I hope you’re all having a great long weekend! I am thoroughly enjoying the last vestiges of the summer holiday. (What?? Summer is over? Back to school and sweaters and crinkly leaves on the ground and pelting rain and mud and paw prints all over the carpet and frigid mornings and seeing your breath as you huddle toward the car–in the dark–and cranking up the heat and pulling out the jackets and scarves and gloves and snow–snow!–and ah, me, it’s winter and—)
Waaa! Boo hoo! Snuffle snuffle. *SOB*! I want summer back!
Sigh. Sorry about that little outburst. I’ve regained my composure, now.
Besides, now that I’m an adult (chronologically, anyway), I do realize that autumn isn’t all bad. There’s the flavorful fall produce, and hand knit sweaters (which are so good at covering up those midsection lumps and bumps) and corduroy, and crisp, fresh air that sharpens everything, as if the houses and trees and automobiles have been outlined with a thin tracing of ink.
Oh, and a bevvy of holidays.
When I was growing up, we shared a duplex with my aunt’s family just upstairs. Because Aunty M (no relation to The Wizard of Oz) was almost 20 years older than my mom, and because our grandparents had died before we were born, we kids always thought of Aunty M as more “grandmother” than “aunt.” And let me tell you, nothing could compare to holidays at Grandma’s house.
The otherwise utilitarian kitchen table, a long wooden rectangle stained and etched from years of daily use, would be pushed into the living room (there was no dining room), with what looked like its metal-and-plastic progeny–the folding card table–set beside it (that was where the kids sat, of course). Freshly laundered and pressed white tablecloths were shaken out and smoothed into place, intersecting lines permanently engrained in their weave from having sat, folded neatly in blocks in the linen closet, for the remainder of the year.
On these occasions, my real grandmother’s silverware was fetched from the basement, a lone “K” engraved proudly on the handle of each knife, fork and spoon. We had actual napkins at the table for once, and soda (or “ginger ale,” as we referred to all types of carbonated beverages) was served in glass pitchers rather than directly from the plastic bottles. Glasses were set out and glistened, scalloped pickle plates were laid out, and the entire house began to buzz with anticipation.
My mother and my aunt would spend days preparing in the kitchen as we children wandered in and out, plucking raisins from cookie dough or absconding with whole chunks of semisweet chocolate. We’d peek at the huge pots like mysterious cauldrons bubbling and spurting on the stovetop, never venturing too close. At same time, the oven toiled all day as it transformed jiggly pans into cakes, cookies, or kugels, warming the kitchen and spreading the aroma of chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and apple throughout the house.
Holidays were family occasions, shared with as many relatives as possible. I loved it when my cousin CBC and her family made the trek from Boston, since her kids were close to my age and their arrival always meant days filled with giggling, plays in the back yard, a co-conspirator with whom to tease the CFO, and extra treats for everyone. Despite anything that had preceded, the holiday dinners themselves were always happy affairs; adults were jovial and relaxed, we kids were allowed to indulge in second helpings of dessert, and everyone embraced the festive atmosphere. Whether it was a holiday, anniversary, or birthday celebration, we all came together to enjoy each other’s company along with the feast.
(When the HH and I were first together, I was both shocked and appalled to discover that he grew up in a home that didn’t celebrate holidays. No big family gatherings; no special meals; no gifts. “All days are special,” was his (otherwise normal) dad’s philosophy. “Every day is a holiday.” In fact, the HH was so accustomed to his family’s indifference about such things that he didn’t bother to get me a birthday present that first year we shared a house. Oh, yes. Hysteria [mine] ensued. Contrition [his] followed closely behind. And no, he hasn’t made the same mistake since.)
This year, I was feeling a little disheartened at the prospect of those imminent celebrations and Christmas just around the corner (for which I now supply a list of desired items to the HH every year) precisely because food has always played such an integral role in our family gatherings. I hadn’t anticipated still being on the ACD by now, you see. No feasting? No wine with dinner? No–dessert?!
It was almost enough to make me jump on the HH’s “let’s just ignore the date” bandwagon. But then I realized two things: first, we could still make the days special. We can still set a beautiful table and make a point of sharing the evening with friends or family. We can still enjoy nature’s bounty. And I can still enjoy special-occasion foods; they just won’t be the same ones I used to eat as a child.
In fact, once I began to think about it, I was amazed at how many foods have found their way back into my diet.
First, there was chocolate–albeit unsweetened–but chocolate nonetheless. In Stage Two, the ACD gave me fruit. Previously forbidden apples (and pears, and berries, and peaches and nectarines) were welcomed back to the menu. Finally, as the symptoms continue to abate (they’re about 95% cleared up, now) the universe continues to bestow more and more low glycemic sweeteners. And the Universe said, “Let there be coconut sugar. And with it, let there be the occasional agave nectar.” And so, life is good.
This pear and cranberry cornmeal cake is the first cake I concocted with coconut sugar. Since corn is so often a symbol of autumn harvest, I thought cornmeal would be a perfect ingredient to include in this celebration dessert. Like the coconut sugar, corn is an “occasional” food on the ACD. Pears are abundant right now, and cranberries are quintessential harbingers of the holidays and the festive season.
Like sparklers on a birthday cake, the cranberries in this moist, dense sweet add glitter and verve, a tangy counterpart to the smooth sweetness of the pear chunks dotted throughout. The cake presents a surprisingly fine crumb, and the addition of lemon zest brightens everything. In fact, this dessert was so good that I took a first bite and immediately thought, “Oh, no, I’m not supposed to be eating this on the ACD” before realizing that “Oh, yes, I am allowed this on the ACD!”
Well, in moderation. It is a special occasion food, after all. But then again, despite what the HH’s father may have thought, it’s not every day we celebrate a holiday.
Pear and Cranberry Cornmeal Cake (suitable for ACD Stage 3 and beyond)
from Diet, Dessert and Dogs (https://www.rickiheller.com)
This cake is the perfect combination of light yet substantial with sweet yet tart. It’s a great way to end a meal or carry you through in between one to the next. Feel free to substitute apples for the pears here.
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp (2.5 to 5 ml) pure stevia powder (I used NuNaturals)
3/4 cup (360 ml) unsweetened plain or vanilla almond or soy milk
1 tsp (5 ml) apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely ground chia seeds
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut oil, preferably organic, melted
1-1/2 cups (200 g) Bob’s Red Mill all purpose gluten free flour (or your own blend)
1/4 cup (35 g) brown rice flour
1 Tbsp (15 ml) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt
3/4 tsp (7.5 ml) xanthan gum
1/2 cup (85 g) organic cornmeal
2 pears, cored and diced (I didn’t bother to peel, but go ahead if you wish)
1 cup (240 ml) fresh or frozen cranberries
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line a ten inch (25 cm) flan pan, springrorm pan or pie plate with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut sugar, stevia, milk, vinegar, chia, vanilla and lemon zest until the sugar has dissolved. Add the coconut oil and whisk to blend. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift the all purpose flour, rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and xanthan gum. Add the cornmeal and stir together to distribute everything evenly.
Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir to blend well. Fold in the pears and cranberries. Turn the batter into prepared pan and gently smooth the top. Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 8-10 servings. May be frozen.
Never miss a recipe–or a comment from The Girls! Click here to subscribe to RickiHeller.com via email. You’ll get recipes as soon as they’re posted, plus cookbook updates and news about upcoming events! (“We love subscribers, Mum. . . almost as much as we love treats!”
[Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]