Up at the North Pole, Santa Claus and his elves are making lists and checking them twice, making sure they have enough toys for good girls and boys. Meanwhile, what's happening in your holiday kitchen?
With school events, family gatherings and holiday festivities to attend, as well as all those gifts from your kitchen to make, you need help, just like Santa. So call in Santa's helpers. When you gather your kids in the kitchen, you're doing more than just preparing food--you're making memories.
Make holiday baking fun with kids. Put some Christmas music on, set out all the ingredients, secure a chair or stepstool for the smallest child and give everyone a chance to participate. Besides having fun, kids can learn something, too. Whether adding fractions of ingredients, following recipe instructions or showcasing their creative talents when decorating, baking can become a multi-sensory educational experience.
Start with an easy recipe like party mix that features red and white Santa shapes and semi-sweet chocolate morsels, for a fun and festive touch. Wrap up the party mix up in holiday-themed cellophane bags, and tie with a ribbon to reward a favorite teacher. Take festive cookies on a stick to school, or pass them out to hungry carolers. Create a snowball cookie dough-rolling assembly line with the kids--using all those fun Santa shapes and semi-sweet chocolate morsels. These make a delicious and fun addition to your holiday cookie repertoire. Then, bake up brownies from scratch or from a mix with Santa shapes and semi-sweet chocolate morsels stirred into the batter. Kids can frost these brownies with snowy peaks of whipped topping, then sprinkle on more shapes for decoration.
Take some photos while Santa's helpers are busy, and know that years later you'll look back and remember the fun as much as the food.
For more home-baked gifts and holiday recipes to make with your kids, visit www.VeryBestBaking.com.
Holiday Cookies on a Stick
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in 3/4 cup Shapes & Morsels. Drop dough by level 1/3 cup measure 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Shape into mounds with floured fingers; press down slightly. Insert wooden stick into side of each mound. Bake 14 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets on wire racks 3 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Spread frosting on tops of cookies. Decorate with remaining Shapes & Morsels. Makes about 12 large cookies.
Holiday Party Mix
9 cups oven-toasted corn cereal squares
Preheat oven to 250 F. Grease large roasting pan. Mix cereal, popped popcorn and peanuts in large bowl. Pour into prepared pan. Combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, without stirring, 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla extract and baking soda. Pour evenly over cereal mixture; stir to coat evenly. Bake 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely in pan, stirring frequently to break apart mixture. Stir in Shapes & Morsels and pretzels. Store in airtight container. Makes about 5 quarts.
Holiday Snowball Cookies
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
Preheat oven to 375 F. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla extract and salt in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour; stir in Shapes & Morsels and nuts. Shape level tablespoons of dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly browned. Remove from oven. Sift powdered sugar over hot cookies on baking sheets. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar, if desired. Store in airtight containers. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies.
Snow-Topped Holiday Brownie Bars
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Microwave butter in large, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) power 1 minute; stir until melted. Stir in sugar and water. Stir in eggs and vanilla extract. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Stir in 1 cup Shapes & Morsels. Spread into prepared baking pan. Bake 18 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Spread with whipped topping. Sprinkle with remaining Shapes & Morsels. Refrigerate until serving time. Cut into bars. Makes 2 dozen brownies.