Not Your Average Christmas Cookies - The Bend Magazine

Not Your Average Christmas Cookies

This holiday season, try your hand at this tasty trio of treats

By: Justin Butts Photos by: Rachel Benavides

Each year, the day before Christmas, all of our girls get into the kitchen with Kayla to make cookies for Santa Claus. Baking these Christmas Eve treats is one of their favorite holiday traditions. Madeleine, Emma, and Nati choose the types of cookies and work in the kitchen together making them in batches, with holiday music playing.

The little ones are very thoughtful about Santa and concerned for his well-being. “Santa needs a lot of energy to deliver toys to all the boys and girls,” said Emma, just now, over my shoulder. “We put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for his reindeer so they know we are thankful.”

“The cookies make his stomach big, but it gives joy to my heart!” added Madeleine, standing next to her. The babes know for sure Santa has visited because they see the missing cookies and carrots with bites taken out … and, of course, because of all the new presents under the tree. 

“Last year, Mommy couldn’t believe that Santa ate all the cookies!” Emma said. “She kept saying, ‘I can’t believe Santa ate ALL the cookies! Literally, every single cookie!’ Dad kept laughing and saying they must have been good. It was so funny!”

Here is a new development this Christmas: Our six-year-old, Emma, is now an excellent reader. As I started writing this article, Emma joined me to read it over my shoulder – and we are now writing it together. This is new ground for both of us.

When the girls were smaller, we kept it simple with a batch of chocolate chip cookies. But as they have grown, their tastes and cooking skills have flourished with them. This year, we let them choose the varieties by selecting a few key ingredients as a starting point.

A bag of shredded coconut and some fresh limes became these lovely Key Lime Macaroons. A huge bag of pecans was the genesis of the Pecan Sandies. The chocolate came from bags of white and dark chocolate chips Madeleine found, one in each hand.  

The ginger snaps were inspired by opening and sniffing the jars on the spice rack. Emma loved the nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger.  Those flavors were then matched with butter, molasses, sugar, and flour. 

Emma is now worried that Madeleine’s quote about Santa’s belly getting big will offend him. She thinks we should delete it, but I suggest we leave it in. 

Also, she feels bad that I, as the dad, never get any cookies. I tell her not to worry – that I don’t mind making a few sacrifices, late at night on Christmas Eve after everyone has gone to bed, so Santa can have all the cookies. 

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

Prep time: 15 minutes

Inactive prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 18-20 minutes


1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

6 oz semisweet chocolate chips, if desired

6 oz white chocolate chips, if desired


In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, extracts, and salt until smooth or about 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl down with a spatula before adding the flour and pecans; mix until combined. Form the dough into a log shape and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Once the oven is preheated, remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on a clean surface. Use a serrated knife to cut into individual circular cookies, 1/2” in thickness. Place cookies 1” apart on prepared baking sheets. 

Bake cookies for approximately 20 minutes or until a light golden color, rotating baking sheets halfway through cooking time. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes, until completely cool. 

Optional: Melt semisweet or white chocolate chips in the microwave by heating for 20 second increments, stirring in between, for about 1 minute 20 seconds, or until completely melted and smooth. Dip half (or entire) shortbread cookie in chocolate and let set on a clean piece of parchment. 


Key Lime Macaroons

Makes 1 – 1 1/2 dozen

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 27-30 minutes


1 14-oz bag of sweetened 

shredded coconut

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 egg whites (1/3 cup)

1/8 tsp salt

Juice and zest of 1 key lime

1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Mix ingredients in a large bowl. Using a cookie scoop or large spoon, drop rounded spoonfuls of mixture onto prepared baking sheet, at least 1 inch apart. Bake for 30 minutes, until edges begin to brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. 


Ginger Snaps

Makes 2 dozen

Prep time: 10 minutes

Bake time: 10-12 minutes


11/2 stick(s) unsalted butter, 

softened at room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 large egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper

1/2 cup granulated sugar, for dusting


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl or standing mixer, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add molasses, egg, and vanilla, mixing until combined. 

In a separate bowl, whisk spices and flour together. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until well combined.

Form dough into 1” balls and roll in granulated sugar. Repeat with remaining dough and place each ball on the prepared baking sheet, about 2” apart. Using your fingers, gently flatten each ball to form a cookie shape. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies have crinkled on the tops. Allow cookies to set on the baking sheets for 3-5 additional minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack.