A holiday dinner!

Our family’s tradition is to have a nice, fancy dress-up dinner on Xmas Eve. This is a little awkward as it requires my mother and me to time everything so that we still have a few moments at the end of a long day of cooking to put on our dress clothes, but we usually manage it… Mom played sous chef this year which was very fun: ‘Yes, Chef,’ ‘It’s ready, Chef,’ ‘Here you go, Chef’ – nice! πŸ˜‰

Tonight’s schedule was thrown off a bit and required us to eat in courses. So we started with hors d’eouvres:

Left to right, it’s Crab Salad in Wonton Cups, Italian-Style Sausage Skewers, and Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip and Herb Cheese (from Emeril) with pita crisps and garlic toasts.

Then for mains, we had Herb Cheese-Stuffed Eggplant Steaks (they are just not photogenic at all – I promise they are very tasty!), popovers with honey butter, and Green Beans Provencale (with cubes of Mozarella added). Yum!

Dessert was a lovely Cranberry, Caramel, and Almond Tart from Smitten Kitchen. Very nice – the cranberries were a perfect foil to the sweet caramel. I think I overdid it with the almonds (I added a few extra to avoid having any left over), but everything else was perfect.

A resounding success!

Part of the reason that our schedule was thrown off was that I was trying to make a panettone in anticipation for a recipe that we’ll make tomorrow for brunch and ended up having to make two because the first one turned out to actually be a ‘panettone’ instead of a real panettone.

The one on the left is the faux panettone, obviously. The one on the right looks more like the real thing – I guess I’ll find out how close I got tomorrow… Cross your fingers for me!

Fallingwater, pt. 3…

…FINISHED!

So, three days and six batches of gingerbread dough later, we have:

I think it looks good considering this is the first gingerbread house my team and I have ever made! We’re going to decorate the hell out of it tomorrow, but I think it looks more like the real thing right now. I’ll take a photo of it with all the candy on it, but I liked it this way, too and thought I’d share – especially because who knows how sturdy it actually is… πŸ˜‰

Nom, nom, nom!

In the midst of the gingerbread baking, I took a moment to make this lovely recipe from Smitten Kitchen – Pear Crisp with Vanilla Brown Butter. Fairly easy, very yummy. I don’t think my crisp turned out right – it was sandier than I was expecting, but still tasty – the next time I make this, I might try adding some more butter to give it a little more heft…

There was also a slight mishap during this recipe. When I went to drain the butter, I used the little orange sifter I always use when I’m baking at my parents’ house. It did not occur to me until it was too late that the mesh was made of plastic and probably not meant to withstand the heat of draining brown butter…

RIP little orange sifter, you served me well.

Fallingwater, pt. 2

A very productive day in Frank Lloyd Wright gingerbread – I managed to finish today with lots of flour on my shirt, but very little icing in my hair. I call that a positive. πŸ˜‰

So this morning, we got to work constructing. Because the basement walls don’t actually sit on anything except whatever the base of our project is, we had to build upside down, adding the walls onto their ceiling (although it looks like the floor):

It went very well, especially considering we were using meringue powder that is probably around 14 years old. Of course, then came the nailbiting moment when we had to turn it over. Sandwiching it between a cookie sheet and a blue chopping board (which will be ultimately be the base), Dad managed to flip it successfully. I had to close my eyes while he did it. So this is what it looked like afterward:

The section at the far left of the photo on the left is an unsupported balcony – impressive, no? While we work, we’ve put some supports under there, but ultimately, it has to stand all on its own.

Then we baked and constructed the second floor. This was fun because it really started to look even more like a house. And we got to make windows. Now, of course, the real Fallingwater just has clear windows, but we decided to make ours ‘stained glass’ because if you’re making windows on a gingerbread house, what’s the point of having clear ones?!

It’s just crushed up candies, but it’s very effective once everything is put together:

Obviously our seams are showing here – if we were really clever, we would have been dyeing the icing brown from the beginning, but I think we’ll just call it winter at Fallingwater and say it’s snow. Mostly, we’ll be happy if it just stays up!

So we have one more floor to go, if I understand the engineer (Dad is the architect/engineer, Mom is the technical adviser, and I am the labor) correctly, which is mostly baked up. We’re going to put the ceiling/floor on this evening still so it can sit overnight and get a bit sturdier and then hopefully finish it off tomorrow!

So far, so good… πŸ˜‰

ETA: I forgot – we’re down to about 1 (or maybe a little less) batch of dough left. I’m hoping to not have to make anymore, but we’ll see how it goes…

Fallingwater, pt. 1

Okay, here we go! First of all, apologies for the awkward photography – the lighting’s fairly sketchy in my parents’ kitchen – all the bulbs up under the cabinets went out this evening.

So yesterday I made six batches of the Moosewood gingerbread in anticipation of today’s activities. Three batches in and we have:

the three floors

and one floor’s worth of walls

They look good, but right now the worry is whether or not they are sturdy enough to not break. I made them on the thicker side, thinking that would make for more stable gingerbread, but it has resulted in slightly worryingly bendy gingerbread. Good for eating, not so much for building. So we’ll see how it goes…

And they’re good for you!

Last night I made Super Macaroni and Cheese. I didn’t take any pictures because, at first, I doubted its super…icity. But it ended up being pretty good. I did the substitution of milk + yoghurt for the half-and-half and, just a tip, it did look like it had curdled after I added the wine to the mixture. Just keep stirring, and I promise it will come together properly. My mom suggested adding a little more flour as a thickener and I think that was the right decision.

Then I made Apple Cranberry Turnovers from Ellie Krieger. Now she’s a nutritionist, so her show is about how to make food you love in a healthy way which usually I’m not all about. But I like her haircut, so I watch her show when I’m at my parents’ house. And the recipes usually look good (and seem to have good reviews on the website), so I thought I’d try one out. I do like that she’s not saying ‘Don’t eat this, don’t eat that,’ instead she’s saying ‘Instead of using all of this, let’s use half of this and half of that and it’ll still taste the same but be better for you.’ And no food is a Never food – it’s okay to have that giant piece of cheesecake once in a while…

Anyway, the recipe. It was very good and pretty easy to make. You just cook up a bunch of apples, brown sugar, and dried cranberries:

Piece together some layers of phyllo dough (using canola oil instead of butter obviously – I thought I would miss it, but I don’t think I did!) and then fold it up like you would a flag so that everything is neatly tucked up inside – honestly, I don’t know why no one ever thought of that before!

Then bake them and add ice cream.

Yum! If I’d thought of it, I might have added some big, fancy sugar to the outside of them before baking (and you can certainly add some icing once they’re done – although I don’t think she accounts for that in the nutritional information!). πŸ˜‰

Okay, the templates have been cut and a giant cookie sheet has been found. Construction on the gingerbread Fallingwater begins tonight!

A slight madness, y/n?

So this year, after seeing this post over on Simply Recipes, I thought ‘Well, that doesn’t look too hard, I’m going to give it a go!’ But, of course, I want to make a cool gingerbread house, so I e-mailed my dad and asked him if he would design a little house and make the templates for me to use when cutting out the dough.

Jokingly, I said ‘Go nuts – if you want me to make a gingerbread Fallingwater or a gingerbread Sydney Opera House, I will. Just make the templates for me.’

Silly me.

So after much googling for scale drawings of the Frank Lloyd Wright house, discussion on whether or not the cantilevered balconies can be made out of two pieces of gingerbread or will have to be made out of one, what size the biggest cookie sheet we have is, and worries over whether or not it will fit through the kitchen door, it is time to get started.

So hopefully, over the next few days, I will have some pictorial posts of how one turns a pile of gingerbread into this:

Well, at least all that watching Ace of Cakes won’t be for naught, right? πŸ˜‰

Gingerbread dinosaurs!

The holiday party at work was today which means that I spent my weekend doing some baking…Β  I adore the gingerbread recipe from the Moosewood Book of Desserts – so yummy – I really like my gingerbread or molasses cookies to be really spicy and these?

Are. That’s a ton of ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and…cayenne! Yum! And, after completely disassembling my kitchen to find them (honestly, how is it possible to lose something in there – it can’t be much bigger than I am!), I finally got to use my dinosaur cookie cutters:

There is a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Stegosaurus, a Triceratops, a Pterdactyl (or Pteranodon – I can’t remember the difference…), a Brachiosaurus (or Apatosaurus, again I don’t remember how to tell them apart), and a little Anklyosaurus. I love them!

They weren’t too big of a hit at the party – my Borders friends spoiled me with their enthusiasm toward my mad baking skillz – so I’m a little sad, but it means I have leftovers for me now!

The State of the Union…

So. I was at the Post Office yesterday, attempting to mail a package to South Africa (heads up, Debby!) and had the following conversation with the clerk:

Me: I’d like to pay for this envelope and then to send it to South Africa.

Clerk: (looking in computer) Okay, what country is it going to?

Me: (thinking she can’t see the country because it’s on the edge of the package and pointing to it to clarify) Oh, it’s South Africa.

Clerk: That’s not a country.

Me: (stunned silence)

Clerk: I really need to know what country it’s going to.

Me: Uh…

Clerk: Hey, Bob! What country’s Johannesburg in?

Bob: South Africa.

Clerk: No, it doesn’t come up in the computer.

Me: Uh, I’m pretty sure it’s a country.

Bob: It’s in South Africa.

Clerk: Oh, here it is. It came up. It’s a country.

Me: (to myself) *headdesk*

Aaaaaiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeee!

So in a fit of ‘I hate Martha’-ness, I skipped ahead to the episodes with John Simm and John Barrowman at the end of series 3.

HOLY FUCKING HELL!

John. Simm. Is. AWESOME. Seriously, I am overwhelmed with the amount of awesome that he has.

Look.

SEE? AWESOME.

Seriously. I could watch the scene where they’re on the phone to each other for absolutely ever. AND there are rumors that somehow they are going to work it out so that John Simm becomes the next Doctor when David Tennant leaves (*sob*) in the fourth series.

Oh, man, do I hope that’s true, otherwise I will be well and truly distraught!

It’s snowing!

And you know what that means!

I posted this last year on the first snow and I’m posting it again now. If you live in a place where it snows (granted, I know that’s not many of you), snag this song and listen to it at night while it’s snowing. It works best if you have lights to watch the snow fall through – orange streetlamps are best.

And if you don’t live somewhere where it snows, it’s still a very good song and you should listen to it, too, and maybe pretend it’s snowing…

Thomas Tallis – Spem in Alium

I forgot!

There was a very pretty sunrise this morning.

It’s a little blurry as I was still fairly sleepy when I took it. Alas, the beautiful sunrise did not turn into a beautiful day – instead there was freezing rain which transformed both sets of stairs up to my apartment building and the driveway into alarmingly treacherous obstacle courses.

I do not plan on leaving again until my car is no longer encased in ice.