Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jolly Gingerbread Men...

In the next few weeks I want to give a few ideas for how to make the holidays less stressful if you are a homeschooling parent. I call it Christmas School. The first year I homeschooled I had a 7th grader and 4 and 1 year old at home and a 3rd and 5th grader still at the local elementary school. I was totally stressed at Christmas trying to get it all done. [Whatever that means.]

At any rate, the next  year I got smart and planned for Thanksgiving and Christmas and made the preparations part of school and not in addition to school. One part of this is having the children help with the baking and making the Christmas cards.

For years our children each did some sort of art work or wrote a poem and then I put it all together and got it printed. Then they helped fold, stuff and put labels on the envelopes. There are lot of skills involved in this and it made getting ready for Christmas a fun, family event.

We also made caramel corn and Scrabble [our version of Chex Mix] to give away, plus baked a couple of types of cookies. Though I didn't have the recipe for Jolly Gingerbread back then, I want to share it with you. As you can see in this photo [taken after the kids were mostly grown up] I arranged the cookies, took photos and made this the front of our Christmas card. Another year, we put holes in the top of the dough before baking [cutting out a hole with a drinking straw works great] and we hung them on the Christmas tree. That along with some strung cranberries and popcorn gave our tree an old fashioned look.

I will give some more hints in the coming week or two, but for now, here is the recipe for THE BEST gingerbread cookies I have ever eaten. I thank my old homeschooling mom friend, Cheryl, for this recipe.

This simple recipe is really THE best gingerbread man recipe I have ever tasted. They can be decorated, but we eat them plain. The buttery goodness of these cookies are wonderful. I always make a double batch for a total of about 100. They don’t last long and make terrific gifts.

These are the best gingerbread men I have ever eaten

Thoroughly cream together:

1/2 C butter
1/2 C shortening
1 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 C light molasses

Mix the following together and then stir into the butter mixture:

3 1/2 C flour
2 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1/2 t ground cloves

Mix till all is blended and chill.  Roll out cookies to desired thickness , cut with a cookie cutter and bake at 375° for 7-9 minutes.  After you get the dough  mixed up it may still look pretty dry, but just take it in your hands and work it into a ball. I use a 3” gingerbread (tin) cookie cutter and this make about 50 cookies.

As a tip, it is easier if you dampen your counter and lay a plain cotton (not terry cloth) dish towel on the dampened counter.  Sprinkle the towel with a couple of tablespoons of flour  and  then put 1/3 of the dough (rolled in a ball) on the towel.  Flatten it slightly with your hand, sprinkle it with flour and roll out like a pie crust on the towel.  If it gets sticky, sprinkle with a bit more flour.  After rolling and cutting out all the cookies, shake the towel off outside and  throw in the dirty clothes hamper.  

Take care,

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