Saturday, December 08, 2007

Christmas Craft (and other traditions)

The first year Brad and I were married I wanted to start a special tradition - something that just our family would do together every year, and something our kids would one day enjoy doing with us. We decided to do a "Christmas Craft". The first year we made a Sugar Cube Castle and second year we made a Gingerbread Village with Gumdrop Trees. The next years have kinda all blended together, and since my pictures are all in storage, I can't get them out to remember exactly what we did, but you get the idea.

Since this was the first year that Kathryn would be able to help at all, we set out to find something simple, and not very time consuming, so she wouldn't lose interest before we even got everything set up. We decided on these Candy Trains. It turned out to be a hit! Brad picked up a pizza from our favorite local joint and we ate in the living room while we watched "The Polar Express", then we set to work on trains of our own!

Both the girls were most interested in eating the candy, but once they got their fill, Kate was very interested in making her very own Polar Express.

On the subject of traditions, we also have a few recipes that are holiday favorites. One of my favorites is English Butter Toffee. My brother used to make this every year when he would come home for Christmas. Now we can't have a Christmas without it.

English Toffee

1C Sugar
1C Butter
3T Water
1/2 t Salt
1 t Vanilla
1/2C Chopped Pecans
1 Large Hershey Bar or 4 regular size

Bring sugar, butter, water, and salt to boil, and boil until it reaches 300 degrees on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into cup of very cold water separates into hard, brittle threads. Remove from heat, but keep stirring. Immediately pour into ungreased 9x13 pan. Spread Hershey bar(s) over the top and sprinkle with nuts. Cool before breaking into bite sized pieces.

The next is Brad's and my tradition of home-made caramels. I stumbled across this recipe in Betty Crocker's cookbook, and we've never had any that we like better. I made them the first year we got married and have made them every year since.


Cut little rectangles of waxed paper ahead of time, so when you're ready to wrap, you're ready to go! Here's another secret - cutting the caramels with scissors is quicker and easier than using a knife.

2C Sugar
1/2C Butter
2C Heavy Whipping Cream
3/4C Light Corn Syrup

1. Grease bottom and sides of square baking dish, 8x8 or 9x9, with butter

2. Heat all ingredients to boiling in heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook about 35 minutes, stirring frequently, to 245 degrees on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into cup of very cold water forms a firm ball that holds its shape until pressed. Immediately spread in baking dish. Cool completely, about 2 hours.

3. Cut into 1" squares. Wrap individually in waxed paper or plastic wrap; store in airtight container.

The last is a classic, super easy, hard to stop eating, peanut cluster. My sister Heidi always makes these, and they are so addictive! It's great to always have this stuff on hand to take to a Christmas party that you don't have much time to prepare for.

Peanut Clusters

12oz can of salted peanuts
6oz Nestle's chocolate chips
6oz Butterscotch chips

Melt chips in microwave. Stir in peanuts. Drop on waxed paper.
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Alaina said...

The candy train looks like so much fun! Thanks for the recipes!!! I'm planning to make a couple of them this week for our Open House. :)

Jen said...

Yes, I can personally say that these items taste wonderful! :)

When do you all head for TN?