Nourish Your Body
With Fabulous Homemade Food
This recipe is actually from my past, but it was so delicious I still think of it today.
At the time I had two girlfriends with whom I would celebrate the seasons. We usually would get together and eat seasonal foods, some from our gardens depending on time of year, and we do various things appropriate to celebrating the season.
I particularly love celebrating Winter Solstice because it’s about the return of the light of the sun after the cold dark winter, and with the sun comes the return of food that nourishes all the rest of life. Winter Solstice was celebrated in all cultures in pre-Christian times. For me, it’s a nice way to connect with Nature with my friends.
In 2011 year had our Winter Solstice gathering on Solstice eve, the night before Solstice. Linda had read something about having a birthday party for the Sun, to bake a cake with an image of a Sun on it, and sing Happy Birthday to welcome the rebirth of the Sun in the new year. She asked me to bake and decorate a cake for the occasion.
I thought about this cake for days in advance and considered many different options. What cake to bake? How do I get an image of the sun on top? I considered using yellow icing to pipe or paint a sun, and creating a sun with careful placement of golden raisins. But everything I thought of didn’t seem quite right.
Then on the very day that the cake was needed, the perfect cake just came to me. I knew exactly what to do, what elements to bring together that would be exactly right in every way. I made a gluten-free almond cake, topped it with mascarpone cheese* instead of sugary frosting, then “painted” a sun on top with ginger-orange marmalade fruit spread (sweetened with grape juice concentrate). The translucent marmalade caught the light and made the Sun “shine.” For a final festive garnish, I sprinkled the top with curls of lemon zest, from a lemon I picked off the tree in my backyard. I gave the Sun eight points with a beeswax candle at each point to represent infinity and the infinite continuation of the return of the Sun year after year.
It was a truly stunningly beautiful cake, and amazingly delicious too. With the fresh lemon zest, the cake just smelled like winter in Florida, where citrus trees are everywhere, in almost every backyard.
I was happy that this cake captured the spirit of the Solstice, in the place where I live. Everyone loved it. I think I need to make this cake again.
Here’s a lovely holiday dessert that you can serve in slices or individual ramekins.
This three-layer dessert has a date-nut crust, a ricotta cheesecake and a beautiful topping of red cranberries and cherries—all sweetened with low-glycemic date paste.
I think it would look even prettier with pomegranate arils sprinkled on top like sparkling rubies, but I didn’t think of that until after I took the photo.
Here are some of my favorite holiday recipes for cookies and candies made gluten-free with natural sweeteners. Enjoy them yourself, give as gifts to family and friends, share them with co-workers, take them to parties. My gift to you for the holidays.
GINGERBREAD STARS DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE WITH HIMALAYAN SALT – This is my favorite holiday cookie, loved by everyone else I know too.
CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES + CHOCOLATE PFEFFERNUSSE – These are so delicious. Pfeffernusse is an old German cookie with black pepper.
COCONUT BUTTER CANDY – So easy to make and healthy too.
TOFFEE – This tastes just like toffee made with sugar, only better.
ENGLISH TOFFEE – My version of that famous “almond” candy so popular for the holidays.
SWEET & SALTY CARAMEL POPCORN – Great for parties, It’s like that famous popcorn treat that comes in a box.
CHEZ PANISSE GINGERSNAPS – Very buttery and decadent.
CHOCOLATE GLAZE IN WHICH YOU CAN DIP ANYTHING – During the winter, my favorite fruit to dip is fresh orange segments. Sooo good.
ALL-PURPOSE GLUTEN-FREE, SUGAR-FREE, DAIRY-FREE DOUGH FOR COOKIES, CRACKERS, PIE CRUST AND MORE – Try this recipe for your cut-out cookies.
SUGARPLUMS – From The Night Before Christmas..these are the sugarplums that dance in their heads.
ALMOND SHORTBREAD FOR CUTOUT COOKIES AND OTHERS – This dough is more difficult to work with, but more flavorful.
COCONUT SNOWBALLS – Made with coconut and coconut and coconut…a lovely winter treat.
The first time I ever saw these cookies—many years ago in my white flour, white sugar lifetime—I just had to make them. I think they are a perfect winter cookie because they look like snow has fallen all over this deep chocolate cookie.
This version is gluten-free and made from natural sweeteners. So if you are going to eat sweets, this is one of the better choices.
And after I made them, I suddenly thought of an old German Christmas cookie called Pfeffernusse, so I made another batch and added ground back pepper. When I was a child, a friend of mine from a German family always had them when I visited her house. It wasn’t until just now, looking up how to spell this cookie that I learned it’s a gingerbread cookie with pepper! So this Pfeffernusse is not traditional, but delicious just the same.
The proportions are slightly different to allow the Crinkle Cookies to melt and to allow the Pfefferneusse to hold in a ball.
For dinner on Day 1, I had created this Turkey Taco Salad.
I have a philosophy about salads:
- They can be “one bowl” meals.
- They should have a lot of raw greens.
- They should contain sufficient protein for a meal.
- They are a great way to make a healthy version of almost any food you love.
I love the flavor of Mexican tacos. And this has all the flavor of a taco, without the fried corn shell or the cheese. It’s all in the seasoning of the turkey. And then you make it into a big salad.
I made enough turkey for four salads. As long as I’m cooking, I might as well make enough for later. Then all I have to do is heat it up or nibble it cold. I make a point to always have a protein ready to eat in the refrigerator.
Now I have to tell you, at lunchtime yesterday my friend David came over at lunchtime. He didn’t come for lunch, he just was riding his bike past my house and stopped in. I was making lunch and he hadn’t eaten, so I offered him some of this turkey I had cooked the night before. He loved it so much he asked me how to make it. (And, he loved that I was eating a big salad. He wanted one too and happily munched a big bowl of lettuce and kale and whatever else he found in my refrigerator. He commented that he loved this big salad and I had transformed his thinking about what he might eat.)
The spiced pickled beets in this beautiful salad are made by fermentation, not vinegar. This way they are filled with natural probiotics that aid digestion.
It’s very easy. You just put all the ingredients in the jar and let it sit for three days and that’s it.
I’m going to give you a recipe for Spiced Pickled Beets. Then serve them in a bowl with sliced-in-half red grapes and pomegranate seeds on top. So good in so many ways.
I’m eating these almost every day for a mid-afternoon snack. I think a jar of these Spiced Pickled Beets would make a great holiday gift
I know it’s still two weeks until Thanksgiving, but really, aren’t you already thinking about what you are going to make? I am.
I’ve gathered up all my Thanksgiving recipes here for you. Take a look.
AMAZING ALMOND FLAXSEED QUICK BREAD – A great substitute for corn bread if you don’t eat corn.
BUTTERMILK CORNBREAD, CORNBREAD STUFFING, AND STUFFING SOUFFLE – This is the real thing, made gluten-free from 100% cornmeal.
THANKSGIVING GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE – This is that famous casserole, but made better from scratch.
BAKED SWEET POTATOES AND YAMS – No need for marshmallows on the yams.
THREE GLUTEN-FREE GRAVIES – Here are three different and all delicious ways to thicken your turkey gravy without wheat flour or cornstarch.
CARAMEL APPLE BREAD PUDDING – Here’s a wonderful change from pumpkin pie.
PUMPKIN PIE FOR EVERYONE – There’s no crust on this pie and no sugar, but it tastes sweet and everyone at your table should be able to eat it.
TWICE BAKED PUMPKIN – This is twist on twice-baked potatoes, where you roast the pumpkin, scoop it out, and bake it again with additions.
MY ROSS FAMILY MASHED POTATO SALAD – This is my favorite family recipe—mashed potatoes with potato salad ingredients added. Delicious!
About ten years ago my husband and I had a community Thanksgivng dinner in our back yard. It was just the best Thanksgiving ever. Here’s what I wrote afterward.
My husband and I just had the best Thanksgiving ever.
We invited members of our sustainable community group (plus other friends) to come to a “Thanksgiving Potluck in our Organic Garden,” and about thirty people attended.
It had been raining most of the week and even the night before, but the sun came out on Thanksgiving morning and the ground was dry enough by noon for us to eat in the garden as planned.
The forecast for the day said, “windy,” but in our little backyard microclimate there wasn’t more than a hint of breeze.
I love a good potluck. “Many hands make a good meal,” I said to my husband as I surveyed the feast laid out on the picnic table Larry’s father built by hand and gave us for our wedding present.
There was an abundance of delicious food. Recipes were requested. Cooking skills admired all around. The entire meal had been coordinated by my friend and co-hostess Joyce White, who managed to get just the right number of dishes for entrees, sides, salads, and desserts.
The thing about community is that it is a creation of all involved, as was this meal and this gathering. A group is what the individuals together create it to be. And that applies to a friendship, a marriage, a family, a community activity, a business, a nation, and a planet. We created a lovely experience of harmony and cooperation.
As soon as guests walked in the door they asked, “What can I do to help?” and before leaving, most guests helped clean up. They just saw what needed to be done and did it. One woman and her husband washed and dried all the dishes. Others carried chairs back indoors. By the time all the guests departed, there was nothing left for Larry and I to do but relax after a happy day.
The day before Thanksgiving, I was doing prep work in the kitchen. I started making turkey stock with roasted turkey wings so we would have plenty of gravy, and as I worked, I kept tossing bits of vegetables in the stock pot: the tops of celery stalks that would become stuffed celery, onion peelings and the ends of carrots grated for the cornbread stuffing. The stock became a “potluck” with bits of each of the dishes I was making. I liked that.
After all our guests were filled with food and fellowship, a chilly wind did blow in and along with it the next round of rain clouds. The break in the storms lasted just long enough for us to have our Thanksgiving in the garden, just as we intended.
Larry commented for many years Thanksgiving was celebrated by communities because people were helping each other survive and Thanksgiving truly was a celebration of having survived another year, and so we should always celebrate with our community that helps us survive—whoever that may be.
Since Thanksgiving is coming up, I thought I would share with you my favorite Thanksgiving recipe.
This is my #1 favorite childhood family recipe. It’s mashed potatoes with ingredients you would add to potato salad: hard-boiled eggs, raw onions, fresh parsley, and vinegar. So it eats like mashed potatoes, but tastes like potato salad. I just looked this up online for the first time and I see there are other recipes for mashed potato salad that use mayonnaise and mustard and pickles, but my recipe is simpler. And it’s authentic to my family.
We only ate mashed potato salad twice a year: at Thanksgiving and Christmas. So as I share this with you, it is with fond memories and with love from my holiday table to yours.
I have made this so many times. This actually is my personal version. The version that was handed down to me was made with white onions and white vinegar, served at my great-aunt Ollie’s house in Saratoga, California. She lived in a beautiful house in a forest that she and her husband had built. It was all glass around the exterior so you could see the trees and deer, and had a big round fireplace in the middle with a big copper hood. And these potatoes were always on the table.
After my great-aunt died, holiday dinners were at my father’s house, but we still had mashed potato salad. His new wife wanted to use green onions and she and I would argue about how much vinegar to use. I, of course, thought it should be MY way because the potatoes were from MY family.
And even though i only make mashed potato salad twice a year, it connects me to my roots.
Most gravies are made using meat or poultry stock and rely on the classic flour-and-fat method to thicken.
But lately I’ve been adding more plants to my diet and wanted to have the option of a plant-based gravy that still had the full flavor of a meal-based gravy.
So I played around with mushrooms last night and came up with something wonderful.
The combination of mushrooms, tamari and coconut aminos is delicious and the arrowroot thickens this gravy nicely without any fat at all.
It’s one of my new favorites.