Archive for November, 2011

Our family’s favorite Thanksgiving dessert has a pumpkin filling on the bottom that is sprinkled with cake mix and pecans, then drizzled with butter for a crispy, buttery topping.  It’s absolutely wonderful with real whipped topping on it!  So it was one of the first Thanksgiving recipes I converted to be gluten free. You can make the cake mix from scratch using the recipe below, but I’ve found that the GF Pillsbury yellow cake mix works perfectly.  (It’s the best of the GF cake mixes I’ve tried.) Since it makes a 9″x13″ pan, it’s great for a crowd – or lots of leftovers! Happy Gluten Free Thanksgiving.    

14 oz. can pumpkin puree (not the pie filling with spices added)
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. evaporated milk or canned coconut milk (with full fat)
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 T. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt

Cake Mix (or GF Pillsbury yellow cake mix):
1 3/4 c. gluten free flour blend (see recipe below)
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum


1 1/4 c. chopped pecans (I use the “cookie pieces” or bits that come pre-chopped)
1 c. melted butter or dairy free margarine (I use Earth Balance for dairy free)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (omit if using a boxed mix containing vanilla flavoring)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together pumpkin filling ingredients until smoothly blended.  Pour filling into a greased, 9″x13″ pan.  In a separate bowl, mix together cake mix.  Sprinkle cake mix evenly over top of filling.  Scatter nuts over cake mix.  Melt butter and stir in vanilla (unless using a boxed mix containing vanilla).  Drizzle melted butter over nuts, moistening as much cake mix as possible (to avoid fights with your husband over who gets the yummy pieces where the butter pooled).

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until set and golden.  Cool at least one hour in pan on a wire rack before serving.  Serve with whipped cream.  Store leftover dessert in the refrigerator, if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers.

Brenda’s All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend:

1 c. white rice flour
1 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. tapioca flour/starch
1/3 c. cornstarch
1/3 c. potato starch
1 T. sweet rice (also called sticky rice) flour
1 T. potato flour

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Holiday Planning Guide

Christmas is less than 6 weeks away!  For some, this thought brings a sense of excitement and anticipation.  These people are most likely children, not mothers.  For the rest of us, panic and/or dread accompany the countdown to Christmas.   Something happens when you become a mom, and you begin to feel the full weight of the expectation to make the holidays special for your family.  But if I’m going to stay sane I have to remember that “special” does NOT equal “perfect” or Martha Stewart or expensive gifts for extravagant family outings.  “Special” can simply mean that I serve hot chocolate during the hot chocolate scene in “The Polar Express,” or serve dinner on festive paper plates while we eat by the light of the advent candles.

In the weeks to come, I hope to share some of the traditions that we’ve come to enjoy as a family, as well as tips for a happy gluten free holiday season.  But I mostly want to encourage you to make time for what’s really meaningful to your family this year, and ditch the guilt for saying no to what’s not.  If you’re the kind of person who needs help getting organized or simply enjoys the sense of accomplishment that comes from crossing something off of a list, my early Christmas gift to you is my Santa’s Little Planner.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to cut down on my level of stress leading up to the holidays by doing some simple prep work in advance.  I hope this helps you have a more joyful Christmas!*

Santa’s Little Planner

4-6 Weeks in Advance:

  • Schedule portrait appointment and have family pictures taken for Christmas card.
  • Make travel arrangements, if necessary.  If hosting, plan meals and freeze for later – you’ll be glad you did!
  • Fill in calendar with party dates, school, church, community, and family activities.  Decide as a family what traditions you want to continue.  Make sure there is “white space” on your calendar for starting new traditions, shopping, baking, and down time.
  • Take inventory of decorations, stationery, linens, holiday clothes, and evaluate what needs to be replaced.  Buy or charge batteries for cameras and camcorders.

 Baking & Entertaining:

  • Take inventory of baking supplies and watch for sales to stock up on needed items.
  • Make a list of favorite recipes, and include the cookbook and page number for easy reference each year.  Attach this list to an envelope containing favorite recipes you’ve cut out from magazines or printed off my blog.  🙂
  • Gather and clean table linens, plates and glassware you plan to use for holiday celebrations.  Festive paper plates are perfectly acceptable for holiday gatherings!
  • Arrange refrigerator for easy access to the food you’ll be using most.  Put appetizer or salad supplies on a tray so they’re easy to find and pull out.  Use up leftovers to make more space.  Make room in freezer for holiday supplies and baked goods.


  • Jot down names of people on your gift list and how much you wish to spend on them.  Include coworker gifts, party gift-exchanges, teacher gifts, charitable giving, etc.
  • Establish an overall budget that includes postage, Christmas cards, ornaments, wrapping supplies, party supplies, clothing (like new Christmas jammies), gifts, etc.  Then commit to sticking to your budget!
  • Brainstorm gift ideas early so you can watch for sales.  Write down clothing sizes and keep them in your purse.  (I actually use a tape measure to get measurements from my kids’ clothes that are the correct size, and keep the tape measure in my purse when shopping for kids clothes, since there can be a huge difference in sizes among the various clothing manufacturers.)
  • Fill out shopping list by store so you don’t waste time backtracking.  Save receipts in an envelope for exchanges.
  • Keep a few generic gifts on hand for last-minute gifts (i.e. candy, calendars).
  • Set up a gift-wrapping center: Cover a card table with a festive tablecloth.  Keep wrapping paper, tape, scissors, ribbons and tags within reach of the table.  Hide supplies under the table when they’re not in use.


  • Fill out a master Christmas card list with addresses.
  • As holiday cards come in, write change of address information on your master list.    Add people who were not on your list but sent you a card, if you wish to reciprocate.
  • Put together a portable basket to hold Christmas cards that need to be sent, pens, stamps, and your master Christmas card list.  Pull it out during commercials or whenever you have a spare minute (does that happen?), preferably with a cup of hot chocolate.

* If something on this list robs you of your joy and is unnecessary, find a way to simplify – give gift cards, email your Christmas letter, cut down on the number of baked goods you make – or just cross it off and don’t worry about it.   Your kids won’t care that you ate pizza instead of roast turkey on Christmas (and they might decide to make it a new tradition!).  Remember that the purpose of the holiday season is to celebrate that God sent his son to bring us JOY!  Make HIM the center of your focus, and it will be a blessed Christmas, whether the checklist gets checked off or not.

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