Dec. 19, 2022

Alumni's cookie tin: A dozen recipes full of sparkly holiday cheer

Check out Mom’s Nanaimo bars, Grandma’s angel gingerbread cake, French meringue cookies, and more
holiday baking
Ten sugar-coated elves from Alumni share their favourite holiday goodies with you.

We love fresh-fallen snow and an overstuffed stocking as much as the next person, but not even a snapping fire can touch the holiday feeling that a platter of buttery shortbreads or gooey Nanaimo bars gives us. I confess that December is the month our family treats Christmas cookie-baking as part-gladiatorial sport, part-opera. Once I started admitting my holiday obsessions, however, other folks in Alumni bellied up with their tales of how they spread joy through those can’t-put-them-down snacks and showstopper cocktails. Whatever tops your list this year, we’re hoping you get it. As for our team, here are a few edible presents, from us to you ...

Tia Lalani and her mom whip up her family's favourite: Nanaimo Bars

Tia Lalani and her mom whip up her family's favourite: Nanaimo bars.

Tia Lalani, senior communications specialist, UCalgary Alumni


I'm less of a holiday baker and more of a holiday eater, but my mom occupies the former category (much to my delight). She makes these Nanaimo bars every year and they are an oldy but goody. I love myself a good Christmas cliché, so give me a plate of these, a cheesy Hallmark movie and a Christmas cocktail and I'm set. She got the recipe from her mother, who lived on Vancouver Island for many years, so you know it's the real deal ... although my mom also admitted that my grandmother may have gotten it from the back of a custard can (shhh!).

Image of the recipe for Tia's Cookie
mango sago

Will O'Yeung's Mango Sago.

Will O’Yeung, BComm’91, director, UCalgary Alumni Board of Directors


Here is a quick and easy recipe for a mango sago. It is a pretty dessert that is Asian and very tasty. There are mango puddings and other varieties of desserts that Chinese people enjoy in restaurants and on holidays, but I prefer this one as you can add other ingredients to make it your own. 


Mango Sago Ingredient and Method

Deb Cummings, MEd’17, lead storyteller, Alumni Leadership Engagement and Recognition


The short version of this long and mortifying tale is that I entered a Christmas cookie contest years ago and got so swept up in winning (which I did) that I bought a tile saw (not to cut the squares, but the slabs of slate which were part of the presentation), dozens of paper bags, raffia, and rolls and rolls of plastic wrap — plus, I had to bribe a work crew to make it all happen. Yes, I won, but each square probably set me back $5, and I swear I made hundreds of squares. I’m just thankful my family still craves them every year and loves to retell the ridiculous story of when my Christmas spirit got the best of me!

butter tarts

Jess Faulds and her Nan.

Jess Faulds, Donor Experience Advisor


This recipe is so special to me because my Nanny made us Christmas Butter Tarts every year. As she got older I would make them with her and now I make them for her. They are perfection in a tart, better than any tart I have ever purchased and every time I bake them I think of my Nan.



New tarts recipe
saltine toffee

Jessica's Saltine Toffee recipe

Jessica Zutz, BA’12, BSc’12, director, UCalgary Alumni Board of Directors


I love how quick it is to whip up a batch of saltine toffee during the holiday season. Each December, we play some vintage Christmas albums and bake a few batches of this sweet treat as we sing along to holiday songs. It’s a straightforward recipe that yields a fair amount of toffee treats that are wonderful to bundle up and add to seasonal care packages for family and friends! 

Toffee Recipe

Kate Wong, BN’12, vice-president and vice-chair, UCalgary Alumni Board of Directors


I confess that I am an eater, not a baker. That said, for me, gingerbread cake tastes like the holidays. Gingerbread cake is one of the first things anyone from our family requests when my mom asks what she should bake for Christmas (she is a prolific Christmas baker!). Most of my memories of this cake involve a huge pile of whipped cream with cake buried under there … somewhere, which used to make my grandparents laugh. Even though Grandma Townsend has been gone for some time, if feels like she’s with us every at Christmas dinner and my taste buds are grateful for it.

Grandma cookie recipe ingredients and method
French Meringues

French Meringue Cookies

Audrey Taylor, BA’12, BA’12, MBA’18, director, Alumni Leadership Engagement and Recognition


These always remind me of my study abroad in France, and are perfect for dairy-free, gluten-free eaters! Once you have the recipe down, you can experiment with different flavours for the seasons … mocha, lemon zest, pumpkin spice and, for these upcoming holidays, I sometimes sprinkle them with crushed candy canes.


French Meringue Cookies Recipe
Ginger snaps

Amanda Priddy Bowron's ginger snaps

Amanda Priddy Bowron, BA’07, Alumni Programs co-ordinator, UCalgary Alumni


Warning: These cookies will disappear faster than you can make them so do what I do and make a double batch! A favourite in our house (my son loves them), these cookies are soft and chewy, quick to make, and never disappoint. The recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law and for many years they only appeared during the holidays. Recently, however, they seem to be appearing more frequently throughout the year.

Ginger Snap recipe
Amy's Eggnog

Ingredients for Amy Mykes's Eggnog.

Amy Mykes, senior specialist, Alumni Volunteer Engagement


Our family celebrates on Christmas Eve versus Christmas Day (we save that for grazing on treats and leftovers and living in our pyjamas).

One of our annual traditions is watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and drinking eggnog (moose mug mandatory!).

I love to make cocktails and enjoy how light and delightful this recipe is; our family loves eggnog in all forms, but this special cocktail is the favourite!



EggNog Recipe
Spicy Mixed Nuts

Spicy mixed nuts and dark-chocolate nut crunch.

Jeff Wallace, BCS'10, co-ordinator, Alumni Engagement


The nut mix is a healthy alternative to tortilla chips. It has all the zing and kick I crave and tasty mighty fine with a frosty lager.

For simplicity and time, I put the seasoning mixes to work. However, if desired, they are easily substituted with your choice of seasonings, such as garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, crushed pepper and salt.

Spicy Mixed Nuts Recipe


Rich in taste, bite-size and easy to make. What's not to like? It's especially good smeared with a dollop of almond butter.

Dark Chocolate Nut Crunch Recipe
Sign up for UToday

Sign up for UToday

Delivered to your inbox — a daily roundup of news and events from across the University of Calgary's 14 faculties and dozens of units

Thank you for your submission.