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Bakers Make It Light And Sweet

Paul Coughlan has been cooking most of his life, but at 44, he had never built a gingerbread house. Inspired to enter the annual Maritime Aquarium "Festival of Lighthouses," he and a friend tackled the project head-on and decided to make a lighthouse in a true holiday tradition.

First, there was a dry run. His cooking buddy, Nicol Rupolo of Stamford, showed him how to cook gingerbread and build a house last Christmas. This year, they made a lighthouse to the contest's specifications: 3- to 6-feet tall and containing a working light.

"I said, ‘This is going to be a challenge to make something stand up over three feet as well as last until January,’ ” said Coughlan. "Nicol and I sat down with a big sheet of paper, started to sketch out what this thing could look like, how it could stand."

The gingerbread lighthouse , one of 23 entries in the aquarium's contest, has a small wooden frame hidden inside. Coughlan is hoping it works. "I've got my fingers crossed," he said. "My father was an engineer and I had several engineering classes in college. I'm pretty confident that it's going to stand, but who knows?"

The pair used 30 pounds of gingerbread, three gallons of royal icing, and five pounds of candies. Access to the lighthouse display is included with the admission price at the museum . Visitors vote for a winner, to be announced Jan. 20.

Coughlan's wife likes to cook, too, and they are taking cooking classes together. Their full house of 14 people for Thanksgiving dinner will include Coughlan's brother from Atlanta. Their company will get the works. "Whatever we do, we do it all," Coughlan said.

That includes Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce, which Coughlan was gracious enough to share with readers of TheDailyNorwalk:

Coughlan Thanksgiving Recipe -- Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce

1 cup sugar (or a sugar substitute such as Splenda) 1 cup water Zest of 1 large orange 1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries 2 ounces of Grand Marnier liqueur

In a saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil. Add  orange zest, Grand Marnier and cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce  temperature to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the cranberries soften. Cover saucepan and allow sauce to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

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