This is not a food blog. Nor is it a parenting blog, though I am eminently suited to writing one of those, having no children. HOWEVER, I thought I would pass along a few gimmicks for the impending holidays.
These are not specifically holiday recipes. There was no particular rhyme or reason that was obvious to my mind about when my mother would come up with these things. I enjoyed these dishes, which were primarily snacktime foods, and did not question why I was eating them. But as I become aged and suspicious, I have been wondering if some of my mother’s food choices were ploys to keep us busy
For the first recipe, for example, you require only two ingredients: a shallow plastic bowl/cup/container of chocolate chips and a similar container of miniature marshmallows (rainbow, if obtainable.) The child in question takes care of the rest of the recipe. One chocolate chip must be carefully inserted, pointy end first, into one of the flat surfaces of one marshmallow. With certain baby brains (mine, for example) this is wonderfully time-consuming. The chocolate chips which are still in perfect condition, with a little curve to the pointy finial, are not as good for this. And there are those (you know who you are) who do not know any better than to try to insert a chocolate chip into the SIDE of a marshmallow.
Um, no, you do not need a baking pan or anything to put this on. After the chocolate chip has been inserted into the marshmallow, you eat the combination. Saves on storage, and clears your work area for the next marshmallow. I remember using a lot of concentration to get each chocolate chip carefully centered, so this constructive chore would keep me busy for, oh, easily half an hour at a time.
I assume there are some children who will bypass these difficult steps and simply eat the chocolate chips and then the marshmallows, or vice versa. SOME, I suppose, will alternate without actually inserting one into the other. Perhaps I was the only toddler detail-obsessed enough to fall for this one.
But I guarantee you’ll generate interest with the second recipe. You need full-sized marshmallows this time, a small number of clean Popsicle sticks (or other wooden sticks of similar design), and a small lighted candle in a stable candlestick. Depending on how carefully you have auditioned the children to help you with this recipe, you way wish to invest in a flame-resistant tablecloth.
The child sticks the marshmallow firmly on the wooden stick and turns it over the flame until the marshmallow is a delicate golden brown on all sides. If you have that sort of child, of course. I was infamous for preferring to set the outer coating of my marshmallow on fire and let it burn a while. (This is why you need substantial sticks.) The charred outer coating could be sucked off, leaving a partially molten marshmallow underneath to be cooked again. This is, obviously, a wee bit more hazardous than the last recipe but more exciting, and will probably occupy the child/children involved until all the marshmallows are gone, the sticks have been burned through (genuine Popsicle sticks would stand up to a lot of this, being of a good size AND probably still slightly saturated with orange or grape flavoring), or the flaming marshmallows have set off the smoke alarm for the fifth time.
For our third and final recipe, the only one I still occasionally indulge in, you need a saucer, a spoon, a small knife, a pound of Colby cheese, and a jar of honey. Cut your Colby (sharp cheddar is acceptable: the cheese needs to be hard and a bit salty) into finger-food strips and then hide the knife from the tots involved. Dollop a generous tablespoon of honey into the center of the saucer. Now each slice of cheese can be dipped in the honey and eaten. There MAY be clean-up involved–one child can spread a tablespoon of honey most anywhere—but think of the relative peace and quiet while the smallfry consumes what are essentially two healthy foods at one and the same time.
These are all the family secrets for today. I have a notion in my noggin about those Christmas cookies we made every year. My mother found baking cookies a little fussy (switch pans from rack to rack, watch to make sure they don’t burn, keep small fingers away from them until they cool) but I recall we took a loooong time over each cookie, deciding where to place the cinnamon beads and silver balls and colored sugars and long thin sprinkles. We could NOT have been doing that for the food value (for one thing, a cookie coated with all that is virtually inedible.)
But if you are desperate at some point in the holidays to find occupation for tiny relatives, you can give these a try. The nice thing about food is that it is a temptation to older children to volunteer for supervisory duties and you may be able to draw away from adorable and exhausting children into a soothing cup of tea or hot cocoa, or single malt whiskey. (At least until the fight breaks out over who is stealing whose marshmallows.) Happy Holidays!