Thursday, December 8, 2011

Treasured Traditions: Special Treats

One new tradition that I am just now starting is making Christmas goodies and giving them to the schoolchildren at our church's Christian school.  Every Thursday, when Gracie and I go to the Ladies Prayer Group, we stop by and see the older children who is taught by my pastor's wife.  They enjoy seeing Gracie, and Gracie enjoys all the attention!

I spent most of this week -- mostly while Gracie was sleeping -- making these treats for them.

 Aren't these Reindeer the cutest thing ever?  I found them on Pinterest and knew I had to make them!


Nutter Butter cookies
Pretzels (mini size)
Mini chocolate chips
Red M&Ms
Dipping Chocolate

These were pretty easy to make.  I wasn't really sure what kind of chocolate to get for this since I couldn't find the "Candy Quick Melting Chocolate" that the original recipe called for.  I found these neat bowls of dipping chocolate that I used.  One bowl just did cover the 32 Nutter Butters that are in one package.

First, I melted the chocolate and then I dipped the Nutter Butters.  I set them out on wax paper.  After I dipped all of them, I put on the pretzel antlers, the M&M nose (I swiped the red M&Ms from Gracie's reward candy - I don't think she'll notice!), and the mini chocolate chips.  I didn't bother trying to make sure that the chocolate chips were pointy side up; I had a hard enough time dropping them in the right places!  A toothpick came in handy for moving things if needed.  I let them sit out all night.  The next morning, I transferred them to wax paper on top of baking sheets (I know - should've done that first!) and put them in the refrigerator to harden up some more.  I bought two large treat containers (12" in diameter with a handle) and put them in there.  I kept them on my baker's rack which is in the garage.  It stays nice and cool in there.  {What's funny is that later that day, I caught Robert frantically searching for the reindeer.  "I know you've got them somewhere!"  He finally did find them, after I was watching him cracking up.}

 I also love these Snowmen which I also found on Pinterest.  As you can tell, I need to work on my dipping skills, but they still turned out cute.

Nutter Butter cookies
Vanilla Almond bark
orange Tic Tacs
black decorator icing

First, I melted six squares of the Vanilla Almond bark in a small bowl in the microwave.  I dipped the Nutter Butters and laid them on wax paper.  This was enough to do half of the package.  I then put in the orange Tic Tac noses (how creative is that?) and the M&Ms.  I'm glad I did that right away rather than dipping the remainder of the cookies, because the almond bark started setting up really quickly.  In fact, on the last couple of snowmen, I had to paste on the M&Ms with additional melted almond bark.  I then proceeded to do the remainder of the cookies, working quickly so that I could put it all together before it hardened. I waited for the snowmen to set completely before drawing the eyes and mouth with the black decorator icing (which I did not find at Walmart, but at Kroger's).  I cooled them in the fridge and put them in the treat containers.  I put one layer on top of the reindeer in one container and then put another layer by itself in the other container.  The black icing is rather smeary and I didn't want it to get messed up.

 These cookies, called Colorful Swirl Cookies (also found on Pinterest), are supposed to look like pinwheels.  What a disappointment that they don't!  They tasted ok.  I actually did not like the peppermint extract that I added to it.  I should've known better since the last time I used peppermint extract in cookies, I didn't like it then, either.  Oh well.

The pin takes you to the Our Italian Kitchen blog.  You can find the ingredients and instructions there. Sorry, but I'm too lazy to type all that out (or even copy and paste), especially since, to me, they didn't turn out that great.

A couple of notes:  It is really hard to roll out cookie dough to a specific shape, let alone specific size.  I invented (in my head not in reality), a device that will allow you to roll out dough to a rectangle 9x11".  If I ever actually make one, remember you heard it here first.  :-)

I couldn't find holiday sprinkles either at Walmart or at Kroger's.  Ever since Kroger ran Schnuck's out of Memphis, those are about the only choices I have for grocery shopping.  Well, except Target, but I didn't think to look there.  I have to get some #4 diapers there tomorrow, so I may look just to see.

Now, this is my favorite:  Martha Washington Candy.  I have no clue where the name came from, but it brings up many warm-and-fuzzy feelings in my memory.  An elderly lady who lived "around the curve" from us, Miss Winnie, used to make this often for us.  I promise you, they are the best candy ever.

Miss Winnie was a short, rotund woman who had several (don't know how many) children and lived in a little house with a flower garden out front.  She loved to do two things (three, if you count making this wonderful candy):  quilt and tend her flower garden.  Her front room and kitchen were rather sparse.  I can still picture her quilting rack hanging from the ceiling of her front room, and the old metal and formica table in the kitchen.  Her bedroom was another story.  It had all kinds of stuff in there.  Miss Winnie was just younger than my great grandmother, Ida Bounds, having been born in September of 1906 (Grandmother was born in January of that year). We all loved her.  She went Home to Heaven before Grandmother did (which was 2002, I think).  I remember just about every Christmastime, she would make this candy and give some to us, crammed into a powdered sugar box.  We kept it in the fridge and would raid it when we got a hankering for the Martha Washington Candy.

2 boxes confectioner's sugar, sifted (I did not sift)
1 can Eagle brand condensed milk
2 cups coconut Angel Flake (optional -- Miss Winnie did not use and neither did I)
2 cups chopped pecans (Miss Winnie ground her pecans.)
2 sticks oleo/margarine (I used butter)
1 tsp vanilla
Large package of chocolate chips or chocolate blocks
1 stick paraffin wax  (I did not use because I couldn't really get it to melt in the microwave with the chocolate.  I need to ask my mom exactly how to do that.  I do not own a double boiler.)

Mix first six ingredients.  Form into small balls; chill overnight.

Melt chocolate and wax, mix.  Dip balls with toothpicks.  Dry on wax paper.

I had a difficult time rolling this dough into balls.  They stuck to my hands and looked all globby.  My brother called me while I was doing this, so I had a little break.  When I resumed, I noticed that it was much easier to roll.  My advice:  After mixing, wait about 15 minutes to let it set up before rolling into balls.  It'll be much easier and will look much better.  I made most of them a little too big.  I can't think of anything to compare it to.  Guestimating:  maybe 3/4" in diameter?

I formed the balls and put them in the fridge in the afternoon when Gracie was taking her nap.  I took them out about 6 hours later, so it wasn't a "full" overnight.  I'm not very good at the dipping thing.  I wish I knew some tips on how to make them look beautiful.  Maybe the wax would've helped, I don't know.

Robert came in when I was in the middle of dipping and asked, "Can I have one?" while pointing to the plain dough. I said, "sure!" and waiting in great anticipation as to how he would like it.  He really liked it!!!  I was really happy, because this has been a family favorite for well over 40 years.  He also tried one of the dipped ones and said he didn't like it as well because the chocolate taste overpowered the candy middle.  I didn't quite have enough chocolate to do all of them, so I left three of them undipped just for him.


This morning, I got up and filled some cute bags with one each of the above treats, adding in a matching paper napkin, and a Christmas pencil.  Gracie woke up when I was just getting started, so I got her up, gave her a cookie and a treat bag, and she happily amused herself while I filled the bags.

I left a few minutes later than I wanted to -- time speeds up with a toddler when you have a self-imposed deadline -- but we made it to church on time.  I was the first of the ladies in the prayer group to arrive, so I headed over to the school.  Poor Gracie stumbled on the sidewalk and skinned her knee for the first time.  I later patched her up with a bright yellow bandaid from the nursery.  We delivered the treats and enjoyed seeing the older children.

Later, I heard from the teacher of the younger kids that the treats were a big hit.  One child said, "This is the Best Day Ever!"  Another one said, "I would rather have this than morning break!" (Now that's high praise!)

As Gracie grows older, she'll be able to help with making the treats and giving them out.  I really look forward to continuing this tradition.

Original Sources:
Source: via Ava on Pinterest

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  1. Oooo, I may get all brave and try the Martha Washington candy! I pinned the snowmen, too! Maybe from you? I want to try them also. :) I read that the legend is the recipe came from Martha Washington's cookbook, but who knows! lol! I also read that the wax is optional.

  2. WOW!! Thanks for linking up!! Going to have to try the Martha Washington candy!! Sounds delish!! ~Angela

  3. I LOVE all these ideas. I am not on pinterest, probably should be, I barely have time to blog and visit blogs. Anyway...I plan to make the snowmen. Thanks for sharing!

    Christmas Blessings!!!