It’s funny – when it comes to Christmas memories, it’s not so much the specific Christmases, themselves, that stick out.  Instead, I remember the small things – like when we brought home what was ALWAYS a “Charlie Brown Tree” – inevitably, our trees always seemed to have a bald spot or some kind of flaw.  While it was a disappointment at the time, now, I look back on them and love them for their reminder than nothing is perfect and it’s the flaws that make them unique.  And, I love the fact that it’s something that my family shares, part of our mythology, our tradition.

When it come to Christmas morning, itself, two memories stand out:  first, my brother, sister and I would go into the den to get our stockings, then we’d scramble back to my room to go through the candy and swap out what we liked most.  My other favorite memory is of my dad “playing Santa” and handing out the presents one by one so that each of us would take our time opening gifts and watching each other open theirs.  It made the morning stretch out and it’s something we still do today.

As an adult, I’ve enjoyed watching my neices and nephews get all excited about the holiday.  One of the things that still makes me laugh when I remember it was going to the children’s mass with my brother, sister-in-law and my two nephews about 20 years ago.  We took the long way to church so that we could look at all the Christmas lights, me and my sweet boys packed into the back seat.  They were so excited and so wound up for Christmas morning, they were about to crawl out of their skin, so my brother decided to loosen the pressure valve a bit by saying “okay everybody … on the count of three … SCREAM … one … two … three … AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH” with all five of us letting loose, followed by loads of laughter.

And it’s that memory that spurred me to post today’s last-minute Christmas recipe.  For all of you who might have little ones who woke up this morning and started counting down the minutes before they go back to sleep in anticipation of Santa or Father Christmas, this is an easy recipe that they can help you with … and maybe get their ya-yas out a bit.

Peppermint Creams

  • 1 lb powdered sugar, sifted thoroughly
  • 8-10 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • green food coloring
  • 1 1/2 bars dark chocolate (me, I like Green & Black’s)

Sift all the powdered sugar into a standing mixer and get it going on low as you add the condensed milk one tablespoon at a time.  When you have added about 6 or 7 tablespoons, add 1/2 tsp of the peppermint extract and mix, then taste to see how it’s progressing.  Keep adding the milk until it reaches a crumbly consistency (bigger than pea-sized crumbles), then turn up the power to medium and see how it starts to come together.  Taste for peppermint and add to your own taste – I don’t like mine to be Altoid-strong, so I used a total of 1 tsp, but, depending on the strength of your extract and our own personal taste, you may need less.  Add the food coloring a little at a time to get a nice, light green and beat again until it starts to come together.  Separate in half (wrapping the one you’re not working with in plastic wrap) and roll out one at a time to about 1/4″ thickness and use a mini cookie cutter to cut into shapes.  Since these are a bit rich, you really don’t want to use one that’s regular-sized as it would be a bit much, so smaller 1-1 1/2″ cutters are perfect.  Set the cut peppermint creams onto a wire rack to dry for at least an hour, then melt your chocolate on a double-boiler and dip dried the mints, letting the chocolate to cool and set.