Monday, December 23, 2013

A Very Udi's Christmas

It's two days before Christmas. I'm tired. I have tape in my hair. There's glitter all over my office. I've eaten a metric crapton of Hershey Kisses, and I've seen Home Alone so many times this year that I've started rooting for the Wet Bandits. And I still have to prep and contribute to three family holiday feasts.

But I'm not worried. It could be the steady stream of Rumchata that's flowing through my veins. But mostly, I think it's because Santa came early to my house this year. Sort of.

A few weeks back, Udi's contacted me to see if I'd like to sample some products and see how I could incorporate them into my holiday festivities. I already knew I loved a lot of their stuff, so I gamely agreed. I was expecting some cookies, maybe a loaf of bread or two. What I got was a delightful surprise - a sense of peace of mind for holiday fooding.

Last year was my first Christmas gluten free. We adapted by me making my own "special" food, while everyone else ate the same old delightfully gluten-filled things. This year, with the help of my families, we decided to make everything gluten-free: Christmas Eve at my parents' house, Christmas morning with Luke's family, and Christmas dinner at our place. All of this seemed like a fantastic idea at inception, the closer we got to the holidays, the more skeptical I got.

I was about two days from cancelling all Yuletide festivities when the Udi's shipment came in, saving the day. I no longer had to think about baking from scratch, and I had guaranteed good-tasting food. So here's how I used the goodies, and how you can bring a little bit of normal into your gluten-free holidays:

* Office Parties/Cookie Exchanges: Last week, it was unofficial holiday party day at work. You know. Cookies. More cookies. And then some more cookies. Instead of having the sads, though, I got to share some delightful brownie bites and snickerdoodles. It was great, because I had something to share, but more important, I had something to eat! I'd had the snickerdoodles before and enjoyed them, but the brownies were new to me. They remind me of the little Hostess brownie bites, but, you know, not loaded up in the big G. Not going to lie, throwing those bad boys in the microwave for a couple seconds makes them even better. Fewer of these got shared, and I regret nothing. If you're like me, not a natural baker, Udi's products are a great option for these "bring a plate to share" type events. Plus, in the Chicago area, Udi's products are getting easier to find, and trust me, it's a lot quicker to stop off and pick up a box or two of pre-mades than trying to wade through the chemistry nightmare that is first-time gluten-free baking.

* Brunches: Luke and I have a tradition every year of spending the Sunday before Christmas doing a champagne brunch. It's mostly just an excuse to get day-drunk on Andre while watching Saved By the Bell Christmas special. This year, we capped the brunch off with cinnamon rolls. Full disclosure: My favorite part of cinnamon rolls is the icing, and while I love the Udi's glaze, I *may* have supplemented with some cream cheese frosting. It kicked it up a notch, and also added some bonus calories for fervent gift wrapping later in the day. Because if there is anything we are lacking in December, it's calories.  The greatest undertaking is yet to come - a French toast casserole for Christmas morning. My mother in law has made this for the past few years, and I'm psyched to get to try it, subbing in Udi's white bread for the regular stuff. It's a family recipe I can't share, but it's similar to this one from Food Network. Healthy, not so much, but decadent - oh, so decadent.

* Party Food: We do a nice set-up at my parents' place for Christmas Eve, and this year, the whole sheban is going to be Alissa-friendly, from the mini GF lasagnas to the bacon-wrapped shish kabobs. We needed some easy snackies, too, and while there are a lot of GF chips out there, I was happy to get the new ancient grains chips from Udi's. They have sort of a Sunchips vibe, and I'm looking forward to putting them out as my contribution. I've started sampling already, so I'm sure they will be popular. We're also tempted to make pizzas with the Udi's crusts - a long-time favorite of mine.

The holiday season can be so overwhelming, and I'm glad that there are companies like Udi's to take the legwork out of making gluten-free goodies. Thanks to Udi's, and I hope you all have a delightful holiday season. I'll see you all back after the first of the year. In the mean time, I'll be mainlining coffee and Bing Crosby, and trying not to eat my weight in home-made fudge.

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