Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Candy Cane Cookies

On a Facebook group I follow, a local woman shared her grandma's recipe for candy cane cookies. I decided to give a go at making them to give as Christmas gifts for the neighbors. They were fun to make, looked super cute, and tasted buttery and delicious. I couldn't get the peppermint candy pieces to stick, but I think the cookies looked better and tasted better without them anyway. The only other change I'd recommend is using less almond extract, as I thought it was a touch overpowering (my husband, on the other hand, liked the almond flavor).

The directions that are italicized are my additions.


2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract (I think 1/2 tsp would be enough)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons red food coloring (or as needed)
1/2 cup coarse sugar 
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies (optional)

1. Stir together the flour and salt. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, mix shortening, butter, powdered sugar, egg, and flavorings.
3. Stir half of flour mixture into shortening mixture. Work in remaining flour mixture with your hands until dough holds together.
4. Divide dough in half. Blend red coloring in half of dough.
5. Divide each half into four balls and refrigerate for 30 minutes while the oven preheats to 375.
6. Make two strips of two colors, side by side. Make like a rope.

My picture of my cookie dough rope:

7. Cut into pieces approximately 6 inches long.  Curve tops like love handles (Those are the grandmother's words, not mine!).

Here's my picture of the cut sections:

8. Bake nine minutes at 375 degrees.
9. While warm, remove from sheet and sprinkle with mixture of crushed candy and sugar (I preferred just the sugar without the crushed peppermint candies).
 10. Enjoy! Also, you will gain weight (Again, her grandmother's words and not mine! Ha!).

Once cool, I packaged them up in some plastic wrap, tied them with a ribbon, and attached a gift tag. All together, this made ~20 cookies for me, but some were very fragile and broke. Thankfully, I had some helpers who were willing to eat those broken ones ;-)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Family Christmas Event at Living History Farms

Andrew had to work tonight, so I took the kids to the Family Christmas Event at Living History Farms. Living History Farms is about a 10 minute drive from our house, and it has demonstrations on how farmers lived during different points in history. Tonight, they had the Visitor's Center, the Old Church, and the Flynn Mansion open. With our membership, admission to the event cost $4.75 a piece.

At the Visitor's Center, there was live Christmas music, and Santa walked around giving out candy canes. Oliver was happy about the candy cane but pretty distraught over the music. He wasn't the only little kid with his hands over his ears, though! There was supposed to be a taffy pull, but I guess there was a problem today, so they gave out little pieces of taffy for the kids. They also had crafts for the older kids. There was a table for kids ages 5-9 and another table for kids 10 and over.

We took a horse-pulled cart from the Visitor's Center to the Old Church. It was definitely the highlight of the night for Jo. If it wasn't for the horse-pulled cart, I think I would have asked about getting my money back for Jo. With the exception of cookie decorating at the church, none of the activities were for little kids. The horse-pulled cart was a hit, though, and Jo laughed and laughed. I'm glad we sat near the front by the horses! At the Old Church, they were teaching people how to do a dance. In the basement, they had hot cider, and the kids got to decorate cookies. 

After the kids ate their cookies, we took the horse-pulled cart over to the Flynn Mansion. The mansion was beautiful. We walked into a room where a woman wearing 19th century clothing was helping some kids string popcorn. Jo didn't even try that, obviously, and it ended up being too difficult for Oliver to do while standing in a group of kids. I told him we'll try to string some at home. We walked by another demonstration by a woman who was poking cloves into oranges, but it was another activity that was more for older kids. We found a room upstairs with old fashioned Christmas pictures for the kids to color. After the colored, we went back to the Visitor's Center to pick up Oliver's craft and headed back home. It didn't feel like we were there for very long, but it was almost two hours! The kids were great. It really was charming and fun, but I don't think it's an event I'd recommend to parents with little kids. I think it's probably good for kids who are in grade school, and especially good for kids who are 8+. I'd like to take the kids back in a couple of years, when they're big enough to participate in the activities and also big enough for me to be able to look around more.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Photos with Santa at Bass Pro Shops

I love how Oliver gets happier over the years, but little Jo is still pretty upset about seeing the jolly man in red. 

Last year, Jo requested her fox, which we hadn't brought with to the mall. The little fox puppet was in the car, so I handed her that. I'm still kind of disappointed the picture isn't of her with her beloved fox. Oh well! This year, they each brought their favorite stuffed friend with them. We went to Bass Pro Shops up in Northfield (Denver). They had free photos with Santa and free carousel rides. The kids had an excellent time. I think so many people had built up how great Bass Pro Shops is for the kiddos at Christmas that I expected something grand. It wasn't. It was simple and fun and free.