Sunday, December 23, 2012

Community Cookie Exchange 2012

One of the many careers, jobs, careers I had before going into teaching was working as a Unit Coordinator on the post-surgical floor of a hospital. The holiday schedule for employees was coupled in a way that you either worked Christmas Eve and New Year's Day or Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. Often, those of us with little ones at home could find some younger co-workers who had big plans on New Year's Eve and wanted the following day to recover, thus being willing to trade whichever Christmas day they we beleaguered with for an extended window of party time on New Year's. One holiday season though, this trade did not happen and I found myself at work on Christmas Day.

This was over 17 years ago (oy!), so the details are a bit fuzzy, but there was a father that brought his son and daughter around to the nurses' stations with a big stocking of candy and had the kids, adorned in Santa's caps, pass the candy out to those of us working and wish us a Merry Christmas.

It was a true Random Act of Kindness because I do not know who that family was or the impetus that drove them to such kindness. I do know it is a testament to the theory of Paying it Forward, because nearly two decades later (double oy!), it is still a memory that I find touching... and it was the inspiration for the Community Cookie Exchange.

This year we hosted the Third Annual Community Cookie Exchange. Near forty people, mostly Key Clubbers of course, came over to donate and trade cookies. Donated cookies are delivered to police stations, fire departments, nursing homes, and of course, the hospital, to those who are working or volunteering on Christmas Day. For some of our participants, it is their favorite Key Club event and/or, something they really look forward to during the holiday season. This year I had three of my former Key Clubbers drop by and participate. It hints to the legacy this event is building and the potential it has to be the genesis of a Pay it Forward movement beyond our community.

(You can read Amanda's- Key Clubber alumni- blog about the cookie exchange... HERE!)

For the Exchange this year, I made 4 kinds of cookies- tripled the Santa Whiskers and double batches of the others.

Santa Whiskers have been my traditional cookies for years. The recipe I use comes straight from the good old Red & White, Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.
Andes Mint Cookies are a new tradition. I tried 2 cake batter cookies last year. The others were nothing special but these are quite possible my absolute favorite cookie ever. 4 ingredients- quick, easy & chocolatey-minty goodness (The melted Andes will harden to a candy topping.)
I wanted an oatmeal cookie but with a twist, so I found these Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies. The recipe lacks great detail but the cookies came out great. These were Jason's favorite this year. It does not provide a recipe for the drizzle, so I used a classic powdered sugar and milk/vanilla icing.
My new cookies this year were Salted Caramel-Pretzel Thumbprints. I found these little slabs of salty sweet goodness in Food Network's magazine. The only caramel sauce I could find at the store was sundae topping; after leaving them out a few minutes to set, it worked just fine- just be conservative. The grocery store also did not have "flaky sea salt," so I just used some of our table salt, which is grounded sea salt. It worked perfectly fine. As a matter of fact, I was too conservative with the salt and it provided a good "kick" for the sweet caramel topping.
I picked up some very large tins from The Wal-Mart last year on clearanced-clearance when just about all the other Christmas supplies had been deleted. This year, we filled up 10 of the big tubs to send out on Christmas Day. I feel pretty sure it was the largest volume and variety of cookies delivered thus far in this growing tradition.
The participants, as always, had a great time too. The Neverending Coffee & Hot Chocolate Bar was still a hit despite the much more temperate weather.
And the festivities ran over as the kids finished playing games of Spoons on the dining room floor (since every other surface of the downstairs was covered with food for noshing, trading, or donating).

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