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Anna G. Larson, Published December 19 2012

A fruitful exchange: Group of women shares time, recipes during monthly get-togethers

FARGO - One part honesty, two parts laughter and the occasional glass of wine is the perfect recipe for friendship for nine friends.

The women, who are all in their 20s, get together at least once a month to cook, share recipes and catch up on life. They say their best gatherings happen in the winter. On Friday, they had a Christmas cookie exchange.

Food, while the reason for gathering, comes secondary to the bonding that occurs during their monthly or bimonthly gatherings, Horace resident Chelsea Jaeger says.

“It’s therapy we don’t have to pay for,” Jaeger says. “We have withdrawals from each other if we don’t catch up regularly.”

The women take turns hosting the parties. This is the second year they’ve exchanged cookies.

“It’s really fun to share memories of the old family recipes we use,” Moorhead resident Lexie Kreps says. “It sparks a whole conversation.”

Most of the women have known each other since college, and others have become part of the group through mutual friends.

“We say, the more, the merrier,” Jaeger says. “It grows our circle of friends.”

For most gatherings, the women cook together and one person organizes the meal. Each woman brings a meal component to contribute, and no one knows what the meal will be until they get to the party.

The gatherings’ frequency and types have evolved with the women. Their first year, they usually met every Wednesday night.

“This group will always be my Wednesday Night Girls, even though we don’t see each other every Wednesday like we used to,” Fargo resident Ashley Shannon said.

The first year of their parties, they cooked “cheap” meals. Now, they cook “fancy” meals, and all the women have careers, most are married, and half of them have kids.

“We’ve really realized how close we all are, and it’s crazy how life has changed,” Jaeger said.

Most of the women don’t have sisters, so the circle of friends calls themselves surrogate sisters. They also jokingly refer to themselves as “modern church aid ladies.”

“A lot of our funniest stories come from those nights,” Kreps said. “It’s just a reason for us to get together and keep in touch.”

Here are some tips for hosting a successful girls’ night and cookie exchange.

Holiday Sangria

Ingredients

2 bottles white wine

1 bottle sparkling apple cider

1 orange, sliced

1 apple, sliced

1 cup fresh cranberries

Raspberries

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a very large pitcher. Mix and let the flavors marry for at least a few hours in the fridge.

Submitted by Chelsea Jaeger, who received the recipe from her mother-in-law, Julie.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookie Cups

Makes 24 cookie cups

Ingredients

1 package chocolate peanut butter deluxe cookie dough

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup milk chocolate chips

½ cup peanut butter chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Line a mini muffin pan (24 cups)

Cut each cookie dough square in half, and place one piece of dough in each muffin cup.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookie has spread to the edge of cup.

Beat cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and vanilla in medium bowl until smooth.

Spoon three tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture over each cookie cup.

Bake for an additional 15 to 18 minutes or until set.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Mix together the milk chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. While still warm, top cheesecakes with chip mixture.

Let cool completely and refrigerate for one hour.

Submitted by Kari Okonek

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 24 small cookies

Ingredients

1 box red velvet cake mix

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 sticks butter, softened

1 egg

2 cups white chocolate chunks or chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until soft and fluffy.

Slowly add the cake mix and flour.

Once combined, add the egg and mix in completely.

Add the white chocolate chips, and mix for a minute or so until it is all well combined.

Form dough into one-inch balls (an ice cream scoop works great).

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Submitted by Kelsey Simonson

McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this story.