November 9, 2013 at 5:49 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food (& maybe win a cookbook): Cookie swap inspiration needed

Well, now that I’ve poked some people at church into doing a cookie swap Dec. 8, I need some ideas fast — especially since the cookies I’m best known for are the ones my friends looked forward to making fun of at my annual Christmas party during my singleton years.

I’ve got a 17-month-old, so I’m hoping some brilliant reader will have a cookie recipe or idea — by your own words or by a link to a blog or other site out there — that’s pretty, but fairly simple and as likely to be a knock-out as the colcannon idea reader Dennis Neylon gave me for the church potluck was. (Not too high of expectations ...)

That said — don’t hold back on telling me about your complicated little gems, either. Even if I pick a simpler one to do, I’ll have an awful lot of fun admiring any and all suggestions. (And feel free to email me pictures too — I’m thinking if I get enough, I’ll write about them closer to our swap, and we can always do a photo gallery to share visual inspiration.) I’ll be poking around social media for ideas myself, too, for more to share with you.

So, back to my old Christmas cookies. I made them year after year, and they were basic sugar cookies that veered toward lightly sweet — which I loved because then I could eat dozens of ’em without OD’ing (and if you left me alone for a minute, about a bowl of the dough itself).

Yet my friends — I’m looking at you, Amy and Becky — thought the cookies were just awful and delighted in making fun of them year after year. It got to where I looked forward to them looking forward to dreading the cookies and insisting on having one anyway, out of tradition.

The party ended when I moved to Michigan — I mean, it was a fun time and all, but not worth my Florida friends commuting up here for, and it wouldn’t be the same without them — but the cookie legend died slightly sooner. I so remember Amy biting into a cookie and looking crestfallen: “Wait — these aren’t that bad!”

Turns out the problem wasn’t in the recipe. That year, I’d finally run out of some very elderly ingredients and had to buy more (oh, you should buy fresh each year? New information to this then 20-something; you know by now my love for cooking far outweighs my talent. And where flour and sugar is concerned, a little staleness never crimped my style, back in the day).

Though I’ve made many delicious non-Christmas cookies since, I have yet to revisit a Christmas cookie; it’s seemed like a betrayal of a lot of hilarious memories. That said, I found out a somewhat curmudgeonly fellow at church is into baking cookies(!), and that there used to be an annual swap at church before my time. My love of the idea of a cookie swap predates even my parties; I remember admiring one among editors from afar when I was just a lowly assistant at my first newspaper. And talking cookies with a kinda gruff guy at church? That’s gotta happen.

So now I’ve stirred the pot and need some ideas for Christmas cookies with a big tada. To sweeten (heh) the pot — and help you with holiday gifts in advance — I’m offering a chance at one of two cookbooks: “Betty Crocker Christmas Cookies” (which has lots of recipes I might snag as back-up) and “Baking Style” by Lisa Yockelson, a “baking diary” that fancies it up a little (subtitle: “Art — Craft — Recipes”).

While commenting isn’t required to win, anyone who does gets double the chance. Share or tell me about your knock-out treat perfect for a cookie swap in the comments below, then send an email to Eats&Drinks@detroitnews.com with “Cookie Swap” in the subject line. Include your name and mailing address in the body, as well as the title of one of the books if you have a preference (I can’t guarantee you’ll get your preference if selected, in case everyone prefers the same one).

Enter only once by midnight Nov. 17. A winner will be chosen from among entries, with preference given to those who comment below. (If it’s Nov. 18, 2013, or later when you read this, the book winner will have been chosen — but feel free to add your comments.)

Good luck!

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