Category Archives: Holidays

Dear Santa

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Chocolate Caliente a la español

Chocolate a la española/Spanish Hot Chocolate Photo by Kate Chan

A tidbit off my facebook posting just to help you get the context for my chocolate craving:

Dear Santa –

Please forgive my little imp’s exclamation of “Oh, shit!” when the gas fireplace burst to life the other day. And, well, her “What the hell is that, Momma?” query while we drove home and she saw strange sights through her side window in our quirky little town. After all, she did just give me the biggest, unrequested snuggly hug after her bath tonight.

And besides, we both know Momma and Papa deserve the coal for these infractions. But can you make my coal caffeinated at least? I need to keep up with her after all.

xoxoxoxo
~Kate

Get the picture?

Yes.  Tonight required much more than Calgon.

It was a hard-core, bring on the chocolately goodness that you have to sip off a spoon because it is slightly thickened and to-die-for.

Drink up.

Sip it all.

Lick the spoon and then ever crevice of your serving cup.

Sigh.

And post the recipe for someone else’s long day.

You won’t have any regrets.  Just delightful thoughts of chocolate, warm and toasty family cuddles and deep winter sleeps.

It’s HOT CHOCOLATE SEASON!  Wahooo!

Spanish-style hot chocolate
Serves 1.5 chocolate lovers or 2.5 chocolate sippers (if those types exist.  LOL)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup half and half
4 ounces chopped chocolate (semi-sweet OR dark chocolate)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cold water
vanilla extract OR peppermint (that…would not be Spanish but it would be good!)

1. Heat milk and cream over medium-low heat until warm. STIR constantly to avoid scalding milk.
2. Stir in chocolate pieces and continue stirring until completely melted. Add the extract of your choice.
3. Mix together water and cornstarch until it is smooth. Add to chocolate. Continue to stir until the hot chocolate thickens to a thin pudding. Remove from the heat.
4. Serve with whipped cream (ideally) or mini-marshmellows (if necessary).

If you use dark chocolate, people in Spain have been known to sprinkle a little sugar on top for added sweetness.

Recipe serves 2-3 in demistasse cups OR just one if they have a huge chocolate craving!

Happy Gluten Free Chocolate Days, all!
~Kate

 

Gluten Free Pumpkin Fries

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Gluten Free Pumpkin Fries

Tomorrow shall be a BIG adventure for our little one.  We are off to a pumpkin farm with her Aunt Kari.  Pumpkins are a big theme around here. I’m not sure that Zoe will actually let me cut into the pumpkin she picks out to make a Jack-O-Latern with her.  She won’t let me touch the two little ones that she has now.   The other day she wanted to draw a face on the little pumpkins but when she saw that the marker wouldn’t come off, she wigged.  No pumpkin coloring for her yet.  Maybe when she sees ALL of us cutting and carving pumpkins, she will change her mind.  I’m willing to bet that she will be thrilled to see me carve *my* pumpkin but that she is not going to allow a knife anywhere near her pumpkin.

Case in point:  the pumpkin fries.

I bought two small pumpkins (about 2 pounds each, I think) to make pumpkin fries.  Zoe likes squash so I though she might like to try these pumpkin fries.  However, when I went to cut the pumpkins, she wasn’t happy.  In fact, I had to put the pumpkins aside and get her occupied doing something else.  Like play with her lavender-orange scented rice with scoops and funnels.

Playing with textures
Playing with textures by Kate Chan

Looking on

Then, and only then, could I start peeling and chopping.  Once she saw me happily peeling and preparing the pumpkin fries, there was no problem. She wanted to see the inside “guts” of the pumpkin and we talked about roasting the seeds, etc.

Zoe snuggled up next to my legs drinking her juice and munching on GF cheese crackers as I was prepping the pumpkins. And Rory was in a bouncing chair nearby watching it all go down and cooing away. It brought back memories of standing on chairs around our kitchen table as a kid while I scooped out the pumpkin I was going to carve.  I thought about how much fun I will have when both girls are old enough to carve pumpkins around the kitchen table with me.  Oh, the joy of two little ones.  I just hope time doesn’t steal all of the good opportunities away from me with it’s speed.

I’m going back to work a week from today.  It’s killing me.  Every second that I can, I am listening to the girls.  Rory’s little coos are enough to make time stop and fairies rejoice.  Zoe’s stories keep me company everywhere we go.  She and I headed to the cell phone store (again…really obnoxious third visit in five days….grrrrr) and she kept me laughing the entire ride, wait and trip home.  She tells great jokes (okay… repeating the same joke 700 times really does wear you down and make you laugh more somedays) and she loves to learn.  Both of these girls are the absolute joys of our lives.

Leaving the tiny moments to return to the ebb and flow of traffic, “to do” lists, papers to grade, lessons to write, emails to answer, etc has me just at the edge of breaking.  I can’t imagine what I will miss with them.  I don’t want to even think about it.  I can’t.  It hurts too much.  Instead, I am just trying to take comfort in the times that we will be together and the plans and things that we can do together then.  After all, I am incredibly lucky to be a teacher in the sense that I will have more time with my girls than some friends of mine who work a full calendar year.  I’m just worried about the fact that a teacher’s job doesn’t end when the school day does.  I work until 11PM sometimes and usually on Sundays too.  I’m worried about the impact on my family and my girls.. and to me, to a lesser extent.  I am definitely in need of setting some different professional expectations for myself as well.

I want more time with my kids.

More time to play in the buckets of rice.

More time to watch the seasons changing and teach them about the leaves changing colors, etc.

More time to cook and eat healthy food at a normal paced and not rushing through everything.

More time to listening to the stories that bloom from our days and adventures together.

More time to hear the coos turn into words and into stories of their own.

Just more time.

We all want that, don’t we?

So I guess I will just seize the opportunities as they come and as we make them.  Like making pumpkin fries and talking about Halloween when I was little with them.  And for those of you who are curious, Zoe is not interested in dressing up this year for Halloween.  She doesn’t think it sounds like fun (yet) to be wearing a costume or a wig or make up, etc.  Ah well, more time for me to savor my little one at home.  (And honestly?  MUCH less temptation to eat too!  We are giving out mini Play-doh containers.  Those leftovers will surely be loved to bits by the girls and my high school students.  LOL)

Since it is pumpkin season, now is the time to make your own pumpkin fries and relive or create some memories.  I made two batches of oven baked fries.  One was savory and the other cinnamon-sweet.  Both will enjoyed by Zoe and I.  We highly recommend you giving them a try yourself too!

Cutting pumpkin fries

Cutting pumpkin fries, Photo by Kate Chan

Gluten Free Pumpkin Fries

Ingredients (per batch)
1 two pound + pie pumpkin

for Savory fries:
olive oil
salt
pepper
optional: ground garlic, ground ginger

for Sweet fries:
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Optional:  1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Peel and scoop our pumpkin.
  3. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Cut pumpkin into fries.  (I cut mine into 3-4 inch long sticks that are about 1/2 inch thick.)
  5. Toss one pound of the cut fries in a tiny bit (maybe 1 tablespoon, or two?) of olive oil with salt and pepper (to taste).  Consider tossing in some of your other favorite spices combinations like:  ground garlic +ground ginger, cumin + fennel, etc.
  6. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar.  Toss the remaining pumpkin fries in the cinnamon sugar mix.
  7. Spread savory fries out in a single layer on one prepared cookie sheet and the sweet fries on another.
  8. Bake the fries in the oven for 20 minutes.  Then remove the pans.  Flip the fries over.  When you return the fries to the oven, be sure to rotate the pans as well.  Whichever was on the top shelf, move to the bottom and vice versa.  Continue baking another 15 – 25 minutes or until the fries are crispy and a deep golden brown color on the edges and the top.

Enjoy with your favorite meal – or eat them for dinner like Z & I did!

Happy Gluten Free Eating!
~Kate

GF:Blueberry-Apricot Oat Bars

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GF:Blueberry-Apricot Oat Bars, originally uploaded by Kate Chan.

A gentle GF warning: Your gluten-eating friends will clean you out of these addicting bars when you take them to share to summer BBQs and parties this year. Just prepare yourself by maybe placing a few gluten-free slices on a separate plate before the gluten-grubbers dig in and lose are perspective on maintaining a gluten free dish for you.  :D

Life is good around our house. Unlike most Pacific Northwesterners, I have not be lamenting our lack of warm temperatures but I have missed seeing the sunshine. I think being pregnant has made me even more sensitive to the heat than I was before – which isn’t always comfortable. However, with no sunshine and raining/gloomy days, it has been hard to find time to enjoy the outdoors with Zoe as much as I would like. Today, however, is looking to be over 80F and it’s sunny already at 7:30 in the morning! Perfect timing! Our “water table” fund reached the goal and along with a gift card and a coupon, the little Chicklet has a new water-addiction table for the backyard. I can’t wait to play with her today in the yard! She’s going to love it!

Since backyard play has been far from on the agenda, she and I have been cooking up a storm when I can. (The doctor has ordered “modified bed rest” which generally equates to a whole lot of laying on my left side these last several weeks.) Only two more weeks to go for the official “due date” is upon us. Everyone in the family is anxious for a firm DATE for the baby’s arrival. The doc tells us he’d play the lottery rather than work if he could truly call baby birth dates accurately. So… we wait.

Thankfully, my mom and dad are probably going to make it. My dad has been in the hospital a few times this summer with heart issues and his travel will officially be approved or denied at a doctor’s appointment on Thursday. And while I am seeking the comfort of my mom and dad during this new experience, my dad’s health is first and foremost on my mind. The baby will come when s/he decides. Dad/Mom need to come when they can. :D

In addition to welcoming my parents, Zoe will not only be meeting her new sibling for the first time but also meeting FOUR cousins (ages 1 – 8) and an aunt too. My in-laws are taking a road trip in a week or so from Chicago through Colorado, Las Vegas, Washington State, and California with FOUR kids in the car and three adults. They are completely outnumbered and I’ve told them I can’t figure out if they are super brave or ridiculously insane. Regardless, I am looking forward to meeting my twin nieces (age 1) for the first time and my nephew (age 3) for the first time too. It’s going to be baby/kid central in our house for a while, I think.

So now you see why I am getting a few recipes and some baking in now. Not only am I anticipating the need for some recovery time for my Love, the Chicklet and I , but there are going to be a few adjustments to be made that are beyond my control in the beginning of this new little life. However it all works out, I am thrilled to have family around to welcome her/him to our little clan.
So, I’ll start by sharing a recipe that Z and I made for a drop-in lunch with my sister. The beautiful part about having friends/family around who eat sweets is that I can BAKE SWEETS! My Love is not a sweet-eater (something I’ve mentioned before) but I have to keep saying it. People email asking for sweet treat recipes and I think how delicious it sounds…. And then I think about the dozens of cookies or pans of delectables that will be in the house that only I will consume… and THAT becomes a problem. :D So when you know you can bring the pan of goodness over to someone’s house to share? I’m all over it!

This bar recipe is super. You can make the base or the filling layers be as thick or thin as your heart’s desire. These are sweet, but you control the sugar based upon how sweet your fruit it. And PLEASE! Vary your fruit to your tastes and seasons! I happened to have had some delicious blueberries on hand (like 6 quarts!) that I wanted to use up, so this was perfect for me.

I hope you enjoy these bars as much as my family and I did.

Gluten Free Blueberry-Apricot Oat Bars
Recipe makes one 8 ½” x 8 ½” pan of bars
You can find a printable copy of this recipe here.

Filling Ingredients:
1 ½ cups chopped dried apricots (put 2 cups dried apricots into your food processor to chop easily)
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar (ADJUST this more/less based on how sweet your berries & juice are!)
1 Tablespoons cold water – reserve
1 teaspoon cornstarch – reserve

Crust & Crumble Topping Ingredients:
1 ½ cups GF oats
½ cup GF oat flour (grind 2/3 cup GF oats in blender/processor to flour)
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon each: dried orange peel and freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup slightly softened (or room temperature) butter

Directions:

  1. Put the chopped apricots, blueberries, orange juice, sugar (to taste) and lemon juice into a pot on the stove. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 – 12 minutes. (Do step 3 while your fruit simmers.)
  2. Mix the teaspoon of cornstarch into the 1 Tablespoon of cold water. Pour this mixture into the simmering fruit. Stir together and simmer for another 2 – 3 minutes until thickened.
  3. Mix together all crust ingredients in the bowl of your mixer.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  5. Press ½ of this mixture into the bottom of a 8 ½” x 8 ½” pan.
  6. Pour your fruit mixture over the bottom crust.
  7. Crumble the remaining crust mixture over the top.
  8. Bake at 350F for 30 – 35 minutes or until your crumble topping is golden brown.
  9. Allow to cool before serving as bars– or serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.

Enjoy it while it lasts!

Happy GF Eating, All!
~Kate