Marion Cunningham’s Nutmeg Muffins Gluten Free

Gluten free nutmeg muffins for Christmas

Today, on Christmas Eve, I got a craving for The Last Word in Nutmeg Muffins, so I scanned my kitchen bookshelves for one of my greatest treasures, The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. It was published in 1987, a lifetime ago–I bought it before I married Bill–but Cunningham’s recipes are timeless.

As I took the tattered and food-stained volume down from the shelf, I turned to Claire who was standing in the kitchen. “When I die, make sure one of you gets this book. Don’t let it go into the estate sale.”

The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham.
The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham, probably my favorite cookbook.

Claire looked askance and slightly horrified. Who could blame her?

I tried to explain. “I have all of Marion Cunningham’s books, but I think this one is her best. She taught me how to cook.” Claire still looked at me as if I had two heads. She’s the youngest child of four. She doesn’t remember a time when I couldn’t cook.

“It’s because of Marion Cunningham that we use whole nutmegs. Let’s make her nutmeg muffins.”

At the mention of the nutmegs, Claire finally nodded with understanding. She pulled a spice jar out of the cabinet, and taking off the lid, sniffed the nutmegs and smiled.

Claire tossed me two nutmegs, and I grated one and a half into a bowl that already held flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. As I performed these familiar steps, I thought about Cunningham’s struggles with agoraphobia and later, Alzheimer’s Disease. As someone who also struggled with anxiety in my forties, I now recognize a fellow survivor in her calm words. While I’m a huge fan of Julia Child, it was Cunningham who really taught me the important steps to cooking. Plus, her recipes are easier. Ask anyone who’s made Child’s boeuf bourguignon. I make it often because it’s my kid’s favorite stew, but let’s be real. Making boeuf bourguignon is a multi-level, time consuming process.

Contrast that recipe with Cunningham’s cheery preview of the best nutmeg muffins you’ll ever eat.

Fragrant, creamy-crumbed nutmeg muffins, the best of their kind, but you must grate one and a half whole little nutmegs to make these perfect creations. Although whole nutmegs feel like rocks, they are rather soft and easy to grate. The flavor of freshly grated nutmeg is incomparable. These muffins taste good with fruit, or butter, or all by themselves.

If I still haven’t convinced you, read The Amateur Gourmet’s estimation of this magical little book.

I made my muffins with King Arthur Gluten Free Multi Purpose Flour, my current favorite. Since they have butter, I used ghee, i.e., clarified butter. Clarified butter doesn’t have that nasty casein which gives me so much trouble.

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I spooned the thick batter into a heart-shaped muffin tin and placed it the oven for twenty minutes. Soon our house was filled with the scent of fresh nutmeg baking. Is there any scent more Christmasy than that?

I don’t think so.

Maybe I’ll just buy all of my children a copy of The Breakfast Book. It would make a great Christmas present idea for next year. Sssh, don’t tell them.

Merry Christmas Everyone.

Eating and cooking Thanksgiving gluten and dairy free: Waldorf Salad

Not my kitchen window, but instead, one from a home in Tucson. So peaceful isn’t it? That’s what I want for you this holiday season. Peace.

Hum along with me . . . and, so this is Thanksgiving . . . .

My apologies to John Lennon for putting my own words in his famous song, but every year, this is what I think about our most American holiday. While other people’s excitement builds, I’m trying to figure out the best way not to get sick. It’s not easy to coast through the holidays with food intolerances and allergies.

However, I have good news. You have more options than ever to eat this starch and dairy-filled meal and remain healthy. I’ve written about the challenges before in 2008, 2009, 2011. In 2010, I simply wrote about gratitude which probably shows a change in my feelings about my disease. In 2009, my mom’s dressing is front and center. It’s the one dish that completes the holiday meal for me.

Here’s a current listing of gluten free turkeys. This year, I bought a Honeysuckle White that states clearly on the label it is gluten free. Boy have things changed.

Living gluten and dairy free for five years, here are my thoughts about the big day from a 2012 perspective.

Take your time to think about gluten and dairy free choices before you hit the supermarket. Otherwise, you may become overwhelmed. If you’re making the big meal, count yourself among the fortunate. No worries of cross-contamination from Aunt Martha’s pie, or Grandma Suzy’s stuffing. There will probably be some in your family who doubt you can prepare a delicious gluten and dairy free meal that still satisfies. Trust me. It’s possible. This year, we are going to my mother’s house for Thanksgiving and then to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for dessert (at least for the wheat and dairy eaters in the family.) When my mom decided to cook, I was glad. I’ve made separate dinners for years, and I’m tired.

If your family all comes to your house and wants their favorites–who doesn’t on this most traditional of days–you will need to keep these foods separate from yours. If your family is open to your food challenges, lucky you. Ask them to bring the fruit salad, or some other dish that is dairy and wheat free and kindly warn them of wheat ingredients in sauces. Personally, I always stress that if they want to bring a dairy or wheat filled goodie, I’m fine with it. I know some of us aren’t. I do ask them to keep their food and utensils separate from mine. Sometimes, especially with pie, people tend to double dip. They don’t mean any harm. They just don’t think about it.

Can you imagine the luxury of not having to consider every bite you take?

The following is another recipe favorite from my family’s dinner table. It is naturally gluten free.

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