It started several years ago when we realized we seldom got to see our friends and their kids, what with sports, activities and all. The solution: a holiday cookie party, in which the kids got to decorate and create with abandon while the adults got to catch up. It has become an annual event that the kids ask their parents about weeks ahead: When's the cookie party?
If you're hoping to grab the attention of a kid (or her parents) in the holiday crush, a cookie party's your ticket. Here's what to do.
The keys to success:
Be organized, and have something to engage the kids at all times.
Make just two kinds of cookies; kids will provide the variety as they decorate. We make a roll-out sugar cookie and a gingerbread.
It's all about the kids; theirs is the joy of sprinkling way too much green sanding sugar all over the gingerbread men. So let them do it the way they want.
The kids cut out cookies.
While those cookies bake, kids decorate cookies you baked in advance.
When those are done, the just-baked cookies are ready to decorate.
Bake cutout cookies in a variety of shapes, five or six per kid. Leave them undecorated; store in airtight containers. Can be made well ahead and frozen.
The day before, roll out one piece of cookie dough per child, about the size of a cookie sheet, on waxed paper. Stack on a cookie sheet to stay flat; wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate.
Cut sheets of parchment paper to fit your cookie sheets.
Cover the table(s) with butcher paper (try uline.com) or plastic tablecloths, something to withstand the royal icing.
Put a variety of cutters down the middle of the table so kids can choose what they like.
Put decorations in spice jars with shaker lids or in small bowls. Tuck them away until the kids are done with the cookie-cutting.
Put out lots of small, food-safe paintbrushes. You will need a few per color of icing so that no one has to wait for the red while Erin paints Santa's big belly.
Designate counter space to re-roll scraps; get older kids to help or a patient, speedy, adult.
Make royal icing about two hours before the party. Divide the icing into small, sealable plastic containers. Dye with food coloring or paste, making two of each color you will offer. Make sure you have plenty of white icing too. Cover with plastic wrap down to the surface; you don't want the icing to set. Chill.
Heat the oven to cookie-baking temperature.
Transfer each sheet of dough to a sheet of the pre-cut parchment. (The waxed paper will be wet and tear easily.) Place one in front of each child; let them go to town with cutters. Have parents help the younger ones. (This is fun for the adults too.) Write each kid's name in pencil on the parchment paper.
Slide the parchment onto cookie sheets; bake, in batches. Put platters of the pre-baked cookies on the table for kids to decorate.
After cookies that the kids cut out are baked, the kids decorate those.
Don't worry about the mess. Icing will be everywhere, caked on brushes, smeared on the shaker jars. Sprinkles too. It all cleans up easily.
Keep an eye on the oven or designate someone to do so. You'll be busy. Kids don't understand mistakes happen. They just know you burned their cookies.
Today is Sunday, April 20, the 110th day of 2014. There are 255 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: The attention of contractors is called to proposals for building a magazine. The building is to be erected on the south side of the island, above the railroad, nearly opposite Sinnit's ice houses. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Ladies patent leather tip shoes were selling for $3 at the M & K store, and men's spring overcoats were advertised at $7.50. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Fred Feuchter, of Davenport, was elected president of the Tri-City Post Office Clerks club, and Joe Goldsmith, of Rock Island, was named secretary treasurer. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Mass vaccination of more than 1,600 employed of the Rock Island Arsenal has been ordered by Col. Norman Ramsey after a 13-year-old daughter of the Arsenal manager became ill with smallpox. 1964 -- 50 years ago: The 1964 Scout-O-Rama of the Sac-Fox Council of Boy Scouts closed a two-day session last evening at the Rock Island Armory with 5,000 paid attendance. 1989 -- 25 years ago: "From the horse and buggy days ... to this" said Mercer County Sheriff Marvin Thirtyacre, waving his hand to indicate the sheriff's department facilities at the new $1.5 million Mercer County Jail in Aledo.