This month's Go Ahead Honey event is hosted by the ebullient Carol Kicinski of Simply Gluten Free. One of my earliest blogging buddies, her meteoric path through the blogosphere, onto TV fame and much coveted book contracts is a truly inspiring thing. Carol even has her own GF white flour mix! Posterity - Carol's got it covered!
For this month, Carol chose Family Traditions - a generous, all welcome, warmly nourishing embrace of a theme. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving or just look forward to a lovely winter break with your nearest and dearest, it's a pretty good bet that you have some traditions to mark the yearly arrival of festivities. You may not even recognise them as traditions - but if something makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, you have the bud of a tradition. You do it the same way next year and before you know it, a family tradition is born.
Traditions have crept up on us like whispers. When Finley was still a toddler, one of his granny's friends made an advent calendar for him - a total labour of love, complete with hand knitted stockings and sacks and little numbers appliqued in felt. It must have taken a month of evenings to make and assemble and we felt blessed to recieve it.
We hung it on the wall and in the night fairies bought a little treat and popped it in the pouch, every day until Christmas eve. Fin was delighted - magic! Even now, Finley puts up the advent calendar on the last day of November, and laments all those friends of his who are missing out on a daily treat because they don't believe in fairies.
Other traditions are more loosely formed. We like to have a tapas style smörgåsbord of dishes for Christmas eve - some paprika almonds, charcuterie, winter salads and maybe a little membrillo con manchego, washed down with a little festive sherry?
Nick often works right up until Christmas eve, so we leave off decorating the tree until he returns, stamping his feet and blowing on wintry fingers, into the cosy glow of fairy lights, baubles gleaming brightly from tissue nests as Finley and I unearth our collection of magpie's trinkets.
It may be my favourite bit of Christmas, the night before. The days spread out before me in a long sigh, a larder stocked with roots and nuts, plans for treats to be baked and games played, an expectant smile never far from Fin's lips.
We love a bracing walk on Christmas day and a gentle round of whatever board game is the rage with Fin (poor Nick will have to suffer Monopoly again this year). We eat, when and how we please - just enough to feel satisfied, but never enough so we need to retire to the sofa for an afternoon nap to sleep it all off.
What I cherish most is that Sundayish feeling of ease and cosiness. So I love to bake up a batch of muffins first thing, after Fin has come in for a morning cuddle and spread the contents of his stocking all over our bed. We sit in the warm kitchen, bathed in the wintry scents of clementine zest and cinnamon, or dates and ginger - sip hot mugs of tea and contemplate a whole day of doing just as we please.
This year I fancy these sticky gingerbread muffins - if you're less keen on ginger then you could substitute cinnamon and double the zest, for a spiced clementine version. They're dense and sticky, full of dates and almonds - if you like something a little more bready or lighter, try these, with some spice and zest added:
Cocoabutter Cupcakes (SCD & Dairy Free)
Sticky Gingerbread Muffins (SCD) makes 7
These are very dense, sticky muffins for date lovers. On cooling, they start to resemble crinkly snickerdoodle biscuits, with a craggy, mischievous, smiling face.
3oz dried, pitted dates, chopped
3oz flaked almonds
3oz ground almonds
2 oz salted butter
1/4 cup date syrup - or honey
2 large eggs
zest and juice of a clementine or half an orange
1/4 cup plain live yogurt (or SCD 24 hour yogurt)
1 1/2- 2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp bicarb
Set the oven to 160C and put 7 muffin cases in a muffin tray.
blitz dates and flaked almonds to fine crumbs in a blender.
Add butter & avocado and blitz to combine.
Add date syrup, 1 egg, bicarb & spices, blitz till smooth, add the second egg and blitz again.
Add ground almonds, yogurt, zest and juice, blitz until smooth. Should be a soft dropping cake mix consistency.
Spoon into muffin cases almost to the top as they don't rise that much.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until brown, risen and firmish. Cool for 15 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Eat warm or cool - I like them cool, maybe spread with a little strained yogurt sweetened with a spoonful of honey.