Yes! It's time for Secret Santa, already! Some of you might remember the nameplate that Medha and I made last year. And the Secret Santa game that the kids in the neighborhood play every December. We pulled names for each of our kids when we went for the gals night out at Juju Beads, in downtown Louisville. And, I pulled a boy's name.
Mumma! He's a boy!
But it's not that bad cos she tolerates older boys better than younger boys. Um, maybe that's not such a good thing! But this kid is a good kid. He even plays chess!
So two homemade gifts need to be made and delivered secretly; the final gift (under $10 or is it $15?!) to be kept under the tree on the day of the party.
What does one give a boy?! You can't give him a beaded necklace or earrings! A nameplate would just give it all away. He is Jessie's older brother. All the artsy-crafty stuff would be lost on him. Boys like food, said Medha. She remembered selling him snow cones for $1 in summer. Why don't we bake cookies? Yes! And, a perfect time to try the Stained Glass Cookies that I have been seeing in my dreams, ever since I saw Deeba's cookies on Susan's Christmas Cookies from Around the World event.
Stained Glass Cookies
Recipe from Passionate About Baking
- 3/4 cup butter ( 1.5 sticks)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- a pinch of salt
- 10-12 brightly colored Jolly Ranchers or Lifesavers or any other hard candy, crushed.
- Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature. If it's winter and you have your heat set to 69F, then - like Medha - you, too, might wonder what room temperature means!
- Cream the butter and sugar together until it is smooth.
- Add the salt and vanilla extract and beat till mixed.
- Add the egg and beat till well mixed.
- Mix in the flour to form a firm dough. If you are doing this part by hand, then gather it together firmly and knead it a little bit to bring it together. Otherwise, it will fall apart and it will be difficult to roll it out later.
- Press the dough into a rectangular shape, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it for at least 10 minutes or so.
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- While the oven is pre-heating and the cookie dough is a-chillin', separate the Jolly Ranchers according to colors and put them in baggies. Crush them using your mortar-pestle. Or just hammer them with whatever works for you. A mallet, maybe?
- Line your cookie trays with parchment paper.
- Cut the dough into thirds and roll it out to about a quarter inch thickness. I had to knead my dough a little bit to make it easier to work with.
- Cut with your favorite cookie cutters.
- Cut out smaller shapes, but not too small, like triangles or circles or hearts from each cookie.
- Transfer the cookie to your baking tray and fill each cookie with different colored crushed candy.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Pull out the tray if you see them getting too brown. It's way cool to see the melted candy bubble away in the oven!
- Remove the tray from the oven and let the cookies cool on the tray for a couple of minutes. If you see gaps in the melted candy, use a toothpick to spread it before it cools and hardens again.
- Transfer the cookies along with the parchment paper to a wire cooling rack. Peel off the parchment paper only when completely cooled.
- This recipe makes approximately 4 dozen 3" cookies. Less if you use an assortment of shapes and sizes.
The cookies were delivered on Monday right after school in an unassuming brown paper bag, with a thoughtful note explaining that these were basic sugar cookies with melted Jolly Ranchers. There were no escapades like those from last year or the previous year. And I am very relieved because we had a storm over the weekend that dropped about 4-5 inches of snow and the sidewalks were icy from the thaw and freeze.
- We didn't know how much candy we could use to fill up each cookie. The first time the girls did it, they used very little candy. Part of the problem was also that the cut-outs were rather small making it difficult to fill. So no amount of spreading with a toothpick would help. In the next batch, we stayed with the star shape and heaped the candy. You don't want to do that as the candy bubbles over onto the cookie itself. Tastes just as good but doesn't look quite as pretty.
Fill each cookie till the crushed candy is about level with or just less than the thickness of the cookie. More like so:
- These cookies can be used to decorate your tree, too! If you want do that, make a small hole at the top with a straw. I don't particularly like to adorn my tree with edible stuff so we passed on this.
The party is next week and we are the hosts this year. The kids usually make gingerbread houses or forts. Some come up with outlandish designs. Medha has never been able to erect walls that stand up for more than 2 minutes. So she has a pile of graham crackers, lots of frosting and decorations. Some of the children eat their gingerbread houses. Most of it is destined for the trashcan. I wish I could say I like this part of the event but the truth is that I don't. It's the only part I have an issue with.
Medha is playing a variation of this at school, too. Secret Snowpeople, they are called. They have to bring in something special for their Snowperson. It could be a cinquain or a couplet that they wrote specially for their Snowperson. It could be a snack or a craft. They will do this for 3 days and the final gift, which will be shared on the day of the Holiday party, has to be under $5. I guess I will be baking a lot this weekend!
My post on Secret Santa last year led to a fair amount of discussion about secularism in schools. Last year I said:
If the schools acknowledge that religion exists, our children will grow up to be more accepting of others' beliefs.
I am not saying that the onus of teaching religion should rest with the schools. What would help a great deal is acknowledging that there are several paths to God and maybe not, for those who don't believe in God.
I am really happy about some of the changes I have seen that I believe will lead to more acceptance and tolerance of cultural and religious diversity. In the past several months, Medha has come home with books from the library about Diwali, Eid, Hannukah and Kwanzaa. They get Time for Kids in school and one of the issues focused on India and its heritage. The Kindergarten teachers in her school are putting together a talk about different cultures and traditions. I might be asked to talk about Diwali.
As you can see, winter has really set in this year. We have already seen about 10 inches of snow. Over the plains in Kansas, they have been dealing with ice. I think we all need a Secret Santa to bring us some warmth!
The kids in Lesotho could certainly do with a Secret Santa who makes it possible for them to have a warm, nourishing lunch at school every day. It's been proven over and over again that food keeps the children in schools, ensuring that they get an education along with the nutrition. If you haven't already donated for Menu For Hope, please consider sharing some of the warmth in your homes with these children in Lesotho. Check out the prizes I am offering, along with Ammini Ramchandran. See what other bloggers are offering. This is an excellent cause and every $10 will buy you a raffle ticket for all these fabulous prizes.
Think about. Consider it. And, be a Secret Santa.