What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? I recently built a massive gingerbread dollhouse for the 9th Annual Gingerbread Showdown on the Marilyn Dennis show and it and was BY FAR the craziest thing I’ve ever done! Watch the show here.
I used over 40 lbs of flour & 10 lbs of brown sugar to make the gingerbread cookie frame and it took me just under 1 week to complete from start to finish. I didn't sleep much that week but it was worth it! Watch the behind the scenes highlights in my instagram stories on @little_lunch_love
Why me? Well, the Marilyn Dennis show was looking for local influencers who would be up for the task of building a jumbo show stopping gingerbread house and my beautiful friend Irene Matys, a food stylist on the show (she's also an amazing recipe developer and food photographer) gave them my name!
I was absolutely up for the challenge and had to come up with an epic gingerbread house design quickly to land the show. The first idea that came into my head was a gingerbread dollhouse!! I knew my kids would love it (and me) and I thought the idea was super original and fun. I guess the show loved the idea too because they gave me the spot! Woo Hoo!
So I looked to my family’s favourite holiday movie ‘Home Alone’ for house inspo and called up Deron, a family friend who’s an engineer to help me with the design. I needed serious help making sure the structure could support itself and not crumble before or on the way to the show!
After the template was done I rushed home to get started with my baking. However, I couldn’t use just any gingerbread recipe. It had to be one that would be edible but STRONG! It also had to be a recipe without any leavening agents because I didn't want my panels puffing up in the oven.
After a lot of research this was my recipe:
6 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup margarine
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ginger
In a medium size sauce pot, add your corn syrup, margarine and brown sugar and heat over medium until your margarine is melted. Stir well and set aside.
In a large food processor, add your flour, cinnamon and ginger. Pulse until mixed. Then slowly (very slowly) pour in your margarine/sugar mixture. Pulse or mix on low until a ball forms. Or if the food processor gives up... dump the dough out and continue mixing by hand until a big ball of dough forms. If your dough needs a touch more liquid (because baking is like that sometimes) feel free to add a tablespoon of water, one at a time, until the dough is your desired consistency.
Let sit for 5-10 minutes at room temperature then roll out on parchment paper into the desired size and thickness. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Check for any air bubbles in the dough at this point and if there are any prick them gently with a toothpick. Then continue to bake for another 5-10min (depending on the size of your cookie). You want the gingerbread to be baked through and slightly brown. If you under bake the cookie it could bend.
It took me about 2 days to bake all of the gingerbread for the gingerbread house. There were a total of 23 panels and they weighed a TON so I decided to build the house laying down to make it easy to glue together with icing. I used pre-made icing from Bulk Barn and tinted it with brown food colouring to match the gingerbread house.
While the icing was drying on the frame I got to decorating the walls with fondant (for wallpaper) and icing.
I started making the furniture using graham crackers as the base and wrapped them with fondant.
The Christmas trees were made from sugar cones decorated with icing and sprinkles.
Then I went to Bulk Barn to buy all the candy for the house. They had the most amazing selection of candy and icing. Some of my favourite purchases were:
Now I had only two full days left to decorate and that meant I had to prop up the house. I was SO nervous but my husband and I carefully propped it up and it didn’t crumble! HURRAY!!!
Then I called my mom and a few friends over to help me finish up the house. Even my kids got involved! I was overjoyed at the love and support from everyone. I was super appreciative too because I could never have done this alone.
The gingerbread house was finally finished and I was in love!
Now it was time to pack it in the car and take it to the Marilyn Dennis show. My husband and I carefully lifted it up and carried it out of the house into my sisters car. It made for quite the spectacle on the street. Thanks for this photoTara Noelle!
Everyone loved the gingerbread house on the show and I'm happy to say it took first place. I am so grateful to the Marilyn Dennis show for giving me this opportunity. I had the most incredible time and learned so much. Thank you.
Special thanks to my husband Andrew for all of his patience, love and support while I made a complete disaster of our kitchen EEK! To my mama for cheering me on every step of the way (then stepping in and helping me finish it up). To my kids Brookson and Abi, mama is so sorry you couldn't eat or play with the house for the week. To my sister Jamie Kalynuik from Toronto Yoga Mamas for driving me and being with me at the show. Oh, and thanks for parking your car in the middle of the street during rush hour so that I had an audience when loading the house into your trunk - which you forgot how to open, then accidentally had loaded with a stroller! haha
To Tara Noelle for capturing all of these beautiful photos. To Bulk Burn for all of the candy and icing for my house. And to my beautiful competitor Betty from @stemsandforks This was a huge undertaking for both of us and we both walked away winners!
If you've read this far.... thank you! Your support means the world to me too and I appreciate it with all my heart.
Merry Christmas Happy New Year!
Have you ever wanted to take a cooking class? I was recently invited to attended one with my husband at Dish Cooking Studio in Toronto and it was one of the best date nights we’ve had!
The cooking studio is located in the heart of Toronto's Little Italy and it's also a cafe and retail store that makes a dreamy cappuccino and the most delicious prepared foods (fresh or frozen). I highly recommend their bolognese sauce, fresh spreads or frozen croissants!
Dish offers a variety of classes like Basic knife skills, Spring in Nona's kitchen, Vibrantly Vegan and Cooking with Craft Beer but the theme of our class was Bowls that Heal! Up on our menu for the evening were the following nourishing dishes:
The class format was intimate (only 10 people) and hands on. We were split into groups and with the guidance of skilled Dish chef's we each tried our hand at cooking all three recipes.
Some of the highlights of the evening for me was when Chef Cara taught me to hold a knife properly (so basic but so important) and when Andrew torched an Avocado (so cool).
After all of the fun and hard work we sat down and enjoyed some of the most incredible food I've ever made. The flavours.... were.... incredible! I'm still in heaven.
Please visit dishcookingstudio.com to learn more about this brilliant cooking studio, cafe and retail shop.
Bowls that heal - Smoothie bowl recipe
Blend all the ingredients together in a high speed blender or food processor. Blend until creamy and smooth. The trick to a thick smoothie bowl is being patient and blending slowly, adding only as much liquid as necessary, and using a smoothie wand (or something comparable that's blender safe) to scrape the sides down as it blends.
Scoop into a bowl and add your toppings of choice.
1 cups whole almonds, soaked
4 cups water
¼ tsp sea salt
1 date, optional
Place all ingredients into a high speed blender, blend for 1 min. Pour milk through a nut milk bag or double lined cheesecloth into a bowl, squeezing out all the liquid, set aside.
1 ½ cups raw almonds
¼ teaspoon salt
Optional: 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the almonds across a large, rimmed baking sheet and toast the almonds for 8-10 minutes, stirring halfway.
Let the almonds cool until they’re just warm (not hot), about 5 minutes.
Transfer the almonds to a food processor. Blend until creamy, pausing to scrape down the sides as necessary. You’re going to think it’ll never blend, but be patient! The almonds will go from flour-like clumps, to a ball against the side of the food processor (keep scraping down the sides and breaking up the ball), and finally, it will turn creamy. If the mixture gets crazy hot along the way, stop and let it cool for a few minutes. If adding sweetener, add once creamy, and blend again for 1 minute.