For a number of years now, TIMES NEWS reporter Amy Miller has organized a Christmas cookie exchange at our offices in Mahoning Township. Employees are encouraged to bring three dozen cookies to share with their co-workers, and Amy always provides baggies for everyone to go home with a sampling of wonderful Christmas cookies.

The spread is always colorful, flavorful and generous, filling two long tables to capacity.

In addition to all of her other duties, Amy also compiles the recipes and emails a copy to all of the participants.

This year, she asked employees who were making original recipes if they would be willing to share them with our readers in this week's Comfort & Joy column. We couldn't use them all, but are happy to be able to share a few with you.

Maybe you'll find a new Christmas cookie tradition right here.

Susan's Snowballs

From Karen Cimms

Makes 5-6 dozen

2 cups butter, softened

1 cup confectioner's sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 and one-half cups flour

One-half teaspoon salt

1 and one-half cups chopped walnuts

1 additional cup confectioner's sugar

One-half cup blue sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add flour, salt and nuts and combine well. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Combine 1 cup confectioner's sugar and one-half cup sanding sugar. While still warm, roll cookies in the mix, then set on racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Cookies may be frozen, but freezing may affect the overall look of the cookie somewhat.

"Almost everyone has a version of this snowball cookie, but this recipe is special to me because it reminds me of the dear friend who gave it to me. She and her family moved to Chicago almost 15 years ago, but I think of her each Christmas when I make it."

Lemon cookies

From Marta Gouger

1 package lemon cake mix

One-half cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

4 ounces of chocolate chips, if desired

White chocolate, melted, if desired

Colored sugar for sprinkling, if desired

Pecan halves, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except white chocolate, colored sugar and pecans and mix well. Drop from a teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. If desired top each cookie with the pecan half. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Cool on cookie sheet about one minute; then remove to rack to finish cooling.

When cool cookies can be dipped in white melted chocolate and topped with sprinkles. Place on wax paper until chocolate hardens.

"My mom made these cookies when I was a child. She got the recipe from a Duncan Hines cake box but it has taken different forms over the years. We've added chocolate chips, dipped them in melted white or dark chocolate. They are also just plain good with colored sugar. The cookies are light so they are a nice alternative year round to heavy desserts."

Cream Cheese Joys

From Chris Parker

1 one-half cups unsalted butter

1 one-half cups sugar

8 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 large eggs

4 one-half cups pastry flour

teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup each white, milk and dark chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup dried cranberries (soak for five minutes in boiling water)

Whip butter and cream cheese with sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in orange juice, vanilla and eggs.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

Gently fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.

Fold in the chocolate chips; walnuts, and dried cranberries.

Spread mixture in a 9-inch by 12-inch buttered baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until evenly light golden brown.

Upon removing from oven, immediately spread one-half pound of dark chocolate melts on top. As soon as they melt, spread evenly.

Let cool until chocolate is firm but not hard. Use a small metal spatula to cut into even pieces,

Cinnamon Pastry Sticks

From Rebecca Wraight

Ingredients will depend on how much dough you are using.

Pie crust dough

One-quarter cup melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the vanilla with the melted butter. Mix the sugar and the cinnamon together.

Roll out dough to be no more than one-eighth inch thick. With a basting brush, brush the vanilla butter over the dough. Then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mix over the dough, depending on personal taste. Cut the dough into strips making them about 1-inch thick and 5 inches long. Place strips on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for about 15 minutes until the dough is cooked. Let sit for 15 minutes before eating.

"My mother used to make this with left over dough when she would make pies. She said it was just something that she did instead of throwing the left over dough away. Now I make it just for a snack around the holidays."

Rocks

From Maureen Markley

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup shortening or butter

3 eggs, add yolks, beat the whites and add last

2 and one-half cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda mixed with a little vinegar and a pinch of salt

1 and one-half cup raisins

1 pound English walnuts, chopped

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes

Maureen got this recipe from her mother-in-law Anna Mae Markley, who will be 98 in May.

"She (Mae) helped me bake them last year and I've been baking them since I married her son Larry 54 years ago until now. He baked them this year with the help of my 3-year-old granddaughter Dakota. She rolled them."