Archive for Recipes: Sweet

Virtual Cookie Swap

If there’s one thing I love this time of the year, it’s making cookies. I know it’s just a silly little thing, but I think, in today’s world, people really like getting homemade cookies.

Normally, I’d make baking dates with friends, or I’d organize a cookie swap.

The idea of a cookie swap is you invite a bunch of friends over for an evening or an afternoon. Each friend brings a certain amount of cookies. I usually say 1 or 2 dozen–one dozen to swap, and 1 dozen to eat.

Then everyone puts out their cookies, and you take home the same amount of cookies you brought. You get to try different types of cookies, different recipes, and it’s always a fun, social event.

Clearly that’s not happening this year.

Virtual Xmas Cookie Exchange

But you can do a Virtual Cookie Swap.

There’s two different ways you can do it:

Cookie Swap: Each person in the swap bakes the required amount of cookies (1 doz, 2 doz, whatever you decide) and then wraps up that amount of cookies separately for each of the participants. Then you either mail or drop off the packages (safely–no contact). Then you organize a zoom call where you all open a bottle of wine, or even better, make a festive cocktail, and open and try your cookies all at once.

Virtual Cookie Swap (recipes): This will cost you less money in postage. Each person contributes a beloved favourite Christmas Cookie recipe, and the organizer puts them all together in an online “book.” You can use Evernote or OneNote for something like this (it even allows you to create chapters!). Then each of you can choose one or all of the recipes to make yourself. You can still have a zoom party.

Charity Component? One thing you might want to build into your virtual cookie swap is a charitable component. Maybe you’ll all donate to a specific cause, or agree to try to solicit donations for a specific cause. Many charities are suffering this year because of COVID, as they’ve been unable to do their normal fundraising campaigns and events. And this year, people are struggling more than ever. Or maybe you want to make extra cookies and donate them to your local homeless shelter.

You need music! You can create your own Spotify playlist (everyone can contribute their favourite songs) or use one that’s already been built.

Christmas Cocktails. If you wanna get real fancy, add the component of a Christmas Cocktail (for a few of my favourites, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page) to your party. You can either send out the recipe in advance so everyone can pick up the ingredients, or even make little cocktail kits. A bunch of Vancouver restaurants are also offering ready-made cocktail kits.

Virtual Christmas Cookie Swap

I wanted to share with you a few of my personal favourite Christmas Cookie Recipes.

Salted Dark Chocolate Shortbread: super easy to make, these employ the “lazy” method of making shortbread. Few ingredients, but maximum impact.

Easy Spiced Chocolate Christmas Cookies:  Again, not hard to make, beautiful result.

Amaretti Cookies (vegan): Amaretti are those meringue-like, crispy cookies you get with your coffee in an Italian restaurant. This is my vegan version, using Aquafaba. Very festive!

Miniature Brownies: This is a Christmas recipe I’ve been making for a minimum of 20 years. They’re so yummy and festive.

Matcha Shortbread Cookies: all the shortbread recipes pack and ship well, but this one incorporates the green colour of matcha, so is extra festive.

Ginger Cookies: These are the real deal. With three types of ginger, they pack a punch!

Vegan Eggnog Cookies: They taste like eggnog! How can you go wrong?

My Mom’s Date Squares

About a year ago, I came into possession of my mom’s recipe box. Now, I lost my mom to cancer 12 years ago, so this is somewhat of a treasure to me.

Not just because these are recipes I remember her making (and me loving), but also because many of them are in her handwriting. The cards are frayed and stained and obviously well-used.

I previously shared an accidentally vegan recipe I found in this box of my mom’s recipes called Wacky Cake, but today I want to share another one.

My mom had a few favourite desserts. She loved rice pudding, and classic cookies like peanut butter and chocolate chip. But she also made killer date squares.

Date Squares

She didn’t call them date squares, though, she called them Matrimony or Matrimono Bars.

Nobody seems to quite know the exact origins or history of this recipe, except that it probably originated in Canada, quite possibly Newfoundland, and is maybe Scottish in its heritage (because of the oats?). Today everyone just calls them Date Squares. But I’m curious about where the “matrimony” connection comes in? Were they served at weddings? Do the layers have some kind of symbolic significance of two people coming together to be one? No idea, though the name seems to be regional in its origin and my mom was born on, and grew up in, the Prairies.

But here is the card in my mom’s writing….errrr typing? One thing you’ll notice is there are no directions. This is pretty typical of most of her recipes. She made these so many times, she didn’t need to be reminded of how to make them, just the quantities of ingredients. I have included the directions below.

Mom's date squares recipe card

You’ll notice that this recipe is also accidentally vegan.

By the way, when I made these and distributed them amongst my neighbours for taste-testing, they were pronounced the best date squares they’d ever had, so… thanks, mom.

My Mom’s Date Squares

Ingredients

  • 1 cup margarine/vegan butter/regular butter (if you’re not vegan)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Method

  1. Grease a square 8″ or 9″ cake pan well, or line with parchment, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar and 1 teaspoon each of salt and baking soda.
  3. Melt the butter and pour it over the dry ingredients. Toss just until combined. Dump about half of the mixture into the pan and press it down to make an even layer.
  4. In a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat, place the dates, water, and remaining baking soda and salt and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the dates are softened. Mash them up a bunch with the back of a spoon to make them a bit smoother. Pour this date mixture overtop of your base layer in the pan.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the date layer and press it down lightly.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown on top.
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