Monday, December 10, 2012

Surviving the Cookie Swap in a Gluten-Filled World

It’s that time of year again, when my friends gather together with our four dozen homemade cookies and swap them for four dozen mixed cookies.  When you are a celiac, you exchange cookies for the gluten-eaters in your family.   Three of my four kids absolutely love checking out the cookies I bring home and each kid has developed a favorite cookie over the years.  My celiac has slim pickings, but one person ALWAYS makes “magic” fudge (it is the recipe on the side of the jar of Fluff) in addition to her cookies just for me.

But, it’s not just me with food issues!  At my cookie exchange we have a tree nut allergy, a severe peanut allergy and a dairy and egg allergy among the moms or other family members of the women present.  Last year I made cake pops that were gluten free and nut free, but not egg or dairy free.  My cake pops were shaped by hand and then dipped in the Wilson cake melts…red and green…and they were a hit!

In the past, I have also made chocolate dipped pretzel rods, puff pastry Palmiers, peppermint bark and almond brittle.  I have even cheated with frozen cookie dough with fancy glazing. Most people got into a rhythm of bringing the same cookie every year.  Lucky for my celiac, one person always brings red and green peppermint-chocolate chip meringues. 

I have learned a few survival tips over the years.  First of all, make sure you bake up a selection of gluten-free cookies to have at home.  This is getting easier every year with the vast selection of frozen gluten-free cookie dough and high quality mixes.

For the party, buy a cute cookie plate and pick a recipe that looks appetizing.  The plate doesn’t have to be expensive and the cookies do not need to be elaborate, but you don’t want to have the unappetizing platter of plain cookies that everyone politely skips!
Bring a great big tub for cookie collecting.   It is important to have a lid on that container after you have gently packed up your four dozen mixed cookies to bring home.  One year I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a deer and all of my cookies from the exchange went sliding right out from under the plastic wrap, off the tray and onto the floor of the car.  They were covered with dirt, bits of leaves and hair and went right from the car floor into the garbage. 



I always bring a set of small Tupperware containers so those of us with food intolerances can separate the allergen free selections from all the rest of the cookies.

The most important piece of advice is to really know what ingredients are in your cookies.  I would be upset if someone came back to me later and said that she forgot that there was a little bit of flour in the recipe, with the “sorry” and “it was just a little bit of flour.”  The same goes for nuts, egg and dairy.  If you can’t emphatically tell someone “this cookie is gluten free, nut free, egg free or dairy free” then just say so.  I don’t want someone dashing for an Epi pen because I thought the ingredients were nut free but didn’t really scope it out thoroughly.
Also, know why you really go to these parties year after year…it’s for the friendships, the memories, the stories about your kids, the laughter and the chance to pause and enjoy time with friends in the frenetic build up to the holidays.   I don’t really need cookies, no woman my age really needs cookies, but I do need my friends and that is what a cookie exchange is all about!

Kendall Egan

1 comment:

Emily Menendez said...

Great article and so true! I have found some great gluten free sweet mixes at measuresofjoybakery.com
They have cookie mixes, brownie mix, muffin mixes and even pancake mix (a personal favorite for my cupboard). Soooooo good!