I promise I will get back to at least occasionally posting dinner and side dish recipes, as soon as I make anything that is at all interesting. We have been having a lot of our old standbys like pasta with roasted veggies and macaroni and cheese. The main focus has been Christmas cookie baking, and before that, Thanksgiving preparations.
We first started baking our Christmas gifts when we were both working full time. We continued through the baby years when I was a stay-at-home mom. Now we are in a transition again with me working part time. Life is always an adventure, no? The system I came up with when we first started baking has stood the test of time, career changes and all.
First of all, make a plan. Figure out who you will be the lucky recipients of your cookies (or whatever baked goods suit your fancy). Then decide what you are baking. You could make several different kinds of cookies, like we do, or pick one to specialize in. Do plan for storage space and keeping qualities. Most cookies freeze well, if you have the space. Or make cookies high in butter, like Russian teacakes (sometimes known as Mexican wedding cookies) or shortbreads that will keep for several weeks in containers at room temperature. Lay in a stock of supplies from the grocery store and get ready to bake.
I like to make a couple of kinds of dough in a row, and then store them in the fridge until the next day. This works for fitting the baking into the evenings – mix one night, bake the next. It especially works if you make two batches of the same thing, or if you make something flavor-neutral (like snickerdoodles or sugar cookies) first so you don’t have to wash the bowl and beaters between batches. For example, I make snickerdoodle dough first, move that to another bowl for the fridge, and then make gingersnap dough second. You won’t “taint” your second batch with flavors from the first batch, and you save a bit of time when you mix and measure twice and wash mixer, bowl and utensils only once.
You can also make a few different kinds of dough during the week and have a baking session or two on the weekend. The upshot is to break the task down into manageable pieces. Don’t feel like you have to do all of it late at night, or at the last minute. Make it fun, so that you can truly give your food gifts with love instead of memories of frazzled times in a flour covered kitchen.
Do you give food gifts for the holidays? What are your favorite gifting recipes?