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Get excited for the best part of the holidays: the cookie exchange

Wow, we have barely put away the leftover turkey and mashed potatoes and gotten finished with all the Black Friday nonsense and here we are fully involved in the winter holiday season. Thanksgiving has always been the traditional kick-off of the holiday season.

The winter holidays are all about eating and food, from the Thanksgiving turkey to the Hanukkah latkes, to my favorite: the Christmas cookies.

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The folks that know me know I am not much for Christmas; in fact, I am not much for the whole winter holiday or winter season at all. One of the things I do like about the winter holidays are the cookies. I am a sucker for a good Christmas cookie. My grandmother used to make some very amazing cookies; sadly, the recipe went with her to her grave. I do remember her raspberry shortbread cookies. They were tender, buttery and light, with her homemade raspberry jelly in the center. Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering just writing about them.

As a young bride in 1986, my now-deceased mother-in-law introduced me to a wonderful event called a cookie exchange party. Apparently, sometime in the late '70s or early '80s, someone came up with this wonderful idea. Here is the whole premise: One woman hosts the party and invites a bunch of her friends. Each person attending the party bakes her favorite or signature cookie. Each person must bake a dozen cookies for each person attending that party, and a dozen for the party itself. Each dozen cookies is to be put into a baggie or individual container for each party attendee to take home.

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The host of the party coordinates cookie flavors with each guest in attendance so no two cookie types are the same. The host also plans for beverages and games. On the evening or afternoon of the cookie exchange, each guest arrives and sets her cookies out, placing the take-home containers where the hostess has designated. Once the party is in full swing, each guest will have a chance to present her cookies and taste what the others brought. The ladies in attendance enjoy one another's fellowship and fun and leave with several dozen cookies that they do not have to bake themselves. Having attended several of these parties and hosted a few myself, it's best to keep the guest in attendance to 10 or 12 people. This way, each will leave with about 10 to 12 dozen cookies.

I was honestly completely blown away by my first party. I had a great deal of fun, and came home that evening from my mother-in-law's with 12 dozen cookies. Among my 12 dozen cookies that night, I came home with some of my new favorites. There were the peanut butter cookies with the Hershey's Kiss centers, snickerdoodles, divinity cookies, chocolate almond chip cookies, peanut butter balls, cinnamon squares and cherry dark chocolate chip cookies.

Over the years I have attempted to bake some of these on my own. I am not very skilled in the kitchen, but I have managed to perfect the cherry dark chocolate chip cookies. They are rather amazing and quite simple to make — the secret is a box of cherry supreme cake mix, a full stick of butter and a bag of dark chocolate chips.

Whether you make your favorite cookies from scratch or from a mix, I hope you will enjoy them.

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Terry Chaney is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached via email at

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