Each year that I've done what feels to be a massive baking undertaking, with more and more friends and family added to the list each year, I'm pretty amazed it all gets done. Especially when I'm in the middle of it all, and there can only be less than a handful of days from the time they are baked to when they must be mailed/handed out. But it really is so satisfying to give something made from my hands and my heart to the people who mean so much to us. I know they're only cookies, but they really are small edible pieces of love. I wish I had the stamina to do more so that everyone could be covered, but until the boys are old enough to really pitch in (and I certainly plan on that), it's me and me alone, although my dear husband certainly helps out when he can. They help me in so many ways every day, that I can wait. Each year I get asked quite frequently what my recipes were and how I found them, and now that I have this little website, I can share them. They are all worth the effort. 

Alfajores (Argentinian Caramel Sandwich Cookies)

Adapted from Nook & Pantry

1-1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon rum extract
1/3 cup finely ground blanched almonds

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 13.4-ounce can dulce de leche*
Finely ground toasted almonds (optional)

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and salt. Beat until light and fluffy, scraping side of bowl often. Add egg, lemon peel, almond extract, and rum extract; beat well.

Add the 1/3 cup finely ground almonds; beat well. Beat or stir in flour. Divide dough into three portions. Cover and chill about 2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet; set aside. On a lightly powdered-sugared surface, roll out one of the dough portions to an 1/8-inch thickness. Using a fluted square or round 1-1/2- to 2-1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out dough. Place dough squares or rounds 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until tops are a very pale golden brown. Carefully transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool. Repeat with remaining dough portions. 

Spread about 1 tablespoon of the dulce de leche on the bottom of each of half of the cookies. Top with remaining cookies, flat sides down, pressing lightly together. If desired, sprinkle tops of assembled sandwich cookies with finely ground toasted almonds. Makes about 24 sandwich cookies.

White Chocolate Gingerbread Bars

From Martha Stewart Living

2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment cut to fit, and coat parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

Beat butter and brown and granulated sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares or desired shape. Blondies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Toffee Crackle Cookies w/ Sea Salt

1 c butter, softened
1 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¼ c flour
1 ¼ c toffee bits
Flaky sea salt (Maldon is best)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour and toffee pieces.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Sprinkle tops with sea salt. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake about 20 minutes until the tops are cracked and the sides are set. Do not let the edges brown. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. 

Lemon Bars

from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (3 to 4 lemons)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (less if you are using the thinner topping), or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Peanut Butter Munchies

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat together butter, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the 1/4 cup peanut butter with an electric mixer until combined. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; beat well. Beat in as much of the dry ingredients as you can with mixer. Stir in remaining dry ingredients by hand with a wooden spoon. Form chocolate dough into 32 balls about 1-1/4 inches in diameter. Set aside.

For peanut butter filling, in a medium mixing bowl combine powdered sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup peanut butter until smooth. Shape mixture into 32 (3/4-inch) balls.

On a work surface, slightly flatten a chocolate dough ball and top with a peanut butter ball. Shape the chocolate dough over the peanut butter filling, completely covering the filling. Roll dough into a ball. Repeat with the remaining chocolate dough and peanut butter filling balls.

Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. [NOTE: I rolled mine in powdered sugar before flattening slightly]

Bake cookies in preheated oven for 8 minutes or until they're just set and surface is slightly cracked. Let cookies stand for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool. Makes 32 cookies.

To Store: Place in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.