Favorite Holiday Dishes and Treats

sausage ballsI know you can find favorite holiday dishes listed by state. I’m sure you can find many other favorite lists grouped in many other ways. Today, you get to enjoy a few of my holiday favorites categorized by the order in which they pop into my head.

Peppermint Ice Cream

Many holiday favorites come from family traditions. This one does not. The first time I tasted peppermint ice cream was at a Baskin-Robbins®. I don’t remember the city or the year. I just remember the creaminess of the milk balanced the mintiness of the peppermint in a scrumptiously delicious way. Later I discovered Chik-fil-A® peppermint chocolate chip milkshakes. Those were even richer and more decadent than ice cream.

One year, my son Ben & I bought a half gallon of peppermint ice cream on the way to my hometown for Christmas. We didn’t have a cooler with us. I have no idea what we thought we were going to do with all of that ice cream for three hours in the car, but standing at the counter a single serving each just didn’t seem like enough. We ate all we could stand, then threw away a large amount of melted pink mess.

If you’re like me, you have to review each new holiday offering to make sure it’s compatible with your eating regimen. Be prepared. This reading assignment may startle you. In addition to excessive calorie counts, you’ll find artificial flavors, corn syrup, and gum stabilizers. As long as it’s gluten-free, I don’t mind choosing this kind of treat once a year but it’s not something I want on a regular basis.


I know there are two camps on eggnog. I happen to like it. You don’t even need to spike it with anything as long as there’s nutmeg sprinkled on top. One draw is that we had it at my grandmother’s house on Christmas. The other is similar to that of peppermint ice cream – it’s soooooo rich and sweet.


My family’s traditional Christmas meal was breakfast. My mother served it mid-morning after we opened presents. It was the one time each year she was sure to make a homemade meal. I loved the crispy bacon, scrambled eggs, and even the biscuits although they were an acquired taste. They were consistently so brown and hard my sister called them moonrocks.

Sausage Balls

I never think to make sausage balls until the holidays roll around. That means cooking one recipe is never enough. I always double up. If I have any left I can freeze them. Of course, I never have any left. If we don’t eat them all while the family is together, someone packs up a bunch to go. The few that remain are my breakfast for a day or two. They really are a good grab & eat breakfast.

Party Mix

Much like sausage balls, my family starts eating party mix around Christmas and puts it away just after the Super Bowl. My great aunt Ruth brought party mix to my grandmother’s house every Christmas. I loved the crunch of Brazil nuts and the toasted buttery flavor of the cereal. I would try to eat it slowly so it would last longer. While I was successful at eating small portions, I ate them so often it still didn’t last long.

Harry & David® Pears

My box of Harry & David pears just arrived. A friend gives me one every year as a Christmas/birthday present. I excitedly await the ripening of the first pear. These Royal Riviera Pears are never ordinary. They’re extraordinary!

Hot Chocolate

It seems that Christmas parades these days are during the day. When I was growing up, our parade was at night and it was C-O-L-D. Riding on a float or standing and watching left us chilled and ready for a cup of hot cocoa. We could hardly wait long enough for it to cool before we started gulping.

Chocolate Orange Balls

I like the flavor of orange and chocolate together, but my favorite thing about chocolate orange balls is the instructions – Whack and Unwrap! It’s a pleasure to consume food you don’t have to treat gingerly and anything that helps work out the added frustrations of the holidays is a good thing. Perhaps that’s why Santa always left my dad nuts to crack.

Chocolate Covered Bing Cherries

I love bing cherries! We used to eat them fresh from the tree. I’m not sure it gets any better than that, but since I no longer have access to a tree, I’ll settle for the chocolate covered version.

There were a few more items that crossed my mind, but ultimately didn’t make this list – pumpkin bread, glazed ham, beef & noodles (this makes my all time favorite list, but we had it on multiple occasions throughout the year), and green rice. Fruit cake crossed my mind, but try as I might, I don’t like it.

Your family may have a more traditional holiday dinner that produces favorites like prime rib, green bean casserole, mincemeat pie, latkes, or Christmas pudding. Whatever they are, I wish you the opportunity to enjoy them with those you love this holiday season!








Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Travel Tip #14 – Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk

When you’re traveling, there’s no need to cry over spilled milk…or spilled anything when you have some simple supplies on hand. Even if you’re like my boys who pack by throwing clothes in a bag 30 minutes AFTER they’re supposed to have left the house, you can be prepared for the inevitable travel oops. Less than 5 minutes of assembly before you hit the road to grandma’s house for Christmas can make for a more comfortable trip down the road.
paper towels

Whether you’re flying or traveling by car, start with the basic spill reliever – paper towels. Most of us keep a roll around the kitchen. Beginning at the loose end of the roll, tightly roll a section of towels, then put them in a zip top bag. Without the cardboard core or empty space in the center, a generous number of towels take up very little space. The plastic bag can double as a trash bag if you have a large spill and need a place to contain soggy towels.

Campers, backpackers, and duck hunters have used this technique with toilet paper for years. If you’re traveling in a remote area, you may want to include that essential as well. Throw it in your purse when you make a pit stop and you won’t have to worry whether the facilities are well stocked. It can also come in handy if you get stuck in an unanticipated winter storm and need to make a trek away from the car.

This time of year, travel is often accompanied by a runny nose or lingering cough. Tissues to cover your mouth will make your companions feel better about sharing closed spaces with you. Of course you can purchase these in travel packs if you don’t want to make your own. As a matter of fact, you can purchase toilet paper and paper towels in travel rolls as well. These make good stocking stuffers for the frequent traveler who can throw them into the glove compartment of the car and always be prepared.
If you’re a vigilant planner, there are many individually packaged items you may want to carry in your bag – hand wipes, face wipes, eyelid wipes and a variety of wipes for the other end. Whether I’m traveling or just going to lunch and the grocery store, I like to carry eye drops and tooth cleaning pics along with lens wipes for my glasses.
And if you’re a frequent spiller, you may want to top off your supply list with a stain removal pen. I must look like one of these because a grocery store employee recently handed me a free pen while I was shopping in the produce section. Perhaps I had a coffee stain on my shirt, or perhaps she was just being nice. Either way, I am now fully prepared – are you?

If so, there’s no reason to cry over spilled milk. If not, you can be in about 5 minutes. Happy travel and happy holidays!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What is the Best Thing about a White Christmas?

View from my front door

This morning, I’ve been looking out the window at the 10 inches of snow that fell on Christmas.  It is beautiful. The branches on my elm tree are sparkling in the sunlight. The streets are quiet because we have no snowplows in the south so most people are staying home. I feel relaxed because I don’t have to hurry to get ready and get out the door to get to the office by a certain time. In fact, I feel like I’m able to move at my own pace instead of at the pace of someone else’s expectations.

Is that it? Is it that the snow frees us from the usual expectations, takes away the pressure of rushing around to accomplish the too many tasks of our over-scheduled lives, and allows us to move at the pace we determine is correct to meet our immediate needs?

Is it the quiet that comes from the soft snow cushion that muffles sound, plus less traffic noise, and no airplanes passing overhead? Is it the beauty of the snow’s changing reflection of light that keeps pulling us into the moment?

All of these questions have run through my head as I’ve relished the quiet peacefulness of the day, lingered over coffee, left the TV off, and wiggled contentedly under the blanket covering my legs. I feel less pressured, more peaceful, and more connected to the being of life rather than the activities of life.  I am able to continually watch the light changing on the snow and stay right here in the moment.

It is as if the veil that clouds life’s possibilities has been lifted and I am free to explore what I want right this minute. I don’t have to try to get around to seeing my options once I’ve met everyone else’s deadlines (a time I know will not come before I’m too exhausted to care). I can stay in, or bundle up and go out. I can shovel my walk, or see how many funny looking footprints I can make. I can cook brownies and then cake and then the bread that has been rising to the warmth of the oven vent. There’s plenty of time for the bread to rise twice without me having to plan ahead. I can put on make-up or I can skip a shower. I can read a book, organize photos, meditate, do yoga, or just sit quietly and be with myself.

This is the kind of day I want to have every day – the kind in which I’m present in the moment, open to the possibilities, and deliberate in the activities I choose. For me, such a day always begins with stillness and quiet. That’s the very best thing about a White Christmas – beauty that keeps me focused in the moment, and the blank slate created by a blanket of stillness and quiet. It is from this place that all good things begin.

View from my kitchen window.

Holiday Indulgence–Is It Worth It?

For those of you who are tempted to fudge a little here and there, I recently asked myself this question–Was a recent holiday indulgence worth it?

After 9 months of strict adherence to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Thanksgiving arrived.  I cooked sweet potato pie, corn casserole, cornbread dressing (stuffing if you prefer), an amazing sweet potato and squash soup, and gluten-free macaroni and cheese for my extended family.  While I cooked, I tasted.  At the dinner table, I tasted.  For a couple of days afterward, there were leftovers in the fridge that…I tasted.  Now mind you, a taste isn’t a serving.  It’s just a couple of spoons full, and I never tasted anything containing harmful gluten.

Then came the cold December afternoon when I returned to my office ready for an afternoon snack.  No, not just ready…I felt like I was starving.  While I was out of the office, the most beautiful, red holiday basket had arrived.  Sporting a huge bow and from the most exclusive flower shop in town, it was filled with chocolate chip, key lime, and iced spice cookies, party mix, candy, and one gluten-free item – a tin full of dark chocolate hazelnut toffee.  Not more than 5 seconds after I finished reading the label, I ripped off the plastic seal and popped open that tin.

After all, I was starving and there were huge hazelnuts embedded in the toffee.  I broke the toffee away from a nut and popped it in my mouth.  After all nuts are allowed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  Still hungry, I continued.  The third nut I peeled had a tiny bit of candy still attached. Chocolate, caramel tasting sugar – YUM!  I didn’t try nearly as hard to remove all the candy from the fourth nut…or the 5th, 6th, or 7th.  After all, it was only sugar (not gluten) AND I had been strictly following the SCD, perhaps I was ready to reintroduce some items into my diet.  This justification worked so well for me that I used it again the next day when I pulled the lid off the tin.

Then came Christmas lunch.  May as well try the scalloped potatoes, and then finish off the toffee.

Four days later I have two New Year’s parties to attend and I am doubled over in pain or I would be if I weren’t talking to the repairman who’s here to fix the alarm.  I can’t believe I used to work like this all the time.  It feels like someone detonated a bomb below and to the right of my belly button.  I’m contemplating the minimum amount of time I can spend at each party because I’m afraid I may need to stick close to a bathroom.  I plan to take a second dose of activated charcoal and hope for the best.

In the midst of this pain and anxiety, I hear the question nagging at the back of my brain: Was straying off the SCD worth it?  Hmmm.  The toffee was delectable, and the potatoes satisfied my longing for filling carbohydrates, but now I’m on track for what may be a lengthy healing process.  Hmmmmmmmmmmm.  Was it worth it?

YES.  Yes, the transgression was worth it.

Ahhh yes, the transgression was worth it, but not in the hedonistic way you may think.  It was worth it because the discomfort I am experienced reminded me in a very concrete way WHY I choose each moment of every day to adhere to an eating plan which allows my body to heal. Such discomfort also serves as a reminder of how difficult it used to be to focus and function before I went gluten-free. I feel amazed and proud of my progress.

And I feel proud of you for wanting to feel your best and for being willing to make choices that will keep you on the path of healing.  To be tempted is to be human.  Give yourself a break if you weren’t perfect last week, but don’t use yesterday’s mistake as an excuse to give up on yourself or to stop making good choices.  Just use it as a reminder of WHY you choose to consume only foods that contribute to your optimum health.

Have a wonderful holiday season!