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The shapes, sizes, and stories of holiday cookies

Star-shaped cookies sitting on a table

The holiday season carries many traditions, and for some, the tradition of baking cookies is on the to-do list. Maybe your tradition is to gather the kids to bake a plate of sugar cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. Perhaps its baking up rugelach or hamantaschen for Hanukkah. Maybe you even hold a monstrous baking day with your friends and families, baking hundreds of cookies of all shapes and sizes. Whatever your tradition, those cookies are more than just a cookie; they likely symbolize love, family, culture, or peace. 

Two of America’s favorite holiday cookies include the classic sugar cookie and peanut butter blossoms. Sugar cookies allow your creativity to flourish; what cookie cutter will you choose and how many colors of icing will you make? Peanut butter blossoms are made with a peanut butter dough rolled in granulated sugar and topped with a chocolate candy. Both cookies involve fun steps for the kids to help with, aside from eating all the icing or chocolates! The cookie baking tradition is a fun way to honor the family’s heritage. My husband’s family is Norwegian, and while not a cookie per se, they always make lefse for the holidays, a soft flatbread made with potatoes, flour, butter, salt, and heavy cream, then rolled flat and cooked in a skillet. While we all know that cookies aren’t particularly healthy, it doesn’t mean the tradition has to go away. Enjoy a cookie; then make sure to get those fruits and vegetables in that day!


Meringue Cookies

(Printable PDF)

2 large egg whites; at room temperature

¼ teaspoon cream of tarter

⅔ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

optional additions: 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder, 2 Tablespoons crushed candy canes, ¼ cup coarsely chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 225°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix egg whites and cream of tarter. Mix until it forms soft peaks. Add sugar one Tablespoon at a time, continuing to mix until hard peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the vanilla extract and any additions. Drop 2 Tablespoons of mixture onto prepared baking sheet, spacing 1-inch apart. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Allow to completely cool before enjoying.

Yield: 24 servings, 1 cookie each


Nutrition Facts (per serving): 25 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 milligrams sodium, 6 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams protein



PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Lydia Matzal on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.