Cahokia Library group celebrates 35th cookie swap

News-DemocratDecember 9, 2013 

— Thirty-five years ago, a cookie exchange took place in a storefront, with folding tables holding the holiday sweets and women crowding a space already stuffed with books and shelves.

"The Cahokia Public library was first in a garage, moved to Village Hall, then to a storefront," said Dee Reed on Wednesday. It was there in the Cahokia Village Shopping Center in 1977 that Dorothy Rieken started the tradition.

"She gets the credit," said Dee, who, like Dorothy, worked at the library for many years.

In 1982, the swap moved when the library got its new -- and permanent -- home on Cahokia Park Drive.

Participants have come and gone as the exchange celebrates its 35th year, but it remains essentially the same: Show up with three dozen homemade cookies and swap them with no more than 18 other people. (Keeping the number down meant a bit less baking.) Dress up in red or green, if desired, and make sure to bring a container to take home your assorted cookies.

"We've also always sung carols as we walked around the table," reminded Dee as individuals arranged plates on a long conference table.

There was a round of applause for Thelma Cripps, with the library for 19 years. She handles the annual task of putting together a book of all the year's recipes for each cookiemaker.

Signs are posted annually at the library looking for cookie bakers who want to join in the fun.

"New faces keep popping up," said Dee.

And some veterans couldn't make it, including Dorothy and another past library employee, Sandy Westbrook, who was in Arizona. Loretta Lopinot, longtime library director and participant, had passed away.

Before the swapping began, everybody got a turn at standing up and saying a little something about their cookies.

Library board member Ruth Cauley, 87, was making her first appearance at the annual sweet event. She and her husband Marvin, 90, typically spend the holidays in Texas, but were home this year and didn't want to miss the swap they'd been hearing about for so long.

Marvin helped her make the Apple Oatmeal Cookies. "He did the stirring," she said.

Carolyn Mers, of Belleville, attended the first cookie swap back in 1977.

"I've lived elsewhere and now I'm back," said the 61-year-old who added that "our kids grew up in this library. My home and my heart is here."

John Tyrey evidently didn't get scared off last year when he first came to the cookie exchange and was the only guy in the room. He had some backup, though. His sisters, Sarah Moore and Catherine Dantin, had been coming for a few years.

"I take my cookies seriously," he said with smile. He's even got 2014 in the works, using a 1930s cookbook as inspiration.

Here is a selection of the cookie recipes from the exchange.

Carolyn Mers said this recipe came off a box of saltine crackers. He likes it because "it reminds me of Hawaii; my dream place to live."

Macadamia Macaroons

7-ounce package flake coconut

1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

30 saltine crackers, finely crushed

3 egg whites

2 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut and nuts in a 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Bake 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted, stirring frequently. Cool.

Combine milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Add coconut mixture and cracker crumbs; mix well.

Beat egg whites in a small bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add to coconut mixture. Stir gently until well blended.

Drop rounded teaspoonsful 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes, or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. Melt chocolate as directed on package; drizzle over cookies. Place on wax paper-lined shallow pan. Refrigerate until chocolate is set. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Sarah Moore, of Cahokia, has been coming to the cookie exchange at the library for four years. She got the recipe for this soft and scrumptious cookie off the muffin mix box, she said. She enjoys coming every year.

"I feel like I've found my tribe."

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies

2 packages Jiffy Chocolate Muffin Mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 package instant chocolate pudding mix

2 eggs

1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend ingredients. Drop by teaspoonful on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool.

Sarah's sister, Catherine Dantin, 55, of O'Fallon, Mo., was making her third visit to the swap. Catherine came up with this flourless recipe for her daughter, who is allergic to gluten. She pointed out that to make this a truly gluten-free recipe, though, make sure to check the oatmeal box to make sure there is no flour in the mix.

Chocolate Hazelnut Oatmeal Cookies

13-ounce jar of Nutella (or similar hazelnut spread)

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix ingredients together. Drop by teaspoonful on cookie sheet; press flat.

Bake 8 minutes. Cool before removing from cookie sheet. Makes 3 dozen.

John Tyrey's sister Sarah made the cookie batter for his Christmas Tree cookies, he did the rest of the work himself.

Christmas Trees

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Hard candies, such as Jolly Ranchers or Lifesavers

Mix sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar and add to the wet mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

Remove any wrappers from candy and separate them by color in plastic bags. Use a mallet to crush candies.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Divide dough into halves. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface and cut with Christmas tree cookie cutter. Transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Use a straw to cut holes in cookies where ornaments would appear on tree. Fill with pieces of crushed candies.

Bake 5 to 7 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet.

Ruth Cauley said this big recipe was handed down several generations, but originally came from a Texas cookbook her cousin owned. She likes that it has an unusual ingredient for Christmas cookies: apple.

Apple Oatmeal Cookies

2 cups sugar

2 cups brown sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 apple, chopped

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)

4 cups corn flakes, crushed

1 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix sugars, oil, vanilla, eggs and apples.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt. To that, add corn flakes and oats; mix well. Add to apple mixture. Add coconut and combine.

Drop by teaspoonsful onto baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Makes 6 dozen.

Yvonne Coleman, 37, just moved to Cahokia two months ago. The library has become a resource, she said.

"I got the recipe from a book from the library." Her four daughter already are crazy for these cookies.

The Gooiest Chocolate Cookies

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 /14 cups light brown sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

7 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

11 ounces milk chocolate, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degree. Line 2 large baking sheets with nonstick parchment paper.

Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy.

Place egg and vanilla in a separate bowl and whisk together. Then, gradually add to the butter mixture and beat until smooth.

Mix in the flour and cocoa, baking soda and salt until well combined. Add half of the semisweet chocolate and 3 1/2 ounces of the milk chocolate, chopped; mix well.

Spoon 6 heaping tablespoons of the batter onto each baking sheet, spacing them well apart. Divide the remaining semisweet and 2 ounces of the milk chocolate among the cookies and press in lightly.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack.

Place the remaining 5 1/2 ounces of milk chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, set the bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water and heat until melted. Let cool a few minutes, then spread over cold cookies and let set. Makes 1 dozen large cookies.

Linda Price retired in 2005 from Oliver's restaurant in Cahokia. She was the person responsible for making all the desserts. But, she admitted to the group that when she made this batch, things went a bit awry, though the cookies turned out great.

"I couldn't find the beaters (to the mixer) or the nut grinder. So, all the nuts were cut by hand" for the recipe she brought.

These are very crisp cookies, she added, and the dough gets stiff. She found the recipe in "The Ultimate Cookie Book."

Pistachio Cranberry Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, beaten

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour cookie sheets.

2. Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Beat in egg until smooth.

3. Sift together flour, baking soda and cream of tartar, blend into creamed mixture. Add nuts and cranberries; mix well.

4. shape dough into small balls and arrange on cookie sheets. Flatten with a fork dipped in sugar.

5. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or according to size. When done, carefully transfer to wire racks and let cool. Makes 4 dozen.

This recipe from Dorothy Rieken is from the 20th cookie exchange.

LEMON ALMOND COCONUT TOASTIES

1 box lemon cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

Juice of 1 small lemon

1 scant cup finely chopped almonds

1 scant cup flaked coconut

Stir cake mix, oil, eggs and lemon juice with spoon until dough forms ball. Shape dough into small balls. Roll in crushed almonds. Place on cookie sheet. Using small juice glass, moisten bottom with water. Shake off excess water, and use to flatten cookies. If dough begins to stick, moisten glass and continue. Sprinkle coconut on top (it can be omitted if you don't like coconut). Bake at 375 degrees until nicely browned (about 9 to 11 minutes) and coconut is toasted. Makes 80 cookies.

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