Archives for December 2006

Gingerbread House : Phase 2


Our gingerbread church is finished in plenty of time for Christmas!
It’s really starting to feel festive around here, even though we don’t have any snow! 🙁 This afternoon we were wrapping presents, listening to Diana Krall’s Christmas Songs, munching on mincemeat tarts and Danny declared:
” I feel like I’m on holidays already!”
He still has another week of work, but I guess we’re just starting the festivities early. Yay! With this candy-laden church looking down on us from it’s perch on top of the fridge, it’s easy to remember that we are about to have a very merry little Christmas.

Chocolate covered coffee beans and raisins are among the various candies used for the church brickwork. Colored licorice edges the church and lots of icing holds everything in place.
Marshmallows were microwaved until pliable and them pressed around the house to create packed snow. Everything was then dusted with plenty of icing sugar.


Back and side view of the church. Shaved coconut acts as chunks of frozen snow on the roof.

Vanilla wafer cookies shingle the roof quite nicely. Colorful candies crust the entire tower, making it especially appealing to the children.


Solid chocolate front door to the tower and graham cracker steps.

Church tower is covered with slivered almonds and the cross is sugared spaghetti
The front doors to the church are carved from a solid bar of chocolate and a mini green licorice wreath decorates them. The graham cracker steps are freshly swept from the last snowfall. Graham crackers make up the window boxes.

Gingerbread Dough

5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cups molasses
2 eggs, beaten
In large saucepan, melt shortening on stove over low heat. While shortening is melting, in a separate bowl stir together flour, salt and spices (if using for cookies, add 1 tsp. baking soda). When shortening is half melted, remove from heat and continue to stir until completely melted. Add sugar, molasses and beaten eggs. Mix well and quickly (to prevent eggs from cooking). Add molasses mixture to flour mixture. Mix well. Dough will be soft. Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to handle. When dough is firm enough to handle, remove from refrigerator and let sit until room temperature (about an hour). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To prevent aluminum foil from slipping, wipe counter with wet sponge then smooth aluminum foil over damp counter. This will prevent the foil from slipping while dough is being rolled out. Working with a small handful of dough (about the size of a baseball), roll dough onto aluminum foil that has been sprinkled with flour. Sprinkle dough with flour to prevent dough from sticking to rolling-pin. IF DOUGH IS TOO STIFF, MICROWAVE FOR 10-15 SECONDS TO SOFTEN THE DOUGH. Roll dough to about 1/8” thickness. Place gingerbread house pattern pieces onto dough and cut-out dough pieces (don’t forget to cut out windows). A pizza cutter works great for cutting out walls and roof sections. Remove excess dough pieces. Lift entire piece of foil and place on large cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet in oven. Check frequently to prevent burning. Bake until golden brown. Large pieces may bake as long as 14 minutes. Smaller pieces might take 6 – 7 minutes. Unused dough may be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks (bring to room temperature and knead briefly to use again). To prevent from sagging, I bake my roof sections until dark brown, almost burnt. When dough pieces are done baking, remove baking sheet from oven. Quickly lift foil from baking sheet and place on a flat area for gingerbread pieces to cool. If pieces have distorted while baking, while still warm, run knife or pizza cutter along sides of walls/roof sections to create a straight edge. If pieces have curled up during baking, while still warm, gently push edges down to lay flat. With gingerbread pieces still on the foil, let cool overnight. Next day – gently peel foil off of gingerbread pieces. You are now ready to assemble, or add windows!

DIY: Host a Smashing Wine and Cheese

Thinking about doing some entertaining this holiday season? Your guests will toast to this idea of hosting a wine and cheese party. Can’t cook to save your life? If you’ve got a corkscrew and can shop, you can pull this event off.


Our good friend, Dave, recently celebrated a significant birthday and since he is a cheese connoisseur and a wine lover, this was the perfect party for us to throw for him. I learned a few things along the way which I wanted to pass along, so grab a notebook and pen, pour yourself a glass of something lovely, and read through Under the High Chair’s first “Do It Yourself” segment.
Assorted olives, walnut bread, grapes and pomegranate made excellent contrasting accompaniments to our cheeses.

Part I: Planning Your Party

Guest list: Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Realistically estimate how many people your home can comfortably accommodate- then invite two couples more than that, because chances are, you’ll have at least that many who will cancel.

Inventory: Do a quick count of wine glasses and small plates. No one wants to drink wine out of a plastic cup. Make sure you have enough glasses for each person to have a red and a white, as people will often switch at some point during the evening.

Budget: Have an idea of how much you want to spend. Cheese, like wine, varies vastly in price and if you don’t have a figure in mind when you visit your cheese store, you’ll spend a lot more than planned. One money-saving option is to ask your guest to each bring a bottle of wine. You may discover a new favorite wine and you might actually stay under budget this time.


Clockwise from top: Clandestine, Brie de Meaux, and St-Agur blue made up our soft cheese tray. Apples, pears, grapes, walnuts and dried apricots accompanied them.

L to R: Baluchon, Spanish Manchego, and extra old Gouda are pictured here with walnut bread.

Part II: Shopping

Wine: If you are buying your own wine and you have no clue what to get, ask the store employees for a favorable pairing with cheese. As a rule, white wines are friendlier with the cheese tray, but cabernet sauvignon also pairs well with older, stronger cheeses. Bread: If you don’t already have one, search out a great bakery for your breads. Buy the bread the day of the party and try for an assortment, such as a few classic baguettes, some grissini or breadsticks, and a nut bread to stand up to the stronger cheeses.

Baguettes and assorted crusty Italian Grissini


Accompaniments: Try a selection of any of the following: fresh fruit, cold meats such as mortadella or proscuitto, olives, pickles, marinated vegetables, nuts, dried fruit, oil and vinegar for dipping bread. A little something dolce (sweet) at the end is nice too, like an assortment of cookies. Dark chocolate goes well with some red wines, in case people are still sipping.

Juicy Pineapple, Blackberries, Clementines and Apples sweetened up the night.


Cheese: Estimate about 150 grams per person, but don’t worry if you go over, leftovers are good too! Try for a broad assortment including at least one chevre (goat), one blue, a cream like a Brie or Camembert, and a hard cheese like a Conte or Manchego. Ask your cheese shop about the cheeses you have selected so that you can correctly inform your guests about the cheeses they are enjoying.
Part III: Party Prep

Drinks: Chill any white wine. Set up a self-serve bar area on you counter so guest can pour their own drinks.

Food: Cheese platters can be assembled in advance and refrigerated. Don’t forget to remove from the fridge at least an hour before serving so cheeses can come up to room temperature. Slice bread just before serving.

Labels help to identify the cheeses and make life a little easier for the non-gourmet


Part IV: PARTY! Uncork and unwind. Enjoy yourself!!

Parmesan and Poppy Seed Cheese Straws disappeared fast

Best of ’06: Ice Cream


Ben and Jerry put out a new flavor this year called “Vermonty Python”: Coffee Liqueur Ice Cream with a Chocolate Cookie Crumb Swirl and Fudge Cows.
It’s absolutly brilliant and has earned the title of Best New Ice Cream Flavor of 2006 in my books!
I love coffee anything, but this leaves Hagen Daaz coffee and B&J’s Coffee in the dust.
If you haven’t tried it yet, go buy some right now! If you live in Quebec, Metro grocery store are carrying it and it’s even on sale!!

Gingerbread House : Phase 1


Construction is underway for the gingerbread house!

We finally had our first snowfall and that spurred me into action. My right-hand girl, Miranda, was there to help me and we spent a relaxed afternoon listening to Christmas music and playing with ca
ndy. Snow fell all day long and we were pretty content as we chatted and got in touch with our creative sides.
“I don’t have a creative side” said Miranda, but it was obvious that she does (all Wimbushes do!)
by her expert handiwork. I was happy to have her around to help with all the ‘masonry’.

As we worked and munched, each sugar high was higher and each crash was lower until we finally said “eno
ugh!” and left the rest for another day.
Here are some photos of the process.


Noah checking to make sure the dough is coming together just right. Can you tell this is a pre-haircut shot? 🙂


Cutting out the pieces of gingerbread.


Raising the walls. They are burnt on purpose to dry them out as much as possible so they don’t soften and fold.


And here we have the shell together and it’s going to dry overnight.
In case you can’t tell, it’s going to be a church. Stop by soon to see the finished product!

National Cookie Day

It has been brought to my attention that today is National Cookie Day. I did a quick check on my own, and sure enough, our friendly neighbours to the south call today their ‘cookie day’. How fun that I posted all about cookies today (see next post) and had no idea.

But, humm, friendly Southeners, what is the deal with this ‘National something Day’ situation. Hasn’t it gotten a little out of hand?
I mean…
National Stick A Plunger On Your Head Day?
Middle Name Pride Day?
Gazpacho Day?

What about “Panic Day”? I think I’d call in sick to work.
Now “Good Samaritan Day” I can see, but why ‘National Pretzle Month”? They get a whole month??? I don’t think they are that great. Not even chocolate dipped.
And while I would support “National No Beard Day”100%, I am baffled by “Toot Your Flute Day”.

I’m not making any of these up. Check out the whole list for yourself here.
I guess some of them could be useful, like “National Sleep-In Day”. You may want to look that one up.

Anyway, Happy National Cookie Day everyone, American or not.
Cookies Rule!

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