Every holiday season for the past several years, my friend Alice and I have spent an entire day baking up a smorgasbord of holiday treats.
It started accidentally, the way many traditions do. There were a couple of new recipes we wanted to try and a few family favorites we hoped to revisit — including my mom's fudge and Alice's grandmother's oatmeal-pecan cookies — and we wondered how we'd manage to do it all.
The answer, we discovered, is together.
As I tell my kids: Many hands make light work. (I opt for this over "Too many cooks spoil the broth," because the latter doesn't exactly invite reluctant kids into the kitchen.)
So each year Alice arrives with a bag full of supplies. We pore over recipes and take requests, though my husband and daughter always say "just chocolate chip." We hit the grocery store for butter and eggs, and we watch Paula Deen to psyche up.
Then we bake. And mix, and chill, and press, and roll, and scoop, and bake some more. The kitchen smells like sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and mint, which is exactly the way I imagine heaven smells, only all the time and with a side of grilled steak.
And the kids love it.
If you're planning a kitchen marathon of your own, or if you want to try just one fun, kid-friendly recipe this year, I've got a suggestion.
Our baking day always begins on Baking Day Eve with these simple, tasty little meringues. They're called Nighty-Night Cookies because you put them into a preheated oven at bedtime, then turn the oven off, and the cookies bake overnight. Fun and magical, just like Christmas.
2 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with foil. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the pecans and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Put cookies into the preheated oven and turn off the oven, keeping the door shut. Don't open the door until the next morning. Then just try not to have one with breakfast.