Sunday, January 07, 2018

Week 1: Highlights of winter break, and a recipe for Gingerbread

Ah, December, the most wonderful and most exhausting time of the year. For us it was a month of holiday gatherings, gift exchanges and travel. And catching up with many old friends, which is the best part of winter break for me.

Lila's maximalist graham cracker "Hansel and Gretel"
house made in Kindergarten class. 

Christmas cards made simply with strips of
colored paper and a glue stick
I do lots of holiday baking most years, and this year I managed to do a little bit. For Lila's teachers, I put together boxes of almond biscotti (I finally got around to updating the recipe with pictures to make it easier to follow) and buttercrunch candy, with a few store-bought Lindor sea salt chocolate truffles (the only supermarket candy I like) tucked in for some color and sparkle.


For Niam's teachers, I made some silly-cute wine bottle hat and scarf sets plus gift cards.


I bought a few small gifts for friends that we visited. From a local holiday market, I found some beautiful leaf-shaped ceramic spoon rests for my friends who like to cook.

The favorite gift I gave this year came from a close source. My artist friend Bala published a coloring book last month called Meditative Mandalas. What really amazed me that she drew these perfectly symmetric graphic circles with her hands, using no software to design them.

A hand-drawn mandala from Bala's book
I gave Bala's book to my dear high school
friend in Boston and she has declared that she's
"addicted to coloring"
Lila got two "big" gifts from us- a pink dressing table that she has been wishing for, and tickets to see a beautiful production of The Nutcracker Ballet- we went as a mother daughter outing with my dear neighbor and her daughter. Santa got Lila a much-coveted unicorn beanie boo (Santa's helper had to google that one) and some chocolate coins. She also got several gifts from friends- a horse stuffed toy, a scarf, two art kits, a princess throw, a Playmobil kit and a book. The most off-beat and delightful gift was from our friend S who believe it or not is the production head of a candy factory that makes sprinkles and got her 14 pounds of multicolored sprinkles!

On Christmas Day, we took a flight to Boston to treat the kids to a snowy vacation much unlike what they get to experience here in Georgia. We stayed with friends in their beautiful new home and enjoyed sledding in the yard and looking out at the winter wonderland. The temperatures were brutally cold (even for Boston in December) and it was the perfect excuse to stay indoors in our pajamas all day, drinking chai, watching movies and playing board games (many, many rounds of Codenames).

My friend's Christmas tree in Boston
complete with a toy train running around it.
Festive and darling!
I have so many recipes for holiday treats and sweets and cookies saved, just waiting to be tried. This time around, I only tried one new thing and it was wonderful- a damp, cakey, light as air gingerbread with lots of fresh ginger and molasses. A friend made this gingerbread a couple of years ago and I loved it and asked for the recipe. I couldn't resist adding some cardamom to the recipe to add another note to the heap of fresh ginger and it worked beautifully. The aroma of this cake baking in the oven was enough to put me in a holiday mood.

Gingerbread Cake
(adapted from the Field of Greens cookbook)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Grease a 9 x 13 pan.

3. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

4. In another medium bowl, beat together:
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup light or dark corn syrup

5. In a large bowl, cream together  until fluffy
1 stick soft butter
1/2 cup sugar

6. Beat in the egg mixture.

7. Add the dry ingredient mix, alternating with 1/2 cup buttermilk (room temperature) until batter just comes together. (Note: you can also use buttermilk powder plus water, as I did, to avoid buying fresh buttermilk)

8. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh ginger and 1 tsp. ground cardamom.

9. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a tested comes clean (or with crumbs attached). The cake is relatively thin and light so it is easy to over bake it- start checking at 20-22 minutes!

* * *
Week 1 of 2018 was a bit of home-related chaos around here. We narrowly missed the bomb cyclone up North and landed safely in Georgia, only to come home to a freezing house and a malfunctioning furnace. Suffice it to say that the week was spent chasing HVAC personnel and electricians and borrowing half a dozen space heaters from kind neighbors. But come Sunday night, I'm sitting here in a toasty warm home feeling very grateful to have heat since we have way-below-average temperatures this week here in the Atlanta area.

How did you celebrate the end of 2017? A very happy 2018 to you! 

28 comments:

  1. That gingerbread looks great! But is it really 1/2 *cup* of fresh ginger?

    Best wishes for 2018!

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    1. Happy 2018, Bek! Hope we get to meet up again this year! Yes, that's not a typo. Half a cup of fresh ginger. Why so much? It is the only ginger flavor in this cake, unlike other recipes which also have candied ginger and ground ginger and so on. Also, the ginger cooks and candies within the cake and it is a very gingery cake indeed. Try it and see :)

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    2. OK that sounds amazing! Weekend baking project, here I come :)

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    3. Let us know how the recipe works for you :) Oh and watch out that you don't over bake! This cake bakes quickly.

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    4. I made it and it is magical! I made "buttermilk" from plain yogurt thinned out with warm water. I am glad that I trusted you on the amount of ginger :)

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    5. YAY Bek! So glad you enjoyed the recipe :)

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  2. Happy New Year to you and the family, Nupur! I am in awe of your energy and creativity and resourcefulness! Your kids are lucky indeed, to experience the kind of friends, gifts and food they do - all so meaningful and things they will remember and cherish for a long time. How is Duncan doing?

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    1. Happy new year to you, dear Kamini! I hope to read more of your wonderful writing this year. We were very lucky to have hospitable friends who helped give our kids a relaxed holiday in a totally new-to-them snowy environment. I do think we make some great memories. Duncan stayed with our dear friends over winter break in a house full of dogs and cats so he had a fun vacation too! He is doing great- he turned 5 in December. Big boy :)

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  3. Oh and do tell Lila her gingerbread house and cards are super! I am going to get myself a copy of your friend's Mandala coloring book. It does look lovely.

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    1. Kamini, I think you will really enjoy this coloring book. It really is meditative and intricate!

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  4. Candy makes me drooool...I have been waiting for a post on Lilas birthday and also Niams. I always look forward to the cake and food you put together and take ideas and also the home made return gifts. Ppz do a post...

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    1. I never got around to writing those birthday posts last year, did I? I'll try to do it sometime this year. They were very low key birthdays :)

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  5. Happy New Year, Nupur! What a fun break you guys had! Love the teacher gifts.
    We had a good relaxing break, I was able to take almost 2 weeks off and it was a good reset. Back to work now with a fresh mind.
    Did you make any new year resolutions?

    -Anu

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    1. Hi Anu- it is indeed wonderful to take 2 whole weeks off! I didn't make any new year resolutions per se, but did make up my mind to work on some goals and habits one at a time. How about you?

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    2. Same as you. First up, drink enough water. My brother-in-law wants to do the same so, we've trying to keep each other accountable. Also have put things in place to focus on a long time goal of learning Spanish. I've talked about it for years but did nothing. This year have signed up for tutoring and carved out time during my work day to do 15-30 min lessons. Now to make sure I don't lose steam and give up halfway.

      -Anu

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    3. Anu- That's great. Good luck with your goals for the year. Learning Spanish is awesome! Incidentally my baby boy's first word was "agua" :)

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  6. Happy New Year to you ! Loved reading your post & all the gift ideas. Very creative!

    Shetu

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    1. Thanks Shetu and I wish you a wonderful 2018!

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  7. 2017 was the lowest year for me, so far. Lost my dear mom in Oct to a horrible battle with cancer. And the only thing I wanted to do in the holidays in Dec was to be alone, by myself. So, husband and son went to Kolkata while I spent one whole week by myself at home. A weird way to spend holidays, but it was what I needed. Spent my time alone reading, watching Mentalist and pretty much vegetating on the couch. the only activity I did was going on a weekend trek with a friend.
    Wishing you and your family a very happy new year.

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    1. Dear Neha- Please accept my condolences and a big long-distance hug. That is just so hard. It is wonderful that your husband and son were able to give you the gift of solitude, time and space to deal with this grief in your own way. I hope 2018 brings you peace and joy!

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  8. Happy New Year to you Nupur and V, Lila and Niam
    Is there an appropriate word in English for "koutuk"??? That's what I feel about you and your family. Bless you all.

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    1. Dear Shubha- that's so very kind of you! Very happy new year to you and your family!

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  9. Hallo, how long do you expect 14 pounds of sprinkles to last in your family? I can't even imagine that many in one go! :)

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    1. Oh I'll post a pic of 14 lbs of sprinkles! I will be sharing them with everyone I know :), yes, all my friends and neighbors are about to get their share of the sprinkles.

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  10. Happy New Year wishes to you and family Nupur. How wonderful you celebrated new year with friends in Boston; and very happy to know kids were entertained and you guys had a nice break. :-)
    Love Lila's house; very colorful and cute. I'm sure she enjoyed making it and munching the candies in between :-) Teachers gifts are very nice. Great ideas.And the Mandalam book hand designed by your friend- just awesome.Very talented.
    Since we had a very busy thanksgiving, we decided to have a family Christmas time; we flew to Portland Oregon and explored the city, art, culture, food and nature. Loved it and spent time in each other's company and some much needed "me" time. My son got time to read some books other than school related, same with hubby and I spent time with nature, just being myself :-)

    Wishing your family a year filled with peace, good health and happiness :-)
    Meena.

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    1. Happy new year, dear Meena! I've heard so much about Portland, OR- especially the food and natural beauty. Glad you got to experience it all. Oh what is this "me time" you speak of? LOL I guess I will get to see what that's about in 10 years or so!

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  11. Happy new year!
    Would ginger powder work here? I have 2 bottles of it which is not looking like will get over soon!

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