in the kitchen: holiday baking pt. 1

If you followed along with my holiday madness last year, you know that I adore Christmas and this time of year. It also means that I get to go a bit wild (or more so than usual) in the kitchen, as I delight in making long lists of goodies to bake for the purpose of giving to friends and family as gifts. After I got married, I started a tradition of cookies and at least one candy-type item in the mix. This year it’s about four types of cookies and a new-to-me candy that I’m super excited to make. But more about those next week… This week I’ve been baking and preparing to decorate cookies. I’m having to start about a week before I normally do (yes, I know some people start even before now, but I tend to wait a bit!), but that’s because my holiday schedule is such that I won’t have time later.

The first cookies I made were traditional sugar cookies. I always try to do these since I have such fond memories of making them with my mom and sister each year. I remember not only how tasty they were, but how much fun I had decorating them–despite things getting a little wild with the sugar glitter and red hot candies sometimes! I think that is partly why I still like making them (aside from just loving a good sugar cookie): I get to decorate them. While I haven’t done that yet (it’s on the schedule for this weekend), I have been gathering up supplies like gel paste food coloring (which gives a deeper, richer color to icing than the commonly found liquid coloring), delicate sugar glitters and white pearl candies (both from my favorite bake shop: Bake it Pretty). I stuck with a smaller assortment of cookie cutters this year, keeping with the simple shapes that I remembered being the most fun to decorate last year. Now just to decide on what colors to mix up…

For the cookie recipe, I used the same one I baked last year. Although this year they had the homemade vanilla in them, which Sailor Husband swears makes a huge difference. He said they tasted just like the cookies he remembers getting at bakeries on Long Island, NY when he was little (and this is after trying an un-iced cookie!). So that’s a good sign! This weekend I have several other types of goodies to bake, so hopefully next week I shall have some other recipes to share.

For packaging I’m planning on using some Martha Stewart boxes I got at the craft store. I was planning on using tins, but couldn’t find any that I liked and weren’t $5 each (once again, I’m on a teeny budget for Christmas stuff this year!). So a coupon and trip to Michael’s were what sealed the deal for me with these. Plus they’re pretty cute and red and white. I’m also including hand written “menus” in each. So I guess that infuses a little bit of DIY into the mix with the premade boxes!

So the house has been smelling heavenly and the air has been full of Christmas music. Because what is holiday preparations without the appropriate tunes? I’ve been listening to a bunch of remixes on 8tracks, but would love to know: what is your favorite holiday music to get you in the spirit?

December 10, 2010 · 31 lovely thoughts
posted in holidays,in the kitchen · tags: , , ,

Miss P December 10, 2010 at 09:22

He He! I have my cookie cutters out and ready too!! Holiday music, can’t beat a bit of Bing, Mary’s Boy Child (The Boney M version) and Slade! (70′s UK Christmas classic you may or may not have heard of)! So excited. Your cookies look fab!
Miss P

wanilianna December 10, 2010 at 09:23

Super cookie recipe! Mniami!

Miss P December 10, 2010 at 09:23

Am loving the new “Link Love” feature on your comments. Thank You!
Fab idea. There’s alot of tweaking of your site going on, on the quiet!
Miss P

Casey December 12, 2010 at 08:52

Yep… there has been a lot of background work going on here! It’s definitely become my “work in progress”… hehe!

andreak December 10, 2010 at 09:25

Love Nat King Cole, Bing and anything from White Christmas!I also have a jazz piano Christmas cd that I listen to every year over and over. Cookies looky yummy and so fun.

Jill December 10, 2010 at 09:29

I’m in the exact same frame of mind right now. I am eager to try out this new candy cane meringue cookie recipe I recently discovered, as well. I just love how organized you are! Wish I could be so on point!

MsCleaver December 10, 2010 at 09:45

I’m hoping to get started on my Christmas baking this weekend – peanut brittle, peppermint fudge and amazingly delicious chocolate toffee cookies from smitten kitchen (

For me, it’s never Christmas until I pull out my Andrews Sisters Christmas album.

Casey December 12, 2010 at 08:53

Oh yum… that Smitten Kitchen recipe looks delicious! I love listening to the Andrews Sisters during Christmas too–some of my favorite Christmas tunes are the versions sung by them. ;)

♥ Casey

Renee December 10, 2010 at 09:53

Cookie baking here, too. I tried a new recipe for shortbread. It was so easy, good and fast. Recipe on my blog. I will make some raisin/oatmeal cookies dipped in white chocolate, Brownie Mounds, iced sugar cookies and one or two others. I always send my daughter home with a plate (or tin) of cookies and send some to my ex son-in-law and his family, my husband’s friend and my friend. I have to make no bake chocolate, peanut butter oatmeal cookies for my brother.

My granddaughter and I started a tradition of baking gingerbread cookies a couple years ago. A close friend sent me a set off cookie cutters that are “missing” the head on one, leg on one and arm on the other. One of her school friends will come here one day during their school break and bake cookies (I’m the only Nannie in their lives routinely) and they are already talking about how they will decorate them.:)

Music, I have a large collection of Christmas CDs and try to get at least one new one a year. My favorites are the ones by Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Alabama and one of Celtic Christmas music. I listen to aol radio a lot while I’m in the kitchen and the Winter Solstice channel is the one I’ve been listening to for weeks.

Sorry I’m so long winded today:)

Casey December 12, 2010 at 08:54

I am off to check out that shortbread recipe! I have a huge weakness for shortbread… lol.

♥ Casey

Seersucker Sally December 10, 2010 at 10:16

I like listening to that Joni Mitchell song- “I wish I had a river (to skate away on).”

My husband and I started a holiday gift baking tradition when we got married, too! Holiday granola and caramel corn have been yearly favorites. So much fun!

Amanda December 10, 2010 at 10:29

Ooo, thanks for the 8tracks mention. I hadn’t heard of that one, just Pandora. And now I have some classic Christmas tunes playing :) We like making colorful chocolate treats and a chocolate house with those plastic molds and I just stopped by Michael’s the other day to pick up a bunch of colors!

Casey December 12, 2010 at 08:55

8tracks has fast become my favorite internet music place; I kind of prefer it over the other ones I’ve used in the past. Plus I love creating playlists too… ;)

♥ Casey

Victoria / Justice Pirate December 10, 2010 at 10:31

goodness!!! You should go into business. I’d order cookies from you. haha.

Jill/laughbutnotloudly December 10, 2010 at 10:49

I love listening to Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and Nat King Cole at Christmas! I also adore classical Christmas music, like Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent, Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, The Wexford Carol, and all the standard hymns. I’m not a fan of the modern pop versions, except for that awesome Bare Naked Ladies/Sara McClaughlin version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” I think that horrendous Faith Hill song and that Christmas Shoe atrocity should be banned from the radio!

ann December 10, 2010 at 11:12

ugh! you’re making it hard to stick to my resolution to never, never make sugar cookies again! (I decided this at Halloween, when it took me hours to decorate a bunch of ghosts and bats.)

As for music, I always have the classics: Bingo, Mel Torme, Burl Ives. But you know what really brings back memories, and just wouldn’t be Christmas without it? – Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass:

Mary December 10, 2010 at 11:46

Christmas music is my favourite. I usually start listening in October, and All Saint Day, because my husband lets me play it without headphone then! I love the classics, Elvis’ Christ,as album is one of my favourites. But lately I’ve been mixing in more eclectic groups such as TransSiberian Orchestra, Manhiem Steamroller, and my current favourite, Straight No Chaser. Their Christmas Can-Can and version of the 12 Days of Christmas make me smile if not laugh out loud every time I hear them!

April December 10, 2010 at 15:13

You might check for cookie tins at your local dollar store next year. Mine has some really cute ones this year!

I love my Pandora Mannheim Steamroller station for Christmas music…I mostly get nice, instrumental Christmas music with just enough Josh Groban tossed in for a bonus. :-)

Casey December 12, 2010 at 08:56

Darn… I always forget to check the dollar store for things like that! lol. No matter.. the Martha Stewart boxes at least coordinate a bit with the rest of my wrapping… (Yes, I’m a bit of a details freak. rofl.)

♥ Casey

Sherry December 10, 2010 at 15:36

I just love baking Christmas cookies too! Love the smell it sends throughout the house, and I love cookie cutters – I’ve been collecting them over the years and have lots now. Your packaging looks lovely – what lucky friends and relations you have!

Tilly December 10, 2010 at 17:31

Ooh lovely! What a delightful assortment of goodies. Will you send me a box?! Hehe. I’ve made biscotti this year and am also tempted to make lebkuchen. As for tunes, Elvis Christmas album is a goodie, as is the Phil Spector Christmas album.

Casey December 12, 2010 at 08:57

I was going to make lubkuchen… and am determined to next year! Biscotti is also one of those things I’m really thinking I should make too; not only are there a lot of people who like it, but I know it stores and ships well… Which is good when I have to mail goodies to people!

♥ Casey

Eileen December 10, 2010 at 18:57

My favorite Christmas tunes are vintage (go figure) I’ve got Benny Goodman and his vocalists, Nat King Cole, and Mitch Miller and the Gang!

I need to get baking too, but after today’s Christmas shopping flurry I haven’t the energy!

Marmielu December 10, 2010 at 19:30

Oh my goodness! I can’t wait!!!
This reminds me I must get Pop’s LP’s out, and play them. Your sister and I have been listening to a lot of Sufjan Stevens, but a nice dose of traditional would be good.

Elizabeth VP December 10, 2010 at 21:26

Gotta be Bing. I’ve got my mom’s old Bing Crosby “Merry Christmas” album, and my husband gave me a CD of his Christmas music several years ago. I found one of those Crosley-style retro record/CD players at a resale shop for a ridiculously low price the other day, so I’ve had fun digging out all the LPs I rescued when my mom was going to throw them out years ago. The first one I played was a compilation called “Christmas In California” with an Ansel Adams photo on the front. It was actually a gift from Bank of America back in the days when banks used to give you a gift for opening an account with them. Today, it’s just been a Glenn Miller CD. 40′s music just seems to go with the holidays, somehow.
The funniest thing was one of our cats trying to figure out why music was coming from this box in the living room.

Casey December 12, 2010 at 08:59

Oh I know–somehow that big band sound is so appropriate this time of year! (Although I listen to 40s music pretty much year round… ;) hehe!) I’d say that probably 50-75% of my Christmas music is from that 30s-50s era…

♥ Casey

Lucy December 10, 2010 at 22:28

I’m starting my cookie baking tonight. I always put on christmas music while I bake. Like everyone else I love Nat King Cole but it seriously wouldn’t be Christmas without Elvis. Being a HUGE Elvis fan, I ADORE his christmas album and play it all the time.

Michelle December 10, 2010 at 23:11

I have that same breadbox, but in yellow. I like the red one better, though.

jennine December 12, 2010 at 12:59

that’s my favorite part of the year! making the coookies! well… one of them. last year i made them with my niece, and didn’t realize i swear when i bake. woops.

Genevieve Rose December 12, 2010 at 17:28

My favorite Christmas music is, in my opinion, ;) the ONLY Christmas music to listen to: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, The Andrews Sisters, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, and all of singers/musicians of that time period. Honestly, Casey, I think the modern Christmas music and the re-mixes and new ‘renditions’ are absolutely awful! I suffer through them at work, where they are sprinkled un-feelingly between beautiful Bing and consoling Dean. :)

Kate December 13, 2010 at 20:18

You have such lovely penmanship, Casey.

I’ve been using the Pandora online radio to play “Nat King Cole (Holiday)” a whole bunch! It rotates through a pretty good selection, though the random song or two that floats in has to be thumbed-down for ridiculousness.

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