Host a Soup Swap This Winter

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It's like a cookie exchange, but far more practical!

Forget cookie exchanges. That's so two months ago. Now 'tis the season for soup swaps! If you haven't discovered the wonders of swapping soup, you are about to discover something that will perk up these cold winter days.

The name is self-explanatory. Make a huge batch of your favorite soup, get together with a group of friends, and swap a quart of your soup for a quart of theirs. Put it in the freezer for a quick, satisfying, healthy dinner on a busy night. Now this is the kind of food swap that's truly helpful.

There's a chance your friends haven't done a soup swap before, so set out some guidelines to make things easier:

– Tell everyone to choose their soup in advance so that no one is making the same thing. Midwest Living recommends choosing broth- or tomato-based soups:

"Avoid dairy (cream, milk or cheese) and flour-thickened soups, which sometimes become grainy in the freezer. For noodle soups, consider attaching a baggie of dry pasta to each quart because pasta sometimes gets mushy when frozen. (Your friends can cook the noodles separately and stir them into their reheated quart of soup.)"

– Establish a standard container or jar size so that everyone's getting the same amount.

– Ensure that all containers are clearly labeled with name and ingredients, and that the contents are cooled or frozen upon arrival at the swap.

– Tell everyone to print out copies of their recipe and attach to the soup container; this way people can recreate the ones they liked best. Include any suggested toppings for serving the soup, i.e. grated cheese, a dollop of yogurt, drizzled olive oil.

– Take your swap to the next level by making it a social event. Tell guests to bring extra soup so everyone can sample. Add fresh bread, salad, charcuterie, and wine for a hearty communal meal. Ask each participant to introduce his or her soup prior to the swap, providing any relevant background information or fun facts about where they found the recipe.

You might have just found your next favorite winter tradition...