Photo © Jason Lugo

Christmas is a brief time when childhood wishes become more than just imagination.  I love the rich religious significance of Christmas but I also enjoy the magical childlike fantasy. My adult children are still told, “Those that don’t believe, don’t receive.” Just because they grow up doesn’t mean the magic of Santa has to vanish.

Christmas traditions and family gatherings are intertwined; church services, tree trimming, Christmas Day dinners, caroling parties, gift wrapping, letters to Santa, entertaining, reading Christmas stories, and baking cookies. Because of our busy lives, these traditions and celebrations are one way to pause and nurture our relationships with family and friends.

Homemade cookies given in seasonal tins, packaged in colorful boxes, or wrapped in cellophane bags tied with holiday ribbons are some ideas to show your appreciation of those you love. Since Christmas is a time of giving, here are a few cookie recipes to share with family and friends. Just don’t forget to leave some milk and cookies for Santa.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Gingerbread Men

½ cup salted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup molasses
¼ cup water
2 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice or cinnamon

Beat butter and sugar. Add molasses and water. In a separate bowl, mix flour, soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Stir well into liquid mixture. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly flour pastry mat and roll dough to ¼ inch thickness. Using a gingerbread man cookie cutter cut out cookies and place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 10 to 12 minutes and cool. Decorate as desired.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Sugar Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Blend butter, sugar, egg, almond extract, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour, soda, and cream of tartar. Add to butter mixture. Place dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 hours.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly flour pastry mat and roll dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Bake 8 minutes on parchment paper covered baking sheet. Cool and decorate with royal icing.

Option for decorating with royal icing: before baking sprinkle cookies with turbinado sugar (natural brown sugar).

Photo © Jason Lugo

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

½ cup melted unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon soda
1 cup whole wheat flake cereal
1 cup 1 minute oats
1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together the butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla. In a separate bowl add flour, salt, baking powder, and soda. Stir to mix. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir well. Add remaining ingredients mixing well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper covered baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes and let set on cookie sheet for 1 minute. Remove to cookie rack and cool.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Caramel Brownies

1 German Chocolate Cake Mix
14 oz bag of caramels
6 oz of milk chocolate chips
Evaporated milk
1 ¼ cubes of unsalted butter, softened to liquid form

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8×8 cake pan with no-stick cooking spray. Unwrap and melt caramels with 1/3 cup evaporated milk using a double boiler. Add Cake mix, butter, and 1/2 cup evaporated milk and mix well. Press ½ of the cake batter in the bottom of the pan and bake for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle chocolate chips covering entire cake. Pour caramel on top of chocolate chips and spread to cover evenly. Top with remaining cake batter and spread to cover entire cake. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate.

Cut into 1 x 2 inch bars.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Thumbprint Cookies

¼ cup melted salted butter
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans or almonds

Red Jelly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate egg. Mix egg yolk, butter, shortening, sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix salt into flour. Stir flour into butter mixture until it forms a dough ball. Shape dough into 1 inch balls.

Beat the egg white a little and dip dough balls into egg white and roll in nuts. Place on parchment paper covered baking sheet and press thumb into the center of each cookie. Bake for 10 minutes and use a spoon to make thumbprint again if cookies rose during baking. Remove from baking sheet and fill thumbprint with jelly.

About the author

Mary Beth Sligar - Mary is a native of Idaho, married with four children. In addition to her passion for writing, she enjoys art, music, photography, and crafting. She is a freelance writer based in Twin Falls, Idaho currently working on short stories and a novel.

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Thanks for the recipes!!