Lots of cookies!
Each year Maria and I bake cookies and give them as gifts to neighbors, coworkers and the like. People in my office ask me when I'll again bring cookies. Cookies aren't hard to make and they're genuinely appreciated. They're more personal and something unusual when "homemade" ends up meaning boxed mixes of pre-measured and combined dry ingredients or plastic tubes of slice-and-bake. Folks are busy and don't want to spend their time doing this but we enjoy it.
Maria does all the planning (naturally) and we share the work. I'm better at following the directions and some kitchen techniques- rolling pastry dough, for instance- and she's much more patient and persistent and thinks months in advance about things like what we're going to put the cookies into (if left to me, it would probably end up being ziploc bags). The thing about the cookies is that both of us tend to forget that making one batch of an involved recipe is a small challenge, easily accomplished. It's turning out two or three batches of them when making two or three batches of four other recipes that it gets difficult. It's not uncommon that we turn out eight hundred cookies in a single day so simple is obviously good.
This year we kept it simple and chose three known, tested recipes (pfeffernuesse, rugelach- three varieties of filling- and an orange almond sugar cookie), a new variation (chocolate sugar cookie rolled in crushed pistachios, same initial dough as the orange almond) and one new one (pecan caramel shortbread bars). We worked from The Joy of Cooking and the Better Homes cookie magazine. Even so, there is a lot of tasting and testing before putting together the gift boxes and by the end of it all neither of us wants sweets.
We have a galley kitchen and scaling up the cooking when the rest of the kitchen doesn't is hard. We have a counter-top mixer and a second mixing bowl which speeds the assembly. Having a double oven would easily cut the time by half or more. Having more counter space would trim it a little further. We've learned a lot over the years of cooking together. This year's lesson: caramel making doesn't scale well. We ruined a triple batch and created a half-crystallized, half-sticky mess in our favorite enameled cast iron pot. Damn, that's a pain to clean. I chipped and pried most of it away and boiled the rest off in batches. It probably was uneven heating and we succeeded with three smaller attempts. If we had a stove that put out a higher, more even heat it probably would have worked.
I took pictures of all this and I'll have to get them uploaded. Probably after the holidays.