The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

December 14, 2011

Baking Christmas Cookies

Karen Freeman

TARBORO — Christmas will be here before you can blink. I swear it comes earlier every year! At least it seems that way. I am not the best cookie baker in the world. I don’t know why. My BFF, Debbie Bridgers, can bake any cookie, any time. I struggle and struggle and can’t get half as good a cookie as she does. It’s just not fair!

These cookie recipes are easy. They make wonderful gifts, treats or Santa snacks. I hope you enjoy them. Let me know how they turn out. You can always find me on Facebook or by email. My email is Our first few recipes are for gifts in a jar. However, you can also just bake them yourself and enjoy them during the holiday.

Our first recipe is uses cinnamon and pecans – what can be better than that. You should have all of the ingredients in the pantry with the possible exception of the almond extract. I don’t care for almond flavors, so I leave it out. It’s up to you.

The second recipe is M&M cookies. Do I even need to say any more? I totally love M&M’s! Remember to buy the red and green Christmas colors for holiday cookies and then the regular M&M’s the rest of the year.

The third recipe is also a gift in a jar recipe. It’s French Vanilla Cocoa. That is perfect for a cold winter night. You may not have all of these ingredients in the pantry but they are not expensive ingredients.

If you are doing these as gifts in a jar, remember either use pretty jars or cut a swatch of fabric to fit between the lid and the ring. Use a ribbon to tie the instruction card to the jar and you will have a beautiful gift.

Cinnamon Pecan Sugar Cookies

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup plus 3 tbsp sugar

7 tbsp butter, softened

1/4-cup skim milk

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg white

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup ground pecans*

1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine 3 Tbsp sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.  Set aside

Beat 1 cup sugar with butter until light and fluffy.  Add milk, extracts, and egg white, and beat well.

Combine flour, almonds, and salt, add to butter mixture.  Beat well to combine.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll in cinnamon sugar, and place on lightly sprayed cookie sheet.  Flatten cookies with bottom of glass.  Bake at 325° for 18 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

*Pulse pecans quickly in food processor.  Do not over process. Makes 60 cookies

Holiday M&M's Cookie Mix

1 1/4 Cups Sugar

1 1/4 Cups M&M Candies (use red and green for Christmas)

2 Cups Flour mixed with 1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda & 1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder

Layer ingredients in order given in 1-quart wide-mouth canning jar. Press each layer firmly in place before adding next ingredient.

Attach this to the jar on a recipe card or index card:

M&M's Cookies

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Empty the jar of cookie mix into a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly blend mix.


1/2-Cup (1 stick) Butter or Margarine, very soft

1 Egg, slightly beaten

1 Tsp Vanilla

Mix until completely blended. You will need to finish mixing with your hands. Shape into balls the size of walnuts, flatten. Place 2 inches apart on sprayed baking sheets.

Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.

Cool completely and store in a airtight container.

French Vanilla Cocoa Mix

10 1/2 Cups Nonfat Dry Milk

4 Cup Confectioner's Sugar

2- 8 Oz Jars of French Vanilla Flavored Nondairy Powdered Creamer

3 1/2 Cups Nestlé’s Quick

2 3/4 Cup Nondairy Powdered Creamer

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight jar. This recipe will yield approximately 8-pint size gift jars.

Attach this to the Jar:

French Vanilla Cocoa Mix

Combine 3 heaping tablespoons of cocoa mix into hot water or milk. Stir & enjoy.

Did You Know?

How to make your holiday cooking healthier.

Appetizers: Choose appetizers that help you get your "5 a day" fruits and vegetables such as fresh vegetable platters or fruit kabobs. Substitute low-fat or non-fat sour cream or yogurt for your dips.

Soups: Make cream soups using nonfat evaporated milk rather that cream. Chill soups, stews and chili and then skim solid fat off top and discard.

Salad: Salads are a great way to add fruits and vegetables into your menu. 

Choose low-fat salad dressings and mayonnaise. Add pear, orange segments or dried fruit.

Meat/Poultry/Fish: Choose plain over self-basting.  Baste with low sodium broth, wine or fruit juice, or place foil tent over as it cooks to avoid drying out. Roast on a rack to allow fat to drip into pan. Remove any skin before cooking or before eating.

Gravy/Condiments: Use a fat separator or zippered bag to recover pan juices but eliminate the fat layer. (Clip a small hole in the bottom of bag and allow only juices to flow out, discard fat layer and bag.) Freeze pan drippings so you can remove hardened fat.

Side Dishes: For mashed potatoes, use skim milk, garlic powders, a little Parmesan cheese and just a small amount of low-calorie margarine. For stuffing, use whole grain bread or wild or brown rice.

Dessert: Other dessert ideas: baked apples, fruit tarts or bread pudding. Try decreasing sugar in recipes by 1/4 to 1/3; increase sweet spices or double vanilla or almond extract or add citrus zest for more flavor.  In baking, substitute half of fat in recipe with applesauce. Try fat-free sorbet -- lemon or strawberry. When making holiday cookies, use small cookie cutters or cut bars into smaller pieces.  Top cakes with powdered sugar, cinnamon or cocoa instead of thick frosting. For pumpkin pie, use nonfat evaporated milk for filling and eliminate crust and serve soufflé' style. For fruitcake, add nontraditional fruits such as dried apricots, cherries, prunes and cranberries.