Alabama cooks deliver 5 Christmas cookie recipes Santa will love

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The second annual Alabama Alive Christmas Cookie Contest drew more than double the number of recipes than last year’s contest and included traditional favorites as well as new cookies we hadn’t tasted before.

The magazine team baked 11 of the cookies and enlisted the help of blogger and food columnist Brooke Burks from The buttered houseas well as staff members of the Alabama Rural Electric Association, to be judges. The winners were Sarah Baxter, who received the top prize of $100 for her praline cookies; Edwina F. Bell, who won the second prize of $75 for Noels; and Emily Strickland, winner of the $50 third-place prize for her Nuttin’ But Good cookies. We hope you enjoy baking these cookies for your family and friends this holiday season.

First place: Praline cookies

Sarah Baxter has been making her praline cookies for over 20 years. “I love pralines,” she said. “What I like is that the recipe gives so much that I can make pralines with the rest of the filling.” The secret to making the best filling is beating it with a wooden spoon, she says. A retired teacher, Baxter said the original recipe was part of an annual Christmas cookie swap years ago with an investment group. “It reminds me of the cookies we used to make in home economics; we called them ice cream cookies. I will do it again soon.

“One of my favorites. Sweet, but not too sweet,” a judge commented on Sarah Baxter’s praline cookies, which won first place. (Brooke Echols/Alabama Living)


  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 2/3 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt


  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture; stir until combined. Drop by teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Cool 1 minute. Place on a cooling rack. Cool completely.


Place the cream and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring almost to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly (do not boil at all). Remove from fire; add sugars and pecans all at once. Beat well with a wooden spoon until thickened, 3 or 4 minutes. Drop a teaspoon on each cookie. There will be leftover filling. Drop by teaspoon on waxed paper and you have delicious pralines to serve with your cookies. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 30 cookies.

“They were nostalgic for me. Classic and perfect,” a judge said of Edwina Bell’s Noels. (Brooke Echols/Alabama Living)

Second place: Christmas

Edwina Bell has been baking her Noels (other recipes may call them Mexican Wedding Cookies or other names) for many years, and they’re a particular favorite of her daughter who lives in Tennessee. Fortunately, pecans are abundant in his family, as his older brother has pecans and shares their bounty. Bell takes them to a nursery in Leroy who shells them, and she’s ready to make another batch of powdered sugar treats.


  • 1 cup margarine
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (pecans recommended)
  • 2 cups flour


Cream the margarine and powdered sugar together. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Shape into small balls and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool partially and roll the balls in more powdered sugar.

Third place: Nuttin’ But Good

Our third winner, Emily Strickland, has already won awards for her cooking. The 18-year-old student took first place in the junior cookie division at the National Peanut Festival for its “Nuttin But Good” cookies. “I wanted to make a peanut butter cookie,” she says, “so I took a basic peanut butter cookie recipe and added my favorites.” These included Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Peanut Butter Chips, and Peanut Butter M&M’s, for rich peanut butter flavor without adding peanut butter.

“These were really good and sweeter than the others,” one judge noted of Emily Strickland’s Nuttin’ But Good cookies. (Brooke Echols/Alabama Living)


  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ pouch Reese’s Miniature Peanut Butter Cups, cut in thirds
  • ½ packet Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Chips
  • ½ packet of peanut butter M&M’s


Whisk together the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt. (Whipping ensures that the ingredients are evenly dispersed in the cookie dough.) Next, beat the butter and the brown and white sugars together for 1-2 minutes until well combined. Incorporate the eggs one by one then add the vanilla extract. Also, stop scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add your dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, M&M’s and chips, gently folding into cookie dough until incorporated. Line the molds with parchment paper so the cookies don’t stick. Use an ice cream or cookie scoop to dip the cookie dough, allowing each cookie to have an equal proportion. Set the oven to 350 degrees and bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes. The tops of the cookies should be set and have a golden brown edge. Take out of the oven and let cool down.

Finalist: Oatmeal cookies and lace

Jane Smith’s Oatmeal Cookies contain oats, pecans, light brown sugar, vanilla and orange zest. (Brooke Echols/Alabama Living)


½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons of milk

⅛ teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1¼ cup old fashioned rolled oats

½ cup pecans, finely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 4 baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, milk, vanilla and orange zest until well blended. Stir in rolled oats and pecans with a wooden spoon until blended. With lightly floured hands, shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place them about 3 inches apart (9 per sheet). Bake for 11 to 13 minutes until the cookies are flat, bubbly and golden. Cool cookies on pan for 1 minute; Carefully lift parchment with cookies onto counter to cool 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Let the cookies cool completely. Note from the cook: drizzle with melted white chocolate or milk chocolate for decoration.

Jane A. Smith

Cinnamon Fiddlesticks

The buttered house

Seeing all the awesome cookies included in this contest inspired us to create something new and different. We use Priest’s pecan Fiddlesticks candies to create a delicious holiday cookie. Warm cinnamon accentuates the chocolate, caramel and pecans in this basic vanilla cookie. Start a tradition in your home by making homemade treats with the addition of ready-to-eat treats.


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla flavoring
  • 3 cups plain all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups Priester’s Pecans Fiddlesticks, cubed


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until well blended.

Add baking soda, cinnamon and half the flour. Mix well. Add the other half of the flour and mix again. Stir in cubed Fiddlesticks until well combined.

Place cookies on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

After cooling time is complete, bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool on the tray for 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

Brooke Burk

This story originally appeared in Living in Alabama Magazine.

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