Crazy Chistmastime Crunch

Like many people, in the run-up to the holidays (whichever holidays you celebrate), things tend to get beyond-hectic, for me, nearing the brink of insanity. I try not to put too much weight on what I’ve planned and go with the flow so we all will enjoy these festive times, but sometimes that’s really tough. With two kiddos, now old enough to get excited about different aspects of Christmas, I feel a little more pressure to provide a parceled out build-up to Christmas and some kind of organized main event (especially as we’re having guests, albeit just my parents, but still, I want everyone to enjoy their Christmas).

This year, I feel we’ve done quite well, balancing festive precursors to build up excitement for Christmas day with relatively low stress. We did our annual Santa Train event at the Durham Life and Science Museum early in December. The kids met Santa, spotted Rudolph flying through the woods, and got their faces painted. We also went to Meadow Lights in Benson, NC for the first time this year (while there, we were oblivious to how lucky we were; upon leaving and driving past three miles of stopped traffic trying to enter the parking lot, we were so very thankful we were not stuck in the line with the two munchkins in the backseat). We’ve peppered the evenings with Christmas movies, coloring pages, and crafts.

But, this last week before Christmas is feeling rather overloaded with “to dos” …as well as a lack of preschool coverage, being as today was the last day… not a fortuitous mix.  That said, there is already a spiral cut ham in the fridge and homemade cookie dough, ready to bake, in the freezer.  So I just have to keep in mind that it will all be just fine, even if I don’t get the kitchen hospital clean, or the last of the decorations up, or if I don’t make it to the ABC store (although I will make it to the ABC store!).

And that cookie dough in the freezer? They’re my favorite cookies! I highly recommend frozen cookie dough. It helps immensely with holiday craziness, since you can make and store the cookie dough several weeks in advance, but still have fresh baked cookies on any given day. My favorite cookies are these chocolate cookies from Ina Garten, except I use Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips in place of the white chocolate chips.

Two years ago, I was very pregnant with my son and I found out about how easy it was to freeze cookie dough.  In the run up to Christmas, I chose a Saturday well in advance to prepare a few dozen cookies so I’d have things ready for Christmas (we were hosting my parents). I followed the recipes and doubled and tripled a few of them, thinking I’d have 5 or 6 dozen cookies… except most of the recipes made quite a few more cookies than they claimed (maybe other people make bigger individual cookies than I do?)… 11.5 dozen cookies later, I was exhausted and my freezer was overflowing. We ate cookies for months. I have since chosen to make (much more reasonable) single-batches of cookies.

To make pretty much any drop-style cookie (chocolate chip, monster cookies, etc.) ahead of time, prepare the dough as you normally would. Then, using a cookie scoop (these are definitely worth the investment), simply scoop out equal portioned cookie dough balls onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. No need to space them out, since they’ll be going into the freezer, not the oven. After about 30 mins, the dough will be frozen enough to transfer into freezer bags. I like to label the bags with the cookie type, oven temp, and time to bake (simply add a few minutes, two to four, to the regular bake time and you can bake the dough from frozen!). Of course, go for it and bake a small batch as a reward right then and there… you know, to make sure they taste good.

I’m looking forward to baking off some of those cookies on Christmas Eve. Mmmmm. And the best part is the effort level is about zilch: preheat oven, move dough balls to cookie sheet, place in oven, consume.  All the convenience of store-bought, but so much tastier. Wishing you and yours all the joy you can fit into your heart… and some tasty treats for your tummy.

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