Making Do at Christmas

This Christmas is probably the hardest we have had it in this country since the great depression for a portion of our society. For some, the unemployment that was stopped at the end of November was a major hardship. How do you have Christmas with out money? This is a worry for many who have never had to do it with out spending lots. You make the Merry part of Christmas the most important part. Here are some tips.

If you have young children, go to the public library and check out some books to read to the kids every night. I am reading Little Women this year. It takes about 45 min. to read each chapter out loud. I think classic books from the 19th century was written to read out loud a chapter at a time. It is fun to get baths early and everyone wrap up snuggly for a nightly read before bed. You can do this when you have not been able to keep cable on.

Have the family help make a paper chain out of mail fliers. I don’t buy the newspaper anymore because things like that are a luxury, besides the political news is depressing. The colorful fliers from the stores make the prettiest chain. Just remember when you are shopping to grab extras at the store, Old magazines are also great for this. You can drape paper chains all over the house. Look around the house for craft ideas from stuff you throw away. You can always look in the library for a book of kids crafts.

Make a point to visit someone that is alone. Take the kids and have them sing carols out side for a few minutes. They love that sort of thing. Then give a gift of home made cookies to that person. It just makes you feel good. Heaven only knows you need some good feelings with all the worry.

Speaking of Cookies…Here are some recipes, when you are out of ideas, out of time and out of money.

Pudding Cookies

This is a fun cookie made with Bisquick and instant pudding mix. General Mills introduced Bisquick in the early 1930’s and became a staple in the kitchen . Jello introduced chocolate instant pudding in 1936 and by 1950 instant pudding came in many flavors. A wonderful cook thought this up either in the Betty Crocker test kitchen or at home. Today you can find store brand biscuit mix that can be used that is cheaper. Make sure you use instant pudding mix. Cooked pudding and pie filling mix will not turn out.

Pre-heat oven 375 degrees

1 cup of biscuit mix
1 regular package of any flavor of instant pudding mix
¼ cup of vegetable oil
1 egg

Mix ingredients in a mixing bowl. Drop by spoonful on a greased baking sheet and flatten slightly. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 8 minutes. Makes 12 soft cookies.

Sugar Cookies

Now that you have gone out a bought a box of biscuit mix, you will want to try this cookie too. It taste like a soft bakery sugar cookie and as easy as pudding cookies. This basic recipe was from the 1930’s. If you have some raisins laying around add them to the recipe.

Pre-hear oven 375 degrees

½ cup of shorting or margarine
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of almond or vanilla flavoring
2 cups of biscuit mix

In a mixing bowl, cream shorting and sugar, then add eggs and flavoring. Add biscuit mix and milk, half at a time. Mix until smooth dough forms. Chilling makes cookies easier to handle. Drop by spoonful on a greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12 to 15 min.

Cake Mix Cookies

During the holidays, stores put cake mixes on sale and cookies can be made from cake mixes. Cake mixes was introduced after WWII. Creative cooks have been using them as the basis for many wonderful desserts ever since. This basic recipe can be jazzed up with chocolate chips, nuts, and dried fruits. I like to make chocolate cookies and use a small jar marshmallow cream to sandwich the cookies with.

Pre-heat oven 350 degrees

1 box of any flavor of 2 layer cake mix
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil

Mix in a mixing bowl. Drop by spoonful on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes

Cut-out Cookies

You can’t have Christmas with out traditional cookies in shapes of stars , bells and trees. This is a simple recipe that was given to me years ago for a shortbread roll out cookies. To decorate them you just need a can of white icing and some sprinkles. Butter tastes the best but a good baking margarine like Blue Bonnet works well when in a pinch. These cookies cook in a slower oven because of the butter has a lower smoke point then vegetable oil. You will loves these and there is only 3 ingredients.

Pre-heat oven 300 degrees.

½ cup of sugar
1 cup of butter soften
2 ½ cups of all purpose flour

Cream sugar and butter. Add flour a little at a time until mixed. Divide dough into 2 parts and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for a hour. Roll out one half while leaving the other half in the refrigerator. This dough needs to be cold to puff while cooking. Cut out with cookie cutters that have been dipped in flour or sprayed with non stick cooking spray. Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly brown. I bake one sheet at a time and keep the next sheet in the refrigerator with cookies ready to bake. It keeps the dough cold. Makes about 24 cookies depending on size.

Hillary Clinton’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I just had to give you my favorite chocolate chip cookies. Family Circle Magazine published this in their July 21, 1992 issue. They had a bake off between Clinton and Bush during the campaign. Clinton’s recipe won. I clipped out both recipes and tried them. Hilary’s had a wonderful “wow “ factor to them. I have been making them ever since. Her recipe is and adaptation to the old fashion oatmeal raisin cookie.
Pre-heat oven 350 degrees

1 ½ cups of sifted flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of shorting
1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups of old fashion rolled oats
1 package of chocolate chips (12 oz.)

Cream sugars and shorting in a mixing bowl. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla. Sift flour, salt and baking soda together. Slowly add flour to creamed mixture. Stir in oatmeal first then chips. Drop by the spoonful on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Mamie Eisenhower Fudge

You just can’t have Christmas with out making some candy treats. My mother, who on a good day was lucky not to burn supper, made this fudge at Christmas. It is made from marshmallow cream and chocolate chips. I still have the original newspaper clipping from the December 11,1955 published by Grit with this recipe in it. The first Lady had revealed that she could only cook this fudge and make mayonnaise when Ike was courting her. He loved it and named it the “Million-Dollar Fudge.” In this interview, Mrs. Eisenhower admits that the President is the cook in their family.

I am not giving you the original recipe because the size of the packages and containers have changed. The food industry has downsized their packaging. I have no idea what a “tall can of evaporated milk” was in ounces and measuring out a pint of marshmallow cream would be a night mare. Here is the modern recipe adapted to today’s products in the stores.

Butter a 9 x 9 inch pan

2 ½ cups of sugar
¼ cup of butter or margarine
1 small can of evaporated milk (5 oz.)
1 jar of marshmallow cream (7 ½ oz.)
¾ teaspoon of salt
¾ teaspoon of vanilla
12 oz. package of chocolate chips ( milk chocolate or semi sweet)
Nuts optional

Combine the first 5 ingredients and stir over low heat until blended. Bring to a boil on moderate heat and keep stirring slowly until soft ball stage. This takes 5 minutes if you don’t have a candy thermometer and make sure the bubbles are not just air from stirring when you first start your timing. Remove from heat and stir in chips and vanilla until blended. Pour in pan and spread to corners with a knife. Don’t over stir when blending chocolate because it starts to set up fast. Cool in refrigerator and cut in pieces.

Popcorn Balls

This was another candy treat my kitchen challenged mother could make. The recipe came off of a bottle of clear corn syrup. As kids we would help with making the balls. We would tear off the sheets of waxed paper and have them stacked up in a pile to use when forming balls. It was hot work so we would put our gloves on. Mom would scoop out some candy popcorn and dump it on the wax paper . Then we would roll it inside the paper tube style and squeeze it into a tight ball. Ending with the paper being twisted on each end. These are really good and not expensive to make.

In a large bowl or pan put 3 to 4 quarts of popcorn , popped and ready to go.

In a large sauce pan
1 cup of sugar
¼ cup of butter or margarine
1/3 cup of white corn syrup
1/3 cup of water
¾ teaspoon of vanilla

Boil all ingredients except vanilla over low heat until it spins a long thread off of a spoon (230 or 234 degrees on a candy thermometer.) Remove from heat and add vanilla. Mix with popcorn and form balls.

Candy Covered Pretzels

This is a fun and easy treat to make. It just takes a bag of small pretzel twists or large pretzel sticks and some candy melts. You can use almond bark or chocolate bark that you find at the grocery backing section. I like the bags of candy melts that you can find in the Wilton display at hobby stores and box stores. Candy melts come in colors. You can find the candy on sale during the holidays. I buy mine after a holiday when it is marked down . It keeps well to use later in the year.
You melt your candy coatings over a double boiler and dip pretzels. I lay mine on a cookie rack with a cookie sheet under it, but you can use wax paper. Use a fork for the twists and just dip the sticks half way down into the melted candy. Remember all the sprinkles that you bought to make cookies with, have the kids sprinkle the covered pretzels as you lay them on the cookie sheet. Chill in the freezer until the candy is set. Remove and store in a container.

Baking and candy making is expensive when you are short of money and these recipes keeps it simple and less expensive when your pantry is bear. I do all my cookie baking on parchment paper so I don’t have to grease cookie sheets and the clean up is easy. Please add your recipes and tips in the comments and reviews of the recipes that you have tried and things that you have done for “Christmas on a shoe string. “

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