Every year, to kick off the holiday season, I invite my friends into my home either the last week of November, or the first week of December. This year, we planned for our Cookie Swap to take place the second weekend of December when everyone agreed that they had time.
What is a Cookie Swap?
A Cookie Swap is when a bunch of bakers come together to share different cookies (and the recipes to prepare them) with each other. Many times, the cookies can be tried and true recipes that they make for them families. Other times they might be cookies that they researched according to theme and ingredients of the swap. Some swappers have strict guidelines in exchanging their little packages of goodness. These guidelines might be something along the lines of every cookie has to have nuts in the recipe.
When I plan a swap I try not to impose too many guidelines because I already know I am asking so much of my baking friends by requiring them to drive to Alabang, and to bake 10 or 11 dozen cookies.
So what do I ask of my friends?
- Each cookie has to have flour.
- Each cookie has to be baked.
- Each baker has to bring one dozen cookies for each baking participant.
- Each baker has to bring an extra 2 dozen cookies for participants to taste on the spot AND so we can pack some cookies for the judges to take home.
I ask all my friends to submit the recipes to me ahead of time, so Gia can format the recipe cards. The recipe cards are shared with everyone so that they can take them home and replicate the cookies that they enjoyed most, whenever they find it most convenient.
Because this gathering is one of the most important gatherings that I plan for the year, I really pour my heart and soul into it. I enjoy the planning and the process. There a quite a few things I consider when preparing for this once a year festive kick off.
I usually plan the theme of this event with my daughter, Gia. This includes the colors, invitation, and how we will eventually create the tablescape. Sometimes, my inspiration comes from Pinterest. Sometimes it comes from the cookie that I want to bake for the year. Sometimes, it comes from some type of decor that I want to work into the tablescape. And still sometimes, it comes from the invitation that Gia designs.
This year, based on the invitation that Gia designed, I wanted a red, white, and baby blue color theme. Because we worked Santa Claus into the invitation, all the other collaterals for the event would have to match. She created a tag to adorn the give away, and a recipe card that matched the invitation.
This is such a wonderful idea. @thewhiteboxph can put together all you need for your celebrations to prettify your table or dessert buffet. This box was delivered to my door, complete with a burlap table runner, garland, pompoms, cupcake sleeves, and trinket boxes for giveaways. ILAHVIT! How did you know my theme for my cookie swap this year?!? • • Visit @travellingtrunkph for their Pasko Holiday Collection, this weekend @thehenryhotel for even more shopping opportunities this holiday season! I actually think I’m getting my shopping done earlier this year! See you there! • • PLUS: Join holiday-themed workshops and family movie night on #thehenryhotel lawn. • • Take advantage of a #ManilaStaycation at a rate of P4500 a night’s inclusive of breakfast for two @apartment1B. • • PASKO: The Holiday Collection November 19th & 20th 10am-6pm A-11 2680 FB Harrison St., Pasay City
While we were planning the theme, I received a gift from The White Box. Inside The White Box was a curated set of items that would be perfect for a rustic gathering in complimenting colors of white and gold. Inclusive of the items, was a burlap table runner that I knew would be perfect for my cookie table.
So, knowing I had my color scheme pegged, and that I wanted to include the items from The White Box, I showed Nino some photos of rustic accents that I thought might compliment what Gia and I decided upon.
Nino is super crafty, totally DIY, and really creative in making the items for me that he knows would look great in the dining room to compliment the cookies and the theme.
This year, he came up with a JENGA tree. Using recycled wood, wax, and some nuts and bolts, he designed and created the trees which would sit on the table where our cookies would be displayed.
They came out awesome didn’t they?
For the tiny little ornaments, I worked with my assistant (and her handy dandy glue gun) to design the ornaments in a way where we could hang them on the tree with minimal effort.
Another accent that Nino came up with when we were talking to the florist, was something that involved fallen tree branches into the shape of a tree as well. Because I said I wanted rustic pieces for the red white and blue flowers, he suggested we purchase baskets and rustic recipticles that were even made of tree branches as well.
These look great and tie into the other decor that Nino created which would sit on the easel in the corner of the room to serve as a focal point.
When I had my meeting with Aga to show him the pegs of what I wanted the flowers to look like, he was able to suggest some things which would compliment the look I was going for. I love working with him. I show him my pegs and then he can make it his own, or slightly different so that we achieve the look I want, and somehow make it unique with the inspirational pegs I find from Pinterest.
After we have our color theme
After we have our printables
After we have have our tablescape
After we have our DIY crafts
Then I get to plan for our brunch menu.
Y’all know how much I love brunch. It is the most versatile meal. I love brunch so much, that out of my love for brunch and cooking came a partnership with Sinfully Sabrina in Mothers Who Brunch. We both love that meal because we know we can put anything on the buffet. The possibilities are truly endless.
I thought about the food I wanted to serve my friends this year needed to be Italian. I wanted to include an egg dish that I grew up with as well as some savory meats and a sweet dish of french toast casserole. So, I made my simple marinara sauce the morning of, and created the dishes using some key FRESH ingredients.
Here was my menu:
Italian Wagyu Skillet Burger from JAM Foods
Chorizo Stuffed Pork Belly from MANILA BELLY
Baked Italian Peasant Eggs with Garlic Bread
Truffle Pasta Pesto
Roasted Vegetables atop Romaine
Overnight French Toast Casserole by Paula Deen
For our drinks we made White Sangria and Gia’s Crock Pot Hot Cocoa.
Because it’s a Christmas Cookie Swap, I make sure our tree is up. I have my Spotify Christmas Music playlist playing in the background, and I have my oil burning to satisfy all senses.
I choose the dining room to showcase the cookies because the lighting is great in there, and we can all stand around the table comfortably.
THE PACKAGING TABLE
This is a key component for the participants. Not everyone will take home their cookie loot and devour it. I put together a packing station so that those bakers who would like to share their cookie loot have cute personal containers and boxes to pack a sampling of the cookies that they would like to share with others.
Key Components of the Packaging Table include:
- parchment paper
- and plastic gloves
We include the plastic gloves so that the bakers can package their cookie gifts and not worry about any germs we are spreading.
Whenever I had cookie swaps in New York, we all took a vote as to which was the best cookie for the day.
As each year passed, while living here in Manila, I have gotten people messaging me asking me how they can participate in the cookie swap even if they don’t bake.
Hmmmm. Well, the basic premise of a cookie swap, is that you DO bake.
But I want my friends to also enjoy what we do, because maybe they might be inspired to join us in the coming years.
Like my friend Ginger who loves COOKIES too.
She kept seeing my posts and wanted to join.
So I asked her to be a judge one year.
And then she joined the cookie swap the next year, to take home the BEST cookie award.
And she calls herself a novice baker….
Our judges this year were super serious. They tasted each cookie and quietly discussed their findings. They were excited and happy to join us, and I dare say, that one of our judges might decided to participate next year…
Hosting a cookie swap, doesn’t have to be as complicated as I make it. I do it this way, because I truly enjoy the process, the collaboration, and the support that Gia and Nino provide in making this festive celebration fun for the whole family. (The boys & Gelli just like eating the cookies. Maybe one day they will help in the planning and execution too.) I do it this way, because every year, I find new ways to do things that can make my life easier or the table prettier.
I want all those bakers out there to be inspired to share as well! If you are interested in hosting a swap, you can take the basics from what I do, (and also look to to Martha for more inspiration) to start your own Christmas Cookie Tradition.
I also want to share the fun that we had, the cookies that were swapped, the printables that Gia made in case you would find it easier to just use mine as a template. I have uploaded the blank versions of the digital invite, the recipe card, and the tag that Gia designed with the help of my assistant.
All you have to do is add your text in Photoshop and have them printed.
Easy Peasy, right?
There is just one more thing I like to consider which makes my friends feel a little bit more special. This is not necessary to plan for in a cookie swap, it’s just an added touch that I like to include which ties into my theme of the year.
GIVE AWAYS OR FAVORS
Every year, I try to make sure the invitation and the give away has something to do with Christmas and or Baking.
Putting together the packaging table for my #MnMCookieSwap with details that help tie the theme together is always one of my favorite parts in hosting this yearly event. Because @gia_jado ‘s design for the invite and recipe cards included an image of #Santa, @maggiesmusings inspired me to put a belt on our #cookie tin which mimics Santa’s tummy. Picking up items for the give away was easy with a #gingerbread #caketester from @crateandbarrelph, dish towels from @landersph, and a cookie packaging kit from @gourdos. Adding the magnetic Santa clothespin from the dollar bin from @target for the stamped tags from @thewhiteboxph, make it even easier for the bakers to prepare their sweet gifts to share.
A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Michelle Aventajado (@mommanmanila) on
This year, I saw some cute green and white dishtowels in Landers, REALLY cute Gingerbread Cake Testers in Crate & Barrel, and Cookie Packaging Kits in Gourdo’s. All three of these items are totally useful in my friends’ kitchens AND in their cookie giving endeavors for the holidays. All in all, I think I spent a little more than I wanted to for a giveaway, BUT each of the items were so cute and so practical that I had to get all three.
All of the ladies enjoyed the Gia’s Crockpot Hot Cocoa so much, that they asked for me to include the recipe in my post. She cannot take credit for coming up with the recipe, but with the small adjustments that she has made in the recipe, it’s somewhat her own recipe already.
- 1 1/2 c Heavy Cream
- 6 c Whole Milk
- 10 oz Alaska Condensed Milk
- 2 c of quality Dark Chocolate (can be bar or chocolate chips)
- 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
- Cook all ingredients on high in the crockpot for 2-3 hours
- Stir when needed
- Serve with Whipped Cream and a dash of cinnamon
- Adding a chocolate peppermint stick as a stirrer.
- Adding a candy cane as a stirrer.
- Adding Home Made Marshmallows to melt when serving.
- 1/2 peanut butter into the mix to thicken the hot cocoa and bring a nuttier flavor.
- Add Bailey's
- Add Frangelico
- Add Kahlua
Thank you ladies for indulging me in my love for cookies…
Until next year…