Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Catch Up

I'm pretty behind and so this will be sketches, vignettes of our holiday celebrations.

  • GS Progressive Dinner:  For the GS Junior badge in New Cuisines, the girls planned a progressive dinner in mid-December.  My house was the final stop--desserts!  And we opted to make Paula Deen's Pumpkin Gingergread Trifle, but with homemade gingerbread from King Arthur Flour.  The girls whipped cream from scratch (with brown sugar!), combined the pumpkin puree (with cinnamon and cardamom), and then combined it all with the gingerbread in 8 oz ball jars that they'd decorated.  They were so proud of their efforts and delighted in presenting the jars to each guest when it was our turn.  They also made crockpot hot chocolate and Zinger Punch.  The other stops were just as tasty; it was a fun way to celebrate the holidays and earn a badge!
  • Sis's Slumber Party:  A few nights later, Sis hosted a slumber party for two school friends, with more food (mac and cheese) and a homemade birthday cake for one of her friends.
  • Cookie Party:  Then just a few days after that, we hosted our annual cookie-decorating party, with some friends from GS and from the slumber party!  And, for once, they decorated cookies in a ways that they could actually eat them instead of piling on the frosting and the sprinkles.  
  • Gommie and Pop's Visit: Gommie and Pop arrived the day before school let out for the holidays, which made the kids going to school the next morning pretty tough.  That gave us time to prep and wrap, though.  The next few days were filled with musical performances (piano, violin, and cello--the kids even gave my folks little lessons!), games, swimming (at their hotel), and an extra speedskating practice to prep for January competition.  One down side--Mama had a nasty cold along with vertigo, which kept her pretty much bedridden for most of the holidays.  She did rally a bit for Christmas itself but paid for it in the following days.  

  • Christmas:  It was a larger affair than usual, with both families here for Christmas--us, my parents, and Mama's brother and parents.  Fortunately, we did the gifts in shifts!  The kids were up early, of course--it's so sweet to hear them gather early to wake us up--and were soon met by my parents.  We ate Sis's bacon bites and opened lots of presents.  Not long after, Ma and Gong and Goo showed up and we opened even more presents.  Soon after, we all ate baked brie, gumbo, muffalettas, various delicious pies (Mama brought them for Gommie and Pop to sample), Christmas cookies, and the gingerbread bundt cake I made.  Everybody helped work on a Snowy Owl puzzle Gommie had brought; most of us tried our hands at a cup stacking game that Bud received from Gommie.  
  • Presents:  There were some themes this year:  Sis got a lot of horse-themed items, including a jacket from the farm where she rides.  Bud got a jacket from the kung fu national team, as well as various Zelda-themed items.  There were lots of videogames for different platforms, some books in their favorite series (Warriors for Sis, Wings of Fire for both, Magisterium for Bud.)  I received what I call "smelly goods," or nicely scented candles and soaps, plus lots of Snowy Owl-themed gifts and bird books.  Mama was in on the videogame haul.  Plus the present I was most excited to give her--a c.1870 plaster cast of John Rogers's Parting Promise. Rogers created sculptural groups to mass produce, often depicting touching genre scenes of middle-class white Victorian America.  This one shows a man putting a ring on his young love's finger before leaving, suitcase nearby.  I like the detail and the scene, though our cast seems to have been painted a beige color and is flaking in places; I think it gives it character.  Interestingly, we had just seen a set of Rogers's groups in Vermont (at the first Vermont Country Store, I think, in the rafters), so I was excited to find one at a local antique mall.  I also picked up a silver card case, c. 1850, for an anniversary gift for Mama.  Yes, it was an antique Christmas.  (But we do both love history.)  Gommie and Pop got a lot of history and bird books, plus some fancy hiking socks.  Ma got her usual Hallmark ornaments and singing snowman, while we gave Goo, among other things, a gift card to King Arthur Flour.

New Year's Celebrations:  We didn't do much for New Year's besides letting the kiddos stay up late. Most of the day, we watched our new family show, "Once Upon a Time" (Disney-fied fairytales with a modern twist) and played games (I crocheted on a blanket for my hospice patient.)  Sis made a delicious batch of oatmeal scotchies.  Later, we all watched some of New Year's Rocking Eve and saw the Mariah Carey meltdown/technical difficulties; Mama, who did some sound work in Chicago, couldn't believe it would go so badly without the professionals fixing it (though, Carey didn't seem to be trying very hard.)  We ate pizza for a late lunch and then had various snacks throughout the evening, including mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and breadsticks.  The kids stayed up til 2 or 3 a.m., but Mama and I barely made it to midnight.  The next morning, we repeated most of the same.

And so now it's Tuesday and everyone is back where they usually are (though I'm at home nursing a cold.)  We liked having the day after New Year's off, to cushion the fact that we stayed up late.  It was hard to get going this morning.  There are a lot of great activities coming up this winter and spring, so we're looking forward to what 2017 holds.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle with Homemade Gingerbread

Easy Gingerbread

  • 2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon each cloves and nutmeg
    1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
    3/4 cup molasses
    1/4 cup water
    1 large egg
    1 cup buttermilk
    1/2 cup diced crystallized ginger (optional)

    Grease and flour a 9" square pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. 

  • Melt the butter in a heatproof measuring cup. Add the molasses to the cup, and pour into the dry ingredients in the bowl, mixing to moisten.
  • Add the water, stirring until everything is moistened. Whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Stir into the batter until it's evenly combined. Stir in the crystallized ginger.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake just begins to pull away from the edge of the pan.
  • Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes before slicing; gingerbread is best served warm with whipped cream or ice cream. 
  • King Arthur Flour

Gingerbread Bundt Cake
2 1/2 cups KAF flour
2 tablespoons gingerbread spice; or 2 1/2 teaspoons ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup water

1/3 cup rum or water
1/2 teaspoon gingerbread spice or 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10- to 12-cup bundt-style pan.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, gingerbread spice, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the molasses.
Add the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the water, starting and ending with the flour. Mix just until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
Bake the cake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the water spice and sugar. Set aside.
Remove the cake from the oven, cool it in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack. 

King Arthur Flour
Brush the cake with the glaze, and allow it to cool completely before serving.

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