By Joy Howard | Photographs by Dominic Perri
When my family moved to Northampton two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that our new street had an annual holiday tradition. Just days before Christmas, each neighbor arrived at our door bearing a gift—mostly homemade goodies, and all quite delicious. There was a jar of honey one had harvested from his backyard hives, a bottle of boozy raspberry syrup, cookies, chocolates, and more.
That same season I’d been struggling to find the time to get in the kitchen with my two youngest girls and do some baking. The chance to reciprocate my neighbors’ generosity was the perfect opportunity. I’d recently (and reluctantly) inherited an enormous bag of powdered sugar left over from a fundraising dinner I’d cooked for, so we spent an afternoon making dozens upon dozens of Mexican wedding cookies. The result was a sugar-coated kitchen, two happy little gift wrappers, even happier neighbors and friends, and a workable solution should we ever end up with another seven-pound bag of sweetener.
It wasn’t the first time the girls and I made edible holiday gifts, and it certainly won’t be the last. As our family has grown in size, so too has the annual ritual—with more tiny hands to help prepare and package each batch of homemade goodness for an ever-expanding list of recipients. We’ve rolled box after box of truffles, baked cutout cookies by the plateful (including a year when my oldest insisted they all be shaped like pigs), and made endless loaves of blueberry-banana quick bread. Right alongside all the sifting, stirring, and rolling, we’ve also created a kitchen full of memories and hopefully—for my girls especially—a sense of accomplishment and goodwill.
Each recipe included here keeps young helpers in mind and offers plenty of opportunity for them to lend a hand. They also make enough for sharing. So bag them up, give them to loved ones or holiday visitors, or simply treat yourself to a memorable adventure in the kitchen you can savor both right away, and in the years to come.