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!