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Fun holiday entertaining ideas for kids, including Christmas cookie recipes!

Fun holiday entertaining ideas for kids, including Christmas cookie recipes!

Every year I try to come up with exciting holiday entertaining ideas and, in the process, also explore Christmas cookie recipes (after all, who can ever have enough of those?). This past year I wanted to put extra focus on the kids and I think this was one of the most memorable holiday entertaining ideas I've had-- I'm tempted to recreate it this year, it was so much fun!

Truly the best part of the Christmas holiday, in my opinion, is the magic you see in children's faces-- as they dream of Santa coming down their chimneys, as they gaze at sprinkling holiday lights, the fun they have making and gobbling Christmas cookies, the joy of doing holiday cetera. In trying to come up with great party ideas for kids during this busy and happy time, my desire was to combine all of the above things, capturing kids' imaginations, giving them opportunities to do some baking and crafting, and giving them a fun chance to share all of these things with their friends. The end result? A Christmas cookie exchange and crafting party!

In planning this party, the first thing I had to do was find a few delicious Christmas cookie recipes (and for those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you know I love to throw in the occasional recipe here and there). As a complete sugar addict myself (especially when it comes to cookies!), this was a task I knew I would relish. And although I try to limit how much sugar my daughters consume, I decided that "taste-testing" cookie recipes while helping me bake would be a super fun activity for all three of us.

And so after some trial and error, we settled on our three favorite Christmas cookie recipe choices, which I think offer a nice range of tastes-- Molasses-Spice Cookies, Classic Decorated Sugar Cookies, and Gooey Cinnamon Squares. With this list, we cover the ginger-spice flavor profile, the fun-to-decorate sugar cookies, and the yumminess and slightly different texture of a cookie bar. 

Equally fun for the kids was to be the crafting aspect of the party! One of the best entertaining ideas for children is allowing them to be creative, collaborate with friends, and use their hands. So I set them all up at long tables, side-by-side as well as across from each other, and gave them all the supplies to make their own Christmas snowman ornaments. In preparation for the party, I had gone to Michael's Craft Store and simply bought a whole selection of crafty things: different-colored felt, beads, other shiny round pieces, little "pom poms," pipe cleaners, white paint, glue, gold string, and large-sized tongue-depressors.

My daughters and I pre-painted the tongue-depressors with white paint and let them dry for twenty-four hours prior to the party so that they would be ready for each child to get one. And I elected to do the (mighty labor intensive) task of cutting out little felt hats, scarves, and triangular noses so that the kids could make their snowman ornaments. At party time, I gave each child one of the painted tongue-depressors and gave them some simple guidelines: using any of the felt "accessories" and beads/pom poms/round shiny things, make a snowman! The kids had an absolute blast creating these memorable little guys and gals to hang from their Christmas trees for years to come (we wrote their names and the date with sharpies on the back of each ornament).

And so, between the cookie exchange (each kid, AKA "mom," was to bring one type of cookie to pass and share with all) and the fun Christmas ornament craft, a great time was had by all! It was such a fun, festive way to get the kids (and adults) together, eat some yummy treats, and have a blast getting creative. And when each child left, he or she had a bag containing a selection of cookies from the party (I made a "you may only consume three cookies at the party" rule), a special ornament that he or she made, and many warm memories to take into the year to come. Yay for holiday entertaining, even when it's a ton of work! As much energy as it took to put the whole thing together, I just may do it again this year. When it comes to seeing joy on the kiddos' faces, it's all worth it.

Molasses-Spice Cookies from the Cooks Illustrated Best Recipe Cookbook

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground allspice

12 T unsalted butter, softened (one and 1/2 stick)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling cookies

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsulphured molasses

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together in a medium bowl. Set aside

2) With an electric mixer, cream butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup gran sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

3) Add egg, vanilla, and molasses. Beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides.

4) Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined.

5) Place remaining 1/3 cup gran sugar in a shallow bowl. Working with 2 T dough at a time, roll dough into small balls. Roll balls in sugar and place them on ungreased baking sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.

6) Bake, reversing the positions of the cookie sheets halfway through baking, until outer edges begin to set and centers are soft and puffy, 11-13 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets for 2-3 minutes before transferring to cooling racks. 

The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies from All Recipes (recipe by Jill Saunders)

1 1/2 cups butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

5 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1) In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

2) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough on a floured surface 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter (obviously, Christmas-themed shapes make the most sense at this time!). Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

3) Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely on racks before decorating (we used the squeezable frosting from the store in order to achieve the nice thin lines you see in the above pictures, along with Christmas-themed sprinkles).

Gooey Cinnamon Squares from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Cookie base: 

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup whole milk

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

Gooey layer:

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup whole milk

1 T vanilla extract

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup all-purpose flour


2 T sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with parchment paper with a 2-inch overhang.

To make the cookie base:

2) In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Using a hand-held mixer or in the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and creamy.

3) Add the add, mixing until combined. Add the flour mixture in two additions, alternating with the milk, and mix until just combined. Spread the mixture at the bottom of the pan (on the parchment paper).

To make the gooey layer:

4) In a small bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, milk, and vanilla. With the mixer, beat the butter and sugar in at medium speed until pale and creamy.

5) Add the egg, mixing until combined, then add the salt. Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Spread the batter over the cookie base in the baking dish. 

To make the topping: 

6) In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar to make the topping. Sprinkle evenly over the batter. Bake until top is golden brown, 25-30 minutes. The gooey layer won't set until the bars are cooled fully, so hold off on cutting into squares. 



Dec 27, 2016 • Posted by Victoria Binkiewicz

I never make Christmas cookies but these sound delicious! I’ve got to make New Year’s ones now!!! My nephews would love to make those ornaments though! I’ve got to try them.

Dec 23, 2016 • Posted by Vicki Hernandez

Mmmmmm, how I love cookies! Even though my boys are all grown, I still make cookies for Santa and leave them on a plate they made AGES ago!

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