Lincoln mom pens children’s Christmas book

Lincoln mom pens children’s Christmas book

LINCOLN – Chewy, with just the right amount of crunch and the perfect blend of spices ... that’s how Lincoln resident Tara Cavanagh describes her gingerbread cookies, perfected over many Christmases. The cookies are featured in the food blogger’s debut children’s book “Ginger,” a Christmas story about her three children who are visited by a Christmas cookie angel.

Cavanagh hopes the book will inspire families to create a special tradition together by reading the story and using her gingerbread cookie recipe, included in the book, to bake cookies for Santa Claus. It’s already part of what Cavanagh’s family does every year as they gather in the kitchen ahead of Christmas Eve to bake cookies for friends, family and Santa.

Cavanagh first shared her love of cooking and baking on her food blog Deliciously Declassified, created seven years ago as a way to chronicle her mother’s recipes.

“Food is very central to my family,” she told The Breeze. “Everything gravitates around the food.”

She recently posted a video of her family making 50 pounds of braided cheese in one day, which they’ll freeze for a year’s supply. “It was a production,” she said. Another family favorite is the Armenian sweet bread, made every Easter.

“My mom cooked a lot of Middle Eastern food growing up. She couldn’t cook mashed potatoes to save her life,” she joked, adding that she enjoys duplicating her mother’s Middle Eastern recipes while trying her own inventions inspired by Pinterest and other bloggers. “When I post one of her recipes, I’ll someday look back and be glad to have it.”

While many food bloggers write cookbooks, Cavanagh said she wanted to do something a little different. She was sitting with her husband two Christmases ago when inspiration struck. “I said, ‘I can totally see our kids knocking over our tree.’”

“Ginger” features her three children, Charlie, Henry and Vivian, whose rambunctious playing on Christmas Eve causes the family’s Christmas tree to come crashing down. The children pray for help from Saint Nick, who sends a Christmas cookie angel named Ginger to save the holiday. Ginger also gifts the children the secret recipe for Santa’s favorite Christmas cookies: gingerbreads.

“I always wanted to write a book,” said Cavanagh, adding that she was inspired by Elf on the Shelf to bring the story to life by including a recipe. “I hope people will take out the book and start a tradition of making Santa his cookies,” she said.

The gingerbread recipe featured in “Ginger” combines one of Cavanagh’s best friend’s recipes with one she found online. A slight difference in the proportion of spices “makes a substantial difference,” said Cavanagh. “They’re my children’s favorite,” she said, and they bake them all year-round.

She worked with Canadian illustrator Ian Chio to translate her children’s spirited personalities to the page, drawing sketches of them to give the illustrator an idea of the style she was looking for, also supplying their photos and descriptions of their personalities. Her 7-year-old son Charlie asked for his hair to be restyled after he saw a prototype of the book, and for a hockey stick to be added to his pajamas.

“The characters really reflect my kids,” she said. “That was very important.”

She said she plans to continue to write books about her children, who are her main source of inspiration. Next, she’s thinking of writing a story about one of her kids accidentally knocking out the other’s tooth, and then wondering whether the tooth fairy will still come.

“Ginger” is available for purchase on Cavanagh’s blog, deliciouslydeclassified.com, and will soon be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In addition, Cavanagh will be signing and reading books this holiday season this Saturday, Dec. 8 at Tiffany & Co. at Providence Place Mall from 1 to 3 p.m. and on Dec. 15 from 9 to 10 a.m. at With Heart and Soul in Cumberland, featuring milk and cookies.

Tara Cavanagh, author of the new children’s book ‘Ginger,’ with her family, husband Robert and their children, Charlie, 7, Henry, 5, and Vivian, 3.