It takes a graham cracker to make a village

Make a no-bake ‘gingerbread’ house

The holiday season is all about grand, creative ideas. Like how, this year, you’re going to make fudge for your neighbors. Those boughs you trimmed from the bottom of the Christmas tree? You’ll turn them into a wreath. And maybe, you’re thinking, you’ll make gingerbread houses with the kids—from scratch.

Then reality hits. Distracted by all the holiday cards you have to mail, you burn the fudge. By the time you get to the tree branches, the needles are so brittle they fall to the floor at the slightest touch.

How will you find time to measure, mix, chill, roll, shape, bake and decorate gingerbread houses—with impatient kids?

There is a better way. It’s not as fancy, not as traditional. But your kids will love how fun it is and you will love how easy it is. And all your house guests will ooh and aah at how creative you are.

Graham cracker gingerbread house

For each house, you’ll need:

1 single-serving milk carton (rinsed)

Graham crackers

Decorations (candy, pretzels, etc.)

Icing (see recipe)

Sturdy base (cardboard or plywood)

1. Buy your supplies. Don’t skimp on the decorations. Gumdrops, M&Ms, marshmallows, you name it. Your kids will find a use for it.

2. Get organized. Cover your work surface with newspaper or wax paper and set out the candy, graham crackers and milk cartons. Cover each base with aluminum foil.

3. Make the icing. Beat 2 egg whites and add 3½ cups sifted powdered sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Add more sugar or lemon juice to get the desired consistency. Makes 2 cups. Cover with a damp cloth until ready to use. Double, triple, or quadruple this recipe depending on how many kids you have. Note: This recipe for royal icing, which comes from Joy of Cooking, acts as glue and dries rock hard. Don’t eat it. If you’re worried about using raw eggs, buy meringue powder and use the recipe on the can.

4. Start building. Attach the milk cartons to the bases with frosting. Then put the graham cracker "siding" onto the cartons with more icing. For a peaked roof, cut the crackers into triangles.

5. Decorate. Embellish your houses and their "yards" with candy and other foods. Make a thatched roof with shredded wheat. Spread frosting around the base for snow. Build a picket fence with pretzel sticks. Make evergreen trees by covering upside-down ice cream cones in frosting and green sprinkles. Turn marshmallows into snowmen. For more ideas, visit

6. Let the houses dry overnight. The frosting will harden and you can display your houses for weeks.

Lorien Menhennett

Kids Eat Chicago

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