Is there anything better than a plate full of freshly baked Christmas cookies? Any other time of the year cookies are, at best, good. But Christmas cookies? You can’t beat those if you tried. If you don’t like Christmas cookies, then I’m sorry my friend, but there’s little hope for you. One of my favorite memories is gathering around the table, blasting Christmas music, and decorating my mother’s melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies. They may have not looked pretty when I was done decorating, but they were still the tastiest cookie you’d ever try.
Now that I’m grown and married, with a home of my own, I’ve started thinking about Christmas traditions and events that I’d like to start. I can’t imagine anything better than a house full of people baking and decorating cookies. I started thinking through ideas for those cookies. What if we used cookies to be a blessing to others? What if we used simple Christmas cookies to show God’s love and practice the hospitality we were commanded to practice? What if hospitality isn’t necessarily about opening my home, but taking love to those who cannot come to my home?
I’m going to share with you 3 ways to turn your Christmas cookie bake-off into a beautiful hospitality opportunity to show a bit of Christ’s love to others during the busy holiday season. I will also be sharing 3 recipes below; a holiday cookie recipe, a no-bake treat recipe, and a holiday bread recipe.
1.) Bake Christmas cookies for your neighbors.
What better way to get to know your neighbors, and show them some holiday love, than taking them a basket of fresh Christmas cookies that they didn’t have to purchase or bake. Consider a variety box with cookies like sugar, chocolate chip, mint chip, rice crispy treats, thumbprint cookies, and no bake treats. There are so many varieties that can be chosen from and combined. I would recommend a half dozen per person living in the home. If you don’t know for sure, then 2 dozen would be a good guess. You can find cute Holiday tins at Hobby Lobby or Target to package them.
2.) Bake Christmas cookies for shut-ins.
Talk to a pastor in your church and see if you can get a list of shut-ins. Those who can’t make it out of their homes for the Holidays would feel so loved knowing that there were people thinking about them. If they’re shut in due to illness, they likely don’t feel well enough to bake for themselves. You can bake and deliver baskets or tins of Christmas goodies and a Christmas card, or get a group together and deliver multiple Christmas cards. Maybe sing a Carol or two while delivering your sweets and bring a smile to their face. The holiday season can be so lonely for those unable to get out to see family and friends. If there is something we can do to brighten their Christmas, then we should. This shows just how important taking hospitality outside your home can be.
3.) Bake Christmas cookies for those who have to work on Christmas.
Some of us take for granted the fact that we have Christmas off. But there are those who must work on Christmas to keep you and your families taken care of. Think about the police officers, fire departments, EMS team, hospital staff, fuel station attendants, military personnel, and so many others who are working and away from their families so you can be with yours. We can’t possibly reach them all, but wouldn’t it be nice to gather with friends and take a section around where you live. (*Check with your local police station and military bases regarding what is allowed to be brought in) Bake some tins, or baskets, full of cookies, breads, and other sweets and drop by on Christmas Day with a carol, or just a smile and thank them for working. It will mean the world to them. As a nurse who has worked Holidays, I know how encouraging it is for someone to acknowledge you and wish you a Merry Christmas.
You may be trying to talk yourself out of this right now using the excuse that you can’t bake good cookies. Guess what. Me neither. I can cook fairly well and I love to bake, but my cookies are nothing to write home about. However, I do make good breads and scones. And anyone can put together a no-bake treat. If you find yourself unable to produce any edible treats, check out some local bakeries for Christmas specials. Remember, it’s not about impressing someone with your skills. It’s about blessing them with your heart. The treats don’t matter as much as the heart behind delivering them. Don’t be ashamed if you have to use boxed mixes, frozen dough, or even ready-baked goods. When you deliver those goodies, you don’t need to apologize for the fact that they’re not homemade. Don’t lie about it either, but there’s no need to make a fuss and stumble over an explanation as to why they’re not homemade from scratch with every bit of Taste of Home lover you could muster.
Below are the three recipes I promised in the beginning of this post. There is one for cookies, one for bread, and one for a no bake truffle treat. I hope you enjoy them and that you are able to get together for a bake-off this holiday season.
Cranberry Bliss Bread
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Vanilla Icing Ingredients
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted
*Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare a 9″ loaf pan with butter.
*Sift together dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
*Using a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
*Add eggs one at a time, mixing until combined
*Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk to your bowl with butter mixture.
*Stir dried cranberries and white chocolate chips into your batter.
*Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.
*Allow to cool completely before removing bread from pan then transfer loaf to a wire rack, placing a cookie sheet underneath it to catch icing drippings.
To Make the Vanilla Icing:
*In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk until well combined.
*Pour icing over the cranberry bliss bread and allow to dry for at least 30 minutes, then top with chopped cranberries and white chocolate drizzle.
*Allow all toppings to set before slicing.
Chocolate Cherry Cookies
1 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) butter, softened at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 (12 oz.) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (10 oz.) jar Maraschino cherries (drained and chopped into pieces)
*Preheat oven to 350°.
*Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
*In a large mixing bowl, add the sugar, butter, egg, and almond extract. With an electric mixer, cream until light and fluffy.
*Add the flour and salt and mix until just combined.
*Add the chocolate chips and stir until well distributed. Gently fold in the chopped cherries.
*Chill cookie dough for 30 minutes.
*Roll dough into 2 inch balls (the cookies will not expand much in the oven) and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes or until light brown.
*Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
No Bake Oreo Peppermint Truffles
1/2 cup finely chopped peppermint candy canes, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened
36 Oreo Cookies, finely crushed (any flavor, but original work best)
4 pkg. (4 oz. each) Semi-Sweet Chocolate, broken into pieces, melted
½ teaspoon coconut oil (for melting chocolate)
*Reserve 1 Tbsp. chopped candy.
*Mix remaining candy with cream cheese and cookie crumbs until blended.
*Shape into 48 (1-inch) balls.
*Freeze 10 min.
*Dip balls in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved candy.
*Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.