December 17: Gingerbread Houses

DSC03771When I was young, making gingerbread houses involved sticking six graham crackers to the sides and top of a milk carton, covering the outside with gumdrops and redhots, and then surreptitiously picking them off and eating them as the days ticked down to Christmas.

No more.

Our friends are really great about holiday traditions like the carving of the pumpkin, the choosing of the tree, and the building of the gingerbread house. And so now we are really great at going along with holiday traditions like the carving of the pumpkin, the choosing of the tree, and the building of the gingerbread house.

The first year, I asked if we should be saving boxes/cartons etc. to use in our structures, and was punched in the face by a contemptuous scoff. Cartons, it seems, are cheating. (Although it’s worth noting that using graham crackers instead of gingerbread is apparently not cheating. I understand that they used real gingerbread one year with disastrous results, so they don’t do that anymore. Also, you kind of have to know what you’re building ahead of time, so you can bake enough pieces in the right shapes).

And in this house, one does not always know what one is building ahead of time. The first year, we arrived and were greeted with, “In case you were thinking of doing the Eiffel Tower, I tried to do it last year and it was a disaster. The Great Pyramids are also really hard.”

Ah. Oooohkay. Among our people, coming up with the most ridiculous plan is half the fun. In the last three years I have seen the following creations: Continue reading

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December 2: Oh Bring me a Sticky Pudding

DSC03719Sticky toffee pudding: neither toffee nor pudding. At least not to American sensibilities. (It is, however, by all accounts sticky.)

When I first heard of sticky toffee pudding, I thought it was going to be some kind of Heath bar parfait. So you can imagine my disappointment when I learned that it is really date cake with butterscotch sauce.

This is pudding in the English sense of the word: dessert. The sauce is the toffee part, and the sticky part. And don’t make the same mistake I did at first: it is delicious. If you’re looking to break away from pumpkin and peppermint, this makes a lovely, rich, slightly different holiday dessert.

I’ve made this several times now for birthdays and Christmas. It’s fun (and science experimenty!) to make. Also it impresses people with Dickensian flair.

Do you like fun, science, and showing off? Then sticky toffee pudding is the holiday dessert for you! As usual, I use the recipe in The Joy of Cooking. Continue reading

Breakfast that sticks to your ribs

I like to eat the same thing for breakfast, day after day after day after day, until I can’t take it anymore and switch to something else for the next six months. Right now, I’m going off of toaster waffles with peanut butter and berries and shifting into the oatmeal zone.

I’ve always liked hot cereal. My mom can’t stand it, and my dad doesn’t eat breakfast, so I don’t know where this comes from. But from a very, very young age I was really into the Quaker Oats instant oatmeal variety packs. Then thanks to the magic of the college dining hall experience, I discovered Cream of Wheat and (that crème de la crème of hot cereals!) CoCoWheats.

I don’t spend much time thinking about grits. We don’t see a lot of grits up in these northern parts.

But like I said–at heart I’m an oatmeal girl. Here’s how I do it these days:

Continue reading

Truffleupagus

Somebody else’s Oreo truffles

Sam finished his master’s program this week! (Everybody together now: yaaaaaaaaay Sam!). So I tried to honor his achievement with a batch of Oreo truffles. If you have never had these things, I suggest you leave your computer immediately and rectify that shit.

We had these for them first time two years ago at Sam’s friends’ annual study abroad reunion. This is when a whole bunch of people who lived together for a semester gather and relive all of their drunken inside jokes while their wives smile weakly and eat Oreo truffles by the dozen. No, actually it is really fun. Not kidding about the truffles, though.

We encountered these again at Kelsey’s wedding last month, where they were out for the taking on a sweet table. Sam is particularly bitter about this, because he filled up a whole box with them to take home, and then while we were dancing, the catering staff took them away. I can only hope that some kid ate them all in the kitchen, and that they didn’t just get tossed out. What a waste that would be.

Anyway. Given his recent Oreo truffle heartbreak, and the fact that these things have only three ingredients (Oreos, cream cheese, chocolate) and don’t have to be baked, I thought I would give them a shot. In theory, here’s how this works: Continue reading

Really f***ing good cake

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That is a fucking cake.

The first time I had this cake, I was visiting my parents for my dad’s 60th birthday in January 2012. Historically, he is a lover of super chocolatey things (he wanted their wedding cake to have chocolate frosting), and my mom had made this one for this birthday. When we rolled into town around 10 p.m. on that Friday night, after their dogs and ours crashed around and did their best to permanently cripple my mom, she served up the leftovers.

At this time I was just about three and a half weeks into my new year’s resolution of eating better, so I said no thanks. Who needs cake, really, at 11 at night? (OK, I know. I know. But if you’re really being disciplined, who needs cake at 11 at night?)

Anyway, I passed on my piece, and just had “a bite” of Sam’s. Lol. Continue reading