Our cookie exchange cookbook

Very Merry Cookie Party: How to Plan and Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange
has just been published by Chronicle Books. Barbara Grunes and I worked very hard to make this a great book. As the title suggests, we offer suggestions on planning and hosting an exchange, but the book’s real treasure is the recipes. We created more than 100 recipes for cookies that look and taste great–the kind of better-than-ordinary cookies you would exchange at Christmas: Double Gingersnaps, Eggnog Snickerdoodles, Poinsettia Cookies,┬áLemon Iced Cookies, Santa S’Mores, and much more. The recipes are accompanied by suggestions on how to present them to look their best at a party. This would make a great holiday gift for anyone who likes to bake cookies.

Check out some sample recipes from Very Merry Cookie Party

NOTE: Amazon is selling this book for $5. We have no idea why (probably they overstocked it), but what a bargain! Stock up and save these for holiday gifts. This is a gorgeous book and the recipes are great.

Nanaimo Bars

Serves: 24 bars

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups fine graham cracker crumbs
  • ¾ cup sweetened shredded or flaked coconut
  • ¾ cup finely chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon rum or amaretto (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, as needed
Chocolate glaze:
  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Toasted coconut or chopped walnuts, for garnish (optional)

  1. Lightly butter a 9-inch square cake pan, or use an unbuttered nonstick pan.
  2. Make the crust: In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in sugar, cocoa, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is steaming hot and thickened.
  3. Stir in the crumbs, coconut, and walnuts. Press mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Set aside.
  4. Make the filling: Beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and rum or amaretto if using to make a smooth and thick but spreadable buttercream. Add a little milk if necessary to make buttercream spread easily. Spread evenly over crust. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, or until buttercream has begun to firm up but is not hard.
  5. Make the glaze: Melt chocolate and butter together over hot water or in a microwave at 70 percent power, stirring until melted and smooth. Spread evenly over buttercream filling. If desired, sprinkle top of bars with coconut or walnuts.
  6. Chill at least 2 hours, or until firm. Cut into squares with a sharp knife; the bars will cut better if you clean off knife between cuttings.

Candied (Crystallized) Ginger

Candied (Crystallized) Ginger
Serves: 2 cups (a bit less if diced)

Candied ginger is delightful to have on hand for baking, and also comes in handy for stomach ills (just nibble on a couple of pieces of candied ginger if you’re feeling queasy). For best results, choose young, thin-skinned ginger that is not too fibrous.
  • 3 cups firm, large fresh ginger roots
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup

  1. Trim small knobs from ginger and discard or reserve for another use. Peel ginger with a potato peeler or a small sharp knife. Cut ginger into quarter-sized slices between ⅛ and ¼ thick; you should have about 2 cups of sliced ginger.
  2. Put sliced ginger in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Drain. Repeat process 2 more times.
  3. In a saucepan combine 2 cups of water, 1½ cups of sugar and the corn syrup. Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Add ginger. Simmer until liquid is almost gone, and only about 3 to 4 tablespoons remains. Stir ginger occasionally with a wooden spoon as it cooks.
  4. While ginger is cooking, spread 1 cup sugar in a soup bowl or in a shallow pan. Remove cooked ginger with a slotted spoon, draining it as you remove it. Roll it in the sugar. Let ginger stand overnight.
  5. Dice ginger into smaller pieces if desired and store in a covered container.

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