For this Southern Living Producer, celebrating her family's cookie-baking tradition from afar was just as sweet.
Aunt Vicky's Pecan Tassies
Credit: Meg Pace

The women in my family have a holiday tradition where they all gather at someone's house a few days before Christmas and bake cookies together all night. It's decadent and fun, with festive music, loads of sugar and butter, and a little red wine to wash it all down. At least I assume it's fun. I've never actually participated. My absence is not on account of a lack of cookie enthusiasm; I am a sweets connoisseur. (My first week on the job at Southern Living, we had a bit of a cupcake emergency on a video set. When I told my dad about it later, he said he knew of no one more fit to handle a "cupcake emergency" than myself. I am a dessert-aholic.) But I've always missed the cookie marathon. When I lived near family in Mississippi, I worked nights at the local TV station. Then I moved to Birmingham and had a baby, making a trip home for a night of cookie decorating near impossible. I've always admired the event from afar, when my cousins record all the fun for posterity on Instagram.

Recently, on the first weekend of cold weather in Birmingham, I decided to have a cookie party of one. I pulled out a recipe of my aunt's my mom sent me a few weeks back to give it a try. My Aunt Vicky is the premier cook in our large family of Southern cooks. She makes the Southern Living December white cake every year, and it serves as the centerpiece at Christmas Eve dinner. I knew a recipe from her was going to be divine, but I also figured it was probably going to be advanced, and I was up for a challenge. So, I embarked on Aunt Vicky's Pecan Tassies.

Spoiler alert: this recipe is surprisingly easy. I'll admit I wasn't convinced I was doing any of it right until they popped out of the oven, looking like warm, gooey, mini pecan pies. It was a lesson in trusting Aunt Vicky's recipe and all her accompanying footnotes. She graciously agreed to let me share her recipe but I've taken the liberty to add a few notes of my own.

WATCH: 10 Sweet and Festive Pecan Desserts

First, try to source the best pecans you can find. I made mine with organic pecans straight from my granddad's grove in Kossuth, Miss. He even shelled them for me, too. For the crust, the recipe says to "mix until sandy." I'm always confused by this instruction because I never know what beach the recipe writer has in mind. For this one, you're looking for course and wet, à la Jacksonville Beach. I used this silicone mini muffin pan which made popping the little tassies out a breeze once they were cooled, but you must let them cool. I rushed a few while they were still warm and they broke apart. Start to finish, these little pecan pie bites took me less than an hour and I had a full platter to show off at work the next day.