by Julie Snyder
A cookie exchange can be a nice break from the stressful holiday season. It gets you away from the malls, the traffic and the hustle bustle of being Santa's lil' helper.
Even if you're busy, you can swing by the bakery and pick up your contributions, already baked. You'll meet new people, create new connections and you might even enjoy the down time.
Whether you're hosting or just attending, we've got ideas and recipes to help make the affair a tasty success.
Planning your cookie exchange
✓ If this is your group's first exchange, take a poll and see which day and time works best for your guests.
✓ Send out the invitations well in advance. December's calendar fills up in a hurry!
✓ Suggest baking cookies two to three days in advance. Fresh cookies don't transport as well as those a little older.
✓ If you're planning a pot luck dinner over the holidays, combine it with the swap.
A cookie for everyone
Chocolate butter cookies: The holidays should taste rich. Butter's rich. Chocolate's rich. This attractive cookie has both.
Orange chocolate shortbread cookies: Do you love chocolate oranges? Then you appreciate this recipe. Cut into squares or shape with your favorite seasonal cookie cutter.
Molasses sugar cookies: Have you ever bitten into a piece of a gingerbread house? Bleh! This sugar cookie has that same tantalizing aroma, but a melt-in-your mouth texture and perfect spicy flavor.
Tasty but healthy cookies
Peanut butter chews: It's hard to decide if these soft, tasty morsels are a cookie or a candy. One things certain -- they're entirely delicious and a great addition to your holiday cookie tray.
No-bake rum balls -- a holiday favorite: We've heard these called the man's holiday cookie -- boozy, sweet and made without turning on the oven. Hm...that sounds pretty good for a woman, too.
Gluten-free double chocolate brownies: Can a holiday have too much chocolate? We don't think so as evidenced by this decadent recipe.
Festive quinoa-cranberry trail mix balls: Combine cranberries and chocolate for a holiday treat.
Cookies with festive "fa-la-la" flair
Decorated sugar cookies: Just mix up the dough, refrigerate a bit, roll out and cut into holiday shapes. Bake, cool and turn the kids loose with frosting and sprinkles.
Spicy ginger cookies: Nothing says "holiday" like ginger cookies. The taste alone brings you back! Another reason they're festive? They sparkle!
Peppernotter -- Scandinavian Christmas cookies: Bake a batch of Peppernotter and start making special memories with your family.
Yule gingerbread men: A cookie you can enjoy when your family decorates them and later when you munch them.
Have you taken part in a cookie exchange? What did you like best?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.