8 Unconventional Ways to Decorate Gingerbread Men

Andrea at Sugar Swings!
Andrea at Sugar Swings!

We often marvel at intricate and clever houses and other structures made of gingerbread, but simpler gingerbread men are also recipes for holiday success. Almost anyone can make and decorate the classically shaped cookies and they're also quite versatile. Here are a few ways people have upgraded the treat.

1. STORMTROOPERS

Sugar Swings! blogger Michelle carved out a set of Star Wars gingerbread men in the likeness of the various troopers in the series. The creations feature intricate icing that mimics the appearances of clone troopers, snow troopers, flamethrower troopers, and stormtroopers of both the First Order and the New Order. Even Captain Phasma is represented!

2. CRUMBS OF ANARCHY

For Christmas of 2013, Massachusetts-based bakery and Food Network Sugar Dome winner Cakes by Erin unveiled Crumbs of Anarchy, a collection of gingerbread men modeled after the characters on the FX drama Sons of Anarchy. The sweet replicas of Jax, Mark, Tig, and more characters even impressed a member of the show’s cast!

3. DEEP FRIED

This set of cookies from Oh, Bite it! proves that looks really aren't everything. The recipe improves on the store-bought formula by deep frying the treats and sprinkling them with powdered sugar.

4. SUPERHEROES

There's power in colorful icing. In 2011, Michelle at Sugar Swings! (who also made the stormtrooper-themed cookies) upgraded the standard shape into super hero gingerbread men and women with elaborate and vivid designs.

5. YOGA CLASS

You don’t always need detailed icing to make gingerbread men impressive. Patti Paige of Baked Ideas broke out of the mold with her gingerbread men in yoga poses. The creative cookie cutters (which you can buy here) bring Om in the form of 20 yoga poses, including tree, downward dog, wheel, and more.

6. UPSIDE DOWN

Stuck with the standard cookie cutters? Change things up by turning them upside-down. A few well-placed lines of icing, a red M&M, and two chocolate chip eyes transform each upside-down man into Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Get the recipe and instructions at She Knows.

7. FALLEN MEN

It's hard to bake gingerbread men without a few casualties— like a broken cookie limb or two. Candy Caldwell of Reykjavik, Iceland, added icing to injury, illustrating the gingerbread and their faux suffering. Caldwell submitted this picture to National Geographic and made the Photo of the Day in early 2010.

8. DAY OF THE DEAD

Andrea at Cupookie got twice as festive with her gingerbread men, merging decorations that represent two cold-weather holidays: Christmas and the Day of the Dead. A couple of years later, she followed up with a Day of the Dead gingerbread woman.

Keep Your Kitchen Clean With This Spoon Rest That Clips Straight Onto Your Pot

Amazon
Amazon

No matter how clean you keep things between meals, your organized, tidy kitchen can easily turn to chaos when it's time to start cooking. You can take steps to mitigate this, like setting up a mise en place and cleaning as you go, but some messy kitchen habits are hard to avoid. One of them is resting a dirty spoon on the counter while making stews, sauces, or anything else that requires lots of tasting and stirring as it cooks on the stove. If wiping off your spoon after each dip is an unrealistic goal, there's another way to stay neat.

The Trudeau flex pot clip, currently available on Amazon, is a spoon rest that keeps utensils raised off clean surfaces. It's made from tough stainless steel and silicone that stays cool to the touch even when attached to a pot of boiling water. The opening is big enough to hold bulky cooking tools like wooden spoons, tongs, and pasta forks. There's also a small divot for securing smaller items, like regular silverware.

Spoon in a spoon rest attached to pot.
Amazon

Strong enough to withstand temperatures of up to 482°F, the pot clip is a great tool for stovetop cooking. But even if you're not cooking with fire, the accessory can help you maintain a clean kitchen. Clip it to the side of your bowl before mixing cookie dough, or use it as a spot to hold the ladle for your punch bowl. And when you're no longer using it, you can toss it in the dishwasher for easy clean-up.

You can purchase a Trudeau flex pot clip for $8 on Amazon. If you're looking for more tools to round out your kitchen inventory, here are some affordable basics to consider.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

10 Frank Facts About Hot Dogs

StephanieFrey/iStock via Getty Images
StephanieFrey/iStock via Getty Images

Americans love a good hot dog—so much so that, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, we consume about 20 billion of them a year, which works out to about 70 hot dogs per person. In celebration of National Hot Dog Month (July) and National Hot Dog Day (July 17), here are some facts about franks to enjoy during your own summer barbecues.

1. Hot dogs have a surprisingly contentious origin.

Sausages have a history that stretches back to at least the time of Homer’s Odyssey, but the origin of the hot dog is just as tricky to pin down. There are multiple claimants to the invention of the hot dog, each with a slightly different innovation. Was the hot dog invented by the first person to shorten the name of German dachshund sausages to “hot dogs,” or the first person to put a sausage in a bread roll, or the first person to create a dedicated bun for holding a sausage? All of these creators have laid claim to the title of Hot Dog Inventor, but none have been conclusively verified.

2. Hot dogs might be sandwiches.

Hot dogs are tricky to define in another way as well, and both the general public and official organizations seem to have very strong opinions on whether hot dogs fall into the category of sandwiches or not. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says hot dogs are their own entities, but Merriam-Webster supports calling a hot dog a sandwich, based on the fact that it is just a piece of split bread with a filling.

3. Los Angelenos consume the most hot dogs per year.


iStock

While you might expect Midwestern grill-masters to buy up the most hot dogs, the actual top consumers are Los Angelenos, who purchase 34 million pounds of franks a year. And Californians also top the per capita rankings: as of 2010, San Francisco consumed the most hot dogs per person per year.

4. Regional hot dog styles add a serious punch to the basic dog.

Chicago is famous for dogs with onion, relish, pepper, pickle, tomato, mustard, and celery salt, but Coney Island-style hot dogs with chili, cheese, mustard, and onions are popular in their eponymous region and in Michigan. The South prefers slaw and chili on its hot dogs, while wrapping them in bacon and deep frying are popular in other regions.

5. Japan has invented some colorful hot dogs.

The Japanese also love their original hot dog varieties, and black hot dogs took over the Tokyo market in 2013. The bun and sausage are dyed with black charcoal ash, which apparently makes no difference to the flavor.

6. Hot dogs and baseball have a long history.

Sausages have been served at baseball games since at least the 1890s. One story says that they were first served at the ballpark by the German who owned the St. Louis Browns, while another story claims an ice cream vendor decided to switch his product on a particularly cold day at the ballpark. Either way, they're still going strong after more than 120 years.

7. Hot dogs are the headliners at America's most famous eating competition.


iStock

While legend has it that the first hot dog eating contest was held in 1916 to settle a casual bet—over who was the most patriotic, no less—the first recorded contest was in 1972. In that event, the winner ate 14 hot dogs in 12 minutes. In 2018, competitive eating legend—and now 12-time Nathan's champion Joey Chestnut—set a new event record, polishing off 74 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes.

8. Hot dogs have been fed to royalty.

In 1939, the King and Queen of Great Britain visited Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York. In true American spirit, the First Lady made sure to serve hot dogs during a picnic at their Hudson River property. Apparently, King George VI enjoyed them so much that he asked for seconds.

9. Hot dogs made Clara Bow famous.

To drum up business, the newly minted Nathan’s Famous hot dog restaurant at Coney Island hired a pretty redhead to serve its customers. Soon after, she was discovered by a vacationing talent scout, and became internationally famous as the silent film era's "It Girl," Clara Bow.

10. There is official hot dog etiquette.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council put out this video on the correct way to eat a hot dog. The whole video is worth a watch, but some highlights include: no ketchup if you're over the age of 18, no wine pairings, no utensils, and it should only take five bites to consume the entire hot dog (though you can take seven bites for a footlong). It might not be proper Emily Post material, but how can you argue with the "Queen of Wien"?

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