimensional idea into a two dimensional pattern and back into a three dimensional product, but it’s something that you can definitely get better at. I found my class at our community college, and learned SO much in just two trimesters.
I don’t have a pattern for this costume 1) because I didn’t have time to make one and document as I worked, and 2) because it’s so similar to the one I was inspired by. Next year though, I’m thinking ahead. I’m going to start early. It’s going to be fabulous. Hold me to this. Please.
Another festive thing that took place were these bars:

Salted Caramel Popcorn Pretzel Bars adapted from Shutterbean

Nonstick cooking spray
12 cups plain popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels or 2 microwave packages)
4 cups coarsely chopped small salted pretzels
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
2/3 cup Unsweetened MimicCreme
2 cups (1 package) Dandies vegan marshmallows

Coat a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large (your biggest!) bowl, toss together popcorn, almonds and pretzels.  In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium high.  Boil, undisturbed, until mixture is amber in color–8-12 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in cream (mixture will sputter).  Immediately add marshmallows; stir until melted.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pretzels and quickly stir with a rubber spatula to coat.  Transfer mixture to dish and use a dampened hands to press the mixture into the pan.  Sprinkle with a heavy dose of kosher salt.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

They were SO GOOD. I veganized them, using this awesome product called MimicCreme that I found recently at my market, in place of the heavy cream, and Dandies vegan marshmallows in place of the regular marshmallows. Those marshmallows have the best flavor, I had to resist eating half the package. It paid off, and these made such great treats to share with friends and family. As Shutterbean shared with me, the recipe claims to make 12 servings, but those would be HUGE. I ended up with 24. And I’m the queen of out of proportion portions! I’d recommend chopping up the marshmallows so that they melt more easily- though they aren’t jet-puffed, they’re not minis either! They’re much denser with a better flavor than the regular nastioso marshmallow. A special thanks to Bean for coaching me through this- from not disturbing the boiling sugar mixture to reassuring me that this concoction really WILL fit into that 9×13″ pan!
And, here are my pumpkins. I like to wait until just a few days before Halloween so that they don’t get all yucky and moldy, needing a shovel to be disposed of. Also, I was smart this year and wore vinyl (Latex would work too, if you aren’t allergic like me) gloves to guard against that awful dry skin that I always get from carving multiple pumpkins. I can’t believe it took me so many years to figure this out. I always do a kitty as my warm-up pumpkin. It’s tradition:

I hope that you had a happy Halloween!