“I dared him to use mini-wienies on his house.”
I thought you would all enjoy the result. The kids only became more creative from there, competing to see who could make the funniest gingerbread house using the appetizers alongside the candy. The houses wouldn’t last longer than the night of the party (especially the ones using shrimp), but added a whole new level of fun for both the grownups and kids.
This, actually, turned out to be the year of Gingerbread houses for me. It all started at Thanksgiving when we went to the Sheraton in Seattle to appreciate the huge Gingerbread houses on display there.
The theme was nursery rhymes… and there was everything from Hickory, Dickory Dock, to The Cow Jumping over the Moon. I don’t remember the theme of my favorite one, but it was a town complete with bookstore and pub.
My daughter’s school also held a gingerbread decorating party. I am always glad when the mess can be made at someone else’s house. So I enjoyed watching the kids and teachers build their amazing houses. I also learned a new trick- molding Rice Krispie treats. They were using it to make dogs, bushes, lamp posts. Pretty cool.
Then, on the first day of school vacation my daughter had a little party to decorate these huge gingerbread men we found at Costco. Watching the young girls create their design made me appreciate how unique each one of us is in how we think and plan and execute. In fact, this was true of every gingerbread decorating event I attended. Whether it was lining up the candies in a pattern on a roof, drizzling food color gel over the window edges, stacking cheese and shrimp to make a flagpole, or merging two houses to make a condo, gingerbread decorating brings out the designer in all of us. It forces our imagination to keep up with the sweet joy of the candy being used. And shows us that, like the season of Christmas itself, it is less about the end result, and more about the time spent with friends.
May your Christmas be filled with just such time spent with family and friends and, like gingerbread decorating, your 2013 be as crazy as you choose to design it.
“Fudge, fudge, fudge, fudge, fudge… yum!”
A day later, of course, my daughter’s stomach hurt like anything. How do you decide what treats to make at the holidays? To be honest, I’m not really a huge sweets eater. I’d much rather have something savory. So every year it seems like I try to find an alternative to the standard cookies and fudge. And then… end up still making the cookies and fudge.
This year I infused olive oil with basil and put it in a pretty bottle with slices of bread to go with it. Lovely, but too much work to do en masse. So, after delivering three of these, I was back to baking. To simplify I made pretty little puff pastry palmiers (photo above) to go along with my fudge.
Recipe (courtesy of Sunset Magazine, Dec 2008):
- 1/2 C packed light brown sugar - 1 sheet (8.6 oz.) frozen puff pastry
- 2 tsp ground cardamom dough, thawed according to
1. Combine sugar and spices (note- you can be creative here... add orange zest, or chopped candied fruit, or crushed candy cane with some chocolate nibs). Unfold dough flat on a work surface and sprinkle evenly with half the sugar mixture.
2. Using a rolling pin, lightly roll (once) the mixture into the puff pastry, being careful not to reshape the dough. (Note: this is more messy than it sounds, but don't worry, it still turns out well.) Flip the dough over and repeat with backside.
3. Beginning with side closest to you, fold in by 1 in increments to the center of the rectangle. Repeat with other end, then fold the two over as if closing a book (say, for example, my new PRINT version of Betting Jessica:>). Wrap airtight and chill at least 1 hr.
4. Preheat oven to 400 F. Using a sharp (not serrated) knife, slice dough into 1/2 in slices. Line baking sheet with parchment and bake until doubled in size and golden, about 8-10 min. Let cool (if you can stand the wait... don't burn your tongue if you can't.)
They are so easy that my daughter could help and I could whip them out the day ahead of time. Plus… as I mention in the recipe, you can add whatever you like to the sugar, so I made a variety. Aside from the cardamom, I also made cinnamon and then added chocolate nibs (the cocoa bean that has been roasted and crushed. Yummy and crunchy.)
The problem came when I tried to make my chocolate banana muffins. I’m still not sure what went wrong, whether it was converting it to a bread size, or mixing up an ingredient, but the end result was a dense loaf that could have been used as a paperweight. I briefly considered this, but after tasting it, realized the flavor was still good. My great idea struck the next day when I noticed a dipped biscotti at Starbucks. After a second bake, and a good dunk in white chocolate, viola! The bread was now an Italian biscuit.
But for real inspiration I would suggest referring to a new friend and amazing cookbook author, Francine Segan. I myself would have made something from her cookbook Dolci but my husband wouldn’t let me open the package, very clearly marked from her, until Christmas morning. That shouldn’t stop you however. Here’s a link to the book. And if you are looking for some motivation, be sure to sign up for my newsletter (link) which will direct you to her recipe for Cenci… a lightly fried, sugared, dough rolled thin using a pasta machine, and has a delicious picture to tempt you.
Hope you enjoy every moment of your holiday baking. And when life gives you paperweights, make biscotti!
What are your favorite holiday recipes? Care to share any simple ones? I’ll be sure to tweet them out with a link to your site or your comment. And, don’t forget that every comment left on one of my blogs this month enters you to win $10 to the non-political charity of your choice. So leave your comment and then check back at the end of the month to see if you have won.
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