3 Quick Recipes for Christmas Day

Have you planned your Christmas menu yet?  This post is all about Christmas breakfast and Christmas pie!  I've got three recipes for you that my family loves and requests every year--old favorites made-over to be free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugars.  

Gather your family 'round the table with Cranberry Bread and Sausage Balls for breakfast, then Chocolate Pecan Chess Pie later in the day for dessert (or have your pie for breakfast! no judging here ;-) ).  And yes, I've gotta tell you---in case you've not picked up on this before---eating together at the table is a priority for us every day, and especially on Christmas Day.  I share my heart with you on this at the bottom of this post, but first, the recipes...

Grandmother's Famous Cranberry Bread 
{Gluten-Free with Dairy-Free option}
Inspired by and adapted from the children's book Cranberry Thanksgiving
2 cups gluten-free flour blend (I use this one.)
1 cup coconut sugar*
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. real salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup butter or coconut oil (If you use coconut oil, make sure it's solid so you can cut it in.)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. grated orange peel
3/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup craisins 
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.  Set aside.
2.  Sift together flour, coconut sugar (if you opt to use honey, add with step 4 below and adjust amounts of baking soda and orange juice as indicated under "Notes" below), baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl.
3.  Cut in butter (or coconut oil) until mixture is crumbly.  
4.  Add egg, orange peel, and orange juice all at once (if you're using honey, add that here as well); stir just until mixture is evenly moist.
5.  Fold in craisins and cranberries.
6.  Spoon into prepared loaf pan.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. FYI--my oven tends to cook this bread more quickly, so I always check it for doneness after 45 minutes. If it's starting to brown but not yet done in the center, cover loosely with foil and continue baking.

*Alternatively, use 3/4 cup raw honey instead.  Using honey instead of a granulated sugar affects the texture, so to account for that, adjust other items in the recipe as follows:
  • Add an additional 1/2 tsp baking soda.
  • Reduce orange juice by 2 Tablespoons.
  • Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees.
Sausage Balls
{Gluten-Free with a Grain-Free and Dairy-Free Option}
Adapted from Christmas with Southern Living 2007
2 cups gluten-free baking flour blend (I use this one.)  Alternatively, to make it grain-free, use 1 cup cassava flour instead.*
1-lb. pork sausage (preferably pastured pork)
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded extra sharp Cheddar cheese (OR, if you can tolerate sheep milk, use equivalent amount Manchego cheese instead)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, pressing together with hands.  
2.  Shape mixture into 3/4" balls, and place on ungreased baking sheets.  
3.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until browned on the bottom.**

*If you use cassava, start with less flour than you need and add more as needed for texture. Too much flour and the sausage balls won't form or stick properly.  
**We've found it helpful to check the sausage balls about 8-10 minutes into cooking, and if it looks like the sausage balls are sitting in a pool of grease, drain the grease. Then return to oven to finish cooking.

Chocolate Pecan Chess Pie
{Gluten-free with Dairy-Free option}
Adapted from a Southern Living magazine recipe, circa 2011
1 unbaked gluten-free pie crust (I like to make mine from scratch, using either Nicole       
     Hunn's recipe (from blog "Gluten Free on a Shoestring"); or, for grain-free, Danielle 
     Walker's "Basic Pie Crust" recipe from her Celebrations cookbook.)
1/2 cup butter (or coconut oil)
2 (1-oz.) unsweetened chocolate baking squares 
2/3 cup coconut cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups coconut sugar
3 T. unsweetened cacao 
2 T. gluten-free flour blend (I use this one.)
1/8 tsp. salt

1-1/2 cups pecan halves and pieces (Optional, but I prefer to soak and dry mine first, 
     making them "crispy" and more digestible, as described in Sally Fallon's book 
     Nourishing Traditions.)
2/3 cup coconut sugar
1 T. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract 

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Roll pie crust into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Fold the dough in half; then transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, unfold, and shape to fit.  Fold edges under and crimp.
3.  In a medium sauce pan on the stove, melt butter (or coconut oil) and chocolate squares, stirring frequently until completely melted and smooth.  
4.  Pour chocolate mixture into a medium mixing bowl and add coconut cream, eggs, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.
5.  In a separate bowl, stir together coconut sugar and next 3 ingredients.
6.  Add sugar mixture to chocolate mixture, whisking until smooth.
7.  Pour mixture into prepared crust, and bake pie at 350 for 40 minutes.  
8.  Stir together pecans, coconut sugar, and maple syrup, and vanilla; sprinkle over pie.
9. Bake 10 more minutes or until pie is set.  
10.  Remove from oven to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).
Happy eating! :) 

Thoughts on Gathering 'Round the Family Table
In our home, gathering together around the table for meals is one practical way we set aside intentional time to be fully present with each other.  When we first bought the house where we now live and had an actual dining room for the first time ever, I committed to making it a space we would use on a daily basis, for at least one meal every day and for tea time together at least once a week.  Geographically, our dining room sits at the front of the house, set apart from the noise and usual distractions of the rest of our living space--the school room, living room, and even the kitchen.  Such a location naturally makes it a perfect spot for taking a pause and cultivating a kind of sanctuary from the chaos of busy days.

My kids don't always appreciate this, and that's ok!  They like to eat in the kitchen at the large island, half of which functions as a kitchen table and casual eating space, and where we often eat breakfast.  So when I insist on sharing lunch and/or dinner together in the dining room, there's the occasional protest, "Why? Why can't we just eat at the island?"  

And my answer to them is, "Because I want us to eat together where we can look at each other in the eyeballs!" 

Our dining room is the place where we make that happen.  There's something about gathering around an actual table where we can make real eye-to-eye-contact with each other that encourages real conversations and allows us to be fully present with each other.  

So whether it's just for breakfast or dessert, lunch or dinner, I hope that you'll make it a point to carve out time with your family around your family table, and give each other the gift of your presence, this Christmas and beyond!

May you and your family enjoy a blessed, joyful Christmas Day together!

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