Category Archives: Food

Gingerbread House recipe

The gingerbread we use for our houses is a different recipe to the one we make our cookies out of.  It does not rise and is denser.  When cooked it does spread slightly but not much, which is what you want.

Gingerbread House recipe

4½ cups flour
¾ packed brown sugar
2tsp cinnamon
1½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup butter ( I ended up using a bit more as the dough was too dry to work with )
¾ cup molasses
1 egg yolk ( save white for icing )

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine flour, sugar, ginger, cloves and salt in large bowl. Set aside. Slice cube of butter into 4-6 slices, put in microwave bowl and melt in microwave, about 1 minute on high, it should not boil. Mix butter, molasses and egg yolk together in a small bowl with a fork or large spoon. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until combined. The dough will be thick and slightly dry. ( I used my kitchen aid mixer because it could handle it )

When rolling it out roll it between pieces of parchment, but before you do work the dough in your hands to get rid of any air bubbles. It should only be rolled to ¼” thickness. The best way to guarantee this is to use two pieces of dowel either side of the rolling pin. Chopsticks work too.

Glue icing

1¼ cups icing sugar
1 egg white
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
food colouring

Put all ingredients in a non-plastic bowl. Mix with electric mixer on highest speed until peaks stay when you lift mixture with a spoon, about 5 minutes.

Final Gingerbread Entries

L14 and her friends P and E designed, built and decorated this house.     The group worked really well together as each participant had their own area of expertise which was employed as needed.

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As you can see the scale is quite big, there was definitely the need for a little structural reinforcement inside this one!

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A little frozen creek was added along with the pretzel bridge.

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The final entry  from the Group of Four, an outdoor hockey rink, was made by two of the boys, who did a fantastic job and managed to put it all together  in the shortest time.  It was funny to hear them discussing the details, they were not in the least concerned about how to make the lights stay up, or how to make a gingerbread sign, they were deep in conversation about the exact position of the gummy bear players.  They were setting up actual hockey plays!   I intended to get another picture from the other signs which would have showed the little “Ginger-rena” sign, but I didn’t get to it before it was taken to the competition.  See the little gingerbread zamboni yet to be positioned on the board.

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Gingerbread Church

The gingerbread structures took quite some time to complete, as you can probably imagine.  We had scheduled three mornings but the church definitely needed more time.  Even though all the moms lobbied for a winter scene the girls making the church were determined to surround the church with a spring garden.  We were very impressed with their finished product, especially as it had all been their own design, from sketch and cardboard model through to completion.  By the way the stained glass windows will be shown off with little lights inside.

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Ducks on the pond:

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and graveyard out the back:

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They painstakingly put together the pretzel fence and sprinkled the parsley grass around.  There are also several  garden beds and a bridge over the pond.

Gingerbread village

For the last two weeks my dining room table and several kitchen counters have been covered with gingerbread shapes and structures.  They are the components of four different entries for a local gingerbread house competition.  Last year we teamed up with another family and entered a lighthouse and the little house on the prairie.  This year the Group of Four families are all involved and there are four different entries.

B8 teamed up with the two other 8 year olds in our homeschooling group to make “Gummyville” a gingerbread village inhabited by gummy bears.  This worked very well because each child made two houses and was able to decorate them as they wished.

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There was some negotiating done about surrounding parkland, but they were all very accommodating of each others ideas.  It was their idea to have a little frozen pond with gummy bears skating as well as some parkbenches for those gummies who just wanted sit by the fire.

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They also came up with the name “Gummyville”  but no matter how hard I campaigned I could not get them to agree to have “…where life is sweet” on their sign!

There were several tense moments during the assembly day, but you can always turn a broken wall into a little shop.

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I will post photos of the other three entries soon, so check back later.

Wrapping up her birthday

A12 turned twelve during our trip to China, but the party happened just a week ago.  Our children have birthday parties every second year if they wish.  Even while we were in China we were thinking about the party.  While shopping in Shanghai A12 picked up a few things to give to her guests.  Originally the party was to have a China theme but it became an Olympic party instead.

The guests were asked to pick a country and come with some representation like a mascot or flag or maybe dress in the country’s sporting colours.  Australia, Canada, Italy, USA, Great Britain, Botswana, Mexico, Israel and Argentina were represented.  The games were not all athletic, which was just as well, as it turned out to be a grey rainy day.  We had an obstacle course, balloon volleyball, an “eatathlon”, 1-100 sprint, ball toss, card relay, and a triathlon including horseriding, weight lifting and hurdles!

In most events gold, silver and bronze stickers where given out to be stuck on the medal tally chart.  I was very happy to see that every country placed in several events!  All competitors received a chocolate medal during the closing ceremony.  The athletes ate chicken, chips and salad together before consuming birthday cake made by L14 and decorated with the Olympic rings.

My new gluten-free life

I am one week into my new gluten-free life. Tuesday last week I had an endoscopy which confirmed what my doctor had suspected after seeing the results of my recent blood tests. I have battled against anaemia for years, getting my levels up to the bare minimum, only to see them plummet back within a year. The last test concerned my doctor as there were other deficiencies showing up along side the iron. She decided that perhaps I was not absorbing the iron or other nutrients, an effect of celiac disease. To cut a long story short, it appears that she was right.

I have not met with a dietician yet or started reading books on the condition. I have done a little googling and a lot of label reading. (actually my children are doing a lot of the label reading as I can’t decipher that tiny writing) I am not new to restrictive diets. I was once put on an elimination diet which started with pears, rice and not much else. I have managed to follow a wheat free, dairy free, refined sugar free diet, (some would say the flavour free diet). In fact over the past fifteen years I have restricted my wheat and dairy products most of the time.

The specialist who did the test believed, without waiting for the results of the biopsy, that I have celiac disease and suggested I start the diet immediately. I keep thinking of foods that are now forbidden like egg rolls, lemon meringue pie and muesli. And then one springs to mind which is acceptable like pavlova. I intend to make some delicious and mouth watering gluten free snacks and put them in the freezer, but right now it’s pretty much just peanut butter and rice crackers. Imagine if I couldn’t have peanut butter either, now that would be bad.

Two soups

I have two soup recipes to share with you. The first, I made and the other I enjoyed at a friend’s house.

Beef and Barley Soup with Mushrooms

½oz(14g) package dried wild mushrooms such as porcini
1 cup boiling water
1 tbs vegetable oil
8oz(250g) stewing beef, cut into ¼” dice
2 onions, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, peeled and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cracked black peppercorns
½ tsp dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
½ cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 tbs tomato paste
6 cups beef broth
sour cream
finely chopped dill

  1. In a heatproof bowl, soak dried mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve, reserving liquid. Chop mushrooms finely and set aside.
  2. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware.
  3. Add onions, celery and carrots to pan and cook, stirring, until softened. Add garlic, salt, peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaves and cook, stirring , for one minute. Add barley and stir until coated. Stir in tomato paste, chopped mushrooms, beef broth and reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker.
  4. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3-4 hours. Discard bay leaf. Ladle into individual bowls, top with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with dill.

taken from Delicious and Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes Judith Finlayson.

Orange Squash Soup

1 butternut or buttercup squash
1 tbs butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbs ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp cumin
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
¼ cup orange juice concentrate
4½ cup chicken broth
¼ tsp nutmeg
pinch cayenne
salt and pepper
sour cream

  1. Cook squash. Heat butter and add onion, ginger, cumin and cook about 3 minutes.
  2. Add carrot, orange juice, broth and squash. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until carrots and tender
  3. Blend in blender and puree until smooth.
  4. Add spices, return to heat and serve with dollop of sour cream.

Gingerbread winners

Yesterday we attended the award ceremony at the museum where the children entered the Gingerbread house competition. L13 and P13 were very pleased to be awarded first place for “Children’s Group – Original Design” and A11, H10 and B7 proudly accepted second place in the same category. The local newspaper had a photographer there so we will wait and see if they end up in the paper. The houses are to stay intact for a few more days so Group of Four can see them. After that some people want to try eating the two month old gingerbread…

’tis the season

For us as for many people Christmas time is a time to spend with family and friends. Usually the “family” is the five of us, the rest living far, far away over the ocean. This year we have been very happy to have one of my Melbourne cousins here for Christmas. She arrived on Christmas Eve from New York but had already spent a few weeks visiting warmer parts of north and central America.

On Christmas Eve she and I did a few last minute errands and while we were out she was delighted that it started to snow, really snow. After supper we all went to the carol service at our church. The next morning we had a leisurely start poking in our stockings, eating pancakes and then opening the gifts from under the tree. We headed off mid afternoon to spend the rest of the day with some friends who made us feel part of their family. We finished the evening doing Karaoke, all of us, not something that happens every day. In fact it only happens with these particular friends.

Then next few days were also spent visiting friends and enjoying conversation, food and fun. The children have tobogganed, seen a play, watched Oliver (A11’s Christmas gift) and made snowmen. We all spent one day in Montreal, visiting the Biodome and wandering in and out of shops on Rue St Denis. We left my cousin there for a couple of days and had a quiet day yesterday, sorting and putting away the debris of our merriment and gift giving.

Gingerbread houses completed

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Here is the finished lighthouse made by A11, H10 and B7. There was quite the negotiation session at the end in order to make a decision about adding the colour to the roof, but I think everyone was happy with the finished product.

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L13 and P12 were very happy with the “Little House” when they finished. You can’t see it very well in this picture but there is a chimney which is made from chocolate rocks held together with brown icing mortar.

Entries close tomorrow and judging is next weekend. I’ll let you know how they go.