The Great Cookie Exchange

Who doesn’t like Christmas cookies? (If you don’t, then you’re definitely not going to like this post.) One of my favourite things to do around this time of year is to give out baked goodies to everyone I know. Years and years ago I even used to do annual cookie exchanges with my friends.

You’ve done one of those before, right? Each party guest is assigned the task of bringing enough cookies for each party guest to take home (half to one dozen is a good amount) so everyone ends up with a variety of treats to serve at Christmas time. (That is, if they can last until then.)

Here’s some of what I learned from my past experiences:

  • Do try and circulate a list to get a sense of what everyone is bringing so you don’t get any repeats.
  • Don’t micromanage what every single person is going to make. The fun of it is having something unique from everyone, based on their background, their family traditions and their own personal preferences.
  • Do make sure you double-check for any dietary restrictions or allergies.
  • But if you do end up making a recipe someone can’t eat, don’t forget to bring them an alternative instead. (Like the gluten-free biscotti I made for my friend Andi here.)
  • Do pre-package your cookies for each guest to make life easier for you, your guests, and to protect against any contamination.
  • Don’t overdo it. No one likes a show-off at a cookie exchange (unless you’re showing off how many cookies you can eat).
  • Do make sure to bring along a copy of the recipe just in case any one wants to try it out for themselves. (The only exception is if it’s a super-top secret family recipe.)
  • Don’t take it personally if someone declines your cookies! It’s probably got more to do with their personal tastes than it does your baking.

As for baking inspiration? Well around this blog, we’ve got plenty. In my last post I talked about all the Christmas cookies that I usually make every year, but the recipes found here and here are also great to make as take-alongs. I even participated in an online cookie exchange once. I’ve also been amassing a list of recipes that I’d like to try here on Pinterest.

What are you making for Christmas this year? Are you and your friends holding a cookie exchange? Let us know all the details by commenting below or emailing me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com

And hey, I realize I am not the only baking blogger on the blog. If you’ve got some great recipes you’re sharing on your blog for Christmas (or any other holiday) leave a comment below with the name of your blog and the link to your favourite recipe.

Can’t wait to see what you guys have been baking!

Holiday celebrations can be fun, but only if you can ensure that things go smoothly. While there are never any guarantees when it comes to social gatherings, there are still plenty of ways to get your holiday game on. Click here to read more of them, or click here or here to read about some of the other best practices I’ve been trying to put into my place in my life.

Do you have any tips on how to survive the holidays? Save us by commenting below or email your suggestions to keepingbusyb@gmail.com

Ready, Set, Celebrate!

Now that Halloween has passed we’ve all inevitably started talking about the holiday season. (Here in Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving a little earlier, so there’s really nothing else to look forward to during the month of November.)

This is the time of year when everyone’s schedules start filling up with celebrations and social events. Unfortunately, each of those events come with its own set of tasks that make people start feeling frantic instead of festive. There’s just so much to do. A friend of mine put it very eloquently: “I love Christmas, but there’s just so much s@&! to do!”

Planning is kind of my thing, so I often share how I organize my holidays on the blog: here’s how I get a head start on Christmas cards, how I plan my gift shopping and my Boxing Day strategy. If you really have the drive to plan far ahead, you may find this post on cleaning up after the holidays useful.

For the past couple of years I’ve carried out the Swedish tradition of baking seven different cookies at Christmas time. Here’s what’s been in my arsenal so far: Traditional Swedish Gingersnaps, Maple Butter Cookies, Jam Slices, Vanilla Horns, Rugulahs, Orange Crunch Cookies, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, Midnight Mints, Butterscotch Confetti, Date Pecan Bars, Chocolate Roll, Pineapple Log, Marshmallow Roll, Butterscotch Bars etc. (Stay tuned- in the month of December I’ve got seven brand new cookie recipes for you I think you’re going to love.)

I love writing about the holidays and all the kindness it brings out in people, but I realize for some there can be a dark side of the season. A couple of years back I had a very difficult Christmas so I channeled that energy into writing a blog post about being alone during the holidays– and how you’re really not alone if you feel that way. (You may also want to check out this post if you’re feeling down.)

And if that isn’t enough holiday goodies for y’all then you’re in for a treat- for the next six weeks or so I’ll be sharing more of my favourite holiday recipes, some fantastic Christmas gift ideas and some of my secrets for staying sane during this busy time of year.

Don’t worry if even reading this post is giving you the shakes; this holiday season, we’re all in this together!

Holiday celebrations can be fun, but only if you can ensure that things go smoothly. While there are never any guarantees when it comes to social gatherings, there are still plenty of ways to get your holiday game on. Click here to read more of them, or click here or here to read about some of the other best practices I’ve been trying to put into my place in my life.

Do you have any tips on how to survive the holidays? Save us by commenting below or email your suggestions to keepingbusyb@gmail.com

Baking with B: Classic Rice Pudding with Fresh Raspberries

If any of you follow me and the saga of my porch garden on Instagram you’ll know that I have a couple of raspberry plants that over the summer have produced the occasional fruit. (To be honest, I didn’t have high expectations to begin with so I was happy I got any berries at all.)

Well, wouldn’t you know, mere days before October arrives, these little plants decide to wake up and grow raspberries like there’s no tomorrow. They’re pretty teensy and tart, but there’s a fresh crop coming out each day. However, I still didn’t have quite enough to bake with so I had to rack my brain to figure out what I could do with them.

Enter rice pudding: one of the greatest desserts to make when you have practically nothing in your pantry and you’re craving something sweet. It’s creamy with a hint of vanilla and it’s the perfect delivery method for sweet-tart raspberries (although really, I think any fruit will do).

Oh, and did I mention it’s actually pretty easy to make? See what I mean for yourself…

Classic Rice Pudding with Fresh Raspberries (makes approx. 4 servings)

(loosely based on the recipe found here)

3/4 c. uncooked white rice (short or medium grain is best)

2 c. milk

2 tbsp vanilla custard powder

1/3 c. white sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp butter

raspberries, to taste (or fruit of your choice)

Note: I used vanilla custard powder in this recipe because it gave me such a rich, creamy vanilla flavor. The original recipe suggests adding 1/2 tsp vanilla extract at the very end, which is perhaps a little more traditional than my method.

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 c. of water to boil. Add rice and let simmer on low, covered for approximately 20 minutes.

Whisk custard powder in with milk until dissolved. In a separate saucepan, bring 1 1/2 c. of milk to a slow boil, stirring occasionally to prevent scalding. Add in cooked rice and sugar, stirring to combine. Let simmer on low for 15-20 minutes until texture becomes quite thick.

B’s Tip: I suggest adding the sugar last to your mixture because I added it first while the milk is still heating up. That’s ok, too, but if you’re not watching it (and I wasn’t) the sugar will end up caramelizing and burning at the bottom of your pan, making it hotter than you really want it to be. On the bright side, I ended up with all these really delicious flakes of burnt sugar scattered throughout my pudding. It was a lemons-into-lemonade kind of situation.

Stir in remaining 1/2 c. milk (you may want to give it a slight whisk beforehand) and beaten egg. Stir to combine and let cook for two minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Let pudding sit for 10 minutes before serving. Scatter with raspberries (or fruit of your choice.

Rice pudding can be served hot or cold, but I prefer it slightly warm because that’s when the texture feels just right. (So creamy! So vanilla-y!) If you’re not a fan of rice pudding because all you’ve had is the gelatinous, cold stuff from the grocery store, I ask you to try this recipe and reconsider. It may have a reputation as a dessert for the elderly, but I think you’ll find it’s actually delicious for all ages.

Happy baking!

B

Baking with B appears (usually) every other Monday on the Keeping Busy with B Blog. Find out why I like baking so much here. For more of my baking, click here. And for even more recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest full of food eye candy that will have you licking your computer. Promise.