The other day, I was standing at the kitchen counter making Christmas cookies with my two children. Pamela put spoonfuls of chocolate dough on one cookie sheet, while Joseph pressed his thumb into cookies on another sheet and added melted chocolate. The warm feeling of creating holiday treats with my children took me back to my own childhood when I used to bake Christmas confections with my mom.

I remember she would gently press my thumb into the thumbprint cookies, letting me roll out the dough for cutout sugar cookies and shake sprinkles onto our treats. Part of my love of Christmas stems from those hours spent in the kitchen side-by-side with my mom, laughing as a Santa cookie lost its hat or sneaking just one more taste of batter.

My mom taught me baking skills and through the years, she let me take on more projects in the kitchen, such as decorating my own tray of mini-cupcakes that spelled out “Merry Christmas.” When breast cancer made her too sick to bake batches of Christmas cheer, I tried my hand at her favorite recipes. They didn’t come out as nicely as hers, but I felt good carrying on her traditions. I never did get to bake Christmas cookies with her again–she died shortly after that Christmas 15 years ago. I cherish those memories as I create new ones with my own children.

My mom taught me how to have fun while baking and to adapt when a recipe didn’t turn out quite right. That flexibility has served me well for the past seven years as I’ve learned to create yummy holiday desserts that are safe for Joseph, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg and soy.

Some of the treats I made with my mom hold a special place in my family’s holiday tradition, such as the “Merry Christmas” cupcakes—I just substitute alternative ingredients to fit our dietary needs.

I also love trying new recipes. Last year, we made gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free  Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies* from Living Without magazine and they became an instant hit. These cookies are now part of our holiday cookie repertoire.

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookie recipe by Cybele Pascal, author of The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook: How to Bake Without Gluten, Wheat, Dairy, Eggs, Soy, Peanuts, Tree Nuts and Sesame.