Keeping It Real on GFE with a Word About Substitutions, “Bad” Santas, and the Power of “Ctrl F”

strawberry whipped cream santas, gluten-free strawberry whipped cream santas,

Here I Am Holding One of the Better Looking Strawberry Whipped Cream Santas (photo courtesy of my niece, Ashley)

Hello everyone! I hope you have been enjoying truly wonderful holidays and making some special memories with your family. We had a really special Christmas with my family and were thrilled to have Son home for a week! Sadly, he went back home yesterday and I’ll be honest and admit that I’m a bit sad about that. But I’m feeling better today than I did yesterday and, of course, I’m thrilled for him to go back to a home, job, and friends he loves. I’m trying to remember this Dr. Seuss wisdom:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

On to the topic of today …

My friend Lynn (Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures) occasionally shares posts on “keeping it real.” I always appreciate her “keeping it real” posts, whether they are about not getting stuff done on her “to do” list or feeling overwhelmed with the momentary challenges of life. It’s important to share with others from time to time that we’re human. As in important for both us and our readers. Life is never a picture postcard every single moment.

I like to think that I keep it pretty real here on gfe. I’m real and I’m flawed. I don’t do anything perfectly. Yes, I have a recipe on gfe called Perfect Pound Cake, because it really is perfect as far as pound cake goes (and gluten-free and gluten-full friends agree), but otherwise, you don’t see many claims of “perfect” here or photos of recipes that look like they are so perfect that they couldn’t be made easily by every single one of you.

I make lots of mistakes. As I’ve shared here before, some of my recipe accidents—or times I have winged it with substitutions—have led to new and better recipes in the end (recipes like Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Granola, Magic Oat Bars, Unmolten Chocolate Cake, and Vegan Pot Pie).

My Best Results from Mistakes and Substitutions

My Best Results from Mistakes and Substitutions

Things don’t always work out that way though. Sometimes the accidents just prove that I did not follow the directions and/or my substitution ideas were a bust, and the best salvage operation I often can manage is re-purposing a veggie disaster for soup or a dessert disaster as crumbs for a crumb pie crust or ice cream topping later.

There has been a lot of discussion on substitutions in the blogging world of late. Overall, I don’t mind substitution questions. I “get” the need for substitution suggestions. Most of the time, you—my readers—are looking for substitution suggestions because you have additional food intolerances. Other times, you might not have the stated ingredients on hand. “I’ve been there done that” for each of those situations … and many times.

I have no issues with kind requests at all. I empathize and want to help. Your needs are the motivation behind me creating egg-free, vegan, grain-free, and more-free recipes. I really like creating food that works for everyone, delicious food that can be enjoyed safely.

I will admit that it can be disheartening to immediately get a comment that says, “I can’t eat eggs,” “I hate pumpkin,” or “I can’t eat the main ingredient in this recipe.” There are usually so many other recipes that don’t include the ingredients that one might be avoiding, that leaving such a comment seems unnecessary. I realize that folks are focused on missing certain foods though, especially when they first give them up. It is a loss. That is your world and you are feeling the need to vocalize your feelings to others who, hopefully, will understand and empathize and, most of all, help. The gfe discussion post Grieving Gluten: The Five Stages of Gluten Loss Plus One can be helpful in working through not only the loss of gluten, but also the loss of other foods. The comments are worth a read as well.

It can also be a bit upsetting when a reader leaves a comment that a recipe did not work at all. When one inquires further, most of the time one learns that the reader substituted different ingredients. (My friends Pete and Kelli Bronski over at No Gluten, No Problem wrote on this topic a while back.) For example, one reader commented recently that my Perfect Pound Cake did not turn out for her (yes, that same pound cake that I mentioned above, the one that is always perfect! LOL).

In this case, the reader left a nice comment trying to figure out the “why” behind the recipe not working for her. After a brief discussion, it turns out that she had used sweet rice flour versus white rice flour. That substitution yielded completely different, and definitely not perfect, and not even successful results. Ingredients do matter and the ingredients that bloggers include in recipes are the ones that worked for us. In the case with the unsuccessful pound cake, the reader was not yet knowledgeable on the various gluten-free flours. We had a great discussion, she was relieved that it was an ingredient issue and not some unexplainable phenomenon, and she’s ready to give the recipe another go with the correct ingredients next time—woohoo!

Food bloggers work long hours (for little or no money in many cases) and most of us blog simply to help others. We want to help others avoid all the trials we have been through with recipes and in general. A kind thank you comment can sustain us for days, sometimes months. An unkind comment will stick in our heads like a bad dream, overriding the kind comments. In the wise words of one sweater-clad sage you probably remember:

“There are three ways to ultimate success:

The first way is to be kind. 

The second way is to be kind. 

The third way is to be kind.” ~ Mr. Rogers

Recently on my other site, All Gluten-Free Desserts … All the Time, I shared a recipe for Strawberry Whipped Cream Santas from Jeanette’s Healthy Living. These treats (shown below) as Jeanette made them are absolutely adorable, don’t you think? And also absolutely perfect for the holidays, right?

gluten-free Christmas treats, gluten-free dairy-free strawberry whipped cream Santas, Christmas recipes, holiday recipes, Jeanette Chen, Jeanette's Healthy Living

Strawberry Whipped Cream Santas from Jeanette’s Healthy Living (reprinted with permission)

I planned to make some for our family’s holiday gathering at my parents’ home on Christmas Eve. I decided that I would make some of them with ready-made whipped cream versus the homemade whipped cream that the recipe called for (I was sure it would work just fine) and mini chocolate chips (as directed). I would also make some with my homemade Coconut Whipped Cream (either my honey coconut whipped cream, honey cinnamon coconut whipped cream, or maple syrup coconut whipped cream versions) and use cocoa nibs (from to create a dairy-free recipe so gluten-free, dairy-free Son could enjoy them as well.

Of course, on Christmas Eve I was running behind schedule, so I decided that the Santa treats would have to be a fun girls’ activity once I arrived there. (Not a sexist comment … I couldn’t see any of the males in our family interested in anything but eating the Santas!). I grabbed the supplies I needed (and beaucoup other stuff—food, presents, and the like) and headed out the door. After sharing a wonderful meal (with most items gluten free and dairy free; Son and I had plenty to eat!) and exchanging gifts (see one of my faves below—thank you, Ashley!), we were ready to make the Santas. I quickly realized that I didn’t have all the ingredients I had planned to take with me.

Specifically, I had forgotten the mini chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, and sweetener for the coconut whipped cream. Sheesh. But mom had regular-sized chocolate chips and while those would give Santa some big old bug eyes, they would work. And after brainstorming with my niece, Ashley, and nephew’s wife, Morlee, about what other non-dairy options we had for eyes, we thought of raisins. Fortunately, mom had those on hand, too.

Raisins would work just fine and cutting them into smaller pieces would offer the right size. Mom had confectioner’s sugar, so I decided to use that as my sweetener for the coconut whipped cream. Unfortunately as it turned out, the transporting of the coconut cream had made it more liquid and it didn’t whip very well at all. I ended up making only one dairy-free Santa with it and saved the rest to throw in Son’s smoothie the next day.

Gluten Free Whipped Cream, But Not a Good Substitute for Homemade Whipped Cream in This Recipe

Gluten-Free Whipped Cream, But Not a Good Substitute for Homemade Whipped Cream in This Recipe

For the dairy-full Santas, as I mentioned earlier, I purchased ready-made whipped cream. But I had selected the extra creamy variety which was, in hindsight, a poor choice as a “binding” whipped cream. (Jeanette even used a stabilizing agent in her whipped cream because of her concern for the whipped cream breaking down over time.) And that nozzle on the whipped cream can … well, it’s not exactly an “artist’s” friend. My idea to add some whipped cream to top Santa’s hat made things even worse. Jeanette had used a piping bag to carefully dispense her homemade, stabilized whipped cream. In the end, our Strawberry Whipped Cream Santas turned out to be a laughable, but lovable lot, and in no way resembled Jeanette’s adorable Santas!

Sad Santas ... When Substitutions Go Wrong

Sad Santas … When Substitutions Go Wrong

And that’s in no way Jeanette’s fault and is a big part of my point of this post. Substitutions often don’t work well at all. Bloggers can’t usually test out all the possible substitutions. But many of us are likely to have an idea from previous experiences of working with ingredients if certain substitutions will work. I always say, “I *think* ingredient x will work.” (The *think* I stole from my friend Kelly of The Spunky Coconut.) The asterisks emphasize that one hasn’t yet tried that combination of ingredients. I always encourage folks to let us—me and the gfe readers—know if they try a substitution and tell us how it worked out. Many do take the time to come back and leave such a comment. I am extremely grateful when they do and I know other readers are grateful if they see the comment.

The truth is that most of with food intolerances are so grateful to others who try substitutions and then take the time to tell us whether they worked or not. If we’re dairy free, egg free, vegan, paleo, or whatever, it makes us so much easier for us all if we all share any knowledge we gain from our own experimenting. It was from reader feedback in comments on my original Crustless Pumpkin Pie (dairy-free version here) that I learned that flax eggs would work in the recipe. So when I was invited to speak at the Fredericksburg Vegetarian Group meeting last year and asked to offer up gfe recipes that their members could make, that pie with that particular substitution was included. It was made by one of the members and enjoyed by all.

So getting back to my  statement on if” you see the substitution information in comments, you might be thinking “Well, how do we find out about the feedback on these substitutions? Do we have to read through all the comments?” While admittedly I have fairly mastered skimming comments to find what I need, I learned a much easier way from another blogger friend, Nance, several years ago. I like to call it the power of “Ctrl F.”

“Ctrl F” enables the “Find” command. When you push the “Ctrl” key (to the far left or far right from space bar) and then the “f” key, a “Find”/search window will pop up at the top of your page and you can enter whatever word you are looking for. (Depending on the browser you use, the search box can pop up on the top left or top right.) If I’m looking at a recipe and I want to see if anyone has reported substituting for the egg(s), I’ll do “Ctrl F” and enter “egg.” You want to enter the word that folks are most likely to use. You can’t count on folks to use a term like “substituted,” but most will say something like “for the egg, I used …” or “I subbed a flax egg.” Egg would be the common denominator, so that’s what I search on when looking for reader comments on egg substitutions.

Here’s a screenshot using “Ctrl F” with the term “egg” (with Internet Explorer as the browser) on my Crustless Pumpkin Pie post. After the Find/Search box, you see Previous, Next, Options (“Match whole word only” or “match case”), and the number of matches. As you can see, there are five matches. I click on “Next” until I (hopefully) find what I am looking for. The first two occurrences are the use of the word “egg” in the actual recipe, but with the third match I hit pay dirt. Reader Shelly states in a comment that she used flax eggs successfully in this recipe. As you can see, she shared other info about her crustless pumpkin pie experimenting as well. Readers like Shelly are much appreciated by us all!

using control f to search on recipe ingredients and substitutions, recipe substitutions, how to make successful ingredient substitutions in recipes

Using Ctrl F to Search on Key Ingredients and Info

So try using “Ctrl F” before you ask the blogger your substitution question. While the process might sound complicated if you’ve never used this functionality before, you’ll quickly get the hang of it, it will only take a few seconds, and the answers you need might be right there for you in comments. Plus, you’re likely to learn some other substitution options that you’d never even considered.

Back to those Santas …

Although this experience is a great example of how substitutions can’t be taken lightly, the bottom line is that we had fun and we will make the Santas again. But next time we’ll use the right ingredients and right tools. It doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to figure out that these adorable Strawberry Whipped Cream Santas need the proper whipped cream “applied” using a decorating bag with the right-sized tip, and the proper size of edible black eyes. Again, we’ll do better next time!

Even Sad Santas Go Quickly When They Taste Good

Even Bad/Sad Santas Go Quickly When They Taste Good

Okay, you can stop laughing now! I think I have proved that I am a human … and I didn’t have to add two numbers or decipher those jumbled, often illegible characters to do so. Fortunately no actual Santas—or strawberries and others ingredients—were harmed in the errant making of this recipe. And you know what? Every Strawberry Whipped Cream Santa got eaten and nobody complained! That doesn’t always happen when substitutions go wrong.

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Gluten-Free Fridays, and Gluten-Free Tuesdays.

Not just gf, but gfe!

Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: This post may contain one or more affiliate links. If you purchase through them, your cost will always be the same, but I will receive a small commission. Thanks for the support! Read the full disclaimer here.


61 Responses to “Keeping It Real on GFE with a Word About Substitutions, “Bad” Santas, and the Power of “Ctrl F””

  1. Fatcat on December 30th, 2013 11:44 am

    This reminds me of the funny “nailed it” pictures on Pinterest, what happens when recipes go wrong as they sometimes do. :-)

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 12:29 am

      Fatcat–I thought about the Nailed It photos when I was writing this post and planned to include a link, but then it slipped my mind. However, I had only seen an article with several “Nailed It” examples, not this whole section on Pinterest! Anyway, too too funny. Thanks so much for sharing! :-)


  2. Trish on December 30th, 2013 11:50 am

    I definitely laughed at your Santa’s – too funny – but I should have taken a picture of your Coconut Crustless pie that I made for Christmas dessert and sent it to you for a laugh in return!
    I don’t know whether I whipped it too long, or used the wrong type pie plate or it was still just way too warm – but when I tried to serve a “slice” it just wasn’t happening! It ended up being crustless coconut pie pudding served in bowls with whipped cream on top!! Lol – it was delicious and everyone liked it – except my mother in law who really wanted me to make your crustless peach since I’d made it before and she liked it – first she didn’t like coconut( until my hubby pointed out that she loved my coconut squares) then she didn’t like custard but not to worry about her, she did not need dessert she’d just go without even though she was still hungry – and then talked about the peach pie endlessly while the rest of enjoyed our “pudding”. I live in Ontario, its been snowing for weeks, where I would have gotten peaches I have no idea – but she was pretty bitter!! Lol – can’t please everyone! Happy New Year and thanks for all the fantastic recipes and advice you do offer :-)

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 12:58 am

      Oh, Trish, I’m so sorry on the coconut pie! I’ve never had anyone have bad results with that. It does need some setting it up, but what you’re reporting sounds like more of an issue than that. :-( I’m glad you still enjoyed it even in its altered form though. You made me laugh about the peach pie!! My sympathies, dear! I appreciate all your kind words and the New Year wishes! Happy New Year to you and your family! :-)


  3. Kay Niedenthal on December 30th, 2013 12:39 pm

    Awww, poor droopy Santas. Ha ha! I’ve had my share of gf failures, some tasty, some inedible. Live and learn and try again.

    One of my most versatile recipes has been my pumpkin bars, like your pumpkin pie. I’ve subbed sweet potato, acorn squash, butternut squash for pumpkin. And yogurt, ricotta or cottage cheese work in place of cream cheese. Also used Sucanat, brown sugar, white sugar and Splenda for the sweetener. Every combination has worked. I’m glad to have at least one foolproof recipe in my arsenal.

    Due to some early gf ingredient stupidity, I have an abundance of potato flour. NOT potato starch. I’m looking for recipes that call for cups of this. Any ideas?


    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:01 pm

      Kay–Well, of course, the issues with these “poor droopy Santas” were not related to being gf specifically. Substitutions are always a gamble, but in gf baking, you are right, they can be even more risky. ;-)

      Yay on your versatile pumpkin bars! They sound downright amazing. :-)

      I’ve never used either potato starch or potato flour; I like to keep things really simple here at gfe, but Linda of The Gluten-Free Homemaker revised her sugar cookie recipe so that it did not include potato flour recently. That means her original recipe includes potato flour. Only 1/2 a cup, but it’s a start if you feel like making sugar cookies. ;-) Otherwise, I’d google “gluten-free recipes potato flour” and see what you find. And you can also use potato flour in Jeanne’s (Art of Gluten-Free Baking) gf all-purpose flour mix instead of sweet rice flour, so that might be an option. Good luck, dear!


  4. tina on December 30th, 2013 12:47 pm

    LOL at the mother in law… so mean of you to not make her favorite pie!

    Shirley, I think you are the most “real” of the gf bloggers I follow, and now that I think about it, that’s part of why you’re my favorite. I love to see your new discoveries, and when I need a gf recipe for something specific, I check your blog first because I know it will use ingredients I’m likely to have and it will turn out great.

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:03 pm

      Hi Tina–Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and leave such a lovely one at that! :-) Thank you for sharing all that with me and others and being a loyal gfe reader. It really means a lot! Happy New Year!


  5. Stella S on December 30th, 2013 1:31 pm

    Hi Shirley!
    Excellent post AGAIN! I am a sugar addict, so I don’t make too many of the sweet recipes, (this isn’t a negative) but you and your blog are SO much more than recipes. You offer the most helpful advice and tips. You let us comment back with our ideas, too (how about the “How to recover after being gluttened”). And the cream of tartar tip is genius too. I learned today about using Ctrl F.
    So thank you, Shirley, for all that you do here. The reality, the truthfulness, sharing your life with us. The recipes, bad Santas and all. The love you send out to us I am sending back to you! <3
    Stella S
    Have a peaceful New Year

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:08 pm

      Oh my goodness … thanks so much for all the “warm fuzzies,” Stella! I’m really thrilled to hear that you get so much from gfe! I get so much from all of you as well when you take the time to comment, offer feedback and advice to others, etc. That is what blogging should be I think—a nice ongoing exchange. ;-) Happy New Year to you, too! I am looking forward to 2014!


  6. Susan on December 30th, 2013 1:44 pm

    Hi Shirley,
    I loved today’s post. I’ve made many versions of your Santa’s with other recipes. As you mentioned — they usually get eaten regardless of how they look! I’ve also gone the “I’ll use it in another recipe” route.
    You are always so kind to share your wisdom, fabulous recipes, and your journey. Thank you!
    Wishing you a wonderful 2014.

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:11 pm

      Hi Susan–It’s always great to hear from you, dear! Thanks for sharing your experiences and for the sweet words! :-) You are welcome, of course. Happy 2014 to you, too! I think this year holds great, great promise and it’s here for us to get started on all the good stuff. I’m excited! ;-)


  7. Marianne on December 30th, 2013 1:49 pm

    I love what you do, Shirley! You’re the calm in the middle of the storm.

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:13 pm

      Marianne–Awww, those are kind things to say–thank you! :-) I think that aging helps with the calm thing. Experience has shown me that getting riled up often doesn’t lead to great results and it also expends great energy that I’d rather use on more fun stuff. ;-)

      Happy New Year, dear!

  8. SherriS. on December 30th, 2013 3:10 pm

    You are the BEST Shirley! This made me laugh:)

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:14 pm

      Yay on making you laugh, Sherri!! We were laughing like crazy when we made these Santas and that was far better for us than the awww’s the perfect Santas might have elicited. ;-)

      Thanks, dear! Happy New Year!

  9. Carina on December 30th, 2013 3:51 pm

    I don’t do this often enough, and I appreciate the reminder. I am so grateful to the many bloggers from whom I have learned so many ways to expand my cooking/baking/eating gluten free experience. I often “tweak” recipes to meet my gluten and cow dairy needs. Thank you!

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:18 pm

      Hi Carina–First, I’d like to officially welcome you to gfe. I’m so happy to have you here! I am also so happy that you’ve learned so much from bloggers and can now tweak recipes. That is awesome and so much better than being reliant on bloggers for recipes that work perfectly just for you, as the latter doesn’t happen all that often when one has additional intolerances/needs. I’m all about the “Teach a Man to Fish” concept. ;-)

      Happy New Year!

  10. Lynne L on December 30th, 2013 6:53 pm

    I think your Santas are adorable. I’m sure they tasted great & that nobody minded what they looked like! Personally, I would have appreciated that someone cared enough to make them for me. I know what you mean about feeling sad re Son leaving. My daughter couldn’t make it home this Christmas… cancelled flights due to a terrible ice storm here that lasted days. The destruction was enormous. So I’m looking forward to her hopefully coming home in Feb for a visit & whipping up some goodies together. Whether they are “successes” or not doesn’t matter. Thank you, my dear, for all you do. I’m so glad I found you at the beginning of having to go GF, as you have guided me through what could have been a difficult journey! Wishing you a safe & healthy 2014!

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:22 pm

      Hi Lynne–Thanks for liking our goofy Santas! :-) You’re right … nobody minded at all. ;-) I am so sorry that your daughter couldn’t make it home for Christmas because of those awful storms. I know that must have been a huge disappointment for you. I’m really glad that you have time together next month to look forward to. That time will go quickly and you’ll have a wonderful time together—successes or not! LOVE your attitude. In general, so much time is wasted on the aspirations for perfect anything. So glad you’re not caught up in that. Thank you, thank you for the wonderful feedback on helping you through your journey! That means the world to me!

      Hugs and Happy New Year, dear!

  11. Linda on December 30th, 2013 7:27 pm

    Oh, Shirley! I’m laughing (with you) and nodding in agreement at everything here. Bookmarked!

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:24 pm

      Linda–Hehe! Yay! I love making people laugh and I’m glad you agreed with/appreciated this post. Life is too short to do otherwise (as in “disintegrate” when things aren’t perfect), right? ;-)

      Happy New Year!

  12. Johnna on December 30th, 2013 8:17 pm

    Love, love, love this post. I’m going to go sing from the mountaintops my gratitude for you and the other food bloggers who have so generously shared and helped me figure out how to cook. Seriously Grateful But first I need to stop giggling about your Sad Santas. They are such a perfect personification of many kitchen errors. From now on, my kitchen failures are going to be referred to as “Sad Santas.” :)

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:30 pm

      Thank you, Johnna! Hehe on calling your kitchen failures Sad Santas from now on. I LOVE “inside terms” like that! :-) Sister, you are one of the food bloggers who generously shares and has been sharing for years, and you always keep it real, as you did in your latest Soften Saturdays post: Seven Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Over 300 Pounds and Decided to Lose Weight. I so admire you for putting yourself out there like that, so to speak, and being willing to share your experiences to help others!! What a gift you have given us all! That’s a post that’s going to resonate with many and change lives for sure. :-)

      And thank you for your always positive, always wonderful feedback, dear! Happy 2014!

  13. Cheryl Harris on December 30th, 2013 9:00 pm

    You’re real, you’re flawed, and you’re beautiful. I love your recipes and your rooted sense of humor and wisdom! Huge hugs.

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:36 pm

      Awww, thanks, my dear! We have a mutual admiration thing going on. ;-)

      Happy 2014! Hope you’re visualizing some amazing things for yourself this year!

  14. Lauren on December 31st, 2013 11:02 am

    Well written and well said. Happy New Year!

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:38 pm

      Hi Lauren–It’s good to see you here again. :-) Thank you for the compliment and the new year wishes! Happy 2014 to you as well!

  15. Nance on December 31st, 2013 11:56 am

    LOL! Shirley, thanks for the nod. Ctrl-F changed my Computing Life, for sure, and I have to give credit where credit is due and give my nod to Jared, my son.

    You look terrific, by the way! It’s been far too long since I saw you, so this photo is a nice surprise.

    The Great Salad still gets raves around here, too, no matter where I take it. And I made a lovely gf carrot ginger soup a couple weeks ago. Thought of you immediately. Thanks again.

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:45 pm

      Hey Nance–Okay … if credit must be given to Jared, then we shall! LOL You know how those things go to his head though, right? ;-) When I first read that tip—of Jared’s—which you shared long ago, I had no idea how much I would use it. If my Ctrl F powers were taken away, I’d be a very unhappy camper. I’m not even sure I’d know how to function, to be honest!

      Thanks for the kind words on the photo, dear! I was gussied up a bit for Christmas, although I wish I’d reapplied my lipstick before my niece took the photo. LOL

      So happy that everyone is still loving the Great Salad; it’s definitely required everywhere at almost every meal function I attend. And your carrot ginger soup sounds fantastic. I’ve got a lot of carrots that need to be used and that combination has actually been in the back of my head. Hope you’ll send along the recipe if you get a moment!

      Happy New Year, Nance!

  16. Jill Ann on December 31st, 2013 1:57 pm

    Here’s a hug and a “boy, do I appreciate you!” Shirley. Your site is my go to when I have any questions. Many blessings on your new year! JillAnn

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:48 pm

      Hi Jill–It’s wonderful to hear from you, dear! Thanks so much for all the sweet words and the new year wishes. I’m so happy to hear that gfe has helped you so much! Hope you have had wonderful holidays and that 2014 will be especially good to you and yours! :-)


  17. moriah c on December 31st, 2013 2:18 pm

    Thanks for the post! It’s nice to know that even the “experts” can have things not turn out right and are able not only to laugh at the situation but have thousands of others laugh with them. You’re awesome!

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:51 pm

      Hi Moriah–I always appreciate your overly kind feedback here on gfe! :-) I love, love, love the idea of thousands laughing at these Santas! We need more laughter and to loosen up on things. Laugh and be kind … I think that is the mantra for 2014! ;-)

      Hugs, thanks, and Happy New Year, dear,

  18. Linda on December 31st, 2013 3:28 pm

    Shirley, I love everything about this post from the picture of you to the discussion of substitutes to the picture of your santas! Thanks for keeping it real.

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:52 pm

      Thanks so much on all, Linda! Sometimes we just need to share the “behind the scenes” reality, right? ;-)

      Happy New Year, dear!

  19. Edonna on December 31st, 2013 8:17 pm

    Once again Shirley, you just rock!

    • Shirley on January 1st, 2014 1:53 pm

      Awww, thanks, Edonna! I appreciate you chiming in with such sweet words! Happy New Year to you!


  20. Jenn on January 2nd, 2014 8:04 pm

    Shirley, I’m so glad you posted this, and I love those Santas, they still sound delicious even if they ended up looking a little lackluster :) Substitutions are sometimes a bit of a game of chance in the world of gluten free cooking…

    Hope you had a wonderful holiday!

    • Shirley on January 3rd, 2014 1:47 pm

      Thanks so much, Jenn! Lackluster is such a kind word in this case. ;-) Even imperfect recipe results can be loveable. Hehe. I’m all for experimenting with substitutions because that’s how we learn, but we have to be prepared to accept (and love in some cases) those imperfect results and keep on getting on. :-)

      Our holiday was great! Hope yours was, too, dear. Happy New Year!

  21. Cassidy @ Cassidy's Craveable Creations on January 3rd, 2014 10:44 am

    What a great post Shirley!!! I’ve had so many of my own “Bad Santa’s” and I love that you blog so freely about it and address substitutions!


    • Shirley on January 3rd, 2014 1:52 pm

      Hi Cassidy–Thanks, my friend! I hope we’re all having our fair share of “Bad Santas,” because, otherwise, we might just be a little too uptight and not trying new things. ;-) I really hope folks will find these thoughts/info on substitutions helpful. :-)

      Happy New Year! xo,

  22. Maggie on January 3rd, 2014 4:53 pm

    Love this! Those Santas are too cute and too funny. We’re alike in so many ways Shirley. I just don’t have patience for some things, kinda like my gingerbread house. Martha I am not. Maggie I AM! xoxo

    • Shirley on January 3rd, 2014 11:10 pm

      Thank you, Maggie! Yes, I’m pretty sure that we’re kindred spirits in the need for ultra simplicity due to lack of patience dept. ;-) And “Maggie I AM!” … I LOVE that!!


  23. Mary on January 3rd, 2014 10:03 pm

    OMG, I laughed out loud! Reminds me of some of my failures. This is my first time to your blog and I REALLLY needed a laugh after a good friend suddenly died days ago and it has been FOREVER since I have laughed.

    Thank you

    • Shirley on January 3rd, 2014 11:16 pm

      Hi Mary–Welcome to gfe. I’m so glad that you could relate to my Santas and they gave you a much needed laugh, especially during a very sad time. Please accept my very deepest condolences on the sudden loss of your dear friend.

      Big hugs to you, Mary,

  24. Margaret Hoffman on January 4th, 2014 6:38 pm

    Shirley, love your pics!! I know about recipes not always turning out!! That’s part of my “adventures of cooking”!! I have had Pie “soup” and other misadventures but I just Laugh and go on!! I have more since I’ve had to go to a gluten-free diet but laughing still works!! I just love your posts because you aren’t afraid to show the misadventures!! I also learn so much from every post!! I always recommend your blog first if anyone is interested in anything relating to gluten-free!! I will remember the ControlF feature, it will make my life so much easier. I do enjoy reading the comments and have learned a lot from reading them! Love you and love your blog!! Here hoping you and your family have a wonderful 2014.

    • Shirley on January 10th, 2014 5:39 pm

      Hi Margaret–It’s always great to see you here! And I certainly never get tire of your super kind comments—thank you so much! Have you ever noticed how many food blogs, particularly gluten-free blogs, have “adventures” or “misadventures” in their name? ;-) We all learn from each other, right? How boring if every recipe turns out perfectly every time, right? Then we don’t learn how to cook/bake and create new recipes, adapt to ingredients on hand, etc.; instead we learn how to make the same exact recipes over and over. Again, boring! I really hope you get a lot out of the Ctrl-F functionality. I love reading comments and always learn from them, too, but every now and then we’re pressed for time and Ctrl-F comes to the rescue. :-)

      Happy New Year to you and yours as well! xo,

  25. Angela Sommers on January 6th, 2014 3:55 pm

    Oh Shirley! You made my day one filled with joy, laughter, relief and friendship!
    Thanks for the hilarious story and pictures. Thanks also for your deeper meaning in your blog.

    As you well know, I often have some mishaps in my kitchen that I am able to somehow turn into a success of some sort – I personally think its almost more fun that way.

    either way, it’s good to be able to laugh about these things, and enjoy the outcome, whether perfect or what appears to be a dud!

    Thanks Shirley! You are great!

    • Shirley on January 10th, 2014 5:49 pm

      Hi Angela–I’m so happy that this post brought you such enjoyment! That was at least part of my motivation for sharing my Bad/Sad Santas. ;-) And you are right, you ALWAYS turn your few less than stellar baking results into something beautiful and delicious! So often it doesn’t take much to do that really. I hate to hear when folks throw away “mishaps” and also throw in the towel, so to speak. Thanks for the lovely words, Angela. They really mean a LOT! :-)


  26. Sarah || Celiac in the City on January 6th, 2014 5:04 pm



    I’ve done the “baking flop fix” posts, been there done that. (and the French toast that came from the bread flop was amazing!)

    Thank you for reminding the world that we are all human. And we can only do so much. And we’d LOVE to know ALL the substitutions in the world, but that’s just not feasible. And that we do this for free. (at least most of us) For fun. To help others. To meet new blogger friends that become like family. THANK YOU for the reminder to us all.

    Happy, Happy New Year!

    Ps: I often get the family-fun-hangover… any time I get to hang with my fam/friends that I don’t see enough, the next couple days are always tough. Hang in there — glad you had fun while he was home! :)

    • Shirley on January 10th, 2014 5:56 pm

      Hi Sarah–When I saw your latest comment on my 5 years of gfe post, I realized that I had not finished replying to the latest comments on this post, including yours! So glad my thoughts resonated with you and, yes, I totally remember your beautiful French toast! Flops of any kind can become amazing new creations. Sometimes the only truly bad thing about a reinvented flop is the fact that you CAN’T duplicate your results for another go ’round! LOL, but true. :-)

      I recovered pretty quickly from Son returning home. A little time and several phone conversations, text messages, etc. and I was good to go. I’m sorry that any of us have to go through it, but it does show how much we value our family and friends and the dear time spent with them.

      Thanks for the New Year wishes, dear! I hope yours has started off wonderfully well!

  27. Molly (Based on a Sprue Story) on January 15th, 2014 6:58 pm

    Hahaha! Oh my gosh, I’m really late in reading and commenting on this post, but just wanted to say I love the Santas and appreciate you sharing the “fail” (it makes the rest of us feel good to know our favorite recipe bloggers aren’t PERFECTLY perfect). I’ve read several posts about substitutions now (and some authors put notes about it right into the intros to their cookbooks, too), and I’m sure it must be very frustrating to feel blamed for something that isn’t your recipe’s “fault” at all.

    P.S. Not THAT bad of a problem to have enough comments on each post that your readers need Ctrl+F to find the one that applies to their particular concerns! ;)

    • Shirley on January 16th, 2014 7:56 pm

      Thanks, Molly! It’s always good to laugh at our “foibles,” right? ;-) I hope I didn’t sound mean in my post. That was certainly not my intention at all. The blaming is very rare here on gfe and I’m grateful for that. I mainly want folks to know that I welcome their questions and can offer up ideas, but sometimes I just don’t know if substitutions will work or not. As far as using Ctrl-F in comments, that’s a tip I wanted everyone to know that they can use anywhere, but yep, it’s wonderful when there’s enough feedback from readers to be able to use that capability to find all kind of info on subs. I treasure that reader feedback! :-)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Molly! I hope there are no sad/bad Santa type foibles in your own kitchen in the near future … unless you need a good laugh, of course. ;-)


  28. Cindy (Vegetarian Mamma) on January 16th, 2014 8:29 pm

    Its so important to keep it real! Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! :)

    Hope your week is great! Can’t wait to see what you link up this week!

    Cindy from

    • Shirley on January 17th, 2014 12:18 pm

      Hey Cindy! Thank you for being real, too, and thanks for all the sharing and, of course, hosting your weekly linky. Happy Friday! :-)


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