I have a two-year-old. She can be very challenging, and very aggressive when she doesn’t get what she wants. Sometimes I’m at my wit’s end trying to channel all her passion before it erupts (usually on one of her brothers). And, let’s face it — sometimes, as a mother of eight, I have a little extra aggression I need to get out, too! However, I’ve found at least one activity for Advent that fits the bill for both of us: making peppermint snowballs.
I must preface this reflection by admitting that I am a glutton for good things, as evidenced by the myriad of Advent traditions practiced in our home (more still to come, so stay tuned). We have so many because I like them all so much I don’t want to choose between them. It’s the same way for me with Christmas cookies. I love to bake, and have found so many yummy recipes (each person in the house having a different favorite, of course) that I tend to be an “Extreme” baker during Advent as well.
I used to be somewhat of a perfectionist about my Christmas cookies, but once I had kids who were old enough to want to help, I realized that I was going to have to let that go. After all, I didn’t want to turn into a Christmas grouch. So now I try to let them help as much as possible. And so, without further ado, here is our aggression tamer …
Ingredients: 1 bag chocolate sandwich cookies (I use regular Oreos)
1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 bag white chocolate baking chips (about 11oz.)
1 Tbsp shortening
1 Cup crushed peppermint candy (I prefer the starlight mints, but you can use candy canes, too)
Several gallon-sized freezer bags
Begin by opening the Oreos and letting your two-year old put all of them in a freezer bag. Most two-year-olds will do it one by one, so this is good for a few minutes of peace, at least. However, you will need to make sure they’re actually putting them in the bag without taking bites first, especially if you plan on sharing the cookies!
Next, close the freezer bag, squeezing most of the air out. Then present it to your four-year-old along with a rolling pin/pastry roller and tell them to beat it up! All the Oreos must be crushed! The two-year-old and six-year-old will definitely want in on this activity, too, so you might want to make two batches, or try to convince them to take turns. I opt for the two batches; after all, this is supposed to decrease stress! While this is going on, I turn on my toaster oven and place the cream cheese on top in its foil package to soften.
Next, put the softened cream cheese into the bag and seal. Give to the kids by turns and have them mush it all together with the Oreos. The warmth of their hands will help soften it more, too. The more hands, the merrier, as it must be thoroughly mixed.
I haven’t found a great way to crush the candy yet. I’m not sure if a food processor would do it or not, but I don’t have one anyway, so I put the unopened bag of starlight mints into a freezer bag and pound it with the flat side of my meat tenderizer. The candy is so sharp that it tends to puncture the bag, so you’ll have to put another bag around it when it does. If I’m having a particularly stressful day, I also take the sealed freezer bag and whack it against the nearest countertop, which serves the same purpose and makes my kids laugh at me! Once it’s all crushed I open the bag and take out all the wrappers, which tend to cluster near the top surface.
Use a cookie scoop or teaspoon to scoop out the Oreo mixture and form into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place them on a piece of waxed paper. In a heavy nonstick saucepan, or double-boiler, melt the white chips and the tbsp. of shortening. As soon as they are fully melted, remove from the heat and stir in the candy pieces. Immediately dip the balls into the chocolate until coated, and set them back on the paper. The older kids like to help with this part.
These can be frozen or just kept cold. I sometimes make them weeks ahead of time and put them in a cookie tin in my garage, where it’s nice and cold, since I’m a little short on freezer space. Just make sure they have hardened first. If I’m in a hurry, I put them on a cookie sheet and put them out in my garage on the hood of the car to harden more quickly. In the meantime, the kids enjoy licking the utensils, scraping the leftover chocolate out of the pan, and eating the hardened candy scraps off the waxed paper. Mission accomplished.
I would not recommend trying to blog about it immediately afterwards because, chances are, the baby will wake up and want to be fed, the two-year-old will again be at the throat of the four-year-old, and the six- and eight-year-olds will be bickering over the legos again, and before you know it, you’ll need to find another outlet for their (and your) aggression!