The Nice List: 12 Sweet Holiday Desserts

When I graduated from college back in 2007 and moved to Orlando to enter the so-called “real world,” I was eager to establish my own place on the map. To me that meant starting a professional writing career, being able to live by myself and, eventually, creating my own holiday traditions. And so my annual day of holiday baking was born.

That’s right, every year I dedicate an entire day (typically a few days or the weekend before Christmas) to whipping up an assortment of sweet treats for the holidays. I’ve had my mom and sisters join me in the kitchen some years, while my husband always volunteers to be — as he likes to call it — the “cookie test-taster.”

Some of these recipes I’ve made year after year because they are requested by my family members (peanut butter kiss cookies for my sister Kirsten, blondies for my hubby), while others I’ve added more recently (peppermint bark, brownie pudding puddles). But rest assured I always make my absolute favorite Christmas treat: white chocolate cranberry cookies.

Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful holiday season!


1white chocolate cranberry

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

½ cup butter softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth and then beat in egg. Combine flour and baking soda in a small bowl, stir into sugar mixture. Fold in chocolate chips and cranberries. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.

 2peanut butter kisses cookiesPeanut Butter Kiss Cookies

1 cup white sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
18 milk chocolate kisses

Combine sugar, peanut butter and egg in a large bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes.

Take the cookies out of the oven and press one chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie. Place in fridge to set.

 3peppermint barkPeppermint Bark
Serves about 2 pounds of candy

Crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
2 pounds white chocolate

Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into ¼-inch chunks or smaller. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Combine candy cane chunks with chocolate. Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the fridge for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle).

 4mexican wedding cookiesMexican Wedding Cookies
Yields about 4 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans or almonds, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
¼ cup granulated sugar
1.4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Additional powdered sugar (approximately ¾ cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour, pecans, cinnamon and salt; mix well and set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat on low speed just until dry ingredients are incorporated.

Drop dough by spoonful, 1 inch apart, onto flat baking sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes or until cookies are set but not brown. Remove cookies to cooling rack; cool 5 minutes. While cookies are still warm, roll in additional powdered sugar to coat. Cool completely.

 5blondie browniesBlondies
Yields 18 squares

1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1 ½ cups butterscotch, semisweet chocolate, peanut butter or white chocolate chips (I use a mixture of peanut butter and white chocolate chips.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.

Put the sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small skillet or in the microwave in a glass measuring cup. Stir the butter into the sugar until smooth, cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Beat the eggs and vanilla into the sugar mixture. Add the flour mixture a bit at a time and mix until a smooth thick batter forms. Fold in the chips, as desired. Spoon the batter onto the prepared dish and spread to evenly fill the dish. Bake until the blondies are light brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Invert onto a rack and cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.


1 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup butter
1 ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ cup flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

Line two cookie sheets with waxed paper. Beat peanut butter, butter and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar and flour until blended. Form a ball using one rounded teaspoon of mixture, approximately 1-inch ball. Place on cookie sheets and refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour).

When balls are firm, melt semi-sweet chocolate chips. Spear balls with toothpick and dip into chocolate. Only cover 2/3 of ball so it looks like a real buckeye nut. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until chocolate is firm.

 7puppy chowPuppy Chow

6 cups Crispix cereal
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup butter
12 ounces chocolate chips
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt peanut butter, butter and chocolate chips together in microwave or on the stove. Stir into cereal. Put powdered sugar in a large paper grocery bag. Put cereal mixture into bag and shake until well coated.


2 (12-ounce) packages semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (12-ounce) package butterscotch chips
1 large can Chow Mein noodles
Spanish peanuts, marshmallows, cashews, etc.

Melt all the chips together in a large pan over low heat, stirring constantly. Add noodles and stir to coat. Add whatever else you may desire, stirring to coat. Place on wax paper by spoonful and cool until set.

 9m&m cookiesM&M Cookies

1 ½ cups brown sugar
¾ cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup M&M’s
½ cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix brown sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs in large bowl until well blended. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by tablespoons onto lightly greased pan. Press 3 or 4 additional M&M candies in each cookie. Bake in oven 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly brown.

 PECAN_SQUARESChewy Pecan Pie Bars
Makes about 2 dozen

¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups brown sugar, packed
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped pecans
Confectioners’ sugar

Pour melted butter into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan; set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla, baking soda and salt; mix well. Stir in pecans. Spread over melted butter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven; immediately dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cool before cutting.

 11gingerbread menGingerbread People
Makes 30 2 ½-inch cookies

1/3 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ cups dark molasses
2/3 cup cold water
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoon water

Mix shortening, sugar and molasses thoroughly. Stir in water. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, allspice, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Mix dry ingredients into wet and chill mixture for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough to ¼-inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut with gingerbread boy or girl cutter. Place about 3 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Wait until cookies are cool to ice or decorate.

To make icing, mix confectioners’ sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Add water, a couple drops at a time, until mixture is spreadable. Add food coloring to tint.

 12browniepuddingpuddlesBrownie Pudding Puddles
Makes 24 brownie bites

¾ cup chocolate wafer crumbs (from about 15 wafers)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease one 24-cup mini muffin tin or two 12-cup mini muffin tins with butter, oil or cooking spray.

To make the crust: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients until they form an evenly moist, crumbly mixture. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin cups (about 1 ½ teaspoons per cup) and, using the back of a spoon or a shot glass, press the cookie crumb mixture firmly into each well. Bake until the crust is set and fragrant, 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the filling: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth and combined. Add the chocolate-butter mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour just until combined. Fold in the vanilla and chocolate chips.

Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of the batter into each muffin cup. Bake until the brownies are set around the edges but nice and gooey in the center, 11 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan.

Using a small spatula or paring knife, carefully remove the brownies from the pan and enjoy them with a tall glass of cold milk or eggnog.


One thought on “The Nice List: 12 Sweet Holiday Desserts

  1. Pingback: Holly Jolly: Christmas Brunch Recipes | Order Envy

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