Monday, December 19, 2011

A Birthday Christmas

For twenty-plus years, I have been baking gingerbreads as Christmas gifts. The first year I was devoted to this new tradition of mine, I had baked one-half dozen-or-so individual gingerbread loaves for my neighbors and co-workers. Santa appeared on a fire engine just as I was in the midst of the Christmas spirit of writing and addressing my greeting cards. We rushed outside to collect the peppermint candies a very thawed Santa was tossing to the children, donned in his heavy red velvet suit and shades on this bright 82 degree December day. By the time I got back to my calligraphy, I dropped to the floor, slowly fading into the darkness. I developed pneumonia as a result of the type of artwork I was doing in North Carolina at the time. It was the heart of the Christmas season and like a good little Elf, I had much work to do! As the bug set in, the details became blurred with the whirlwind of activity and excitement that go with the season. There, on the counter, were neatly wrapped gingerbread loaves in a row, names on each and tied with a bow. “I have to get these delivered before Christmas!” I blurted in a panic. I must have been in shock from the 103 degree sustained fever, because I insisted my husband at the time, drive me all over town to deliver these bloody gingerbreads! I have a vague memory of one of those recipients visiting me days later, and decorating my then quarantined bedroom with pop-up poinsettias and paper garlands. 2 weeks later, I was loaded in the back of the truck like a sack of toys, on my way to the Cleveland Clinic for some much needed medical attention.

Ten years later, I was baking and preparing my traditional gingerbread loaves, recalling the 3 ring circus I had created a decade before. I neatly tied my loaves with the customary name tag and ribbon, putting one aside for our Aunt R. Aunt Ruth was in California, where she stayed with her Grandkids for 6 months out of the year. Her scheduled return came around my Daughter's birthday, just a couple weeks before both hers and my Dad's. We celebrated Christmas together, exchanging gifts while singing “Happy Birthday”. Our 88 y.o. Aunt R. was unwrapping her Christmas gift with the excitement of a young child when she stopped abruptly. She had this incredulous look on her face, rapping her present firmly on the coffee table inquiring “What's this - a door stop?” Like the cake I was petrified! It never occurred to me that the tightly wrapped and now fossilized gingerbread loaf would go stale! What WAS I thinking? Perhaps the fever I sustained from the pneumonia had caused some permanent brain damage, although my heart was still in the right place. She let our peels of laughter until I likened it to fruit cake, to which she commented in a sobering tone “I like fruit cake”.

I never lived down that day when my beloved gingerbread tradition became known as my gift for making successful door stops. Feeling unappreciated, I retired the gingerbread loaves, replacing it with the ritual “Christmas Pears”. More perishable than the gingerbread, I only have to make one and it serves many. It's a better tradition, soon to become my legacy. (Thanks Mom S.)

*HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our Grandson, Christopher, born on Christmas Day.

Gingerbread Cake for Health

This simple low-fat, gluten-free Gingerbread Cake recipe is rich in iron, & modified to benefit those with digestive, cardiovascular & inflammatory disorders. Nutritional alchemy for all to enjoy!

Preheat oven to 350F
Grease 9x9” square baking pan or Lg. loaf pan.

Sift the Following dry ingredients together:
(less the sugar)

1½ C. brown rice flour
1 C. arrowroot or tapioca flour
½ tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
2Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
1½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. Penzey's baking spice
Touch of fresh ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. allspice
¾ C. Turbinado sugar
1 Lg. free-range egg (or equivalent egg substitute)
½ C. rice oil
½ C. unsulphered dark molasses
1 C. boiling filtered water over all

Beat together in large mixing bowl at high speed for 3 min.
Pour into greased pan

Bake for 40 min. at 350F degrees
Allow to cool @ room temp. then sprinkle with organic powdered sugar
or topped with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, or whipped cream alternative.

The above recipe is intentionally soy free. Eliminating the dairy topping will make it lactose-free.