Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's a Wrap

Oi! - sorry I haven't posted in forever. On break from school right now and so some semblance of a normal life has returned to my household. Should be able to squeeze in a few posts before the next terror is upon me semester-wise. p.s - what does 'oi' really mean anyway? and if i don't know, why do i use it.... ?

So, I have to confess that I don't really get into the holiday decorating spirit that much. Actually, truth be told, I don't get into it at all. As in, I still have my summer-themed wreath hanging on my front door. Sad, yes, I know.
I used to decorate and have an entire bin of holiday pretties in the attic but the actual act of using them has gone by the wayside over the past few years. It's for a number of reasons, none of which I can explain without being in my computer chair for hours typing, so we will leave that for another time (or maybe never at all), but let's just say this time of  year you won't find my house in the community holiday open-house parade. (Side note: Has anyone ever gone on one of those? I have always wanted to! - just to fulfill that nosy bone in me, i guess.....)
My mom, on the other hand, is a Christmas fairy. Or at least she would be if such things existed. Her house is perfectly decorated with holiday flowers, homemade centerpieces with dried cranberries and candles, and holiday cards displayed in a holiday sleigh. The tree is trimmed perfectly (okay, my dad helps with that a little), the holiday menus are planned deliciously, and there is fresh pumpkin bread and hand-squeezed orange juice for Christmas morning brunch. She makes gift lists (and checks them a gazillion times) and the gifts are arranged beautifully under the tree, a pile for each family member, wrapped to perfection. Really, she is amazing. I envy it. All that and a full-time job, too. (yeah, yeah, i know... and i can't even find time to empty my dishwasher everyday.)
Anyway, back to the wrapped gifts. My mom - a.k.a: Christmas fairy lady -  buys the best wrapping paper. Embossed, textured, glints of shimmery patterns in rich hues and color-saturated designs. Thick and heavy, it's the kind that scissors glide through with a satisfying 'zing' and that creases with perfection under your fingers. Soooooo much nicer than my usual dollar store roll of wrapping paper stuff.

Such a sad pity that it all goes into the trash after the festivities are over. :-( (I'm not even a huge save-the-earth activist person, but really, isn't it? I mean, aren't there groups out there, somewhere, picketing this time of year with 'save the wrapping paper' signs?)

And so, last year I didn't throw any of that  beautiful, expensive paper away. I opened all my gifts gently and re-folded the paper and brought it home with me. And this year I wrapped all my gifts in it! My family kidded me, my husband shook his head (endearingly!) as I smoothed it all out on the living room floor, and my local dollar store mourned the loss of my meager dollars, but I couldn't be more thrilled with myself! My gifts look great and I did good by both mother earth and my wallet. And yes, there might be a faint wrinkle here or there, or a crease down the middle of a package that wouldn't normally be there, but overall it won't change the way people look at, or feel about, the gifts under the paper. And you know that is the truth!

I am doing it again this year and I challenge you to consider it too. Or at least start out small and save the bows that people rip off and leave in heaps on the floor - all they need is a little spot of tape on their bottom to be good as new, you know......

p.s - ugh! I really wanted to post pictures of the above mentioned beautiful, 2nd-time-around-wrapped gifts but my camera bit the dust last week. Great timing, huh? Guess you'll have to just use your imagination.... if it helps, they paper was red with gold snowflakes....

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Get By With A Little Help From My Desserts

Well, so far my attempts at gluten-free/dairy-free/corn-free cooking and baking haven't been anything to celebrate. A so-so soup or two, lots of salads, bunless burgers smeared with avocado, rice noodles galore and one batch of very flat, very crumbly cookies. That's okay though - I am not getting discouraged! I know with a little more tweaking and playing with ingredients it will all come together. It has to because without the occasional (okay, weekly) treat I am pretty sure I would turn into an old scrooge! With that said, I will admit I am feeling more confident already, especially since this super yummy pie I made is living proof that deliciousness is (still) possible.
I used a recipe for the crust from GFE - - an amazing blog that is a miracle find for the newbie (or oldbie, too!) in the world of gluten free living. It took less than 5 minutes to make and was so tasty it fooled even Mr. 31, who did a double take when he saw me eating it. It makes a more crumbly, flaky crust than a rolled out dough would make, but we didn't even notice. For the pie filling I used a regular recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks and made the modifications I needed. Pecan pie calls for corn syrup, which doesn't work if you are allergic to corn, so I substituted honey for it. We noticed that after the first day the pie actually tasted sweeter - almost the way honey takes on a sweeter 'taste' as it crystallizes sometimes. I think next time I will use a portion of molasses mixed in with the honey. Any thoughts on this? Also, I can't use butter so I used Earth Balance Butter Substitute. It was the first time I used it... still a little up in the air with my feelings on it.
All in all the pie turned out great and we had no problem scarfing it up in a matter of days. (And yes, I did have a piece for breakfast one day. You know you would have done the same.)

No Roll, Never Fail, Press In Pie Crust (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Soy Free, Nut Free, Vegan)
1 ½ cup gluten-free flour mix (see notes)
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp milk (dairy or non-dairy)
¾ tsp xanthan gum (optional; see notes)
Sift flour, sugar, and salt into 9-inch pie plate.
In a separate small bowl or large glass measuring cup, add milk to oil and stir vigorously with a fork until oil turns into little droplets. (I usually measure my oil in a glass measuring cup and then add the milk to that cup.)Pour milk and oil mixture over dry ingredients and mix. (I just use the same fork that I used to mix the oil and milk. It works great.)Pat crust out with hands, trying to make thickness the same throughout and extending crust as high as you would like on the sides of the pie plate.

Fill and bake per your recipe. *On her blog Shirley mentions that you can use a variety of different flours it this recipe, according to what you like. Just be aware that changing the flours may change the consistency. Also, she noted that you could leave the xanthan gum is optional - I left it out because it is a corn derivative so its out of bounds for me.

 Pecan Pie Filling

3 eggs
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 c. sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 c. honey
1/4 c. Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, melted
1 c. pecan halves
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs with sugar, salt, buttery sticks, honey and vanilla. Add pecans and mix thoroughly. Pour in pie crust and bake for 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between outside and center of pie comes out clean.

Check out the fancy cut job. :-) Mr. 31 must have done that.....