Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Cookie Exchange

This past weekend really got me into the Christmas spirit.  We finished decorating our place... the cozy glow of twinkling lights and shiny ornaments were a reminder of the festivities to come.

On Saturday, I got together with four of my college friends (I'm so lucky that they live in Chicago!).  We all dressed up and snuggled into a booth at the Ritz downtown for tea, champagne, and treats.  While sipping tea and nibbling on little sandwiches, scones and sweets, we caught up on life and celebrated 2011.  Between graduations, job changes, an engagement, and a baby on the way, the five of us had a lot to celebrate!  Then we headed over to S. and R.'s place for drinks.  Our guys met us there, and we all circled around the crackling fire that R. had built--red wine, beer and "Nutty Professors" in hand.

The holiday celebrations continued... My sister-in-law J. and I hosted a cookie exchange on Sunday.  We invited a bunch of girls--a combination of friends and family--and everyone brought about 3 dozen cookies to swap.  During the party, we sampled some of the treats and each girl went home with a platter full of cookies, a few of each kind.

I made "Reeses" as my cookie to exchange, as well as a few appetizers to munch on (and keep our blood sugar stable!).  J. supplied the fun platters and yummy drinks--sparkling apple cider with fresh raspberries and a grapefruit punch with lime and mint.

Holiday Tree-Shaped Cheese Ball
Holiday Appetizer Wreath
Won Ton Appetizer (recipe included in 1/1/2011 post about our New Year's Eve party)
Artichoke-Jalapeno Dip

Reeses (recipe from my mom, originally from a family friend)

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup margarine, melted
2 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 package (about 6 oz. of 12 oz. package) butterscotch chips
1/2 package (about 6 oz. of 12 oz. package) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine first 4 ingredients in large bowl.  Spread along bottom of 13x9 inch pan. Melt chips in saucepan (don't put heat too high as chips will burn).  Spread on top of peanut butter mix.  Refrigerate.  Let sit out of refrigerator before cutting so chocolate layer won't crack.  [Final product is pictured above, behind the drinks!]

Holiday Tree-Shaped Cheese Ball (from Betty Crocker)

3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (16 oz)
2 tablespoons basil pesto
1 tablespoon grated onion
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard
Red pepper sauce (I left this out)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro or parsley
14 cup pine nuts or sliced almonds
2 tablespoons chopped red pepper
Piece of lemon peel, if desired
Assorted crackers

1) Stir together cream cheese and Cheddar cheese; divide in half.  Stir pesto in 1 half; stir onion, mustard, and 2-3 drops pepper sauce into other half.  Cover each half; refrigerate for 4 hours or until firm enough to shape (I only put in the fridge for about an hour).

2) Place cheese mixtures on cookie sheet.  Shape each half into cone shape to look like a pine tree.

3) If desired, wrap each tree, label and freeze up to 1 month.  Twelve hours before serving, remove trees from freezer.  Thaw in wrapper in refrigerator.  (I skipped this step.)

4) Just before serving, roll trees in parsley, press it evenly onto trees (would be best if it's more finely chopped than mine!).  Press nuts onto tree in string form for garland.  Press bell pepper pieces onto trees for ornaments.  Top each tree with star shape cut from lemon peel (I skipped the lemon peel star).  Serve with crackers.

Holiday Appetizer Wreath (from Betty Crocker - my mom also made this for a holiday party and gave me the idea!)

6 slices bacon (I left this out)
1/2 cup chive-and-onion cream cheese spread (from 8 oz container)
2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
2 cups frozen broccoli florets (from 14 oz bag), thawed, finely chopped, patted dry with paper towel
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
1 egg, beaten (I skipped the egg wash and sesame seeds)
1 teaspoon sesame seed
Fresh rosemary, if desired

1) Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook bacon as desired until crisp.  Drain on paper towel; crumble bacon and set aside.

2) Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 16 triangles.  On ungreased large cookie sheet, arrange triangles with shortest sides toward center, overlapping in wreath shape and leaving a round opening in the center.  Crescent dough points may overlap edge of cookie sheet.  Press overlapping dough to flatten.

3) Spread cream cheese spread on dough to within 1 inch of points.  In small bowl, mix crumbled bacon, broccoli and bell pepper; spoon onto widest part of dough.  Pull end points of triangles over broccoli mixture and tuck under dough to form ring (filling will be visible).  Carefully brush dough with beaten egg; sprinkle with sesame seed.

4) Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until deep golden brown (may need to tent foil over the wreath about 20 minutes into baking).  Cool 5 minutes.  With broad spatula, carefully loosen wreath from cookie sheet; slide onto serving platter.  Garnish with fresh rosemary.  Serve warm.  Store in refrigerator.

Artichoke Jalapeno Dip (a recipe I got from my mom)

Ingredients (this makes a lot, so I halved the recipe but still used the 1/2 jar of jalapenos):
2 14-oz. cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
16 oz. cream cheese
1/2 jar Old El Paso jalapenos, drained and chopped
4 cloves garlic

Mix well.  Bake in 13x9 pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.


The sign of a fun party... lots of dirty dishes, glasses and platters to clean up :)

And I was super excited that my amaryllis continued to blossom with a few more flowers opening.


  1. Your post just made me so hungry!! Love the cookie exchange. Totally doing that next year =)

  2. that looked like a success! the wreath and tree appetizers were adorable!!!! Happy holidays:)

  3. This is really loving to share your personal experiences and letting people know what's going on in your life. I read your article "Why I quit my job?" and it was amusing. Keep it up! Enjoy the life fullest and live with purpose.


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