Tuesday, December 27, 2011

January dairy-free challenge!

Who else is in??

I have said it, I have put it in words and now I must stick with it. My husband thinks I am crazy, asking 1) why would I go dairy-free if I don't have to; and 2) if I say it now, why don't I just start now. My friends ask why would I do this to myself when I already can't have gluten.

He is right, I do not need to be dairy-free, dairy is one of my vices, and since being gluten-free, I have always thought how giving up dairy would be so much more difficult that gluten. I have been 100% gluten-free for almost three years now, minus a few unfortunate glutening episodes, which were not planned. I love dairy, and could live on smelly, soft French cheeses, aged Parmesan and Greek yogurt. So why the heck am I going to restrict myself of something I love, and that seemingly makes my body happy?

I suppose I just want to try it out. I probably eat more than I should, actually I am sure I do. I can go through some pretty big chunks of cheese in a small period of time. Way too many of my hurried lunches during the week consist of cheese and crackers, which would probably be good, if I had like two crackers, but when I have 20 it is probably a little too much. I figured cutting out the dairy couldn't hurt, and maybe I would even feel changes. I would love to loose weight as a result, but I am not holding out for that, nor doing it for that reason.

After going gluten-free, and doing it cold turkey, I know anything is possible. It takes strong will power, but it can be done. And because I am only going to do it for a month, I know it is just a finite period of time with an end-date, so I know I can have it again. And maybe on February 1st, I will appreciate eating dairy again so much, that I will be able to restrict how much I have - we can hope, right?

My husband asks why I just don't do it now if that is what I want to do, and my response.....well, I have to be able to enjoy the holidays, and my creamy mashed potatoes, my brother in law's cheese ball, and whipped cream topped pear pie. In my mind, going dairy-free in January is a sort of cleanse to all the holiday indulgence and culinary debauchery.

I don't know if I have even gone 24-hours without dairy, so 31 days will definitely be a challenge. What will I use to top my pasta??

I hope to learn new recipes and to use other, less fattening items to flavor my food. M said he is on board with me, except for his morning tea. Being a Brit, they need their milk in their tea, and replacements just don't do it for him. But for me, I will be 100% dairy-free (and gluten-free, of course!) for 31 days. I would love to learn how those who are dairy-free curb the craving.

Anyone else want to join me in the challenge??

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mexican hot fudge chocolate sauce

Yesterday, I wrote about my current holiday gift endeavor, peppermint bark. Another favorite of mine, which is also very easy, and gives great results is Mexican hot fudge chocolate sauce. So good, you can use it on ice cream, cookies, cake or just eat it straight from the jar with a spoon.

I like to recycle jars that I collect through the year from jelly, jam, tomato sauce, salsa, glass water bottles. When you think about it, you probably go through many, many glass jars a year and what a great way to put them to use instead of putting them in the trash. I then take some card stock, ribbon and holiday paper to dress up the outside.

1 package of unsweetened baking chocolate squares (I use Baker's)
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low-medium heat, stirring constantly.

Add sugar, stir until dissolved.

Add milk, stirring constantly until blended and heated, for 2 minutes. Do not boil.

Remove from heat and add vanilla and cinnamon.

Pour into glass jar, or container, cover and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. A funnel may help with this depending on jar size.

Decorate the glass container, and voila, it becomes a very gorgeous holiday gift. Make sure to make some extra for yourself, because it is nice to be able to grab a spoonful when the craving hits.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Peppermint Bark

For the holidays I love to give edible gifts, but of course being gluten-free can throw a wrench into it. Doesn't it always? Thankfully, there are lots of fun things you can do that are naturally gluten-free, and you don't need to spend lots of dough on gluten-free flours.

For the past two years, I gave chocolate fudge sauce, which was simple and easy (recipe to follow). But this year, I decided to try something different, and make peppermint bark. I tried it for the first time last year during my baking frenzy on xmas eve, and realized how simple and easy it was. It takes minimal ingredients and there is no baking involved, this is easy peasy, people! And you get to take out all your holidays stress, the best part, see how.....

8 candy canes, crushed (I use Bobs)
12 oz. bag of milk chocolate chips (I use Nestlé)
12 oz. bag of white chocolate chips (again, Nestlé)

First, crush the candy canes. This will be the most labor intensive of this recipe. For this, I unwrap the candy canes and place them in a ziplock freezer bag. I actually double bag it, because the sharp ends of the candy canes will poke through and make a mess. And for the best part....I take a hammer and bang away until I get small candy canes crumbs. See, a great holiday stress reliever!

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the milk chocolate chips in a glass bowl and place in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir, and heat for another 15 seconds or until you can stir smooth with no lumps.

Spread chocolate onto the cookie sheet to about 1/8-inch thick. It does not need to cover the entire cookie sheet.

Chill in the fridge until completely cooled.

Melt the white chocolate chips in a clean glass bowl the same was as the milk chocolate chips.

Stir in 1/2 of the crushed peppermint crumbs into the white chocolate.

Spread evenly over the cooled milk chocolate.

Sprinkle the remaining candy cane crumbs on top of the white chocolate and gently press lightly into the white chocolate.

Chill in the fridge until completely cooled.

When completely cool and set, peel the foil off the bottom of the bark and break into random-sized pieces.

Serve to guests, or place in a decorative container for a festive holiday gift.