For the d’Arabian family, the day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season. We put up holidays lights, shop for a Christmas tree, light up the fireplace (even though it’s 70 degrees) and decorate the house. The girls celebrate with a teapot full of homemade hot cocoa (tip: stir in a spoonful of pumpkin puree for a little extra fiber and vitamins), and we start our holiday baking. Our annual Mother-Daughter Holiday Tea is usually the first week of December, which means we typically have one or two weeks to bake up the treats. And because the holidays are our favorite time to share homemade gifts with friends, neighbors and teachers, we have plenty of baking to do!
My girls, of course, want to be part of it all, and that’s the fun of it — it’s a family activity! One of the best pieces of advice I can give parents who are looking to cook more with their kids is: Plan it for when you have plenty of time. Make it a Friday night activity after an early dinner, or spend Sunday afternoon with music on and the oven humming, keeping you cozy and warm while you bake away lazily. To get the baking done in time, then, we have to start early and freeze just about everything. So whether we are cooking for neighbors’ gifts or getting a jump-start on party food, I embrace make-ahead options that can be frozen (which in baking, is just about everything).
And that leads me to my No. 1 holiday baking secret weapon: my Simple Buttermilk Scones (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine. They are quick to make, they are scalable, and they are a versatile canvas for almost any flavor profile you can imagine — add tiny chocolate chips and fresh rosemary, or orange zest and dried basil, or dried edible lavender and chopped white chocolate.