Healthy Holiday Kids' Treats
Molasses Crinkle Cookies
These soft, chewy, beautifully spiced gingerbread cookies look like they just took a romp in fresh snow—a holiday look that saves you the trouble of having to ice each one. A dual coat of granulated and powdered sugar will help the slightly sticky dough balls hold their shape and get that crinkled texture.
Three kinds of ginger define this zippy cookie, which cookbook author and culinary instructor Andrea Nguyen has been baking and tweaking since the mid-1990s from Barbara Tropp’s China Moon Cookbook. For good results, have the butter at moderate room temperature (64°F to 68°F), not melting in the wrapper. If you don’t have crystallized ginger, they’ll still be tasty.
Salted Caramel Apple Pie
A quick homemade caramel sauce that’s folded into fresh apple slices and baked in a whole-grain crust takes this classic holiday pie to the next level. A hint of salt in the sauce intensifies the apple flavor and balances the sweetness. Apples contain a natural thickener called pectin; grating some of the fruit will ensure a gooey, cohesive mixture once baked. Crisp, sweet Fuji apples bake beautifully and will contrast the salty caramel. You can also use Cripps Pink or Honeycrisp apples.
This nuanced, modern take on a holiday favorite calls on you to think outside the box when it comes to style and decoration – but tastes even more amazing than you would remember.
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 ginger, 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.
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.
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.
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.