(This recipe for cranberry, orange & ginger mincemeat was also featured on Getrealirishtours.com)

When I made this cranberry, orange & ginger mincemeat , the house was instantly transformed by the festive smells. People were trickling into the kitchen and even the collection of ingredients piled on the table spoke of the warmth and familiarity of a traditional Christmas. This recipe is, however, a twist on a classic, using the tart cranberry flavour in fresh and dried forms to offset the sweetness of the orange and other dried fruits. Cranberries are so delicious and I need to use them as much as I can during their short season! I can’t resist dried figs either – they are such a luxurious touch, especially when they are all bathed together in cherry brandy. The Christmas smells really come from the aromatic fresh ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.

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My lovely friend Sue bought me The Happy Pear cookery book and both of us instantly identified the healthy Coconut Macaroons as a ‘must bake’. Made with just a few ingredients, without processed sugar, gluten or dairy, they store well and are a perfect little pick me up in mid afternoon. They have helped me to avoid the all too readily available workplace sweets.

Healthy Coconut macaroons drizzled with dark chocolate from the Happy Pear Coockery Book

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Here was my brief. A birthday celebration pudding made without refined sugar, dairy, gluten or cocoa. Yes, I did despair. I lamented. I wailed and pleaded. In normal circumstances the obvious option was to make the preferred pudding of the birthday girl, a sticky toffee pudding.  Was this possible without all the traditional ingredients? I refused to be beaten. They could take my sugar but they could never take my baking spirit.

 

Stickytoffeepudding

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This recipe is taken from The River Cottage Veg Everyday Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

. The book was a present I got for Christmas and so far everything I have made from it has been delicious! I embarked on a meat free or at least meat reduced diet in January. There are, of course, countless benefits to doing this in the month of January including improved health and bank balance, however, my reason was largely culinary.

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There are few pleasures greater in life than getting a lovely crunchy biscuit on the side of your coffee. (Ok, there may be a few greater pleasures!). We commonly call them biscotti, but they are also known as cantuccini. I believe that the latter means coffee bread while the former refers to biscuits that would have traditionally been baked twice.

I know that some people don’t enjoy this type of biscuit, citing it as too hard but I think dipped in coffee, that the nuts and crunch are really delicious. I chose chopped hazelnuts and walnuts for this recipe because I quite like to have little bits of nut distributed throughout the biscuit, as well as the lovely whole chunks of walnut.
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I was in Vancouver over the summertime and while I was there, I saw a hilarious greeting card. It read ’A birthday cake without wheat is rarely a treat’. My mother avoids lactose while my sister can’t eat gluten. My father needs a chocolate free diet. One by one all these things are manageable, but when combined, it requires some baking research and planning. I am grateful they can all eat eggs and nuts.

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Cookies are a pretty straight forward option for gluten free or dairy free baking. They don’t need to rise so the missing gluten isn’t that important. I really like the flavour and texture that coconut oil lends. Plus it is that bit healthier than butter! (I am trying to find a bright side of a family who reject my dairy and wheat filled baked goodness!). With the growing numbers of people who have dietary restrictions, every baker needs a few recipes like this under their belt!

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