Tag Archives: gingerbread


29 Nov

Have you ever had that feeling of happiness and sadness at the same time?  Like, when you finish reading a fantastic book, or when the lights come on after a standing ovation at the theater – it’s a feeling of complete joy but also sadness about that enjoyable experience coming to a close.  This may sound over-romanticized, but that’s how I always feel after Thanksgiving weekend is over, and this year was no exception.

My Turkey Day Trials paid off as the menu was flawless and well-prepared.  The snow day our district received the Wednesday prior was also an added bonus as I was able to get many dishes done ahead of time.  By the time the sun came up on Thursday, drying out all the snow and thawing out the ground, Rob and I were able to enjoy breakfast, watch the Macy’s Parade, watch the Dog Show, and cheer on the Patriots in the background while trussing the turkey.  The only time our schedule got tight was when I forgot to broil the yams (to toast the ever-present, much debated marshmallow topping).

As my parents knocked on the door, we had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres ready, with dinner fresh and hot on the warming tray.  It was so good to see my mom and dad again, and even better to have them stay as guests in our home.  It felt like our little house was now completely nested having such great company.

Although I may have gone overboard a bit with the food. It was my first Thanksgiving – better to have too much than too little!  Plus it made for excellent weekend-long leftovers. 🙂  Here was the menu:

Hors D’Oeuvres:
– brie cheese with onion jam and honey crisp apples
– cashews
– shrimp cocktail

– Turkey (not stuffed, but filled with garlic, lemon, sage, rosemary, and thyme, and drenched in olive oil, salt and pepper.  I also poured a mix of white wine and turkey stock into the bottom of the roaster, so a flavorful steam would keep the bird moist).
Apple and leek stuffing
– Rob’s potatoes (silky smooth with the addition of cream cheese)
– Marshmallow yams (an old classic made super flavorful by roasting yams – skin on – adding real maple syrup to the mix, and toasting the you-know-what out of the marshmallows).

– black & green olives
– Mandarin oranges
– Turkey gravy
– Horseradish pickled cucumbers and peppers
– Cranberry sauce (yes, the jellied canned kind – we wouldn’t have it any other way!)
– Dinner rolls (Alex Guarnaschelli’s recipe) with homemade sage honey butter.

– Pumpkin pie (since my disastrous pumpkin pie episode, I’ve made 4… let’s just say I got the recipe down).
Gingerbread, chocolate mousse, & brandied pear trifle (OMG.  Really, just OMG).
Cardamom shortbread cookies
See’s Peppermint Patties

Seriously, I think we all gained about 7 1/2 pounds each.

But this smorgasbord provided excellent leftover options, which is, arguably, the best part of Thanksgiving dinner.  The desserts made excellent accompaniments to the morning cups of joe, and the delicious buttery dinner rolls were perfect vehicles for shoveling overflowing turkey and cranberry sandwiches (with extra mayo) into our wide-open mouths.

We stayed pretty active the whole weekend seeing the sites Coos Bay had to offer.  One major highlight was the HH-65 circling our house with a fully dressed Santa Claus jubilantly waving out the side door (it’s good to have connections to people who can fly Santa around!).  We hiked, we explored, we shopped, we got rained on, and were always welcomed back to an exuberant amount of leftovers and a warm fireplace.  And when the weather got too dodgy, the games we played (or maybe how we played them) were so side-splitting funny, Seinfeld could have used us for a new pilot sitcom.

Scrabble Slam was the first requested game, which led to a flurry of thrown cards, and frenzied shouting of suitable-for-the-family 4-letter-words.  I, at one point, tried my hardest to get “poop” down on the table, but to no avail just kept shouting the word “poop” while someone else’s card took my spot.  Yeah, how’s that mental image treating you?

And then there was Slamwich.  Slamwich is the best game – ever.  I highly recommend this game to any foodie fan, or just anyone in general looking for an entertaining way to make, munch, and steal a sandwich.  My mom and I purchased the game in Florence after a day of shopping, and met my dad and Rob at the sports bar they were holding down watching the Oregon game.  Joining them, we sat at the bar, ordered a drink and appetizers, and proceeded to read the rules to this silly, silly game.  15 minutes later, we were drawing serious looks from across the room as we were slapping slices of bacon, cheering on our sandwich thieves, and calling out each other’s “slipslaps” with gusto.  Needless to say, we were quite a scene.

But our Slamwich efforts were soon squashed by the determination and competitiveness the Wii brought to the party.  Rob and my dad literally wore a spot in our wood (I lied – laminate) floor playing endless rounds of bowling.  It was hilarious!  Then the boxing and sword fighting started.  The squealing laughter of frantically punching the air and ducking from invisible punches, jabs and stabs filled the house.  At one point, I just sat back and thought, “This. Is. Awesome.”

As most wonderful things do, the weekend flew by.  Rob and I finished most of the leftovers with stuffing and turkey stuffed mushrooms and relaxed before getting ready to face another Monday workday.  Although this Monday our pants were quite a bit tighter, it was just a reminder of the fabulous family, food, fun, and fabulous Thanksgiving weekend memories.

Turkey Day Trials – Day 3

23 Nov

Two more days until the greatest day of the year!

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.


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