Thursday, December 30, 2010

Baking Thursday - Peppermint Cookies

I usually make these - along with three or four other varieties - for our family cookie trays. This year, I had a pleasantly low-stress Christmas prep week, and I decided to enjoy it! So my baking list got cut down from three kinds of cookie to one. (PB Chocolate Chip, if you're interested.) There was still a huge variety for the trays, and the only person who complained was my sister, because there were no mint cookies this year. Guess what? I missed them, too, so I made them tonight.

This was originally a recipe for candy cane cookies, and back many, many, years ago, my sister and I would painstakingly roll each cookie into candy cane shapes, only to have most of them break apart during baking and/or on the trays. One year we had a lightbulb moment and opted to make them as pinwheels instead ... and never looked back!

One of my favorites ... also cute in green and white ... enjoy!

Peppermint Cookies

3/4 c sugar
3/4 c butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

• Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
• Add egg, vanilla and peppermint, mix well.
• Add dry ingredients, mix until dough comes together.
• Remove half of the dough, add several drops of food coloring to remaining dough and mix well.
• Pat dough into rounds of equal size, stack and roll (1/4" thick) on floured surface into long rectangle shape.
• Roll long edge into dough, making a long roll about 2" diameter.
• Wrap in wax paper and freeze 2 hours or overnight.
• Cut into 1/4" slices and bake at 375 until just lightly browned.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ornaments 2010

For ornaments this year, I gave the kids a choice of these or stamped clay, and they all went with the clay. (I was really expecting Theo to want to chop things up in the blender, maybe next time.) We used air dry paper clay, and it was fun to work with.

I just bought my first set of clear stamps and an acrylic block, and I'm addicted, they are so fun to use. The kids stamped patterns into the clay, and after they were dry, painted them with gold, silver or glitter paint. Kind of a variation on last year's ornaments, but a different look.

These are Clark's. He stamped a penguin (had a tough time using a light touch, but I can still tell what it is) and a "C for Clark." I kind of like the minimalist monogrammed look - very Martha Stewart. He also did the shape cutting, which is why the star is missing a point, oops. He did this project 100% by himself, which is pretty good for Clark and crafts.

Theo's snowflakes.

Dora's stars. She chose the words to print on each one, I am loving "laugh a lot", I never would have thought of that. The snowflake stars turned out very thin and delicate looking.

And these are mine! Just for fun.

Happy Holidays, everyone ... see you next year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Cards

No Baking Monday this week, as I'll be doing giant baking for my family cookie swap on Thursday. We've been busy over here - the kids made Christmas cards for their teachers this week. I've found that it works well to have a couple ideas in mind, then they can choose to do those or their own thing. Family Fun to the rescue again! We used these cute cards for ideas.

Theo selected the tree and candle designs.

Clark also liked the candles, and the thumbprint reindeer.

Really, throwing googly eyes on anything makes it adorable.

And Dora, of course, did her own thing.

And this was my card for Jeff ... he's getting a hockey jersey for Christmas, but unfortunately it won't arrive until after the new year.

We'll be tackling ornaments today!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Call 'Em Like You See 'Em

I think I heard about 20 "why?" questions during the 10-minute drive to the grocery store today.

Me: Here's a question for you. Why do you ask so many questions?
Clark: Because you're a nutty nut-head!

Fair enough.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baking Monday - Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake Squares

I am not a big cheesecake fan, but if a dessert looks good enough, I will try it! This is the first time I've ever made cheesecake, and this recipe is a winner.

A few notes: if you forget to buy chocolate wafers at the grocery store, chocolate Teddy Grahams will do just fine. The squares are decorated with teddies as a memorial to those brave little guys who gave their lives in the food processor to make the crust.

Also, the recipe calls to bake with wax paper and it occurred to me (too late) that I should have used parchment paper instead. And I think mixing an entire stick of butter with the chocolate chips for the piping is way overkill, I scaled it back to two pats of butter instead.

Verdict: Good stuff. Would be perfect for a holiday party if you want to impress!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Dora's class is studying Japan, so she decided to make these little necklaces for everyone in her class. She traced and colored the country from her world map and asked me to scan and print copies.

Our Advent calendar! I've been wanting to do this for a few years, and this year happened to remember BEFORE December 1st. I've collected enough holiday books over the years to wrap one for each day. The books are labeled with numbers, one color per kid, so they get to take turns opening them and then we all read the book together. Also a nice way to use up lots of scraps of paper from previous years. (I have a problem: all Christmas gifts for the year must all be wrapped in the same paper. The paper selection changes each year, but I love when all the gifts coordinate. It's a sickness, I know. But my sister is also afflicted, so at least I'm not alone.)

Organized my tea cupboard ... ahhh ... it makes me so happy. Any time spent with my label maker is quality time.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Baking Monday: Spicy Molasses Waffle Squares

My original plan for today was foiled because of a snow day. I had to run to Wegmans for a couple of additional ingredients and it wasn't worth turning a 15-minute stop into a 45-minute stop, dragging three kids along. I'm going with Christmas-y themed items this month, I've had this one bookmarked for awhile. It's from this fantastic (appropriately titled) book. This is one of my favorite books because it has pictures of every recipe ... a must for me!

These were super fun to make. I loved using the waffle iron for something other than breakfast. (Okay, and let's be honest, the occasional dinner.) They cook quickly! I used my handy-dandy mini scoop yet again (really, if you don't have one, get one. It makes baking a zillion times easier) and dropped four teaspoons of dough onto a heated, lightly greased waffle iron and cook for about a minute.

The recipe called for orange juice in the glaze, but I am not a big orange fan, so I used apple cider instead ... super yum. The recipe only made 22 cookies, so plan ahead if making for a crowd. Also, these are a softer cookie. The recipe says to store in the fridge up to three days, so they're likely best eaten right away.

To quote my husband ... they'll go really well with tea!

Spicy Molasses Waffle Squares

2/3 c white flour
1/2 c wheat flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
dash ground cloves
2 eggs
1/4 c melted butter
2 tbsp molasses

• Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.
• Combine eggs, molasses and melted butter in a small bowl.
• Add egg mixture to dry ingredients, stir until just moistened. (Dough will be thick.)
• Drop spoonfuls of batter about 3" apart on prepared waffle iron. Close the lid and bake for one minute, until cookies are brown. Transfer with a fork onto a cooling rack.

Glaze: combine 3/4 c powdered sugar with apple cider or juice until a drizzling consistency (about 3-4 tsp.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bright Side

Another one of Clark's fun little quirks is that he will not tolerate my singing. At all. (He's like Sheldon with the whistling.) A scene from getting in the car today:

Clark (picking up a penny from the floor of the car): I found a penny!
Me: It's your lucky day! (Singing) You found a lucky penny, la la la la la la ...
Clark: Stop! Stop!
Me (lifting him into his seat): BONK!
Clark: Ow!
Me: Clark! I'm so sorry! I bonked you in the head! That wasn't very lucky!
Clark (rubbing his head): Well ... bonking my head stopped you from singing. So that's lucky.

Because I'm a Little ... Well, You Know

Dora and Theo are afraid of nuts.

Whenever they are offered a new cookie, they first shoot a panicked look and ask, "Are there NUTS in that???" Recently, Dora flipped out about halfway through a granola bar (a peanut butter granola bar, mind you) when she squinted and suddenly identified a portion of a real, live peanut.

I decided that it's silly for them to be afraid of nuts.

So, at Wegmans today, I walked around the bulk aisle and picked out tiny bags of different kinds of nuts, deciding that after school, we would have a "Nut Tasting Party." And this is how the scene went:

Me: Hey kids, we're going to have a Nut Tasting Party!
Dora (welling up in tears): Nononononono ... no!
Clark: Yay! (see how he doesn't want to do what the rest of the group does?)

So, I sat down with Clark to taste, and eventually the other two joined us.

All three kids tried every thing on the table. Granted, some bites were microscopic, but they willingly participated.

Clark liked everything, sunflower seeds got across the board smiles, and they happily discovered that they DO like peanut M&M's (I had to sweeten the deal a bit!) All in all ... a success!

Do I dare try vegetables next?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Little Non-Conformist

I got Clark's speech evaluation from school this week, and laughed out loud when I read it:

Clark chose not to participate in the evaluation at this time.


Clark: What are you laughing at?
Me: You! You didn't want to talk to Miss Terry?
Clark: Oh, that was just a hologram of Clark.
Me: So, the real Clark would talk to Miss Terry?
Clark. No.

This is a kid who totally does his own thing. He doesn't even like to go on playground equipment if there are too many other kids using it. Maybe it comes from him being an only kid all day and getting to do whatever he wants. He does not like to be told what to do.

About mid-way through last school year, he started rebelling against group activities. During circle time at school, he would purposely sit facing away from the group. He spent an entire music class standing with his arms folded. We tried a fitness class at the Y, where he spent the whole time doing only the activities the rest of the group was NOT doing. Gymnastics, outright refusal. We've stopped going to storytimes and music concerts. He hates having his picture taken.

This has been really hard for me, because doing all these kinds of structured activities has been such a big part of my life as a parent, and I so enjoyed doing them with the older two kids. Clark couldn't care less ... he has no anxieties about any of it, just sports a "Nope, not going to do that" kind of attitude. I was really unsure how school would go for him this year, being his first experience being without me in a classroom. We had one (very) sad day about a week in, but since then, he's been great. I wouldn't say that he looks forward to going, but luckily, he does tolerate it.

We've only got one more year together before he's off to Kindergarten, I guess I'll have to find things that we can enjoy together on his own terms.