Does your family have a tradition that signals the holiday season? For me, it is the Nutcracker Ballet, and it has to be with a live orchestra. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without it. I have been counting down the days since I bought our tickets last fall. On Saturday, it will be time at last for visions of Sugar Plum Fairies to dance in our heads.
Another sign of the holidays in my family is baking and candy making. Growing up, I remember my mom baking fruitcake to mail to her family in Michigan (yes, they really do like it) as well as countless batches of fudge, divinity and hard candy. We also cut out cookies together and painted them with a colored egg wash before baking that turned shiny when they came out of the oven. A few times, my mom was even brave enough to host my friends for a cookie party. I think there was a year in middle school when she found silver dragees on the floor for months after.
The years have gone by way too quickly, and now I have a family that is forming traditions of our own. I did try the cookie party one year, but I must confess that my mother is a much better sport than I am. Flying flour and frosting combined with multiple children on a sugar high takes a special person. I am not that person.
I do enjoy carrying on the tradition of baking and making other sweet treats. When I first started creating holiday concoctions, the thought of making candy and dealing with a candy thermometer was a bit intimidating. In my quest for simple treats, I stumbled across a recipe for peppermint bark with no complicated steps or kitchen gadgets. It has turned out to be the best recipe I have found and I look forward to making it every December. An added bonus is it something that the girls have been able to help make since they were in preschool.
(Everyday Food, December 2005)
Nonstick cooking spray
1 pound white chocolate chopped (do not use chips)
2 cups puffed rice cereal
1 package (7.5 ounces) peppermint candies, unwrapped
Spray a 10X15 inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and line with a piece of waxed paper. Place white chocolate in a double boiler or heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally until smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in rice cereal. Transfer mixture to prepared pan; with a spatula, spread to edges of pan. Sprinkle with crushed candy; with a piece of waxed paper covering the entire surface, press in gently (waxed paper prevents hands from sticking to candy and chocolate). Chill until firm, 20-30 minutes (no longer as candy will begin to soften). Peel waxed paper off and break bark into pieces. Store in an air-tight container in a cool place for up to one week.
My variations: If you are careful, you can melt the white chocolate in the microwave. Be sure to stir every 30 seconds, and don’t let it overcook! You can also melt some dark or bittersweet chocolate and spread in on the prepared pan first. Let the chocolate chill in pan and prepare recipe as directed above. Spread white chocolate mixture over chocolate and finish according to recipe.
Whatever your family traditions are, I hope you are able to take time and enjoy them with the ones you love most!
Mary Cornforth Cawood is a Fruita mom married with two daughters. Read her Tuesdays on fruitamoms.com.