Today’s guest post is by my better half, the man “behind the curtain” in this Glutadoodle Oz of ours. Without Mike’s love and support, I never would have been able to go on this 18 month journey of self discovery and seeking out the answers to our family’s health issues. Little did he know 9 years ago when he said those words “in sickness and in health,” that they would become so relevant to his life.
So for that I say to ALL the partners/spouses/family/friends/loved ones who have supported those of us with gluten sensitivity when others could not…you are all angels and your support means everything in the world.
Our family decorates a gingerbread house for Christmas every year. Essentially, the boys use it as an excuse to eat half of the decorations and frosting while somewhat randomly plastering the other half onto the house. What follows this exercise is about an hour of exceptionally energetic children followed by a massive crash. Oh well, it’s only once a year, right?
We started this tradition back when we weren’t gluten-free, so the first few years we bought the kit from the store. Prebaked, prepackaged, ready to go (of course they never give you enough frosting so you have to make extra…they never seem to give you enough of anything anymore). Initially, we would go for that classic “Hansel and Gretel” type gingerbread house that you see in photos and then move heaven and earth to replicate (click here to see one feeble attempt). Of course it makes no difference that those “photo houses” were done by true artists who have probably made 16,000 of them and spent 3 weeks on the one you see in the picture.
Nah…”we can do this in an hour…let’s get started!”
The usual result (as expected) were houses that didn’t quite fit together the right way, were slanted, and had massive frosting globs in the seams.
“Hmmm…maybe this is just a bit more complicated that we suspected? No worries, let’s just plaster some more gumdrops to it and no one will know.”
Our first gluten-free house was in 2009. I continue to believe that one of the hidden blessings of having a dietary restriction is that it forces you to think outside of the box. While certainly not as convenient compared to what we’ve come to know, finding an alternative to any prepackaged food (even a gingerbread house) can also create the opportunity for perseverance, creativity and ultimately, victory. At this stage, Bob Vila enters the picture.
It turns out that the star from “This Old House” (who I must admit I never actually saw DO anything on the job site) had free templates out there for a two story gingerbread mansion. Pretty cool. Of course you have to make your own dough (Heidi used this gluten-free and vegan gingerbread recipe over at Cake and Commerce), roll, cut, and bake until just right, but that can be half the fun if you have the time and proper perspective. I mean, who wants one of those cookie-cutter (pun-intended) store bought gingerbread houses? If you’re gonna go, then go loud.
So in 2009 we did the two-story monster. There was quite a bit more surface area to stick stuff to, so even more of the decorations ended up in bellies than usual, but the house was very cool. And yours truly assembled the panel with the door on it upside down, so if you can climb in through the bottom window, there is a groovy window right in the middle of the upstairs!
One little wrinkle in this exercise for 2010: the gingerbread house had to be gluten-free, dairy/casein-free, egg-free, synthetic dye-free (by choice) and corn-free (for Heidi’s new allergy). They sell those in stores, right?
Long story short, Heidi had trouble finding a good egg-free royal icing in time for entering our house in the contest over at Cook IT Allergy Free. The first attempt Heidi made with an extremely thick frosting left a few gaping holes as the gingerbread roof slowly slid off the house. In case you didn’t know, frosting is not exactly the strongest stuff in the world, and it is just not up to the job of holding together Fortress Gingerbread. So once it became clear that the frosting was not going to hold the house together, we decided to try again and realized we needed something a bit more manly than frosting.
I am absolutely convinced that the glue gun was invented by a man. I know they are primarily used in arts and crafts stuff, but think about it: it’s a multi-functional tool, it is dangerous if not handled properly, and it has “gun” in its name. Definitely a male invention. We are talking massive firepower here, almost like depleted uranium glue. I think I would have to soak the thing in turpentine to disassemble it…nice! This sucker is huff and puff Three Little Pigs legendary.
So with the basic structure in place and with our new dietary needs including our preference to eliminate artificial colorings from our diet, Heidi decided to go loud this year. We gave up on Hansel and Gretel, and plugged in to the grid. Electrification, baby…oh yeah!
Here are the pictures of the 2010 edition of the Kelly Family Gingerbread Brick…erm, House. Sam barricaded the front door (placed right side up this year, mind you) with the rather sinisterly smiling marshmallow snow man. It’s like a bad 1980’s B-movie “Smiling Marshmallow Snow Man Zombies” or something like that.
You’ll notice that there are some before and after pictures, as in before the boys (and their Dad) got a hold of it. We were kind of juiced on sugar toward the end, so it started getting a little funky (gum-drops WILL stick to the ceiling if slightly wet, just so you know). We just started to blob frosting everywhere and then sprinkled it with this funky edible glitter; of course if you are 3 years old, ALL glitter is edible as well as glue, dirt, scrubbing pads and anything else that one of your parents are dumb enough to say “Don’t put that in your mouth!” about. You’ve all been there…you know.
This was Heidi’s failed attempt for a corn-free gingerbread house, as in, the only corn-free items in the above photo are the gingerbread, icing, and the electrical components (her corn allergy was discovered in November and we had no idea that corn is literally in EVERYTHING!). Will plan accordingly for 2011 and order well in advance from NaturalCandyStore.com.
The Christmas Trees were made from Goldbaum’s Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cones (click here to learn more). The dye-free gum drops were found at Whole Foods but since they were not labeled gluten-free, we just used them for decoration and not for snacking (and yes, a melt down by a certain 3 year old ensued!).
Heidi eventually found a great vegan royal icing recipe and used it to make the icicles and adhere the lights (you’ll need to scroll down to the last recipe on the page).
The lights were all battery operated and came from Lowe’s.
Although the house is clearly a masterpiece, we didn’t quite achieve our ultimate goal: there is a bit of artificial food coloring scattered about because I didn’t follow the rules (hey, it’s not like we can eat it since it has glue gun residue everywhere!). No worries, it just gives us something to shoot for next year (the black stuff is all-natural candy coal).
This sucker is going in a box and up in the garage, I am convinced it would survive a nuclear blast. I may keep it next to my bed to hurl at an intruder if necessary (the candy canes may have a cluster bomb effect if it hits at the right angle). Or we may run out of room and throw it away, at which point it will sit in the landfill for the next thousand years and then be dug up and put on display in a museum as “a marvelously preserved example of early 21st century Americana.”
This post is linked to December’s roundup of Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free!, a monthly event hosted by different gluten-free bloggers. This month’s theme is on Family Traditions and it’s being hosted by my pal Carol over at Simply…Gluten-Free.
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