Splendido chef

Splendido’s pastry chef at work on a BIG batch of cookies. Giving someone a gift—whether or not it’s homemade baked goods—is good for your health.

Feeling pressured by all your holiday to-dos? Good news—you can reduce your stress (and maybe your to-do list) by doing something nice for someone! 

Love Conquers Stress 

Multiple studies have shown that good deeds and altruistic emotions result in feeling a “helper’s high”—positive emotions that not only feel good, they actually overpower stress. There are some small studies that link these feelings of love and empathy with a stronger immune system.

By doing someone a favor, giving a thoughtful gift, or squeezing in a little volunteer work this season, you can lower your stress level—as well as ease the physical changes that stress brings (think high blood pressure).  

Give a Sweet Gift 

One way you can enjoy these “generous” health benefits is by making a delicious treat you can give as a gift or serve to friends and family. (You can enjoy a different set of positive emotions by sampling them yourself.)

Mary Teresi is the pastry chef at Splendido, an all-inclusive community in Tucson for those 55 and better. Known for the seemingly endless variety of desserts she creates for Splendido residents and, at this time of year, for her elaborate gingerbread houses, Mary has shared the two recipes on this page so that you can wow your family and friends—and feel that beneficial helper’s high while you do so.

Happy Holidays!




2 cups granulated sugar

1 ½ cups vegetable oil

2 eggs

½ cup molasses

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp. ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp salt

Additional sugar to roll dough in

White chocolate coating to dip gingersnaps after baking

In a small mixing bowl beat the eggs, sugar, oil, molasses, and vanilla until well incorporated. 

Combine all dry ingredients in another small bowl, then add dry ingredients to wet and combine well. Make sure to scrape the bowl completely so everything is well mixed. 

Scoop the dough with the smallest metal scoop and roll into granulated sugar. Put onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake in a 350 oven for approx. 14 minutes. 

The cookies should look cracked on top but a golden brown. Do not overbake or they will be hard. 

When cool, dip half of the cookie in white chocolate coating and sprinkle with holiday sugar.

Makes approx. 10 dozen cookies.

Sugar Pecans

3 lbs. pecan halves or any desired nut

3 lbs. light brown sugar

1 cup egg whites

2 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and egg white. It will resemble wet sand. Add the nuts and toss to completely cover.

Pour onto three sheet pans and place in a 225-degree oven. 

Bake 15 minutes, then take out and toss….do this every 15 minutes for 1 to 1.5 hours until the nuts are “dry.”

When cool, you can store in a metal tin or bag for individual gifts. They last for months!

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