Decorating for Christmas

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Many of us have already pulled out our family’s favorite Christmas recipes in anticipation of holiday baking. These recipes anchor family traditions through the generations and keep missing loved ones close by while creating memories and connections with the next generation. Many of my holiday recipe cards look like they were written with invisible ink, but I can still see my grandmother’s and mother’s handwriting passing on family favorite treats.

Ethan, Emma and Ava (our three grandkids) love to help in the kitchen. I will hoist up my aprons to fit their little bodies as we try to at least keep their clothes clean. Their faces and hands are another story. They love dressing up to cook.

Jonathon is already teaching Ethan how to make our family’s swirl bread and holiday rolls. Emma and Ava were helping me make Thanksgiving dinner last week by mixing flour and milk together and pretending to make gravy. Jonathon thought they were just making a mess, but the smiles on their faces told a completely different story.

How about some recipes to capture these special moments and ages? I’ve pulled out recipes I used when our four children were a bit younger. Just seeing the splattered and tattered recipe cards brings a flood of warm memories to my mind and a smile across my face. They are old but timeless recipes for simple fun between the generations. Besides, it gives your cookie cutters an extra work out for the season. Enjoy!

Cinnamon applesauce ornaments

3/4 cup applesauce
Roughly 2/3 cup cinnamon
Cookie cutters
Drinking straw
Colorful ribbon

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Mix applesauce and cinnamon in small bowl until a smooth ball of dough is formed. You may need to use your hands to incorporate all of the cinnamon. Using about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll dough to 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thickness between two sheets of wax paper. Peel off top sheet when desired thickness is reached. Cut dough into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Make a hole at the top of the ornament with a drinking straw or skewer. Place wax paper with ornaments on baking sheet.

Bake 2.5 hours. Cool ornaments on wire rack. Another option is to air dry ornaments at room temperature for one to two days on a wire rack until thoroughly dry, turning occasionally. Insert ribbon through holes and tie to hang. Decorate with opaque paint markers if you want to add color.

Christmas ornament recipe 

4 cups flour
1 cup table salt
1 1/2 cups warm water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Whisk together flour and salt in a mixing bowl until well combined. Gradually stir in water, about 1/2 cup at a time, until a dough forms. When it gets difficult to stir with a spoon, use your hands to finish mixing it. I use my mixer with dough hooks. Transfer dough to a floured work surface and knead until soft and pliable. Roll out to 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut desired shapes with cookie cutters or biscuit cutters. Transfer dough shapes to parchment-lined cookie sheets; use a toothpick, skewer or drinking straw to make a hole in each ornament for hanging. Bake in preheated oven until hard, about 1.5 hours, switching racks halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Decorate as desired with acrylic paint and craft varnish to seal and preserve. Thread a string, yarn or ribbon through each hole to hang.

Other ideas:  

Use unfolded paper clips for hangers.

Add cake food coloring paste to dough for color instead of painting afterwards.

Store unused dough in bags for a few days and just add either water or flour to freshen it up. 

If you want to make thicker ornaments, use a cooler oven (200 degrees) for a longer time.

If you want to decorate Santa with a beard or a doll with hair, use a garlic press to create hair and beards.

Playdough

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Food coloring

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan. Cook over medium heat. Stir until it forms a ball. Knead until smooth. Store in bags. For brighter colors, try using dry Kool-Aid.

As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.

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