Gingerbread Cookies

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There has always been one thing about Christmas I have NEVER understood. This ‘thing’ being the construction of a gingerbread house. First of all, why go through so much effort if you don’t actually get to eat the final product! I guess if you really wanted to, you could construct said house, then immediately come in with a wrecking ball, (being your mouth/stomach) and destroy it. But why would you just immediately destroy something you obviously just spent hours slaving away at?

“Lets build some condos!” (a lot of effort/time/money happens)

“Let’s destroy it now because we finished!” WHAT. WHY.

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Effort+lots of ingredients+beautiful structure does not equal, EAT ALL THE GINGERBREAD RIGHT NOW. Lots of chemistry going on lately, and if you know what I mean, this equation ain’t balanced properly.

It has never been a tradition in my house to build gingerbread houses. The only time I remember decorating one at home was when my mother bought a kit from the grocery store, everything you needed being perfectly packaged up. The so called ‘icing’ that came with was definitely not strong enough to hold the house together, they clearly skimped big time on the candy, and the end product looked like something Hansel and Gretel would want to seriously run away from. Which I guess if you think about it is a good thing!

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The only other time I constructed things with gingerbread was when my friend and I made a gingerbread train in foods class. Everything was going swell, if we forget the burning caramel glue, until we ran out of our designated icing sugar. Being the young bakers we were, we decided that flour would be a perfect replacement for icing sugar, and no one would be able to tell the difference! Right? Well….long story short, a VERY soggy train happened….SCRUMDIDDLYUMPTIOUS

Soooooo, I think I’ll just stick to the cookies and leave the houses for the more determined.

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Now, gingerbread cookies have forever been a holiday tradition in my household, and has always been a group effort. This particular recipe I’m sharing has not been passed down through the family nor tried and true by my grandmother. It’s actually straight from good old Martha. But, you could say Martha Stewart has also been a family tradition. Pouring over past and present Christmas issues of her magazine is a normal sight during the season.

For these particular cookies, the dough was stirred together by Mother, (and the trusty Kitchen Aid) and baked/decorated by me! If you are wondering why the intense amount of cookies in the photos, a Graduation Bake Sale/Christmas Craft Crawl were happening.

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I have to say that these are the best gingerbread cookies I have ever tasted. The fact that this same recipe has been baked in my house for as long as I can remember, during my favourite time of the year, may help out a little bit. Lets just say that Martha and her team sure know what they are doing!

I hope you enjoy them as much as my family and I do!

GINGERBREAD CUPIDSThe Martha Stewart Cookbook 

This recipe makes A LOT of cookies…so feel free to half it, quarter it, or store some in the freezer for later like we did!

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 3 TSP ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 TSP ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 TSP baking soda
  • 3/4 TSP baking powder
  • 1/2 TSP ground cloves
  • 2 TSP salt
  • 1 1/2 cups molasses

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth.

Sift together dry ingredients and gradually add them to the butter mixture, beating until well combined. Stir in the molasses and beat well.

Divide the dough into quarters and wrap each in plastic wrap; chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

On a well floured surface, roll out each dough quarter to 1/8 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut dough into desired shapes. Carefully place them on parchment-lined baking sheets using  spatula.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges just begin to colour. Let cool on racks, then ice with royal icing. (Below)

ROYAL ICINGThe Martha Stewart Cookbook

You may need to make more than one recipe of this, depending on how many cookies you have. Just start with one recipe though, or you’ll have a lot of crusty, drying icing on your hands.

  • 1 egg white
  • a few drops of lemon juice
  • 1 cup icing sugar

Whisk together all ingredients until it has the consistency of heavy cream. More icing sugar may be needed. Divide into bowls and colour desired colours! Use immediately.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie Bars

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Did you know that peanut butter dates back to the Aztec times? And that national peanut butter day is January 24? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. I wonder if January 24 ever had anything to do with peanut butter…I’m guessing the ‘Wackiest Holiday’s’ committee was just like,

“Hey, Steve! We should have a national peanut butter day!”

“Great Idea! January 24th is open, sound good? Awesome!” 

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Yup…I really love peanut butter, even the part where it sticks to the roof of your mouth. Good stuff, that is. When I was younger, I used to eat all-natural peanut butter right off the spoon with chocolate chips on top. It was so darn delicious, that my brother and I would sometimes sneak some into our rooms when we were feeling extra rebellious.

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To be honest, I was kind of afraid to open up my Bloglovin’ feed today, because I knew that the Thanksgiving atomic bomb had gone off, and it definitely was/still is! The blogging world overwhelms me at times, and then I’m reminded that this is where all the awesomely weird people who like to take pictures of their food gather. In other words, it’s where I belong!

Today’s recipe moulds peanut butter cookies into a pan of bars, topped with a layer of melted chocolate. Now WHO doesn’t think that sounds fantastic. Unless you have a peanut allergy, I feel dreadfully sorry for you. Try these, or these instead if you are wanting something square. They are both equally as fantastic.

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With a cookie like consistency, these bars are kind of addictive…eat with caution.

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE COOKIE BARS

  • 1/2 cup softened butter (add 1/2 tsp salt if using unsalted butter)
  • 1/3 cup creamy all natural-peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TSP vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 TSP baking powder
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, lightly butter an 8 by 8 inch pan and line with parchment paper, leaving extra hanging out the sides.

Whip together butter and peanut butter until fluffy, add sugar and beat until soft and a light in colour.

In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt if using.

Beat flour mixture into butter mixture.

Spread into prepared pan. It will be sticky, so I find using the back of a spoon works best.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown on top, and slightly soft.

Cool completely, then lift the bars out by the parchment paper. 

Put chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a pot filled with a few inches of simmering water. When chocolate is melted, spread over bars. Let cool at least an hour before cutting into squares.

Enjoy!!

 

Table Talk: Music!

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There is one thing in this world that unites us. No matter your culture, language or country of origin, a simple melody can make two completely different people connect.

At a gathering,  I believe music is a necessity. Not only does it set the mood, but two strangers can say to each other, “Hey! I love this song!” Bam. You just started a conversation without even trying…somewhat

If you look at it from a psychological perspective, the type of music you play depends on what kind of party/mood you want to achieve. Are you having a dance party? Techno! Dinner party? Jazz, relaxing tunes. You get the jist.

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Since we are talking, ‘Table Talk”, Techno/Dance Party music is being put back in the cupboard, replaced with a few of my favourite artists.

It’s hard to focus on a conversation around the dinner table when Adele’s voice is interrupting you all the time. Imagine, you’re sitting there talking about your day, when Adele jumps in with a powerful, “YOU COULD HAVE HAD IT ALLLLLL”.

I suggest swapping any CD with complicated lyrics out with something with little or no lyrics at all.

Here are a few ideas for that upcoming holiday party. Youtube is chocked full of complete albums, so it’s great if you don’t want to make a playlist or you don’t have a specific CD lying around. Almost all of the links below are full albums as well.

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I hope this inspires you to have some music at your next gathering! Besides, it’s not a real party unless there’s music 🙂

I hope you find something you like!

Jazz for the Table : Bill Evans Trio – Portrait in Jazz is great lighthearted jazz music, and one of my favourites for studying as well! Honestly, anything by Bill Evans is a winner.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQwhHdXGFwA

Brad Melhdau Trio – Anything Goes (Full Album) is once again, fabulous jazz music!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XymriYLjrwA

Christmas Jazz for the Table: Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas has been a classic in my house for ever,  it’s wonderfully festive and it’s Charlie Brown, so what could go wrong?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM2dV0vtOd0&list=PLB66E7830CE127474

Folk For the Table: Fiest – Let it Die has a great relaxing vibe to it, and it just makes you smile as you listen 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCrr1zu2wcA&list=PL422B27672028757D

Kings of Convenience – Declaration of Dependence cannot be described with anything but cute. Extremely relaxing and sweet sounding, I’ve played it in the cafe I work at more than once.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fRo6kvfYWQ

Classical Christmas for the Table: Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker is everyone’s favourite when it comes to classical Christmas music, and this live concert sounds fantastic. It does have some intense moments here and there, so keep the volume to a minimum 😀

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk5Uturacx8

Buttercup (Winter) Squash Soup

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I’ve always been a squash lover. As a young un’, whenever my mom would ask what kind of soup we’d like that week, my response would always be, “Squash!”. Butternut to be exact. A slight problem was that my mother and I were the only ones in the household who seemed to enjoy squash, and since four other persons resided in the household, being the kind soul my mother is, squash soup slowly worked it’s way out of the weekly soup schedule. Oh, the sad times.

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It wasn’t until quite a while later, when a few of the non-squash supporters moved out and squash showed it’s face once again on the table, that I realized more than one type of squash existed! ‘Squash’ was not just a sole thing to enjoy, but part of a gigantic family of squashes of all shapes, sizes and flavours. So far, every single type of squash I’ve tried, butternut, spaghetti and pattypan, have been fantastic. So why should every single other squash be any different? Well, I was wrong…

The other night my family and I were sitting down to dinner. There in front of us was a delicious bowl of pureed buttercup squash. Flavoured with ginger and maple syrup, I was extremely excited to dig in. Buttercup squash had never graced us with it’s presence at our table before, so it was a first to all of us. I heaped a large spoonful onto my plate and dug in.

“Yum!” was my initial reaction. A few seconds later, the richness of the buttercup squash overwhelmed me. Interesting…I thought. Taking another bite, the true strength of the squash hit me. Then and there, I decided that the buttercup squash is the Hulk of the squash world. STRONG being the key point here. Not wanting to upset the cook, I kept eating it, every spoonful becoming harder and harder to swallow. I took a sip of water. I took a bite. I choked it down with water. Repeat.

“I actually don’t like this!” The cook of the squash exclaimed, “Actually, I don’t like it at all.

“Actually, me neither!” I exclaimed, sounding a little too relieved that the cook had said something.

After some chitter and a bit more chatter, it was decided that this squash was not one to be paired with ginger and maple syrup, but with carrots and potatoes, onions and garlic, and far more spices. Something, ANYTHING to counteract it’s Hulk like taste.

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Being me, I took on the challenge of turning the leftover squash into something fantastic. A soup to be exact! It turned out fantastic.

“Blog worthy?” I asked my mom as she took a bite.

“Blog worthy.” She replied, smiling.

So here it is! A fantastic nothing, turned into something!

My mom pointed out how many ways you can take one food and prepare it. The buttercup squash for example. It may not be that great prepared with ginger and maple syrup, but when stirred into carrots, onions, potatoes and a dash of curry powder, deliciousness is created! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did 🙂

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I NOW HAVE A TWITTER! I’VE JOINED THE NEST! So if you’re into that, here’s my link : https://twitter.com/EmusEats

BUTTERCUP (WINTER) SQUASH SOUP-serves 4

Prepare the squash:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Cut squash in half and place face down in a glass baking dish, and pour in 1/4 inch of water into the bottom. Cover with foil and bake until tender when pierced with a thin skewer. Check after 30 minutes.

Take squash, remove the seeds and fibers, then measure the pulp and scrape it into a bowl. For every cup of pulp, add:

  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 TSP maple syrup
  • 1/4 TSP ground ginger

Puree in blender until smooth and set aside.

Prepare Soup:

  • 2 TB olive oil (or butter)
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 medium sized clove of garlic
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 medium sized potato, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp curry powder, more or less depending on your taste

In a pot set over medium heat, sauté onions, garlic and hazelnuts in olive oil until onions are clear and tender.

Add in carrots, potato, water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender.

Take off heat, let cool a few minutes, then puree in blender until smooth. Return to pot and over low heat, stir in milk, vegetable broth, squash puree, curry powder and more salt if desired.

Reheat slowly, and garnish with plain yogurt and freshly cracked pepper if you desire.

Enjoy!

Table Talk: Clothe the Table!

Halloween is now over…you know what that means? Absolute madness for the next two months! So, in celebration of all the celebratory madness that is just about to begin, I’m starting a new series! It’s called, ‘Table Talk’. Everything from music to play during your dinner, to the centrepiece in the middle of the table is going to be covered. We’re talking holiday logistics. Table logistics to be exact. As long as it has something to do with a table, it’s going to be featured! So without further ado, time to give that table a new coat of paint! Or a tablecloth, that works too…

I think that tablecloths are ever so important when serving a nice meal. When I walk into the dining room and there is a tablecloth on the table, I know that something real special is coming out of that oven. Time to put on a dress or something!

There are plenty of options when it comes to tablecloths.

If you have a rectangular wooden table with a nice finish or just a nice look to it, a table runner is a good idea for you! This way, you can still enjoy it, but just snazzy it up a bit! It’s also incredibly easy to make your own out of your favourite fabric.

I love this DIY Geometric Table Runner via A Beautiful MessImage

For a sophisticated look, this lace table runner is another favourite of mine. via Style Me Pretty

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If you don’t exactly want to show off the dents and nicks in your table, a tablecloth will be your best friend!

I’m liking the idea of this DIY Fall Leaf Tablecloth, and you can make it using items from your back yard! Minus the paint…and fabric…

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Layering tablecloths is a great idea, but I think the nicest look is when a simple white cloth is placed on as a base, and then a table runner is placed on top of that. It’s simple and sophisticated. I think the tablecloth is not the focal point of your table, it’s there to complement everything else placed on top of it. If it was meant to be our main focus, then we would place it on top of our food! Wait a second…

Pretty Pretty! via imgfave

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If you wanna look at some tablecloth eye candy, I recommend Anthropologie. Drool…we’re talking about very nice linens here.

If you happen to be more of a round table kind of girl/guy, King Arthur style, I’d try to avoid the linens that drape all the way to the floor…I find it kind of annoying when you can’t fit your legs underneath the table. Unless you get cold legs while eating, then it can act as a blanket! Good stuff. So, if you get cold legs, the layered look is quite nice!

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This tablecloth is nice and cheery, and the perfect length! Show off them nice legs. via Anthropologie

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If you are into DIY, then this list of DIY tablecloths will be great for you! I like the polka dot one 🙂

Remember though, wine IS going to get spilled on your nice tablecloth. Don’t question it. So, if great granny’s hand woven lace linens wouldn’t fancy getting a nice tomato sauce spot on them, I suggest you stock up on stain remover!

See you next week with more table talk!