Cookie swaps, cookies, friends, Christmas. These are indeed a few of my favorite things. And I got to enjoy them all last weekend when my roommates, Sarah and Julie, and I hosted a cookie swap at our apartment. Cookie swaps have a special place in my heart. I love any reason to gather friends and share food. And if that food happens to be cookies, even better.
Years ago, I remember sitting at home and watching the Food Network around Christmas time. There were several programs that went to various towns throughout the country and profiled impressive cookie swaps organized by ordinary cookie-lovers. I had never been to a cookie swap and all I could think was, I want to host a cookie swap!! In my senior year of college, I finally did. Four of my friends and I shared a house that was excellent for entertaining and I realized it was the perfect time to organize a cookie swap and holiday party. I was so impressed with all of the contributions from my friends.
This year, I finally got to host a cookie swap again. My roommates, Sarah, Julie and I set out a sizable spread that grew as each of our guests brought with them their own treat. We had a selection of beverages to start, including hot chocolate, tea, rum, and mulled cider. To prevent sugar overload, Sarah whipped up some delicious savory items, including homemade pico de gallo with blue corn tortilla chips, meatballs, and an amazing pecan-crusted cheeseball that she served with crackers. The cheese ball is made with cream cheese, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and apple chutney from Stonewall Kitchen.
She formed the spread into a ball and then covered it with chopped pecans. I am not usually a fan of cheese spreads, but I really enjoyed the flavors in this one. I am hoping she will do guest post to show how it’s done.
Sarah is quite the skilled baker as well. She baked a large batch of molasses cookies using a recipe that she has been making for years. The original recipe calls for shortening but this year she tried it with butter for the first time and was very happy with the results. They were soft and chewy with crisp edges and a pleasant molasses flavor.
Julie made gorgeous festive chocolate-dipped graham crackers and dusted them with crushed candy cane. Simple, but so very tasty.
Andre made traditional sugar cookies and then added a little twist, by mixing in chopped hazelnuts into half the batch, and drizzling them with chocolate.
I loved Jamie’s cookies as soon as I laid eyes on them: chocolate chip shortbread thumbprints with homemade raspberry jam. The shortbread was dense and chewy with a lovely combination of flavors from the chocolate and the jam.
My contribution were the Chocolate Mint Chocolate cookies from last week’s post. I used a full bar of chopped mint chocolate for the recipe. You could use less, but I liked how chunky the cookies ended up with it.
Sarah’s friend Kate brought salted oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They were very hearty with a dusting of salt that contrasted beautifully with the sweet oats and chocolate.
Unpictured are a trio of cookies that Kelly made: Russian tea balls, monster cookies, and chocolate espresso cookies with vanilla buttercream and chocolate covered espresso beans. I was a fan of all the three but those last were really something. I definitely plan to get the recipe from her and attempt to re-create them. Kelly also brought her amazing spiced candied pecans.
We rounded out the evening with a viewing of selected scenes from White Christmas, especially for those in attendance who had never seen it. For me, celebrating Christmas extends far beyond just December 25th. The first few weeks of December leading up to Christmas are one of my favorite times of the year. I love making Christmas into a three week long holiday, and celebrating it in fun and different ways with different people. Exchanging a wide variety of cookies is a pretty excellent way to celebrate. In fact, I propose that we celebrate several other holidays by exchanging desserts. Cake swap on St. Patty’s day anyone?