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Holiday Baking Extravaganza 2018

My mom and I have baked cookies for the holidays, ever since I can remember. This was a cherished tradition growing up. We would bake tasty sugar cookies in our tiny tile and linoleum kitchen; me with my bowl-cut, my brother in Bart Simpson pajamas, and my mom with an endless supply of patience and holiday cheer.

After I started living on my own, we decided this was a tradition worth carrying on (no matter the distance), so our "Holiday Bake Day" slowly turned into a "Holiday Bake Weekend", and has taken over the kitchens of various homes we've lived in, from San Diego, to Dana Point and all the way up to San Francisco! This year, I'm happy to be baking with my mom in my own home with the newest addition to the Holiday Baking Team, Ava!

2012 in San Diego

2016 with a bun in the oven

2017 with a bun out of the oven

I'm sharing all of the recipes we are whipping up this year - some we have been baking for years, others are newer additions, but they are all delicious! We bake all of these treats to pack in tins and Tupperware, to be shared with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers!


  • Almond Sparkle Cookies

  • Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

  • English Toffee

  • Holiday Sugar Cookies

  • Peanut Butter Balls

  • Dipped Peppermint Oreo Cookies


Almond Sparkle Cookies

Yields 38 Cookies


  • 1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated sugar cookies

  • 1/3 cup roasted blanched whole almonds

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup coarse sugar

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

  • 2 to 3 teaspoons milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract


  1. Heat oven to 350°F.

  2. Meanwhile, in food processor, place almonds. Cover; process with on-and-off pulses until finely ground.

  3. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Add flour and ground almonds; stir with spoon or hands until well blended.

  4. Shape dough into 38 (1-inch) balls. Roll balls in coarse sugar. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

  5. Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until edges are set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.

  6. In small bowl, stir powdered sugar, milk and almond extract, adding enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Drizzle over cooled cookies. 


  • To toast almonds, heat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in ungreased shallow pan. Bake 6 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until light golden brown.

  • Look for coarse sugar in gourmet sections of supermarkets or in cake-decorating supply stores.

English Toffee

Family Recipe

Yields 1.5 pounds of deliciousness


  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter

  • 2 TBS water

  • 1/8 tsp salt

  • 6 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped

  • 1 cup ground and toasted pecans

  • **You'll need a candy thermometer for this recipe!


  1. Lightly toast your pecans on the stove. Prepare a baking sheet by coating with softened/melted butter

  2. In a saucepan melt butter on low heat, about 3 minutes. Combine sugar, water and salt. Stire to incorporate. Turn heat to medium high until it reaches 290 degrees (this needs to be exact)

  3. Pour on prepared baking sheet, smoothing to edges with a spatula

  4. Melt chocolate in a double boiler on low heat. Spread over toffee before the heat has completely left the pan. Sprinkle nuts on top of chocolate while it is still warm

  5. When toffee has set, break it into pieces. Store in a tin.



  • Be very precise with your candy thermometer! 30 extra seconds can turn your delicious toffee into hard-as-rock caramel!

Peanut Butter Balls Made in 2016 but we made the balls too big!

Yields 3-4 dozen


  • 3 cups crisped rice cereal measure out 3 c. then crush

  • 2 cups smooth peanut butter

  • 3/4 cup butter softened

  • 3 - 3/4 cups powdered sugar

  • 1 pound melting chocolate


  1. Mix together: 2 cups smooth peanut butter and 3/4 c. butter

  2. Add: 3 3/4 c. powdered sugar 3 cups crushed crisped rice cereal

  3. Chill mixture for 1-2 hours. Use cookie scoop to make uniform balls. Roll into balls. Melt 1 pound of chocolate. Dip balls into chocolate. Remove with a toothpick. Place on foil or wax paper until cool.

  4. Yields 3-4 dozen peanut butter balls, dependent on size. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Best when eaten fresh or within 2-3 days.


  • These are very rich treats so don't make them too big! We made this mistake one year, and it was just too much!

  • If you're having a hard time getting the balls out of the chocolate with a toothpick, try a fork. You can also refrigerate the balls for an hour before dipping.

  • Do not substitute margarine for butter

Sugar Cookies

We always make a few dozen sugar cookies, and we do it the old fashioned way. With pre-made Pillsbury sugar cookie dough, and a few cans of frosting! We cut a corner here because they are truly SO tasty already, and we have the most fun (and spend the most time) decorating each cookie with a unique design. These are always a big hit!

Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

These make for great "tin-fillers". They look super festive, are quick to make, and add a nice salty balance to the very sweet bundle of treats we hand out this time each year.


  • 1 bag large pretzel sticks

  • 1 bag regular-shaped pretzels

  • 1 can dipping chocolate (in produce section)

  • 1 can dipping white chocolate (in produce section)

  • Sprinkles


  1. Melt your chocolate per the instructions. Dip your pretzels, top with sprinkles and set on wax paper to dry


  • Melt one can of chocolate at a time and DON'T OVERHEAT (because it can get chalky)

  • For added flair, melt colored melting chocolate to drizzle over the pretzels.

Dipped Peppermint Oreo Cookies

I made a version of these as Halloween Monster Cookies this past year, and thought it would be fun to make more for the holidays! Instead of colored melting chocolate, I am using Peppermint melting white chocolate.


  • 1 box of Oreos

  • 1 bag of Peppermint Dipping Chocolate (from Michaels or Hobby Lobby)

  • Candy Molds (from Amazon)


  1. Melt your chocolate per the instructions.

  2. Fill the mold about half-way with melted chocolate

  3. Place cookie in mold and press down

  4. Fill the rest of the way with chocolate and smooth with a spoon or spatula

  5. Let sit for 10 minutes

  6. Cool in the fridge for an additional 10 minutes

  7. Pop cookies out by applying gentle pressure to the bottom of each mold


  • Feel free to dress up the cookies with some frosting and sprinkes

  • These are VERY SWEET treats so if dolling out to friends, 1-2 cookies per person will suffice!

So that's a wrap! I hope you get a chance to try one or two of our recipes this year, but more importantly, I hope you enjoy the small (and sometimes laborious) traditions with your family young and old, this holiday season!


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