Cookie exchanges are inherently rewarding. Nothing beats the lovely afterglow of time spent with friends and a plate brimming with homemade goodies to gift to each other’s families. Cookie swaps can range from a strict set of rules (no store-bought chocolate chip cookies) to anything goes (simple is super if that’s your style). Go with whatever you think will appeal to your friends without causing them stress.

Set the date

Holiday calendars fill up fast. During the hectic holiday season, an afternoon rather than an evening might work better with your friends’ schedules.

Better by the dozen?

Decide on the number of guests. The more guests, the more cookies each guest will need to bring. Typically around two-thirds of invitees will accept an event invitation. If you invite 20, plan for between 12 and 15 guests. Request that guests respond a week ahead of time and end a gentle follow-up to any unconfirmed guests the day of your RSVP deadline.

Crunch the numbers

Let’s say you have 12 guests. Ask each participant to prepare four dozen cookies. This ensures every person gets to take at least four cookies from each batch, and each guest returns home with a total of 48 different types of cookies.

Gather the recipes

Ask each of your friends to bring copies of her recipe to share.

Prep your guests

Participants should arrive with a tray of cookies for sampling and instructions about how they’ll take their treats home. For example, they can bring their own container or as the host, you can provide them with decorated boxes or tins to put treats in.

Serve simple appetizers and beverages

To complement the sweet, serve savory appetizers that you can prepare ahead of time, like cheese and crackers, mixed nuts, dips, chips and fresh veggies. Beverages might include apple cider, soda, wine, iced tea, sparkling wines, beer, coffee or hot chocolate.

Spread the joy

Offer your friends the option of preparing extra cookies that you can box up and deliver to a local nursing home, police or fire station or women’s shelter.

– Christa Melnyk Hines

Recipes: Staff Picks

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 ¾ cups (approximately 8 ounces)
shredded sweetened coconut
2/3 cup (7 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
(not evaporated milk)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a bowl, mix the flour and coconut. Add the condensed milk and vanilla and stir well. The batter will be thick and sticky.
Form the dough into 1½ inch balls or drop generous tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, on the baking sheets. Bake for 13-18 minutes, or until macaroons are golden and firm to the touch.
After cooling cookies, melt chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Remove and stir well. Dip bottoms of macaroons in chocolate. Lay the cookies on wax paper and refrigerate until chocolate hardens.
Makes about 15 cookies.
– Sheri Taylor-Emery (From The 5:30 Challenge Cookbook by Jeanne Besser and Susan Puckett )

1 cup butter
1½ cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ tablespoons brown sugar
1½ tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the eggs.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Slowly add to the creamed mixture until well blended. Add vanilla.
In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll dough into balls before rolling them in the cinnamon and sugar and placing them on a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Makes about 24 cookies.
– Emily Webb

Cranberry White-Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2¼ cups all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix flour with baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla.
Stir in dry ingredients. Add chips, cranberries and nuts.
Drop by tablespoon onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Bake 9-11 minutes
Note: May also use a quality cookie mix and add white chocolate chips, cranberries and nuts. Amount of mix-ins can be varied.
– Liz White

Dipped Ritz Cookies
Ritz crackers
creamy peanut butter
melting chocolate, white or chocolate
holiday sprinkles

Spread crackers with peanut butter. You can make them open-faced or a sandwich.
Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Melt using defrost cycle for 30 second intervals until chocolate is melted. Stir.
Dip peanut butter crackers in chocolate. Flip to coat both sides. Remove with fork.
Place on parchment paper and sprinkle with decorations.
– Liz White

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