For the past six years my friend and I host a cookie swap that has turned out to be a highlight of the holiday season. We alternate between her house and mine and each year the cookies seem to get better and better. We’ve adapted a faux set of rules that we like to joke about. For instance, if you were to decline the invitation two years in a row you don’t get an invite back. If you bring store bought cookies you’re SO, SO out- especially if they are the gross store bought bakery cookies. And doubly if you put them on a platter and try to pass them off as your own. Guess what? I’m not fooled. At least own it and bring them in the package you bought them in. That I can deal with. Maybe. Or just bring Oreos. I’ll make an exception if you bring America’s favorite sandwich cookie.
A dear friend who doesn’t bake or cook to save her life, “sub contracts” her cookies out each year. Meaning either her mom makes them or like this year she got one of the girls that works for her make them. It’s pretty genius and I always love to see what she is going to show up with! With a few new food allergies this year we had gluten free, egg free and sugar free cookies to choose from as well. They weren’t bad….but in comparison to the ones with eggs, sugar and flour, well, you can imagine which ones were better……
This year some of the highlights were peppermint-chocolate whoopee pies, salted-caramel pretzel thumbprints, my mom’s famous molasses cookies and some fudge topped with a botched batch of toffee that didn’t last a week in my freezer!
We started out the swap by doing heavy appetizers to nosh on through the night and one year we even did a brunch. Both great but in the end, a lot of work. Over the last few years we’ve moved into doing a few soups and a salad. Everything can be made ahead, the house smells amazing while the soups are warming and it’s the perfect time of year to sit down with a steaming bowl of soup and hunk of good bread slathered in butter. I honestly could eat soup every night and be a happy gal. Since I was hosting this year and my friend has had her plate full the last few months, I offered to take on the bulk of the prep and made all the soups this year. I made an Indian inspired tomato soup with garam masala and coconut milk inspired by Pam Anderson’s book, Meatless Meals, a super hearty mushroom-barley soup with asparagus and this carrot ginger soup that ended up being the hit. I love how the simplest of ingredients can yield such a delicate and delicious soup. Not to mention it was so easy to make.
Another benefit to making a bunch of soups is that it’s really easy make extra so I can stock my fridge and have already made lunches for the next week. It comes in handy when I’m tempted to just eat cookies all day. My blood sugar can’t handle a straight shot of cookies so I eat soup first to help temper the sugar high. Works every time!
Did you do a cookie exchange this year? What is your favorite cookie to swap?
A delicate vegetarian soup full of heart warming flavor.
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 2 lbs carrots, grated
- 3 leeks, chopped & washed thoroughly
- 4 stalks celery, diced
- 1 small sweet potato, peeled & diced
- 3 heaping tablespoons fresh peeled & grated ginger (about 1 5-inch piece)
- 8 cups vegetable stock
- 4 oz heavy cream
- salt and pepper
- chopped chives to garnish (optional)
- Melt butter in a large stock pot. Add carrots, leeks, celery, sweet potato and ginger. Cook on medium-low for 15 minutes or so until vegetables are nice and soft. If you don't have a pot big enough to sauté the vegetables, divide into two pans to sauté and then return to one stock pot.
- Add vegetable stock and turn heat to medium high. When soup starts to simmer, turn heat down to low and let soup simmer for 30 minutes. Turn heat off and let cool to room temperature.
- When soup is cooled, transfer in batches to a blender (I use my Vitamix) to blend soup to a smooth consistency. Alternately, you could use an emersion blender. If you want a really smooth soup, strain soup with a chinois or the like.
- Return soup to stock pot. At this point soup can be made ahead.
- When ready to serve, add heavy cream, season with salt and pepper to taste and heat soup over low until hot and steamy. Be careful not to boil the soup once you've added the cream.
-Make sure the leeks are washed thoroughly. -Soup can be made up to a few days ahead. -To make the soup vegan, use a flavorless oil to sauté the vegetables and coconut milk instead of the cream. -If you want an extra pinch of ginger, add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger when you add the salt and pepper.