Holiday Cookie Exchange? We’ve Got You Covered

Italian Cookies, Cowboy Oatmeal Cookies, Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies, Jam Coconut Drops and Tiger Butter Bark

There’s no food like a cookie to represent the holiday season.


Colleen Smith and her family spend a day baking cookies to give as gifts.

Cookies are a symbol of love poured into a mixing bowl. The gift of cookies is one of the sweetest, knowing the time someone took to roll, shape, bake and decorate.

The Christmas season gives us many opportunities to bake and enjoy cookies together.

Colleen Smith and her daughters, Melina and Maren, have had a Christmas cookie baking day for many years. Colleen’s mom, sister-in-law and the girls’ cousins make a day of it, baking 10 to 15 different types of cookies.

They make everything from easy peanut butter blossoms to a more time-consuming Ina Garten recipe for peanut butter and jelly bars. By the end of the day, they’ve easily made 30 dozen cookies.

“I try to sneak in a new recipe every year just because I love the favorites but want to expand our repertoire,” Colleen said.

She and her mom usually make most of the doughs ahead of time, then they all spend time turning the dough into cookies. This is a great tip when you’re baking with kids. Making the dough ahead lets everyone have more fun shaping and decorating on cookie day.

Once all the cookies are cooked and cooled, Colleen and her family cooking crew package the cookies to give to friends and family.

“It’s a fun holiday tradition, and my daughters have invited friends to help over the years. Everyone gets to take home huge plates piled high with cookies, and we also send them to family around the country,” Colleen said.

Some of Colleen’s other favorites are chocolate mint cookies, oatmeal chocolate cherry cookies and Swedish ginger cookies. One cookie they make every year is her great-grandmother’s Italian cookies. They also make a similar cookie with crushed anise seeds.

Recipes for a Holiday Cookie Exchange

Colleen’s great-grandmother brought this recipe with her when she immigrated from Italy in the early 1900s. It’s a family favorite more than 100 years later.

Italian Cookies

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 ½ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract or vanilla flavoring
  1. Melt butter over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in milk.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs and lemon or vanilla extract. Mix in butter and milk. The dough will be very soft and sticky. Coat hands with flour. Take small pieces of dough, and roll out like a pencil. Shape into bows, knots, pinwheels, S shapes or circles.
  3. Brush top with egg, and cover with sprinkles or leave plain. Bake at 350 degrees until light brown on bottom, about 15-20 minutes.

Colleen found this recipe online years ago.

Cowboy Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 3 dozen

  • 1 cup shortening
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 package butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Cream together shortening and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
  2. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda, then add to sugar mixture. Add oats, butterscotch chips and pecans. Dough will be stiff.
  3. Drop spoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Here’s a fun cookie for the holidays or anytime. You won’t find a cookie easier to make than this one.

Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, then flatten with a fork.
  2. Bake until crisp, 10-14 minutes.

This is a pretty cookie that’s great for gifting or including on a cookie tray.

Jam Coconut Drops

Makes 2-3 dozen

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 3/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut, divided
  • 1 cup seedless raspberry preserves, warmed
  1. Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk, orange juice and almond extract.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Stir in 3 cups coconut. Refrigerate until easy to handle, about 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape rounded tablespoons of dough into balls, then roll in remaining coconut. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  4. Press a deep thumbprint in the center of each cookie. Bake until edges are light brown, 8-10 minutes. Cool 1 minute. Using a wooden spoon, enlarge any indentations that may have narrowed or closed. Remove cookies from pans to wire racks. Fill with preserves; cool completely.

It’s not a cookie, but this easy recipe for white chocolate-peanut butter bark is a favorite of kids to make and to eat.

Tiger Butter Bark

  • 1 pound white candy coating, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup chunky peanut butter
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ½ teaspoon shortening
  1. Line a 15-by-10-inch pan with parchment paper. In a microwave, melt candy coating and peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Spread into pan.
  2. In microwave, melt chocolate chips and shortening, stirring to blend. Drizzle over top, swirling mixture with a knife.
  3. Refrigerate until firm, then break into pieces.

Natalie MiklesNatalie Mikles is a mom of three. She writes about food, sharing recipes for busy families and picky eaters. She has been recognized for her food columns as well as features on families and issues affecting local children. She loves pizza and movie nights with her family.

Dec 2021 Food Pin

Categories: Food