My Kind of Holiday: Baking with Kids!

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What’s my kind of holiday? (You know you have those catchy ads stuck in your head, too.)  One spent baking with my kids, of course!

All of my favorite holiday memories from my childhood involve time spent around our kitchen table cutting, baking, sprinkling, and frosting Christmas cookies.  Gingerbread cookies were carefully decorated with raisins and those little silver balls that didn’t seem edible but somehow were.  The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg wafted through the air as we waited for them to cool so that we could begin phase two of decorating:  Frosting them until the actual gingerbread was no longer visible.

The sugar cookie dough was dyed red and green for extra holiday cheer, and the sprinkles added just the right amount of sparkle.  We laughed, chatted, attempted to create new and different designs (my brother was always the master of the hand-rolled candy cane cookie), and spent time together. After months of school and time spent with friends, holiday time always brought us back together again.

It’s a tradition that I just can’t live without.  In my house, the holiday season doesn’t really begin until the very first batch of cookies goes into the oven.

My kids have been baking and cooking with me since they were old enough to stand upright in the “kitchen helper”.  Time spent in the kitchen means bonding, laughing, telling stories, and creating something from nothing.  It’s a time to stand side-by-side and simply be together.  We love every minute of it.

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And the holiday cookies?  Well…it’s always nice to end up with a delicious treat.

When Target asked me to share my favorite holiday tradition, I didn’t think twice.  Every time I bake holiday cookies with my kids I experience both happy memories from my past and beautiful new memories forming in my present.  I love to watch my kids create.  I love to listen in on their little conversations and answer their questions about my holidays as a child.  I love to share my stories and listen to theirs.  Sitting around the table making Christmas cookies with my kids leaves me feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for this amazing life and family that Sean and I have created.  Small moments like these always bring me back to simplicity.  It doesn’t get any better than this.

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Due to a very long list of food allergies and my own preference, we bake everything from scratch around here.  But you don’t need to be a baker to make your own holiday memories that involve tasty treats.  In fact, Target made it easy for you this year.  With an entire aisle dedicated to holiday baking (how cute are these “Ninjabread Men“?), you can pick up baking kits and all of the baking essentials in one quick trip.

Check out these fun holiday baking kits and tools:

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I picked up the Nordic Ware Petite Holiday Cookie Cutters just for fun (I have an alarming amount of holiday cookie cutters in my home and truly didn’t need more), and I have to tell you – they are by far my favorite holiday cookie cutters (seriously, I’m known to buy expensive cookie cutters from high end cooking stores).  The shapes are great and the cookies are the perfect size.  At $9.99 for a pack of fifteen, you really can’t go wrong.

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From recipe books to baking kits to baking tools and more, Target has everything you need to create amazing memories with your little ones this holiday season.

In case you do want to bake from scratch this year, I’m sharing my super amazing sugar cookie and cookie frosting recipes below.  Happy baking!

Practical Katie’s Super Yummy Sugar Cookies

Make ahead tip:  This dough needs to chill for at least two hours, but you can also make it the night before.  Plan ahead!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Cups of butter, softened
  • 3 Cups of granulated sugar (Baker’s Sugar is kind of awesome, by the way)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 5 Cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon (completely optional, but adds a nice touch – especially around the holidays.  So does a touch of nutmeg.  Your call.)

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Stir (not beat) in flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Form into a large ball, cover, and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  6. Roll out dough on parchment paper (cover with flour, granulated sugar, or powdered sugar to avoid sticking) to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick.  ***Bonus tip:  Only use the amount of dough that you need at any given time and let the rest continue to chill.
  7. Cut shapes.
  8. Bake on parchment paper for 6-8 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool and decorate using cookie frosting (below) and approximately 10,000 sprinkles!

Vanilla Sugar Cookie Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Cup butter, softened
  • 5 Tablespoons of milk
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • Food coloring – optional (I use all natural food dyes)

Directions:

  1. Cream together the sugar and butter until smooth.
  2. Gradually mix in milk and vanilla with a hand mixer.
  3. Add food coloring, if desired.

*Note:  Apparently many people prefer to use shortening instead of butter in cookie frosting.  That’s not really my thing and I love the way this frosting sets, but don’t let me stop you if you’re a believer in shortening!  

Please share your holiday baking fun on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter using the hashtag #mykindofholiday…we’ll be watching!

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Disclosure:  Target sent me a box of baking goodies to get us in the holiday baking spirit.  As part of the Target Inner Circle, I have exclusive access to the Target brand and some promotions.  As always, the opinions contained within this post are my own.  I really did buy those Nordic Ware cookie cutters…and I just had an extra set shipped to Connecticut, where we will be spending the holidays!  Love them!

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About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and the forthcoming "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)