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Sewickley Valley cookie walks offer chance to taste variety of ethnic treats

| Monday, Nov. 27, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

We have championship sports teams.

We have sandwiches and salads piled high with fries, and some of the best pizza shops in the country.

And we also lay claim to the legend of the cookie table at weddings, graduations and — really — any gathering.

Sewickley United Methodist Church members on Dec. 16 will answer the demands of the public when they host the 12th annual Cookie Walk. The event will begin at 9 a.m., but organizer Donna Sawhill suggests getting there early.

“By 9:45 we have a lot of empty containers,” Sawhill said, before reassuring that an 8:30 a.m. arrival “should be early enough.”

The process isn't as complicated as ordering, say, a cheesesteak in South Philly. But any packing methods previously learned might come in handy to ensure the most bang for your buck.

“The cost is $18 for a 9-inch pie box,” Sawhill said. “If you pack them properly, you can get close to four or five dozen in there.”

What will you stuff in those boxes? Any of the estimated 6,000 cookies baked by nearly 40 bakers.

That's 500 dozen sweet treats in the form of lemon bars, chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies, Russian tea cookies, gingerbread cookies and buckeyes, just to name a few. Everything is homemade, with gluten-free options available.

There's also a table with homemade candy, peanut brittle and fudge and an area offering complimentary hot chocolate and coffee.

Separate from the cookies are 80 dozen of homemade lady locks, available to purchase in half or full dozens.

The Cookie Walk generates around $1,700, Sawhill said, and goes toward general church expenses. Sawhill is expecting a sell-out this year.

“The community seems to like it,” she said with a laugh.

Down the road a bit, Tammy Needham is busy organizing the fourth cookie walk for Holy Ghost Orthodox Church in Ambridge set for Dec. 3 from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Their walk costs $10 and follows the same format as Sewickley United Methodist Church's — fill the box with as many cookies that fit.

All of the proceeds will benefit the Center for Hope in Ambridge. Needham said the bakers at Holy Ghost wanted to support the Center for Hope as much as they could, which motivated them to start the cookie walk years ago.

“Two times a year we sponsor a hot meal at the center. We wanted to do more, so we decided to try a cookie walk. They are a wonderful group ... so we try to do as much as we can for them,” Needham said.

Their cookie walk will have around 35 to 40 different cookies, with ethnic favorites such as nut horns, pecan cups, Russian tea balls, Russian tortes and poppy seed cookies making an appearance. Needham encouraged bakers to dig up their grandmother's favorite recipes and family favorites. One rule applied, Needham said.

“No chocolate chip cookies!” she said, laughing.

Christina Sheleheda is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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