Emily's Recipes: Holiday Baking

Dec 19, 2016

Emily’s Recipes: Holiday Baking

‘Tis the season for baking! To me, baking is so different from cooking. When I’m cooking a meal, I hardly ever measure my ingredients and I adapt the recipe to what I have in the fridge at the time (No shallot? Well, I have onion and leeks! Why not?)

Baking is different. Baking is a science. I make sure to have all of my measuring cups and spoons ready and I never stray from the recipe.

This time of year, there’s nothing more comforting than putting on some holiday tunes, dusting off Lois (that’s what I’ve named my standing kitchenaid mixer) and whipping up some delicious cookies and treats.

As a dietitian, I believe all foods fit in a healthy lifestyle. I don’t believe it’s necessary (or even healthy) to restrict and/or eliminate foods- especially ones that we love! Instead, allow yourself to enjoy some of your favorite holiday sweets and balance it out by staying active and watching portion sizes at other meals ( check out my tips for staying on track during the holidays).

Below are some of my favorite holiday treats to make my family and friends as gifts. Always be sure to make something people actually like. If your mother-in-law hates chocolate (I know, crazy!) don’t make her chocolate truffles. Even asking people if they prefer sweet or savory treats will help you tailor your gifts to their preferences which makes for an awesome gift.

While some of these treats aren’t necessarily “healthy” they are scratch-made with whole ingredients and have fewer ingredients than you would find in a pre-packaged or box mix, which is always a better choice in my book.

Happy baking!


Homemade Cheez-Its (1 batch)


-1 1/2 cups cheddar (about 6 oz.)

-4 T butter

-3/4 cup all purpose flour

-1/4 t salt

-sea salt, for sprinkling


1.In a food processor, pulse all of the ingredients together until it forms a ball (about 2 minutes).

2. Place the ball between two pieces of wax paper, and roll it out to about 1/8" thick.

3.Using a pastry wheel or small cookie cutters, cut into shapes.

4. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet about 1/2" apart from each other - they puff up a bit. Poke each cracker with a fork or skewer so that they don't puff too much.

5.Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt

6.Bake at 350ºF for 8-12 minutes (depending on the size/shape of your crackers), until lightly browned on the edges.

7. Cool on the baking sheet, and store in an airtight container

***To incorporate whole wheat flour- add ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour and ½ cup all-purpose flour. In my experience, adding all whole wheat flour will make dense crackers that have an off taste.

Fig & Ginger Truffles


-2 cups dried black mission figs, or other dried figs (about 8 ounces)

-1/4 cup crystallized ginger (about 2 ounces)

-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1 tablespoon honey

-2 1/2 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cocoa solids), chopped


1. Remove the stems from the figs and discard. Put the figs, ginger, cinnamon and honey in a food processor and process for about 45 seconds, until the ingredients are finely chopped and begin to stick together.

2. Roll the fig mixture with your hands into heaping teaspoon-sized balls and set them on a baking sheet or plate lined with waxed paper.

3. Place a small bowl over a saucepan, containing barely simmering water, over low heat. Make sure the water is at least 2 inches from the bottom of the bowl. Place half the chocolate in the bowl and stir until it is melted. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the remaining chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl containing the chocolate from the pan.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

- 1 1/2 pounds dark chocolate, coarsely chopped ( I like to use 60% cocoa chips)
- 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
- 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. Line 36 mini muffin cups with mini paper liners. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate until completely smooth.

2. Add a small amount of chocolate to the bottom of each mini muffin cup, and using a small spoon or paintbrush, spread the chocolate around the paper liner.

3. Place the mini muffin trays in the freezer for ten minutes so that the chocolate sets.

4. In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter with a hand-held mixer until smooth. The mixture should become paste-like in consistency.

5. Once the chocolate cups have set, pinch off about a tablespoon of the peanut butter mixture, roll it into a ball, and place it inside a chocolate cup. Repeat for all the chocolate cups.

6. With slightly damp fingers, press down slightly on each peanut butter ball to flatten it. Fill each chocolate cup with more melted chocolate, filling to the top.

7. Firmly rap each muffin tray to smooth out the tops of the chocolate cups. Place the trays back in the freezer until the chocolate has set completely, about 20 minutes. When serving, remove cups from freezer about 10 minutes so they are not fully frozen.

Gingerbread cookie cut-outs

Recipe adapted from EatingWell


-3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

-2 cups all-purpose flour

-1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1 teaspoon ground ginger

-1 teaspoon ground cloves

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

-1/4 cup canola oil

-1 cup sugar

-1 large egg

-1 cup molasses

-2 tablespoons white vinegar


1.Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in a large bowl. Beat butter, oil and sugar in another large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.

2.Add egg, molasses and vinegar; beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine. The dough will be very soft. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

3.Preheat oven to 350F. Coat several baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

4.Working with one portion of dough at a time, on a floured surface, roll the dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut cookies using cookie cutters. Gather scraps and reroll. Using a spatula, place the cookies 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough.

5.Bake the cookies, one batch at a time, until puffed but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.