On Christmas Eve, one of my 5-year-old daughter Parker's favorite things to do is put together a beautiful plate of cookies for Santa, complete with carrots for the reindeer and a glass of milk. A few days before Christmas, we spend an afternoon in the kitchen together baking delicious holiday cookies to give to friends, neighbors and the man in red. And even though my toddler son, Orson, is too young to really help out - unless he tastes what we're making - he loves to be picked up so that he can see what's cooking.

Here are the holiday cookie recipes we baked for Santa this year:

  • ·We're a family that adores chocolate, so I wasn't surprised that Parker wanted to include her personal favorite cookie for Santa: chunky, satisfyingLava Rocks. Parker took great pride in being allowed to chop the pecans with a sharp knife (while under supervision, of course!) for this recipe.
  • ·This year we improved on the traditionally sinful mini pecan tarts that Santa loves with a healthier version-Double Nut & Date Tassies(also thewinner of EatingWell's 2009 cookie contest)-which at 93 calories apiece won't add to his belly. This bite-size morsel is perfect for little hands to help with: Parker carefully operated the food processor and chopped pecans. She was especially proud of "squooshing" the crust into the mini muffin tins.
  • ·Parker really enjoyed assembling these delicate and complexDark Chocolate Florentines, especially because of the melted chocolate for the filling. There was a lot of tasting and a lot of hand-washing before assembling the next batch of goodies!
  • ·Boot Tracksis baked on the waffle iron that usually only comes out for Christmas morning breakfast, so Parker and Orson loved taking turns opening the lid of the iron as the cookies were done (and both certainly enjoyed tasting the fruits of their labors!).