Cookie Hangover

I have a cookie hangover, and I’m not even eating any of them.

The fudge is the toughest thing to resist. I really like fudge. But after a few weeks on my elimination diet, even just drinking spiced cider this weekend was too much for me (not even hard cider, just normal old apple juice with mulling spices steeped in it). So I know that I would regret it if I ate fudge, even if it is for the noble purpose of clearing space in my fridge.

But wait! I have pictures! These are of the cookies and whatnot I set out for the little get-together we had at our place with a couple of our neighbors this weekend.

The spread (not pictured: two types of dip and two kinds of crackers. And all of the beverages and the fruit salad one of the neighbors brought. And the mini bagel pizzas.)

The neighbors did not eat nearly enough cookies. But they loved the tapenade I made, which is always gratifying. And we made a nice dent in the fruit arrangement my mom sent me for my birthday (she kept apologizing for sending it late, but it actually worked out very well, arriving just hours before our neighbors were due to come over). It turns out my children are very enthusiastic about eating fruit on skewers. I put their lunch fruit on skewers today. They ate everything but the kiwi.

Some closeups of the goodies. We still have the gingerbread house (fairly stale by now, but the kids are still nibbling away at it). And keep in mind that each of these made way more than pictured here.

Great-grandma's crumb cookies (3 cookie sheet's worth). And five colors of homemade buttercream (not shown). Clever me, I let the kids frost their own cookies. I'll think twice about that plan next year.

 

Fudge (one 9x13 pan) and chocolate chip cookies (3 dozen)

 

Sugar and spice cookies (3 dozen) and snickerdoodles (4 dozen)

 

Cheesecake bars and raspberry chocolate crumb bars (one 9x13 pan each)

 

If you’re local and want some cookies, please let me know when I can drop some off. My husband took a bunch to work this morning for a potluck luncheon, but there were too many other desserts there and he brought back 2/3 of what he took in. He says he can’t eat any more cookies. I think he’s just not digging deep enough. He could eat more if he really tried.

So, last week’s focus was cookies. This week’s focus is sleep. Unfortunately, it’s easier to bake cookies when my kids are around than it is to sleep.

Creating Treasured Childhood Memories: An Amateur’s Guide

Gingerbread house pieces ready to bake.

I stopped making the recipes passed down from my female ancestors when we started on our food sensitivity odyssey. For five Christmases, I searched out gluten-free, dairy-free alternatives that didn’t leave me feeling awful, but which lacked the taste of tradition in Great-Grandma’s crumb cookies or Great-Aunt Eva’s toffee. I realized this year that, while I’m fairly comfortable picking and choosing my Christmas traditions and/or making things up as I go along, my children had never eaten a snickerdoodle, and that just seemed wrong.

This year I’m saying, “To heck with GF/CF desserts!” I’m making six different kinds of cookies, a gingerbread house, and fudge. My husband’s taking some to a potluck at work, we’re taking some to a celebration at music class tomorrow, some to church this Sunday, and the rest (except the gingerbread house) we’re packaging up and giving to friends and neighbors. I’m not eating sweets at all this year, so we need to do something with the dozens and dozens of cookies I want to make, and if that serves to help us build community and get to know our neighbors, all the better.

Today the kids and I started just after breakfast and baked two batches of cookies and the pieces of the gingerbread house, which we assembled after lunch and decorated just before dinner.

Based on our baking day today, there are a few lessons that I could apply to our next baking adventure, if I manage to think of them ahead of it (which has never happened before, but I remain hopeful):

Sugar and Spice cookies.

1) Don’t try to do homeschool on a day I’m baking three batches of cookies and assembling a gingerbread house. (This one I knew before I started, although I did still momentarily suggest we do a math lesson instead of play outside while the base of the gingerbread house was setting up.)

2) Stop at one batch of cookies. While we cut out and baked the gingerbread house pieces this morning, we were all happy and joking and singing. When we made the sugar and spice cookies, my eye started to twitch when my son kept pretending to play the shell game with the dough balls my daughter was trying to arrange in a 3 by 4 array on the cookie sheet, and my daughter kept sneezing into her hands or picking her nose as soon as she came back from washing her hands. By the time the snickerdoodles were cooling and I got the kids outside to run off some of the sugar they’d been eating since breakfast, I’d yelled at my daughter and had to have extended huggle time with her to make things right. But I really enjoyed baking the first batch of cookies with my kids. It was nice, and I look forward to making one batch of cookies with them again.

Infinite snickerdoodles.

3) Put the cookies up high to cool. None of our moods were helped by the sugar rush my children (and especially my two-year-old) experienced after yoinking a half-dozen cookies from the cooling racks. Four of those my son just licked the powdered sugar from the tops, which I kind of view as worse than actually eating the darned cookies.

More snickerdoodles.

4) Go outside. If I must bake multiple batches of cookies in a single day, for love of Mike, take the kids outside between batches. We could have avoided so much crying and gnashing of teeth if I’d just preemptively taken us outside rather than waiting for the “That’s it. I’ve had it. Everyone out” moment. It was amazing how much difference it made just hanging out in the sun throwing rocks into our bushes and breaking up the two-inches of ice on top of the sandbox cover. We did this just prior to decorating the gingerbread house and when we came back inside, and despite my son’s not-so-subtle pilfering of peanut-butter cups and chocolate kisses and his rather dramatic reaction to the cinnamon imperials he decided to try (“Need water!” he cried, dribbling red, sticky drool all down his front and onto the floor), the decorating went remarkably smoothly. If I’d had the foresight to kick us all out between each batch of cookies, it’s possible the whole thing might have gone more smoothly.

Giant block of ice. It creaked and groaned when heard up close.

5) Arrange to find some item I thought was gone forever in the middle of a mommy-tantrum. We lost four picture books from the library two weeks ago. I’d looked everywhere for them, even going so far as to move the fridge out (twice). It was while I was muttering profanities to myself and clattering around in the skinny and impractical cupboard next to the stove looking for another cookie sheet that I saw the corner of a book. After 20 minutes of fishing with a yardstick and taking the flashlight back from my son, I stood triumphant, all four books now freed from their incredibly tight squeeze under the stove! If I could plan this kind of plot twist for every time I was in a surly mood, I’m certain I’d yell a lot less.

Completed gingerbread house, back view.

I still wish there were a quick-fix for my blasted temper, but in the end, the day turned out okay. While I was fixing dinner and the gingerbread house stood decorated, just daring the cats to lick it, my son sat on my daughter’s lap on the kitchen floor behind me while I chopped onions.

“You know, Mom,” my daughter said. “[Brother] and I aren’t just siblings; we’re life-long friends.”

It’s that kind of moment that gives me hope that, on the balance, the things I’m doing well as a mother will outweigh the things I’m doing embarrassingly poorly.

Maybe by the time I have grandkids, I’ll have this “creating treasured childhood memories” thing down a little better.

Completed gingerbread house, front view.

(If you’re interested in making your own gingerbread house (this was my very first ever gingerbread house, by the way), I used the recipe and instructions here, and was inspired by my friend Timbra’s annual tradition, described on her blog here (I have a feeling she yells at her girls less than I yell at my kids).)

As bonus, here are two in-process gingerbread house photos, just so it’s clear what exactly I undertook with my two kids today. And no, I will not be posting a photo of what my kitchen looks like right now.

House minus the roof (chimney is to the side).

Ready to decorate.

Cinnamon Rolls and Ugly Eggs: My Morning in Pictures

My husband took the kids to the playground and then out to lunch in advance of the snow storm this afternoon. I dedicated my alone time to preparing and eating food and getting dough on the camera.

First, I made Ugly Eggs. My preferred breakfast is one that I can make with whatever I happen to have in the house. Ugly Eggs fits this definition well because you can put pretty much anything in it. I’ve used peppers (both sweet and hot), mushrooms, asparagus, beans, potatoes, kielbasa, breakfast sausage, pepperoni, chopped turkey lunchmeat (not all at the same time).

If you, too, want to make Ugly Eggs, saute some veggies and meat together in a skillet. For this morning’s Ugly Eggs, I used 1/2 bell pepper, 1/2 small onion, and some chopped up leftover ham. While the veggies and meat are cooking, whisk up three eggs with some salt and pepper. When the stuff in the pan has begun to brown, pour in the eggs. Keep agitating with the spatula until they’re done to your liking (I like my eggs slightly browned, but I seem to be in the minority). Spoon into a bowl and eat with a fork (if you’re me) or a big spoon (if you’re my husband). If you’re neither me nor my husband, I suppose you can make up your own mind about what sort of utensil to use.

Some people put cheese on top. I do not.

Inspired by the decadence of my Ugly Eggs, I decided to make GF/CF cinnamon rolls. You can find the recipe I used here: Living Without – Cinnamon Rolls – Recipes Article. I didn’t have sweet rice flour so I used millet flour. I think next time I make these, I’ll try using the King Arthur multi-purpose GF flour. I ground my rice flour myself, but it wasn’t quite as fine as I would have liked. It didn’t stop me from devouring half of the cinnamon rolls within a couple of minutes of taking them out of the oven, though.

And now, the visual record of my food adventure this morning (as I try out the slideshow function on WordPress):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Popovers

Popovers, batch #4: Journey's end

The story of these popovers is the story of a journey.

It began with a trip to the store to buy gifts for a family in need. I went to one of those big combination discount store/grocery store places. I needed a glass container for the homemade sugar scrub I’d made the mom. Once I’d found that and looked at all of the other sale items in housewares, I headed back upstairs. On my way, there between the freezer cases was a display of deeply discounted items. Among them, King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour. The box was really banged up, but the bag inside was intact. The price was marked down from $6.99 to $3.49 and the ingredients didn’t include sorghum (which I strongly dislike), so I said, “Sweet!” and tossed it in the basket.

The next morning, I noticed that there was a recipe for gluten-free popovers on the back of the box. It looked very easy, so I whipped some up. They were delicious! And they looked like this:

Popovers, batch #1

How convenient that they had those little dents in them to hold jam or honey or whatever else (I considered putting turkey in them for lunch, but decided against it).

We liked them so much, we ate the whole batch, leaving none for my husband when he returned home from work that evening. So I made some more using the same recipe.

Popovers, batch #2

I was so thrilled with the popovers, I wanted to blog about them. I visited the King Arthur Flours website so I could link to the recipe. There I found a picture of a popover much different than the ones I had made. The ones on the website were puffy. Huh. I wonder why they didn’t puff when I made them? I posted a note to the website about it, commented about it on Facebook, then went searching online for more information about popovers.

With all of this research, I came to the conclusion that popovers are very temperamental creatures, and that I was trying to make them with three things working against me:

  1. Gluten-free: this messes up many an otherwise delectable baked good.
  2. Dairy-free: this usually is a non-issue for me, I just use rice milk and fake butter and all is well. But apparently popovers have strong opinions about cows.
  3. High altitude: this was the big kicker, I think. I’d forgotten that we’re between 4,500 and 5,000 feet in elevation at my house. It’s not always enough to make a big difference (rice takes longer to cook and my sister huffed and puffed a lot when she jogged when she visited us, but those are the biggest differences I’ve noticed). But from what I read in the New Mexico State University High Altitude Cooking Guide, altitudes as low as 3,500 feet could require recipe modification.

By this time, it was almost 11 at night, but I was a woman possessed. I decided to modify the popover recipe from the high altitude cooking guide to make it gluten-free and dairy-free and make one more batch before bed. The other change from the other two batches: I mixed the batter in the blender rather than with a whisk. They were puffier and cakier, but not popover-y.

Popovers, batch #3

The next day, I took a break from cooking popovers. I realized that I was acting a bit obsessive and I thought the least I could do was try to get a handle on myself by taking a break from actually cooking popovers. So, I ruminated and searched the internet and solicited suggestions and dreamed about baking popovers. Based on my research and my experiences with my prior three batches of popovers, I decided to use the King Arthur recipe as a guide and make four main modifications:

  1. less fat, a suggestion for high altitude baking
  2. higher initial oven temperature, also for high altitude baking
  3. preheating the muffin tin, something that was recommended on several popover recipes and that I later found was suggested in response to my query on the King Arthur site
  4. using light coconut milk, to try to approximate the properties of cow’s milk without the lactose and casein

This morning, I made up another batch.

Yes, dear reader, they puffed.

Puffy Popover. (Proud? Perhaps.)

Here is the resulting recipe, the culmination of much research and experimentation. Those of you at sea-level will likely be fine with the King Arthur recipe. Those of you who are at altitude but not GF/CF will probably be fine with the New Mexico State University recipe. But for those of you who are GF/CF and living above 4,500 feet, this could be your path to popover bliss. For those of you who don’t eat eggs, I’m sorry I can’t help you. My obsession carries me only so far.

Imperfect GF/CF High Altitude Popovers (inspired by the King Arthur Flours GF popover recipe)

makes 12

Ingredients:

1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I used King Arthur multi-purpose flour blend)

1/4 t xanthan gum

1/2 t salt

1 1/4 c “light” coconut milk, at room temperature

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 T vegan margarine, melted and divided (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)

Preheat oven and muffin tin or popover pan to 450°F.

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Combine coconut milk, eggs, and 1 T melted butter substitute in the carafe of a blender and blend until combined. Add dry ingredients and blend until smooth.

Remove pan from oven and brush cups with the remaining 1 T melted margarine. If there’s any butter leftover, pour it into the rest of the batter and mix briefly until incorporated. Pour the batter into the greased cups, evenly distributing among all 12 of them (about 1/2 to 2/3 full).

Place in 450°F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and cook an additional 25 minutes. Popovers are done when they are a tad browner than golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool just enough so you don’t burn yourself when you eat them. They have a nice hollow inside for all of the yummy stuff you might want to put in them.

My 5.5-year-old daughter likes them plain, my 16-month-old son (who can now say, “popover”) likes them with raspberry preserves, I like them with fake butter and real preserves. My husband hasn’t tried them yet, but I’m trying very hard to leave him a couple. Or maybe one. Half.

Autumnal Equinox and Apple Pie

Apple Pie

Apple Pie for the Autumnal Equinox

My daughter asked to make apple pie for the first day of autumn. She apparently got the idea from the book Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet Wong. As the title suggests, they bake an apple pie for Independence Day, but my daughter expanded upon the idea and made what I thought was a suggestion very appropriate to the season.

I don’t bake much pie. I make a squash pie a couple of times a year, but gluten-free pie crust is a real pain to work with, so I avoid it except on special occasions, like when I really want pie. And I don’t think I’ve ever made a double-crust pie as an adult. I used to help my mom bake apple and cherry pies, so I wasn’t flying totally blind, but I knew that I was running a risk by making a pie from scratch with my 5-year-old while my 13-month-old toddled about trying to climb up the stool and open the hot stove.

To lessen the chance of emotional explosion during pie prep, I peeled, cored, and chopped the apples last night. I was going to make the dough for the crust, but my husband suggested our daughter might be disappointed that she didn’t get to measure and pour the ingredients, so I waited. And went to bed early.

As luck would have it, I got about an hour of solitude before either child woke up for the morning, during which I sipped my tea and watched the clouds race across the sky (and then did dishes and checked e-mail). When my daughter awoke, we started on the pie immediately. When the baby woke up about 20 minutes later, I strapped him to my back, and we went back to work.

As predicted, the dough was temperamental and there was more filling than I’d counted on, but I managed to fit everything in and kind of tuck the crust around the edges. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.

We’re in that period full of possibility when we don’t know yet whether the pie will taste as good as we anticipate (or even if I cooked it long enough). For now, we’re just enjoying looking at the results of our work and enjoying the smell of apples and cinnamon. I might even make some vanilla ice cream to go with the pie tonight.

And I can say honestly that baking with my daughter was a thoroughly enjoyable experience this morning. Happy Autumn!