Spent most of the day yesterday exploring Benicia California with my hiking friends. We had the best time walking through the small businesses, looking at Christmas decorations and eating our way through town. Today’s blog will be all about our day and I will also share my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe with you.
I am lucky enough to know Sharon who invited me into her hiking group at least 10 years ago. Here’s the travel blog about our hike in Spain on the Camino de Santiago. We originally met through the neighborhood swim team over 20 years ago. She also inspired me to put my son into piano lessons at FAME Music where her son Eric was taking music lessons. I’m grateful for all she has done for me and my family over the years. But hiking with her and these amazing women was the most fun of all.
Sharon emails the group which has grown over the years, every Sunday evening about where we will be hiking every Tuesday and Thursday morning. She mixes it up every week, so we are never bored of the hiking trails in the East Bay. I haven’t been as good about attending the hikes recently, but I’m always in for a foodie adventure.
Marie organized and executed this exciting fun filled day in Benicia so we could all celebrate the holiday season together. Many of us walked through town first before eventually making our way to The Camellia Tea Room for lunch. Wanting to warm our bellies with something hot, we sat outside Farm & Flour a cool new brunch place. I bought a loaf of their house made spelt grain bread which came in a cloth flour sack bag. And if I go back, I can get a dollar off my next loaf. Great marketing idea right there, and I will be back. In fact, I was there with my Aunt Teri a few months ago.
Next we stopped in Romancing the Home store where we looked at adorable Christmas decorations sold at reasonable prices. I love getting craft ideas and seeing what other artists are making this time of year.
Juice house Company caught my eye and so I had to try some of their healthy juice samples. The owner who is pregnant, opened the shop a year ago with her sister and boy is it gooooood. My husband recently bought me a juicer and I love it. I make all kinds of concoctions with tumeric, beets, celery, grapefruit and tons of other fruits and vegetables. I fell in love with “Citrus Sea” made from grapefruit, orange, lemon, celery, cucumber,ginger and cilantro. So refreshing! But the coconut almond milk drink was equally delicious.
Can we talk about the cutest boutique on the planet? Pink Arrows Boutique is a little off the beaten path, but totally worth the visit. I didn’t catch the owners name, but she was warm and answered all of our questions. This #boho style is infectious and I wanted one of everything. I limited myself to one cute red and black Bella Dahl flannel top, which she graciously gave me $10.00 off. I so appreciate it when businesses offer up discounts like these and I’m happy to make repeat purchases from them.
The luncheon at the Camellia Tea Room was fabulous and everything you expect from a Tea house. The service was outstanding, our waitress even offering me an extra tea pot of hot water because I like my earl gray tea weak.The best bite of the day was the egg salad on a crispy and buttery focaccia bread. To die for! Good thing I got to eat two of them. Plenty of the other standards like a lemon tart with raspberry, a scone with currants, cucumber sandwich, oatmeal raisin coconut chocolate chip cookie, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and plenty of clotted cream and jelly (not homemade 😦 ) I didn’t care for the water. Tasted funny to me, but there was plenty of tea going around.
Lastly, I heard I needed to check out One House Bakery just down the street. Everything there seemed outrageously edible, yet I had just eaten. I will definitely be going back with my mom Diane and her husband Tom very soon as this kind of place is right up their alley. And funny enough, my friend Nancy saw my Instagram post You Tube One House Bakery yesterday of this place and dropped off a chocolate raspberry roulade to me this morning. She got excited about all the sweets and breads and met a friend for breakfast there. You can’t imagine my surprise when she knocked at my door with the most decadent cake ever made. Yum! And I didn’t share. It was that good.
I continue to be grateful for these simple pleasures of day outs with friends. There’s nothing better than celebrating the holidays with the ones you love. If you need a fun get away, check out downtown Benicia. You will be glad you did.
And now for my gingerbread cookie recipe that I promised. This recipe is altered from my friend Julie Birnbaum’s recipe I received many years ago. Julie and I were in a knitting group together while our kids were in school. She made these for us one year and I fell in love with the recipe. I’ve been making them ever since. I haven’t knitted in years, because I’d rather be baking or gardening instead.
And here’s a recent blog on my time entertaining with Lise from my hiking group and her husband in Genoa Nevada.
Please comment below on your favorite holiday cookie and where you got the recipe from. And feel free to follow my blog. I’d love to share more recipes with you.
Teri’s Cut Out Gingerbread Men Cookies
1 C Unsalted Butter (You can substitute shortening, but butter tastes better)
1 C Granulated Sugar
3/4 C Molasses
1 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1 t cloves
1 t cardamom
1 t nutmeg
½ t Maldon salt or Kosher salt
2 whole eggs
1 t vinegar
4 1/2 C unbleached sifted all purpose flour separated (save 1/2 C for rolling out)
1 t Baking Soda
1/4 C dry currants
1/4 C dry raisins
In a saucepan, melt sugar, butter, molasses, salt and spices and bring to a boil. Cool and move to a large mixing bowl. Mix in 2 eggs and vinegar. Sift flour and baking soda. Add flour and baking soda until well blended.
Scoop out large portions onto parchment paper and place in fridge for 30 minutes or overnight.
Roll out on a floured surface until the dough is about 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick and cut men out with your favorite cookie cutters. Place on parchment paper 3/4 ” apart so they don’t stick together when baking. Use raisins and red hots for eyes, nose and mouth. Cinnamon candies are delicious in the cookies as well. Or leave plain and decorate with colored icing. Leave cookies on the counter to dry after icing and before you put in a cookie tin.
Preheat oven and bake at 350 degrees for approx 8-10 minutes, or longer depending on how thick your cookies are. Cool on rack. Decorate with royal icing or this cookie glaze recipe. Wrap remaining cookie dough in plastic and refrigerate for up to a week.
Cookie Glaze Recipe
2 lbs powdered sugar
scant 1/2 C water or milk
2 tsp clear vanilla
1/2 C light corn syrup
white food coloring (found in Wilton baking section in a craft store) Not absolutely necessary.
Place all ingredients, except water in a bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment. Slowly add water and mix until combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl and mix again for a couple of minutes. Don’t mix too long or you will get bubbles in icing. If you need thinner icing, add more water. Place frosting in a pastry bag with a tiny tip
Left over frosting can be kept in the pastry bag in an airtight container and left on the counter for a week.
Have fun! Wrap cookies in individual bags (also found at craft store), or put in metal tins with wax paper and give to a neighbor or loved one. You can also send these in the mail. They should taste good even a few days later. You can freeze the gingerbread cookies, but I find the chocolate decorations and sprinkles don’t fair well. You can freeze the cookies, then decorate later when defrosted.
Enjoy! Thanks for joining me today and reading my blog. Please leave your email in the space provided so you can receive my future blogs and recipes. I can also be found on Instagram