Monday, December 22, 2008

"JIJRBRED DAY" a photo essay by Joseph

That's what Joseph wrote on the family calendar.

What it means is "Gingerbread Day". With the snow days the last two days of school, I was in high stress mode with unfinished projects abounding (sorry Michael and Jon and your respective families - I hope to get your stuff out early next week!) I wasn't in the mood to spend a small fortune on candy and I certainly didn't have time to make the houses. I refuse to buy a kit (or 10).

Monday morning, I realized that nothing would change and it was time to do gingerbread houses. We like to have gingerbread parties, but the snow and late date made it so only Rachel had two friends over. It was still fun!

Now, we've had some really good years with gingerbread houses. One of my favorites was with the Stauffenbergs - GusGus made a trailer and another year a dog house with a bleeding postman (this year he made a dumpster, complete with a drunk peeing on the side). It was hilarious! But for the last three years or so, I find that by the time I've made enough house for friends and kids, I am not in the mood to make my own. That's okay. This year was very last minute, so it wasn't one of our more creative ones. I just did basic A frames houses, which the kids seem to prefer since it gives the most area for candy, and stacking on the candy seems to be the main goal.

I have fond memories of making gingerbread houses at my mom's house. My brother, Snookie, seemed to have a real knack for the darker side, with dead cinnamon bears as a main theme. It makes me proud.

So, I started with the dough, which is the BEST gingerbread house dough I have ever tasted. I love the dough. I eat the dough. I ate so much, I got a tummy ache.

Joseph was totally IN MY FACE and MY HAIR and MY EARS and MY HANDS and I knew I wouldn't make it. He might not either. So I gave him the camera. He took 91 pictures of me rolling out the gingerbread. Except for a few instructions ("Back up Mom, I don't want you in this picture") he was completely occupied.

He was very detailed. Here are A FEW of his shots. (Not every pictures makes the edit, right? You are welcome.)

The dough recipe is from a baker in our ward.

So I pound in the flour.

And then I roll it out with my broken rolling pin. I love my rolling pin. I wish it wasn't broken, but I love it and use it.

I cut out every piece with a knife by tracing my complex pattern.
Such as this one:
But I didn't make any outhouses this year. I just ran out of patience time.

Here they are cooling on the stove top.

At this point, I began to beg, "PLEASE GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!" When Joseph realized that the gingerbread had to cool and there was no action, he consented.
THANK GOODNESS!! I was at the end of my rope! It's important for kids to get fresh air every day.
Matthew joined him.

Later that night, I assembled the gingerbread by melting sugar in a pan and dipping the sides in the liquid sugar and sticking it to the covered cardboard and to each other. Be careful, it's hot! It's also the most superior way for assembling gingerbread houses. It's fast and strong.

At last!
Joseph begins his assembly.

Rachel, Clay, and Daniel ponder the possibilities ...

Daniel is a story teller. I don't remember what he was saying, but Clayton looks amused.

Ben was the lucky recipient of the one of the "special" gingerbread houses with an open air ventilation system and sky lights. He was determined to fill it in with frosting. After the frosting filled the house (nearly) he finally broke down and covered the structural flaw with candy bars.

Daniel working on balancing his candy canes. We had a discussion about physics. It is impossible to stick two candy canes upright with a dab of frosting on the end. I wonder now, if the melted sugar would have worked ... note to self ...

Larry HATES sticky. So I was very proud of him for sucking it up and helping Matthew assemble his house.

Joseph worked a couple of windows in his A-frame. Being cursed blessed with a perfect memory, he pined a little for past gingerbread creations. Time to move on.
Hmmm... this design should be no surprise to anyone who knows Rachel - perfectly symmetrical.

This year was great because most of the kids were able to keep the frosting IN the squeeze bag. Trust me, not scraping up the frosting out the top and putting it back in makes a lot of difference in my frustration level.

Larry put the frosting on the end of the candy and Matthew stuck it on the house. Success!

Just as Rachel's house was symmetrical, Sari's is kicked up a notch. Their houses define their personalities. By the way, Sari went on to make a dog for her house and then she scattered mini chocolate chips all around it and Larry put a cling-on on the dog and Sari said she was inspired by GusGus.

Clayton impressed us all with his ability to spell his name on the side of his house

Matthew with his finished house.

Ben with his finished house (and Joseph still hard at work in the background.)

Later that evening, Rachel's sweet friend, Courtney came over and made her house. She missed the general party, but we were glad to have her when we did.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


You all who know me, know that I am not a good cook. I don't really enjoy it. I even took a cooking class at BYU once in an effort to have 12 credits to qualify for my Pell Grant learn some skills so I would enjoy that aspect of homemaking more.

That really didn't work AND I got a B. Which really ticked me off.

For one year, a few years back, we had a law school family in our ward named Amy and Joe. They were a cute, busy young couple. So cute! But then they moved. Thanks to blogging, we have stayed in touch. About a year ago Amy wrote a post with this recipe. As I recall the story, she was home sick one day, when she was still in high school. Joe, her crush, who would someday become her dear husband, made her these pancakes.

Rachel has just recently discovered true romance and she LOVES that story. She also loves a post Amy did once about how Joseph always gives her a kiss goodnight. Rachel has a whole set of expectations based on Joseph Lee. He once told me I was of "advanced years" but since I live with my foot in my mouth, I understand that he doesn't realize that I am 25 on the inside.

Here's a picture of the darling family. My friend, Sue, will recognize Joseph as the son of her friend from Salem, and the brother of one of her young women, Michal Lee. It's a small world.

Back to not liking to cook - pancakes are right up my alley and I love the weekly occasional breakfast for dinner idea. I also love pumpkin. When the kids asked what we were having they were skeptical. They were scared. They were suddenly not hungry. I made them all try one. My Joseph ate NINE. In short, we all LOVE this recipe! We titled them the AmyJoe Lee Pancakes (which is a play on Amy's middle name, Jo, and her husband's name Joseph. Get it?) or True Love Pancakes which a is a play on the fact that we LOVE them and Joe made them for Amy and that is true love too (let's remember he was in high school!)

AMYJOE LEE Pumpkin Puff Pancakes

2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cooked pumpkin
1 3/4 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup vegetable oil
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. soda
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger

In small mixing bowl, beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes or ubtil thick and lemon colored. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour batter from 1/4 cup onto medium hot ungreased griddle. Bake until puffed and bubbles begin to break.

AMYJOE LEE Apple Cider Syrup
1 cup sugar (I actually put very little sugar in, maybe 1/4 cup or less, we think the cider makes it sweet enough, do what you like
2 T. cornstartch
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 cups apple cider
2 T. Lemon juice
1/4 cup melted butter

In saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg; stir in apple cider and lemon juice. Cook stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir for 1 minute. remove from heat, stir in melted butter. Makes 2 1/2 cups syrup.

Because Sari and Joseph have hollow legs and can eat more in a meal than some small countries do in a day For my size family I times the pancakes by 5 and put the leftovers in a tupperware pitcher to make individual pancakes as liked. I also 2 1/2 times the cider syrup recipe and that seems to be almost the right ratio. We LOVE the cider syrup! I recommend tasting your cider first to determine how much sugar you need to add. Ours was made with less sweet apples than we usually get, so I added the full one cup of sugar. They really do get super puffy and are light as air. If you prefer waffles, like Larry does, just add another egg white or two and a smidge more vegetable oil.

Do NOT wait a year like I did to make these pancakes. Make them NOW. Tonight. Tomorrow morning. But do it soon. You'll be thanking me!