Good to the Very End...

20 Dec 2011

Posted by karen
karen's picture

This last post before Christmas is all about the sweet finish. If your house is like ours, desserts are a special treat - saved for occasions that are also special. 

It's been several years since I stopped buying - and drinking - egg nog. Nutnog is the alternative I've been waiting for. 

Cashew Nutnog for four (or more)

Cover 1 cup* cashew nuts with water and soak overnight.
In the morning, drain the cashews, rinse well and put in blender.
3 cups fresh water
1/3 cup maple syrup (or substitute with honey, agave syrup or 4-5 Medjool dates)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
couple dashes of sea salt
Blend for at least 1 minute, until thoroughly blended.
Chill (will thicken up when it gets cold). Shake well before serving. 
Serve in pretty goblets and sprinkle liberally with more grated nutmeg.
*If you like your nog thick and creamy, use another 1/2 - 1 cup nuts.
(Nutrition notes: among other things, cashews boast magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. And - they have a lower fat and higher carbohydrate level than most other nuts!)
This nutnog can also be made with raw almonds or Brazil nuts: but the "milk" will have to be strained in a fine mesh bag to remove the pulp before adding the other ingredients. (The pulp can be saved to use for baking or adding to hot cereal breakfasts.) The how-to can be viewed here.
A perfect partner with the nutnog is the following banana cake: gluten free, moist and delicious. This recipe came from my daughter-in-law; it's a standby treat in her GF house.

Banana Cake - gluten free 

3 cups almond flour
3 eggs. beaten
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. gluten-free baking soda
2 ripe bananas, mashed (enough to make 1 cup)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Spread in lightly greased 9-inch square pan. (Use liner paper if wanting to remove the whole cake.) Bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes.
Test for doneness, cake will be moist but you don't want it soggy.
Let cool, cut and enjoy.

The following offering is a simple, elegant, light dessert my son-in-law prepared for a feast many Christmas's ago. Its presentation is as impressive as your flair.

Wine Baked Pears

4 ripe pears, preferably Bosc, with stems, washed and dried
2 cups fruity white wine - I like to use a  local pear wine - or a Reisling is very tasty too
1/4 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves
4 strips orange zest
optional: roasted walnuts or pecans garnish
                ricotta cheese or thick plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 400F.
Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pear so they will stand upright. Arrange the pears in a large pie pan. Whisk wine and honey in small bowl until well blended; pour over the pears. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange rind to the wine mixture around the pears.
Put the pears in the oven, basting every 15 minutes until they are wrinkled and tender - 45 minutes to 1 hour - depending on the type of pear used. If planning to use the nut garnish, toast them in a separate dish in the oven for about 10-12 minutes. Don't forget them!
When baked, remove pears from oven to cool. (By now your house will exude a spicy, heady fragrance.)
To serve: use slotted spoon to transfer the pears to shallow dessert bowls. Drizzle the wine mixture over the pears and garnish with the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange zest. If using, sprinkle with toasted nuts and serve with ricotta cheese or yogurt.
Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
For many of us, Christmas is about families, traditions - and memories. I miss my Mom. In January it will be 6 years ago since she died and, except for her last Christmas, Mom was always a vital part of preparing for the feast(s). When my generation encouraged her to let us do more of the work, she was happy to allow that - but she set the hospitality standard for me. I'll always be grateful for her expression of giving from her kitchen and I'd like to chat with her about that - and other foodie things - once in a while. This is one of those "whiles." 
Mom's Scottish background ensured shortbread was included in her holiday baking. She wasn't a total purist, using only one recipe that came from her great-grandmother :) She'd often try new recipes with different proportions of butter (always used butter), flour, sugar and flavourings. Now that I'm the Nana, wishing to share and continue our heritage traditions, I too am trying new shortbread recipes.
Except I'm looking for recipes using gluten free flour, and sweeteners other than refined sugar. I've also included the optional coffee flavour. This summer my 8-year-old grand daughter liked this variety from a coffee place/bakery/restaurant in Lunenburg. (I think it was her "legal" opportunity to enjoy the flavour of coffee :) Since I'm experiementing I thought, "why not"? I'll do coffee shortbread this year to honour my Swedish Dad who still enjoys a good cup of coffee.
I dared not mess with a butter substitute. Not yet, not this year.  And maybe never. I think there are some things that are best left alone, left in the recipe and enjoyed once or twice a year. The one ingredient I forgot when I made this, but included in the recipe, is the almond or vanilla extract.
If you're familiar with baking with gluten free flours, you don't expect most baked goods to have the same texture as when you use wheat or spelt or another "conventional" flour. And that holds true for this shortbread too. The texture isn't the same but they are still melt--in-your-mouth shortbread:  a very acceptable substitute if you or your holiday guests are not able to eat gluten.

Shortbread - gluten free, does have butter and coconut sugar

1 1/4 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
optional: 1-2 Tbsp. instant coffee powder -according to how strong a flavour you want
Put in food processor the dry ingredients,  the cold butter cut into rough chunks, the extract and the optional coffee. Process until ingredients cling together.
Press mixture evenly into a lightly greased, paper-lined 9 x 9 pan. Mark into squares or rectangles, prick with fork and bake at 325F for 35-40 minutes. When baked, remove from oven, cut again (it's important to cut while warm,  they'll crumble if cut later), let stand 10 minutes. Lift to a wire rack and let cool. 
I've tested this recipe only once so I am hoping to hear feedback and suggestions from any of you who make these. I'm sure you've got some good tweaking ideas.
Enjoy your Christmas, friends. God bless your feasting, your fellowship with family and friends - and give you safe travels.


Renee Tougas's picture

Oh yum! I can't wait.

karen's picture

I can't wait either - your family's going to love that nutnog. I've been doing a lot of "testing".

Palm Beach Gardens Tmj's picture

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еxρensеs, it Ԁоeѕn't
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Janet's picture

I have the exact same thistle cookie press - and my butter's on the counter for my annual shortbread cookie making today :) I stick with the same recipe, but your coffee one looks intriguing - I may have to give it a go.

Thanks for the recipes, Karen - and a Merry Christmas to you and yours.

karen's picture

That's really cool - do you use your press? One year (long, long ago) I made them to sell at a Christmas sale a friend and I had at my house. More a labour of love than revenue! The last few years it's become a decoration, which is okay too :) Thanks for your visit, and have fun making your cookies.

jenny's picture

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MarquisAmore's picture

Wow!!! I really like this dessert which is looking yummy. I am writing the superiorpapers about food. I want to try this dessert at my home.

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