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How to throw the perfect cookie swap

I don’t know because I did it, but because I have been to one, well, more than one, but this was exceptional. No pressure on the hostess for the next cookie swap I attend intended!

First, invite a good number of people and have it at the time of day that works best for you. Our hostess today had it right after school drop-off (8:30am) and her warm and welcoming, and beautifully festive home smelled of coffee and a Christmas Morning Breakfast (baked gorgeousness with eggs, sausage and sourdough bread – this is not her exact recipe – it is a variation). There were huge bowls of fruit; grapes, clementines, and bananas for healthy snacking (to offset the breakfast of cookies) and in addition to tea and coffee there was cider and orange juice. these are darling ornament placeholders/labels from cookie swap for the holidays from capability mom Pretty holiday mugs were perched on a tray near the coffee and tea on the kitchen counter. Fruit and egg deliciousness (I offered to be the first to dig in to it – I am useful sometimes if not self-serving – no pun but kind of if you want to take it that way – go ahead) on the kitchen table and pretty sideboard. The cookies reigned in a place of honor on the dining room table which meant we had to move around and not all gather in the kitchen the whole time (which always happens). Great space planning – sort of like when you think about where to put the bar at a cocktail party to make the flow of the party work.

There were extra platters for people to use for their cookie displays, (we are all not so experienced) and there was saran wrap, foil and holiday tins (a huge gorgeous assortment to choose from (she gathers them throughout the year) to take home your loot in if you failed to bring a container large or secure enough. Brilliant, really, and so easy to do. Little tags were attached to these darling ornament placeholders identifying cream, milk, coffee, etc. Perfect.

Hand-knitted stockings (one just like the one my mother knitted for me – same pattern!) hung on the mantle and the beautifully decorated tree was lit and added to the spirit of the morning.

The mix of women was wonderful and fun and our hostess was able to fully participate because she wasn’t cooking or explaining which pitcher has the cream in it ten times over. Some of us see each other daily and some only catch up at a fun gathering such as this one. What a lovely start to the day, including how much sugar I consumed before noon…grin.

The cookies I made (my granola bars) were an epic fail because I ran out of parchment paper mid-way through and used waxed paper which does not share all of the properties of parchment paper. Basically, despite heavy buttering, the wax paper remained on my granola bars. Flash forward to ten o’clock at night I was still hand peeling the paper off the back of the bars when it occurred to me to toss it all and make more cookies – in the morning. So, at 5 am, I made Barefoot Contessa butter cookies. I used adorable cookie cutters from IKEA capability mom uses IKEA cookie cutters– $5.99 – cute and practical – the smaller cookie cutters nest inside the larger ones.

A sweet and easy garlicky supper in 15 minutes

shrimp scampi barefoot contessa
Sunday Night Supper

A fast and furious but warming dinner to chase away the gray days we have had.  Ah, Spring in New England!  

Really, this is easy (and takes about 15 minutes to cook) but I used a lot of pans because we had whole wheat pasta (for someone) and I also made sautéed spinach that next time I would just cook in the same pan as the shrimp. I also added scallops and they were lovely. Serve with a green salad and bread of choice.  Great Sunday night supper.  

Ingredients 

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • 1 1/2 lbs of  linguine (1 lb white pasta, 1/2 lb whole wheat – you will need two pots)
  •  6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
  • 5  tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
  • 2 pounds large shrimp (about 32 shrimp), peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4  cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1  lemon, zest grated
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4  lemons) (I do love lemon but family prefers less so next time I will use only 2 lemons and add pasta water)
  •  1/2 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds (did not have, did not care, were not missed)
  •  1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (did not have – left out )

 Directions    

 Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon (I used less)  of  salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.   

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Pay close attention as the garlic burns easily.  Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and sauté until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.    

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.  Here is where I would throw some more butter and more (!) garlic  into the pan and add the spinach. I liked it mixed in with my pasta but some prefer it to stand-alone.  Makes about 6 servings. 

Linguine with Shrimp Scampi,2002, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, All Rights Reserved

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