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Gift 5: Family recipes – from ours to yours

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Arizona Daily Star writer Kathy Allen, right, and her niece Eleanor Allen-Henderson whip up chocolate orange drop cookies in Kathy’s kitchen.

On the fifth day of gifts for our readers, we give you three family recipes and a peek into reporter Kathleen Allen’s family traditions. Kathleen is a longtime Tucson newspaper reporter. She covers the arts and gives a voice to the many interesting people who call Tucson home. You’ll find her stories in Caliente and in Home + Life each week.

Christmas morning was too chaotic in our big family.

My poor parents would be up until 4 a.m. or so putting out presents and assembling gifts.

And an hour or so later, I and my nine siblings would rouse them out of bed to see what Santa had left.

After a few years of this, my father decided Santa would come earlier on Christmas Eve and we’d open presents that night. We’d have a light supper, then we kids would go down the hall to play, dad would close the door between the hall and the living room, and a few hours later we’d hear bells ring, a “ho, ho, ho,” the hall door would fly open, and the frantic gift opening began.

After, we would have hot chocolate and discuss what we each got. Ever since, a Christmas Eve does not go by without a cup of hot chocolate. It conjures up memories of so much love and warmth.

My parents are gone now, and my brothers and sisters and I have added a few culinary traditions of our own to our holidays. All these recipes are so popular amongst us that they are in our “Allen Family Cookbook.”

My sister Margaret starts making her Chocolate Orange Drop cookies a few weeks before Christmas. She gives them out as holiday gifts. I’m not sure how she does that — these little cookies are so delectable. When I make them, I seem to eat more than I give. The tradition has now been picked up by our niece Eleanor, who makes them look much prettier than my sister or I ever could.

My sister Patti has taken the hot chocolate recipe to a whole new level and every Christmas Eve when her children were growing up, she would make a batch and they would sit around after gifts were opened and sip.

And for Christmas dinner dessert, I make my almond pound cake. It is moist and rich and very much in demand. And here’s the best part: though it takes lots of sugar and butter and eggs, it’s a breeze to make.

Sure, there’s an overload of sugar here, but these are the holidays. Restraint is not in order. Besides, we can start to walk it off come Jan. 1.

We can’t make these temptations for all of Tucson, but the Star can share the recipes. Consider them our gifts to you. Happy gatherings, happy holidays.


Chocolate Orange Drop Cookies.


Almond pound cake.


Hot chocolate topped with marshmallows.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128. On Twitter: @kallenStar