Christmas is less than a week away and I have been enjoying the last few days at a slower pace than I normally do this time of year. I managed to completely catch up on my baking list by paring down and simplifying things quite a bit which has left me with some extra time to enjoy some fun activities with the kids.
First, we attended a soft opening of The Nutcracker ballet at our beautiful historic theater. Aunt Jen, my dear college roommate and Lucy's godmother, drove up from Pittsburgh to spend the day with us. It was her first time at the ballet and I think probably her last. Ballet is really not her thing (or mine!). However, the kids really enjoyed it and it was great that we managed to snag balcony seats where virtually no other person was seated. I pulled Matthew out of school so he could come with us and he was so excited. He had been dying to see the Nutcracker ever since he had learned that there was a scene involving the Nutcracker battling the giant mouse king! The battle scene lived up to his expectations and he was excited to discover that he was familiar with quite a few of the music numbers.
A few days later, we got dumped with even more snow. The previous couple feet we had received had actually thawed a bit but soon enough a new storm system rolled in and left us with even more snow than before. Thankfully, this snow was the fluffy, light variety - easy to shovel and fun to play in. One of my favorite moments this month was getting outside with Emma (Lucy was napping and Matthew was at school) and making snow angels, building a snow fort, and having a small snowball fight. It all started because I forced her to come outside and keep me company while I shoveled the walk. While I was working hard, she followed close behind me, pelting me with snowballs. I finally finished and whitewashed that little twerp and then we proceeded to play for a good hour. She was so happy and didn't want to come back inside even with the promise of hot cocoa. I could barely feel my toes when were finished, but the bonding time with my eldest daughter was worth the discomfort!
Speaking of Emma, I have been trying to encourage her to take a more active role in our Christmas baking. She usually gravitates towards eating the ingredients and the end product instead of participating in the actual preparation, usually citing exhaustion or boredom as excuses. Emma has the attention span of a distracted chipmunk, so if I was going to involve her in the baking, the recipe had to be quick and easy. First, I had her help me prepare a batch of bourbon balls. That went over so well that I decided to make a recipe that I had seen circulating on Facebook for the past couple weeks for an Australian treats called "Yum Yum Balls." Basically a sweet cookie bite prepared with crushed cookie crumbs, shredded coconut, condensed milk, and a touch of cocoa powder, I figured this would be another treat that Emma would be more than willing to help with. I guided her through the crushing of the cookies, combining of the other ingredients, and rolling of the balls. She especially enjoyed learning how to use the melon baller.
More than just a way to get Emma to help in the kitchen, these little treats made a nice addition to cookie gifts for teachers and friends. Ever the coconut lovers, my kids went wild for these. I also loved them - a nice, easy way to make a light truffle/cookie without all the fuss. They look beautiful too!
Yum Yum Balls
as seen on I Wash You Dry
Note: For authentic flavor, use Maria biscuits if you can find them. I found that my grocery store carried the Goya variety in the hispanic section. If you can't find them, use any digestive biscuit, graham cracker, or vanilla wafer crumbs.
2 cups crushed cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup toasted coconut flakes
Extra coconut for rolling
Combine the cookie crumbs, cocoa powder, sweetened condensed milk, and 1 cup coconut in a large bowl. mix until combined and sticky.
Roll into 1 inch balls. Coat the balls in the extra coconut. Chill in fridge until ready to eat. Enjoy!