It’s a common saying that the way to the heart is through the stomach. During the holiday season this couldn’t be more true. As families and friends gather together to share love and appreciation, a festive meal is usually the activity everything revolves around. If you’ve been tasked with preparing a dish for your celebration, try any of these easy holiday recipes to create something unforgettable.
Benefits of Cooking with Family During the Holidays
Cooking is a wonderful community activity. No matter your skill level, there are always ways to contribute. Whether that’s peeling potatoes or roasting the turkey, loved ones can come together to create a special meal. As the holidays approach, here are some of the many benefits of baking and cooking with family.
- Extra time together. Preparing a meal is a great way to gather loved ones together and spend time without distractions. It’s an opportunity to have an experience that spans generations. Cooking is also a chance to make connections with those who may be feeling lonely or isolated during the holiday season.
- Learn new skills. No matter your age, there’s always something new to be learned in the kitchen. That includes everything from the secret family recipe to the basics of table setting. Everyone brings unique skills to the equation that can be passed on and used by others for years to come.
- Working as a team. Cooking can be done alone, but it’s much more fun in a team setting. Every contribution makes a difference in the overall outcome. Additionally, cooking can help create a greater sense of appreciation for the effort that goes into producing the end result.
3 Easy Christmas Cookie Recipes
Christmas cookies come in all shapes and sizes. They’re a delicious platform to express creativity and bring your own vision of the holidays to life. Though designs might be elaborate, preparation doesn’t have to be. Try some of these simple cookie recipes for your next gathering with friends and family.
Simple Sugar Cookies
Sugar cookies are the typical go-to for decorating at the holidays. They’re easy to make and can be enhanced with frosting, sprinkles or just about anything else you can imagine. This recipe will yield two dozen cookies and only takes about 15 minutes.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk
- In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
- In a different large bowl, beat butter and sugar until they’re fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla and beat until combined. Then add the flour mixture gradually until combined.
- Shape the dough into a disc and refrigerate for one hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough to approximately ⅛ inch thick and cut out cookie shapes.
- Place cookies on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges are golden.
Pecan Crescent Cookies
Light, buttery and dusted with a thin layer of powdered sugar, pecan crescent cookies are a staple of any holiday assortment. With only six ingredients, this recipe can be whipped up at a moment’s notice.
- 1 cup butter
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup ground pecans
- Powdered sugar
- Mix the butter, sugar and vanilla, beating until fluffy. Add the flour and nuts to the mixture.
- Chill the dough for one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Using one teaspoon of dough for each cookie, shape the dough into small crescents and place on baking sheet.
- Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
- Let cool for 5 minutes and coat with powdered sugar.
Classic Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread and the holidays go hand-in-hand. You can let your imagination run wild, using this cookie to create everything from gingerbread people to gingerbread houses. Impress your guests with this recipe that produces up to 60 cookies.
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- ¾ cup molasses
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Mix butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, approximately 5-7 minutes. Add egg and molasses.
- Gradually add flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt to the wet mixture and mix thoroughly.
- Cover dough and refrigerate at least 4 hours until easy to handle.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into a sheet approximately ⅛ inch thick. Cut out cookies in your desired shapes and place on baking sheet.
- Bake 8-10 minutes until cookie edges are firm. Remove and cool before decorating.
4 Crowd-Pleasing Holiday Dishes
Around the holiday table the turkey or roast usually steals all the spotlight. However, the supporting cast of sides is what people are really looking forward to. If you want to bring a dish to the party that’s bound to impress, any of these easy options are surefire crowd-pleasers.
Home Style Mac and Cheese
It’s hard to go wrong with a hearty side of mac and cheese. This recipe will be a hit with guests of all ages, and only requires a handful of easily accessible ingredients.
- 1, 8-ounce box of elbow macaroni
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and boil until cooked through, approximately 8 minutes. Drain the macaroni.
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth, approximately 5 minutes.
- Slowly pour the milk into the butter and flour mixture while continuously stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbling. Add cheese to the milk mixture and stir until melted.
- Fold macaroni into cheese sauce until thoroughly coated.
Buttery Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are a staple of any holiday meal. Use this recipe to create rich, creamy potatoes packed with flavor.
- 4 pounds of potatoes (russet or Yukon gold work best)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- ⅓ cup melted, salted butter
- 1 cup milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Peel and quarter potatoes and place in a pot of cold, salted water.
- Add garlic to the pot and bring to a boil. Cook uncovered 15 minutes until potatoes are tender.
- Heat milk on stove or in microwave until warm.
- Add butter to the potatoes and start mashing. As you mash, add the heated milk a little at a time to achieve a creamy consistency.
- Season to taste and serve.
If simplicity is your top priority, always volunteer to bring the cranberry sauce. It’s an awesome accompaniment to most dishes and can be made with just three ingredients. To add a little extra flair, include a small amount of orange zest.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 12 ounces of fresh cranberries
- Combine water and sugar in a saucepan.
- Add cranberries and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat and simmer until cranberries burst, approximately 10 minutes.
Traditional Pumpkin Pie
Consider cookies an appetizer leading up to the main dessert course. A holiday feast needs a pie, and pumpkin is always a popular choice. This recipe will guide you through a process that can be completed in just a few minutes.
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1, 15-ounce can of pumpkin
- 1 ¼ cups evaporated milk or half and half
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 frozen pie crust
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and pour into pie crust.
- Bake 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Bake 40-50 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool 2 hours and serve.
The Holiday Season at Oak Trace
At Oak Trace we live the holiday spirit each and every day. Our Downers Grove, Illinois retirement community fosters a sense of true midwest togetherness. Residents form tight-knit connections with their neighbors to celebrate and lift each other up.
The Oak Trace independent living experience enables residents to fully enjoy retirement years and provides support on an as-needed basis to accomplish their wellness goals. We offer a variety of floor plans to suit every style and put a priority on the feeling of home.
For those in need of additional health services or skilled nursing, we have a team of dedicated professionals ready to offer assistance around the clock. If Oak Trace sounds like a good fit for you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to contact us and learn more.