Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Cookie Swap and Gift Exchange



Another successful cookie swap party is over for another year. 

It is an anticipated and fun tradition I have hosted for years.

I *highly* recommend hosting one yourself!

It's really fun and SUPER EASY to host!


Now this is a very wordy post-and if you don't feel like reading
(I know how limited everyone's time is this close to Christmas)
please just be sure to at least scroll completely down
 to the picture of what my daughter made,
 because it's really just too cute to miss. 

Seriously.

 I it!







How many guests does one invite for this kind of party?

The way I do it is I invite a dozen ladies (no more or it is just too large.) This year only 10 of us could make it and it was quite nice. The number isn't as important as getting firm and early RSVPs so you are able to let your attending guests know in time enough to bake the appropriate number of cookies, and pre-wrap them for easy swapping. This isn't a good party to have no shows or unexpected shows. That is very bad form anyway, but in these days of casual-over-propriety winning darned near every situation, this isn't one that handles a different number very well.

Remember to include in your invites asking if there are any nut or allergies that may be a problem in participating for this party. After a while you learn who-has-what, etc., but that first time get it right so no one gets sick or worse!



How many cookies, you ask?

WELL..................for many years we swapped a dozen for each guest attending (and that is a LOT of cookies) but a few years ago we decided to drop it to half a dozen minimum (of course more is fine, too!)

I always have my large formal dining table ready to be our "swap center."








What is first on the party agenda?

Before your guests arrive throw on some nice holiday background music. I am always most satisfied with instrumentals versus words - they "fill" versus "entertain" our senses, so always words best in a crowd such as this one. Remember to light a fire and/or candles to get the house in festive good cheer.

The guests come in, coats are hung then they go straight to the swap table and unload all of their pre-packaged cookies - for easier swapping when the time comes.

I tell ya every year looks different, there has been and was really neat packaging. That's half the fun, just to see how it all looks together!

These are the only two pics I have of the table (taken from Lynn's phone,) because I completely forgot to take pictures of it - grrr. These do NOT show how awesome those colorful & beautiful packages were.

My friend Lynn and her Mom brought their cookies in adorable little metal hinged present boxes! And our first-timer Sara wrapper hers in plain white lunch bags, and simply tied with red and white baker's string; so cute. She just stuck them in a huge ironstone bowl and nothing could have been cuter.








OK, then what's next?

So once the guests unload at the swap center, they bring their
"dozen of your cookie to taste," along with recipes (sometimes)
and place them on the kitchen's dining table.....which is what makes this party so easy to host - the GUESTS bring what we have to EAT! (Except for that dozen I contribute.) So the host doesn't have to really FIX much but provide the drinks. It can't get any easier than that!

This year for drinks I used my crystal fruit punch bowl with its matching cups, decaf coffee with my Christmas Tree cups, iced tea, egg nog, and SPIKED egg nog. (With fresh whole nutmeg nuts for a fresh grated taste with the nog, yum.)

This is the first year I didn't provide mulled hot wine or cider -
did the punch instead and it seemed popular. 


There was a very nice & delicious selection of yummy treats this year:






Top left clockwise:

White chocolate macadamia nut - Sara
Christmas Shortbread - Teresa
Russian Pecan Tea Cookie - me
Rudolph Peanut Butter - eldest daughter Evelyn
Cut out decorated sugar (top inside middle) - youngest daughter Katie
Peanut Butter Blossoms (lower inside middle) - Cathy
Raspberry Thumb Prints - Joyce
? - can't remember name, awesome delicate with fruit in it - Lynn
Orange Puffs - Jennifer
Chocolate Chip Cookies - Laurie (not pictured for some reason?)

I really wish these pics could show how pretty things were - the low lighting
and lack-of-time-to-do-much-fussing-while-hosting factored into bleh pics-
 but we had a VERY good time!

























After we visit and sample cookies we have our gift exchange.

Occasionally a few throw in White Elephant gifts for the laughs.

This year was no exception. 

Someone unwrapped an early 1990's cell phone, new
in box with instructions, and all accessories. 


It was hilarious. We all laughed forever.

We do the "swap" gift exchange - so it can get brutal but fun in the end.
I, however, got SUPER HAPPY AND LUCKY!!!

I ended up getting to keep what my daughter hand made:


An adorable vintage spool Christmas Trees in a canning jar!

(Same daughter who made the cute Rudolph cookies made this jar.)




My two children are so danged crafty! In all the years I have hosted this party I have only once not made sugar cut-out cookies as my kind to swap. My youngest relieved me of that somewhat time consuming and tedious job this year. She really wanted to make them. I happily obliged her, but it sure was weird not to make them.


OK, my girls said I should post my recipe as I sent it to them.

(Exactly how I sent it.)

They said you all would probably think it is kinda funny.





Momma’s  Christmas  Cut-Out  Sugar  Cookies
350 degree preheated oven.  Batch makes approx. 8 dozen  cookies.

6 cups sifted-to-measure all- purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder (use fresh or they don’t rise well enough)
1 tsp salt (don’t skip this, needed for the rising process)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 sticks softened but not melted REAL butter - this is no time for skipping calories
1.5 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
½ cup sour cream
3 tsp vanilla


·          Sift flour again (after 1st sifting to MEASURE) along with baking powder, salt & nutmeg – set aside

·         Cream softened butter with sugar, beat in egg then vanilla then fold in sour cream.

·         SLOWLY add dry mixture until just moistened well . YOU DO NOT WANT TO OVER MIX ONCE WET MEETS DRY; IT CAN GET VERY STARCHY IF YOU OVERWORK THIS DOUGH.

·         Once mixed, divide into thirds and wrap these hunks in waxed paper and chill for at least an hour- overnight is better. I usually make dough one night, bake cookies next night then decorate the third night and then let dry well enough for stacking when firm.

·         You work with your divided thirds so you always have the 2 others in the fridge while you are working with the one thing of cookie dough. Remember you don’t want to let the dough get warm or it gets too sticky, just keep trading them out as you roll and cut….cool surfaces (like granite) are awesome to keep dough cooler to work with - if your dough is cool it isn't as sticky, try not to be tempted to use the "just adding flour to keep from being sticky" method. This makes for a very dry and tasteless cookie.

Remember to sprinkle flour on your work surface, but each time you pick up dough to rework it that flour gets worked into the dough – so your end-of-cutting dough is going to be much drier, so may  change your baking time. You can sprinkle a little bit of water in the dough, but it WILL get sticky and be starchier – just try to work as little as possible and use as little flour as possible. Cut using as much dough as possible- sometimes it takes an extra second to figure it out, but your care makes the difference.


When you  roll out remember THICK ones stay fresher and moist longer. Thin ones are very crisp. Bake for 7-8 mins- oven times vary – until super light beige on bottom. DO NOT OVER-BAKE OR THEY WILL TURN OUT TOO CRISPY AND DRY.

Thicker is better, but also makes less cookies. So to make the perfect cookies
for swapping, just plan on making an absolutely TON of dough - holidays are few and far between and the extra love and butter and goodness you put into baking is totally worth it.

Love you,

xxoo

Momma



***************************************************


I shared my colorful cut-outs last year here
while they were drying on the counter.  I made 150 of them.
Not all made it into this particular picture though, haha.









As always, thank you for stopping by for a visit!



Hugs and friendship,

~Michele



21 comments:

  1. Your cookie exchange looks wonderful. My children were quite disappointed when I made cookies for the exchange and took them away from them. I promised goodies when I returned. But, the cookies this year were a bit of a disappointment and my children said they far preferred mine and wished I had just brought back my own,

    Merry Christmas

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  2. A cookie exchange is a great idea. I have never hosted one but did join one for a few years.
    Nice to have crafty children and good friends too.
    I love your last pic of your cookie factory!

    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!
    Carolyn

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  3. Michelle,
    Your cookie exchange looked like fun and wow some yummy cookies too. We do a cookie exchange with our family on Christmas Eve. It is so much fun and everyone brings their favorite cookies to exchange. This way no one has to do all the baking. It is fun each Christmas Eve for all of us. Merry Christmas.
    Kris

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  4. WOW Michele, I'll take one of each. The cookies look so yummy and how much fun you much have had! I've baked 3 cakes this afternoon and that like to have done me in...you are very blessed that your daughter made all those cookies, they sure are pretty.

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  5. Oh I fun, I went to a swap this year and it really is so fun. Wish I lived close enough to go to yours. Hugs, Marty

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  6. A very comprehensive plan for having a cookie swap party. I have never attended one, but seeing this lets me know that I have missed out!

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  7. Years ago, my book club had cookie swap parties every year. So much fun and yours looks wonderful! Merry Christmas to you and your family. ♥

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  8. I haven't taken part in a cookie swap but from your account, can see how much fun they can be. The fun gifts in the exchange would provide lots of laughter but don't laugh at the phone! It's probably similar to the one I use today. LOL
    Merry Christmas.
    Judith

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  9. It has been years since I participated in a cookie swap. Yours looks fabulous!

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  10. How fun!!! YUMMY!!!

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  11. This is such a fun thing to do at Christmastime!!! I love all the cute packaging containers for the yummy looking cookies! Your cutout cookies are beautiful!!
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas,
    Mary Alice

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  12. I went to my first one (that I remember) this year and it was great fun!

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  13. Michele, This cookie exchange looks like so much fun. I went to one recently too and I'm still enjoying them. Thanks for sharing this fun event! Merry Christmas!
    Hugs,
    Jody

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  14. What a fun cookie exchange party, Michele. Some of my grands and I made the reindeer cookies, only we used sugar cookie dough and frosted them. Aren't they fun and cute? Merry Christmas blessings to you.

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  15. Hi Michele,

    What a beautiful array of cookies!! They're all so pretty and festive, and I'm sure they were lots of fun to make and bake! Thanks for sharing all your tips! Enjoy!

    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, all the best in the new year!

    Following you back!

    xo
    Poppy

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  16. Oh, this is absolutely fabulous, and I LOVE (and appreciate!) your tips on how to do this, as I've never hosted a cookie swap -- and been to one only once. THANK YOU!

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  17. OOOh I'm going to keep this recipe,sounds delicious. Merry Christmas

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  18. Michelle, it all looks perfect - and yum!

    Merry Christmas to you and all you hold dear, my sweet friend.♥

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  19. A quick hello to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. One full of love, health and lots of happiness....And a prosperous New Year.

    Hugs,

    Janet
    rosemary-thyme.blogspot.com

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  20. Merry Christmas Michele, wishing you a wonderful, magical time with loved ones :)

    xo, Tanya

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  21. Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

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