posts may contain Amazon affiliate links, which earn me a small commission when you buy (but doesn't cost you anything extra). Occasionally I receive free products and/or run sponsored posts—this will always be stated clearly in the post. Thank you for supporting this blog.

This website contains some quotations, excerpts, and screen clips from copyrighted material. These uses fall well within the copyright doctrine of "Fair Use".
Sunday, December 27, 2009

Surviving the holidays by breathing deeply...and eating...and traditions like baking gingerbread.

The holidays are definitely not the same as they were when I was younger. They used to be relaxing...anticipatory...carefree. Remember when that stretch of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed like ages? Hunting down the perfect tree. Stringing up lights. Smells of delight wafting from the kitchen to envelope the whole house in their comforting embrace. Lazy days during that two week stretch of glory when the doors to all educational facilities are locked tight. Scribbling out wish lists...ever growing wish lists. All seemingly centered around that day or two of piling into the car and delighting in the present-gathering trek while the snow falls softly with a sense of wonder.And then you become the adult. And reality gives you a good, hard soap opera slap in the face. Suddenly holidays feel stressful, short and languid. Four weeks!? That is totally not enough time to gather your wits. Yes, we'll find a tree. Yes, I see everybody else's lights hanging and bringing holiday cheer to the dark evenings. An endless string of holiday cooking that is somehow shoved into the midst of the regular every day meals that people still expect to eat. Cluttered counters. Cluttered living room. Cluttered closets. Puddles of melting snow scattered throughout the house. A bare spot under the tree...and in your wallet.

What do you mean it's time for school to let out already!? Oh boy...wish lists appearing on the fridge...ever growing wish lists. Digging out the shovel that has been buried since last winter. Last minute shopping trips trying to find that perfect gift from the picked-over shelves...while praying that I can locate the Valium Salt Lick and Everclear Drinking fountain. Gauging weather reports of an ice storm warning...can we all pile into the car and safely make it to our destination?

But wait! Suddenly you realize that all of your shopping is finished. As finished as it'll ever be. Kids are smiling and laughing. People are eating and hugging. Football is even on. Holiday tunes are playing somewhere and you're actually singing along. Because seriously, who can resist? You can breathe.

Realization that you made it through another year as you look out the window and watch the snow falling softly...with a sense of wonder. Stuck somewhere in the midst of the madness is a tradition. Cooking the usual holiday fare...and the new flavors that will join us at the table that particular year. As usual, I'm the one who introduces new dishes to the mix. A couple of years back, I decided to bring a lovely gingerbread that I baked from a Nigella Lawson recipe...and while not everybody is the biggest gingerbread fan...I am. I got some takers, but haven't really brought it back to the extended family table since. I did bring what was left of it to a friends house we stopped by on our further travels...and they swooned and finagled the leftovers. But I have continued to make it to enjoy at home and pass out to friends ever since. A tradition sprung from another tradition. I love this gingerbread because it uses fresh ginger and bakes up beautifully sticky and warming. And can I just also has a tart, lemony icing to cap it off just right. Fresh Gingerbread with Lemon Icing 
from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
yield: ~20 squares

for the gingerbread:
1/2 c. + 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
 1/2 c. + 2 Tbs. brown sugar
3/4 c. + 1 Tbs. light corn syrup
 3/4 c. + 1 Tbs. molasses
2 tsp. fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. + 2 Tbs. milk
 2 large eggs, beaten to mix
1 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in 2 Tbs. warm water
2 c. AP flour

  roasting pan, ~12 x 8 x 2", greased & lined w/ foil or parchment

for the icing I double this amount:
 1 Tbs. lemon juice
 1/2 c. + 2 Tbs. confectioners' sugar, sifted
 1 Tbs. warm water

 Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a saucepan, melt the butter along with sugar, syrup, molasses, ginger and cinnamon. Off the heat, add the milk, eggs and baking soda in its water. Measure the flour into a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed (it will be a very liquid batter).

 Pour into the pan and bake for 3/4-1 hour until risen and firm. Be careful not to overcook it, as it is nicer a little stickier. When it cools, get on with the icing.

Whisk the lemon juice into the confectioners' sugar first, then gradually add the water. You want a good, thick icing, so go cautiously and be prepared not to add all the water. Spread over the cooled gingerbread and leave to set before cutting. I add a bit of lemon zest to the icing, as well...and sprinkle as garnish.

Oddly enough, this year I didn't want to load up at the buffet (we do a buffet-type dinner at my grandma's on Christmas eve). I was totally beat and just wanted something simple. Something that always reminds me of grandma's matter where I eat it. We always do a tray of cold ham and a basket of rolls. Grandma & grandpa have always had a really cool old refrigerator in grandpa's office, as well...always stocked with Squirt. Love Squirt...for as long as I can remember. So, I sat back and relaxed with nothing more than ham on a roll and a glass of Squirt.But, I couldn't resist a bite of gingerbread as a late night snack a few hours later...I hope everybody made it through the holidays in one piece and that you're now enjoying some peace. This gingerbread is my Traditions entry over at I Heart Cooking Clubs this on over to check out some other Traditions!

Would you like to comment?

  1. Lovely ginger cake! I love the lemon sauce, genius!
    We are fortunate to have a bigger stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and don't have to travel.. but it is stressful nonetheless.
    Hope your little ones had a great time, and Santa left you a little brandy for your efforts. :)

  2. Well said! Christmas does seem more hectic every year, and yet we always get through, fairly unscathed.

    I too, nixed the giant buffet at my parents house on Christmas eve, in favour of my mother's famous quiche. The perfect taste of home and the holidays. I think I've even convinced her to make it at Easter! Perhaps I'll even get the recipe finally....

  3. oh wow great gingerbread hope you get some rest and put your feet up sweet Heather

    Love Rebecca

  4. "Stuck somewhere in the midst of the madness is a tradition. " How True!!!!! Luckily I just have to cook 2 persons.
    Your gingerbread looks so irresistible!

  5. No stress here, since I am still not feeling well and living on soup. Hubby's family took care of him, tree and all, but one day I will venture back into it all...

    I want that snack :( and a double slice of the cake! Wave your magic want please...

  6. This is a beautiful ginger cake. I love that it uses fresh ginger! The holidays are full of mayhem but when it all comes down to it, it is so nice when it is all over to sit back and relax with the people you love. It makes it all worth it.

  7. LUUUUV gingerbread. This looks very good especially with the real ginger in it. YUM

    It's such an old person thing to say, but the time between Thanksgiving and New Years is shorter and shorter every year. One day I wake up and it's Christmas Eve! YIKES!

  8. I've been eating little ham sammies, too, with a little cheese and mustard in it. hehe... Maybe to top it off, a nice big piece of that gingerbread.

    I know that feeling all to well. Though, still make wishlists every now and then. ;-D

  9. ohh m such a huge fan of ginger bread!! :)looking awesome!! i had to cook for like 10 ppl since we have a huge family plus some of my friends!! :) hope ye had a wonderful Christmas!! wish ye and ye family a very happy new year!! :)

  10. People who don't go crazy over gingerbread totally confound me...gingerbread is AWESOME! And a wonderful balm for the soul if you can't find that damn salt lick anywhere :)

  11. thats a nice cake but I gotta tell ya that I want the ham on a roll and the squirt more!

  12. Sounds like a really good gingerbread, I'd gladly help you finish it if there's any left.
    It's such a joy but such a relief at the same time when everything's over.
    Happy holidays.

  13. Good gingerbread, very nice. 4 weeks is not enough for me, but sadly my husband and his credit card don't agree.

  14. Great post! But you forgot to mention where we could purchase the Valium Salt Lick.

  15. A delicious fantastic looking gingerbread u have here and so suberbky moist...great for the new year i think now...thanx a ton 4 this fantastic recipe and for sharing ur lovely holiday experiences as muc as love readin 'em....

  16. Kenny...for you, I'd make another batch :)

    Chef E...I hope you start to feel better soon!

    Jenn...oh yeah, me too...I am constant wish list maker myself.

    Moogie...simply click on the words and be magically transported to the world of The Kitchen'll all become clear :D

  17. Darn - I didn't make gingerbread this year and this looks so good - so maybe in January! I know how hectic these four weeks are - but now I think - all right, I'm creating the memories (and a future hectic life for my children!)

  18. you are so right about the clutter! It's driving me nuts at the moment.

    I like the leftover ham the next day with biscuits. mmm.

    Glad you survived!

  19. Gingerbread-The flavor is soul satisfying.
    Each year, I am aamazed that I make it through the season. Next year, I have decided that I am only doing those things that I truly love to do...the rest will have to do without me.

    Happy New Year to you and your family.

  20. While I gave up the Valium saltlick when I retired, I did long for it during that stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas and my holidays are way low key compared to what they used to be. Your gingerbread looks so moist and delicious. The lemon icing has me drooling. The sad part is I can't make it because I'm the only person who likes it and I'd have to eat the whole thing. And would gladly if it wouldn't settle right on my hips. Hope things ease up for you now.

  21. so much pressure... most of our own making, and finding comfort in a sandwich is just fine!

    I miss all the family I should be with on Christmas, but i sure do not miss the relaxation of my holiday. it is a trade off, and there are always sad moments...

    lie the one i just talked myself into having...

    Deep breaths and happy thoughts!

  22. Sounds like we have very similar feeling about it all being over!

    I was just think today about some of the traditions and traditional foods for the holidays - what still fits and what doesn't. A post would be in order if I had the energy, maybe tomorrow.

    Love your recipe! I had a gingerbread on the plans for the season too but never got around to it - I like the sound of your recipe better! :-)

  23. Lee Ann...thank you so much!!!

    Dave...yeah, you're right...I'm pretty sure I do it to myself (with a little help from society). But yes...breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. ;)

  24. Great, fun, post. I am lucky I get to go visit for the holidays--less expectations that way! ;-) Loving the lemon sauce on the cake.

  25. You did a fantastic job of summing up the Christmas holidays. They are really stressful, but so worthwhile in the end. Every year I say I'm going to start getting ready for it sooner and then I never do :D We had ham sandwiches on xmas too. Funny your grandparents like squirt, my grandpa loved to drink slice :D
    I am a gingerbread fan, but have never had it with the lemon icing. I'm willing to bet that is is delicious!

  26. I love the picture of that mug! That pretty much illustrates how I felt this Christmas as well! The gingerbread looks delicious, yum, yum.

  27. A beautiful cake and the ham sandwich looked great as well! Glad you made it through the holiday in good spirits!

  28. yum, I love gingerbread! I've never made my own though. It's definitely on the list for next year.

  29. I agree about Christmas. Something is so drastically different. Where is the magic? But, your food does look wonderful!

  30. I does get a bit harder to stop and smell the Christmas tree as we get older.

    Your gingerbread looks fabulous! I love the icing too! Perfect combination of goodness!

  31. HOla Ola...would love to ask for i really i need helppppppppppp and a precious vote ..hop on here for details
    or hop strait below...puleeze...pinky promise please.....
    ...a few moments of ur time

  32. Yeah, the holidays just aren't what they were when I was 10. But on the other hand I don't live with my parents now. :D

    The ginger bread looks great, too. Now I'm off to put some ham on a roll.

  33. This gingerbread looks fantastic! So moist and flavorful. In fact, it's snowing like crazy right now so I'll be home for the rest of the day...I think I need to make this right now!

  34. I know just what you mean. But oh how I miss the holiday mayhem once it has passed. I love the idea of the lemon with gingerbread, never had that combination.

  35. heather you truly need to do a cook book with all these wonderful recipes...... the gingerbread looks so good.... I love the smell it gives the kitchen when its baking.... yum

  36. Lemon icing sounds delicious! Happy new year!

  37. I am a gingerbread lover! Especially with lemon. Just divine.

  38. YUMMMMMMMMMY...Gingerbread with Lemon icing what a fab combination!

    I bet it was out of this world delish!

  39. Repeat after me... "I am a calm Blue Ocean... I am a calm Blue Ocean"... :)

    This brings back alot of old memories... My great grandmother use to bake ginger bread.... YUM!!! Looks scrumptious!

  40. I think you nailed it. We grow up and trade our wish lists in for "to do" lists and we lose the fun in Christmas.

  41. all this madness and before you have time to enjoy it (the way you did when you were a kid) it's done and over with and you're left with the aftermath. whew. I survived and didn't hyperventilate (that I can remember). and I to am a strong believer in doubling icing recipes. :)

  42. Looks like the perfect treat for the holidays :) I really like the lemon icing on top too!

  43. Anything lemon flavored gets an A+ from me. Mmmm.

    I am definitely trying this recipe...or putting the husband (who is the true baker around here), on it at least. :D

    Have a blessed 2010.


  44. Lovely ginger cake! This is such a nicely-written post, I can just feel the exhaustion! I'm still waiting for the day when I get to be the grownup at Christmas. I did most of the cooking this year but it still wasn't "my" Christmas!