HCPL Staff Shares Their Favorite Holiday Sweets & Treats!

It’s the best time of the year!

That’s our unbiased opinion of course, but you gotta love the month that pretty much wipes out humidity in Houston for a bit. Here at HCPL, we’re ringing in the chill(ier) season with our favorite sweets and treats. Cause the holidays aren’t just about the events themselves, it’s also about the ambience. Great food, good movies, catchy songs—they all make this time special. 

So here’s some of our favorite holiday things!


My Favorite Holiday Sweet: Mexican Hot Chocolate 

I can (and do) have hot chocolate throughout the year, but having it when it’s actually cold outside? Especially delicious. And while I’m perfectly willing to order a hot chocolate just for me, when it comes to making it at home, I tend to only make it when there’s people. That’s probably what makes it feel extra Christmasy to me. 


Buy Ibarra chocolate. Go with your heart. 

No seriously, this is a pretty forgiving recipe, as long as it’s Ibarra. Ibarra chocolate has a richer taste than Abuelita, it’s not quite as sweet, with a delicious kick of cinnamon already included. La Popular is great too. 

On the package, it recommends you do one tablet of chocolate per 4 cups or something and also break out a blender. You don’t need to do that. 


  1. Get a decent sized pot, according to hold much hot chocolate you want. Add the amount of milk desired and then let it simmer. Do not leave the stove! Hot milk cannot be trusted. 
  2. When the milk is hot, add the chocolate. Ibarra chocolate is solid, and you’ll typically see it as a hexagon shaped package. The chocolate tablets are made to be broken off as needed. So add in some chocolate but start small. Then stir at a leisurely, yet continuous pace.
  3. When you can see that the chocolate is mostly dissolved, give it a taste. If it’s almost right, just add a dash of milk. If it needs more chocolate, add some. One or two tablets at a time.
  4. When your level of chocolatey goodness is satisfactory, just keep stirring, making sure you get what’s on the bottom.
  5. Once it’s all dissolved, bring it to a very controlled and very brief boil. Don’t let the milk get crazy, this won’t even be for a full minute. Then bring it back to a simmer for another minute or two, and you’re done! 

My Favorite Holiday Treat: Howl’s Moving Castle  

I usually prefer sub to dub, but Ghibli films are an exception. I really love this movie, it’s my ultimate comfort film. Last year I did see Tokyo Godfathers for Christmas too, and it also ruled. 


Chocolate Holidays: This is a great cookbook if you want to keep the chocolate train rolling throughout the holiday season. Medrich also takes into account Jewish dietary restrictions and include recipes for latkes, babka, hamantaschen, and more! It’s a great cookbook, though best suited for bakers with some experience already under their belt. 

Howl's Moving Castle: And in case you want to check out the rest of HCPL’s other Ghibli films, here you go!

Happy watching and eating! Have a great holiday season! 

- Leslie 



My Family’s Favorite Holiday Sweet: Chocolate Dipped Treats  

One of our traditions when I was growing up, was to make all our family and friends’ plates full of different things that we dipped in chocolate. This is one of the easiest recipes I know, and it makes for a fun and laidback activity.   


First, pick your chocolate. White, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate. They all work! Totally up to you. You can get chocolate chips or choose a fancy baking chocolate. Now pick out the things you want to dip in chocolate. This can be basically anything you like.  

Some ideas:  


peanuts, or your favorite nut of choice, walnuts are pretty good too 


maraschino cherries  


peanut butter crackers  

Really, whatever you like!   


  1. Set up your dipping station. Place bowls of your dippables in the middle and lay out a lot of wax paper to drop your dipped treats on.
  2. You can be fancy and use a double boiler, but we always put the chocolate into a microwave safe bowl and heat it up for short intervals, stopping every 30 seconds to stir with a spatula, check to see if it’s fully melted, and make sure it’s not burnt.
  3. Once your chocolate is melted, drop your treats in the melted chocolate, submerge and coat, use a spoon to remove the treat from the chocolate, and place your treat on wax paper to dry.
  4. Once they’re dry, share and enjoy! 

My Favorite Holiday Treat: The Muppet Christmas Carol 

The Muppets aren’t for everyone. But I am a Muppet gal. I love those furry goofballs. One of my favorite traditions this time of year is to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. I’m old enough that I originally saw it on VHS with the sad ballad in it! Real heads know. It’s a heartwarming adaptation of a story about ghosts terrorizing the very rich into paying their employees more. What's not to like?? 


The Muppet Christmas Carol

Books about Chocolate!


How to Make Chocolate Candies

- Sarah G. 


My Favorite (Last Minute) Holiday Sweet: Chocolate Peanut Butter Ritz Cookies 

It happens every year, a dear and delusional friend invites me to another Cookies Swap party. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends, their delusions, and holiday cookies, but who has the time to bake two dozen cookies during the holidays? I certainly don’t! So, if you’re like me, and have little time during the holidays to sift flour, grate nutmeg, or chill dough, here’s a last-minute no bake cookie recipe for you.   


Ritz Crackers 

Peanut Butter 

Melting Chocolate (Use your favorite melting chocolate) 


  1. Prep: Line your baking sheet with wax paper 
  2. Sandwich: Spread peanut butter onto a Ritz cracker and top with another cracker. Measure with your heart.
  3. Dip: Melt chocolate according to package directions. Dip each cookie into chocolate, covering it completely, and place on baking sheet. Optional: Add holiday sprinkles, nuts, or drizzle white chocolate.
  4. Chill & Enjoy: Chill cookies in the refrigerator for about an hour (enough time to get ready for the Cookie Swap). Pack cookies into a cookie tin and share with friends.  

My Favorite Holiday Treat (Yo Self): Christmas at Pemberley 

My dear delusional friends and I will be treating ourselves to the final installment of the Christmas at Pemberley trilogy – Georgianna and Kitty- presented by Main Street Theater. Christmas at Pemberley presents the audience with new stories featuring all the characters you know and love from Pride and Prejudice. As fans of Jane Austen, we never miss a chance to return to Pemberley during the holidays.  


Pride and Prejudice: The OG

Jane Austen: To whom all things Pemberley are owed.

-Anjela M. 



My Favorite Holiday Sweet: Champurrado  

“Champurrado” is a delightful and comforting Mexican hot chocolate drink that warms you during the winter, especially during the holiday celebrations.  Let’s check into how you can make this rich and flavorful beverage.


1 ½ cups water 

1 cinnamon stick 

1 whole clove 

1 pod star anise 

4 ¼ cups milk 

2 tablets of Mexican chocolate (such as Chocolate Ibarra) 

¾ cup pinole (coarse ground maize flour) 

A pinch of crushed “piloncillo” (Mexican brown sugar cone), or more to taste 


  1. Place the water, cinnamon stick, clove, and star anise in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, then remove from heat and allow the spices to steep until the water becomes fragrant (about 10 minutes). Strain the spiced water.
  2. In a separate saucepan, heat the milk, Mexican chocolate tablets, and pinole over medium heat. Whisk until the chocolate is dissolved and the liquid thickens (about 10 minutes).
  3. Remove the mixture from heat and add the piloncillo. Let it rest until the sugar is fully dissolved (about 5 minutes more).
  4. Pour the cinnamon-infused water into the chocolate mixture and stir to combine. 

Enjoy your champurrado traditionally with “churros” for breakfast or as a snack. It’s also a delightful pairing with tamales during the Christmas season! 

My Favorite Holiday Treat: The Little Drummer Boy 


The Little Drummer Boy, along with all the other great music available on Freegal!

- Julio Platero 



My Favorite Holiday Sweet: Buñuelos

I ate buñuelos for Christmas in Mexico, every year I was there. My grandma passed away so I haven’t spent a Christmas there in years and will never have them made by her again. BUT I’m looking forward to my first Christmas back and to taste them again this year! Here’s a recipe I found online!

Ingredients You'll Need

  • all-purpose flour 
  • baking powder 
  • salt 
  • warm water 
  • oil for frying 
  • granulated sugar 
  • ground cinnamon 

Instruction How to Make Buñuelos

  1. Make the dough by adding all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Mix together until combined. Add warm water and 4 tablespoons of oil. Mix together with a fork until the dough comes together.
  2. Transfer the dough onto a clean working surface and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into a ball, place it in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes. 
  3. Roll out the dough by dividing it into 8 separate pieces and rolling each piece into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll out each ball into an 8 to 10-inch circle.
  4. Fry the dough by heating frying oil to 350°F. Fry each dough circle for about 60 seconds, turning once with metal tongs, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to prepared plate to drain any excess oil.
  5. Garnish the buñuelos with cinnamon sugar.
  6. Eat! 

Tips and Tricks 

  • Buñuelos can fluff up a lot when frying, creating huge air pockets that look cool but aren’t very conducive to eating. I recommend using metal tongs to keep the dough fully submerged in the oil for the first 10-15 seconds of frying to minimize the very large air pockets, this will fry both sides at the same time, reducing the amount. 
  • Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on the buñuelos as soon as possible to ensure that it “sticks” to the fried dough. 

My Favorite Treat: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone still gives me all the Christmas and cozy feels. I also enjoy karaoke! Singing the Mexican classics.  

Checkout: These tunes! 

- Silvia R-D 



My Favorite Holiday Sweet Savory: “Mom’s Hoppin’ John” 

Christmas Eve is a time for family and fun.  Our favorite movie is the all-time classic holiday film – “Die Hard,” starring Bruce Wills.  And speaking of Ham – if you have any left over from Christmas dinner, try some Hoppin’ John for New Year’s Day. 

My mom is a great cook and while there are many of her recipes I could talk about for the holidays, I thought I would include one that always started the year off with a dose of good luck.  Of course, I’m talking about the traditional southern New Year’s Day classic—Hoppin 'John. 

The Traditional New Year’s Day Meal that brings good luck! 


  • Ham bone (preferably one with a lot of meat still on it) You can substitute bacon if you don’t have a ham bone left over from Christmas dinner) 
  • One green bell pepper (chopped) 
  • 1 medium onion, (chopped) 
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (12 ounces) 
  • Fresh Black-eyed peas are better, but canned peas are okay.  The equivalent to 3 (15 ounce) cans of black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained 
  • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans of chicken stock 
  • 1 cup water 
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste 
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, or to taste 
  • 2 cups uncooked Jasmine rice


  1. Place the ham bone and onion into a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the black-eyed peas, diced tomatoes, bell pepper, chicken stock, water, and cayenne pepper, and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Remove ham bone, but leave the ham that should fall off the bone at this point.
  3. Serve and enjoy good luck and prosperity in the year to come! 

My Favorite Holiday Treat: The all-time classic holiday film, Die Hard

Here's the film series, available through HCPL.


These cookbooks for more delicious southern cooking! 

Christmas With Southern Living, 2018

Southern Grit

 - John Schaffer



My Favorite Holiday Sweet: Ohio Buckeye Candy 

For years at Christmastime, my mom and I spent a whole Saturday making an assortment of sweets for gifting: two kinds of fudge and bourbon balls (which had about a shot of whiskey in each one mixed into Nilla Wafer crumbs and a bunch of confectioners' sugar. They were guaranteed to get even the bah-humbuggiest scrooges into the holiday spirit). But year in and year out, these buckeyes were the most requested candy we made (maybe because they didn’t come with the possibility of a hangover). 


  • Mix together 2 C. creamy peanut butter, 1 ½ sticks softened butter and 2 lbs. confectioners' sugar. 
  • Form into 1 to 1 ½ inch balls and place on a sheet pan lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  • Melt 24 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate morsels or chocolate bark in the microwave or a double boiler. Stir until smooth. 
  • Using toothpicks, dip peanut butter balls into chocolate until almost covered to look like a buckeye. (photo) 
  • Refrigerate until chocolate is set.  
  • Enjoy! 

My Favorite Holiday Treat: A Christmas Memory 

One year when I was ten or eleven, I watched a made-for-TV version of Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory from 1966. I don’t remember the circumstances, but I remember I was alone in front of the black-and-white TV. Up to that point, I had only seen the usual Rudolphs and Frosties and Grinches where everyone ended up happily learning the “true meaning of Christmas.” This thing was different: atmospheric, poetic, and deeply sad. It hit me hard—but in a good way. The 1966 version is available on YouTube. But I recommend the book as well, it’s the work of a brilliant prose stylist at the top of his game.


A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

- davec


My Favorite Holiday Sweet: Betty Crocker’s Gingerbread Cookies 

I only make these at Christmas time—and according to Betty, they’re low-fat, so I can eat a lot of them, right? This recipe calls for 7 cups of flour and makes 2 dozen to 2½ dozen cookies. With the cookie cutters I used, it wound up being more like 4 dozen cookies, so I often cut this recipe in half (except the spices usually!). The recipe is in Betty Crocker’s Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today (2000), pg. 161. We’ve got a newer edition in our collection than what I have at home but check it out and you tell me if the recipe is still there! 


1 cup packed brown sugar 

cup shortening 

1½ cups dark molasses 

⅔ cup cold water 

7 cups all-purpose flour 

2 teaspoons baking soda 

2 teaspoons ground ginger 

1 teaspoon ground allspice 

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1 teaspoon ground cloves 

½ teaspoon salt 


  1. Beat brown sugar, shortening, molasses and water in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  2. Heat oven to 350°. Grease cookie sheet lightly with shortening or spray with cooking spray.
  3. Roll dough ¼ inch thick on floured surface. Cut with floured gingerbread cutter or other shaped cutter. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.
  4. Bake 10-12 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, for about 30 minutes. Decorate with colored frosting, colored sugar, and candies if desired.

My Favorite Holiday Treat: Christmas in Connecticut 

After I’ve finished making the cookies, I like to kick back, enjoy a few, and watch one of my all-time favorite holiday movies, Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, and Sydney Greenstreet. This movie has been remade a couple of times, and one of the most recent romantic comedies I’ve read, Faking Christmas by Kerry Winfrey, was loosely based on this movie. The original is still my favorite though! 


Christmas in Connecticut

- Laura