Recently, I was walking down King Street with one of my best friends at college talking about how beautiful everything looks in William Sonoma, and I thought about how a girl from high school took cooking lessons there for her senior project. I thought to myself, "I wish I could do that because I’m like the worst at cooking." OK, I can boil water to make pasta, and I’m the queen of boxed brownies, but when it comes to actual cooking or baking I’m a little lost. My mother can literally take a look in the fridge and pantry and just “whip up” something. I could never. My mom is so talented in the kitchen that she hardly uses recipes, but I’m lucky not to overcook pasta in the microwave at college. If the thought of bringing your own homemade batch of cookies to a holiday party gives you more anxiety than you can manage, these recipes are definitely worth a look for you.

1. The Sweetest Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

• 3/4 cup oil

• 3 eggs beaten

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 3/4 cup half and half

• ¼ cup water

• 1 yellow cake mix

• 1½ cup brown sugar

• ¼ cup granulated sugar

• 2 tablespoons cinnamon

• ¾ stick butter, melted

• ¼ powdered sugar

Instructions:

1. In a large mixing bowl. combine oil, eggs, vanilla, water and half and half together.

2. Combine egg mixture with cake mix and blend. Pour half the batter into a 9x13 pan.

3. In a medium bowl, prepare streusel by combining brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon.

4. Sprinkle half of streusel on top of the batter. Top with remaining batter and then sprinkle the remaining streusel on top.

5. Bake, uncovered at 350 for 20 minutes.

6. Melt butter and whisk in powdered sugar. Remove cake from oven and drizzle butter mixture on top. Continue baking for 5-10 min. longer until done. Serve warm with a hot cup of your favorite coffee or milk.

NOTE: ½ cup chopped pecans can be added to the brown sugar mixture if desired.

2. Easy Cookies

Ingredients:

• (18.25-ounce) package chocolate or yellow cake mix

• ½ cup vegetable oil

• 2 large eggs

• 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels

• ½ cup chopped pecans

Makes 4 ½ dozen

Instructions:

1. Beat first 3 ingredients in a mixing bowl at medium speed with and electric mixer until smooth.

2. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.

3. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet.

4. Bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes

5. Remove and cool on wire racks

NOTE: These cookies are definitely easy to put your own mark on. Lose the nuts and substitute the chocolate chips with peppermint chips or crushed Andes mints. Also, to make cookies more festive you could decorate with icing or add sprinkles on top.

3. Chocolate Nut Toffee

Ingredients:

• 1 cup chopped pecans, almonds or walnuts

• 1 stick of butter

• ¾ cup packed brown sugar

• 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips

Makes 12-15 pieces

Instructions:

1. Spread nuts in the bottom of a well-greased 8-inch baking pan.

2. Melt butter in heavy saucepan, add sugar, and boil the mixture for 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour immediately over the nuts and let sit a few minutes.

3. Spread chocolate chips over the top.

4. Cover with a baking sheet or wooden cutting board to melt chocolate.

5. When chocolate has softened, spread evenly. Refrigerate. When cool, break into pieces.