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?

Review: The Long Room & Christmas In New York

I’m blogging two nights in a row… what am I, unemployed again? (I’m not; still loving the new job and keeping busy.)

First, I must say – I loved all of your comments on yesterday’s post (about chilling out re: exercise). Guess what – no exercise today either (does 4 blocks of walking count?). But it’s all good. I don’t need much to be happy.

This weekend was jam-packed with fun. On Saturday night my best friend from high school (she lives in NJ) came up to visit me and Bobby. She brought her boyfriend as well. Bobby and I took them to walk down 5th Avenue, which is gorgeous this time of year. We stopped at the Rockefeller center to see the tree…

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Oddly enough, I have a really similar picture of the two of us in the same pose (with a Christmas tree behind us) in Princeton from 2005 (I think). We love Christmas.

After we saw the beautiful Christmas tree at Rockefeller, we got stuck in people-traffic because everyone was watching this light show (the snowflakes light up and dance to holiday music).

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Eventually we made it to 44th and 6th Ave to go to Virgil’s Barbecue… but actually Christine doesn’t like BBQ (whoops!). Luckily there was a nice restaurant next door called The Long Room, which is so new that it doesn’t even have a website yet (!). It’s a nice Irish pub/bar and it’s reasonably inexpensive (for New York).

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The menu looked great. I ordered the “Cast Iron Roasted Chicken” – with cauliflower mash and haricots verts (18.95). Bobby, Christine, and Devin all ordered beers (Guinness – it’s an Irish restaurant) and I got a diet coke.

04 chicken

My meal was amazing. The “cauliflower mash” is mashed potatoes with some cauliflower mushed in; the green beans (haricots verts) were wonderfully seasoned and oiled; and the chicken was amazingly tender. I finished just about all of it (Bobby stole a few bites). Bobby (and Christine) ordered the Fish and Chips ($14.95 I think)…

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Really good. He poured vinegar all over the “chips” (fries) so I didn’t like them, but the fish was great. Devin got a Buffalo chicken pizza (13.95 maybe?) and I think his was probably the best dish (no picture).

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I would definitely go back here. I want that pizza! We had a really awesome time. Christine and I get along; Bobby and Devin get along – they are another perfect double date couple.

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Can’t wait to see them again – probably for New Year’s, if not earlier.

Do you like to go on double dates? Bobby and I have been doing lots of couples outings recently (like Josie’s West with Kate and Simon) and I am absolutely loving it.

Review: Macro Vegetarian (Macrobiotic Vegan Food – New York)

You guys might have noticed that I’m eating a lot more meat and being a lot more adventurous in general. But don’t think that I’ve forgotten my veggie roots! Being in NYC has been an amazing foodie experience so far and I’m excited to try new things… but I haven’t lost my love for yummy healthy foods – I’ve just been experimenting a little.

This weekend (Saturday I think?) I went back to my macrobiotic roots. Last week I found a cool natural foods store on the upper east side just a few blocks from my apartment. It’s called The Health Nuts, and it’s on 2nd Ave between 63rd and 64th streets. It’s awesome.

I picked up a bunch of prepared foods made by a company called Macro Vegetarian. I’ve uploaded pictures of the Sesame Noodles and Chicken Lo Mein (fake chicken) but I have actually tried a bunch more since I last uploaded pictures. Both of these were amazing, and Bobby agreed. This is my kind of vegan macro food! Of course I doused them liberally with nooch (nutritional yeast, for new readers).

My favorite (out of all the ones I’ve tried; more reviews to come) is definitely the Chicken Lo Mein. It’s awesome. I actually picked up more today. These are perfect for lunches at work and dinner at home when I’m too tired/busy to cook… which is every night. I am so thankful for these products.

A note on nooch – it’s an awesome source of vegan protein and vitamin B12 (which sometimes vegans or vegetarians are lacking). In 1.5 tablespoons (16 grams) there are: 70 calories, 1 gram of fat, 6 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of protein. 8 grams in 1.5 tablespoons! Want to hear the vitamins? In 1.5 tablespoons of nooch you get 670% Thiamin, 290% Niacin, 250% folate, 20% zinc, 4% iron, 590% riboflavin, 480% B6, and 130% B12. It’s so healthy and so delicious. I put it on everything.

Can’t forget dessert… Newman’s Own Newman-O’s (Oreo knockoffs).

Yum.

Any new food finds recently? I ask this question every few months, because I’m always looking for new buys, especially now that I’m embracing prepared foods.

Review: Joe’s Shanghai In Chinatown (New York)

My coworkers think this post should be called The Salad Girl Exposed”.

Disclaimer: all photos in this post are from Yelp.

Today’s lunch (Saturday) was at Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown. Bobby and I met up with my 2 coworkers, their significant others, and a few other friends (11 of us total) for a huge meal. Joe’s is pretty famous; it has a great reputation and I was really psyched to try it. It did not disappoint. Joe’s is a pretty standard Chinese restaurant (not Dim Sum) and it’s very cheap (but rather expensive for Chinatown).

We let G do the ordering for the table and he did a great job. We started off with Joe’s soup dumplings. There are 8 in one order ($6.65 for crab/pork; $4.65 for pork) and I’m pretty sure that G got 12 orders of them (6×8 of crab/pork; 6×8 of pork). There were only 4 dumplings left by the end of the meal and Bobby and I got to take them home.

These were amazing. Apparently soup dumplings are something of an art form in China, and Joe is a celebrity. The dumpling contains a savory broth and meat in the middle. You bite a small piece of the wonton-ish dumpling part off, slurp out the soup broth, and then eat the dumpling. They are served atop steamed napa cabbage, which I happily ate as well.

We also got a soup – I think it was the Hong Kong Style Hot & Sour Soup ($6.35). It came with shrimp, some meat (chicken or pork?), mushrooms, tofu, egg, and maybe more. The broth was your standard hot and sour broth.

This was really delicious as well. Lots of variety in the flavors and ingredients, very fresh and hot – it was perfect for a miserable weather day like today. (For those of you not in this area – today it was raining/snowing all day and absolutely freezing. I am so glad to be inside my overheated apartment right now.)

Those were just the appetizers. We also got 2 orders of shrimp fried rice ($8.95)… (it was okay; I’m not really a rice person).

A bunch of scallion pancakes ($2.35 each) (freaking amazing – I could not get enough)…

A tofu dish called Bean Curd Home Style ($8.95), which was pretty good for being tofu. I liked the veggies best. I couldn’t find a picture.

Another (unpictured) dish was the String Beans Szechuan Style (With Pork) ($8.95). These were sauteed string beans with little pieces of pork – kind of like chorizo. They were pretty good, but very salty.

We also got Clams In Black Bean Sauce ($13.35), which were really good as well. I love clams!

And for dessert we got a fried red bean pancake that I can’t find on the menu. It looked pretty much like this… (picture source).

I had like 5 pieces of it. I think red bean is my most favorite dessert thing ever.

After lunch we walked over to a boba tea shop called Ten Ren but on the way we stopped to get Chinese dried fruits and candies. More on that later. Bobby got a Hot Taro Milk ($3.00) drink with jelly in it and shared it with me. Today was a perfect day for a hot drink. It is so cold outside.

The milk was purple!

I’m sitting on my couch now eating some grapes from Chinatown ($1.80 per pound for sketchy grapes totally beats Whole Foods’ $3.99 per pound organic grapes).

Question of the day is… what’s your favorite Chinese food dish?

Review: Josie’s West (New York City)

It’s good to be blogging again!

On Thursday night Bobby and I met up with one of my friends from a long long time ago. Gosh, I missed her. We met her very smart and cool boyfriend as well. Thursday (December 3rd) was actually Bobby’s and my 4 year anniversary as well as my brother’s birthday and Bobby’s sister’s birthday. Pretty awesome day.

Anyway, Kate and Simon suggested that we check out Josie’s West on 75th and Amsterdam. It’s a restaurant that serves food and uses “healthy & wholesome ingredients”. Their menu had a glossary (maybe people kept asking questions?) that described some of the more atypical ingredients like “Air baked organic Belgian fries” and “coulis”.

Disclaimer: I didn’t take pictures; I found what I could online.

The meal started with complimentary bread. I chose the cornbread. It was just okay; Whole Foods’s cornbread is better. There was also a dish of some kind of creamed squash spread, which was completely fabulous. I put it on everything.

Bobby and I got two things and kind of shared. We got “organic mesclun greens” with grilled chicken and a red wine-wasabi vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was nothing short of incredible, but the greens and the chicken were fairly boring. I wouldn’t get this again (so bland) but I do want to try to recreate the vinaigrette.

burger

We also got the “char-grilled natural turkey cheeseburger” (picture from the website) which came with cheddar and a honey mustard sauce. Bobby got steamed greens instead of fries (who is this boy?). The burger was very flavorful and juicy. I’d get it again for sure.

To be honest, the company was way more interesting than the food. We might go back, because I feel like I missed out on some cool dishes by getting the salad… but we weren’t really focused on the food at all and I had to pick something to order at the last minute so I went with my fallback (yep, I’m a salad girl). I was way more interested in catching up with Kate!

Overall rating: 6/10 stars. If it had been cheaper I would have rated it higher. The salad was about $15 and the burger was about $14. ::Shrug:: It was a great night, though.

Before dinner I hit up Lululemon and made a kickass buy; more on that later. I also have to blog about…

Stay tuned.

What are you doing this weekend? Tonight Bobby and I went to a neat joint in Astoria and tomorrow we’re going to Chinatown for lunch with 2 of my coworkers. We’re also going back to Lulu and I hope to do some grocery shopping so that I can actually cook something yummy.