Today's our street's annual block party. There is always a table of treats, and unless I have brought something, there usually isn't anything gluten-free. I know that statistically speaking, of the hundreds of people that come to this party, there are others that have celiac, who are gluten-intolerant, or who deal with autoimmune disorders that are exacerbated by wheat and gluten. And even if there isn't another person on the block that is "out" about being on the gluten-free diet, I'm happy to make something for the table as an awareness-builder or to accommodate the gluten-curious among us. Last year I took some not-very-attractive zucchini bread muffins and labeled the plate with blue tape and a sharpie, and they mostly went untouched. This year, my culinary/political statement is getting an upgrade: Delicious and attractive and beautifully-gf-labeled (thanks, glutenfreelabels.com!) Xocai Healthy Dark Chocolate thumbprint cookies. They were pretty fast and easy to make, and since I'm a cheerleader for Xocai, I'm always happy to spread the word about the antioxidant powers of Xocai's quality dark chocolate products.
My family loves these. I had to declare this batch off-limits until the block party begins. They are light and fluffy and (always the key test from the gluten-eaters) indistinguishable as gluten-free.
3/4 cup gluten-free flour blend
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/8 t. xanthan gum, if your flour blend doesn't already include it
1/4 cup butter, cubed and chilled
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 T. almond milk, milk or milk substitute of your choice
5 Xocai nuggets, or6- 8 Xocai X Power Squares
Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it.
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the butter and cut it into the dry ingredients until the butter bits are the size of peas. Add the vanilla, egg and milk and beat using a mixer until it's smooth. It's pretty sticky and you'll need to scrape batter out of the beaters.
Drop tablespoon-sized circles of cookie dough onto your baking sheet 2 inches apart. Cut your nuggets into 2-3 pieces and push the chunks into the middle of your cookie circles. Alternatively, snap Xocai Power Squares in half and push half a square into each (squares are easier to snap than nuggets are to cut!)
Bake for 12 minutes or until the cookies are slightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool on the pan for 3-4 minutes, then transfer them carefully to a cooling rack.
Makes between 12-15 cookies. You should probably consider doubling the recipe if you want to have any for yourself.
I am from Oklahoma. In the 22 years I lived there, I spent my share of time taking cover in the designated room in our house or hallway at school as big storms rolled through. I don't know if I ever saw a tornado really in all that time. Tornadoes are capricious. They take funny twists and turns. And after living through a few dozen of them when nothing bad happens to your own little piece of the world, you get a little immune to the worry of it. I did, anyway.
And then tornadoes tore through Moore again a couple of weeks ago. That's pretty close to where my brother Glen and sister-in-law Kim and nieces Patricia and Alyssa live. But they were fine. And then last Friday I got a push notification on my iPhone from CNN that a tornado emergency (a designation that didn't even exist when I lived there, which means "Holy crap, there is a tornado right on top of you and you are in grave danger") was issued for El Reno, where Kim and Glen live.
In previous storms, Kim has posted regular updates on Facebook during storms from the storm cellar. (They built their house maybe 12 years ago and had a storm cellar installed. Most people don't have them. It's very difficult and expensive to dig down in Oklahoma.) During this storm, Kim was not on-line. Thankfully, Kim had gotten word out to my niece Alyssa who was out of town, that she, Glen, and Patricia were safely in the cellar, drinking wine, eating gluten-free snacks, and riding out the storm.
That is their house. Behind the house is a humongous freaking tornado. This picture was captured from video taken from a storm chaser news team immediately before their back window was broken out by flying debris. Amazingly, the house and barn survived though they did suffer some significant damage. The cows and horse survived. Two dogs were missing. One has found his way home. Everyone still holds out hope for pup #2, a friendly canine named Cinco. If you are in or near El Reno and see this dog, let me know.
I am grateful that my family is safe. I am grateful they have a storm cellar. I am grateful that Alyssa kept us up-to-date. I'm even grateful for this visual proof of how close a call they had. Please hold a thought for those that were not so lucky. Send love and light and prayers to their families and to the survivors of the storms that lost everything. Try to remember to work some gratitude into your everyday routine. Everything can change in an instant.
Miracle of all miracles, Cinco was returned to the family alive and well a few days after the tornado.