As mentioned before, next week I'm hosting the ladies in my neighborhood for the annual Christmas cookie exchange. They have been doing this for years and years. Our street does other activities during the year too. It is a very cool neighborhood. The majority of folks are empty nesters, but still pretty young. I imagine that this was quite the happening neighborhood ten years ago when all of them had little rugrats about. Now it is pretty much the Jedi, but everyone has been really kind to us ever since we moved in. In my defense, I did say "yes" to the request because it was between semesters and three months ago and before I was put in the primary presidency. Back in August it seemed so doable. Nine days out . . . not so much.
That's where you come in.
I am going to post the menu here today and you are going to give me some feedback. The prize for helping is that you get to come to the cookie exchange! The airport is just ten minutes from my house and I'm more than happy to come and get you.
The format is an open house sort of luncheon from 11-1. At about 12:45, everybody chooses a few cookies from each platter and then takes them home. So here is my plan:
Meatballs: Purchased at Costco and heated in my crockpot that morning. My sister puts a mixture of BBQ sauce and grape jelly on them which she swears is delicious. I don't know. I don't really love meatballs but I do like things that are easy. These will be very sweet.
Cranberry-Orange Salad: This salad has a yummy homemade poppy seed dressing with mixed greens, cranberries, mandarin oranges, feta and pecans. It is lovely and Christmasy. It is sweet but really tangy also.
Pasta Salad: Bowtie pasta with chopped cucumber, tomato, olives and cilantro. The dressing is a homemade one also--feta cheese, lemon juice, black pepper, purple onion and lots of oregano. Very savory.
Marinated Cheese: Layered cream cheese and cheddar with an Italian dressing marinade that sits for a day. Before serving I dice a little bit of red pepper on the top and some basil ribbons. Served with crackers. Very savory.
Gingerbread: This is my mom's favorite Christmas thing to cook. It is so delicious and fragrant. Her version is dark with molasses and just amazing. Probably served with lemon sauce.
Costco Cream Puffs: Because, honestly, who DOESN'T need one excuse a year to buy these bad boys.
Hot Cider/Wassail: Loved this suggestion. I'll probably use some variation on one of the recipes you comments with.
Lemon Water: For non-cider folks.
As for preparation--the meatballs can easily be thrown together first thing in the morning in about ten minutes. The lettuce salad is a matter of opening a few bags or cans and tossing stuff together because the dressing can be made the day before. The pasta salad parts have to be cold so the noodles, at least can be done ahead. The tomatoes are little and go in whole. The cucumber would need cutting. Again, the dressing can be made ahead of time. The marinated cheese is primarily made ahead of time. If I go with the gingerbread I would want to make it that morning so that the house smells nice.
So what do you think? Do I need another carb? I have lovely homemade rolls that I could do a day ahead of time. They could also be turned into orange rolls, which are totally amazing, but sweeter. Any feedback would be awesome.
As for the cookie I'm exchanging . . . I will either do cookie dough truffles rolled in ganache which can be done several days ahead of time and frozen. Bagging them up for people might be a bit messy. They need to be eaten or refrigerated pretty much right away. My other choice is something more roll-like: hazelnut ringalings or orange rolls which could be more work but the are just so good. And the last option is Russian tea cake cookies. I discovered a wonderful recipe for these last year and I really love them. They could be done the day before.
For decorating, it isn't too hard because I set the house up for Christmas already. I mostly need to move some furniture out the garage in exchange for chairs so there is room for everything. I will do Christmas plates and napkins. For everyone's cookies I will probably put them on the chargers I bought at Walmart at the end of last season for about a quarter apiece. Wrapped will cellophane and a ribbon they will look super festive.
I have no idea how many to expect. Ten to twenty people? I know, helpful, right? Should I have Christmas music playing in the background?
Feedback, folks, please.