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24 December 2005

may you have a house full of laughter

poinsettia, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

In just a few moments, I'm leaving my home to climb in my car and join the masses trekking south on I-5. It's Christmas Eve morning, and I'm going to my parents' house.

Normally, I adore Christmas. For years, my parents referred to my brother and me as the Christmas Nazis. (I'm sorry. That's a horrible reference, but it's true.) Why? Because we insisted on watching all the same specials, on all the same nights. Rudolph. Santa Claus is Coming to Town. That one with the Heat Miser. Even Frosty the Snowman, although it was just dopey. (We did draw the line at Rudolph and Frosty's Happy New Year, because Christmas had already passed.) A series of Rankin and Bass, eerie cartoons, with awkwardly modelled figures moving jerkily through space, and an obviously gay elf. This doesn't sound much like Christmas, does it? Well, it was for us. But that was just the start. There were the fourteen different versions of the Scrooge story, the incessant watching of It's a Wonderful Life (sometimes in Spanish, when we flipped past that channel), and even such little-known classics as The Gathering, a heartening tv movie about a gruff dying patriarch, played by Ed Asner. We watched A Child's Christmas in Wales, parts of Jesus of Nazareth (the first bits, in the manger), and even the Our Miss Brooks Christmas show, from the 1950s, because it played on PBS the year we got our Beta machine. Andy and I insisted on watching all of them -- well, maybe The Gathering was my mother's idea -- and in the right order. We grew up in a bit of a chaotic household, and we needed order somewhere. It wouldn't be Christmas without those familiar jingles and cartoons, right?

Thank goodness we're past that phase now.

Now, I can still watch A Charlie Brown Christmas (and the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack is the one piece of Christmas music I can actually listen to all Decmeber long). And the Grinch, even though I didn't see it this year. I still choke up at the end of It's a Wonderful Life, but I don't have to watch more than those last fifteen minutes. And Pee Wee Herman's Christmas special, which I own on dvd, still delights me, entirely.

But better than that, our family is no longer chaotic. (Crazy, but relatively calm.) We adore each other, and play endless word games on Christmas. And these years, of course, we've re-captured the true spirit of Christmas: our mutual adoration of Elliott, my nearly-three-year-old nephew.

On Monday night, I participated in the only overtly Christmasy event of the season: the community Christmas carol sing-a-long on Vashon. Now, you have to understand, Vashon Island is the same geographic size as Manhattan, but only 9000 people live there. There are no stop lights on the island. Everyone's a kook. (If they're not, they don't last long.) And every Christmas season, people gather in the little movie theatre to sing Christmas carols together. And this year, like every other, it was spectacular. A dinky movie theatre filled with people in Santa hats, singing to lyrics from a Power Point presentation made years ago when that technology was cutting edge, projected with half the words off the screen. Half the time, the movie screen just reads: no digital image detected. Santa himself seemed snookered. There were 12-year-olds in flute ensembles, a harp orchestra, and about a hundred toddlers.
Elliott ran up and down the aisles in great delight with his little friend Evan, and climbed on the stage at one point. Santa scares him, but this year he understands the concept of presents, so he warily accepted the red, fat man's presence. I just laughed and laughed at it all, happy to have Elliott nearby.

And that night, at one point, after I had brought out a big bag of potatoes I had brought for the little family, Elliott said to me, in a plaintive voice, "Could you sit down and look at pertaters with me?"

And we really did look at them. We examined the white ones, the red ones, the purples ones, at great length. And then, Elliott said to me, "Let's sniff....fooooooood!" And then we pretended to make birthday soup, with his wooden fruit and vegetable set.

Elliott chopping

He makes me laugh and dance to Daler Mendhi and coaxes me down on the floor to play wih diggers and asks me to "Talk to those words on that page," (which is what he cals reading now, and it makes sense) and speaks in funny voices and laughs at himself and makes me really, really appreciate the moments I'm alive, because there are no other when I'm with him. Who couldn't use a little of that?

I can. And so, I'm off.

Except, to tell you, that this holiday, I'm doing all the cooking. I couldn't be happier about this. After the Thanksgiving gluten epidsode, I'm making new traditions. Who says that good life has to be about baked goods and stuffing? Instead, I'm just going to make it about great food with my dear family. So, as a preview, here's what I'll be making for Christmas Day dinner:

standing rib roast, medium-rare, with carmelized onions and au jus gravyroasted roasted potatoes with rosemary and olive oil
wild greens with pomegranate seeds, goat cheese, and toasted almonds
braised leeks and brussel sprouts with browned butter and white wine
homemade vanilla bean ice cream with Scotch poured over the top.

I don't think we're going to suffer.

And, if you're still looking for recipes for tomorrow, try Molly's eggnog (and her white bean recipe) or Melissa's egg nog, from December 14th. And if you have piles of cranberries lying around, and you are feeling ambitious, you could still make Heidi's gorgeous cranberry jam. And at the bottom of this post, since so many of you have been asking, I'm going to put a recipe for gluten-free sugar cookies.

But no matter what you are eating, or where you are eating it, or with whom, I hope you have a brilliant holiday. No matter what the holiday. Merry Christmas. Happy Hannukah. Joyous Kwanzaa. Hooray for the Winter Solstice. We're alive. Let's eat.

May you have a house full of laughter, spectacular food, and people you love.

Gluten-free Sugar Cookies

Even though I advocate finding joy in foods that are naturally gluten-free, it is the holidays. And I still like some traditions. No matter what, I still like roll-out sugar cookies, thick and threaded through with vanilla, cut into Christmas-tree shapes and frosted with buttercream frosting.

This is a recipe I adapted from Sonya Joseph's gluten-free cooking class I took at the beginning of the month. They work. They'll fill that need.

2 1/2 cups of your favorite gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum (omit if your gf flour mix already contains this)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla (make sure it's gluten-free. Use only pure vanilla, please.)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

After you have preheated the oven to 350°, mix all the dry ingredients together and set that bowl aside.

Cream together the shortenings and sugar, preferably with a standing mixer. Then, add the egg and vanilla. Beat these as long as you can. The more airy and whipped they are, the better the cookies will taste.

Add the dry ingredients, along with the nutmeg.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour. This is essential for gluten-free doughs.

When the dough is properly chilled, roll it out to 1/2-inch thickness and cut with your favorite cookie cutters.

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet (preferably with a silpat), for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven.



At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That cookie recipe sounds wonderful! I've spent the day so far baking GF/DF gingerbread cookies (hopefully some of them will make it to Royal Icing land) and chocolate chip cookies with DF dark chocolate chips. :)

At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right back at you, Shauna. I want to wish you a joyous and happy holiday season, too! I can't wait to read more adventures of the Gluten-Free Girl (sounds kinda like a superhero tag, doesn't it) in the new year! Cheers!

--Brett (aka Sardine Man)

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Nic said...

Merry Christmas, Shauna!

At 6:17 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Have a Merry Christmas, Shauna!

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish you the merriest of gluten-free and family-saturated Christmases. Ho ho ho.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger mary grimm said...

I liked what you said about the no-time of playing with children--I found this delight in the present moment playing with my grandchildren (who were here for Xmas), something I couldn't manage with my own 2 daughters. I had too much anxiety with them, I think, always worrying that I was doing something wrong.
Merry Christmas!

At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had all three of those things in my house yesterday. The hardest part is cleaning up, but it was worthwhile. Thanks for all the joy you bring through your website.

At 7:29 AM, Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

I'm sure you had the best Christmas ever. It certainly sounds fabulous.

Thanks for all the beautiful posts you share with us. I always feel like I'm part of the family.

Best wishes for a great 2006

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Freckle Face Girl said...

Sounds like a wonderful Christmas. Your family will never even miss the gluten. :)

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


Your gf cookies sound great! I hope they worked out well and you had a great holiday.


Well, Mr. Sardine Man sounds like a super-hero too. Sounds like we're more ready for the Tick's band of super heroes than Superman's, but no worries. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season too, sir.


Merry Christmas to you, my dear.


I'm sure you had a good one with all those cookies you baked!


Family-saturated and gluten-free it was. And lovely. I hope you had a great one too.


I'm glad you had that time with your granddaughters. I watch my parents go through the same ease with my nephew. It sounds like you had a great time.


Thank you, my dear. If I'm bringing joy to you and others, then I'm thrilled!


You are part of the family, my dear. My food blogging family is so wonderfully important to me. Happy New Year to you, as well.


They didn't miss the gluten. And I think they were happy that I was healthy for the first time on Christmas! I hope you had a lovely one.

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your dinner menu sounded totally delicious, and the dinner was hopefully pain-free for you. Happy Holidays!

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


Happy holidays to you, my dear! It was delicious, I have to say. Your European adventures sounded wonderful as well.

At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is pure vanilla gluten-free. or do i have to specifically buy a gluten-free vanilla?

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Nayanna Arts said...

YAY! I just KNOW they'll be delicious because they come from your site! I got goosebumps when I saw you had a book published! I'm going to order it asap. The GF is for my 3yo although my mom seems to have tested + so I'm probably the one walking around with the gene as well.

Can't wait to try these out, but with HALLOWEEN cookie cutters! Thanks a million for your "joie de vivre" and sharing it with all of us!

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the recipe! is the dough supposed to be less thick than most sugar cookie doughs? i followed the recipe, but the dough is still impossible to roll out. what would you suggest?

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


That's funny you just left a comment on this. I was just looking at this recipe again.

I've learned so much more about gluten-free baking since I wrote this that I may need to re-write the recipe....

First of all, you should just barely cream the butter and sugar. Any more than that and the dough will run.

Also, refrigerating all gluten-free cookie dough for at least a couple of hours before baking helps it to firm up. Try that. Maybe overnight.

Tonight, I'm putting up a post about holiday baking. I'll do more with this there.

At 3:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna, I love your writing - first time on your site looking for a sugar cookie recipe for my 7 year old with celiac.
Does your recipe come with an icing recipe to decorate?

At 12:57 AM, Blogger Kylie said...

I just found your blog and I think this is great. I love to bake and am lucky that both my children are allergy free (I know how lucky I am). However, I am looking after a friends little girl on Friday who is allergic to gluten. I really wanted to do some baking with the kids and I am so pleased to find your recipe. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from New Zealand.

At 7:00 AM, Blogger AmazonGrace said...

This recipe turned out great. I've been baking GF for almost 20 years (wow, that makes me feel old) and this was the first time I've EVER made sugar cookies. The hint of nutmeg is divine.

I refrigerated the dough for three days before baking. This worked great, as I had the dough on hand as soon as my 7yro wanted to decorate cookies.

I found it worked best to roll out smaller amounts of dough rather than the whole ball/recipe.

I mixed the ingredients in an incorrect order (multi-tasking)and the dough was a granulated powder. I added 2TBS of soy milk and it pulled together, then I used plenty of sweet rice flour for dusting and rolling.

Thanks for your blog, Shauna, but most of all, thank you for sharing your love and light.

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just made your sugar-cookies and they are outstanding!!! My hubby was thrilled to be able to eat cookies (especially cut-out) that didn't tast GF and weren't hard. Thanks you soooo much Shauna for all you do!

Kelly Zimmer

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I just made the sugar cookies and both my husband and daughter said they were BETTER than the sugar cookies that has been passed down in my family for eons now. Thanks for making it just that easier for those of us who are newly diagnosed and just getting the hang of baking/cooking with new ingredients. Your site is a real delight and it is a pleasure to be along for the ride! :)

At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Screaming Lady said...

Some traditions are forever, even if they have to be recast as gluten free. I'm bringing a full kit of christmas cut-out cookies and all the fixin's for decorating to my daughter's house where she lives with six other college seniors all going through finals week. This gluten-free recipe tasted better than the non-gluten free version for the other kids. I used a flour mix of 4 parts superfine white rice flour to 2 parts tapioca flour to 1 part coconut flour. The hint of nutmeg is the secret ingredient here. Sometimes these flour blends can have an off taste, but with the nutmeg, it was invisible. Leave them on the cookie sheet until they are plenty cool, otherwise they have a soft cake-like texture that falls apart. Happy Christmas!

At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

Just made these vegan and they are P-E-R-F-E-C-T. Actually perfect cookies. I super-whipped the wet ingredients and it worked out great. The final dough was a perfect ball in the bottom of my mixing bowl. Refrigerated for an hour but it probably would have rolled out immediately. No sticking to the counter or the rolling pin. Basically my best sugar cookie experience ever!

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Jenny said...

Hi! I just ran across this doing a search for gf sugar cookies. It's 90 degrees out, so I won't be preheating the oven during the mixing process :). I'm using a pre-mixed gf baking mix, so I hope it turns out okay. Otherwise I will try the reader's rice/tapioca/coconut flour mixture. Thanks for posting this!


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