Gingerbread Houses

22 12 2009

I am so excited the kids are getting old enough to do Christmas crafts.  The excitment they had in creating their houses was worth the mess that is now my kitchen!

This is a great way to use up old Halloween candy and is pretty easy to do with preschoolers. I just baked the gingerbread pieces ahead of time.  I made this a multi day process, but it could probably be done all at once since the frosting hardens quite fast.  The first day I had them help me hold the pieces as I “glued” them. Then the next day they picked out the candy they wanted to put on, and told me where to put the frosting for them. Or you can put a dab of frosting on each piece of candy and let them stick it to the house. I gave them a little guidance of course (because I was having fun decorating too) but they did most of it.

The frosting I used was: 3 egg whites, 1 lb powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp cream of tarter. Beat for 5-7 min until stiff. If you put it in a ziploc bag (1qt size) with a coupler and a decorating tip on, it will keep until the next day. It dries pretty quickly so it’s easy for the kids to help put the houses together.

Three days until Christmas! Are your Christmas cards sent? (Mine aren’t, I’m just asking LOL!!)

Jennifer





Christmas Tree Craft

19 12 2009

I was going to share some more of Bean’s crafts, but don’t know where to start. We made paper Santas this week with simple shapes cut out of construction paper and decorated with markers, crayons and stickers. Well, this is also the week Bean has decided to practice her scissor skills. Poor Santa is in a million pieces!

I saw this cute craft for paint stirring stick Christmas trees over at Many Little Blessings. I like the easy clean-up with the cotton swaps as paint brushes. I think the eraser end of a pencil would work too. We’ll have to stop at the hardware store and ask for some paint stirrers or maybe we’ll paint (and then cut up) some construction paper trees!





Nutmeg Christmas Cookies

11 12 2009

Nutmeg is a very cozy spice. I love how it smells, especially freshly grated. This is good, because it’s cheaper to buy the kernel than pre-ground! My little micro-planer makes quick work of grating. This recipe is adapted from one in Bon Appetit Dec. 1994 for Brown Sugar and Nutmeg Snaps. The issue was devoted to creating a Victorian Christmas. They say that “Windsor Castle required six pounds of [nutmeg] for the royal mincemeat” at Christmastime. This cookie recipe requires considerably less, but the flavor of nutmeg is still strong! You might want to add less nutmeg if you prefer the flavor of brown sugar to be more pronounced. The flavor reminds me of a gingersnap cookie. These are also very kid friendly to make. Bean rolled the dough balls in sugar and smashed them down. After the cookies came out of the over, it was hard to tell which ones got a little extra-smushed.

Nutmeg Christmas Cookies (adapted from Bon Appetit 12/1991)

  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • extra sugar

Beat brown sugar and butter with mixer until fluffy. Mix in egg. Add flour, nutmeg, baking soda and salt; beat until well blended. Chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F. Roll dough into small balls. Roll balls in sugar, coating completely. Arrange on lined cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten cookies. Bake until cookies are golden, about 10-13 minutes. Cool on baking sheets.

Be sure to check out Thrifty and Chic Mom to see her cookie recipe exchange and giveaway!

and Susieqtpie’s Scraps of Life Recipe & Idea Swap.





A Trailer Choir Christmas

10 12 2009

So, we finally got our little tree set up on our old tv stand. To baby-proof it from Mighty Man, the legs are duct-taped down. This Holla Day version of “Rockin’ the Beer Gut” seemed appropriate background music for the clever use of this adhesive in an every-day situation. Thank you, Trailer Choir, for spreading holiday cheer and Merry Christmas to the makers of Duct tape!

{picture to follow later; can’t find it right now}






Neapolitan Cookie Recipe

9 12 2009

Here’s a fun Christmas cookie recipe that I got from a recipe swap a few years ago. I usually mess around with the flavors to avoid using nuts. I usually add almond flavoring to both the white and the red, which makes a nice complement to the chocolate. If I had strawberry-flavored extract, I’d love to make them like Neapolitan ice cream.  They aren’t the most spectacular cookies ever taste-wise that I’ve had, but they are simple to make and are a colorful addition to any assortment of cookies.

Neapolitan Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 drops red food coloring
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Divide dough evenly into 3 small bowls. Add almond extract and red food coloring to one portion; mix thoroughly. Mix chocolate into second bowl and walnuts into the third bowl. Line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with waxed paper. Spread pink dough in the pan. Next, layer the walnut dough, then the chocolate. Cover with waxed paper and place in the refrigerator until firm, about 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F. Turn out dough by inverting pan; peel off waxed paper. With a sharp knife, cut dough lengthwise in half. Slice each half of dough into 1/4 inch slices. Place on cookie sheet one inch apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until light brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Be sure to check out Thrifty and Chic Mom to see her cookie recipe exchange and giveaway!

and Susieqtpie’s Scraps of Life Recipe & Idea Swap.





A new death by chocolate

8 12 2009

Double chocolate gooey butter cakeI’ve just died from a heart attack after reading the title to this recipe: Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake.

But at least I landed in Chocolate Heaven!  Gotta love Paula Deen!

Jennifer

(PS- please tell me why they’d even think to show a picture of this on a diet/nutrition site.  I was trying to be good.)





Meal Plan Monday- AK

7 12 2009

Christmas, Christmas time is here. Time for joy and time for cheer!

Happy Belated St. Nicholas Day!  Sorry kids- no chocolate in your shoes.  Somehow that seems a lot more exciting when you’re a kid, now it just makes me think of stinky flavored treats- maybe keep an extra pair of unworn shoes for the occassion?  Plus I always forget until Dec 7!  Hubby had to work Saturday but took yesterday off and we spent the day relaxing and putting up the tree and outside lights.  We bought some white and blue LED snowflake lights that make our house look a little more sophisticated!

Last week was a lot of pulling out Christmas decorations and trying to really clean the house.  Today I have a little more cleaning to do and I have to put the empty boxes away.  And then the rest of the week it’s on to more fun stuff!  Christmas crafts and COOKIES!!!  I talked to a nearby friend who also lives far from family and we’re going to get together and bake.  I’m looking forward to having some company while baking this year (company that helps, not the boys who just hover and taste test).

holidaympmBecause I’m going to be super busy with all I have planned this week, I have some easy/crockpot meals planned…

Monday:  salmon (from freezer- already in a lemon dill marinade), broccoli, brown rice
Tuesdaybeef stew , croissants
Wednesday:  pulled bbq beef (cook roast in crockpot until really tender, pull apart with a fork, add your favorite bbq sauce), baked beans, corn bread
Thursday:  leftovers and/or bbq beef pizza
Friday: date night- eat out
Saturday:  burgers?? depends on what’s going on that day
Sunday:  ham casserole (ham, peas, egg noodles, cream of something soup, french fried onions)

And as always, for more inspiration to plan meals this week, head on over to OrgJunkie.com.

Happy Christmas Time!!!

Jennifer 





Christmas Cookies Dilemma

5 12 2009

I was of the mindset that I wouldn’t bake too much this year since I’m trying to cut back on the extra calories.  HaHa!  Yeah, right!  Me?  Not bake Christmas cookies?  Who am I kidding?  I have a list a mile long of people I’d like to bless this Christmas with a little something. And who can resist browsing the hundreds (or thousands?) of Christmas cookie recipes?  So now I’m trying to make a list of ones I’d like to bake. 

My mother and I had a tradition of spending an entire weekend in early December making dozens and dozens of cookies.  We had a list of the ones we made every year as well as a few new recipes to try.  I’d bring almost my entire kitchen over to my parents’ and we’d spend hours mixing and baking and talking (and shooing Dad and the siblings away from cooling racks of yummy treats!).  I wish we were in the same town still because it’s just not the same baking by yourself.  Plus I have two rugrats that won’t let me mix one batch of dough let alone do an entire day of baking.

But alas, here I am by myself.  What cookies do I bake now?  I know I can’t physically do the same amount of recipes we used to, so I need to narrow it down to about five.  But they’re all so GOOD!!!  I can’t choose!!!  I mean there’s at least 5 sugar cookie recipes alone I’d like to try. And I have to make sugar cookies so we get more moments like these

Any tips on baking mass quanities of cookies by yourself (and not being tempted to eat them yourself) would be appreciated… and any tried and true family favorites to help me choose would be nice too.  Thanks!

Happy Baking!

Jennifer

A few links I am enjoying browsing:
Food Network’s 12 Days of Cookies
Betty Crocker (the Chocolate Marshmallow Pillows may make the list- and they have coupons)
allrecipes.com (cookie mixes in a jar- you can give the gift of cookies without the hours of baking!)