December 2021 Better Homes & Gardens Recipes

Multigrain Roll Wreath
Photo: Carson Downing

The recipes in our December 2021 issue of Better Homes & Gardens® have the holidays covered. Christmas cookies, hearty casseroles, ginger-spiced dishes, big-batch cocktails and a slow cooker meal, special-occasion breads, and candy are all in the mix. Along the way food personalities Shauna Sever and Molly Yeh share some of their favorite recipes for you to add to your holiday (or everyday) table.

01 of 28

Cardamom Gingerbread Trees

Cardamom Gingerbread Trees
Carson Downing

These coniferous confections beg to be displayed, whether dancing down your dining room table or sweetening up your fireplace mantel. Constructed from spiced Swedish gingerbread and decorated with royal icing, they can be created in any size and style of trees you like. We used 4-inch and 5½-inch tree cutters for our forest.

02 of 28

Matcha-Dragon Fruit Slice-and-Bake Trees

Matcha-Dragon Fruit Slice-and-Bake Trees cookies
Carson Downing

Believe it or not, these bright beauties get their gorgeous hues from two all-natural ingredients: dragon fruit and matcha. For an intense green that holds up to baking, use ceremonial-grade matcha powder. Dragon fruit powder is available at many health food stores and online, but if you can't find it, freeze-dried raspberries blitzed in the blender will do the trick.

Buy It: Food to Live Dragon Fruit Powder ($13, Walmart)

03 of 28

Sparkling No-Bake Wafer Trees

Sparkling No-Bake Wafer Trees
Carson Downing

Don't have a lot of time to bake? Try this clever hack for no-bake cookies. Slice purchased sugar wafer cookies on the diagonal. Melt vanilla candy coating to "glue" the triangles together and decorate the trees. The final touch? Clear coarse sanding sugar adds a little holiday sparkle.

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Maple Buttercream Cutouts

Maple Buttercream Cutouts
Carson Downing

Tap the forest's sweetest gift—maple syrup—to flavor the dough and frosting for these treats. While the shingled leaves look complicated, they're not hard to achieve: Simply pipe dots of buttercream, then pull the icing into shape using the edge of a rounded spoon or butter knife.

05 of 28

Shimmering Meringue Trees

Shimmering Meringue Trees
Carson Downing

With a crisp outside and chewy inside, meringues are an evergreen favorite. A closed-star piping tip gives the sweet swirls their shape, and packaged, scallop-edge ginger thins act as both base and fancy tree skirt.

Buy It: Wilton Decorating Set ($10, Target)

06 of 28

Zesty Lime Sandwich Cookies

Zesty Lime Sandwich Cookies
Carson Downing

In-season citrus gives both the shortbread dough and the buttercream filling a crisp, fresh flavor. When it comes to decorating, the possibilities abound. Here, bottle-brush trees inspired royal icing "branches." A simpler option: Skip the frosting and roll the edges in holiday sprinkle mix.

07 of 28

Nut Butter Shortbread Trees

Nut Butter Shortbread Trees
Carson Downing

A bit of cornstarch mixed into the flour is the secret to the melt-in-your-mouth texture of these classic cutouts. Meanwhile, the rich, nutty flavor comes from a combo of almond butter and almond extract.

Buy It: Ann Clark Tree Cookie Cutter ($8, Amazon)

08 of 28

Shawarma Casserole

Shawarma Casserole
Carson Downing

Not everyone has a neighborhood kabob shop, but anyone can make this Middle Eastern-spiced rice and turkey "hotdish" (aka casserole) from author Molly Yeh. Pita chips on top provide necessary crunch, and the finishing combination of green herbs and a drizzle of lemony tahini sauce keeps it fresh.

09 of 28

Dill Chicken Everything Bagel Biscuit Casserole

Dill Chicken Everything Bagel Biscuit Hotdish
Carson Downing

Matzo ball soup meets pot pie in this hotdish. In place of a pastry crust, it's topped with biscuits showered in salty, garlicky everything bagel seasoning. It was inspired, Yeh says, by nostalgia for the meals she ate at Jewish delis growing up.

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Spicy White Bean Casserole with Calabrian Chiles

Spicy White Bean Casserole with Calabrian Chiles
Carson Downing

"We're a bean-loving family," Yeh says. "They're such a great canvas for flavors." In this Italian-inspired casserole, gigante beans are the backdrop for fiery Calabrian peppers, broccoli, and a crispy bread crumb crust. "Beans are an amazing hotdish addition because they're hearty and creamy, and you don't have to worry about overcooking them."

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Chinese Take-Out Chili Crisp Casserole

Chinese Take-Out Chili Crisp Casserole
Carson Downing

Chinese-inspired hotdish recipes in church cookbooks often call for cream soup, Yeh says, "but there's not a lot of dairy in Chinese cooking." This chili oil-drizzled rice, pork, and cabbage version reflects "the type of flavors and Chinese food I grew up with."

12 of 28

Multigrain Roll Wreath

Multigrain Roll Wreath
Carson Downing

Assorted grains, including oats and wheat germ, join honey, seeds, and herbs to create surprisingly light-textured rolls. Craft our easy-serve wreath by rolling dough into balls and arranging into two concentric circles.

13 of 28

Garlic and Herb Swirl Bread

Garlic and Herb Swirl Bread
Jacob Fox

With its ribbons of dried tomatoes, crushed red pepper, Parmesan cheese, and a trio of fresh herbs, this intriguingly shaped loaf channels our favorite pizza flavors. Finish it with a generous brushing of melted butter. If you're a fan of dusting extra Parm on pizza before taking that first bite, sprinkle away.

14 of 28

Fruitcake Cookie Bars

Fruitcake Cookie Bars
Carson Downing

Toasted nuts meet dried and candied fruit bits of your choice. Author Shauna Sever chose to envelop the fruitcake flavors in a buttery blondie batter with gingerbread seasonings.

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Lacy Oat Cookies

Lacy Oat Cookies
Carson Downing

Drizzled with chocolate, these irresistible crispy cookies are also party-friendly. They keep up to three days in the fridge or three months in the freezer so you can get a head start on food prep for your gathering.

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Seedy Scandinavian Crisps

Seedy Scandinavian Crisps
Carson Downing

A welcome savory bite in the season of sweets, these crisps combine wholesome seeds with dried fruit. Bake them ahead, then crisp them up in the oven for a few minutes before the party. They're delicious with blue cheese and honey or jam. A perfect charcuterie board addition.

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White Chocolate Eggnog

White Chocolate Eggnog
Carson Downing

A creamy combination of hot chocolate and eggnog, this warm drink can go two ways. Add a splash of brandy and dash of nutmeg for adults and top each mug with extra white chocolate shavings for the kids.

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Ginger, Coconut, and Curry Short Ribs

Ginger, Coconut, and Curry Short Ribs
Carson Downing

Inspired by Malaysian rendang—a beef coconut-curry dish—these short ribs simmer in a rich combination of coconut milk, ginger, and red curry until the base caramelizes into an intensely flavorful and aromatic paste.

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Spicy Salad with Roasted Veggies

Spicy Salad with Roasted Veggies
Carson Downing

West African suya spice mix isn't something you see in the grocery store—yet. Until you do, blend your own from spices in your pantry. It relies on a hefty dose of ground ginger, with powdered peanut butter and smoked paprika rounding out the powerful, savory blend. Although traditionally rubbed on grilled meats, the mix is also delicious on our roasted combo of carrots, sweet potatoes, and delicata squash.

Buy It: PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter ($5, Target)

20 of 28

Salmon and Cabbage Noodle Bowls

Salmon and Cabbage Noodle Bowls
Carson Downing

Dry sake gives a balanced acidity to this ginger-soy marinade for the salmon, but it's the pungent umami notes of red miso in both the marinade and the vinaigrette that bring the entire dish into harmony. Miso's savory richness rounds out the sharp flavors in the marinade and tempers the sweetness of the cooked carrots in the dressing.

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Spiced Ginger-Scallion Oil

Spiced Ginger-Scallion Oil
Jason Donnelly

Traditional Cantonese ginger-scallion oil is a mix of raw chopped scallions and fresh ginger tossed into hot oil. Our version includes a few enticing extras—star anise, cardamom, and peppercorns—to add a spice layer of the nonheat sort. Spoon it onto anything that needs a little extra zip.

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Ginger-Turmeric Barley Pudding

Ginger-Turmeric Barley Pudding
Carson Downing

Think of this creamy pudding as a golden milk latte in dessert form. Turmeric provides an earthy base for the warmth of fresh ginger and sweetness of date syrup. Pearl barley gives this dish a more satisfying texture than typical rice pudding.

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Pumpkin Gingerbread with Seedy Streusel

Pumpkin Gingerbread with Seedy Streusel
Carson Downing

This deeply spiced cake takes full advantage of ginger's many flavor personalities: fresh for brightness, dried for heat, and candied for sweetness in the crunchy streusel topping. Pumpkin puree ensures the cake bakes up moist and tender without the need for loads of butter or oil.

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Blood Orange Spritz

Blood Orange Spritz
Jason Donnelly

This festive and not-too-strong batch cocktail celebrates blood oranges during their short winter season. Transform this into a mocktail recipe by swapping in a nonalcoholic aperitif for the Aperol.

Buy It: Dhos Bittersweet Nonalcoholic Aperitif ($26, Amazon)

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Holiday Slow Cooker Ribollita

Holiday Slow Cooker Ribollita
Jason Donnelly

This version of ribollita—a Tuscan bread stew—serves 10 from your slow cooker, so everyone is free to mix and mingle and scoop up a bowl when they're ready. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and olive oil for garnishing individual bowls.

Buy It: Hamilton Beach Programmable Slow Cooker ($60, Bed Bath & Beyond)

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Radicchio Caesar Salad

Radicchio Caesar Salad
Jason Donnelly

Simplify this salad by swapping in your favorite bottled Caesar or creamy Italian dressing. No matter your dressing choice, the higher ratio of radicchio to romaine makes it a creative twist to the usual Caesar salad.

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Chocolate-Hazelnut Cheesecake Brownies

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cheesecake Brownies
Jason Donnelly

Cheesecake-swirled hazelnut brownies are so fudgy, they keep well without drying out. Bake these a few days ahead, wrap, and refrigerate until party time.

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Nut Brittle

Nut Brittle
Dera Burreson

There's no reason this holiday candy favorite has to be made only with peanuts. Our Test Kitchen updated the classic recipe with cashews, almonds, and pepitas. Choose your favorite or try them all.

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