My Mom’s Christmas Cookies


I love to cook at Christmas, but baking is another story. This year I decided to take on the challenge of making my mom’s Pinwheel Cookies. They are a delicious mix of gooey dates and nuts all wrapped up in a sweet shortbread. This “grown-up” cookie is perfect for the holidays and will definitely impress your friends and family.

I’ve always wanted to make these cookies, but the way my mom would talk about all the prep that went into them, it scared me off. Granted, she’s a bit of a drama mama, but you’d think these cookies took her all weekend and afterwards she’d have a cleaning crew come in and put her kitchen back together. (Now that probably is true because that cleaning crew is my dad and he tells me all about it.) So you can see why I’ve never attempted these cookies. But this year, I pulled out her recipe and went for it.

Christmas cookies

Isn’t it great having recipes in your loved one’s handwriting? To pass down to future generations? Well, this one needs an addendum if my little guy’s wife is going to pull it off. After several phone calls to the “Masterchef” I finally deciphered this recipe enough to create these amazing cookies.

All joking aside, this time of the year I really appreciate my mom and all of the work she put into the holidays when I was growing up. She’s still the best cook I know and can whip up a five course meal under 30 minutes. A delicious five course meal at that! And now I know why she did it. Today when I pulled those cookies out of the oven and my 4 year old exclaimed, “Mommy, you did such a good job! I can’t wait to taste them.” When you hear that, it’s all worth it. I’m sure my mom thought so too.

Dream Photography Studio

Here’s my mom’s revised “Sandy Sue’s Pinwheels” recipe:

  • 2 1/2 cups dates
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Use a food processor to chop dates and walnuts separately. Heat dates, water and sugar until smooth. Add nuts. Set aside to cool.

Beat the eggs and set aside.

Cream butter, Crisco, brown sugar and add the eggs.

Then add flour, salt and baking soda. Mix well and chill in refrigerator.

Pull out the dough. It will be sticky. Divide into two balls and roll one ball into a rectangle to 1/4 inch thick on parchment paper. Spread half the cooled date and nut mixture over the dough and then roll it up. Do the same with the second ball of dough.

Chill again and then cut the dough in 1/2 inch pieces.

Cook on 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes until the cookies begin to get golden brown.

Christmas cookies

From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy and Happy Holidays!

I would love to know what your favorite family recipe is.  Please let me know in the comments.

Portrait of my mom and son by Dream Photography Studio

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The last few years have brought big changes for Emily. After spending years in high-stress, deadline-driven TV jobs in East Coast metros, family circumstances brought her and her husband Joel to the Arizona desert. Now this former news junkie is a stay-at-home mom to Miles, a fast-talking toddler with energy to spare. She spends her days teaching him about faith, letters, numbers and manners. Whenever he’s asleep she boots up the laptop to write for North Phoenix Moms Blog and other freelance gigs. Whatever spare time she has left is spent on a hike with her family or a rare date night with Joel, at the gym, coffee and dinner with friends, or in her craft room creating simple, beautiful jewelry for her online boutique, Hazel & May, and giving too many treats to her pups, Pepper and Gizmo.



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