Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Recap

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, and that Santa was good to you. Our family had a terrific Christmas; lots of parties, good food, and great company. On Christmas Eve we went to a get-together with Flamenco Dad's siblings and their respective spouses/significant others, our nieces, and my MIL. I showed up with the Amariette cookies, which were a big hit with the family. I also made some chocolate chip and sugar cookies, which the kids promptly gobbled up.

Getting the kids together with my MIL just to take this photo was a bit of work! Keep in mind that kids LOVE making silly faces whenever a camera is waved in front of them. And this motley bunch of kids is no exception. But we're pretty happy with the results (though Ayden, the only boy in the group, could not be cajoled into looking directly at the camera) --and grandma now has a recent picture of her with her grandbabies to display at home and at the office.

Christmas Day we went to the home of Flamenco Dad's aunt and uncle, where we and a bunch of our relatives got our party on. One thing I love about marrying into a big family is the parties! It's very reminiscent of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," only with Puerto Rican food and Salsa music blaring in the background. Dad and Zoe performed a few Christmas songs together; and I even got in on the performing this time, dancing some flamenco for the guests. We stayed up quite late and the kids were exhausted afterwards, but it was a wonderful end to a great Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cookie Party

My little friend in the photo looks like he's deep in thought, busy pondering which cookie to eat first. Even though less than 2 weeks ago I proclaimed that I was placing a moratorium on baking cookies for Christmas, the kitchen was calling me; thus I donned my apron and got busy. The cookies in the first photo are the lovely and oh-so-simple peanut butter cookies that Shauna Ahern (aka the Gluten-Free Girl) posted last year. You can have a gander at that recipe here.

Now these lovelies here are from a recipe shared by the uber-talented Dawn. I became acquainted with her through a forum for stay-at-home moms. Dawn is a FABULOUS cook; her authentic Italian recipes make me miss all the great Italian food I had the pleasure of eating growing up in Brooklyn. Her recipes are not all gfcf, but these cookies are. These delicious almond cookies have earned a place among my favorite Christmas cookies. Zoe took some to school to share with her teachers and classmates, and everyone loved them. Eager to share the recipe, I asked Dawn if I could post it here, and she happily obliged. Thank you!

Amariette Cookies
recipe courtesy of Dawn

7 egg whites
2 1/2 cups white sugar (Superfine sugar, or process regular sugar in your food processer till its really fine.)
2 pounds ground almonds
2 tablespoons almond extract
1 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup granulated sugar for decoration
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Beat egg whites and sugar until fluffy. Add the ground almond and almond extract, mixing well. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, roll in sugar and put a piece of almond or candied cherry on top.
(I use the candied cherries) Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees F) until firm. Bottom should be light brown.

P.S. I know that most of the county is either buried in snow and/or slush, or is just plain freezin'. The greenery in the background of my photos may make you long for warmer climes. Please know I'm sending warm thoughts, and hopefully sunny skies, your way.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Getting Into the Spirit

We've been celebrating the successful completion of the semester, which means yours truly hasn't had too much time for cooking or blogging. I got straight A's, internets! This overachiever is glad school's over for now; I've got a few weeks off before the new term starts on January 7.

I baked a gfcf chocolate cake for the family to enjoy this weekend (thank you Bob's Red Mill for making my life easier). Though I'm not a huge fan of cake mixes in general--I am more of a do-it-yourself type--sometimes a little help from some gluten-free friends does the trick. The cake was simply decorated with a dusting of sugar. We got our chocolate fix and the kids got to help, which they love to do.

We attended a going away party for a buddy of ours who is moving to Seattle at the end of the month. Our friend Justin has played with Flamenco Dad in the past; and to celebrate the start of a new chapter in his life, everyone was invited over to jam. Zoe, who is nothing if not a ham (gee, I wonder where she got her love of performing?), gleefully offered to sing a tune for all the party guests. And since it's Christmastime, she picked a favorite.

Monday, December 10, 2007

In The Home Stretch

My last final is tomorrow, and I've done pretty much everything in my power to avoid studying for it. We bought and decorated our tree, wrote out the Christmas cards, visited the Buddhist temple for lunch again yesterday, and even put lights up in front of our house. Anybody who knows Flamenco Dad and me knows that we do as little outdoor decorating as we can get away with, so the fact that I went out and bought lights and helped put them up means that my study avoidance thing is in full swing. Now, it's time to get to business.

So no more foolin' around--next time I post here, I will have officially finished the semester. I mean it. Really. I promise.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's That Time of Year

Getting my kids to sit still long enough for a decent picture feels like an exercise in futility. I try to take a nice picture of them every year for our Christmas cards; sometimes, the results are great. Sometimes not so much. This is the one we're going with this year. Mind you, this picture isn't perfectly centered; but I'll crop it and it should work just fine. Thoughts?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Is There Such a Thing as Autumn Rolls?

I wasn't going to let yesterday's somewhat disappointing experiment get me down. Today I made some fantastic (if I do say so myself) summer rolls. The rolls are filled with cooked shrimp, Thai basil, mint, shredded carrot, rice noodles, lettuce, and bean sprouts. I served them with a sweet chili sauce I picked up at the supermarket. The sauce is not too spicy, but it gives the dish just the right amount of saltiness, sweetness, and heat.

By the way, these are the wrappers used to make the rolls. They come in hard, transclucent sheets that are softened by dipping them in warm water. The rolls are done similar to burritos or wraps, so if you know how to roll a burrito you can make these in a snap.

The most important thing when it comes to making dishes like these is having your mise en place ready; all your prep should be done in advance and set up assembly-line style. I learned this the first time I made spring rolls, when I foolishly thought I could just wing it. Big mistake! Like yesterday, I learned from my earlier missteps and pressed on. And ooh, are these good! The Thai basil and mint lend a wonderful fragrance to this dish. Of course, if it's naturally gfcf then all the better.