Christmas times a’comin’

This is a line from an old Christmas song, and it’s so very true today. We are already almost a week into December and the days are flying by. My shopping isn’t done, in fact it was only Saturday that I finally got a couple of ideas for gifts! Since I’ve never actually missed a Christmas, even though I came close a couple of times, I won’t miss this one. Sometime a little down the line the system will kick in and stuff will get done!
I don’t usually sew on Sundays, but I will cut items out to be sewn, so when I finish this, I will cut out my first adult apron of the season for personal use. My little great-granddaughters need new ones, as theirs have gotten too small, (they were made two years ago, after all). These little ladies seem to really enjoy their aprons, as their Mother lets them help in the kitchen and as soon as they realize they are getting to help, they head for the aprons and get them on!
Thanksgiving week came to an end with hardly a sigh, and life began to get hectic again, as we had to gear up for our annual bake sale/pre-Christmas gift shop sale. We did really well according to the reports I am hearing and we did clear quite a bit of merchandise out of the shop. We didn’t have quite as many cakes this year as we have had some years, but everything cleared out quite well. When the night shift of personnel at the hospital gets off work, they come straight to our sale and check it out. Several of us were there before 6:00 a.m. to get things set up and members had brought baked items the evening before. My contribution this year was something that was new for me to be making. It is called “Rosettes”. They are very popular in this area with ladies making them for the various church picnics and putting gallon jars of them into the auction, and then they are auctioned off and bring as much as $300 to $500 in the auction! They are basically a fried pastry, made by dipping a “rosette iron” into hot cooking oil until it is very hot and then into a batter that is similar to a thin pancake batter, and then back into the hot oil until it is fried brown an crispy. They are quite a bit of work, as once they’re out of the fryer, they’re drained, and then baked at a low temperature for ten minutes and then the edges are dipped in brightly colored frosting and another ten minutes of baking. The reason for the first baking is to help them drain of any excess oil and it is done on paper towel lined baking sheets. The second baking is to get them crispy before storing in tightly covered containers. There were four of us ladies working, with two of us doing most of the frying, our hostess making fresh batches of batter and our fourth lady is an expert at doing the frosting. We finished with over ten dozen of the pretty treats, many of which went to our Hospital Auxiliary bake sale. I packaged eight packages of six, that we sold for $3 each and then another dozen and a half in a couple of decorated containers that sold for a little more. But, actually, all I can say is I am truly happy that the past couple of weeks are over! Of course, while all of this was going on, I managed to get my yearly dose of laryngitis and was practically voiceless for a couple of days. It’s really hard to talk to customers when they can’t hear what you’re saying! Sunday, you could hear me, but not always, so I guess Monday morning, first thing, it’s time for a doctor. appointment before it gets bad again.
The first couple of recipes I’m giving you this week are inedible, as they are for Christmas ornaments. The first one is the type that is made with salt and other ingredients and needs to be baked to dry out the ornaments before they are painted and ready to use.
The second one is for “Cinnamon Ornaments”, and making these makes your house smell wonderful and makes everyone think you’re making cookies or something good to eat.
Christmas Ornaments (Non-edible)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup salt (non-iodized)
1 cup water
Food coloring, optional
Aluminum foil
Heavy-duty mixer
Plastic drinking straw
Cookie sheets
Christmas cookie cutters
Acrylic paints or watercolors
Polyurethane varnish
School glue (i.e. Elmer’s® or that type)
Craft paint brushes (i.e. like kids use for water coloring)
Glitter, if desired
Preheat oven to 325º to 350º. Cover the bottoms of baking sides with foil and set aside upside down.
Combine the flour and salt in a large (flat inside bottom) mixing bowl. Mix a small amount of water at a time, stirring with a spoon to form a ball of dough. Knead the dough in your heavy-duty mixer for 4 minutes or by hand for 7 to 10 minutes. It should have a firm and smooth texture. (Since I don’t have a heavy-duty mixer, I kneaded it by hand, just as you would knead bread. It takes a while and some muscle!). Place the dough in a plastic bag to prevent drying. This will keep in the fridge for 5 or 6 days, so you can make the dough and then make the ornaments later.
Roll the dough out, just as you cookie dough, on the bottom of the prepared pans to ¼ to ½-inch thickness and cut out with the Christmas cookie cutters and just remove the excess scraps of dough from between the cookies. Use the straw to make a hole at the top end of the cookie so you can hang them. Bake the ‘cookies’ for 20 minutes if you rolled them ¼-inch thick and for 40 minutes if you rolled them ½-inch thick, until they are golden brown. Remove from pans and cool completely. Now, you are ready to decorate the cookies using the watercolors or acrylic paints. Once the paint is dry, apply a coat of the polyurethane varnish. It will work best if you paint one side, allow it to dry and then turn the cookie over and paint the other side.
Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 ½ cups cinnamon
1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon oil
Mix together in bowl with hands. Knead and roll out to about ½-inch thickness. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. (Gingerbread boy shapes are cute with this.) Poke hole on top with drinking straw. Dry flat for 2 days, turning 3 to 4 times. Makes about 25 ornaments (3-inch diameter.)
Our children love to help with holiday preparations, especially those that let them use their creativity. Baking up some tasty holiday treats together delivers the gift of memories and a delicious gift to share with family and friends. And, with that thought in mind, here is my annual “Painted Sugar Cookie” recipe. My grandchildren and I baked and decorated these together years ago, and now, when we can get together, my great-grandchildren and I make them! We have even baked and decorated cookies in the summertime or on spring break if we were together.
The following sugar cookie recipe is really great, as it does not have to be refrigerated before cutting and baking. To decorate, use the cookie paint recipe and paint the cut out cookies before baking. If desired, sprinkle colored sugar to match the paint.
Sugar Cookies
1 1/3 cups shortening
2½ cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Thoroughly cream together shortening, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Add combined dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Roll out 1/8 to ¼-inch thick on lightly floured* board and cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, sprinkle with granulated sugar (if you did not previously paint them,) and bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cookie Paint
Evaporated milk
Liquid or paste food coloring
Plastic egg carton
Small, inexpensive craft paint brushes
Decorative sugars, nonpareils, etc.
Pour about 1 to 1½ tablespoons of the milk into each of several of the cups in the egg carton. Add a few drops of coloring or paste to each on until desired color is reached. Paint unbaked cookies, decorate as desired and bake in preheated oven. Remove from sheets and cool thoroughly.