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.

UK Burger King Restaurants Will Stop Giving Plastic Toys With Kids' Meals

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Fast food companies don't have a reputation for being eco-friendly, but through small changes made in recent years, some of the biggest names in the industry are working to reduce their environmental impact. Just a few weeks after introducing the meat-free Impossible Whopper, Burger King announced a new policy for its United Kingdom locations. As CNN reports, UK restaurants will no long include plastic toys with kids' meals.

The change comes after two sisters from the UK started a petition on Change.org calling on McDonald's and Burger King to stop distributing plastic toys with kids' meals. Ella and and Caitlin McEwan, who were 9 and 7 respectively when the petition launched this summer, wrote, “children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea." They went on to say: "It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys—big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all." Their online petition has received more than 530,000 signatures.

By cutting plastic from kids' meals, Burger King estimates it will avoid wasting 350 tons of single-use plastic a year. The chain has also installed containers in its UK stores for collecting old plastic toys from customers, so the material can be recycled to make playgrounds. The UK represents just a fraction of Burger King's market, but according to the company, non-biodegradable plastic toys will be phased out of all locations by 2025.

McDonald's has had a different response to the McEwan sister's petition. Instead of doing away with plastic toys completely, UK restaurants will give customers the option to swap toys for fruit with their Happy Meals later this year, and then allow them to opt for books instead for a period in early 2020. Meanwhile, in Canada and Germany, some McDonald's restaurants are experimenting with going totally plastic-free. The more sustainable restaurants feature paper straws, waffle cone condiment cups, and burger wrappers made from grass.

[h/t CNN]

How to Make 3 Delicious Fall Cocktails

Mental Floss Video
Mental Floss Video

As the leaves start to change color, it’s time to put away the White Claw and the rosé …OK, sure, you can drink whatever you like whenever you like. But if you live in a temperate climate, part of the fun of changing seasons is falling in love with new beverages and meals that complement the weather. That’s why we asked Eamon Rockey, the Director of Beverage Studies at the Institute of Culinary Education, to craft three cocktails that are perfect for fall. 

Pumpkin Spice Flip Recipe

Ingredients:

Blended Scotch
Maple Syrup
Pumpkin Puree
One Whole Egg
Cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Add 2 ounces of blended scotch to a cocktail shaker
  2. Add 3/4 of an ounce of good maple syrup
  3. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of pumpkin puree
  4. Crack 1 egg and add to mixture
  5. Add one piece of ice and shake vigorously, to emulsify the ingredients
  6. Add ice to the top of your shaker and shake again, to chill and dilute the drink
  7. Double-strain into a cocktail glass. You want all of the volume and richness of the egg, without any solid matter or shards of ice. 
  8. Garnish with freshly grated cinnamon and serve

Four Apples a Day Recipe

Ingredients:

Calvados
Rockey’s Milk Punch
Hard Apple Cider
One Granny Smith Apple

Instructions:

  1. Add 1.5 ounces of calvados to a mixing glass
  2. Add 2 ounces of Rockey’s Milk Punch
  3. Stir with ice to chill
  4. Strain into a wine glass
  5. Top with 3 ounces of hard apple cider
  6. Garnish with fresh apple in any style you like

Old Fashioned Recipe

Ingredients:

Bourbon
Angostura Bitters
Simple Syrup

Instructions:

  1. Add 2.5 ounces of bourbon to a mixing glass
  2. Add 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  3. Add 1/2 an ounce of simple syrup (50% sugar, 50% water)
  4. Add ice and stir, to chill and dilute the drink
  5. Strain into a rocks glass containing a large cube of ice
  6. Finish with a freshly cut twist of orange peel

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