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A tasty trio of treats

GRAND FORKS—What if I told you that you could be finished with all of your holiday baking in less than two hours and have four to eight different kinds of treats?

You can, and it's actually really easy. You just have to host a cookie swap.

What is a cookie swap? It's a gathering, small or large, and each person invited brings a dozen cookies per person who is coming. (If you want to bring more for sampling, you can.) For example, if six people are invited, you would bring six dozen cookies and possibly six extras for tasting.

You will leave the party with six dozen assorted holiday treats to share with your family and friends. If that sounds like too much for people to make, go with a half dozen of each cookie. That way, your six guests will only have to make three dozen goodies.

If you have been invited to a swap and have no idea what to make, have no fear. I have three of my favorite no-bake recipes for you today, and they all can be ready in 10 to 20 minutes (not including resting time).

Crispy Date Puffs

8 tablespoons of butter (1 stick)

8 ounces of chopped dates

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups crispy rice cereal

1 cup coconut flakes

In a microwaveable bowl, combine butter, dates and sugar. Microwave for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir until combined. Microwave on high for 3 additional minutes. Mixture should be foaming.

Remove from the microwave and stir in vanilla extract and crispy rice cereal. When evenly combined, let cool on counter for about 20 minutes or until cool enough to handle comfortably. Roll into balls, and then roll into the shredded coconut flakes.

Creamy Peanut Butter Fudge

16 tablespoons salted butter (2 sticks)

2 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 pounds powdered sugar

Combine butter and peanut butter in a microwavable bowl. Heat for 3 minutes on high. Stir. Microwave on high for 3 additional minutes.

Remove from the microwave and stir in vanilla extract and kosher salt. Whisk until combined. Add powdered sugar and stir until well mixed.

Pour mixture into a 9 by 13 baking pan that has been lined with greased parchment paper. Press fudge into the corners of the pan and make sure it's even. Let cool in the refrigerator for about 2 hours or your freezer for about 30 minutes.

Cut into cubes and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Candy Cane Oreos

1 14-ounce package of Oreo cookies

20 ounces vanilla almond bark

crushed candy cane pieces

In a microwave-safe bowl or a double boiler, melt the almond bark. Dip the Oreos and place on a drying rack or a lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with crushed candy cane pieces.

Cookie swap tips

If you think a cookie swap sounds like something you'd want to try, here are some tips for hosting a swap of your own:

1. Send out the invites. You can send them formally with fancy stationery, through social media, or even by sending a text message to a few of your friends.

2. Choose your cookies. If you coordinate with your guests, you can ensure there aren't any repeats. Of course, if three different people wanted to bring butter spritz cookies to my swap, I would not complain. It is best to choose cookies that are on the sturdier side though, since they pack the best. You also will want to make sure your guests steer clear of anything that needs to be refrigerated. It's easiest if everyone's cookies can be placed in the same area until you are ready to serve them.

3. Set your own menu for the gathering. If your guests are bringing samples of their swap cookies, consider having a veggie tray, popcorn or other foods that are on the lighter and more savory side.

4. Purchase serving trays at a party, grocery or dollar store. The large platters will be easy for your guests to use for cookie displays when they are ready to serve. To store each individual type of cookie, it's also a good idea to have plastic bags to keep the flavors of each cookie from mixing. I love peppermint twists, but I don't like my coconut macaroons or peanut butter blossoms to taste the same.

5. Set a personal timeline to save your "day of the party" energy. I like to make my cookies and treats two to three days ahead of time and get all of my appetizers ready the day before the party if possible. That way, the day of the party, you only have to set up your packaging station and get your beverages ready.

6. Enjoy yourself. Whether you are the host, a baker or both, remember to let yourself relax and enjoy the time with your friends.

Now you have an easy, almost painless, and very delicious way to check holiday baking off your to-do list.

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