Because not everyone in our family has the same last name and because we are a military family, we have christened our little corner of the world like an army post–we’re a fort.
This year at the fort, the girls envisioned a holiday full of homemade goodies and Pinterest only fueled the fire. Always watching for memory making opportunities of the pleasant variety, I obliged.
We went a little nutso. We started with a salted caramel pretzel bark I pinned on Pinterest.
It’s hard to believe that these raw materials turned into something so delicious, but I believed the blogger when she said they would. Her photos were pretty convincing too.
My youngest took on the task of individually lining up the pretzels so that they were in a single layer. She also had the ingenious idea of using broken pretzels in the tight spots close to the edge so the caramel would have something crunchy to cling to when we poured it.
She had some great ideas in addition to this one, but I must say, the kids spatial skills will serve her well on her college placement tests someday, I’m sure. We met maximum pretzel capacity on our first attempt at this recipe.
Few things encourage me to harm myself more than boiling hot sugar that is turning into caramel. You know you can’t eat it, but you want to grab a spoon and go for it–3rd degree burns be darned.
The caramel took its sweet time working its way into the crevices created by the pretzels. I worried that it wouldn’t cover all the pretzels, but my astute daughter reminded me that once it went in the oven, the caramel would warm even more and spread around the pan.
It took just a few minutes for the magic to happen. Then, before we knew it, the oven beeped and we removed the pan from the oven so we could give this treat another layer of loveliness.
I don’t know about you, but in our house, anything topped with chocolate chips, especially melted ones, earns a blue ribbon on the Yum scale.
The girls enjoyed sprinkling on the chocolate chips before we popped the pan into the oven again to start them melting.
The youngest finally relinquished the sole baker role and turned over a spoonula to her older sister. M1 spread the chocolate over the pretzels and caramel as evenly as she could without uprooting the pretzels in different spots.
Once the chocolate had been spread around, it was time to sprinkle on salt (we used Kosher) and place the pan into the freezer so the goodies could set.
As you might imagine, the view inside the freezer improved greatly once the pan took up residence. I worried when I went to peel away the aluminum foil, but after the bark warmed a few seconds, the foil peeled off easily.
I think this will be added to our holiday goodie arsenal. I also think that we will plan better next Christmas so that we are actually making and TAKING these goodies somewhere. It will certainly make things more fun for my waistline as no one enjoys the scavenger hunt for pants that fit that ensues at the end of the year.
In between the homemade, more work intensive items, we also made a perennial favorite–Peanut Butter Blossoms. A perfectly acceptable cheat in my mind is to purchase a big log of Pillsbury Peanut Butter cookie dough and use it as your base for the cookies. I’ve made some pretty awesome peanut butter cookies from scratch, but let’s be honest–this cookie is all about the Hershey’s kiss.
And, if you roll the peanut butter cookie dough ball in sugar before you put it on the pan, it’s even more homemade-esque. You simply can’t go wrong when cutting corners still ends in a deliciously divine cookie treat. I don’t think (had we shared these) that anyone would have said–“Hey. I’m not 100% convinced these cookies are 100% homemade.” Nope. You can’t tell and even if you suspected, you’d still eat three before you completed the entire thought in your head.
Because I’ve had previous Pinterest successes, I was emboldened to try a feat I’ve often considered, but never committed to doing. Yes–cutout, decorated sugar cookies. I found this recipe on Pinterest and had some vague memory of hearing that sour cream in sugar cookies makes them superb.
My kids weren’t nearly as convinced, but I told them that good or bad, they could still help roll them out, cut out shapes and decorate them. That information quieted the peanut gallery considerably and we started on our mission.
My youngest provided the assistance in measuring and mixing the ingredients into a sticky dough that rested in the fridge while we worked on other goodies.
Universal kid law states that any activity that allows you to cover the table, your hands, a rolling pin, cookie cutters and any other helpful surface in the kitchen with flour RULES.
Lots of smiles during the process and funnily enough, no one wimped out prior to the cookies being baked. Usually, we experience ample amounts of enthusiasm to begin a project that wanes long before the oven finishes baking the first batch.
My girls demonstrate their decorating prowess with this project as well. We mixed and tinted our own icing. They had definite ideas about decorating their trees as well as the Santa/Elf cookies. Because we have resident Elves during the holidays (Elvis and Little Elvis), one cookie was decorated to look like each Elf.
These cookies rocked our socks.
Extremely soft. Incredibly tasty. And super fun to decorate.
I think we’ll be making these again long before it’s Christmas cookie time. After all, I have other shapes of cookie cutters and we don’t want to make them jealous!