Christmas Cookies and Mini-breads for Our Baseball Family

Baking dates: December 21, 22, and 23, 2017

Each year at Christmas, I bake goodies for our Summer rec baseball family and deliver them on Christmas Eve. Six of the players have gone on to play with elite teams, but we still see them for high school games. And some of them we see at football and basketball during the rest of the year.

These are the people who welcomed us into the community when we first moved here in 2004. They are the people I have spent many weeknights and weekends with as our boys practiced, played games and competed in tournaments. I have watched their sons grow into fine young men.

This year, there were 24 families with 110 family members to personalize cookies for. In addition, I make mini breads. Some are from scratch – snickerdoodlebanana and sour cream chocolate. Some are from a box mix gingerbread, pumpkin, and cranberry.

I use three vacation days prior to Christmas Eve to do all my baking for my baseball family (and my aunts and uncles who we visit on Christmas day). My kitchen typically looks like this for about 4 days:


Cookies – I make the cookies first, since the royal icing takes a while to dry. The cookies are a chocolate sugar cookie. This recipe makes a lot of cut outs, depending on how large your cookie cutter is. This is one batch – it’s a thick cookie batter and clumps around the paddle with lots more still in the bowl:


I made two batches this year. In the past, I have made Santa hats, and stockings, so this year I went with a long fancy plaque cookie cutter and a square plaque cookie cutter. Here they are:


This year, I tried pre-made cookie icing in white, red, green and blue. It worked fine, however once you snip off the tip for the icing, that’s the size that flows out, and you have less control over the squeeze than you do with an icing bag and tip. So I decided to make the opening medium size for the general decorating and made a small batch of royal icing in white, red and green so I could pipe on names using a #1 tip. Baker’s note: this royal icing recipe called for a flavored extract. For a larger batch recipe, I add 1 tablespoon of almond extract in place of one of the tablespoons of water. I find that royal icing with an extract flavor tastes much better than with only water.

Here are the cookies halfway decorated  – there are very few that are exactly the same:


And here are all the personalized cookies, by family (presented in slideshow format):

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Breads: for the pumpkin, I typically add milk chocolate chips on top before I bake the loaves. But this year, I emptied the one bag of milk chocolate chips I had into a batch of snickerdoodle bread and stirred once before realizing my mistake.

Baking Fail

Because of that mistake, I sprinkled white chocolate chips on the pumpkin bread. But those chips don’t hold up as well (they melt much more than the milk chocolate), so the loaves were not as pretty. I also used the white chocolate chips in the chocolate bread, instead of the chocolate chips. Because the chips were mixed into the batter and not sprinkled on top, they fared much better. (Baker’s note: a friend dropped off all the baking supplies she didn’t use this year because she got the flu and wasn’t able to bake. I think there were 4 bags of white chips!).

For the cranberry and gingerbread, I drizzled the leftover white royal icing (from the personalization of the cookies) on top.

Here are some of the banana breads. The bigger loaves are for some of the larger families. IMG_0964

And when it comes to baking mini-breads, I break out the big gun:IMG_0966

Here is the entire final production of baked goods:


Another element I put in the bags is Christmas-themed chocolate candy minis. There is one baseball player with allergies to many ingredients in my baked goods, so I get candies like Sour Patch kids, nerds and Twizzlers for his family’s bag.


For goodie delivery, this year I used plain white bags lined with a sheet of tissue paper, with the Christmas card for the family attached to the outside. I line the bags up for packaging in the order they will be delivered, with the last families we will visit in the front.


Then, I transfer the bags to the back of my car in the reverse order, with the first families we will visit in the front.


Then, my son Alex and I go about our business of delivering the goodies to the families on Christmas Eve. If people aren’t home, we have plastic grocery bags to place the goodies in (that pile of grey and white underneath all the paper bags). If they aren’t home, I text them to let them know we’ve made the delivery.

Everyone is so appreciative (presented in slide show format):

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I hope you were able to share a bit of the holiday spirit with family and friends.


A Very Special Snow Globe Cookie

Baking date: December 22, 2017

Two years ago, two different friends who have never met posted the exact same tutorial for how to decorate the snow globe cookie to my Facebook page.

I purchased a snow globe cookie cutter and had plans to make the cookie in 2016. But that holiday, I ended up suffering a bulging disc and didn’t get to do the amount of baking I was hoping to.

So this year, I busted out that cookie cutter and was determined to replicate the cookie. One thing I did differently was make the gingerbread man out of light cocoa candy melts. In hind sight, the royal icing would have been a better choice. The candy melts start to set quickly…more quickly than royal icing does. I found it difficult to shape and smooth the gingerbread man once I had piped the shape and filling onto the wax paper.

The base cookie was a chocolate sugar cookie. The cookie cutter was perfect and unlike the inspiration cookie, there were no parts to cut specially and push together:


Here’s the cookie through the first stages of decoration:


And here’s the finished product:


This was a very special cookie and it was going to be part of a package for the family of a dear friend of ours who passed away after a massive heart attack in November. He was a coach to my son in both baseball and basketball for many years. He was also an organ donor, whose liver and kidneys are now helping others.

Like the scene in the snow globe, I remember our dear friend…a sweet, kind soul…suspended in time and living on in a unique way.


Our son Alex and his coach Steve


RIP Steve.

Christmas Goodies for Co-Workers

Baking date: December 17, 2017

Each year, I make goodie bags for my immediate team (6 individuals, including my supervisor). In addition, I make a variety of cookies (small cut outs of gingerbread and sugar) to share with the people on my floor.

This year, the base cookie was a gingerbread cookie. I decorated one for each team member with their name, and then filled the boxes with some mini-breads, other generically decorated gingerbread and sugar cookies and a $10 Starbucks gift card.

Here are the personalized cookies, along with some of the generically decorated cookies, mini-breads and gingersnaps:


Here are more of the sugar and gingerbread cookies:


Here’s the assembly line of cookies and boxed treats for my team:


As one person commented: “Thoughtful, personal, and edible – I like it! Great job.”


JV Football Sugar Cookies and M&M Cookies

Baking date: November 1, 2017

This year, my son was moved up to the high school varsity football squad in his sophomore year. It was very exciting for him, but meant a considerable shift in my photography hobby.

I have been taking pictures of him for more than 7 years on the sidelines of all of his sporting events – baseball, football and basketball. The varsity team already has a photographer mom on the sidelines whose son is also a sophomore. So I was watching him from a new vantage point – the stands.

Because many of the boys he had played with for years were still on the JV team, I decided to show up to those Wednesday night games and take pictures. I was able to take care of my photography fix, and share the photos with the football families.

For the last game of the season, I decided to make goodie bags for all the players and coaches, and share the extra cookies with family and fans in attendance.

I made the base cookie dough for big, fat chewy chocolate chip cookies. Instead of chips, I added 1 cup of royal blue and 1 cup of gold M&Ms, since the school colors are royal blue and gold. I also saw these in the grocery store, so I made 3 batches. There’s no shame in my game when it comes to fantastic shortcuts for weeknight baking:


I then stuffed cookies in treat bags and put football and gold star stickers on the packages, with a gold tie. IMG_0762IMG_0763

Each coach and player received a treat bag. For the parents and fans in attendance, I had left over cookies that one of the moms helped me to hand out.


Congrats to the Walkersville JV Lions on a great season, 6-2. And thanks for letting me be there to capture the action!


The JV Lions players and coaches have a tradition of kneeling before their game, hands on one another, led by a player in prayer. That shadow you see in the lower left corner is me taking their picture.

College Freshman Care Packages

Editor’s note: It’s been awhile since I have posted. The Fall is always super busy with football for my kids, work projects and the start of the holiday season. Thanks for your patience as I try and catch up on sharing a bunch of baking I’ve been doing since September.

Baking date: September 4, 2017

Every year for the past 4 or so, I have been making cookies to send off to my friends’ kids as they leave for college. This year was no different. There were 5 kids who got care packages this year. They were big brothers of some of my oldest son’s friends, and others are my community friends’ kids.

Packages went to Frostburg University (MD), McDaniel College (MD), Shepherd University (WV), and Wake Forest University (NC). The inserts were simple enough – loaves of Snickerdoodle bread and pumpkin bread, as well as chocolate chip cookies. I sent them via 2-day delivery — please don’t tell the USPS I check the box that affirms there are no perishables in the package!

I had no bubble wrap this year, so to secure the baked goods in place, I added crumpled up plastic grocery bags. Oh yes, and I included this picture…

Clark Griswold

with this handwritten message…

Handwritten note

The best part is seeing the reaction/getting the thank yous…

Like this email, from one of the kids (a big brother of my son’s friend Nick) who shared his package with his roommate:

Joe TY

And this Facebook post (from the big brother of my son’s friends Matt and James):

Josh TY

And this text I got from my friend Kelley (recipient is the big brother of yet another of my son’s friends, Owen):

Ethan TY

And then there was the kid who returned home for a varsity football game and  delivered these to me in the stands while I was watching my kid play:

Noah TY

There’s nothing better than the feeling of community. And making the good young people you know feel loved and happy.

So, what are the ways you could pay it forward for others?

Get Well Soon Eyeball Cake

Baking date: August 6, 2017

My friend Rebecca’s fiance had cataract surgery recently. Since I’ve been itching to get back into my baking rhythm after Achilles surgery, I jumped on the opportunity to make him a get well cake.

It was a simple enough recipe of one bowl chocolate cake and a dark chocolate canned frosting. The not so simple part? Adding eyeballs to the cake.

I used a technique I had seen for a Halloween cake. You twist/separate (carefully!) Oreo cookies so that the cream filling is all on one side. It’s not as easy as you would think. Then, place a Junior Mint in the center of the white cream.

I added eyebrows with some buttercream icing. With the remaining dark chocolate frosting, I added bursts along the border. In the center of the bursts, I added a white sugar pearls.

Here’s a side view…


And here’s the top view:


You can also make the eyeballs with mini-Oreos and M&M’s, if you’d like to add more pairs of eyes or have the eyes be smaller in size. I did that for the Monster eyeball cake I made for a friend who was going through some tough medical issues one year around Halloween.

Here’s to a quick recovery, Gary!

Get Well Soon Chocolate Lasagna

Baking date: April 29, 2017

Friends we met through baseball years ago have a daughter who I made Sweet Sixteen cupcakes for last year, a son the same age as our oldest who hit the first grand slam on the travel baseball team, and a youngest son who played baseball with our youngest, before our youngest moved on to lacrosse.

The youngest had to have emergency surgery in April, so a get well treat was in order. After checking with his mom to make sure their were no doctor-ordered dietary restrictions, I opted for a chocolate lasagna.

I used some of the leftover chocolate buttercream frosting from a peanut butter cake I had made the previous week to pipe on the get well message and a border around the top edge.

Here’s the finished product:


And here’s the sweet note I received from him after dropping the dessert off and sending his mom some pictures of him from the basketball team this season to help cheer him up.


Get well soon, Andrew!