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Cookie-sweet splendor of the swap

December 11, 2009|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

Oh, the beauty of the cookie swap.

I've heard the negative buzz about the parties. Some people see them as one more thing to do in an already packed-tight season.

I recall one of my family members complaining.

"I end up coming home with a bunch of cookies I don't really like anyway," she said.

But once again this year, I find myself riding high after returning home from a cookie swap. For me, up sides of the parties abound.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the idea, here it is in a nutshell. A bunch of people, typically women, get together. Each person bakes one kind of cookie and takes a designated number of them to the party. She trades cookies with all the other people at the party, and comes home with an assortment of treats.

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First, I would like to address the naysayers who don't find all of the cookies to their liking. I don't need to like them all. I don't wish to eat them all myself. I plan to share them with friends and family who visit during the holidays. People have varying tastes, so it works out well.

Secondly, yes, the holiday season is a hectic time. But sometimes, an hour or two spent talking and laughing with friends is just what I need to chill out and refresh. The parties can be a much needed respite.

At the one I just attended, the host announced on the invitation an ugly sweater contest. Guests donned their showy holiday garments and strutted ridiculously in an ugly sweater parade. Contestants with the top three ugliest sweaters won door prizes of holiday teas.

But most relevant to a column called "Making ends meet" is this:

I will be having an open house at my home this weekend with dozens of people attending. I can offer them a spread of homemade treats, including chocolate-sprinkled pretzel sticks; Rudolph kisses; Spritz cookies; mint chocolate turtles; and molasses-spice, gingerbread, peanut-butter, and chocolate-gooey-butter cookies. And more.

If I had purchased the ingredients for all the goodies I brought home, I figure I'd have easily spent fifty dollars or more. Not to mention all the hours I'd have whacked baking and decorating such a variety.

If I'd purchased such an array of treats at a bakery, I might have paid even more.

Instead, I made four dozen hazelnut tea cookies. It took me about an hour. I spent a total of six dollars for unsalted butter and hazelnuts on sale. The rest of the ingredients were pantry staples that I already had.

Now I have time and money left to make some of my other favorites heading into Christmas time. I'm thinking of banana bread, chocolate no bakes, and maybe some Chex mix and maple-roasted walnuts.

If you decide to host a swap, keep it simple. Have everyone bring an appetizer. Turn on some Christmas tunes and enjoy the people around you.

It's a sweet deal.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail.

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