Yesterday was one of those days that starts off right, and just keeps getting better. I had a meeting in the morning and had prepared the previous Friday for my substitute. So I had no worries about completing last minute sub plans. It has been very, very cold lately, and on my Eugene trip I bought a beautiful pair of black leather boots that I was just dying to wear (Rob says they look like I’m about to go ride a horse. If that’s true, then Hi-Ho Silver! They kept me warm and dry).
The meeting was actually beneficial, entertaining, and gave me a renewed outlook on our educational system. This turned out to be a 24-hour renewal as it was completely squashed again by this morning’s meeting, but that’s another story for another time. Anywho, I came back to school, my kids were cute, my lesson on the meaning of the equals sign went well, and the bell exuberantly rang with the joyous sound of the work-day coming to a close.
While finishing up some paperwork, my computer bings, and I look up to see a string of emails from the district explaining what to do and who to contact in case the next day was a snow day.
I was so excited. Having lived in snowy climates before, I was instantly reminded of the fluffy, cold, white goodness. But remember, people, the last 16 years I spent in a combination of SoCal sun and Arizona desert – my excitement had validity.
Knowing the snow and cold weather could possibly create icy roads, I quickly cleaned up my classroom, and left to run my final errands to get the remaining items needed for Thanksgiving. Then I came home, put on the heat, started the fire (which is really only a flick of a switch), lit some candles and got to work on my do-ahead dishes. Sounds quite romantic for cooking, eh?
My first do-ahead dish was applesauce. I love, love, love homemade applesauce, but I’m also a bit picky about it. To keep the integrity of the apples, I don’t add any sweetness at all. The natural sugars from the apples are extracted slowly by the low heat and the salt. I only use Granny Smith apples because I believe they are the best baking apple having the perfect balance of sweetness and tang. Rob got a kick out of using my apple-peeler-slicer-corer tool (something that seemed like a ridiculous price to pay for a tool I use very sparingly, but when it comes to peeling and coring a dozen apples a couple of times every holiday season, I’m really glad I have it).
After a slow stew of deliciously mouth-watering smelling apples, our applesauce was ready to go for the big day. Then, it was onward to the gingerbread. I am planning on doing a gingerbread trifle with chocolate mouse and brandied pears (I nixed the original plan for the cranberries), and I needed to test out my gingerbread recipe. Now, I must clarify, yes, this is a desert. But I am still making the pumpkin pie (I did try again – with completely defrosted dough – and got an excellent result).
What is so interesting about gingerbread is it’s main taste isn’t ginger at all – it is molasses. I’m not a huge fan of molasses by itself, but mixed and baked with tangerine zest, honey, thick yogurt, and ground ginger, it turns into such a special, spicy treat. I even chopped up some crystalized ginger (thanks for that idea, Ina!), and it added an extra warmth and chew to the rich bread. Oh so yummy.
So with the deserts under control, I went to bed thinking I was going to get a 5:00am phone call from our school district telling me to go back to sleep for the better part of the day. The wind and sleet woke me up numerous times throughout the night, but the thought that I would be able to take a nap during the day eased my weather-induced insomnia. When my alarm woke me up – at 5:30 – the reality sunk in: we were not having a snow day today. Maybe it was due to the lack of sleep, maybe it was the fact that I haven’t been in a snowy environment in ages, or maybe it was the fact that I realized I needed to drive in this weather in which I’m not familiar, but the whole morning seemed surreal.
I got to school safely after a little white-knuckle driving, survived the question-marks-over-the-head morning meeting, turned on my space heater and computer (in that order), and just sat back. My out loud internal monologue kicked in: What am I doing? Why am I not enjoying this?
So, with my new warm boots, a hood over my head, tea in one hand and freshly baked gingerbread in the other, I joined the joyous screaming kids dancing and twirling around in the falling crystals. It was fantastic.
Applesauce (serves about 8-10, but you might just end up eating the whole lot)
- 12 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
- 1/2 c water
- 1/4 tsp salt
Heat all ingredients in a dutch oven on high heat until water starts to bubble. Turn down to low, stir occasionally, and let simmer until apples become saucy, about 20 minutes. Let cool, and serve with a bit of good quality honey, or cinnamon.
Gingerbread (makes 1 loaf)
- 1 3/4 c all purpose flour, plus more for dusting baking dish
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 8 oz. greek yogurt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 c molasses
- 1/4 c good quality honey
- zest of one winter tangerine (or 1/2 an orange)
- 1/4 c minced crystallized ginger
- butter, for greasing baking dish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all dry ingredients (minus zest and crystallized ginger) in a bowl. Using a stand mixer, mix the yogurt, molasses and honey together just to incorporate. Add eggs one at a time, and mix to incorporate. Mixing in thirds, add the dry ingredients. Add zest and ginger, and fold into the batter.
Pour batter into prepared baking dish (buttered and dusted with flour) and bake until gingerbread has risen and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.