I’m gonna get a sentimental for a moment.
I have a very clear memory of my first Christmas with Lyme Disease, when I was 12 or 13 years old. I was upstairs in my room, having been excused from the dinner table. It was a cold winter. I was in a lot of pain. I hadn’t eaten much food, because I could barely digest anything at that point. I had been carried upstairs, as I had lost almost my entire ability to walk. I could hear laughter, and smell delicious things, and I felt very alone and very sad. I cried, all bundled in bed, and listened to Windham Hill Artist’s A Winter Solstice, which my mother would play to comfort me. The song “Gift” has always stuck with me – a gentle bit of comfort when feeling ill and lonely.
I pulled out of that bout of Lyme, and two others, and walked again. My ability to move from point A to point B is something I will never take for granted, and a reason I so fully love walking in the 60-mile Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure.
Changing my diet is what healed me. Yes, I’ve taken a lot of antibiotics in my 18 years of battling Lyme. But every time I’ve gone through treatment it has not been until I’ve worked with a nutritionist of some sort and been put on a strict diet with lots of supplements and vitamin drips that I’ve seen results.
As a child it was obviously hard. There weren’t cookbooks and blogs on gluten or dairy free baking. There was one alternative for gluten free bread, and it was horrid. Rice Dream was no substitute for ice cream, and the only offering. Whole Foods did not exist, at least not in Connecticut. There was almost no “alternative baking”. It was a huge adjustment for my parents.
So this holiday season I’ve found myself overwhelmed with joy, gratitude and a feeling of community. In one weekend I participated in three cookie swaps.
The first, the NY Cookie Swap organized by Three Many Cooks for Bloggers Without Borders, benefited Cookies for Kids Cancers. Obviously any way I can help other children fight their illnesses, I’m in. I remember how hard it was for my parents, seeing me sick as a child, a college student and as a full adult, and how my father sometimes tears up to this day, knowing I will never be as free of illness as he wishes I could be. On a crisp Sunday afternoon dozens of bloggers met for some barbecue, margaritas and cookie swapping. It was a joy to put faces and voices to the blog names I’ve seen all over the web. And there was an entire table set aside for gluten-free cookies. Awesome. (Getting misty-eyed).
My monthly Burwell General Store Swap went up that Sunday as well. Every month I join a group of 25 or so bloggers in adapting a recipe to our heart’s content. Mine, of course, are gluten free. I love this group of talented home and professional chefs. For the NY and Burwell swaps I made Mesquite Gingerbread Men (recipe soon) and Chocolate Almond Biscotti, the recipe of which was chosen for FoodBuzz’s Top 9!
And then there’s this: the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, which required me to ship out 1 dozen cookies each to 3 bloggers I had been paired with – all gluten-free eaters. In return I’d get three dozen different cookies as well! Awesome, no?
I am so very thankful for my ability to walk, my ability to eat what some see as a limited but I see as an incredible diverse and dynamic scope of food. And I’m so thankful to have grown with a community of those who need to eat the same way, who pool information and resources, and to be able to teach some of what I have learned in my 18 years of living this way.
While I look back on that first Lyme Christmas as a blue one, the only blue snowflakes that are falling for me now are the ones I’m dunking in my almond milk.
I don’t have pictures of the beautiful gluten free cookies I received in the swap because as soon as they came in they were either in my mouth or on a plate and out the door with a collection of others. They were so delicious and looked so nice alongside others that I had made for gifting, and, well, I’ve seen myself on camera lately and I have to WATCH MY COOKIES.
Julie from Swim… Bike… Running on Empty sent some deliciously moist gluten, corn and dairy free vegan pumpkin bites that were laced with nuts and chocolate as well. The perfect soft cakey-cookie. Check out her blog for healthy living tips including balancing all these cookies with exercise (which some of us need to incorporate more, note to self). Follow her Tweets, people!
Maria from Gluten-Free Girl in Chicago‘s White Sugar Cookies with Pecans reintroduced me to the love of dipping cookies in milk. Don’t know why, but I’m as excited about this practice as if I’d just discovered the combo myself. Her crisp, delicate cookies were made with Earth Balance Coconut Spread (which I’d never heard of) and Better Batter All Purpose Flour. So two new things for the DB. I’m making them asap. Since I have a big thing of almond milk waiting for me in the fridge. Also check her out on Twitter.
Lastly, Clean Eating Chelsey’s Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies were just the perfect way to round out this trio. I loved how they weren’t that sweet. I find a huge difference between gluten-free and/or vegan eaters: we generally use less sugar. When adapting some recipes I’ll think something is WAY too sweet and my regular eating friends will disagree. So these soft, chewy cookies (also perfect in almond milk) with big chunks of vegan chocolate and a strong coconut oil flavor were divine. Follow her on Twitter too.
Classic Butter Snowflake Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen large snowflake cookies
Adapted from the Classic Sugar Cookies by Saveur
- 3 cups brown rice flour
- 2 cups arrowroot or tapioca flour
- 1 cup quinoa or millet flour
- 3 tsp xanthan gum
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (3 sticks), soft
- 2 1/2 cup organic sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 3 Tbsp Meringue / Egg White Powder
- 1/2-1 cup warm water
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or almond, cinnamon etc.)
- Gel food coloring
- Colored sanding sugar and edible glitter
Whisk the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes (especially when using organic sugars or sucanat, you need to mix longer as they don’t break down or dissolve very well). Add the eggs, one a time, beating thoroughly between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.
Slowly add the flour, and mix until the dough just pulls together and the flour is blended in.
Divide in four, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill for 45 minutes or until a bit firmer.
When ready to cut and bake, preheat oven to 325°. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick. Cut with 3 inch snowflake cookie cutters (or cutters of choice, of course). Bake for 15 minutes or until just brown at edges. Cool for 5 minutes on sheet before removing to cooling racks. Cool completely before icing. Repeat with remaining dough.
Note: It’s easier to re-roll gluten-free cookies than regular cookies because you don’t have the presence of the gluten protein to make them tougher. However, the softer the dough gets, the less crisp and crumbly it will be.
Method: Royal Icing
To make the icing, place sifted powdered sugar and meringue / egg white powder in bowl of standing mixer with the paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup of warm water and mix on medium low to incorporate. If it is very dry, add a bit more water. Increase speed to high and beat until glossy and stiff, about 6 minutes.
Now, some people freak out with royal icing. I find it fun. Because if you need thinner icing for piping a trillion cookies smoothly, just add warm water a teaspoon at a time until you get to the consistency you want. Mix gel food colorings in a desired amount in small bowls. This mixture makes about 3 cups, which is plenty for this batch of cookies.
Have fun with icing tips to pipe thick frosting on the snowflakes, and immediately sprinkle with shimmery sanding sugar or edible glitter as you go.
- Chocolate Almond Biscotti – A Recipe Swap! (thedustybaker.com)