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Sugar cookies

I made sugar cookies because I really love the sugar cookies that the grocery store sells around the holidays. This was the first time I baked without using a box mix. I made two batches because the first batch was horrifying. When I pulled it out of the oven, it was this monstrous pancake-looking thing because the cookies had merged together. I realized I didn’t put in enough flour. When I tried again I put in the right amount and refrigerated the dough overnight. Needless to say, I learned to follow recipes more carefully because the cookies came out better when I did. —Ana Muñoz, 15, North Hollywood HS Zoo Magnet

1 ½ cups butter, softened

2 cups white sugar

4 eggs

5 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On floured surface, roll out dough 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.

From, makes 5 dozen

Cocoa zucchini cake

What holiday dessert is more popular than cocoa zucchini cake? I know it sounds weird, but trust me—this recipe turns out sweet. I chose to make this dessert because it was convenient. My mom had coincidentally bought all the ingredients for it on the day I was going to bake, so when I asked for a suggestion of what to make, she gave me this recipe. I bake whenever I get a craving, but I’d never seen this recipe before. My mom offered to help me with it, and we made it in less than an hour. The cake has two cups of grated zucchini in it, but the sugar, vanilla and orange flavors mask the zucchini and make it taste like a normal chocolate cake. It was delicious! —Austin Skootsky, 17, Hamilton HS

Nonstick vegetable cooking spray

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup wheat germ

½ cup unsweetened cocoa

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

3 egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring

2 teaspoons orange extract

2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini

¾ cup skim milk

Vanilla Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons skim milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 10-inch tube pan with cooking spray; dust with flour, then set aside.

In a bowl, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat oil and sugar in a separate bowl until blended. Add egg whites. Stir in vanilla flavoring, orange extract and zucchini. Alternately stir in dry ingredients and milk. 

Pour batter into pan that was coated with cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn onto wire rack to cool. 

Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients and beat until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake. 

From Vegetable Desserts, serves 16

Apple crisp

I made apple crisp because it was a dish I’d helped make in a cooking class once, and wanted to know what it’d be like to make by myself. I also wondered what it’d be like to make a dessert more complex than your basic cookies or cake. Apple crisp is sort of like an apple pie. The apple filling is sweet but also sour with the addition of lemon juice. There’s also the crispy topping. It was easy to make but time consuming, mostly because I doubled the recipe. But it was fun to try on my own and I’ll definitely make apple crisp again. —Leilani Jimenez, 13, Irving MS


5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped small

¼ cup finely chopped pecans

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon lemon juice


¾ cup all-purpose flour

1⁄3 cup brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces

¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all the filling ingredients together. Place into 7- to 8-ounce ramekins. (I used a baking pan and lined it with foil.)

For the topping, mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. Blend the butter into the mixture until it forms pea-size lumps. Stir in pecans and sprinkle over filling.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

From The Neelys, The Food Network, serves 8

Arroz con leche (rice pudding)

My mom used to make arroz con leche in the winter. We ate it hot and it looked like atole (porridge), perfect for the weather. It has been a while since I had my mother’s arroz con leche, so I asked my aunt to help me make it because I didn’t know how. She gave me clear instructions and it was easy to make. I thought that it could have turned out better if I had used condensed milk. My mom used condensed milk and her rice pudding was amazing. In the end the rice pudding came out all right. When I put it in the fridge and ate it the next day, it tasted pretty good because it wasn’t as sweet as when it was hot. —Miguel Molina, 18, East Los Angeles College

1 piloncillo (also known as panela), which is a piece of unrefined whole cane sugar shaped in a cone (you can get piloncillo in any store that sells Mexican products, like Superior) 

3 cups rice 

6 cups water

9 cups milk

1 cinnamon stick

10 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Ground cinnamon for garnish

Put rice and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. 

Add milk (you can add less than 9 cups. We add a lot because we like to eat it like porridge).

Add cinnamon stick, broken into smaller pieces.

Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, then add piloncillo and sugar. You can add more or less depending how sweet you want it. 

Add vanilla extract. 

Turn heat to high for 3-5 minutes to allow it to return to a boil. You will notice that the grains of rice have grown. This is the result that you want because the rice absorbs the milk. 

When done you can eat it hot or refrigerate it to eat it cold. Add ground cinnamon for garnish before serving.

Serves 12-15 people

Vegan cinnamon rolls

One of the highlights in my home around the holidays are the cinnamon rolls my sister makes. She’s one of the better cooks in the family, or rather the only cook, and this treat is absolutely delicious. She’s lactose intolerant, meaning she can’t eat or drink products containing dairy. However, she found a cinnamon roll recipe that’s vegan, but doesn’t taste at all like it is. I decided I would help my sister make the rolls this time. This is a complicated dish and I was out of my league. The cinnamon rolls didn’t come out as great as they usually do, but hey, it’s a learning experience. I think that anyone with more familiarity with cooking would have a fine time making these, especially with a little help from family! —Sydney Grant, 16, CHAMPS (Van Nuys)


¼ cup silken tofu

2 cups soy milk or rice milk, at room temperature

2/3 cup dairy-free margarine, melted

4 ½ cups unbleached flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup sugar

2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast


1 cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, softened

½ cup raisins (optional)

Place the silken tofu in the food processor and pulse until completely pureed.

Mix all the dough ingredients on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until well combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to thoroughly incorporate all the ingredients. Cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until it’s almost doubled in size.

Spray a 13×9-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray.

Pour the sugars and cinnamon into a small bowl and mix with a spoon until well combined. Set aside.

Lay out two sheets of wax paper, each at least 24 inches in length. Lightly spray each with a nonstick baking spray. Place the dough on the wax paper and place the second sheet of wax paper on top, so that the dough is sandwiched between the two sprayed sides.

Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 24×14 inches. Spread margarine on the dough and sprinkle evenly with the sugar/cinnamon mixture and the raisins, if using.

Beginning with the short side, carefully and firmly roll up the dough like a jelly roll. Using a very sharp knife, slice into 12 equal-size rolls. Place the rolls on the prepared baking pan sliced sides up. Cover the unbaked cinnamon buns with a dish towel and let rise for another 30 minutes. At this point, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick to make sure dough in the center of each bun is baked enough. If it comes out clean, it’s done.


While the rolls are baking, prepare the icing by beating together the “cream cheese,” margarine, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and salt. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula and continue to beat until smooth. Spread the desired amount of frosting on the warm rolls before removing them from the pan to serve.

From the Divvies Bakery Cookbook


Since crepes are one of my favorites desserts, I decided to make them for my holiday treat. I made one with banana and Nutella, and one with cinnamon sugar. My mom and I found this recipe in a cookbook she had. According to the cookbook, if you hold a coin and flip a crepe, it is said to bring you financial luck. Crepes are not only light and sweet, they also have European culture (they’re French). Bon appétit! —Natalie Honarchian, 13, Wilson MS (Glendale)

4 ounces flour

¾ ounce granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 ounces butter

8 fluid ounces milk                                                                                   

Melt butter and set aside

Sift flour in large bowl, add sugar

Whisk eggs and pour in bowl with the flour

Mix a little, add butter, mix again

Pour in milk gradually and mix at the same time

Put mixture in fridge for ½ hour

Grease nonstick pan and put on medium heat until warm

Pour batter with ladle

When edges start to set, flip

Wait a couple seconds and move crepe to tray/dish

Repeat until batter is done

Spread Nutella (a hazelnut spread) and place slices of banana, then fold in half and in half again. If you don’t want Nutella, you can top it with cinnamon and sugar.

From Cuisine Foundations