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Kid-Friendly Christmas Cookie Recipes:

Because Nothing's as Sweet as a Kids' Cookie Exchange



A cookie exchange is such a fun way to celebrate the holidays.

It can be as simple or elaborate as you like. On the simple side, invite a few friends and ask each to bring a few dozen cookies. At the party, everyone chooses one or two (or more, depending on how many people you’ve invited) cookies to add to their plate.

Cookie exchanges are a nice escape for moms to get away and catch up with friends while drinking wine or cider and eating cookies. But another fun way to do it is to invite kids.

A kids’ cookie exchange is a magical event, where you can go all out with decorations of candy and sweets. Then the kids can go around the table choosing cookies to take home. Once home, a great idea is to let the kids choose a few cookies to place in bags and then deliver to neighbors or friends who may need cheering up during the holidays. Nothing is more cheery than children delivering cookies.

For a kids’ cookie exchange, be sure to have some savory snacks, too, to prevent tummy aches. Mini pizzas, pigs in a blanket or finger sandwiches would all be loved. Also have an assortment of drinks, like hot cocoa, punch and bottled water.

And remember, just like any party for kids, they will love to have a little time for running around or getting their wiggles out. So once they’ve used their manners to select cookies and visit with friends, bundle them up and let them play outside for a bit to run off some of the sugar.

If you’re hosting the party, it’s nice to provide trays or bags for everyone to take their cookies home. You can find inexpensive trays at discount stores.

Here are some of our favorite cookie recipes that will be showstoppers at any cookie exchange.

This recipe comes from the wonderful Catherine’s Tea Room, which closed in 2003. It’s a fun one to make with little children, who can roll the little balls and sprinkle with crushed peppermints.

Peppermint Balls

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup crushed peppermint candy, plus additional for decorating

Icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 drop red food coloring
  1. In a large bowl, cream butter. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Blend in extracts.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture. Fold in crushed peppermints.
  3. Form into 1-inch balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
  4. Make icing by mixing powdered sugar with milk and red food coloring. Roll each ball in frosting, or simply spread the tops of each ball with frosting. Then sprinkle each frosted ball with additional crushed peppermint.

The surprise inside these cookies will be a favorite at a cookie exchange.

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies

Makes 3 to 4 dozen

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large jar maraschino cherries (about 40-50 cherries)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and vanilla. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well.
  2. Roll into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Lightly press one cherry in the center of each ball.
  3. In the microwave or a double boiler, melt chocolate chips with milk, stirring frequently and removing from heat as soon as chocolate is melted. Stir in enough cherry juice to make a desired spreading consistency. Spread 1 teaspoon of chocolate-cherry mixture over each cherry.
  4. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until done. Cool 3 minutes on sheet before removing to wire racks.

Watch as these mice will be first picked at your cookie exchange! If you don’t want to use gel for the eyes and nose, use mini chocolate chips.

Christmas Mice

Makes 20

Mice:

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Coating:

  • 8 ounces chocolate-flavored candy coating (almond bark)

Decorations:

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • Red string or peel-apart licorice, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
  • Black decorator gel 
  1. Combine peanut butter and butter, beating at medium speed until creamy. Add powdered sugar, and continue beating until dough forms.
  2. Shape dough into 1-inch oval-shaped balls. Pinch 1 end to form nose. Place onto parchment-lined baking sheets or trays. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.
  3. Melt candy coating according to package directions. Place parchment paper onto flat surface. Place 1 chocolate mouse onto fork (keeping remaining candies refrigerated). Dip into melted candy coating. Coat entire candy, allowing excess to drip off by tapping fork against side of pan. Place dipped candy onto parchment. Immediately insert 2 almonds for ears and 1 piece licorice for tail. Repeat with remaining refrigerated candies. Let stand about 30 minutes or until coating is set.
  4. Use decorator gel to make eyes and nose. Store refrigerated.

These sugar cookie bars are pretty as is, but they’re really beautiful when you pipe Christmas trees on top.

Sugar Cookie Squares

Makes 2 dozen

Bars:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Frosting:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons half and half or heavy cream
  • Red and green food color
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine sugar, 2/3 cup butter, milk, vanilla and egg in bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat at low speed until well mixed. Spread mixture into ungreased 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Cool completely.
  2. Combine powdered sugar, 1/2 cup butter and almond extract in bowl. Beat at medium speed, gradually adding enough half and half for desired spreading consistency. Reserve 1/2 cup frosting; set aside. Spread remaining frosting over cooled bars. Cut into 48 bars.
  3. Tint half of reserved frosting with red food color and other half with green food color. Pipe tree design in center of each square, making some red trees and some green trees. To pipe, place frosting in a small Ziploc bag, and snip a hole in the corner.

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