7 Tips to Get Your Kitchen Ready for Baking Cookies (and How to Send Them Overseas!)

Mmm… cookies. I’m not going to lie—I’m a dessert junkie. And the Holidays are the best time for someone like me. Every party and get-together features pies, cakes, dessert rolls and…Christmas cookies. (Is there anything better?) Last Christmas, my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas together—and that meant that I was faced with baking Christmas cookies for the first time, states away from my mom.

It doesn’t matter if you’re baking Christmas cookies for the first time or fortieth, it’s always an undertaking and there are always ways to make it a little more hassle-free.

Use these ideas to put a little more joy in your celebration (and remove a little bit of the mess and frustration)!
Do a Little Cleaning
Ugh, I know–cleaning. For me, it’s a necessary evil that I begrudgingly take on. However, I’ve found that cleaning the kitchen before a huge project makes life easier in the long run. I disinfect and wipe down the kitchen counters (and yes, I remove everything on the counters while I’m doing that), put away anything that has been misplaced or belongs elsewhere and take inventory of the ingredients I know I’ll need. Nothing is more frustrating starting to bake and discovering there’s only a tablespoon of flour left in the whole house.
Streamline the Process
If you’re anything like me, you probably start out your holiday baking with grand visions of mounds of cookies to give away as gifts and to take to parties. And then reality sets in—so many different recipes! So many ingredients! So many dishes to wash! So little time!  This year, I’m cutting down the list of cookies my husband and I make. We’re limiting it to only a few kinds—and if I need a lot of them for gifts and social events, I’ll just double the batches. It’s a small change, but one that will make me less crazy once we start our marathon baking session.
Freeze the Dough
My mom is a brilliant woman. And she is the most efficient human being I know. I honestly don’t know how she does everything. But I do know how she always makes sure that she can make Christmas cookies, no matter what her schedule is. In late summer or early fall, she makes all of the dough for Christmas cookies, wraps each batch in plastic wrap, and then places each doughy disc in the freezer. When the time comes, she defrosts the dough and makes the cookies. This is perfect for stable doughs—think sugar, peanut butter, and chocolate chip cookies. The taste won’t change—no one will be able to tell that you saved yourself a ton of time. It’s too late to do that for this season, but keep this tip in your back pocket for next year.
Clear Your Table and Set Up Your Workspace
Easy, right? Still, it’s so easy to not disturb the status quo and try to work around the stuff on your table—the flower vase, or homework, or whatever else is there. Resist that temptation! Clear everything away and set up your workspace. Everything should be out and ready to go before you bake in a manner that makes sense to you—ingredients, recipes, tools, materials, you name it—so you’re ready to spend time baking without fumbling around. And don’t forget—have enough containers at the ready to store all of your cookies once they’ve cooled.
Create a Child-Friendly Environment
If you have children, incorporate them in the festivities! There really are baking tasks that children at every level of development can do. If you have children (and really, even if you don’t), invest in a small turntable. Place items that will be used on it—colored sugars, decorations, and a bin of cookie cutters. It’s easier for kids to swing the turntable back and forth rather than passing around containers of things—and there’s less opportunity to knock over containers if they’re easily accessible. 
Deck the Halls with Christmas Cards
Get your holiday cards off of your kitchen surfaces (isn’t that ALWAYS where they pile up?) and hang or move them. Have a mantel? Group your cards and display them there. If you’re like me, with a mantel-less apartment and little room, grab some wide ribbon and adhesive Velcro. Measure your ribbon so that it can wrap vertically around a kitchen cabinet door and attach to itself. Secure the Velcro to the ends of the ribbon, wrap the ribbon around the cabinet door, and use small clothespins or craft clips to hang Christmas cards on the ribbon.  Voila—they’re off your kitchen counter, still displayed, and an ever-changing piece of holiday décor.
Shipping Overseas
For many of us, holiday baking this year is bittersweet—someone we love is deployed or on an assignment to a remote location and they’re not with us to celebrate. However, you can still ship them a little bit of home and a lot of cheer. While my husband was deployed, I experimented with sending baked goods and found two ways that ensured he received them intact.  No matter which way you choose (or if you have your own go-to method), make sure that you pack and send cookies that are hardy, firm and have a long shelf-life.
Vacuum Sealer
I invested in a food vacuum sealer at the beginning of John’s deployment. To save and store cookies using this method, spread one layer of cookies across the side of a vacuum bag and pulse the air out of it. You want to make sure that as much air is out of the bag as possible, but don’t go overboard—you can crush the cookies or mangle them pretty badly. Really, vacuum sealers are a lot more powerful than they might seem!
Cereal Boxes
Using a large, gallon zipper bag, lay one side on the table and stack cookies in groups of three or four inside the bag until it is full but can still be zipped. Lay an empty cereal box on its side and place the bag of cookies in it. I can usually get two gallon bags of cookies in one cereal box—it’ll be snug, but you won’t have to fill it with any packaging! Make sure that you close the box when it is full, tape the closure and place it on its side in the care package.


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