What are you up to this weekend?
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We're excited about snow here in Iowa. It's the puppies first winter, and it's been so much fun to experience everything through their eyes. To date, we've had only the smallest of dustings.
2 am: “Oh my gosh, look at the pretty snowflakes in the moonlight. OK, Sally, out you go.”
“Uh, Mom? Have you seen what's out there?”
2:05 am: “Out Sweetie, go potty extra; then we'll snuggle back into bed.”
“Maybe I'll just sit here and bark at it a while.”
2:10 am: “Hey Harry, thanks for the assist. You're just in time.”
“Ummm .. that white stuff looks a little scary. I'm not even kidding.”
2:15 am: “I'll get my coat.”
The snowflakes will also be the perfect backdrop for this weekend's cookie exchange.
Whatever you're up to, I hope you have a good one!
I'll always feel the pull of nostalgia when I think of the neighborhood I lived in when the kids were little — everything from block parties in the summer to cookie exchanges around the holidays.
My daughter and I would leave the house with dozens of decorated sugar cookies and return home with a big box full of the best assortment one could ever hope for. Red and white striped candy cane cookies, green-tinged Nanaimo bars, buttery spritz, and peanut butter drops with chocolate kisses in the middle.
It simply wouldn't have been the holidays without cookies
Eventually, I moved on and spent more than a few years missing one of my favorite ways to ring in the season. That is until a friend announced
she was staring one(!)
I've been picking her brain and thought it might be fun to share a few of her hosting tips and tricks
The guest list: The first year, she blanketed the neighborhood with invites. The hope? To meet someone new. This year she's narrowed the focus to the people she'd really like to see
The invitations: She sends them in the mail. This way she's able to include the husband's name on the envelope. (It's far more fun if it isn't only women) Each guest or family is asked to bring two dozen of their favorite holiday cookies. Not a baker? No worries, stop by for hot apple cider (or Rumchata if you're feeling festive).
After all .. 'tis the season to be big-hearted
Ask for an RSVP: That way she knows ahead of time what kind of cookie everyone is bringing (to avoid duplicates). She also asks guests to email their recipes, so she's able to send them out after the party.
A non-recipe sharer? (Oh dear, I'm afraid she'll be chatting with you in private)
Set the Date: It's tricky. You'll want something close enough to the holidays so the cookies will last, but not so late that the exchange falls within the last-minute rush.
Rules: There are just a few
Cookies should be holiday-themed and homemade
No burnt cookies, please. Although if this fate befalls you and there isn't time to make a fresh batch, bakery cookies will be ok (but not something processed from the grocery aisle)
Sturdy cookies are best (very thin or gooey varieties won't pack or travel well)
Party Snacks and Refreshments: The first year everyone sampled cookies, but this time she's doing it a bit differently. Instead, offsetting all of the sweet treats with savory snacks like dips, cheese, and a few simple appetizers
To drink? Hot apple cider and coffee. Not to mention cold milk and hot chocolate (a cookie's best friends any time of day)
She sets her largest table with enough festive bowls and platters to hold everybody's contributions (Along with a few cake stands to maximize table space)
Make sure there are tongs for each platter
On a folding place card in front of each tray, write the name of the cookie and its contributor. (It's also good to note any allergy-prone ingredients)
Stock up on inexpensive paper bakery boxes and pretty twine for everyone to package and take home their cookies. (Several smaller boxes/person are better than one large because different cookie types should be kept separate to retain their flavor)
Tell Stories: As everyone is setting up their cookies, ask them to share what they made and the story behind it. Anything goes: from finding the recipe on the web, to a traditional recipe from grandma, or a project with the kids.
I couldn't think of a better way to kick off an end of the year series, featuring cookies and sweet things, than with a recipe from Ina Garten. Not just any recipe, but her favorite cookie recipe of all time.
It's everything you'll ever want in a cookie, salty, sweet, and full of chocolate. Crisp edges and a chewy center.
ps: The secret to a really good cookie? Let the dough rest 72 hours before baking your cookies
— — —
~ Adapted from the Make it Ahead Cookbook | Ina Garten
Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
- 1 cup butter unsalted, at room temperature
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- ¾ cup natural sugar (Sugar in the Raw or Turbinado)
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp fine grain sea salt
- 1 ¼ cups old-fashioned oats
- ¾ pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped in chunks
- ¾ cup dried cranberries
- Fleur de sel
- Preheat the oven to 375° F
- In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and natural sugar on medium-high speed for ~ 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
- On low speed, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time
- Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, and sea salt into a medium bowl.
- Mix in the oats.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. (Don’t overbeat it) With a rubber spatula, stir in the chopped chocolate and cranberries until the dough is well mixed.
- With a 1¾-inch ice cream scoop (or two spoons), scoop round balls of dough onto prepared sheet pans.
- Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until nicely browned.