remembering my great aunt jean and her pizzelle cookies

This year’s holiday celebrations are filled with a wave of sadness — not only due to the tragic headlines that have been taking over our conversations and dreams, but also because this is the first Christmas without my grandmother or her sister, my Great Aunt Jean. They both lived long, full lives, and were spunky old Italian ladies right until the very end. Though my grandparents always hosted the holiday dinner for our family, it was Aunt Jean who supplied the cookies. Every year she would make hundreds of delicious pizzelle waffle cookies and distribute them among us. Each one would be perfectly crisp, slightly golden and has just a hint of anise flavor to it.

Luckily, I pried the recipe from her a few a years ago. It’s pretty standard, but why mess with perfection? Today I’m going to dust off my pizzelle waffle iron and whip up a batch to bring home to my cousins in Niagara. It may not fill the void created by losing these two great matriarchs of our family, but it will satisfy our mutual craving.

Classic Pizzelle

(I usually doubled this recipe, fyi)
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp of baking powder
3 large eggs
3/4 sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tbs anise extract (or vanilla, if you prefer)

First mix the sugar and eggs until stiff, then add butter and anise. Slowly add in dry ingredients until well mixed. Drop by the spoonful on the waffle machine, and cook until slightly brown. Allow them to cool completely before storing.

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how-to make your own mod, wright-inspired gingerbread house

Last year we swooned over a mod gingerbread house that we saw on Uncrate, but it seems like that chic kit is no longer available. We’ll just have to roll up our sleeves and roll out the dough and make our own! Luckily, SusieCakes, a California based bakery, has share its how-to on how to make this modern California Christmas Gingerbread House. If you don’t have the time (or patience) to make your own, you can order them from SusieCakes site for $65. Here’s how you make your own holiday beach bungalow — sand not included.

California Christmas Gingerbread House Recipe
Yield: approximately two houses

What You Need

2 cups shortening
3 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses
10 whole eggs
14 cups all purpose flour (AP and cake combined or 7 of each)
1 tbl salt
2 tbls baking soda
3 tbls cinnamon
3 tbls ground ginger

Directions: Make the dough

1. Using a mixer on low speed, cream together shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and molasses for 3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, sift together salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and flour in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. On low speed, slowly add eggs to creamed shortening. Beat until thoroughly incorporated.

4. On low speed, add flour mixture to creamed mixture base in three parts, scraping down the sides between each addition.

5. Blend until incorporated.

6. Wrap the ball of dough completely in plastic wrap (not in the bowl) refrigerate overnight before use.

Directions: Baking

1. Preheat oven to 300° F.

2. Roll out dough between pieces of parchment paper to be 1/8 inch thick and cut out house-shaped pieces.

3. Store pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for 30 minutes before baking.

4. Bake approximately 25 to 30 minutes at 300° F.

5. Remove from oven and cool on sheet pan.

Directions: Make the Royal Icing

What You Need:

3 oz. pasteurized-egg whites
1 teaspoon water
4 cups confectioner’s sugar


1. Combine egg whites with water.

2. Put in mixing bowl and gradually add in the powdered sugar.

3. Mix on low until glossy. Then mix on high until stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes).

4. Use immediately or store in airtight container.

Directions: Ready for the California Christmas Gingerbread House Assembly?!

1. Once you have your gingerbread house pieces and royal icing ready, gather a thick piece of cardboard large enough for the house and landscape.

2. Using your bag of icing, pipe a line of frosting on the inside of the first side piece that will be touching the inside of the back piece.

3. Quickly pipe a thick “L” for the back piece and the first side piece of the house on top of the board where you want the house to stand and place them on top.

4. The icing should be thick enough to hold the pieces in place.

5. Repeat steps until all sides of house are standing. Let dry before putting on the roof.

6. Pipe thin lines of icing between the gaps of where the pieces meet for reinforcement.

7. Pipe icing on top of all the house sides for the roof to lay on top of and seal the entire house together.

8. Meanwhile, decorate your windows and doors and set them aside to dry.

9. Once the windows and doors are dry, pipe icing on the back sides and attach them to the house.

10. Now you are ready to decorate your house and board for the landscaping.

Have you make a gingerbread house this year? We’d love to see it! Email us at letters (at) shelterrific dotocm.
Thank You SusieCakes for sharing with us!


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alessi’s collectible christmas ornaments: get ’em while they’re hot!

If decorating a tree is in your family’s tradition, and you’re the sort who swoons over collectible modern design, you will want to hurry up and nab a set of Alessi’s new Christmas ornaments. Though the sets have already sold of stores in the U.S., you can still order them online; our bet is that they are going to quickly become coveted. Made of hand painted blown glass and designed by Marcelo Jori and Massimo Giacon, they bring a bright and playful aesthetic to the classic nativity characters. Our favorite is the little bambino. Check your local store who may still have some individual ornaments for sale, or purchase a set of four for $96 at alessi.com.

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etsy picks: our favorite forever holiday wreaths

Around this time of year, the debate begins: Fresh wreath for the door, or buy one that will last? Our indecision is undoubtedly due to the fact that there are so many great ones to chose from. Here are a few forever wreathes that we are loving on Etsy right now. (And yes, we admit it: We will buy — not make — our wreath!)

Peppermint Candy Wreath, $35 — This might not survive the season intake if hungry munchers get their hands on it, but we love the red and white design.

Modern Paper Leaf, $80 — Elegant and crisp, this modern take says grown up house to us.

Humorous Upcycle Wreath with Vintage Ornaments, $80 — At the other side of the spectrum, this wreath is made up of forgotten toys in need of fresh love. Sure to spring a smile to guests’ faces!

Chevron Ribboned with Felt Flowers, $42 — Combining two of our favorite craft trends, this beauty is lovely but not to cutesy.

Paper Roses with White Snow Balls, about $100 — You might want to keep this one in out of the wet snow. We marvel at its craftsmanship and gorgeous flowers.

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thanksgiving recap: what did you learn this holiday?

There’s always a ton of advice shared before the Thanksgiving holiday — what to serve, how to cook the brid, what to say. But I thought it’d be helpful to take a moment and gather the lessons we learned this past week while they were still fresh in our minds. What worked, what didn’t, what you’ll repeat and what you’ll never do again. Here’s my lowdown on how the feast went in our house:

1. Green Beans Gremolata was unexpected star. This simple recipe from Ina Garten’s new book, Foolproof Recipes, is crazy easy but surprisingly sophisticated. The key is to cook the beans just right, so they are bright green with a little crunch. The gremolata was so simple, I’ll definitely repeat it again soon — just for an ordinary, non-holiday night! You simply mix toasted pine nuts, freshly grated Parmesan, lemon zest, minced garlic and flat leaf parsley together in a bowl and toss it with the hot beans before serving. Presto impresso!

2. A green salad is needed and welcome. One of the only dishes that was wiped clean was the salad bowl. I think everyone appreciated something leafy and light to counterbalance the heaviness of the starches. I served frisee with endive, dried cranberries and roasted pistachios, tossed in a light champagne vinaigrette.

3. Don’t bother with fancy potatoes. I always try something new with the mashed potatoes, but it always goes unnoticed. This year I went decadent and mixed them with half and half and truffle butter. The flavor was a bit to subtle to notice on the plate with everything else, and the turkey gravy covered it anyway. Next time, I’m gonna keep them really really simple, and a touch more healthy by using the water they are cooked in to blend rather than cream.

4. Let your guests contribute.
One of our friends brought along a scrumptious sweet potato dish. It was loved by all and I appreciated having one less thing to do.

5. Dry brining works. I dry brined our turkey for two days in the fridge before roasting. Basically that means I covered it with salt and herbs and let it sit there. The result was a turkey meat that tasted good on its own (even sans gravy) and it was especially moist.

How was your Thanksgiving meal? Did you try anything new? Share your trials and tribulations please!

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