Sunday, November 21, 2010

FREE Holiday Giveaways Galore!

Ingredients for pumpkin muffins

This is a very long post about me baking some muffins to try to win some free stuff. This is also about me giving away some free stuff. You do not have to bake some muffins.

You can scroll down to The Part Where I Give Stuff Away on Facebook. Also, check out the bottom of the post, the Suggested Use Tip~Fingerless Gloves. It is a funny little story that might help with some of those 'hard to shop for' guys in your life.

The Long Story Longer

Thanksgiving is this week and thus the holidays are officially upon us. And, so it begins- the mad rush for everyone to try to get your money, as you rush to give it to them. Toss in some stress, holiday weight gain and cold and flu season, sounds like a recipe for disaster. How about a recipe for success? Well, in my family, we need this quite literally.

This year, my whole immediate family went gluten and wheat free. Plus, neither of my sisters eats dairy and the older doesn't do eggs. It has been a fairly good journey, not easy, but very much worth it. The thought of eating wheat free- no bread, no hamburger buns, no cookies, no stuffing, no pumpkin pie- makes some people ill. However, now, for me, the thought of eating all that is what makes me ill.

So, as this holiday season approaches, I started getting stressed out about my Beloved Stuffing. It is my absolutely favorite Thanksgiving dish. One year for Christmas, my brother in law made me a batch of stuffing for my gift. All for me. No one else got any. YUM.

As anyone with a dietary restriction will tell you, there are versions of things they can't eat made from something they can. Those things are often pricey, sometimes lame, seldom exact replicas of the original. However, the longer you go without eating the 'real' thing, the less you remember it. (I had a 'real' piece of pizza a few weeks ago. I almost cried, it was so good. But, I paid for it later.)

Saved By The Internet

I didn't want to have some shotty substitute for my Beloved Stuffing. So, I turned to Gluten Free Girl to save me. Shauna James and Daniel Ahern are foodies, chefs, writers, fighters and other things that I'm sure I missed that they would not have. Read more about Shauna, her journey to being gluten free and why and what they do.

Most of successful GF eating means just having foods that are naturally without gluten. However, Thanksgiving is not one of those times where you can choose much of that. Luckily, Gluten Free Girl and the Chef have been posting recipes, videos and tips about how to make a gluten free Thanksgiving. YEAH!

Then, I found out they had challenged other chefs and bakers to develop GF Thanksgiving recipes, which they posted on their blog. Then, they challenged their readers and followers to made said dishes, post about them and THEN THEY WERE GIVING STUFF AWAY. Like their new cookbook. Like a Kitchen Aid mixer. Like OMG.

The Part Where I Give Stuff Away on Facebook

Wait, very cool idea. Give stuff away to people to get them to pay attention to you? Ok, why don't *I* do that? So, I am.

Starting tomorrow, Monday, November 22 and each Monday between then and Christmas week, I'll pick a name at random from the Jen-A-Fusion Fans on Facebook. Click here to get to the page and "Like" it. Yes, my friends and family will be included. They have been supportive and deserve free swag too. However, no one will be able to win more than once. Not on Facebook and don't plan to be? Email me and I will include your name in the chance to win. Invite your friends to Like the page, and your neighbors, dog walker and book club members too.

What will you get? Stuff that I made- perhaps a little zippered pouch, or a pair fingerless gloves or a scarf or who knows what. I'm winging it here, people, thanks for putting up with me! :)

Back To Me Trying To Win Free Stuff

So, I decided to be inspired by GF Girl and the Chef, not only passing on the love but also rising to their challenge.

I decided to make the pumpkin muffins from the Gluge Gluten-Free blog. Some of the other items sounds so, so good. Hello, I'll take a slice of the Gluten Free Pumpkin Roll with Mascarpone and Nutella Filling and one of Gluten Free Maple Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Gingerbread Bottom and Sour Cream Marshmallow Topping
but I'm not going to make them. No time, don't have the right pots or pans or ingredients, or even pateince. But, again, would love them.

And, I couldn't even make the stuffing for Thanksgiving that I will be bringing to my friend's house for dinner, as my mom is bringing the bread and she doesn't arrive until Wednesday and I must enter this contest today....

I do love a mean pumpkin muffin, though. I have made two batches this fall already, by altering GF mixes. Both were pretty good, so I thought I would try those.

I come from a long line of bakers. We're not so much chefs in my family, nor food snobs (yet) but we all bake. My grandma was known for her famous cheesecake and my dad won a blue ribbon on a cherry pie he forgot to put sugar in. Baking is also a more exact science than cooking, and I don't have much experience with GF baking, so I am still learning how all these different flours work. Making these muffins seemed easy, but would still be a challenge.

Pumpkin seeds for the streusel

The recipe is pretty simple. Looked like I had all the ingredients. Good start. Tia, the blogger and baker, had a link to a previous post about a crustless pumpkin streusel pie. Hm... streusel would be nice on the muffins. And, thus, my usual MO kicked it- start with a basic recipe and cater it to your tastes, hope it comes out well and eat it anyway.

I made the recipe as called for but ran out of pumpkin pie spice. I put a little cinnamon, and nutmeg in. Then, dumped in a handful of chocolate chips.

Started looking around for streusel ingredients. No oatmeal. I got rid of it during my 'non- GF' purging. While my roommate was rummaging around for some, she found a little package of pecans. She also only found instant oatmeal, maple walnut flavor.

So, I dumped the pecans into and turned on the mixer. Oppss... looks like it was pecan 'chips', not finely chopped, but definitely changed the texture of the batter. Especially since this recipe it just almond flour, wasn't sure how this was going to work out...

I made the streusel from the instant oatmeal package, a handful of pumpkin seeds I chopped fine in the blender, butter, cinnamon and the brown sugar. Popped in the oven. Yummy smells make my stomach grumble.

Fresh out of the oven

They smell and look so good when they come out. Sadly, they totally fell apart when I tried to take them out of the pan. This could be due to the fact they are still warm or that I didn't have muffin liners and ran out of non stick spray, so a lot of the muffin is sticking to the pan. Or, just due to the nature of GF baking. The gluten is what holds the baked goods together. Take out gluten and thus it tends to break apart. This goes for most GF goods.

So, I enjoyed the muffins with homemade raspberry jam my aunt in California made and a glass of apple cider. They are *probably* nothing like the original recipe was supposed to be, but they are really so yummy. Good texture, not rubbery, not too fluffy. The instant oatmeal added just a hint of maple, a nice fall touch. The streusel ended up a little runny, but was a good addition. I'm sure my mom and I will polish them off this week.

Well, enough of this. Between baking, cleaning up and writing this post, hours and hours have gone by. How do those foodie bloggers do it all the time?!

OK, back to my own Holiday Swag Giveaway. Remember, suggest the Jen-A-Fusion Fashion Accessories FB fan page to others that might enjoy free stuff. Check back on Mondays to find out the winner!

Also, this blog and the FB fan page have my up to date schedule for holiday selling. Lots of dates in December. Buying local, from local and it has a bigger impact on the local economy than sending your money out of the area...

I'll let you know how the Beloved GF Stuffing comes out! Thanks for reading~Jen

Suggested Use Tip~Fingerless Gloves

Many (older) people are surprised at my fingerless gloves, think I made it up and aren't sure how to use them. I didn't make this idea up, it has been around since the middle ages. I just put my own polar fleece spin on it.

Also, some folks aren't sure how to use the. They are great for texting, talking on the phone, knitting, typing and whatever else you need to do in the cold, but might need your fingers.

Yesterday, a very nice grandmother type lady suggested something new. She was wearing a red visor, an embroidered holiday sweatshirt and a blinking light necklace.

Her: "These would be good for people who shoot guns."

Me: "OK... when?"

Her: "You know, when you are out, shooting."

Me: "Like... hunting?"

Her: "Sure, like then.... you know, because the fingers are free, they can shoot their guns."

Me: "Great, I'll keep that in mind."

So, if you have hunters, gangbangers, snipers or assassins on your shopping list, I have you covered. :)

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