Once I learned how simple it can be to make homemade treats from scratch you won’t find any boxed mixes in my house. Everything from the cake batter to the frosting is made with whole ingredients and the results are more delicious and decadent. There’s some trial and error when working on recipes for the first time, but nothing beats biting into a lemon bar you made from scratch, even when your whole arm hurts from zesting and juicing ALL the lemons.
Even though I’ve dabbled with challenging desserts like macarons and chocolate mousse, my go-to recipes are easy and accessible to any baker, no matter your skillset. If you can turn the oven on to 350 degrees, you can make these recipes.
Here are my 10 favorite treats recipes for any occasion during the holidays:
Nut Lovers Classic: Peanut Butter Blossoms
Everybody loves these cookies and you can experiment with different chocolate toppings. I like the classic Hershey’s Kiss.
Nostalgic and Almost-Forgotten Treat: Cherry Bing Bars
I was introduced to these by my mother-in-law. It was her family’s go-to and it took us a long time to find this recipe because it just has fallen to the wayside, but it’s time to bring it back. Cherry chips + marshmallows + chocolate + peanut butter = gooey and delicious treat.
Hanging on to Summer: Lime Coconut Cookies
Sometimes you just need a lighter treat that tastes fresh and packs a little punch!
Chocolate Lovers Paradise: Chocolate Crinkles
My husband’s favorite. They taste almost like brownies but in cookie form and covered in powdered sugar.
Low Carb and oh so good!: Almond Macaroons
You definitely don’t need to be on a diet to enjoy these. They are just that good and the right amount of sweetness.
Give me all the mint!: Peppermint Shortbread Cookies
Winter is not winter without some mint in our lives. If you love mint, check these out!
A Puerto Rican Classic: Mantecaditos
Our version of thumbprint cookies. We typically make them with almond extract and top them with colorful sprinkles or guava paste. Make them bite-size and eat them by the bunch!
Spicy Holidays: Gingerbread Men (and Women, Bells, Snowflakes, Whatever!)
A classic that’s always fun to decorate. Make them super simple and fancy or go crazy with toppings and designs.
I just want dessert: Pecan Tassies
Can’t decide between a dessert or a cookie? This one’s a classic that everyone will enjoy. Plus, it’s perfect for those “can I just have half a slice?” people.
Nut-Free Classic: Snickerdoodles
Simple ingredients, yet so much goodness in this cookie. A party could always use more sugar and cinnamon!
Baking is a great way to bond and spend time with family! Consider these activities to get everyone involved:
- Kids love helping in the kitchen. My toddler loves mixing batter (and getting flour all over the kitchen), decorating (and eating) with icing and sprinkles.
- Each family member takes turns choosing the recipe of the week.
- Try at least a new-to-your-family recipe during the holidays.
- Have a baking day and share the goods with the neighbors.
- Have a baking competition! Invite friends or family to judge the creations.
- Make some cookies for Santa! He can’t eat a whole dozen, so might as well have some yourself!
My top baking tips:
- Use parchment paper for cookies. It’ll make cleanup a breeze and no scraping or sticking.
- Set the timer for a minute less (if it’s a rapid 15 min or less bake) or 5 minutes less (for longer bake times) to ensure you don’t overcook items. Check the baked goods then and adjust the remainder of the baking time. All ovens vary, so it’s nice to see how yours compares to the recipe’s cooking time. Desserts are usually soft straight out of the oven and harden as they cool.
- Off-brand ingredients are fine, but do splurge on higher-quality ingredients for the main event (ie get high-quality chocolate morsels for chocolate chip cookies)
- Read the recipe twice before starting and watch out for those sneaky “cool for 2 hours” or “room temperature butter” instructions.
- No need for fancy cooling racks. Newspaper, parchment or brown craft paper work just fine to cool your treats.
- Most cookies can be frozen to be used at a later time.
My challenge to you: don’t be afraid to experiment and embrace the sweet side of the season!
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