Posts tagged ‘christmas’

December 23, 2010

T’was a Christmas Cookie Party

This year Linda Marrone invited me to fill in as a judge for her Christmas Cookie Party. I was super excited and felt honored to have my opinion count so much.  Going into this adventure I thought it would be simple – taste cookies and pick my favorites. However, it was not so easily done. The cookies were amazing and all had their own appeal. I spent at least 45 minutes tasting 13 cookies and deciding which was the best, and changed my mind along the way. Taking into consideration taste, texture, the look of the cookie, and how traditional the cookie. My kind side wanted everyone to win because they all put so much work into these cookies and they all were really really good. But I had a job to do, so I got down to business.

Like I said the task was not an easy one, but it sure was fun and yummy! I enjoyed meeting the ladies, they were all so creative and enthusiastic, and you can tell they loved being part of the Christmas Cookie Party and getting together with one another each year. No wonder this is the 30th year Linda has held this party! What fun!

 

Organizing such a party is no small task in itself, but everyone involved brought an appetizer, a white elephant (or used) gift, and everyone makes 15 dozen cookies and some even hand make containers for their cookies. Really a great time is had, the ladies laugh the entire time and really just enjoy themselves.  Holiday cheer is definitely in the air.

Below are some photos of the winners, cookies, containers and other randomness I enjoyed along the way! Thanks everyone you did a FANTASTIC job – all the cookies were great you are all really winners, I’d eat all the cookies (in fact I did).

Meet everyone involved (Yes the baby helped with cookies too):

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Please excuse the photo quality – I was in low light at night…

FIRST PLACE – SWEDISH SNOWBALL COOKIES by Laura Vance and Laurie Oswald for Laurie’s mom’s recipe.

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SECOND PLACE – PECAN EGGNOG ROUNDS by Breana Coons & Lauren Coons.

2nd Place Cookie

THIRD PLACE – LEMON SUGAR COOKIE SNOWFLAKES by Sandy McCleary & Kristin Stokes.

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FOURTH PLACE TIE – MOLASSIS SUGAR COOKIE by Paula Tlachac & VIENNESE ROUNDS by Sheryl Seaman

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These are all the other cookies that were fabulous as well!

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THE CONTAINERS –

I am sorry I did not get a good shot of the third place winner Debbie Coleman’s Santa Head. She put a lot of work into these containers, but my photo didn’t come out sorry!  The container was a wonderful Santa Head with Santa’s beard filled with little bells.

FIRST PLACE – PHOTO COLLAGES (filled with memories over the years of the individuals who participate in the cookie party). by Linda Marrone & Kim Sayre

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SECOND PLACE (also the second place cookie) – ELF BUTTS by Breana and Lauren Coons

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FOURTH PLACE – SNOWMAN MITTENS by Darlene Cobbey and Carol Smith

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These are some of the other containers – homemade and not.

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We were lucky enough to have Christmas carolers from Carson High School choir stop by. I have never had carolers stop by my house and it was such a treat – a really neat Christmas tradition you always see in books and Christmas shows/movies, but in real life – I have to say I was thoroughly impressed and just topped off the evening.

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Here are some random photos of Linda’s holiday decorations around the house. (I just love her house).

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December 19, 2010

Gingerbread House 2010

This is our very first attempt at a homemade Gingerbread house. My daughter wanted to make people, but I wasn’t that ambitious this year – it being my first year and all. So while this house is NOT perfect with crooked windows, bent sides, and short pieces, I’d say this was a relatively successful house.  I definitely have some experience to apply for next year. My mistake was that I forgot to photo copy the template that was given to me, so I freehanded some of the cut outs (that is why we had some crooked and short parts…oops).

Mix the dough and roll it out (according to the recipe below).

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Lay out your templates and cut then pieces out of the dough. The recipe said to roll the dough out on cookie sheets, but I have a tapered rolling pin and it didn’t work well. So I rolled it out and transferred the pices to the sheet – not a great idea!  

Once you roll out your dough use a sharp knife to cut out the templates. We cut out windows and put some crushed life savers in the middle to make “stained glass” windows. It worked very well.

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Bake and cool completely.

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Stained glass windows…cute huh? (check out my uneven bottom – that is what serrated knives are for!)

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Now it’s time to decorate. Advice from my friend Linda (who is a seasoned gingerbread house maker, and the one who provided this recipe) says decorate all panels of your house including the roof and allow the decorations to dry completely so things do not start to slide off when you assemble the house. I think only an hour or so is necessary, the icing (if you use the recipe I will post below) dries pretty fast. We waited overnight, only because by the time we were done decorating it was dinner and bath time…

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After you decorate your house and let it set, comes the tough part. It is time to assemble your house. More advice from Linda – put up the 4 walls and allow those to dry overnight before assembling the roof. This way your structure is solid before adding the weight of the roof and all it’s decorations. You don’t want your house collapsing at this point because you’ve worked very hard up to this point to ruin anything…

 

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For your base I suggest using a piece of cardboard covered in foil. Then you can move your house around if you need. 

Just a note before I explain assembly, I put icing on the bottom of the house while I was assembling to add extra stability. So as you set up your house, add a little icing ot the bottom of each of the walls on the base.

Start assembling with the front or back panel, and one of the side panels. Add icing to the “inside” part of the front or back panel and press the side wall into the icing. Use containers to help hold up your panels as you work and as the icing dries. (see my photos above for holding up the roof…).

Once your 4 walls are up allow the icing to harden over night.

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Once your walls and the roof are assembled you can start creating your scenery…We used ice cream sugar cones for trees and put some icing on them to look like snow.

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At the end I added some powder sugar for “snow” effect. I also saw some fake (non-edible) snow at Pier One that would have been really cute, too.

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Now our happy little crooked Gingerbread house is complete for this year! I am happy with our first homemade house…

 

GINGERBREAD:

These recipes below came from Linda Marrone
6c. all purpose flour
2/3c. shortening
1 ¾c. sugar
1t. vanilla
1 8-oz container sour cream
2 eggs
1T cinnamon
1T ginger
2t. baking powder
1 ¼ t. salt
1t. baking soda

In a large bowl mix shortening sugar, sour cream, vanilla, eggs. With mixer at low speed, beat until well mixed. Whisk together 3 ½ cups flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Mix into wet ingredients. With hands, knead in remaining 2 ½ cups of flour to make a soft dough. Divide dough and shape into a disk, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or until dough is not sticky and is of easy kneading consistency.

Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll dough on greased and floured cookie sheet. Cut out patterns.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 – 18 minutes. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

ORNAMENTAL ICING:

1 16oz. package confectioner’s sugar
½t. cream of tartar
3 egg whites at room temperature
½t. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. With mixer, blend until smooth, then beat at high speed until very stiff.

Keep the icing covered as it dries quickly. (3 cups).

 

DECORATIONS (ideas create your own)

You can use a variety of items for decorating the house.

For the roof you can use vanilla wafers, necco wafers. Life savers for wreaths. Ice cream sugar cones for trees. Cinnamon candies, peppermint candies, candy canes, gum drops, M&Ms, rock candy, runts, and any other creative ideas you come up with. You can also opt to get the gingerbread house candy assortment from Wilton or King Arthur Flour or from a craft store.