By: Sara Noll
- Bake Holiday Desserts
There is no better time to roll up your sleeves and make the kitchen a mess than over Christmas break. From ginger bread to chocolate fudge to bread pudding to your grandma’s sugar cookies, we cannot seem to get enough sugar over the holiday season. Now is the perfect time to test out a new recipe. Feeling bored or want to try something new? Try out these three favorite recipes.
6 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Mix dry ingredients and add a little at a time to butter mixture. Mix until flour is completely incorporated, and the dough comes together. Chill for 15 minutes. Roll out on parchment paper to desired thickness, cut into desired shapes, and peel away excess dough. Slip parchment paper onto baking sheet. Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown around the edges. This recipe can make up to 5-dozen 3” cookies.
A little water or lemon juice
Mix together until you get the consistency that you want. Add food coloring to create colored icing. Pipe the edges of the cookies then go back to and fill in the cookies. Let set overnight.
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
3 tbs. light corn syrup
12 oz. salted butter (3 sticks), cut into chunks
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup whole toasted almonds, toasted and chopped (optional)
Equipment: Silicone baking mat; candy thermometer
- Line a sided sheet pan with a silicone baking mat, or oil it well with vegetable oil (or use a heavyweight nonstick sheet pan).
- Pour the sugar into the center of a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer. Pour the water around the edge of the pan and wait to allow the water to moisten the sugar. (You can draw a clean finger through the center of the pan to allow some water to seep in.) Add the corn syrup and bring to a boil. Add the butter and boil until the mixture reaches 300 degrees F.
- Turn off the heat and whisk in the cocoa; then stir in the nuts. Quickly pour the mixture onto the center of the prepared pan and let it spread out — it may not reach the sides of the pan. Set aside to cool at room temperature until hard. Using your hands (wear gloves to avoid fingerprints), pry the toffee out of the pan and break into large pieces. Store in an airtight container. The toffee will keep well for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.
Fleur de Sel Caramels
1 ½ cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tbs. unsalted butter
1 tsp. fine fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Prep the pan.
- Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides, then brush the paper lightly with oil.
- Boil the sugar.
- In a deep saucepan (6 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep), combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don’t stir — just swirl the pan.
- Heat the cream.
- In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Finish the caramel.
- When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful — it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer.
- Fill the pan.
- Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.
- Cut the caramel.
- When the caramel is cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the square in half.
- Roll it up.
- Starting with a long side, roll the caramel up tightly into an 8-inch-long log.
- Cut into pieces.
- Sprinkle the log with fleur de sel, trim the ends and cut into 8 pieces. (Start by cutting the log in half, then continue cutting each piece in half until you have 8 equal pieces.) It’s easier to cut the caramels if you brush the knife with flavorless oil like corn oil.
- Wrap the candies.
- Cut parchment paper into 4-by-5-inch pieces and wrap each caramel individually, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator and serve the caramels chilled.
- Watch Christmas Specials
Christmas is here, and whether you love them or hate them, all of the Christmas specials are here too. The hours of celebrity hosted events, classic movie showings, and live parades will soon take over television.
All December long you can watch all of the classic movies on cable network, Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas. Check out https://freeform.go.com/25-days-of-christmas to view the schedule and catch the times your favorite movies are playing.
Netflix is full of holiday classics with up to 50 different movies. A few of these movies being: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa Paws, Bad Santa, A Very Murray Christmas, White Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, The Christmas Chronicles, and many more. With this variety of movies, you will be sure to please everyone on demand.
Stop by the Thrillist Entertainment Article (https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/christmas-tv-specials-2018-schedule) for a schedule of more shows happening now until Christmas.
- Donate Your Time/Volunteer
A great way to spend your spare time is to help those in need. Especially during Christmas time, many families are looking for an extra helping hand. Here in our local community, Associated Charities is a great place to give your time or donate what you can. From Thanksgiving until Christmas, this organization is looking for volunteers to help out. We are fortunate enough to have a very giving community that has donated thousands of items that can help families in need over the holiday season. With so many goods coming in, extra help is greatly appreciated. You might be asked to stock shelves, put together baskets, restock on needed supplies, or anything else that needs to get done. Whatever you do, you are making a difference in our community!
- Play games
Gather your family or get a group of friends together for a game night. You can play for fun or make it competitive. Some tried and true family favorites are: Rummikub, Clue, Monopoly and Uno. Ask friends or family to bring their favorite game when coming to visit, it’s a great way to learn new games and have lots of fun!
- Go to a movie
December 2018 Movie Releases
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Dec. 14th
Mortal Engines – Dec. 14th
Mary Poppins Returns – Dec. 19th
Aquaman – Dec.21st
Bumblebee – Dec. 21st
- Read a book or two
Grab a blanket, make a hot drink, and get lost in a good book. Check out Barnes & Noble’s “Top 100 Bestsellers of the Year” list to find a few books you might be interested in.
- Try a winter sport
One Day Lift Ticket $59 – $79 (depending on the date)
Open every day @ 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Take a break from the plains and head to the mountains for the day to shred the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding are great ways to enjoy the Colorado snow. Monarch Mountain is the closest ski slope to La Junta, with a trip a little over three hours from La Junta. Monarch is a smaller resort yet perfect for the day and to get away from the crowds. Visit the Monarch Mountain website to view the details.
- Go see a play
December 13, 14, & 15 @ 7:30 p.m.
Picketwire Presents – “Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical”
Nuncrackers takes place in real time in the basement of Mount Saint Helen’s convent. With all new songs, this show is filled with typical NUNSENSE humor. This Christmas show will make you laugh and maybe tug at your heartstrings. It’s the perfect way make your holiday season is merry and bright. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased ahead of time or the night of the performance. Seating is reserved.
December 16 @ 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.
First Presbyterian Church of La Junta Presents – “A Superhero Christmas Pageant”
Starring Mary, Joseph, and shepherds…plus Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, the Hulk, Batman, and Cat Woman. This is a FREE event.
December 24 @ 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Trinity Lutheran Church Presents – “Dateline: Bethlehem, Reactions to Jesus’ Birth”
A roving reporter interviews characters (puppets) for their reactions to Jesus’ birth. He also interviews a learned panel. This is a delightful yet beautiful service with familiar Christmas hymns for all ages to celebrate this joyous evening. This event is FREE.
- A Holiday Gift Affair
December 15 @ 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
On Saturday, December 15th, Inspiration Field will be hosting a gift shopping event where you can finish up your Christmas shopping. This event will be hosted by vendors with local and homemade gifts for the whole family! There will be raffles for great prizes including products from the vendors. It can’t hurt to stop on by, you never know what you might find as a last-minute gift or something for yourself!
- Kate’s Studio Dance Recital
December 15 @ 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. & 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
From teens to tots, watch local dancers of all ages perform jazz, tap, ballet, hip hop, and acrobatics dance routines at Otero Junior College – Ed Stafford Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $5.
- Christmas at the Plaza
December 22 @ 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Come out to the Santa Fe Plaza and enjoy a good time with family and friends around the town Christmas Tree. Bring your little ones for a chance to let Santa know their wishes. Pictures with Santa will be available ($10), and refreshments will be provided for all.
- Help set up luminaries on Christmas Eve
Every year on Christmas Eve, many join together to bring a special light to La Junta by placing thousands of brown bags around the City Park. In the bags are sand and a single candle. The candles are lit and a special glow surrounds the park through the luminaries. With so many luminaries it takes many people to set them up and light them for the community to enjoy.