6 Christmas Treats to Try & My Favorite Gingerbread Recipe

Xmas timeSo I have made some progress on my Christmas shopping…thank you internet.  I love having an idea, finding it online, typing in my address and credit card information and then sitting back waiting for it to show up at my door.  How did we ever get through the holidays without the internet?  Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t hit the mall too.  I still like to wander some of my favorite stores looking for cool stocking stuffers and gift ideas.  But online shopping sure takes some of the pressure off.

With the gift shopping seemingly under control I am beginning to think of holiday baking.  I am a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas.  I think it is fun to have traditions, especially when you take traditions you grew up with and then add your own.  One of the traditions I have with my kids is decorating sugar cookies.  Over the years this has evolved and has often included various friends and/or family members.  IMG_0987The tradition is the decorating, who is involved changes from year to year.  I have tried various sugar cookie recipes and now have a “go-to” one that I use every year (or I had a go-to recipe…I am searching frantically for it, hoping I will find it before this weekend!).  I make traditional icing from powdered sugar and butter in at least six colors.  And I have a wide array of decorations and decorating tools, some from the supermarket, some from King Arthur Flour (a favorite source) and some from Williams-Sonoma.  Let me say right 181803_10200257997322005_746518064_nnow…our cookie decorating is much more about fun than perfection ~ there are no Martha Stewart creations here.  In fact, over the years we have had some incredibly silly cookies.  And let’s just say that sometimes the word “creative,” when used to describe the results, is used very (very) loosely (the cookie to the left started off as a snowflake but one of the arms of it broke off, leaving way for the evolution of some kind of Christmas monster…hey, I didn’t make it).  But we have a lot of fun and our cookies always taste good, which is what it is all about.

In addition to our sugar cookies, I usually make a few other favorites.  In our house we love my gingerbread cookies (and they are often a part of our decorating efforts).  I am not a huge fan of molasses and some of the strong spice flavors that find themselves in the list of gingerbread ingredients.  In fact, until I tried a friend’s gingerbread when I lived in London, I didn’t think I liked gingerbread.  But her’s was different…no molasses, fresh ginger and ground ginger, along with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg…very easy dough to work with and a subtle taste.  If you didn’t think you liked gingerbread, give this one a try (thank you Meryl!).

Over the years I have tried different holiday cookies and candies…some I might make for years, others just once.  But I think it is fun to try something new with the hope that I will find that terrific recipe that will become part of my holiday tradition.  In that vein, here is a selection of some recipes that are on my short-list this year to give a try.

Turtle Cookies

Turtle Cookies_Top View 2

Not only do these sound delicious (chocolate cookie dough, nuts, caramel, chocolate…) but they look really pretty too.  And while there are multiple steps involved, they still fall into what I call a “doable” category.  It’s the holidays, a little extra effort is expected.

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Thumbprints


A version of thumbprint cookies almost always get made in my house…the recipe I use is one my mother made when I was growing up…how is that for tradition?  But I have to say that this version is not only pretty & festive, but sounds super yummy.  Might be the year to try something new.

Christmas Bark


These bark ideas are so easy.  This one adds red and green M&Ms, mint oreos, white chocolate chips and crushed peppermint.  The author has you crush candy canes in a ziploc bag…I like to buy the already crushed candy canes…much easier and you end up with nice, uniform pieces…call me lazy or call me a perfectionist…here are a couple of resources: Wilton for a small amount (6 oz) and Andes for 10 oz).

Gingerbread Christmas Trees

gingerbread cookie trees

If you want to try my gingerbread recipe but you don’t have a gingerbread man cookie cutter, why not try these Christmas trees instead?  I think they look really pretty and would be easy peasy to make ~ sometimes I don’t want to have to think too much about being creative.  Plus who doesn’t like a cookie with nonpareils on it?

Peppermint Kiss Cookies

Peppermint-Kiss-Cookies-3Because really, can you get too much peppermint at the holidays?  I think not.  And if you order that bigger bag of crushed peppermint, you can use it in this recipe too.  I love things that are easy and look pretty all at the same time.  

Salted Caramel Pretzel Pecan Bon Bons


This is another take on turtles (who doesn’t love turtles?).  I am totally making these.  Of all the recipes, this one couldn’t be simpler ~ I think the hardest part will be unwrapping all the caramels.  I have all the ingredients…I will let you know how they turn out.

What are your baking traditions?  Do you stick with the tried and true every year or do you like to experiment with something new?  What are your opinions on gingerbread?  Do you know where my sugar cookie recipe is?  🙂

Happy baking.

About Lisa Van Dore

I have lived in Sherborn, Dover and most recently North Walpole, for a total of 15 years (and counting). Having recently been through the process of selling a home and buying (and renovating) a new one, I understand the conflicting emotions of excitement and anxiety inherent in the process, whether you are a seller or buyer, whether this is your first home purchase or your tenth. I have a BA from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Indiana University. My early career found me working as a CPA, and later as the controller of Crate & Barrel. More recently I spent seven years running my own personal training business. I understand the hard work and dedication necessary to build a business and a reputation...most of my personal training clients came to me by referral and my first client was still with me when I decided to leave personal training. This speaks to the level of effort I put forth for my clients, week after week. On a more personal note, I raced triathlon for seven years and more recently completed my first half marathon. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, Maine, hiking and, in the fall, following college football...my teams are the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and Texas Christian University (Go Frogs!).
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