I think sometimes, as parents, we feel we have to fill up the time we have with our kids doing stuff. And by stuff, I mean events that involve spending money or having tickets and making reservations, or requiring special footwear, or long car rides. It almost seems expected that when families spend time together, there is an understanding that it means going somewhere and doing something. Which, isn’t a bad thing. At. All. But there is a lot to be said about just being together as a family and, well, being. Sounds existential, but it’s not. It’s much less intellectual than that. We spend a lot of time together as a family just sort of living life. My daughter will help my husband with little outdoor projects like washing the car or fixing something in the garage. Or she’ll be with me, helping me feed the chickens, or separate laundry, or make beds. It’s not glamorous, but we enjoy the time together, and I don’t think we’re depriving her. In fact, I’d venture as far as to say, we’re helping her grow. Now, it’s not like we never go out and do those big events and take long car rides to get there, but we also make sure to get a lot of real time, too, just doing normal daily stuff together, even when it’s a Saturday, and we could be free to go somewhere and do something.
I’m pretty lucky because daughter still thinks I’m pretty great (which, if you don’t have a small admirer, you really must get one: it does wonders for the self-esteem to be told you’re beautiful, even when you just caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and are quite aware of the absurdity of the compliment). And because she finds me interesting or whatever, she spends a lot of time being a part of my day-to-day real life. A large part of that time is spent in the kitchen. I am a firm believer of having kids learn to cook and prepare food. Not just the tasty parts of licking batter off the spoons or snacking on runaway chocolate chips, but the nitty gritty of balanced diets, of the importance of using what we have, and of being thankful for what is placed in front of us. So, we cook a lot, eat a lot, and smell a lot of different herbs and spices together. She’s like a culinary sponge and remembers small little factoids I tell her that I barely remember myself. And I love every second of it.
During the holidays, we step up our weekly cookie game, by adding cookie cutters and icing. I love to watch her little hands manipulate the cookie cutters like a pro and the crinkle of her eyebrows as she works methodically to ice and deorate each cookie with care. It is in those moments of real life, where there is no camera between us and no rush to be anywhere in particular, that I feel those close, pure bonds like warm sunshine wrapping around us. And I want to hold my breath and not blink because I know that all too soon the last cookie will be iced and decorated and she’ll be ready to wash her hands and dash off to whatever four-year-old whim grabs ahold of her. The beauty of those moments though is that I know I can create them all over again. All it takes is my mixing bowl and my daughter’s smile.
My girl loves her Gingerbread Men cookies deep and fragrant and cinnamon-y. I increased the amount of ginger and cloves to give it a real warm gingerbread kick. They’re delicious: crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle. I hope you like them as much as we do!
Gingerbread Men Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 ¼ cups flour
1/2 cup flour reserved**
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cloves, ground
1 tsp ginger, ground
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
**because humidity levels and the weather can play a role in the amount of flour necessary, with this particular recipe, I try to keep aside some reserved flour to ensure that the dough will be easy to roll out and cut.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Add molasses and egg and mix until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the 2 ¼ cups flour (leaving the reserved ½ cup of flour until later), salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, then add to the creamed butter and mix. Dump out onto lightly floured surface. At this point, if the dough is still sticky, add in the reserved flour ¼ cup at a time by kneading, until the dough is smooth and silky. Knead quickly into a flattened ball, cover with plastic wrap, or floured tea towel, and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Remove dough from fridge and place, unwrapped on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out to about ¼ inch thickness. Cut out with cookie cutters, then place cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly coloured and slightly firm. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, before removing. Transfer to cookie racks to cool completely.
Once cooled, ice and decorate.
Yeilds: 3 dozen