There comes a time in every holiday season when the kids get out of school and are home for what can feel like a long, long time. Out here in BC they get two weeks off, and that means we’ve got the entire week leading up to Christmas to kill. The anticipation is already making them climb the walls, so I’m not sure how they’ll make it one more week.
But I find it fun having them home and having the time to take them out to do Christmasy things, even though it can be a bit stressful when you’re in the middle of preparing for the big day and you’ve got bored kids looking for something to do.
That’s why my holiday motto is ‘Put them to work,’ and for us that means getting them in the kitchen and baking. The treats they turn out are always cute, and I love putting them in tins to give away to people when it’s time to share our Christmas cookies.
If you’re kids are off as of today and you’re wondering what you’re going to do with them for the next week, here are some recipes you can try. Some require help to start, but the decorating can be all on them.
I’ve made these with the kids every year for 5 years now and they’ve become a tradition in our house. Try them and start a new tradition in yours. Photo and recipe from taste.com.au.
200g plain flour
180g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
175g Western Star Chef’s Choice Premium Cultured Unsalted Butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150ml sour cream, room temperature
200g milk chocolate
1/2 cup sour cream
12 large milk chocolate buttons
24 white chocolate buttons
12 red Smarties
Black icing pens
6- 8 pretzels, broken into halves
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with brown or red patty cases.
Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, bi carb soda, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream in a food processor. Process for 1 minute or until a thick batter forms. Divide the batter evenly between the patty cases until they are each ¾ full.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the cupcakes have risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tray for 5 minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
To make the icing, place the chocolate and sour cream in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir with a metal spoon for 3 minutes or until the chocolate melts and becomes smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat.
Place a large milk chocolate button in the center of each cupcake. Place two white chocolate buttons on top for eyes, using a little ganache to stick them on securely. Add a red Smartie for the nose, again using the ganache to help secure the Smartie. Use the black icing pen to draw eyes in the centre of the white chocolate buttons, and then insert two half pretzels in the cupcake for antlers.
You can’t find an easier recipe for kids than Strawberry Santa. You make the icing and do the inital prep, and your kids will have a blast decorating. Photo and recipe from foodnetwork.com
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
12 large strawberries
24 mini chocolate chips
For the frosting: In a medium bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the mascarpone and vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until the mixture is thick and smooth. Using a spatula, transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a small star piping tip.
For the Santas: Using a paring knife, cut off the leaf-end of each strawberry to make a flat surface. Cut a 1/2- to 3/4-inch piece from the pointed end of each strawberry and reserve as the hats.
Place the strawberries, wide-side down, on a work surface. Pipe a 3/4-inch-high swirl of frosting on each strawberry. Place the hats on top and pipe a small ball of frosting on top of the hats. Press two chocolate chips, pointed-sides inward, into the swirl of frosting to make eyes.
30g caster/superfine sugar
15 whole hazelnuts
50g plain chocolate
2tbsp single/light cream
30g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
In a saucepan, dissolve the caster/superfine sugar with 2 tbsp water to make a caramel. When it is ready, add the hazelnuts and mix thoroughly. When the hazelnuts are well coated with caramel, place them on a sheet of baking parchment and leave to dry.
In a saucepan, melt the plain chocolate cut into pieces with the cream and Nutella. Mix thoroughly until well combined then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Use a teaspoon to scoop up a nut-sized piece of the chocolate mixture. Add a caramel-coated hazelnut and roll in the palm of your hand to form a small ball. Repeat until all the mixture has been used, then roll the balls in the toasted, chopped hazelnuts. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
What is there to do when there is no snow outside during winter vacation? Build a snowman inside of course, and kids can do just that with these Marshmallow Snowmen cupcakes. Photo and recipe from catchmyparty.com.
White cupcakes with white frosting
Dark Chocolate Truffles (we used Mint Creams from Trader Joe’s)
Wilton Decorating Gel in black
Betty Crocker Cookie Icing in white (black optional)
Starburst candy (orange)
To make the snowman face, take one regular sized marshmallow and draw a face on it using the black Wilton Decorating Gel. Try to pick marshmallows that are flat on the top and bottom so your snowman will stand straight.
To make the hat, pull an Oreo apart (use the side without the frosting). Squirt a dollop of Betty Crocker Cookie Icing on the top of one cookie and affix your chocolate candy. If you only have white icing, just use a touch less so it doesn’t squish out the side. For the candy I used Dark Chocolate Mint Creams from Trader Joe’s, but you can use chocolate truffles, or even Rolos. I like dark chocolate candies to match the color of the Oreos.
To make the carrot nose, take one orange Starburst and cut tiny angled slivers. You can easily get 20 noses from a single orange Starburst.
To attach the nose, cut a small slit in the front of the marshmallow and push the nose into the marshmallow.
To make the body, first trim about 1/4 of the jumbo marshmallow off the bottom. This can help even out the marshmallow if it got a little squished in the bag.
Put a dab of the white Betty Crocker Cookie Icing on the back of three confetti dots then attach them to the front of the body. And finally, to add the arms, stick pretzel sticks into the sides of the jumbo marshmallow.
To make the scarf, cut slices of fruit roll that are at least 6 inches long and 1/4 inch wide.
Assemble your snowmen in any way you’d like
I hope these recipes can help conquer that pre-holiday boredom kids may feel before the big day, and if you need a few supplies to keep them busy, here are some of my favourites.
Decorating everything is easy with Wilton
Make your baking prep simple with KitchenAid
When they get bored of baking, show them what could be under the tree this year: Star Wars toys
Main image from momtastic.com
By Shelly Wutke, Editor Appliances and Home & Lifestyle
From blenders to laptop computers, I like to take everything I write and put a personal spin on it. As a Vancouver freelancer for 5 years, I’ve written for the Globe & Mail, The Vancouver Province, Chicken Soup for the Soul (grab your hanky, that one is a tear jerker), and on too many websites to list. My personal website is at survivemag.com and if you like Twitter, come find me and chat at @kidswap.