It's been busy here in Tasteland. We've been baking, tasting and talking. 

Our 9th-annual holiday cookie contest is well underway. The sort took place last Friday: We carefully read each entry (thanks to everyone who sent a recipe, we really appreciate it) and eventually whittled a towering pile of recipes into 19 possibilities. Then a bunch of us here at Strib Central spent the weekend in the kitchen. 

After going through what felt like a supermarket's worth of eggs, flour, sugar, chocolate, almond paste, walnuts, ginger, lemon, cinnamon, pistachios, nutmeg, cream cheese, sour cream, puff pastry, apricots and powdered sugar, we gathered in a conference room this morning and, armed with skim and 2 percent milk, started nibbling. And assessing. And a little bit of arguing (some of the cookies we sampled are pictured above).

Despite the collective sugar rush, it was fairly easy to reach a consensus. Yep, we've got a terrific winner, and four fantastic finalists. Now we're headed back into the test kitchen, where we will refine the recipes before adding them to our previous eight years of highly bake-able holiday cookies. 

We're sharing the results with Taste readers on Dec. 1st. That's only about six weeks away, but if you can't stand the wait, here's a suggestion: Pass the time by baking last year's winner, Pistachio-Orange Cookies, by Scott Rohr of Minneapolis. You can find the recipe here.