Iced Browned Butter Sugar Cookies
With nutty, caramel notes from browned butter and a fair bit of salt to balance the flavors, these cookies will become an instant favorite. You can roll out the dough right after combining all the ingredients—no chilling required. Look for pearlized sugar in gourmet markets or craft stores. Let the kids sprinkle the coarse crystals over the icing to give the cookies a sparkly, jewel-like appearance.
Fudgy Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies
When a soft, fudgy cookie meets crunchy candy cane shards, it's a match made in heaven. Don't underestimate the beauty of a simple cardboard hat box (find one at your local craft store). Add a pop of color with a bright ribbon, and tag the recipe with a handwritten greeting.
Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes
Elegant and rich, this supermoist pillow of chocolate cake gets its color and texture from the vibrant-red, naturally sweet beet. There’s nothing artificial about this dramatically hued holiday treat coated in a dense cloud of creamy white frosting. We purée the tender beet root with buttermilk and vanilla to create a luscious cream that not only adds a light, velvety texture to the cupcake but also allows us to use less sugar, oil, and butter in the batter, saving fat and hundreds of calories. You simply can’t “beet” it.
Stained Glass Window Cookies
We found that Jolly Rancher candies produced the brightest, most vibrant "stained glass." Be sure to use the original sweet candies, not the sour flavors. To crush, place each color in its own heavy-duty zip-top bag; crush with a rolling pin or meat mallet. You'll find sparkling sugar in craft or specialty stores, but you can also use turbinado sugar as a substitute.
Pretty Packaging: These cookies are sturdy and stackable once cool. Shop for a rectangular box to hold them snugly and wrap with metallic paper for a sleek, stylish gift.
Fresh Gingerbread Squares
Teff flour is a soft, almost-fluffy whole-grain flour with an intense nuttiness that makes it excellent for baking. But the beauty of fresh gingerbread is finding the perfect texture—delicate yet dense—so we add a bit of hearty whole-wheat flour to give this treat a heftier, more winter-worthy base. Stout beers adds a pleasantly earthy bitterness that complements the molasses, fresh finger, and cinnamon; any frothy leftovers will pair nicely with a still-warm baked square. If you don't have any stout on hand, simply use 1/4 cup additional buttermilk instead.
For a whimsical presentation, arrange these cookies in a lunch box lined with colorful packing paper. Use a variety of cookie cutter sizes to create "families." If you don't want to cut the dough into shapes, roll it into two logs, cover, chill, and slice into 1/8-inch rounds. Refrigerate the dough up to three days, or freeze up to one month.
While replacing the nuts in brittle with popcorn certainly removes a lot of fat, it also results in a wonderful hybrid--part caramel corn, part brittle. The brittle is crunchy and sweet, with just a hint of saltiness. Editors suggest keeping the kids out of the kitchen until the mixture has cooled and set. Once it is ready to go, let them at it!
Iced Whole-Wheat Sugar Cookies
Whole-wheat flour adds a layer of complexity to these cookies that all-purpose flour can't achieve; the wheat in the whole grain actually enhances the flavors of butter and vanilla. Unlike classic royal icing, which starts with a pound of powdered sugar, we use just 1/2 cup and thicken it with Greek yogurt. Looking for festive colors without the chemicals? Try naturally colored sparkling sugars (such as those from India Tree), which use colorants derived from plants.
Chocolate-Hazelnut Meringue Kisses
Piping cookies from a pastry bag is a lot of fun, and the work goes quickly. But kids might enjoy the no-fuss option of dropping level tablespoons of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet instead. Whichever method you choose, these kisses are ideal when enjoyed alongside a cup of hot cocoa.
Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
These chewy treats use toffee bits for a crunchy twist on the classic oatmeal cookie. After you and your little elves make a batch, cuddle up on the couch with a glass of milk and enjoy while you watch your family's favorite holiday movie.
The Quickest Holiday Dessert
This season, there's no need to stress or spend hours in the kitchen. Serve this simple sweet treat at your next party or wrap it up beautifully for your friends. The first ingredient in this dark chocolate bark (psst, it’s quinoa) gives this treat loads of crunch. It’s a whole grain, which definitely makes this sweet even sweeter.
With a double shot of chocolate and hazelnut flavors, kids and adults will rave over these filled cookies. The espresso powder is optional, but it intensifies the chocolate flavor.
Tangy Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Classic lemon squares can contain 36g sugar per piece. We put a puckery cheesecake spin on ours—cutting sugar to just 6g per bar—which allows the bright citrus to shine. One of our reviewers describes these as "surprisingly decadent." We completely agree. Consider making these the night before the big day. They only require 25 minutes of prep but need at least 3 hours to chill. Be sure to coat the pan with cooking spray so they'll easily lift out of the pan.
Ginger-Lemon Pinwheel Cookies
Creating these swirly cookies isn't as involved as it may appear. Kids will enjoy helping you roll the dough and will marvel at their scrumptious creations once they are pulled from the oven.
Frosted Pumpkin Cake
Easy and delicious, this sheet cake is a no fuss option that will be one of the first things to go on any casual holiday dessert table. No matter how messy your sous chefs are, rest-assured, the frosting is too delicious to worry about aesthetics.
Peanut Butter Pie
Mary Frances Noveh from River Ridge, Louisiana, sent us this dessert recipe, which first appeared in December 2001. She noted it was like a "peanut butter and chocolate candy bar." If your kids love candy bars—and who doesn't—then this sweet treat might be the perfect addition to your holiday dessert spread. Several tasters in our Test Kitchen enjoyed serving this pie frozen.
Peppermint Stick Hot Chocolate
Hello Dolly Bars
These bar cookies are also known as seven-layer bars. They can create a sticky mess in the pan, so it's crucial to line it with parchment paper. Because the milk needs to seep into the graham cracker crumbs, don't pack the crumbs too tightly in the bottom of the pan. Kids will enjoy helping you build the layers for these quick and easy bars.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints
A kid-favorite flavor combination comes together in these adorable preserves-filled cookies. Use your family's favorite type of jam or preserves and you will have a winning holiday cookie.
Peppermint Cheesecake Brownies
These moist bars feature the seasonal pairing of peppermint and chocolate. They're sure to be a hit with everyone—children included—at your holiday party.
Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies
This reader recipe was developed by Marcie Dixon of Arlington Heights, Illinois, who recommends using bittersweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate for these decadent cookies. "Not only does it have less sugar," she said, "but it has a deeper flavor, too." We think these cookies will be divine when stored in a beautiful tin and gifted to your children's favorite teachers.
Swedish Almond Cardamom Stars
Don't substitute marzipan for the almond paste, because it's a bit to sweet for this buttery, lightly spiced cookie. Kids will love dressing these yummy stars with icing and you will love enjoying them as a simple dessert on a busy evening.
Fig-Walnut Sticky Buns
Christmas Sugar Wafers with Vanilla Frosting
Freezing the dough before baking makes for an extra-crunchy version of these holiday staples. The simple icing is a great way for your kids to show off their decorating creativity and spread holiday cheer.
Because of the contrast between the tart cranberries and sugary coating, the flavor of this snack pops in your mouth. You might handle steeping the berries in hot sugar syrup, but after the cranberries have cooled in the refrigerator overnight, let the kids roll them in the superfine sugar. For gift-giving, package in parchment-lined tins.
Kids of all ages will delight in this traditional holiday treat. Get a head start by baking cookies up to four days ahead and storing in an airtight container. Frost one day before serving; after frosting is set, pack cookies in airtight containers between layers of wax paper.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins
Many holiday recipes are made for dinner, but these playful muffins are perfect for a breakfast or brunch. Kids will love biting into an enchantingly peanutty whole wheat muffin and finding a pocket of sweet, fruity jam hiding inside.
When baked in holiday shapes, these cookie-cake hybrids become more fun. They are good to have in the mix because decorating is simpler: Just dust with powdered sugar. Make and chill the batter up to a day ahead.
If you want to dress up the cookies, use red hot candies for buttons and currants for eyes; press those into the dough cut-outs before they're baked.
Mini Almond Cupcakes
Kids will love decorating these cute little confections. Feel free to tint the icing to a variety of festive shades.