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How to Throw a Holiday Cookie Swap

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By Tara Swords
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 7, 2008

If you plan to bake for the holidays, here's the deal: You can spend a week in the kitchen whipping up a dozen varieties of cookies, or you can spend one evening baking one kind. Either way, you can end up with a spread to rival a bakery's. How? A cookie swap.

Swaps, in which a group of friends gathers to share homemade cookies and take home some of everyone else's goods, have been around for decades. And there's a practicality to them that makes them especially timely this year.

"Everybody is so worried about money," says Robin Olson, a Gaithersburg resident and author of "The How to Host a Cookie Exchange Handbook." "With the economic outlook of the country now, exchanges make sense because you get to pool your resources."

Just because swaps are practical doesn't mean they can't be memorable. Here's how to set up a sweet swap that your guests won't soon forget. (In fact, they might bug you to host again next year!)

When

Early enough for people to squeeze it into their calendars, but close enough to the holidays to make sure the cookies stay fresh.

Rules

Everybody does it differently, but most swap rules aim to ensure equal effort and return. For example, Olson outlaws commoners such as chocolate chip cookies at her swaps. And don't even think about showing up with a no-bake treat.

"It makes a level playing field," Olson says. "Gingerbread cookies take two whole evenings to make. Those women don't want to go home with something they know somebody whipped together in five minutes," such as chocolate-covered pretzels.

State the rules in your invitation, and ask for RSVPs to include cookie type to prevent duplication. For a party of up to eight people, guests can bring one dozen cookies for each guest. For a larger party, request six dozen from each person. Require everyone to take equal amounts of each cookie.

Menu

Would you believe "anything but cookies"?

"Everybody is sick of cookies by the time they get to my house," Olson says. "They want the hors d'oeuvres."

As an antidote to the holiday junk food deluge, offer lighter fare. Con sider avoiding carbohydrates altogether to make up for the carb overload that each guest will take home, suggests Judy Caplan, author of "GoBeFull: Eight Keys to a Healthy Lifestyle" and a registered dietician who practices in Reston. Caplan's suggestions:

ยท Sliced turkey wrapped around an asparagus spear and red pepper slice


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