Last weekend I hosted my first cookie exchange since moving to Knoxville. Since it was dark by the time the party started, I didn’t get any good pictures (I really need to learn how to use my flash!) but I decided to post them anyway. Since this was my only holiday party this year, the menu was primarily classic party appetizers…because that’s what I wanted =). If you haven’t read my Tips for Hosting a Cookie Exchange, it’s worth a read. I chose mainly recipes that could be made in advance, with only one or two items that required attention right before the party. Planning ahead and preparing in advance are the keys to hosting anything, in my opinion.

Since we still don’t have a table in our breakfast nook (and maybe never will), I bought a cheap, folding table for the food. Initially I thought I’d just buy a Christmas tablecloth, but after looking at 4 or 5 stores and not really finding anything I liked I had pretty much given up hope. Then I stumbled across this burlap tablecloth at Hobby Lobby (in the wedding section !?!) and since it was 50% off I bought it! I’m actually glad that I didn’t find a Christmas tablecloth, because I’ll be able to use the burlap year round. To make it a little more festive, I bought a red tablerunner (that was also 50% off!). Basically everything in Hobby Lobby was 50% off, so I bought some cute plates too =).

I found some chalkboard garland at Target for the front of the table. I thought it would be hard to write on, but it turned out to be super easy! Continuing with the chalkboard theme, I picked up some chalkboard labels for the food. I actually ended up using a white marker to write on both the garland and the labels, since I wanted a brighter look. I was really happy with how the finished table came together.

We ended up eating and playing Trivial Pursuit Party Edition and Apples to Apples. It was a lot of fun and I think everyone had a great time. We’re already planning our next party…but we’re not going to wait until next Christmas! (Maybe a Rook tournament?) =)

The Menu

Pizza Bites – I’ve made these numerous times, but they’ve yet to make it to the blog – pieces of cheese and pepperoni surrounded by homemade pizza dough! You can make them early in the day and pop them in the fridge. Then, about 30 minutes before the party bake for 20 minutes. So easy and they’re always a hit.

Chicken Salad with Dried Cranberries and Pecans on Mini Croissants – My mom’s recipe is always a hit – a classic and very easy. I always make the chicken salad a day or two in advance, so then all you have to do the day of the party is assemble the sandwiches.

Bacon Wrapped Smokies – One of Jordan’s favorite party foods. I don’t think I even ate one of these, but they were definitely a hit. They do have to be baked right before the party, but I wrap the smokies in bacon the day before and refrigerate. This saves times and clean up for the day of the party.

Chili Cheese Dip and Fritos – It’s not the fanciest dip, but it is definitely tasty! With only a few ingredients, you can whip this up in 5 minutes so there’s no need to make it in advance.

Spinach Dip with Hawaiian Bread – I use this recipe (Although I do use light sour cream and light mayo to save a few calories. You can’t tell a difference.). I love that you can make it completely in advance.

Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches – These are your classic ham and cheese sandwiches topped with a buttery/mustard/worcestershire/poppy seed sauce. You can mix up the sauce in advance, but you do have to bake the sandwiches right before the party. These are always a hit.

Cranberry Pistachio Cheese Ball – I love classic cheese ball but last time I made one, it wasn’t really a hit so I decided to mix it up some with this cranberry pistachio cheese ball with goat cheese. It was delicious. Definitely a fresh spin on a classic dish. You can make it up to 3 days in advance, making it even more perfect for parties.

Garden Veggie Roll-ups  –  It doesn’t get much easier than these – tortillas (I used sun-dried tomato), garden vegetable cream cheese (homemade or store-bought), and shredded carrots. Roll it up, refrigerate for a couple hours and then slice into pinwheels. Easy and so tasty!

Fruit and Vegetables – I rounded out the menu with some sliced veggies and fruit. They balance out all the other stuff, right??

Lime Sherbert Punch – My absolute favorite punch – lime sherbet, pineapple juice, and ginger ale. I didn’t have much left, so I think it’s everyone else’s favorite too!

Cookies! – Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the cookies. I made White Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Double Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies (except with peanut butter instead of almond butter). And of course, we had lots of other cookies too!

Categories: Cookies, Recipe Round-Ups, Tips

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