Christmas (Cookies) in July

Last week,  in the midst of the summer scorcher that gripped most of the nation, the most popular place in town was the pool.  Kids and adults alike jockeyed for position in its cooling waters, swimming laps, playing Marco Polo, or just chatting while trying to beat the heat.  As the thermometer flirted with triple-digit temperatures and we took bets on when the heat wave would break, my friend pointed out that in just a few short months we could possibly be dealing with single-digit temperatures and double-digit snowfall.

That just made me think of cookies.

Hershey's Candy Cane KissesNot just any cookies, but my family’s favorite recipe, Chocolate Candy Cane Kiss cookies, which I start baking at Thanksgiving and continue baking right through Christmas.  They’ve become a holiday staple at my home – when my son sees them come out of the oven he knows it’s the official start of the holiday season.   Friends and family have come to expect them and they are perfect for gift giving (and leaving out for Santa on Christmas Eve).  I found the original recipe here but substituted Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses for the pastel cream mint kisses.  The dough in this recipe also freezes up nicely so you can make it ahead of time and pull it out when you need it.

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon water
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses
 
 1.  In a small bowl, mix together flour and baking soda; set aside.  In a medium saucepan or double boiler, combine brown sugar, butter, and water.  Cook and stir over low heat until butter is melted.  Add chocolate; cook and stir until chocolate is melted.  Pour mixture into a large bowl; cool for 10 minutes.
 
2.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the egg into the chocolate mixture.  Stir in the flour mixture until combined.  Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours or until the dough is easy to handle.
 
3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Depending on the size you roll the dough, makes about 30-36 cookies.
 
4.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove and gently press a Kiss into center of each cookie.  Transfer to wire rack and cool until melting mints are firm (I put them in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up the Kisses).
 
5.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container separated by layers of waxed paper for up to three days (if they last that long)  or freeze for up to 3 months.
 

Chocolate Mint Kiss cookies

How do you beat the heat?  Keep in mind that younger children have greater needs in the summer sun.  Check out my post Helping Baby Beat the Summer Heat at FamilyCorner.com!

Photos courtesy of Google Images and mommeetsblog.com

Have Glue Gun, Will Craft

With the Thanksgiving leftovers almost a distant memory and the holiday season officially underway, visions of glitter and glue guns have begun dancing in my head.  As these next few weeks become increasingly hectic, I like to take time out with my family to flex our DIY muscles and create Christmas decorations.  I have found that this is a fun way to slow down and connect with family and friends during the holiday season.

When my son was younger, we would brush white craft glue onto plain glass ornaments and roll them in glitter (think rolling snicker doodle cookie dough in cinnamon sugar).  It was fun and easy and yes, messy, but we still hang those ornaments on the tree years later.  As he’s gotten older, we’ve graduated to painting glass ornaments and using a hot glue gun to bedazzle them with crystals, feathers, ribbons, even birds!  An easy cut and glue craft that we enjoyed doing together consisted of taking a tin or cardboard star, cutting festive scrapbooking paper to size, gluing the pieces onto the star and sealing it with clear or glittery Mod Podge – adding a seasonal ribbon completed the look.

Check out  some of our creations from Christmas past, before and after:

Plain glass globes and a tin star

Paint and feathers, Mod Podge and crystals – voila!

Plenty of inspiration abounds on websites like Pinterest as well as craft stores like JoAnn’s or Michael’s. One project that I was excited to try this year is this adorable Santa Tulle Wreath from Jill at babyrabies.com. Her tutorial is easy to follow – check out the results.

Santa Tulle Wreath cute

If you have a particular idea in mind or need some guidance, Michaels.com has great suggestions for crafting projects ranging from ornament decorating to cookie baking to sewing.  Plaidonline.com is also an excellent resource for more holiday crafting ideas, as well as year-round and rainy day projects. Both these sites offer materials lists, pictures and clear instructions so even the novice or youngest crafter can turn out some really fun and pretty awesome decorations.

What are your favorite holiday crafting projects?  I’m always looking for new inspiration, so let me know!