Taste of Franklin: Sweeten the season with a cookie swap

FRANKLIN LIVING—For a little extra fun this holiday season, consider hosting a cookie swap.

What is a cookie swap? For this wonderful party idea, each guest brings a batch of their favorite cookie to “swap” or exchange with the other guests. In the end, each guest leaves the party with a box of a variety of homemade cookies to enjoy through the holiday season.


Create a festive invitation for each guest with the date, time and location of the cookie swap. Note how many cookies each guest should bring for exchanging as well as sampling and any specific instructions on how you prefer the cookies be displayed or packaged. An RSVP is nice to include on the invitation so you can plan accordingly. It is best to specify whether cookies should be homemade, store-bought or short-cut cookies, such as slice and bake.

Make sure you have a table large enough to allow all the cookies to be displayed and easy to reach during the exchange, then think about packaging. Provide boxes or bags for the guests to fill during the exchange. Plain white gift boxes can be hand-decorated with each guest’s name using markers, stickers, paint or other supplies, and tissue paper lining the box gives it an added touch. Another idea is to have guests bring their cookies individually packaged for each guest attending; this would be a good idea for small parties.


  1. If your exchange is for only a few guests, ask that each guest provide a copy of the cookie recipe for each guest. Not only will you leave with a box of cookies but the recipes as well.
  2. When it comes to party time, exchanging the cookies and sample tasting is the main event, but having another activity for guests to participate in is also fun. Remember to keep the activity age appropriate. Some ideas include an ornament exchange; an ornament craft; or a recipe box craft. You can also give out awards for the prettiest cookies, biggest, most unique, etc.
  3. If you and your guests are comfortable with technology, incorporate it into your party. Have a Snapchat filter for the evening, or create a #hashtag just for your event and encourage your guests to use it when posting pictures on social media. Create a shared photo album on your smartphone so you and everyone attending have a copy of all the pictures taken.
  4. Expand the menu: Serving one or two savory treats at the party will help with the feeling of sugar overload. Consider adding sausage balls, cheese straws, cracker snack mix or chips and dips to your party menu.
  5. Make this event an opportunity to gift others in the community, too. Share the bountiful cookies and the holiday spirit by taking cookies to older shut-in community members, first responders, nursing homes and more.

Why not host a holiday event this year? Everyone who celebrates the holiday season puts so much effort into decorating their homes, it is a shame more people do not host holiday events to share their hard work. Don’t worry if your couch is 10 years old and a little worn or if you need to freshen the paint in the bathroom; your guests will not notice anything but how gracious you are to open your home for the event.

Jelly Snowdrops

Makes about two dozen

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg, separated

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup plain flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 jar tart jelly

  1. To prepare meringue: Beat one room temperature egg white until stiff peaks are formed. Slowly add 1/4 cup white granulated sugar and mix until blended.
  2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  3. Beat butter, brown sugar, egg yolk and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  4. Add flour and nuts and mix well until blended.
  5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Press thumb into each center and fill with 1/2 teaspoon tart jelly. Top with prepared meringue.
  7. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Fudge Chewy Pecan Chip Cookies

Makes about three dozen

1 box brownie mix

1/2 cup water

1 egg

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup chopped pecans

6 oz. package chocolate chip morsels

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine brownie mix, flour, water, oil and egg.
  3. Stir with a spoon until dough is formed. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.
  4. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  5. Bake 8-12 minutes.
  6. Cool 15-20 minutes.

Sand Tarts

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup powdered sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely-chopped pecans

1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted, for coating cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. With an electric mixer, cream together butter and 1/4 cup powdered sugar.
  3. Add flour and pecans and mix on low until incorporated.
  4. Shape dough into small balls, about the size of walnuts, and place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. While cookies are still hot, roll in a bowl of sifted powdered sugar.
  7. Let cookies cool, then roll again in powdered sugar.
  8. Store in air-tight container.

M&M Christmas Cookie Bars

Makes 18-36, depending on size of cut

2 sticks butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups Christmas M&Ms, plus more for topping

1 cup mini chocolate chips, plus more for topping

1/2 cup white chocolate morsels

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a 9×13 baking dish with foil; leave some overhang to make removal easier. Spray foil generously with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in eggs and vanilla extract and continue to beat.
  5. Lower the speed of the mixer and add flour, baking soda and salt and mix until combined.
  6. Add M&Ms and mini chocolate chips and give a final stir by hand.
  7. Transfer cookie dough to prepared baking dish. Press additional M&Ms, mini chocolate chips and white chocolate morsels into top of cookie dough.
  8. Bake 35-40 minutes. Do not overbake.
  9. Lift cookies from pan with the foil and cool on wire cooling rack.
  10. Cool completely before cutting.

Grinch Cookies

1 box yellow cake mix

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 egg

Green food coloring

Powdered sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Beat butter, vanilla, egg and cream cheese until fluffy.
  4. Mix in cake mix.
  5. Add green food coloring until the dough is the color of the Grinch.
  6. Chill the dough for 30 minutes or overnight.
  7. Roll into balls and dip in a bowl of powdered sugar.
  8. Place on cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  10. Cool on cookie sheet five minutes. Remove to wire cooling rack to finish cooling.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

Granulated colored sugar – red, green or white

36 chocolate kisses

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder together then whisk to combine.
  3. Cream butter, peanut butter and both sugars using an electric mixer.
  4. Mix in egg and vanilla extract then add flour mixture and beat until incorporated.
  5. Chill dough for about 30 minutes.
  6. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each in colored sugar and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 7-8 minutes or until puffed.
  8. Remove from the oven and press a chocolate kiss into the center of each hot cookie. Slight cracks are fine.
  9. Bake cookies an additional three minutes.
  10. Allow cookies to cool completely on baking sheet.