Merry Christmas! (Yes, I’m late)

Happy Boxing Day!

I’m still in Miami and loving this gorgeous “winter” weather. Bobby’s family has been amazing and we’ve been having a really fantastic time.

I’m actually home alone right now; I feel kind of sick so I’m missing out on dinner plans. I just had Christmas leftovers (turkey, mashed potatoes, and some veggies) and they were just as delicious today as they were yesterday. The recap is coming soon. In the meantime, check out these gorgeous pictures my dad sent me…

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My mom makes Bûche de Noël every few years. Bûche de Noël is a traditional European dessert that’s served during the Christmas season. It’s also called a Yule Log. It’s mostly a French thing – the countries/provinces that make it (France, Belgium, Quebec, Lebanon, and more) are all francophone.

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My mom usually uses 3 different recipes to make the 3 parts of the Yule Log: the cake part (sponge cake), the inside buttercream icing, and the chocolate outside icing (possibly buttercream as well? I forget).

This year she made a slug to be more realistic:

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Reminds me of the banana slug that my dad and I saw in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

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Anyway.

My sister made Springerles, which are German cookies (biscuits?) that are made during the holidays. My Grammie always used to make them so I guess Julia took over that tradition this year. My dad said they were soft and flavorful. Definitely a success – Springerles are hard to get right.

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To make the Springerles, you use a Springerle rolling pin to press the design onto a slab of dough; then you cut the slab into squares. This one is from Wikipedia:

Springerle_roller

Julia is a great baker, so she also made these loaves of Hungarian Bread for Grammie, Aunt Mattie, and Uncle Rudy.

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I love baking presents. It’s such a nice way to show that you care. You guys all know how much I loved making those gingerbread houses

I am going to go watch some TV (Glee, perhaps?) with a nice mug of tea. Want to be rested for tomorrow’s flight.

Merry (late) Christmas again, and enjoy your weekend. I’ll try to get up the many many recaps that I have for you this week!

New York Events (Join me!)

New York News #1:

Do you like Bethenny Frankel? She’s going on tour to publicize her new book, The Skinnygirl Dish (“so much more than a cookbook”) next month. She’s coming to the Columbus Circle Borders on January 6th (a Wednesday) at 7pm. I plan on going… let me know if you want to go together.

New York News #2:

My new friend Ann (my coworker’s girlfriend) alerted me to this Warrior Challenge sponsored by Sati Life and Patricia Moreno. If you apply and are accepted you get a month-long pass to Equinox gyms (a $180 value) so that you can take intenSati classes. You just have to commit to doing 3 classes per week for a month and attending the kickoff class (January 10th) and finale class (February 7th). intenSati is a high-energy cardio workout class created by Patricia Moreno. I applied last night.

Non-New York tipoff:

Do you have Netflix? Do you want a good workout recommendation? This morning I did a 45 minute dancey/cardio workout called “Dance Off the Inches: Calorie Blasting” that was FREE with my subscription. Netflix offers a lot of free streaming videos (I’m currently blowing through the first season of Dead Like Me) and I love the workout videos. This was my first sweaty workout in a while and I had so much fun doing it. I missed real exercise! I do enjoy my relaxed routine now (20 minutes of yoga? that’s all I need each day!) but sometimes I just crave a good workout.

I’m heading off to Miami tomorrow afternoon (to join Bobby, who’s already down there with his family), so expect another post soon – I’ll have lots of writing time in the airport. I have some great posts lined up including a recap of a Christmukkah  party with friends (think latkes, homemade applesauce, and eggnog) and a crazy little announcement of something I’m doing next week with Dori.

Happy Tuesday! Almost Christmas!

How To Make Gingerbread Houses

Yesterday I gave you a teaser about my gingerbread house adventure – you get the full story today!

A week ago (last Sunday – when I blogged about exercise) I took the subway out to Flushing to visit my (Bobby’s) aunt and uncle. Auntie Jo had offered a while ago to teach me how to make real gingerbread houses – the recipe was from her German housekeeper (I think she said it’s from 45 years ago). I jumped at the opportunity – Auntie Jo is so sweet and I love learning new things about baking.

When I got there we got breakfast (see this post for my New York bagel). Auntie Jo had made the dough the night before (you have to chill it) so when we got back, we started with the baking process. Here is the recipe (hand-typed from Auntie Jo’s recipe book):

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It says…

GINGERBREAD HOUSES (from Cookie Cookery)

Mix together until smooth:

  • 1 cup shortening (2 bars)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup molasses

Stir into above and mix well:

  • 1/2 cup hot water

Beat 2 eggs and stir into the sugar mix.

Sift together, adding slowly:

  • 5.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

Place dough in containers and freeze or chill. Roll to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out with a pointed knife following a cardboard patter: 2 each of front, side, and roof. Chimney is optional.

Warm oven to 350. Bake 10-15 minutes. Let cool. Put together with Royal Icing. Decorate.

ROYAL ICING

Add 2.5 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar and 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar to 2 egg whites.

Heat, stirring, in the top of a double boiler until warm and smooth. Remove from heat, beat in electric mixer at highest speed for 5-6 minutes, until icing stands in peaks. Cover bowl with damp towel and put into refrigerator. Can tint with food color, or may squeeze through a pastry tube with decorating tip.

Use to cement house together. When sides are secure, use to place ornament candies on house.

<—End Recipes—>

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This was the baking station: a beautiful recipe book (handmade), a cutting board, cardboard cutouts (for making the house shapes), flour, a rolling pin. The dough is in that metal bowl.

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First, you flour the cutting board. Then you roll out the dough (with a rolling pin) until it’s about 1/4 – 1/8 inches thick. Use the cardboard shapes to cut out the pieces for the house.

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Auntie Jo showed me how to scoop under the dough before cutting it out so that it comes off the cutting board more easily.

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I had fun cutting out the pieces! Mine were not as nicely shaped as Auntie Jo’s, but she has more practice than I do (I’ll keep trying).

Duke (Ellington) kept us company:

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(He didn’t get any gingerbread.)

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After we did the houses, we still had dough left, so we did some cutouts – that’s a carrot cookie cutter. It is so cute. The house pieces came out and we put them in the garage to cool:

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While they cooled, we took a break…

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…To eat cinnamon toast with butter and hot tea with milk and sugar.

me morris jo

Uncle Morris DJ’d and played us some lovely jazz music while we baked that afternoon.

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Then it was time to make the icing. We didn’t use a double boiler; we just boiled water in a pan and put the metal bowl with the icing batter inside.

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And we beat the icing in the mixer – beautiful. We used a pastry tube thing to squeeze the icing (like glue) and put the houses together.

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The roofs go on last. We actually ended up with an extra base, so I put a heart on it and gave it to Bobby.

After I put on the roofs, I packed up the houses and took them home to finish decorating (it was late). I just decorated them yesterday (Saturday), and this is how they came out:

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I used gummy bears and chocolate chips.

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I’m giving them to my coworkers and my cousin (in-law-to-be). I think they make great gifts – I’ll definitely be making them next year too.

Thank you Auntie Jo for teaching me! And to Uncle Morris for great company 🙂

I’m actually on my own now… Bobby is en route to Miami (should touch down in about 25 minutes) and I miss him. But I’ll see him on Wednesday. I’m still missing the cats, too.

Have you ever made gingerbread houses? Do you give baked goods as presents? What are your favorite things to make?

Baking and Making Gingerbread Houses

This week has been a little bit crazy; I’m glad to be sitting at home relaxing (finally).

On Sunday I spent the day with my aunt (well, aunt-to-be-after-I’m-married) baking. Auntie Jo and Uncle Morris picked me up in Flushing and took me to this great bagel shop where we had breakfast:

bagel whole wheat ham swiss

A whole wheat bagel with ham, swiss, and mustard. It was so good. I didn’t quite finish it but I did bring the leftovers home and had them later. Auntie Jo suggested it and she got the same!

I hate to do this to you, but I haven’t finished decorating the houses so I’m going to save the gingerbread post for tomorrow or later this week. But I do have a teaser:

gingerbread man

I made cookies too! Bobby and I saw gingerbread men in Central Park the other day (for $4.50; what a ripoff) so I made this guy for him. I also made a bunch of other cute little shapes, most of which have been eaten this week by me. I always make dessert for Bobby and then end up eating it myself.

Other things we’ve had this week are… Fried Rice (Bobby makes this; he’s much better than me at it):

fried rice healthy

And a salad (though salads have not been very satisfying to me lately… I always end up eating something else if I have one):

salad chicken

This one had organic rotisserie chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, parmesan, and I think I used teriyaki sauce for dressing because I don’t have any dressing. We ordered everything from a delivery service called Fresh Direct, which is awesome. Kate and Simon recommended it.

I am missing my sweet cats right now.

cat couscous cats kabocha couscous cat kabocha

They are in New Jersey with my parents because Bobby and I are going to Miami this week to spend Christmas with his family. He leaves tomorrow and I’m joining them on Wednesday. I haven’t gotten to see his family for a while so I’m excited!

What are your holiday plans?

Thanksgiving Recap

Before the recap – look what I did!

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I got a milk frother at the Foodbuzz Festival the other week and I finally used it… for coffee. Did you know you can froth coffee? I did not. It’s really cool. Unfortunately this is decaf instant coffee courtesy of Nescafe, but the froth made it better.

Yesterday Bobby and I (and we brought our friend, Justin) spent the day in New Jersey with my family. My Grammie hosts Thanksgiving every year and I was really excited and happy to see her – I hadn’t seen her since January!

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Everybody futzed around in the kitchen for a while (Mom, Grammie, Dad, Bobby)…

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More futzing (Justin, Uncle Rudy, Aunt Mattie)…

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Playing with cameras (Rob, my brother)…

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Then it was time for the food. Somehow we ended up with 3 Tofurkeys (!), but it was actually the perfect amount. They were cooked with onions (from the garden), carrots (from the garden), and potatoes (not sure – probably from the garden). We also had sparkling cider (I opted for sparkling wine instead). Everyone in my family (grandparents included) loves Tofurkey.

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Dinner is served! (Julia – sister, Rob, Dad, Justin) This was actually lunch; we ate around 1:30 or 2pm.

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There was real turkey too, of course. A little dry, but remedied with lots of delicious (vegan) dressing.

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Creamy chestnuts were great – always a favorite of mine.

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My mom’s sweet potato pie (from the Moosewood cookbook) stole the show. It had pecans and a cheddar-poppyseed crust.

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I didn’t get a picture, but there was also a bowl of pureed squash that I attacked without mercy. Grammie made it – must get the recipe from her. She wasn’t sure what kind of squash she used; it was bright orange (but not kabocha, butternut, buttercup – possibly hubbard).

Other things that were unpictured: Brussels sprouts, stuffing (one vegan and one from the turkey), cucumber salad thing, pickled beets, … I think that was it.

Dessert was impossible pumpkin pie, apple pie, and an apple-pecan dish. Served with whipped cream.
I actually skipped out on dessert in the afternoon (though I did have a generous bowl of whipped cream – real cream) but I brought home leftovers and had them last night with supper (more leftovers).

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I think my favorite was the apple pie; the apple-pecan thing was amazing but a little bit sweet for me. And the pumpkin was pretty delicious as well… I just have a fondness for apples.

I didn’t do any Black Friday craziness today, but I’ll probably go out for a walk in a little bit and maybe do some yoga later.

How was your Thanksgiving?