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Stories about runaway food — whether pancakes, bannocks, rice cakes, latkes, tortillas or gingerbread men — have long delighted children of all ages. Though Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the first man-shaped gingerbread cookie, portraying the Gingerbread Boy as a story hero is a uniquely American invention. The cheeky, spicy guy first appeared in print in an 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine, and he’s been running and taunting readers ever since.

In the charmingly clever interactive mystery Catch that Cookie (2014), which was inspired by author Hallie Durand’s son, young Marshall doesn’t believe gingerbread men can walk or run. Sure, he’s heard all the stories his teacher Mrs. Gray has shared with the class, but Marshall doesn’t buy any of it. Cookies are for eating, period.

When it’s time for them to make their own gingerbread boys, Marshall enjoys mixing the dough (Mrs. Gray tells him he “rocked” it), and decorating his little man with “good stuff”: six raisins for eyes and a special silver-ball belt. But later when Mrs. Gray unlocks the oven to retrieve the baked cookies, they’re gone!

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What do you get when you combine one part Gingerbread Boy with one part “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”?

A delightful recipe for a joyous, rollickingly suspenseful foodie-licious story, of course!

Cleverly riffing on Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” Oregon-based author Stephanie Shaw has cooked up an original adventure featuring our favorite iconic Christmas cookie, who narrowly escapes becoming Santa’s midnight snack.

‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And there on a plate,
Was a Gingerbread Boy
Awaiting his fate.

The children had baked him
And dressed him with care,
Using currants for eyes
and icing for hair.

They knew that St. Nick,
With his overstuffed pack,
Would be sorely in need
Of a fine midnight snack.

As the Gingerbread Boy nervously awaits his not-so-sweet fate, two rambunctious puppies bound into the room and begin to pounce, paw, and tear the holiday decorations apart. The plucky Gingerbread Boy knows he must do something to save Christmas, so he quickly distracts those frisky pups by dancing and spinning atop a big red ornament. Employing all his best moves, he’s able to get them to settle down until Santa arrives. After he helps Santa straighten things up, he’s extremely relieved when instead of being eaten, a highly impressed St. Nick asks him to be Night Watchman at his North Pole toy shop.

Stephanie’s bouncy rhyming text scans beautifully and will keep kids rooting for this adorably smart cookie, who ultimately gets his one Christmas wish. The narrative gambols right along and her spritely rhymes and turns of phrase never lapse into predictability.

‘Come Rascal! Come, Rowdy!’
He called them by name.
‘I’ll show you a much better
Christmas Eve game.’

‘A biscuit,’ they barked
With howling dog joy,
‘And one that can talk.
It’s a Gingerbread boy!’

And what he did next
Made those naughty pups stop.
‘Look at me!’ Cookie cried.
‘I can spin like a top!’

Bruno Robert’s bold, action-packed illustrations effectively capture all the fun and frolic of this clamorous caper. Close-ups of the Gingerbread Boy’s worried facial expressions and his overall body language elicit reader empathy, while the perky, playful pups are suitably frenetic but quite lovable. Kids will enjoy the focus on the cookie’s point of view, and appreciate that such a small little guy was able to put aside his big fears without hesitation to save the day.

When the work was all done
Cookie climbed on the dish.
He looked to the stars
And made one Christmas wish.

Then he heard Santa say . . .

A Cookie for Santa has received glowing reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal and Kirkus, and has earned a Preferred Choice Award from Creative Child Magazine. It begs to be read aloud in the classroom or at family Christmas gatherings. What a wonderful addition to the holiday book shelf, especially for those who like their classic ingredients served up with a refreshing twist! Who could resist this tasty tale, a lovingly baked gem sure to be welcomed in all the best (and politically correct) cookie circles. :)

Though I can’t personally guarantee that fewer gingerbread boys will be consumed as a result, I’m pretty confident kids of all ages will clamor for repeated readings. :D

Stephanie reading at Sleighbells Gift Shop (Sherwood, Oregon).

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C – O – O – K – I – E – S ! ! !

Cornelius tries to comfort a worried Gingerbread Boy.

I asked Stephanie to share her favorite Gingerbread Cookie recipe, and she pointed me to this gluten-free one using Pamela’s Bread Mix. Seems more and more people are going gluten-free these days and this recipe sounds like it’s definitely worth a try. Thanks, Stephanie!

GINGERBREAD COOKIES

Ingredients:

  • 3-1/2 cups Pamela’s Bread Mix
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 12 tablespoons butter or margarine, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Use HEAVY DUTY STAND MIXER and paddle. In mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add butter and mix well. Add molasses and milk, mix to combine thoroughly.

Divide dough and roll to 1/4 inch between two layers of parchment paper. Freeze for 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of each and cut out cookies and remove excess dough. Bake on parchment on cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes until edges begin to brown for soft cookies.

For crispy cookies, roll thinner to 1/8th inch and bake for 14 to18 minutes. Scraps can be rolled and cookies cut out again.

© Pamela’s Products, Inc.

He feels much better after reading the book!

*   *   *

A COOKIE FOR SANTA
written by Stephanie Shaw
illustrated by Bruno Robert
published by Sleeping Bear Press, 2014
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
Cool themes: holidays, Christmas, baking, food, Santa Claus, animals, rhyming fiction

*Check out the cool Activity Guide at Stephanie’s website!

ETA: Read this fun interview with Mr. Pig at The Little Crooked Cottage and enter for a chance to win a signed copy!

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poetryfriday180Paul Hankins is hosting today’s Roundup at These 4 Corners. Scamper over and check out the full menu of poetic treats being served up in the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend, a good time to make Gingerbread Boy Cookies. :)

 

 

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wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food related posts. Put on your best bibs and come join the fun!

 

 

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* Spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2014 Stephanie Shaw, illustrations © 2014 Bruno Robert, published by Sleeping Bear Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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Most of us remember when we first read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and how it profoundly changed and affected us. It’s just that kind of book.

I was in sixth grade and read it for Mrs. Whang’s English class. We were all a little afraid of Mrs. Whang — she was notorious for being unfailingly strict and rarely smiled. No matter the assignment, only the best would do. For Little Women, we were divided into groups of four and asked to act out our favorite scene(s).

We decided on the first chapter and I was to play Jo. We dressed up in long skirts and shawls and I remember bounding onto the “stage” in my best tomboy fashion and blurting out, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” So began a lifelong love for all of Alcott’s books and a fierce yearning for the quintessential New England Christmas — a dreamlike fantasy of snow-blanketed landscapes and cozy fires, something about as foreign as you can imagine when you live in the land of palm trees and eternal summers.

(click to enlarge)

Heather Vogel Frederick’s new picture book adaptation of the Christmas episode from Little Women is a lovely way to meet the March sisters for the first time and bask in cherished holiday scenes brimming with the spirit of giving and gratitude. Frederick interweaves key elements from Alcott’s novel as she distills the essence of this holiday story (Beth’s frail health, Father away at war, Jo and Laurie’s friendship, Jo cutting and selling her hair, making do with what they have).

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You’ve got last minute guests coming for dinner and you need to whip up a quick and easy dessert.

Or maybe you’ve already made your Thanksgiving pumpkin and pecan pies, but need a little extra sweet something for holiday weekend guests.

What’s an adorable, well-intentioned host like you to do?

Ta da! Dorie Greenspan to the rescue with her Custardy Apple Squares!

You’ll likely have all the ingredients on hand already for this recipe; this baby can be eaten warm or cold, and it’s also good for breakfast. :)

This is just one of the goodies included in Dorie’s latest cookbook, Baking Chez Moi (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). I just love Dorie and this book is definitely on my holiday wish list. :)

Check out the video:

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CUSTARDY APPLE SQUARES

  • 3 medium juicy, sweet apples (Gala, Fuji), peeled
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons whole milk at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

3. Slice the apples from top to bottom using a mandoline, Benriner or a sharp knife, turning the fruit as you reach the core. The slices should be about 1/16th inch thick—elegantly thin, but not so thin that they’re transparent and fragile. Discard the cores.

4. Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.

5. Working in a large bowl with a whisk, beat the eggs, sugar and salt together for about 2 minutes, until the sugar just about dissolves and, more important, the eggs are pale. Whisk in the vanilla, followed by the milk and melted butter.

6. Turn the flour into the bowl and stir with the whisk until the batter is smooth. Add the apples to the bowl, switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold the apples into the batter, turning everything around until each thin slice is coated in batter. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top as evenly as you can—it will be bumpy; that’s its nature.

7. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown, uniformly puffed— make sure the middle of the cake has risen—and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.

8. Using a long chef’s knife, cut the cake into 8 squares in the pan (being careful not to damage the pan), or unmold the cake onto a rack, flip it onto a plate and cut into squares. Either way, give the squares a dusting of confectioners’ sugar before serving, if you’d like.

~ adapted from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

BON APPETIT!

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Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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“Girls always make passes at guys with mustaches.” (Unknown hairy person)

Good Morning!

I mustache you a question, but I’ll shave it for later. :)

Happy Movember (a tad late)! Time once again to help raise awareness of men’s health issues by sprouting a dapper cookie duster.

I, for one, have always been mad for staches.

“Really?”

You bet. Who was it that said “A man without a mustache is a man without a soul”? When I was growing up, I noticed the smartest, funniest, hottest men all had staches: Albert Einstein, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Tom Selleck, David Crosby, Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, Kurt Vonnegut, Edgar Allan Poe, Santa Claus, The Monopoly Man, did I mention Tom Selleck?

And have you noticed the best lines from movies are all about staches?

Nobody puts Mustache in a corner.

and

You can’t handle the mustache!

and

Say hello to my leetle mustache.

Or what about that incredibly incisive TV question:

Where is your mustache, Jake from State Farm?

Positively hair raising! :D

What’s that? You say you can’t grow your own? Your upper lip is as smooth, soft and hairless as a baby’s . . .

Not to worry, cause today we’re gonna help you get your mighty mo on by serving up four fanstashtic picture books and a delicious cache of chocolaty cookies. Read ‘em and eat!

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