christmas-cookies-red-bowWhen I worked at a publishing house, extravagant, gift food packages flooded editor’s offices during the Christmas Season, but the biggest hit with the staff was always a tin of home-made cookies baked by an author who was also a divine baker.

Scoring points for effort and thoughtfulness, freshly baked cookies make super holiday gifts that are also easy on the budget and appeal to all palates. Who doesn’t love a cookie?

As interest in American cuisine has expanded and become more adventuresome, so has our taste in Christmas cookies. The delectable, nostalgic classics of our youth — the sugar cookies and gingerbread men — still reign supreme. But health-niks have lately been developing a hankering for lighter, healthful fare. And let’s not forget that new kid on the block – gluten free treats.

For homemakers with jobs and hectic schedules, there’s also a market for simpler cookie recipes with faster preparation time (no-bake rum or bourbon balls anyone?) These easy, no-bake recipes will also appeal to the baking challenged like myself.

At the other end of the cookie spectrum are the baking champs who demand more challenging recipes. They’re well represented in this collection too:

  1. The Joy of Baking: Over 90 Christmas cookie recipes with tremendous scope ranging from rarely seen pumpkin cookies to low-fat brownies to “brutti ma buoni” — crisp, flavorful Italian cookies. Also highlighted are those no-bake bourbon and rum balls. Sharp clear photos for helpful guides. Plus pointers for storing, packing and shipping your delicious creations.
  2. Food Network: Their “12 Days of Cookies” celebration features holiday recipes galore from favorite FN chefs. Classic, spiced, iced and decorated cookies to enjoy and impress, including international goodies from Canada to Spain and Finland. Want to host a Christmas cookie swap? FN chefs will share tips for a festive swap party.
  3. The Nourishing Gourmet: If you’re looking for healthful ingredients like sprouted flour, whole cane sugar, molasses, nut butter, coconut sugar and a base of ground almonds for grain and gluten free cookies, this is the place. A small but choice selection of healthier Christmas cookie recipes (some gluten, dairy, and grain free).
  4. Martha Stewart: Visually, Stewart’s site is a classy treat. The Christmas cookie photos couldn’t be more beautifully presented or scrumptious looking. Lots of traditional recipes are well covered here including kid’s favorites. My one quibble is the intrusive ads interrupting the slide selection of cookie photos and recipes that slow the site down.
  5. Eating Well: Their annual holiday cookie swaps have brought in singular Christmas cookie recipes from far and wide, all with a lovely health bonus. The batter of one unique, yet simple chocolate creation,  “Boot Tracks,” is easily mixed by hand, then poured into a waffle iron — a novel cooking operation that kids will love. Their recipes use sweeteners judiciously, contain no hydrogenated fat and are baked with all-natural ingredients.

More Holiday Time Goodies: