Cookies Make For A Great Exchange

IN THE KITCHEN

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Cookie exchanges are the perfect way to give and receive this holiday season.

Time is tight for everyone during the holidays, so why not host a cookie exchange this year and check off two important items on your "to do" list? Not only will you have a great opportunity to reconnect with friends, co-workers and neighbors, but you'll also end up with a delicious assortment of holiday cookies.

Five tips for the perfect exchange

  • Invite five to 12 friends to make and bring one batch of home-baked cookies to exchange with the others. A good rule of thumb is to have everyone bake six to 12 cookies for every person attending. Bar and drop cookies are easiest to make and transport in large batches.
  • When guests RSVP, ask them which cookie they're bringing, to prevent duplicates. Additionally, ask them to bring copies of the recipe to share with everyone.
  • Serve a variety of beverages and simple appetizers to snack on. While the cookies are the focus of this party, the true purpose is to reconnect with friends and neighbors. Be sure to have an ample supply of food in case the conversations last long into the evening.
  • Display everyone's cookies on a dining room table or kitchen island so that it will be easy for your guests to walk around and fill their containers.
  • Provide large containers for everyone to take home their cookies. Bakery boxes or aluminum roasting pans work well. For a more festive feel, find large, holiday-themed trays or cookie tins at your local party supply store.

Lemon-Cranberry Crumb Bars

1 (15-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 egg, lightly beaten

1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup (2 sticks) Shedd's Spread Country Crock Spreadable Sticks

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups Quaker oats (quick or old-fashioned, uncooked -- see note)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Confectioners' sugar, for sprinkling

Note: If using old-fashioned oats, add additional 2 tablespoons flour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray 15-1/2-by-10-1/2-by-1-inch jellyroll pan with no-stick cooking spray.

Combine condensed milk, lemon juice, egg and lemon peel in medium bowl; whisk until well blended. Stir in cranberries; set aside.

Beat spread and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer until blended. Add combined flour, oats, baking powder and salt; beat well. Reserve 2 cups oat mixture for topping. Press remainder evenly onto bottom of pan. Pour lemon mixture over crust. Crumble reserved oat mixture evenly over lemon mixture.

Bake until edges begin to brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes. Cut into 1-1/2-inch squares. Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Makes 60 bars.

Holiday Oatmeal Drops

1 cup (2 sticks) Shedd's Spread Country Crock Spreadable Sticks

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups Quaker oats (quick or old-fashioned, uncooked -- see note)

1-1/2 cups holiday (red and green) candy-coated chocolate pieces

1 cup white chocolate chips

Note: If using old-fashioned oats, add additional 2 tablespoons flour.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat spread and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda and salt; beat well. Stir in combined oats, candies and chips.

Drop dough by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake 9 to 10 minutes, just until set and light brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire racks. Cool completely. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Makes about six dozen cookies.

Cinnamon Hazelnut Crescents

1 cup (2 sticks) Shedd's Spread Country Crock Spreadable Sticks

1-1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar, divided

2 teaspoons vanilla

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup (3 ounces) toasted ground hazelnuts

2-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup Quaker oats (quick or old-fashioned, uncooked)

Beat spread, 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer until creamy. Add combined flour, hazelnuts, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and salt; beat just until combined. Add oats; beat until combined. Cover and refrigerate dough until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. (See note.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine remaining 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar and remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon in medium bowl; set aside.

Roll rounded measuring teaspoonfuls of dough into 2-inch ropes. Place ropes about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets; shape into crescents. Bake 10 to 13 minutes, until golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets.

Roll cookies, a few at a time, in cinnamon-sugar. Transfer to wire racks. Sift remaining cinnamon-sugar over tops of cookies. Cool completely. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Makes about six dozen cookies.

Note: If dough is too cold to shape easily, let stand at room temperature 15 minutes.

Cook's Tip: To toast and grind chopped hazelnuts: Spread 3 ounces chopped hazelnuts in single layer on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool completely. Process toasted nuts in food processor until finely ground.

Choc-Oat Chip Meringue Bars

2-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar, divided

1 cup (2 sticks) Shedd's Spread Country Crock Spreadable Sticks

3 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/2 cups Quaker oats (quick or old-fashioned, uncooked -- See Note)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup shredded coconut

3/4 cup chopped pecans

Note: If using old-fashioned oats, add additional 2 tablespoons flour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray 15-1/2-by-10-1/2-by-1-inch jellyroll pan with no-stick cooking spray.

Beat 1-1/2 cups brown sugar, spread, egg yolks and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add combined oats, flour, baking powder and salt; beat just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread evenly onto bottom of pan. Sprinkle with coconut. Bake 25 minutes. Remove to wire rack; leave oven on.

Beat egg whites (at room temperature) in clean dry bowl with electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1 cup brown sugar beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in pecans. Spread meringue evenly onto warm cookie layer.

Return pan to oven. Bake 15 minutes until meringue is light brown.

Cool bars completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into 1-1/2-inch squares with thin, wet knife. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Makes 60 bars.

For more delicious cookie recipes, visit www.quakeroatmeal.com and www.countrycrock.com.

All materials courtesy of Quaker Oats and Shedd's Spread Country Crock Spreadable Sticks

Easy Truffles

1 (12-ounce) package (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon orange extract

1 can Pillsbury Creamy Supreme Chocolate Fudge or Chocolate Frosting

Toppings: coconut, chocolate sprinkles, ground nuts and/or cocoa

Melt chocolate chips in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in orange extract and frosting; blend well. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until firm.

Place toppings in pie pans. Scoop mixture into 1-inch balls (will be sticky.); drop each onto topping of choice. Roll to coat. Place in foil candy cups, if desired. Store in refrigerator.

Makes 72 truffles.

Rugelach

1-1/4 cups butter, softened, divided

2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup sugar, divided

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

2 cups Pillsbury Best All Purpose or Unbleached Flour

1/2 cup finely chopped dates

1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Crisco No-Stick Cooking Spray

In large bowl, combine 1 cup butter, 2 tablespoons sugar and cream cheese; beat until light and fluffy. Add flour to butter mixture; blend well. Shape dough into ball; divide into four pieces. Shape each piece into ball; flatten into 1/2-inch-thick disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 hour for easier handling.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets or spray with no-stick cooking spray. In small bowl, combine dates, pistachios, 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon and 1/4 cup butter; blend well.

On floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll out 1 disk of dough at a time to 1/8-inch thickness, forming 12-inch round. (Keep remaining disks refrigerated while working.) Sprinkle 1/4 of date-nut mixture onto round; press into dough slightly. Cut round into 16 wedges. Roll up each wedge from curved edge to point. Place on greased cookie sheets.

Bake 13 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets; place on wire racks. Cool 30 minutes or until completely cooled. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes 64 cookies.

Toffee Pecan Squares

Base

1 (18.25-ounce) package Pillsbury Moist Supreme Yellow Cake Mix

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 egg

Filling

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup toffee bits

1 cup chopped pecans

Powdered sugar and pecan halves, to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, combine all base ingredients; blend at low speed until crumbly. Press in bottom of ungreased 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

In large bowl, combine condensed milk, vanilla and egg; mix well. Stir in toffee bits and pecans. Pour filling evenly over warm base. Return to 350-degree oven; bake additional 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is set. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled. Cut into squares.

If desired, sprinkle each bar with powdered sugar and top with a pecan half. Store in refrigerator.

Makes 36 bars.

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