"Because life is good, home cooking is best, and there is always something to be grateful for." - Christy Jordan

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Baking Extravaganza & The Importance of Saying "Thank You"

Merry Christmas, y'all! I really can't believe Christmas is here. I feel like Thanksgiving was just yesterday and that I've missed out on enjoying the Christmas season. I feel like now that I'm a working girl that these things fly passed me. I remember looking forward to Christmas so much in college. You cram, cram, cram for finals, pack up your car, and head home for a nice long holiday break. Back then during Christmas break I had time to sit at home and enjoy everything about Christmas. Baking, shopping, family time, friends, Christmas lights and decorations, Christmas movies....ahhhh, the good ole days. Now I barely have time to get all my shopping done! Oh well, we all have to grow up sometime.

Here are a few of my favorite ornaments on our tree! :) It's definitely a Texas Tech Christmas in our house!

Let's talk about presents. I LOVE giving people presents that I know they'll like. I try and put a lot of effort into paying attention to details, learning what my friends and family like and don't like, and then surprising them with the perfect gift. It makes me feel good to know that they enjoy the present that I picked out for them and I love seeing them smile when they open it. However, even though it feels great to give gifts to the people you care about, it can feel really terrible if you don't feel like that person appreciated it. Am I right? 

Now, I know what you're thinking "It's better to give than it is to receive".... but I'm not talking about receiving presents here- I'm talking about saying "thank you"... and meaning it. I've recently learned this lesson the hard way. I spent some time and money on getting people gifts and I feel like it was shrugged off like it wasn't a big deal. I won't lie... it didn't make me feel good. The best thing to do in these situations is to learn from it. I'm not saying that I won't continue to buy gifts for my loved ones, but I'm going to make damn sure that if someone buys a gift for me or does something nice for me that they know how much I appreciate it.

Being gracious and being an appreciative person will speak volumes about your character. Having good manners is one of the most important things to me. Good manners will never go out of style and it will only help you get further in life. I try and be actively aware of saying "please", "thank you", and being extremely polite. 

If someone does something nice for me, I try and do everything I can to let them know how much I appreciate it. Recently when I unexpectedly broke my ankle... I couldn't believe how many of my friends and family rallied around me and helped me get through it. I broke my ankle, had surgery, had a hard cast for 10 days, was in a boot for several weeks, and spent many grueling days on crutches. Although there were times where I really thought I couldn't do it because of how much pain I was in or how the crutches were rubbing my underarms and hands raw (It ain't pretty, folks!), my supportive friends and family stepped up and encouraged me to keep going and reminded me that it would get better. I tried really hard to make sure I was genuinely thanking people for being so supportive and making me feel so much better about the situation. It doesn't have to be an extreme gesture- a nice thank you note, a big "thank you" hug, etc. Anything to make them feel good! The power of a genuine "thank you" can't even be described. It's more than just the words, it's the way you make the other person feel. Take it from Maya Angelou-

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

So, if you take anything away from this, please be conscious of  your manners this Christmas. Life is too short to not tell your loved ones how much you love and appreciate them. It's more than just saying thank you for the gifts... say thank you like you mean it!

Enough of my rant! Let's get down to the baking!

Every Christmas I plan a day where I just hang out in the kitchen all day and whip up some baked treats for friends and family. I like to make a bunch of different things and pack them all in little boxes so that they can enjoy them for Christmas. I'm a big fan of the homemade gift, especially food gifts!

This year I made a few new things and a few things I hadn't made before. Most of the treats were super easy to make and take almost no effort. A lot of them have very few ingredients so I can list out the recipe. Some of the others I'll just provide links! I have pictures of most of the treats, but I forgot to take pictures of two of them! So here are the links to the other two:

Saltine Toffee
Graham Cracker Pralines

Peppermint Bark

1 package of white almond bark
2 tsp. pure peppermint extract (more or less to taste)
3/4 c. crushed peppermints (I used candy canes)

Melt the almond bark slowly either over a double boiler or in the microwave on intervals (30 seconds, stir, 30 seconds, stir, etc.). Stir in extract and pour over parchment paper covered baking sheet. Spread to desired thickness and sprinkle with crushed peppermints. Leave out on counter to set, or if you're impatient (like me) put it in the freezer for a little bit. Then break apart and store in an airtight container.

Chocolate Almond Clusters

1 package of chocolate almond bark
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 c. whole, raw almonds

Melt almond bark and chocolate chips slowly either over a double boiler or in the microwave. Once melted, stir in the almonds until completely incorporated and all almonds are covered in chocolate.  Spoon mixture into cupcake liners and let set until they're set up. I put the cupcake liners in cupcake pans to help them hold their shape.

White Chocolate, Peanut & Toffee Clusters

1 package of white almond bark
1 1/2 c. dry-roasted peanuts
1 1/2 c. toffee bits (I used Heath... they're in the section by the chocolate chips)

Melt white almond bark. Stir in peanuts and toffee bits. Spoon into mini cupcake liners and let set up.

Fudge Crinkle Cookies

Christmas Crunch Bark

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

Christmas Sugar Cookies

With these cookies, I cheated a little bit and just used two packages of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix and followed the directions for cutout cookies. I usually do several shapes, but this year I decided to only do Christmas trees and then some pretty white ones and take the time to make good, classic icing.

If you would rather make your own sugar cookies, I've made this one several times and they are fantastic! They have a bit of almond extract in them and they always bake perfectly.

For the icing I used an icing that hardens. A while back I tried making royal icing and it was a royal disaster. I found this recipe and haven't looked back since! It's easy to whip up and pipes and floods perfectly.

Cookie Icing
1 c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. extract (I did half vanilla and half almond)
food coloring (I use the gel food coloring. It's stronger and doesn't change the consistency of the icing)

I made the icing and colored it green. Then I added probably an extra 1 1/2 c. of powdered sugar to make it thick enough to pipe. I outlined all of the trees with the thick icing and then squeezed it back into the bowl. I thinned out the icing with some milk and then used a spoon to spoon it onto the cookies. I used a toothpick to push the icing around to make sure it was all covered. Then sprinkled with sprinkles! Next I made the white and did the same process!

With this frosting, it's going to take some getting used to and trial and error to get the hang of it. Just be patient!

I put a couple of each treat in Ziplocs and packed them all way in these cute boxes I got at a craft show this year! I'm telling you... food gifts are the best!

Merry Christmas, y'all! Enjoy your time with your loved ones and remember to say "thank you" for all of your blessings. 

1 comment:

  1. Now I barely have time to get all my shopping done! Oh well, we all have to grow up sometime.customized shopping