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The warmth of the oven, the sweet smell of sugar caramelizing on the stove, and the sound of spoons clanging on pots are some of the things I enjoy most about spending the holidays in the kitchen with my family. We like to change up our recipes and try new dishes every year, but there are a few holiday favorites that never fail to satisfy us year after year. The following recipes are our go-to sweet treats when we really want to indulge and not count our calories. I hope you will give them a try and personalize them to fit your tastes and dietary needs. 

1. Cinnamon Hot Chocolate ~ creamy, chocolatey goodness 


  • 2 cups of your choice of milk 

  • ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips 

  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 2 tbsp sugar

  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder 

  • A pinch of nutmeg powder 


Pour the milk, cinnamon powder, and nutmeg into a saucepan. Heat on medium-low until the milk starts to form small bubbles at the edge of the saucepan. Add in the chocolate chips, cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract and increase the heat to medium. Use a whisk to combine all the ingredients and turn off the heat once the milk mixture begins to boil. Serve hot with marshmallows, whipped cream, or a sprinkle of cinnamon as a garnish for some extra flavor. 

2. Mexican Wedding Cookies ~ buttery, smooth with an added crunch 


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened

  • 1 ¾ cups of powdered sugar (½ for the dough and 1 ¼ for dusting the cookies) 

  • 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 

  • ¼ tsp salt 

  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans 


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine butter, ½ cup of powdered sugar, and vanilla extract and whisk together until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, sift the flour and salt until there are no lumps. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients by slowly folding in the flour until well combined. Fold in the walnuts or pecans into the mixture until the dough looks crumbly, but is malleable enough to be formed into small dough balls. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use a tablespoon to measure out the dough to form a ball. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Once out of the oven, let the cookies cool for 5 minutes, then roll the warm cookies in the excess powdered sugar. The cookie needs to be warm in order for the powdered sugar to effectively coat and stick to the cookie. If necessary, you can roll the cookies in the sugar a second time, but I find that it tastes the best with only one roll in the sugar. Place the cookies on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes, so the inside of the cookie can cool as well. 

3. Crème Brûlée ~ velvet décadence   


  • 3 cups heavy cream 

  • 5 egg yolks

  • ½ cup sugar 

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • ¼ tsp salt 


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a small pot, heat the heavy cream over medium-low heat. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture resembles a pastel yellow color. Add the vanilla extract and salt into the heavy cream and turn off the heat once it starts to boil. Slowly, a tablespoon at a time, add the heavy cream mixture to the egg mixture and stir until well combined. This process must be done slowly to avoid cooking the eggs. Once all the ingredients are thoroughly combined, pour the mixture into ramekins (need about 4-6 ramekins depending on their size). Place the ramekins into a deep dish baking tray and into the tray slowly pour some hot water until it comes up halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the crème brûlée for 35-40 minutes or until the mixture sets, bust slightly jiggles in the center. Cool the crème brûlées for 30 minutes before placing them in the refrigerator to cool for an additional 2 hours before serving. Once cooled, take them out and place them on the counter for another 30 minutes before browning the sugar on the top. After 30 minutes, dust the tops of the ramekins with some granulated sugar. Using a torch, melt the sugar on the ramekins until it caramelizes. If you do not have a torch like many of us, place your sugared ramekins in the oven and broil for 2 minutes. I recommend putting the oven rack two levels from the very top of the oven and placing the ramekins on the middle of that rack to prevent burning the sugar when using the broil setting. Cool the crème brûlée for 5-10 minutes and top with fresh berries to balance out the sweetness of the custard. 

Hope you enjoy these sweet treats and share them with your friends and family!

Anusha Nayani

UC Irvine '22

Anusha is a third year double major in Business Administration and Psychological Science. She wants to pursue a career in digital marketing or early childhood education. Her hobbies include cooking, baking, creating digital art, arts & crafts, and binge-watching comedy tv shows.
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