Holiday Baking Tips and Tricks


#1:  Essentials for baking

·        Fresh baking powder and baking soda

·        Parchment Paper

·        Baking Sheets

·        Measuring cups, spoons

o   Use liquid measuring cups for oils and liquids

o   Use nested measuring cups for flours and solids

§  Important!  Fluff your flour before measuring J

·        Use large-sized eggs, unsalted butter and nuts, and pure extracts of vanilla or almond.

·        Chill dough for cut-out cookies. Soften at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling out.  Cool baked cookies completely before decorating.

·        Leave about two inches of space between cookies on baking sheets so they don't spread into each other.

·        Do not over-mix or over-bake cookie dough or quick bread batter.  Also, properly pre-heat oven before baking.

#2: Shhhh…make it healthier, they will never know the difference!

·        Use whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour (whole grain bonus)

·        Bake with healthier fats:  Smart balance butter blend sticks, Land O’ Lakes Canola oil-butter blend

·        Replace part or all of oil with fruit puree (Mott’s applesauce or plum puree)

·        Sneak in a ground flaxseed and / or oats

·        Boost the flavor and antioxidants by adding chopped dried fruit such as apricots, cherries, cranberries, dates, prunes or raisins

·        Add small amounts of chopped nuts; lightly toast the nuts first to really enhance flavor.

·        Reduce sugar by 25% (no one will notice)


·        Keep in mind, it’s all about moderation and keeping in control of our eating.  Happy baking!

#3: Save time, save money

·        Semi-homemade:  Cookie and quick bread mixes

·        Homemade: bar cookies, slice cookies, quick breads (cranberry, pumpkin)

·        Clip coupons – visit for special printable coupons


#4:  Storing your baked goods

§  Save time and money by preparing cookies ahead of time and storing them properly.  Many cookies can be baked and then frozen.   Alternately, you can freeze the cookie dough to thaw and bake at a later time.

§  Most cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3-6 months.  Store frosted cookies and cookies containing highly perishable ingredients (i.e., cream cheese) in the refrigerator.

§  If stored cookies harden, place a slice of bread in the storage container and the cookies will soften.

§  Store cookies in food storage containers with tight fitting lids.  Use wax paper to separate cookie layers.  Always cool cookies completely cooled before storing.

§  If preparing multiple types of cooking, store each type separately to preserve the cookie’s unique flavors.

§  When baking cookies in advance for holidays, select cookies that are easy to store.  Fragile cookies and iced cookies do not freeze well.  For cookies that call for frosting, freeze them unfrosted and then frost after completely thawed.

Shortcut Sugar Cookies

1 17.5 oz. pkg. Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix

1 egg

1 stick (1/2 cup) Smart Balance Butter Blend


Decorating supplies:

Cookie cutters

Decorator writing icing

String licorice

Mini-candies (mini-M&Ms)

White icing (canned)

Colored sugar and sprinkles




In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms.  Cover and refrigerate dough for 1-2 hours (or more.) 


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes.  Lightly dust rolling pin and rolling surface with flour.  Roll a “handful” of dough 1/4” thick and cut shapes using cookie cutters.   Place on cookies sheets lined with parchment paper.  Add leftover cut out dough to the batch of remaining cookie dough.  Repeat rolling and cutting until all dough is used.


If desired, lightly brush cookies with egg white.   Bake 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Decorate as desired.



Peanut Butter Blossoms

Makes: 3 dozen


1 package (1lb. 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® peanut butter cookie mix

3 Tbls. Meijer Canola Oil

1 Tbls. Water

1 egg

1/2 cup granulated sugar

36 Hersey’s Kisses, unwrapped

Holiday sprinkles


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl, stir cookie mix, oil and egg until dough forms.  Shape dough into 36 1” balls; roll in sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper (or ungreased cookie sheets).  Bake 10 – 12 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Immediately press 1 chocolate in center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheets.  Lightly sprinkle with holiday sprinkles.  Cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Dylan’s Chocolate Chip Cookies



2 1/4 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour

1/4 Cup Quaker Old Fashioned Oats

1/4 Cup Ground Flax Seed (Flax meal)

3/4 tsp. Meijer Salt

1 tsp. Meijer Baking Soda

3/4 Cup Loosely Packed Brown Sugar

3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar

3/4 Cup Softened Butter (or margarine)

1 tsp. McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract

2 Eggs

1 Pkg. (12 oz.) Nestle Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Optional Ingredients:  1 Cup chopped nuts, 1/2 cup dried Cherries


            Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, oat bran, flax meal, salt and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.  Cream butter, add brown sugar and beat until smooth.  Add granulated sugar and beat until smooth.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat again until smooth.  Add half of the mixed dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix well.  Add remaining dry ingredients and mix well.  Add chocolate chips (and nuts or dried cherries if desired) and mix until well blended.

            Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes.  Makes approximately 72 2” cookies.  (For best results, refrigerate dough for 1 to 2 hours before baking.) 

Steven’s Scrumptious Gingerbread Cookies



3 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour or White Whole Wheat Flour

1/4 teaspoon Meijer salt

3/4 teaspoon Meijer baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon McCormick ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon McCormick ground cloves

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

1 large egg

2/3 cup dark molasses (spray measuring cup with non-stick pan spray prior to measuring to prevent             molasses from sticking to the measuring cup).


Confectioners Frosting:

2 cups confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted

1/2 cup (1 stick) Smart Balance Butter Blend, room temperature

1 teaspoon McCormick pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 tablespoons milk or light cream


Gingerbread: In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.   In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses and then beat until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture beating until incorporated. Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside while you roll out the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Use a gingerbread cookie cutter or other shapes to cut out cookies.  Using a spatula lift the cut out cookies onto the baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1 inch apart.  Note: If you are hanging the cookies or using as gift tags, make a hole at the top of the cookies with a straw or end of a wooden skewer.

Bake 8 - 12 minutes.  Cookies are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown. 

Remove the cookies from the oven and let stand about one minute. When they are firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

If desired, you can press raisins or candies into the dough for eyes and buttons while the cookies are still warm. Otherwise, confectioners frosting can be used to decorate the cookies.  Icing can also be used to attach candies, raisins, and sprinkles.

Confectioners Frosting:  In a medium to large bowl, cream the butter until smooth and well blended.  Add vanilla extract, mix.   Gradually beat in sugar until well blended.  Add milk and beat on high speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add a little more milk if too dry. Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and decorate the gingerbread men as desired.  Alternately, make a small cut on the corner of a quart size zip-lock bag.  Fill bag with frosting and squeeze to decorate cookies.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.


Holiday Pumpkin Bread


3 cups white whole wheat flour

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

2 tsp. Meijer baking powder

1 tsp. Meijer baking soda

1/2 tsp. Meijer salt

1 tsp. McCormick ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. McCormick ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp. McCormick ground ginger

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup Smart Balance Butter Blend (1 stick)

2 eggs

1 16-oz. can solid pack pumpkin

1/2 cup dates, chopped

3/4 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9”x 5” loaf pan with pan spray (or 4 mini-loaf pans).  In a medium bowl, mix flours, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.  In a large mixing bowl, beat on medium speed margarine, eggs, pumpkin and then adding sugar last, beat until well blended.  Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix only until moistened.  Stir in chopped dates and walnuts. Spoon batter evenly into pan(s).  Note: Lightly sprinkle raw batter with additional ground nuts if desired.  Bake approximately 50 to 60 minutes (about 40 minutes for mini-loaves); unit toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  (If top of loaf browns to quickly, loosely cover with aluminum foil until baking is completed.) Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes.  Remove from baking pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes 1 loaf (12 hearty servings).

Nutrition Information (per serving):

305 calories, 7g protein, 49g carbohydrate, 9g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 240mg sodium, 4.5g fiber.  

Cheery Cherry Oatmeal Cookies


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) Smart Balance Butter Blend, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 Eggs

1/3 cup Mott’s applesauce or prune puree

1 tsp. McCormick vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour

1 tsp. Meijer baking powder

1/2 tsp. Meijer salt

3 Tbls. ground flax seed (flax seed meal)

2 cups Meijer Naturals old-fashioned oats

1 cup dried Michigan cherries

1 cup Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)


Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.   In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars; add egg, vanilla, and applesauce, beat until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, salt, flax seed meal, and oats.  Mix well.

            Add flour mixture to butter mixture 1/3 at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in cherries and optional chocolate chips and/or nuts.

            Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet (line with parchment paper for best results).  Bake at 325 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 1 minute on baking sheet, transfer to cooling rack. 

            Makes approximately 6 dozen cookies.  Enjoy!

Approx. Nutrition Analysis: (For a 2 cookie serving)

100 Calories, 1.5g Protein, 15g Carbohydrate, 1g Dietary Fiber, 4.5g Fat, 2.5g Saturated Fat

Cranberry Cheesecake Bars



2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups Quaker Old Fashioned Oats

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbls. Packed brown sugar

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 (8-ounce) package Meijer light cream cheese, softened

1 (14-ounce) can Meijer sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup Lemon Juice (from concentrate)

2 Tbls. Meijer Cornstarch

1 (16-ounce) whole berry cranberry sauce (2 cups)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, 1/4 cup sugar and butter; mix until crumbly.  Reserving 1 1/2 cups crumb mixture, press remainder firmly on bottom of a greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Bake 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a small mixer bowl, beat cheese until fluffy.  Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth; stir in lemon juice concentrate.  Spread evenly over prepared crust.

In a small bowl, combine remaining 1 Tbls. Brown sugar and cornstarch.  Stir in cranberries and spoon evenly over cheese layer.  Top with reserved crumb mixture.

Bake about 40 minutes, or until golden.  Cool. Chill. Store covered in refrigerator.  Makes 24 bars.


Raspberry Cookie Strips

Makes: 2 dozen cookies


3/4 cup Smart Balance Butter Blend sticks (1 1/2 sticks), softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 tsp. McCormick Almond Extract

2 Cups White whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. McCormick Cream of tartar

1/2 tsp. Meijer baking soda

1/2 tsp. Meijer Salt

1/4 tsp. McCormick Ground Nutmeg

1/2 cup seedless Raspberry preserves


1/2 cup Nestle vanilla (or white) chips

1 tsp. smart balance butter blend


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy.  Beat in egg and extract.  In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cream of tartar, backing soda, salt and spices.  Mix flour mixture gradually into butter mixture.  Blend well. 

Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a 12” long by 2" wide rectangle on an ungreased baking sheet (or lined with parchment paper).  Using the handle end of a long wooden spoon, make an indentation (1/4” deep) lengthwise into the center of each dough rectangle. 

Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove from oven and fill indentation with raspberry preserves.  Return to oven and bake 10-12 minutes longer, until lightly golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 2-3 minutes.  Cut into 1” slices.  Allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, melt vanilla chips and tsp. butter in microwave (heat 25-30 seconds on high, stir well, and heat again if necessary).  Drizzle over cookies.  Let stand until glaze sets.


Lemon Pistachio Sliced Cookies




cup (2 sticks) Smart Balance butter blend, softened


cup sugar or Splenda for Baking sugar substitute blend*


teaspoon Meijer salt




teaspoon McCormick vanilla


cups white whole wheat flour


teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel


cup finely chopped lightly salted dry roasted pistachio nuts



1. In a large bowl, combine vegetable oil spread and butter; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until mixed. Beat in sugar and salt until well mixed. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour and the lemon peel.

2. Divide dough in half. Shape each dough portion into an 8-inch-long log. Sprinkle half of the pistachio nuts on a sheet of waxed paper. Roll one log in the nuts to coat. Repeat with remaining nuts and log. Wrap logs in plastic wrap. Chill about 2 hours or until firm enough to slice.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. If necessary, reshape logs to make them round. Cut logs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until edges are firm and tops are set. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool completely.

5. Lightly dust (sprinkle) cookies with shifted confectioners sugar before serving.

6. *Sugar Substitutes: Choose Splenda® Sugar Blend for Baking. Follow package directions to use product amount equivalent to 3/4 cup sugar.


Nutrition Facts per Serving:

Calories 59, Total Fat (g) 3, Carbohydrate (g) 7, Total Sugar (g) 3, Protein (g) 1

Diabetic Exchanges: Other Carbohydrates 0.5, Fat 0.5


Recipe adapted from:  Diabetic Living,  


Oven Roasted Nuts


2 egg whites lightly beaten (or 1/2 cup liquid egg white)

2 Tablespoons of water

6 cups Shelled walnuts or Pecan halves

1 cup Meijer sugar

1 tsp. Meijer salt

2 tsp. McCormick ground cinnamon

1 tsp. McCormick ground cloves

1 tsp. McCormick ground nutmeg

1 tsp. McCormick Chinese 5-spice powder


Preheat conventional oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment baking paper or use a silicone baking sheet.  In a bowl beat egg white, mix in water, and add nuts.  In a separate bowl whisk together well all spices and sugar.  Add spice-sugar mix to nut mix.  Mix well and spread onto cookie sheet.  Place in the middle rack of oven – bake for 30 minutes (no longer) until mostly dry, stir every 10 minutes (this is important to avoid burning).  Watch closely at end of baking time to avoid burning.  Allow to cool completely before storing.  Do not refrigerate.  Seal tightly in a zipper lock bag or an air-tight sealed container.  Makes 24 -- 1/4 cup portions.

Nutrition Information per serving:

301 Calories, 28g Fat, 3.9g Protein, 13.3g Carbohydrate, 105mg Sodium, 0 mg Cholesterol, 3.7g Fiber, 37mg Calcium.

Fido’s Fabulous People Biscuits


1/4 cup warm water

8 chicken or beef bouillon cubes

1 package active dry yeast

1 tsp. Meijer sugar

1 1/2 cups tomato juice

3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 cups wheat germ


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pour warm water in a large bowl, add the sugar and yeast and let stand for about 5 minutes.  Add bouillon cubes, crushing them as you stir them in.

Add tomato juice, 1 cup all-purpose flour and wheat germ, stirring until you form a thin paste.  Add remaining flour and work together into a thick dough using hands.

Sprinkle flour onto a pastry or cutting board.  Take a “couple handfuls” of dough and work into a small ball shape.   Use a rolling pin to flatten dough to about 1/4” thickness.  (If dough is sticky, add a little more flour.)  Using a table knife or sturdy cookie cutters, cut dough into people shapes (or whatever shape you desire).  Repeat this process with remaining dough.

Use a spatula to transfer biscuits from cutting board to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour.  Afterwards, let them dry in turned-off oven (or at room temperature) for about four hours. 

Serve with love and a fresh bowl of water!

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Kathy wrote:
Do you bake cookies at 375 or 350 oven for non-stick pan?

Wed, December 23, 2009 @ 11:13 AM

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