Jane Lawson is pictured with colleagues at the annual Cattell Cookie Exchange at Cattell Elementary School in Des Moines. A cookie exchange is a fun and delicious way to try new treats and gather recipes.
Jane Lawson is pictured with colleagues at the annual Cattell Cookie Exchange at Cattell Elementary School in Des Moines. A cookie exchange is a fun and delicious way to try new treats and gather recipes.
Before winter break, I participated in the annual Cattell Cookie Exchange with my colleagues at Cattell Elementary School in Des Moines. Cattell is located on the northeast side of Des Moines very near Grand View University.

My colleagues and I gathered in the library to exchange goodies, sip spiced apple cider and chat about our holiday plans.

A cookie exchange is a fun and delicious way to try new treats and gather recipes. It's also a way to do only a fraction of the work and reap the benefits of very full cookie platters to have on hand at Christmastime.

If you don't participate in an annual cookie exchange, consider organizing one amongst your friends or co-workers next year.

Old-Fashioned Butter Cookies (for cut-out cookies)

Brooke Hakert, Instructional Coach

Brooke's family has been making frosted sugar cookies for as long as Brooke can remember. Her family bakes several batches and then sits around the dining-room table and everyone helps frost the cookies. Family members pack up containers to take home, but they don't last long. Brooke always freezes several cookies to save for Santa. According to Brooke, "Nothing says Christmas like a frosted cut-out sugar cookie!"

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup butter

1 unbeaten egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat well. Mix and blend flour, baking powder, and salt. Bake at 350 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet for 5-7 minutes.

1 batch makes about 45 small to medium cookies


Michelle Qualley, Fifth Grade Teacher

This is a Swedish recipe passed down from Michelle's great-grandmother. The original irons used to make the rosettes were also passed down to her mother and will eventually be passed down to Michelle.

2 eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients together. Using a medium sized pan fill halfway with vegetable oil. Keep oil at medium heat. Use your choice of a rosette iron and dip into grease to get iron hot before putting into batter. Place into batter making sure the mixture does not go over top of rosette iron. Keep in grease about 30 seconds. Take out of grease and tap lightly with fork onto paper towel. Let rosettes cool before dipping into powdered sugar.

Makes about 3 dozen rosettes

Cherry Chocolate Kisses

Barb Edwards, First Grade Teacher

This is the first time Barb made this kind of cookie. She found the recipe on Pinterest and thought it looked really good. Barb likes shortbread cookies and decided this recipe is a keeper for the holidays.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (but still cool - very important!)

1 cup powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped

granulated sugar, for sprinkling on the cookies

36 milk chocolate kisses, unwrapped

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to the lowest setting and slowly add the powdered sugar and salt. Add the cherry juice and the almond extract until combined. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Increase the mixer speed to medium and add the cherries. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, and place the balls on a baking sheet, approximately 2 inches apart. Using your thumb, gently press each cookie in its center until the cookie is about 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle each cookie with a little granulated sugar. Bake the cookies until the bottoms are lightly browned, about 14 minutes. Once removed from the oven, immediately press a chocolate kiss into each cookie's center.

Yields about 36 cookies

Thin Mint Truffles   (makes 24)

Lori Kistenmacher, First Grade Teacher

Lori also found this recipe on Pinterest. She had never made truffles before and thought she would try. She is a big fan of mint, as are her family members. Lori admits they weren't the prettiest truffles, but they tasted pretty good and she'll be making them again.

1 (9 oz) box Girl Scout Thin Mints (or Keebler Grasshopper cookies)

4 oz fat-free cream cheese, slightly softened

8 oz Guittard's green mint chips

8 oz white chocolate chips or white chocolate bark

In a food processor, pulse the cookies a few times, and then blend them down until they are just crumbs. It might be easier to do this in two batches. Next, mix the cream cheese and crumbs together in a bowl until well incorporated. Roll the mixture into 1 inch size balls, and place them on a wax paper covered baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the fridge for about 30 minutes, so the balls are easier to dip in the chocolate and do not fall apart.

Once the truffles have been in the fridge for awhile, melt the green mint chips in a double broiler or a microwave safe bowl. Roll half of the truffles in the green mint chocolate and place them back on the wax paper. Melt the white chocolate and roll the other half of the truffles in it. Once they have dried a little put the remaining white/green chocolate into baggies and cut the tips to drizzle the contrasting color over your truffles. Place the baking sheet back in the fridge so the chocolate can set.

Oreo Balls

Stacy Williams, Second Grade Teacher

Stacy's recipe came from her dear friend, Julie Soyer, whose family calls them "snowman poop." When her daughter heard this name, she wanted to try and make them.

1 pkg (about 1 lb) Oreo cookie crumbs

8 oz softened cream cheese

1 pkg almond bark

Mix cream cheese and Oreo crumbs together (it will take a little time and effort). Shape into balls, any size you want, and place on cookie sheet. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Melt almond bark and dip the balls in it.

Peanut Clusters

Sandy Hull, Librarian

Sandy has participated in many cookie exchanges over the years. She enjoyed making both of these treats when her daughter was young because they are so easy.

Each Christmas Sandy spends a day or two baking with her daughter and granddaughter. They all like to pass out holiday goodies to pass out to friends, neighbors, mail carriers, etc.

1 pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 pkg butterscotch chips

1 pkg salted roasted peanuts (not the kind with the red skin)

Melt chips in medium heavy pan. Stir in peanuts. Drop by tablespoon on wax paper. Chill to harden.

Ritz Treats

Sandy Hull, Librarian

60 Ritz crackers

1 cup peanut butter

1 pkg white or chocolate almond bark

Spread peanut butter b between 2 Ritz crackers. Melt almond bark. Dip cracker sandwich in almond bark and place on wax paper. Chill to harden. You can add sprinkles on top of treat before it hardens.


Jane Lawson, ELL (English Language Learners) Teacher

This "no-bake" treat is beyond simple. My 5-year-old son, Kellan, enjoyed helping with the Rolos (with clean hands) and my husband, Danny, loved them, as he loves pecans.

Rolo candies

square waffle-shaped pretzels

pecan halves

To toast pecans, place pecans in a glass dish. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Unwrap Rolo candies. Line a jellyroll pan or cookie sheet (if using a cookie sheet, be careful the pretzels don't slide off) with parchment paper. Line up pretzels on pan in rows. Place a Rolo in the center of each pretzel. Place in oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press a pecan half onto each Rolo. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.


Carol Weaver, Second Grade Teacher

Carol baked these cookies during her annual baking day with former co-workers of her husband and their children. They have done this for about eight years now. Even when Carol's two daughters left for college, the tradition continued.

1 cup butter or margarine

3/4 cup finely packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, well beaten

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups uncooked oatmeal

cinnamon sugar

In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; mix until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mix well. Sift together flour, salt, soda and cinnamon. Add sifted dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Mix until well combined. Stir in oats. Form dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in cinnamon and sugar. Place on greased cookie sheets 1-inch apart. Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake, cookies will be light in color. Cool on wire rack. Store in tightly covered container.

Makes 4-5 dozen

Linzer Thumbprint Jewel Cookies

Connie Farley, Math Teacher

Connie was looking for a cookie that was low in Weight Watchers points. This cookie is worth two points each. Linzertorte is a classic Austrian dessert that has been made into cookies for the holiday season. The classic filling is raspberry jam, but you can use apricot, strawberry, or blackcurrant jam for a colorful cookie platter.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup finely chopped almonds

1/4 cup sweetened coconut

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, almonds, coconut, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, with an electric mixer at high speed, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. With the mixer at low speed, stir in the flour mixture until just blended.

Form the mixture into 24 balls and place on a large ungreased baking sheet, 1 ½ inches apart. Make a small indentation with your thumb in each cookie and bake until lightly golden at the edges, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Sift the confectioners' sugar over the cookies then fill each indentation with ½ teaspoon of jam.

Candy Cane Blossoms

Susan DeVries, Kindergarten Teacher

Sue's children's, Hannah and Max, have always liked these cookies and used to love rolling the balls in sugar when they were young. Sue hadn't made the cookies for a couple of years since Hannah left for Iowa State, but when Hannah returned, she decided to make them again.

1 bag Hershey's Kisses brand Candy Cane Kisses

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons milk

red and green colored sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove wrappers from candies. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg in large bowl until well blended. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add alternatively with milk to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in red and/or green colored sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookies are set. Remove from oven; cool 2 to 3 minutes. Press candy piece into center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Makes approximately 35 cookies