Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finally: A Gingerbread House!

Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus. And, yes, M&B, our gingerbread house will get done. (That is in answer to the 750 times they asked if we could make it, while I was vacuuming or preparing dinner, or when we were expecting company, or when it was 10 minutes before bedtime.) Well, the stars and the planets must have aligned last night because we were able to construct our very own edible edifice.

Step One: Open the PRE-CONSTRUCTED box of gingerbread walls made by Anna's Swedish Bakers, often found at IKEA. Ours came from Carolina Grandma.

Step Two:  Heat up the 1/4 tub of Duncan Hines frosting you were keeping on the top shelf of the fridge for just the right occasion. Pour the microwaved frosting where you need to attach walls and the rooftop.

 This step is a lot easier if you have a handsome architect on hand.

Step Three: Patience! Let the walls harden so the house doesn't implode when you try to decorate it!

Step Four: Open all the mini packages of colorful candy that mom didn't consume you saved from Halloween. Sample every package you open to make sure the gummies and m&m's are still fresh! :) 
Step Five: Have at it! Get your frosting spreaders and decorate from north to south, east to west. 

  Step Six: Smile with your sister and your finished product!

If you have no Duncan Hines frosting in your fridge or pantry, this is the halved recipe from the Domino's powdered sugar box that I used for Day 2's "mortar". (Didn't think I needed the full recipe which is supposed to be enough to frost a 2-layer cake.) I urge you to splurge on GOOD vanilla. I used Costco's Kirkland brand 100% pure Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla and the result was divine!

All it takes is 1/2 of a one pound box confectioners sugar; 1/4 cup butter; 2 Tbsp milk; 1 tsp vanilla.
Don't bother sifting the powdered sugar. It will be mixed with a hand mixer. Place all 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, then mix on LOW speed (to avoid the powdered sugar dust cloud). If the final product is too stiff, add a mini, mini, mini splash of milk from a teaspoon until you reach the desired consistency. But remember, you don't want the end product to be too moist, because it will take longer to harden.

Anyone else make a gingerbread house this year?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 2010 Wrap-up

Merry Christmas to Everyone! Ours was one of much joy and many sweets...

Cookies for breakfast? Check. Skyping with family on East Coast and West? Check. New Christmas outfits for Doggie and Teddy? Check.
 Very own Pillow Pets to squeeze tight? Check.
 Fistfuls of Rolos in stockings? Check.
 An adorable husband to sit by the fire with? Check.
And snow making a white Christmas to top it all off? Check!
I hope you've all had a wonderful, memorable Christmas wherever you may be.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tasty Tradition: White Chocolate Chex Mix

I like baking. I do. But the kids elbow to elbow over the oven? Not too keen. And the cleanup afterwards? No thank you. How about a DELICIOUS salty, sweet, and crunchy treat that only takes 2 bowls and the ease of a microwave? Sign me up!

I have been making this mix for at least four years. And I'll tell you why. The ingredients are not too expensive, they can all sit at room temperature, and even the youngest sous-chef can scoop the required amounts. Also, once assembled, the mix keeps really well after you make it. Not like some baked treats that start to go south a day after they come out of the oven.

First, grab a Santa hat to get in a jolly mood.

Next, print the recipe and find two bowls: one small for melting the chocolate and shortening in; the other LARGE for mixing the whole concoction without tossing it over the sides.

Then, grab your favorite aunt and start the fun!

White Chocolate Chex Mix

5 cups mini pretzels
4 cups corn chex cereal
1 cup salted peanuts
1-1/2 cups M&Ms (or Reeces pieces)
2 cups white chocolate chips (12 oz.)
1 Tbsp. shortening

In a large bowl, combine the pretzels, cereal, peanuts and M&Ms.

In a separate microwave-safe bowl, microwave the white chips and shortening for 1-2 minutes or until chips are melted, stirring every 30-45 seconds until smooth.

Pour over cereal mixture and mix quickly.

Spread onto a 15x10x1 inch baking pan lined with wax paper. Allow to cool completely, then break apart into small morsels. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Makes about 4 quarts.

Oh, and when I say store in an airtight container, I mean a husband-tight container, because if you make a batch tonight, you may not see any of it left tomorrow.

Sidebar: If you buy your holiday m&m's at the after-Christams prices, you can stash away the red ones and make this mix as a Valentine's gift, and you get to snack on the green ones all through January and February! Happy eating!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Special Day for Family

While celebrating Thanksgiving last week with visiting family was nice: the turkey, the trimmings, the pies and ice cream; this past Sunday was even more special.
Even though I attend church and my girls are being brought up in my faith, I had never made the formal arrangements to have them baptized. Typically in the Catholic religion, children are baptized within the first few months of their birth. What took me so long? First off, my husband is not Catholic, so that makes it complicated, and secondly, all of my family lives 1,000 miles north of us. Not to mention, I have a certain reputation as a procrastinator to boot.

But lo and behold, we had a Thanksgiving miracle! I was able to schedule a dual baptism when my mother, my sister and her husband would be in town for Thanksgiving. The girls with their new godparents at their backs, and Grandma to my side.

My girls looked lovely and they had a truly special day. What the priest mentioned, and I had been thinking myself, too, is that they may actually remember their Baptism. M even wrote about it in her weekly at-home writing assignment, and has been telling all our neighbors. And in recapping the day's event with my mom, who is of few words these days, she mustered, "That was beautiful." So I know that it meant a lot for her to share the day with us too. A day I wasn't too sure would ever come to pass, but it has, and I am so grateful. I am blessed to have a supporting family and a sweet husband who understood how much it meant to me.