cookie exchanges and graham cracker toffee

There are very few recipes I can spout by memory.

While Jason can remember recipes by muscle memory and ingenuity alone, I have always needed some sort of framework to kickstart the creative culinary process. I liken it to my piano chops — I can play the crap out of a classical piece in front of my face, but I still cannot improvise chord structures to save my life.

Only three things are exempt from this obvious recipe crutch: a good ol’ bowl of guacamole, my mom’s enchiladas, my dad’s garden pasta, and this Graham Cracker Toffee.

I have been making this stuff every single year since Middle School, so I sure as hell better have it memorized by now. It’s a Ward family staple during the holidays and an inclusion in every single cookie tin and treat plate we gift [and eat] in December. It’s the first thing to go at a party and a constant recipe request from anyone who tastes it. It might even be the reason why Jason married me.

So when it was suddenly time to host and bake for this week’s cookie exchange gathering, I was glad to finally have the opportunity to bust it out for the occasion.

I was already feeling the mounting pressure of the holidays [despite the fact that it wasn’t even December yet!], but between the house decorating, cleaning, gift brainstorming, choir performances, and Jason birthday prep, it was comforting to know I could rely on this trusty toffee to be easy and stress free. I could also make it a week in advance without fear of it spoiling. Win-win!

Never mind the fact that I had made it this Graham Cracker Toffee the year before, or that everyone attending the cookie exchange was probably going to get it again later in the month. Of all the people who would understand and forgive my predictability, it would be these Denver ladies.

We had only done one previous cookie exchange in the past, so our knowledge of the etiquette surrounding them was more or less lacking. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a riot of a time [and a few too many cookies while we were at it]. This was the menu:

  • Classic Snickerdoodles [Lauren]
  • Chocolate Chunk Cookies [Mary]
  • Gluten-free Monster Cookies [Rachel]
  • Ginger Cookies [Whitney]
  • Buckeye Balls [Kelty]
  • Graham Cracker Toffee [Liz]
  • Cheesy Cookies — aka PIZZA! [Aubrie]
  • Soup + Bruschetta Feast [Katelyn]

holiday cookies

The only remaining cookies I was able to sneak away from Jason afterward!

Throw in some mulled wine, whiskey cocktails, and some genuine, no-holds-barred conversation, and no one could care less about the supposed expectations of the Pinterest led craze of cookie exchanges.

In fact, we all agreed that while we initially felt the pressure to do something unexpected and outside the box for the occasion, in the end, we agreed it wasn’t worth it. We scoured recipes, threw around ideas, pummeled our pantries, and finally came to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t the best idea to attempt a stuffed hazelnut meringue cookie when our meringue skills were seriously lacking. [That sentence was all about me, if you couldn’t read through the lines.]

When it came down to it, we all stuck with the things we loved most: simple, delicious cookies [and food!] we wanted to eat. And because of it, I’m pretty sure we all went to bed with cookie comas of epic proportions.

Between the quality conversation, unbelievable laughter, and genuine warmth that radiated well into the wee hours of the night, you better believe that every crumb was worth it.


graham cracker toffee

Graham Cracker Toffee


  • 24 graham crackers
  • 1 c. [2 sticks] butter
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 lb. milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 – 6 oz. bag Heath bar bits


  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Grease the bottom of a jelly roll pan and line with graham crackers.
  2. In a medium pot, boil together butter and brown sugar for 3 minutes.
  3. Pour and spread sugar mixture over graham crackers and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Turn off oven and quickly take the pan out. Pour chocolate chips and Heath bar bits on top and return to the oven for just a few minutes to ensure stickage. [You don’t want the chocolate chips to melt, but you also don’t want them to fall off the graham crackers either.]
  5. Refrigerate overnight, break up into pieces, and serve. Can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to a week or frozen for up to a month.

graham cracker toffee

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