It’s the holiday season, and we’ve been doing a lot of baking and crafts to give as gifts. J is doing a “Grab Bag” (like Secret Santa but minus the Christmas slant) in his class that I’ve been helping him with all week. I will post later when it’s not a secret anymore! I really proud of him because he came up with the concept entirely on his own and designed everything. I just helped him execute it, which involved a lot of cutting. I’ll leave it at that for now!
Another fun holiday craft we do is make cake decorations with fondant or gum paste. The gum paste is a lot harder in texture and you can make very thin, solid objects with it. You can make both at home and color as you wish, or you can buy them.
Last year, we made decorations for a dual faith cake with gingerbread men and a Christmas tree and Chanukah dreidls.
The fun thing about the gum paste decorations is that you can paint them with a clear alcohol (it will evaporate as it dries and you only use a scant amount) and decorate with luster dust.
Last year I made this beautiful snowflake cake that was featured on Chef Dennis’ blog, and we decorated it with these shimmery gum paste snowflakes using leftover paste from the aforementioned dual faith cake.
We’re very much looking forward to spending Christmas with Denis’ family in Long Island like we do every year. We usually bring a dessert, a side dish, and snack-y things to munch on. We all hang out in the kitchen, talking, nibbling, and having a good time. This year, we’re hoping to introduce everyone on our New York side to our FAVORITE family game which we play every year during Thanksgiving at my brother’s house in Illinois. My nephew introduced it to us I think during his first year of college several years back, and it’s become a family tradition to play every Thanksgiving. It is AWESOME! The more people the better too! Later we saw a ripped off version that was a board game in Barnes and Noble, but trust me people, it is better when you make it yourself.
What it is called: Teledraw
What you need: A group of people, a stack of small plain paper (like post-its), writing utensils. So if you have seven people, you need seven stacks of seven pieces of paper. If you have twelve people, you need twelve stacks of twelve pieces and paper, and so forth.
Ages: 6-100! (When J was younger, he used to play as a partner to Denis who would do the writing– for kids doing this on their own, they just need to be able to read, write, and draw)
Basically, the game is like Telephone, but instead of whispering a sentence to the person next to you, you write a sentence. Then pass it to the person next to you — and you get a sentence passed to you from the person on your other side. Then for the next round, you draw a picture of whatever sentence was passed to you. Then you pass this on, then you get another picture, and you write whatever you like the picture is showing. It is hilarious how much your original sentence changes after a few rounds! When you get your original stack back to you, the game is over, and you take turns reading it to everyone. When we played at Thanksgiving, we were crying, laughing so hard!
I scanned my stack (minus the last sheet — sorry Nick! It was a great drawing too! Somehow it got lost in transit… ) which had twelve panels — but showing eleven here. I typed out the written segments so it would be easier to read here:
1. (My sentence) “I ate some cake.”
2. Which my mother drew:
3. My brother described this as: “I see a little 3 year old running to a birthday cake.”
4. Which my sister-in-law drew:
5. Denis then described: “A smiling unshaven man watches as a child rushes toward a rocking chair-shaped menorah perched on a fireplace mantle. “
6. Which my nephew’s friend drew:
7. Which my nephew described as: “A little boy says the blessings over the menorah during Chanukah as Sirium Black watches.”
8. Which Jamie drew:
9. Which my niece described as: “Harry Potter is putting a wand to his head. In another room, Ron Weasley is begging him not to.”
10. Which her boyfriend drew as:
12. Then my nephew drew an amazingly detailed picture of man stabbing himself in the head and then running away with a smile on his face (lost in transit!)
So that is how “I ate cake” evolved into something slightly dark. I love that the Harry Potter theme was continued for awhile!
So if you have to time and energy– play this game with your family over the holidays! It is guaranteed to make you howl (in a good way)!
To end with a recipe….
Here is a quick recipe for a side dish we love that would be a perfect side at your holiday table if you have bacon eaters.
Holiday Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots
1 lb. green beans (I buy the frozen ones at Trader Joes, because I am lazy!)
2 slices of smoked, thick sliced bacon, chopped into pieces
1/2 large shallot, diced
salt and pepper to taste
chopped parsley for festive garnish (optional)
1. Steam green beans in steamer until cooked but crispy. For frozen, this is about 8 minutes. For fresh, I think 6 minutes would work, but test a bean and see.
2. Meanwhile, saute bacon in skillet. When it is cooked, remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and let drain and crisp up.
3. Add diced shallots to bacon fat in pan and saute until softened a bit, about 1 minute. Then add steamed green beans and saute for about 2-3 minutes. Add in reserved bacon and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish if desired with chopped parsley. Serve.
Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season!