Does this ever happen to you? An idea is born in your mind; you’re creative juices get flowing, and before long you are brainstorming how to turn this dream into reality. The plan develops and anticipation builds until…everything falls apart.
That pretty much sums up this post for me.
Over the last several years, it’s become a bit of a tradition for me to get together with friends to bake cookies or make holiday candies and then deliver them to the neighbors to enjoy. The process is relaxing, and it’s a great opportunity to spend a whole day catching up with those that I don’t often get to spend as much time with. Sharing the fruit of our labors with the neighbors is an added blessing and something I always look forward to.
This Christmas season, I thought it would be fun to blog about the process. I envisioned a heartwarming post that focused on making memories with friends and being generous toward those around us. My mind had it mapped out, and it was going to be all kinds of wonderful.
The preparations began well ahead of time. Thanks to Pinterest, inspiration and new ideas were abounding, and soon I had compiled my recipes and the required ingredients. I was more prepared than any prior year and was eager to get cooking. Once Amy, my friend and partner in the kitchen, arrived at my home this past Saturday with Starbucks for two, we had all we needed for a glorious day.
I wish I could say that we went on to have a fabulous time and all our candy-making dreams came true, but much to my dismay, the romance was short-lived. The day’s unraveling began with more-intense-than-normal pregnancy aches, was punctuated by a very clingy daughter who was not acting like her typical easygoing self, and ended with me developing a fever and becoming quite ill. (I later found out I had contracted pneumonia and was super bummed because this meant I wasn’t going to be able to deliver the goodies to the neighbors after all. There’s no way I was going to risk sharing my nasty germs with other people.)
It was a tiresome day that didn’t meet my expectations, that’s for sure. I struggled with being upset about it not going according to plan, but then I realized, this is real life. Things happen that we can’t control and sometimes they happen all at once and are really overwhelming. It’s a good lesson for this recovering perfectionist to learn (yet again) as we enter the Christmas season.
The experience wasn’t everything I’d hoped it would be, but it did have a few redeeming moments. I got to spend some time with my dear friend and had the opportunity to love my daughter well even when that meant inconvenience for me. These things are much more valuable to me than feeling good about myself for the day going swimmingly and God allowing me to continue in my illusion that I’ve got it all under control.
I’d say things worked out nicely for my husband, too – someone’s gotta eat all that candy, right?
Let’s talk about these treats for a minute. I usually do a combination of cookies and candies, but this year I decided to go all in with the candies. I’m still sick and my taste buds are a bit off, but Dan has reassured me they are all quite delicious. I chose to do a combination of flavors that provides a little something for everyone – some toasted coconut, a touch of citrus, traditional peppermint, and indulgent chocolate.
- Toasted Coconut Marshmallows from Ina Garten. All I have to say is, “Yum!”
- Orange Gumdrops, adapted from Bakerella. One major change I made to the preparation is that I boiled the mixture for only 12 minutes. This is crucially important as boiling it for the amount of time stated in the recipe (like I did the first time I tried these) yielded inedible results. I also chose not to add artificial food coloring, but if it makes you feel happy and festive inside to have them colored, more power to you.
- Peppermint Bark. Making this is easy peasy. I just winged it, but Savory Sweet Life has a recipe that is very similar to what I created, though I prefer to use a double boiler to melt the chocolate instead of doing it in the microwave. To get the design you see in my photos, pipe the melted white chocolate in horizontal lines across the surface of the chocolate before it has set. Then, using a toothpick, draw vertical lines (each going the opposite direction from the adjacent one) to create a marbled look.
- Dark Chocolate Truffles from Not Without Salt. For these guys, I followed the recipe exactly except for omitting the candy shell. After forming the ganache into balls, I immediately rolled them in unsweetened cocoa and refrigerated them.
I hope you get a chance to try these recipes. Gather some friends and make a day of it. Share the goodies with those you love. And if things don’t turn out exactly how you plan, don’t sweat it. It’s only candy.