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Cookie exchanges a fun, sweet holiday tradition

As I type this, I’m cozied up on the couch with a tin full of 13 different kinds of cookies. Maybe that’s too many, but, it’s the holidays. My roommate and I hosted a cookie exchange last night, a tradition Dana started four years ago, and that we both intend to carry on for a long time. Perhaps, even as long as a group of women that I’m writing an article about. They’ve been having a cookie exchange for 26 years–through children, grandchildren, surgeries and illness. They’re an inspiring group, and the cookies are an excuse to gather during the holidays. That story should be published in Wednesday’s Food section; I can’t wait to share it with you, along with a few must-have recipes they’ve made over the years. In the meantime, don’t forget to Instagram your cookies for our contest; it ends Tuesday! 

Pure happiness.

Every cookie exchange is a little different–sometimes they’re formal, sometimes they’re a snacking affair. Sometimes you eat a meal, or maybe hors d’oeuvres, or just the sugary treats. What do you think makes for a good cookie swap?

We’ve made a few tweaks over the years. The first, Dana organized a friendly competition between the cookies–we were supposed to taste all the varieties, then nominate favorites for categories like “just a hint of mint” and “I could eat that whole batch” or “I need that recipe right now.” But, 20 cookies turned out to be too many for the average taster, and most of us ended up with plates full of cookies, each with a bite taken out of them. My family wasn’t thrilled with the tin that I tried to “share” with them. After that, we decided we’d cut some of the cookies from each batch into bite-size pieces for tasting at the party; the rest would be for taking home. Even with each guest bringing 3-4 dozen, we have enough for everyone to take home a few cookies of each kind.

Peanut butter Rudolphs–with pretzel ears, chocolate chip eyes and a red M&M nose–are always a hit.

To kick our party off, we have a few snacks throughout the house–an easy Boursin cheese dip with crackers; mixed nuts; olives; carrots with hummus; and cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls on toothpicks. The drink selection was ample, with citrus-infused water, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and a crockpot full of spiced cider. (Stick a few whole cloves into an orange, throw in some cinnamon sticks, and a piece of nutmeg if you have it, and heat the cider on warm for a few hours. Whiskey and rum, optional.)

Two of my favorite cookies that I’ve made for exchanges are these Chocolate Almond Crunch and these Date Nut Pinwheels; I wrote about our first exchange a few years ago too. But every year, it’s fun to learn new recipes from new friends. I’m considering trying the pecan bars from one of the women I met Wednesday the next time I need cookies. Do you have a favorite holiday cookie? Can you offer any tips for throwing a cookie swap? Do share!

Trying cookies of all kinds is part of the fun at exchanges.