Doesn’t it feel like December flies by in the blink of an eye? With holiday shopping, parties, decorating, and travel, for many of us it’s the busiest time of the year. There rarely time to do everything we have planned for this busy month, but by simplifying some of our tasks we can make room for as many of our favorite activities as possible.
One of my favorite activities during the holidays is to spend time baking with my kids and making treats for our friends and neighbors. To make sure we don’t skip this cherished family activity, I like to have a few quick and easy go-to recipes so that we can enjoy our kitchen time together without dread and with plenty of time and energy left to do the other things on our holiday bucket list.
Here are some of my favorite easy homemade holiday treats that provide all the fun of baking together without a lot of fuss.
One of the easiest holiday treats to make is cookies. There are so many varieties to choose from. Sugar cookies are enjoyed by almost everyone. You can also dress them up by adding frosting or candies. Here’s a simple sugar cookie recipe:
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 3/4 cups softened butter or margarine
* 1-1/4 cups sugar
* 1 egg
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* Pinch of salt
* Green, red and yellow sugar (coloring optional)
* Red cinnamon or other small candies (optional)
Begin by mixing the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg and then add the butter and sugar, beating until creamy. Add the vanilla followed by the dry ingredients in small amounts, and stir to ensure the mixture is incorporated.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out the shapes and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle the sugar (colored or not) on top of the cookies before baking them in a 375 degree oven. These will bake for about 8 minutes.
Remove the cookies from the baking sheet and gently press the candies into the cookies while they’re still warm. Allow them to cool and then arrange them on a plate or in a box if they’re to be given as a gift.
Have you priced granola lately? It can seem so expensive to enjoy wholesome granola, but it doesn’t have to be. This recipe will make 15 cups of granola – enough for you to enjoy and share with loved ones.
* 6 cups old-fashioned oats
* 8 ounces sliced almonds
* 1 cup dried cranberries
* 1 cup chopped dried apricots
* 1 cup light-brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup honey
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients, except the butter and honey, in a large bowl. In a saucepan, heat the butter and honey over medium heat. Pour this over the granola and toss to mix thoroughly. Spread the granola on a lined baking pan and bake until the oats look toasted and the sugar caramelizes. This will take 35-40 minutes. Stir occasionally. Allow the granola to cool and then store it in an airtight container.
You can also make your own hot chocolate mix rather than buying pre-made mixes. Here’s how:
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
* 3 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso
* 1 cups sugar
* 16 3-inch cinnamon sticks
Place the ingredients, except cinnamon sticks, in a bowl and mix them well. Place the mixture in an airtight container where it can be stored for about six months.
To enjoy the cocoa, put two tablespoons of the mix into 1/4 cup water and heat it over medium heat on the stove. When it has dissolved completely, add 3/4 cup of milk and a cinnamon stick. Whisk thoroughly and enjoy!
Delicious handmade holiday treats aren’t difficult to make. If you choose to make one or more of the above treats, don’t forget to share. Isn’t that what people look forward to most at the holidays?