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Once December hits there is only one thing on my mind and that is Christmas Cookies! I love to bake, I love to bake for others and I love cookies. In years past I’ve made up to 10 different types of cookies to give as gifts to co-workers, friends and neighbors. It’s quite a bit of work, between planning what to bake and then finding the time to actually bake all those cookies. A few years ago I decided to host a cookie swap to alleviate some of the pressure (self-induced I realize) of baking all those cookies myself. It was so successful that I decided to do it again this year.

IMG_5934

IMG_5938A cookie swap, for those who don’t know, is a small holiday gathering (read, an excuse to drink wine) where each invited guest is required to bring 5-6 dozen cookies to swap. The cookies must be homemade and they all have to be the same. The amount of cookies is dependent on the total number of guests. To keep things manageable, I ask guests to bring 1/2 dozen cookies per person plus another 1/2 dozen for taste testing! As a host, in addition to baking my choice of cookie, I also provide light appetizers, adult beverages and a packaging station. As the party wraps up, each guest takes the provided container and makes their own smorgasbord of cookies to take home. It’s a win, win.

I can’t invite all of you to my cookie swap, so I wanted to share some of my favorite cookie recipes from over the years. And because it Christmas and we are 12 days away from my sort of annual cookie swap, I’m going to do a 12 Cookies of Christmas countdown.

On the first day of Christmas my oven baked for me…an Almond Butter Snickerdoodle cookie! It’s like the perfect snickerdoodle with its cinnamon-y goodness and a hint of peanut butter cookie. A delicious combination.

Almond Butter Snickerdoodles (Cooking Light May 2010)

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons smooth almond butter
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Place the first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at high-speed until well combined (about 2 minutes). Add 1 teaspoon lemon rind, vanilla extract, and egg yolks; beat until well blended.
4. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir with a whisk. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat at low speed until well combined. Drop half of the dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet. Combine the remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and granulated sugar in a small bowl; sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over cookies. Bake at 350° for 6 minutes; flatten cookies with the back of a spatula. Bake an additional 6 minutes. Cool on pans 1 minute. Remove from pans, and cool on wire racks. Repeat procedure with remaining dough and sugar mixture.

Yield 2 dozen

Happy Baking!

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