Do you want something simple to give to friends and neighbors? Here are some quickies; if you have more time you might like Candy Cane Bread
, shaped and decorated like a candy cane.
Recipes for the fudge and the gingerbread syrup are below.
For the jars to pour syrup in, I save jars through the year: spaghetti sauce jars, pickle jars, jelly jars,baby food jars, peanut butter containers (don't use those for anyone with peanut allergies!)...
After Christmas, anything that didn't get used gets put in the recycle bin, and I have cupboard space once again!
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk
7 oz. marshmallow creme (may use 7 oz. marshmallows instead)
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. cherry flavor (I used wild cherry, and it was amazing!)
1/4 c. dried cherries or cranberries, finely chopped
1/2 c. almonds, chopped
Line an 8x8 pan with parchment or foil; butter well if using foil. Set aside. Combine the sugar and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often, then boil for 3 minutes. Pull off the heat, then add marshmallow creme, chocolate chips, almond and cherry extracts, and dried cherries. Stir until smooth. Pour into prepared pan, and sprinkle with chopped nuts.
Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm, then cut into squares. Store airtight at room temperature.
Makes just over 2 pounds.
(notice this recipe is basically the same as above, only without the marshmallow, and with extra milk to make it pourable) If you don't have cinnamon chips, use white chocolate chips or butterscotch chips, then add 1-2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon, to taste.
2 c. sugar (can use brown sugar for deeper flavor, or add 1 Tbsp. molasses)
1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. milk
12 oz. cinnamon chips (I used Hershey's brand)
1 tsp. ground ginger OR 1 drop ginger essential oil
1/2 tsp. ground cloves OR 1 toothpick of clove oil
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. pecans, toasted and finely chopped
In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and milk to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Stir in cinnamon chips, ginger, cloves, salt, and stir until smooth. Stir in pecans, then pour syrup into jars. Store in the refrigerator. Warm before serving. (If too thick, microwave briefly.)
Makes about 3 1/2 cups.
Tonight I stood in the kitchen with my 10-year-old daughter; I kneaded bread rhythmically on the counter while she prepared pumpkin for the first time, scooping out seeds, cutting carefully into cubes to be steamed. We had music playing in the corner, Handel's masterpiece "Messiah" emanating from a pink Barbie CD player. Nevermind that my daughter was in charge of the pumpkin because she'd poked holes in it with a pencil (a smiley face, but now it wouldn't store through the winter) or that it was 11pm and both of us would have liked to been asleep. Some days the schedule just goes out the window. But as I showed her what to do - and not do!- then watched while she eagerly and carefully cut the pumpkin- I had the feeling I think every mother gets every now and again. The feeling that this is what life is about. Joy in learning. Joy in being with family. Joy in seeing abilities and confidence bloom in someone you love. Joy in working together, in passing skills on to the next generation, and in helping them see the results of honest effort. Joy in beautiful music and gratitude for those who created such uplifting works. Joy in my Savior, his life and example.
Joy to the world! -for all these joys are available to everyone to some degree.
If you'd like to hear the whole Messiah-
which is the best way to hear and understand its message-
here you go.
Notice the music above is over two hours long... it's the entire work. Handel wrote this in only 24 days- hundreds of pages of music for choir and instruments. It was written to help the listeners understand more about Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The lyrics are taken directly from the Old and New Testament, and go through His life, from before his birth, clear through his sufferings, Atonement, resurrection, and glory. A good, short video giving some of the background can be found here
, or see a fantastic blog post here
. I love to feel the power of the music and the message. At one point while this music was being composed, a friend came to visit and found Handel sobbing with emotion after writing the Hallelujah chorus. Handel is quoted as saying "I did think I did see all heaven before me and the great God himself." It is customary to stand while that chorus is sung... but did you know the chorus is referring to Christ's Second Coming? The scriptures this chorus comes from are Revelations 19:6, 16
, and 11:15
. It, like the "Christmas" song Joy To the World
(which Handel wrote the music for), are really a celebration of the future day when Christ rules as the righteous King of kings. (You can read more about the background of the custom of standing here
He signed the work "S.D.G
": Soli Deo gloria, or "glory to God alone".
Most people claim the best-known bit, the "Hallelujah Chorus", as their favorite, but the two below are my
Isn't this what you hope for?
A smile, a gift willingly given, and gratitude when it's opened.
We found that our children too often got the "gimmies" (Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie...)--
Tear one present open, toss it behind them, and reach to see what's next. Some presents never got played with or appreciated, relegated to the side of the room forever, in favor of something more exciting. To help eliminate that, we started a Christmas tradition a few years ago.
There's no rule on when they're allowed to get up- but present-opening won't start until 8 a.m. Stockings, and only stockings, are free game before that. Each of the kids gets a box of cereal as part of their stocking (set to the side, no, they don't fit inside!), so that pretty much takes care of breakfast. (If you'd like fresh cinnamon rolls, see the Refrigerator Rolls post
.) Right before opening presents, we read the Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2, and have our usual family song and prayer for the day.
We take turns opening one present each hour, on the hour- only one package opened at a time, going from youngest to oldest, each person choosing what to open. We also open 1-2 family gifts, depending on how many are under the tree. We spend the next hour looking at, playing with, or reading whatever our gift was, or the kids play together with something. We meet under the Christmas tree an hour later, to do this again.
This has really helped our children notice and appreciate each gift better.
Since we have a large family, all the kids buy or make small gifts for each other, and grandparents give gifts, everyone actually has about ten presents. Rather than taking ten hours to open, though, we open the rest of them at about hour #5.
I recently read someone's else's method; they have each person gather the gifts they are GIVING, and distribute those themselves. The point of this is to focus on the giving, more than the receiving. This year we'll combine the two ideas, letting one person each hour give out all their gifts. (After-Christmas- update: I LOVED doing this, and the kids were really excited to give their gifts out in one round . Next year I'll let the teenagers give last, though, so they end on a grateful/happy note. I made the mistake of having them )
And this year, with Christmas on Sunday, our kids voted to have just the filled stockings for Christmas morning, and "Christmas" on Monday. They want this because there are household rules on the types of play on the Sabbath (i.e., no bike riding, rollerblading, or trampoline jumping!), and they figure they can FULLY enjoy whatever they're getting if there are fewer limitations. I'm
voting for this because then we can hopefully focus more on Christ that day, including watching the video links, below.
May you have a Merry Christmas, filled with happiness, peace, appreciation, and love for your family and our Savior.
For some beautiful, newly-released Bible videos on the original Christmas, from The Annunciation
to The Wise Men
and in between, see here
It's that time of year...
to make gingerbread houses! Whether you want to make one for a competition, or just make something fun with your children, here's my family's tried-and-tested favorite recipe for eating AND building
. (See here for a gluten-free recipe
, or just substitute a GF flour blend in place of regular flour.) We have a yearly tradition of everyone in the family decorating a small house. If you want a recipe that will bake up thin yet strong, suitable for competition-level houses, the next couple pictures are of this one. The eating/building recipe has more leavening and therefore a lighter crunch. The 'building' recipe, below, is also good, but more dense. Be sure to roll this one thinly!!!
See here for Part 2- Assembling and Decorating
For the full recipe, along with more instructions, tips, and things I've learned, it's also on the link above. Put in a large bowl or medium saucepan: 1 1/2 c. light corn syrup, 1 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 1 cup butter. This will be easiest if you cut each cube of butter into 5-6 chunks.
Heat in the microwave about a minute or until everything melts and can be stirred together. If using a saucepan, heat over medium-high, stirring until the sugar and butter melt.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl:
6 3/4 c. flour, 1 Tbsp. cinnamon, 1 1/2 tsp. ginger, 1/2 tsp. salt.
I like to grab the dry stuff with my fingers and mix lightly before mixing it with the wet, this saves the step of pre-stirring all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl first.
Stir until everything is mixed well.
This dough will be warm and firm yet soft; it gets stiffer as it cools. It's easiest to roll out while still warm.
If it gets too stiff, return to the microwave for 30 seconds to rewarm it.
Divide dough into 2 or three pieces. Working with one a time, roll directly onto parchment, if at all possible. This will save you immeasurable aggravation!
Try to get it an even 1/8" thick. As you can see, this is quite thin. The corn syrup gives this dough a lot of strength.
Put your pattern on top of the dough, and cut around each piece. Try to have each piece touching as much as possible. The easiest way to cut them, by far, is to use a pizza cutter or pastry wheel.
Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch. Pull out of the oven, and IMMEDIATELY re-cut the pieces, if you need them to be exact. They will have spread a little bit. If you're making eight houses for your family, you can skip this step!
My favorite part of baking gingerbread houses: eating the 'twigs', the skinny little pieces trimmed off the house parts. They are addictive!
To make stand-up trees, cut out two for each tree. Cut a section out of the middle of one of the pieces, as wide as your dough is thick. You'll 'glue' one of these halves on the front of the whole tree, the other half on the back.
Cool on a cooling rack. When all the way cool, I like to stack all the pieces for one house in each stack. Here are five houses, ready to put together.
Next is the really fun part- decorating! That will be another post in a couple days.
It's the little details that make gingerbread so fun!