Chances are if you ask almost any woman what she thinks about cookie swaps, you’ll either hear gleeful enthusiasm or receive a blank stare.
Cookie swaps are just one of those polarizing things and like most politics these days, you aren’t going to get very far trying to persuade non-like minded pals to come over to your side of the fence.
Don’t get me wrong, swap lovers. Every year I get invited to a couple different cookie swaps and while I love the spirit behind shared foods and the holidays, cookie swaps don’t work for my family.
You see, my husband is trying to keep his sweet intake to a minimum, and my kids aren’t interested in the idea of non-traditional desserts (one time I came home from a swap with anise twists, walnut biscotti and blue cheese studded biscuits– none of which my kids would touch with a ten foot pole).
I’ve always felt overwhelmed by them (not just by the variety of the cookies but by the volume you bring and then take home) and loathe to see such lovely heirloom cookies just sitting on my counter, I would usually just give away most of my stash.
And then pine for something savory.
So this year I thought I’d try a Soup Swap instead; I’d seen pics on Pinterest and had become intrigued with the notion. It was at this time that I got the green light from Goodwill and the TV station about appearing in a quick segment on casual entertaining during holidays, and so I thought that this would be the perfect time to give my Soup Swap Party a try.
(If you want to see the quick video clip in which this party is featured, it should air this Friday on KPTV Fox 12 on MORE Good Day Oregon sometime between 9-10 a.m. or I may show at a later time)
The invites went out to my girlfriends and it turns out this party couldn’t have been easier.
Or reaped better (and more useful) rewards.
Because I wanted to show viewers what a tremendous resource Goodwill is for all kinds of housewares, I’d culled just a few of the things I already had from GW in my home and in the days leading up to the shoot, I went shopping for some more items to round out the table.
Ah, such lovely, useful and affordable items.
Like this over-sized gray marble Lazy Susan. It was six dollars.
And these vintage soup spoons and marble crock. The spoons were all under a dollar each and the crock was marked at three dollars.
Then I found this vintage-looking Swedish linen towel and handsome white porcelain platter. The towel was under a dollar and this enormous mint-condition porcelain tray was seven dollars.
I am going to use this platter all year long– it’s a classic and it will never go out of style.
Because I’d made my soup the day before, party day still left me with time to spare. I made a batch of rosemary focaccia and hung out with my rock star friend Elona who came early to help me with the shoot.
I’ve got a community of terrific cooks so I knew that there’d be some fantastic food headed my way.
And so as Brad the videographer started rolling, my friends all walked in with eight very different soups (we’d emailed each other our soup intentions the week before so there were no repeats).
Take a look at this roster.
Everyone brought some soup both to trade and to taste on the spot. That which was trade-ready went on my dining room table.
It was fascinating to see the variety represented here. Classic and unusual chilis. Lamb stew. Thai hot and sour soup. An Italian tomato. Retro split pea. Two very different lentil soups and coconut butternut squash.
It was like the United Nations of Soups.
We then headed into my kitchen and set up tasting stations of each soup — many of which had their own garnishes.
Everything but the food was from a Goodwill store.
I set out my focaccia and some rosemary crisps. Girlfriends also brought warm rolls, garlic naan and Juanita’s tortilla chips so we added these all to the spread, too.
When everyone was there, we all stood behind our soup and told a little story about it (what it was and any salient points about it).
Elvis serenaded us on a vintage record player, and before I knew it, we all seemed to forget there was a videographer on hand and just focused on the job at hand — eating and gabbing.
I adored this kind of easy party.
Not only did I get to catch up with pals and try nine delicious soups, I had dreamy leftovers to enjoy later.
A party with little cleanup and a fridge stocked with someone else’s delicacies is something a girl can really get excited about.
So, in the days following my Soup Swap Party, there were lots of just-warm-through lunches and dinners.
There was Gillian’s Coconut Red Lentil Soup.
I topped this version with dollops of lime-y Greek yogurt and toasted sunflower seeds and it was delightful.
Here’s another winner — a spicy and unusual Vegetarian Black Bean Espresso Chili.
Stephanie brought shaved dark chocolate to put atop and it was scrumptious — like a mole with black beans.
I’d made such a big batch of my own Easiest Ever Curried Butternut Squash for the party that I had leftovers of that, too.
And then there was Amy’s Bengali Lentil Soup.
It was sublime.
Amy said it’s her take on a recipe she found in Hope’s Edge (by Anna and Francis Moore Lappe) and she’s been making it for years. It was vegetarian with a crazy depth of flavor from turmeric, two kinds of mustard seeds and lots of onion and garlic.
I can’t wait to make a pot of my own — it’s so good, I may single-handedly eat the whole batch.
The party broke up only because we all had to retrieve our kids from school.
I loved watching all my girlfriends (plus Dale, the Goodwill exec and Brad, the camera guy) grab a couple quarts of soup to go — the best kind of party favor.
And as I tucked into another bowl of soup that night, I considered the day’s activity.
I smiled thinking of the fun pieces I’d found thrift-ing, some of which went home with my pals that day.
Here’s the lovely Amy of Bengali Soup fame with the bowl she took home (another friend brought home its twin).
Looking in the fridge the next mornings at the leftovers ahead, it felt like my friends were still with me.
It’s like the soup was more than just that — it was jars of care and love and bottled good intentions.
Their soup stories had suddenly now become mine.
- 2 C. red lentils
- 8 C. water
- 1 T. turmeric
- 1 - 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1 heaping T salt
- Frying pan:
- 4 T. vegetable oil
- 1 T. cumin seeds
- 1 T. yellow mustard seeds
- 1 T. brown mustard seeds
- 3-4 onions, diced
- 4-8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers, minced and seeded or 1-3 T. Sriracha or preferred hot sauce, to taste
- 1 bunch chopped cilantro leaves
- dollops of yogurt
- In stock pot, add lentils, water, turmeric, and stir. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft. Add diced tomatoes and salt and then reduce heat.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add cumn and both types of mustard seeds and saute for a minute until fragrant and seeds make popping sounds. Switch heat to low and add onions, garlic, and if using, jalapeno. Stir occasionally to prevent burning and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add onion and spice mixture to lentil/tomato mixture. If desired, add hefty dose of Sriracha or other desired hot sauce at this time. Simmer for a few minutes longer, stirring occasionally.
- Before serving, stir in most of the chopped cilantro leaves, leaving some to garnish atop each serving. Add dollops of yogurt and you're good to go.