gingerbread cookieA chorus of giggles and laughter are swirling up and around the backyard as five pairs of mittened palms chase an eager snow-loving puppy through the drifts of snow.  The days are short.  The long nights are decorated with twinkling lights.  And sugarplums dance…

Just yesterday my countertops were dusted with flour (and flour and more flour) as we rolled and cut and baked and decorated and endless amount of gingerbread.  Ahhh!  The aroma of baking gingerbread is surely even more heavenly when snowflakes are clinging to noses and eyelashes.

Gingerbread Cookies (Gluten-free and Fabulous)!

  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 1 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons ground ginger (adjust for taste)
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon xanthan gum
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons maple extract (or sub. another 2 of vanilla)
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • frosting/sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a very large bowl, whisk flours, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg.  Add the oil, applesauce, vanilla and maple and stir until a thick dough forms.  Note that you really can do it by hand and do not need a mixer.  Gradually add the cold water and stir.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Generously dust a counter with gluten-free flour and place dough in the center.  Roll dough in flour until covered.  Flour a rolling pin and then roll out dough to desired thickness.  We like our cookies plump (like Santa).  Recommended width is at least 1/4 inch.

Cut out cookies with cookie cutters and place on baking sheets.  Bake for 7 minutes and then rotate baking sheet.  Bake for at least another 5 minutes.  Because we like our cookies plump, we ended up baking them for about 20 minutes (checking every 7 minutes for done-ness).

Let stand on baking sheets until cool and then decorate with frosting & sprinkles.  And make sure any gingerbread men don’t jump off those baking sheets and run away!

This recipe was adapted from Babycakes Covers the Classics by Erin McKenna which I highly recommend for gluten-free and vegan recipes.

Sharing a Taste of Joy…

Salted Carmel CupcakesMy beautiful friend, the Artist, has a little bun of joy being carefully and wonderfully knit under her belly… day by day growing fingers and toes and multiplying heartbeats.  The amazing miracle of new life can hardly be quantified when tears and sighs and disappointments and prayers (even from miles and miles away) find themselves suddenly bursting into the hope of a child someday crying out for “Mama.”  So it was with great, great joy that I was able to shower my sweet friend with these salty caramel cupcakes.  Please bake them to celebrate a joy in your life as well.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour (super-fine grind like Authentic Foods)
  • 3/4 cups potato starch
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons maple extract
  • Salted Caramel Frosting
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup gluten-free powdered sugar
  • coarse sea salt or kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pan with cup cake holders.

Beat sugar and eggs in large bowl with electric mixer for 1 minute.  Add flour, salt, baking powder, xanthan gum, oil, milk, vanilla and maple extract.  Beat at medium speed for 1 minute.  Pour into prepared cupcake pan.

Bake for 18-23 minutes — test for doneness.  Cool on rack while preparing frosting.

For the frosting, in a large saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat.  Stir in brown sugar and whisk.  Heat to boiling stirring constantly (ie: don’t walk away!).  Stir in milk and return to boiling.  Remove from heat and cool until lukewarm (around 30 minutes).  Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Gradually add powdered sugar and stir or “whip” with handheld beaters/mixer.  Frost cupcakes.  Sprinkle with slat.

Note: We like frosting.  So I double the recipe and pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes to look fancy-schmancy.  Obviously this is not necessary but fun for special occasions (or, really, any occasion). 

Soup Weather

Chicken Tortilla SoupsHave you caught that scent of autumn in the air yet?  It has descended upon us here in Indiana along with leaves painted shades of reds, yellows, and oranges.  Fall festivals are cluttering up the weekends, football games are turning our neighborhood drive into a parking lot of sorts, and the pumpkins in our garden have slowly turned a lovely orange as the vines continue to creep through the garden and encroach into our lawn.  Yes… fall is in the air.

As we squished around the dinner table the other night, our middle child (the First Grade Princess) announced with solemn dignity that (indeed) it must be getting cooler given that we were eating soup (SOUP!) for the first time in months and months and months.  And so it goes… the tide has changed and homemade soups and fresh-baked breads are finding themselves as the center piece of our dining table.

This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver (who I LOVE LOVE LOVE).  It truly is a delight!  If you are using up “left overs” from the garden, this soup will consume a lot!  Oh, and everyone ate it except the three-year-old.  I would consider that a victory of sorts.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • 3 – 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 orange peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado (diced)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • a handful of cilantro, chopped
  • tortilla chips, crushed

In a large saucepan, pour in several Tablespoons olive oil.  Heat and add the onion, garlic, carrots, and peppers.  Sauté for 10 – 15 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally.  Add the fresh tomatoes and bay leaves.  Toss in the bouillon cubes and add the canned tomatoes.  Pour in about 2 cans worth of water and bring to a boil.  Stir in shredded chicken.  Turn down to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.  (Remember a little bit of kosher salt goes a long way).  Pour the soup into bowls and top with avocado, cilantro, shredded cheese, and crushed tortilla chips.  Squeeze lime over the soup just before serving.  If you like spice, add some chopped jalapenos to your garnishes!

Pancakes Anytime…

Truly Homemade PancakesMy three-year-old Wild-Thing-In-Training and I huddled in front of the refrigerator yesterday afternoon discussing our left-over options for our mid-day meal.  Perhaps like many parents of preschoolers, I approach meal time with a degree of trepidation and humor… knowing that any plethora of edible items across the food pyramid will be quickly categorized into two major food groups: yummy and yucky.  And so I found myself popping open food containers and offering  meals with perhaps more enthusiasm then they entailed: “LASAGNA!  Doesn’t lasagna sound good?!?”  Finally, after suspiciously eyeing the packages and containers lodged in our fridge, the Wild-Thing-In-Training ceremoniously announced that pancakes were to be honored as his lunch of the day.

Pancakes!  Ahhh… thanks to that wise person many moons ago who deemed it acceptable to eat breakfast food at all times of the day!

These pancakes were originally created as my truly home-made version (no pre-mixes) of the breakfast favorite with some extra-special ingredients that classify them (in my mind, anyway) as “high-end”.  If I cooked in a bed-and-breakfast… these are the pancakes I would serve!

Truly Homemade Pancakes

  • 2/3 cup potato starch
  • 2/3 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 1/2 cup brown rice flour (prefer a super-fine grind)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cup half-and-half (or feel free to use milk)

Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients.  Then pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly until combined.  Add blueberries or other fruit as desired — or really get dangerous and add chocolate chips!

Heat a griddle and spray with cooking spray.  Pour batter onto griddle to desired size for pancakes.  Note: this batter will seem “too thin” (especially compared to buttermilk pancakes or Bisquick pancakes), but the pancakes will “rise” as they are cooking.  Trust me.

This is (not surprisingly) not the first post I have had featuring pancakes.  Here are two other (previous) posts for different pancake recipes… all with their own merits:,

Food Memories

pizza sauceThere is something about the hot sun beating down on a jar containing water and tea bags that takes me back to my days of blond pig tails and bare feet.  Sun tea, apparently, is as integral to my childhood as blue skies, mountains, and a pestering sibling.

I suppose it isn’t much of a surprise that it is constantly on my mind to make food more than just food.  Meals are a beautiful opportunity for conversations, celebrations, hospitality, laughter, stories, and… well… memories.  And so it is that on Sunday afternoons when we gather to watch football or Friday nights when we settle in for a good family movie and the three little people in my life get that rare exception to “no eating in front of the TV”, that I know that we are making food memories.  Perhaps years from now, the smell of pizza baking in the oven will trigger some thought of days gone by and start a conversation (perhaps around a dinner table) that begins with, “Remember when…”

Homemade Pizza Sauce

  •  2 – 3 garden fresh tomatoes, with skins removed (or just use a 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes, I love Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 – 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano (or use fresh!)
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil (or use fresh!)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons tomato paste

In a medium-sized sauce pan, heat olive oil and garlic.  Toss in onions and sauté  until soft.  Stir in herbs.






Pour entire contents of sauce pan into a blender.  On top of onions, pour in canned tomatoes or place your own fresh tomatoes.  Add black pepper.  Blend until smooth. 








Add 2 – 3 Tablespoons tomato paste (start with one, blend, and add more as needed). 

tomato sauce







Add salt to taste (it is easy to over salt, but you will need to be generous with it).   Enjoy on pizza!  It’s a great, easy pizza sauce!

Bare Feet on my Stairs

My neighborsMy heart has engaged my brain in this endless afternoon debate about the strange and compelling response that our human bodies elicit when confronted with heart ache. The involuntary tears that seep and cascade. The intake of breaths to stabilize stampedes of emotion. The temporary signs of a pestering sore throat that creep up from somewhere deep within us.  I have been experiencing these symptoms for days now as I have watched that house down the road piece by piece by piece be upended, emptied, and unloaded into a long truck bound for a state beyond our reach. My neighbors, you see, are moving… travelling to this hot and sunny “foreign” place called ARIZONA.   And this move not only empties our neighborhood of a growing family, but it removes these things from my own home:

  • 3 extra pairs of bare feet racing up and down my stairs
  • extra knees knocking on my kitchen island as fine art is created
  • extra puddles of water collecting on my floor from watery dances through the sprinkler
  • extra hands to stir the batter, extra tongues to lick the beaters, extra fingers to sneak for pieces of this-and-that
  • extra giggles under the beds, behind the sofa, and in the closet
  • and extra strands of hair, tangled and flying by, as bare feet and knobby knees pump up and down on the swing set

So forgive my sadness as I think of the brown eyes peering at me from my counter lined up with my own little blue-eyed babes watching me cook meal after meal after meal.  And so, this day, I share with you a way to indulge (or conquer) any of your own longings for loved ones far and wide… by baking.  And remembering the “extra” little fingers that would surely be dipping into the frosting.

Top any cupcakes (even pre-packaged boxed ones) with this delicious frosting, compliments to Betty Crocker.  Double the recipe to make them “mounded” by piping them on top!

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (squeeze it yourself!)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

In medium bowl, beat powdered sugar, 1/4 cup softened butter and 1 Tablespoon lemon juice with electric mixer on low speed until mixed.  I am not a real patient baker, so I tend to want to add milk or water at this point, but don’t do it.  Just keep mixing!  Add remaining juice until creamy and smooth (just do a little bit at a time to control the texture and taste).  Beat in 1 teaspoon lemon peel.  Mmmm…

In Love with Cupcakes

I don’t typically shamelessly promote other people’s products.  But I have to give a shout-out when someone creates something that makes me (or the Man of the House) smile.  Gigi’s Cupcakes, a franchised company with locations in over 20 states, offers gluten-free cupcakes every Friday.  Some locations, apparently, actually offer gluten-free options every day.  Unlike many other bakeries that offer gluten-free goods, these cupcakes are the SAME SIZE and, often, the SAME PRICE as their “regular” cupcakes.  They are beautiful, delicious, and totally worth the trip to whatever store is closest to you. 

Check out the website at:

Of course, there is a disclaimer that I’m including but in our experience we have not had any “bad effects” from cupcake munching. 

“Despite the fact that we bake and offer cupcakes without gluten, all of our cupcakes are prepared fresh in the same kitchen, allowing for the potential of cross contamination. Our baking equipment comes in contact with products containing gluten; therefore our cupcakes cannot be certified as a Gluten–Free product.”