Recipe roundup: Valentine’s Day

I loved Valentine’s Day as a kid. It was an excuse to eat lots of candy, wear lots of pink and tell people nice things. What’s not to like?

I wish we did Valentine’s Day mailboxes at work, like we did as kids. Maybe I should make that happen next year. But in the meantime, I’m sitting here daydreaming about pink cupcakes and heart-shaped cookies and all the other lip-smacking Valentine’s Day desserts.

Here’s a roundup of the Valentine’s Day recipes I’m most excited about this year, plus some recipes from my blog that just might do the trick for your V-day needs.

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From Jo Cooks

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Scones: Start your day with a dash of red and a bit of sugar. These scones from Jo Cooks sure look scrumptious.

Olive Oil Cupcakes with Berry Buttercream: The base cupcake is an intriguing mix of almond, orange and olive oil. Top that with a mixed berry buttercream, and you have yourself a Valentine’s Day winner. These come from Molly Yeh, so you know they’re good!

Blackberry Lemon Cake: This cake from Natasha’s Kitchen gets its flavor from blackberry frosting and lemon simple syrup. It’s simple, sounds delicious and the blackberries make it a lovely shade of purply pink.

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From Bakers Royale

Watercolor Heart Cookies: I saw these gorgeous cookies from Bakers Royale in my Pinterest feed yesterday and can’t stop thinking about them!

Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting: I love frosted brownies, and this recipe from The Recipe Critic looks delightfully rich.

M&M Cookie Bars: A simple cookie bar recipe, jazzed up with seasonal pink and red M&Ms by No.2 Pencil.

Strawberry Thyme Cake: One last cake option for you, because I can never resist a bit of herbs with my dessert. This combo from The Cake Blog sounds delicious and looks great!

Conversation Heart Cookies: These cookies are so fun, especially because I Am A Food Blog strayed away from traditional V-day colors. As much as I love red and pink, it’s nice to have some other colors in the mix, too!

Recipes on this blog:

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Craving more ideas? Check out my Valentine’s Day Pinterest board.

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Cookie Swap Tips and Tricks

Cookie swaps are one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. What’s better than seeing friends and eating cookies at the same time? I’ve hosted a few cookie exchanges over the years, and hope the tradition continues. But this isn’t Martha Stewart’s cookie swap: mine is light on rules, and heavy on flexibility.

I host a few potlucks every year and my approach is pretty much always the same. I’d hate for someone to stay back because they don’t know what to bring. And I don’t want anyone to worry about following the right rules. So, I keep it simple.

Here are my tips for a fun holiday exchange with less stress… but lots of dessert.

It’s about nibbling, not gifting: Martha tells you to bring a dozen cookies per swap attendee so they can take home lots of cookies, and maybe even re-gift them later. That’s a lot of batches! Instead, I tell people to bring 1 batch of whatever they decide to bake, regardless of the yield. Trust me: there are always enough cookies to go around. And there are always extra cookies, too, which usually end up at my office the following Monday (you’re so welcome, team!).

old-cookie-swapMake it easy to contribute: I make sure to clarify that any kind of treat will do: homemade, semi-homemade or even purchased. No snobbery allowed! For some people, this is the only time they bake all year and they get really excited. Other people think baking sounds terrible, or they just don’t have the time– and I want them to come, too.

Label your goods: I put out paper so people can label their cookies. I don’t write out the full ingredient list, but of course you could. I do write if something is allergen-free so people with dietary concerns know what’s safe to eat. This year we had a couple people who don’t eat dairy so I made these rosemary chocolate chip cookies with dairy-free chocolate, and labeled the cookies “dairy free.”

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Tons of cookies… and meat

Ask some people to NOT bring cookies: My first year hosting a swap, I only bought one party-sized bag of Chex Mix to accompany all the cookies. Rookie mistake! You need to have some savory snacks on hand to balance all the sweetness. This year we specifically asked people to sign up for savory things to make sure we had a good mix–and people brought everything from jicama to hummus.

Help people get their cookies home: I’ve been providing baggies so people can take cookies home, but I do think Martha is right here, and boxes are better. Next year I’ll get boxes so the cookies aren’t smushed in transit.

Eat lots of cookies: This is obviously the most important rule! You don’t have to eat a full cookie of every single type. We usually end up cutting cookies into pieces and sharing them so we can try more varieties.

And one extra tip if you plan to bake a lot…plan, plan plan: Whenever I host an event, I contribute a lot of food. I made 5 different recipes for this year’s cookie exchange! I am super organized about it, and always spend time thinking through the right order of operations  based on things like equipment needs, prep needs, baking time, etc. I also look at which doughs have to chill, which cookies can be made the night before, etc.

Here are the recipes I made for this year’s cookie exchange, plus some past favorites:

And if you want even more recipe ideas, check out my Cookie Swap Season board.

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This year’s bounty