Tag Archives: Cookies

Tradition! Tradition!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my annual cookie baking spree that I usually go on before Christmas.  My mom used to do it, and, well, it is a family tradition bordering on something sacred.  And, you don’t mess with sacred.  Right?

Right.  So, here’s the thing.  I have very much felt compelled to carry on the tradition by making all the same cookies my mom made.  In an attempt to reign in the crazy unhealthy part of it, I decided to limit the number of types of cookies to just a few of my family’s choosing.  At one point I had imagined each of my kids picking a different cookie for me to make out of the family repertoire.  Spritz?  Chocolate Pinwheel? Santa Thumbprint?  I had picked the Scandinavian Oatmeal cookies, they had all the rest to choose from.  Then, they go and throw a wrench into my tradition by informing me that none of them were what they wanted.

In fact, my teen informed me she wanted to make her own cookie–bourbon balls.  (There’s not enough booze in them to get anyone high, so I don’t count them as an alcoholic no-no.)   Fine.  One less recipe for me to deal with.  I can let go of some of the cookie control, no problem. Besides, this freed me up to experiment with the quince-lime marmalade cookies I posted about in my last post–not at all part of my growing up tradition.

My husband wanted his aunt’s rolled spice cookies.  I don’t do rolled cookies, so he and my nine-year-old made them.  (Well, except the part where the husband forgot the orange peel and I had to knead it all in there after the dough had chilled.  I still didn’t have to roll it out and use cookie cutters or actually bake them.)

It was my son who threw me the biggest curve-ball.  His fondest most desired cookie is not one of mine.  I know.  Break a mother’s heart, kiddo!  In fact, his biggest fondest sweetest cookie memory comes from the car pool.  Ever since he was four, he has been part of this crazy carpool  from school.  One of the moms who picks up regularly has always made this minty-chocolate cookie that is a huge hit.  By now, I’m sure she’s made thousands of them for bake sales and as gifts.  And, frankly, they are uber-yummy.  This year, when I offered each kid a cookie pick, my son didn’t take half a second to say he wanted  “Christa’s Cookies.”  My daughter, also part of the same carpool for years, chimed in with hearty agreement.

I had never made these cookies before, but Christa had given me the recipe a while ago.  I figured the kids get them in the car pool, so there was no reason for me to make them because I would just eat way too many of them myself.  I mean, these are seriously good cookies–dark rich chocolate cookie crumb with a mint chocolate frosting.  They are dangerously easy to make.  I waited until today to make them because we have a few social gatherings this weekend and there is less time for me to eat them before I can give them away.  I will need to use self-control to not nibble at them, and as I write this I have already lost that battle for a good percentage of my daily calorie count.  Once they are in a closed box, it will be easier, and I’m forcing myself to blog and do other stuff on the computer until the frosting has cooled enough to do that.

The thing about the cookie that really gets to me is that it’s “new.”  It’s not something I grew up with.  I am sure I would have loved them as a child, but they are new-fangled and unfamiliar as a Christmas tradition for me.  For my son, though, they have a completely different meaning.  For him, they have been something that heralds in the school break and the Christmas holidays for most of his life.  They are a chocolatey reminder that my children have their own lives, memories and traditions that are part of, yet separate, from my own.  Here is where I could quote Gibran and get all teary-preachy-sentimental.  But, I won’t do that.  I have cookies I need to avoid.

Just for completeness–here’s the recipe copied from a web search so I didn’t have to type it in.  We use Ande’s mints–the little green foil wrapped things you sometimes get in restaurants and really don’t want to think about after a big meal.  (Bonus points for people who comment on that reference.)


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Cookies, Cookies, and More Cookies

My Mom's recipe box.

I sent an email to my aunts about our family gift exchange as I couldn’t remember who I drew or, actually, if we drew names. I seem to recall something at our family reunion, but I’m not really clear on it. My mind turned toward Christmas and getting ready for the whole big tadoo. And, inevitably, for me, that means cookies. Just as my thoughts turned in that direction, I let out a soft sigh and said, “Cookies.”

My daughter, who was sitting directly across from me at the table, looked down at the very recently emptied pie plate sitting in front of me and back up at me with a shocked horror. “You just had pie, and now you want cookies?”

The look on her face had me giggling straight to tears and it took me a while to explain my whole thought process and that, no, I wasn’t actually interested in eating cookies, but planning the making of cookies. It used to be that I would make 10-12 varieties of cookies, package them up, and send them to various friends and family. I think my shopping list went something like five dozen eggs, ten pounds butter, fifteen pounds flour, three pounds chocolate chips, six pounds nuts…well, you get the idea. I never got the feeling that the cookies weren’t appreciated, but lifestyles have changed in the last twenty years and eating so much sugar and fat laden baked goods just isn’t being done so much any more.

I will still make some cookies, but I’ve pared it down to making one kind of cookie per person in the immediate household. That’s just six kinds of cookies, and that’s easy for me to knock out in no time. My mother in law will make rolled-iced sugar cookies and host a couple of fun filled icing parties with my son and his friends. (Yay! The only kind of cookie that I don’t like making are rolled and cut.) We’ll have plenty of cookies to put on plates and take to various parties and gatherings, a few to indulge ourselves with over the holidays, and that will be more than enough.

My mom would start making cookies a day or two after Thanksgiving. We had one 12″ reel-to-reel Heathkit made tape player that had one tape in it year round–a collection Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and others of that era singing secular Christmas diddies. My mom would crank it up loud and hum to ol’ blue eyes crooning away while rolling cookie dough into balls and placing them evenly onto cookie sheets. Most butter cookies taste better after they sit in a tightly closed box for a few weeks, so she’d start with those and move toward the more delicate and less sturdy cookies.

My mom's recipe box with the recipe in front.

Once I’d moved out and started my own baking, I had this tradition of calling my mom on a yearly basis for one recipe in particular. I’d write it down on a scrap of paper and lose the scrap by the following year. Deep down, I think it was just an excuse to get me to call my mom–not necessary really, since I talked to her three times a week anyway. After she died, I got her old-fashioned recipe box. I didn’t open it for months, well, not until after Thanksgiving. When I opened it, I saw that the recipe in front was the one I had been calling her for. Apparently, she didn’t use this box much any more…maybe not at all except for my phone call. It was pretty clear that the last time she’d used it was when I had called her. I’ve used it several times in the last few years looking for recipes I remember from my childhood (Aunt Doris’ tamale pie, Grandma Herbert’s Cracker Jack…) I don’t move things around and always leave the cookie recipe right back in front where I can find it.

Scandinavian Oatmeal Cookies
3 Cups quick cooking rolled oats finely ground
3/4 C soft Butter
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
Halved Walnuts

Grind oats through medium fine block in food chopper. Combine with softened butter, sugar and vanilla. Work at low speed with mixer or hands. Form into small balls and place on lightly buttered cookie sheet. Put half a nut onto top. Bake at 325° until very lightly browned. These store very well in a tightly closed container up to 6 weeks. They taste better after at LEAST a week.

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Another Yummy Cookie

It would be completely wrong of me to take any credit for this delicious cookie, other than the fact that I chose a good recipe. I posted about this cookie on Facebook, and a few people asked for the recipe, so I figured I’d toss it into a blog post. I know, I post a lot of things about food. It’s a passion of mine. Cooking and eating are two of my greatest pleasures in life. Even though I’ve switched to a primarily plant-based diet, I’m not at 100% simply because it would reduce my ability to be flexible when I am with others who don’t eat with such restrictions.

The recipe that follows is basically straight out of Veganomicon, except that what I’m putting here is the quantity I used to make a larger batch. I tripled the recipe to make enough for two different potluck gatherings. They are wheat free, and if you buy GF oatmeal and grind it yourself, you are going to have a bona-fide GF Vegan cookie on your hands.

22oz bob’s red mill oat flour (one whole bag)
1 1/2 tsp soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 c brown sugar
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c canola oil
3 tbsp ground flax seed
3/4 cup soy milk (almond or rice would work, too)
1 tbsp vanilla
3 c chocolate chips or so…

Pre -heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Sift dry ingredients together.
Emulsify flax, soy, sugars oils and vanilla until thick. Add to dry ingredients. Fold in the chocolate chips and drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets. The recipe called for ungreased sheets, but I always use parchment paper anyway. Bake 10-12 minutes. They will look a little shiny and crackly when done.

The end result is a delicate, oaty, nutty, cookie that is simple yet very tasty. My husband is still a bit wary of baked vegan items. He’s been pretty good about “regularly vegan” things–that is stuff that I make that doesn’t have stuff that ‘pretends to be meat’ in it. When he tried these cookies, he declared them more than edible and ate his fair share.

They were very good the first two days. By the third day, they were beginning to show signs of being chewy-hard rather than delicately crispy. If you don’t plan on sharing them, you might consider doing a third the recipe I’m including–which would reflect the original.

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The Best Cookie In The World!

That’s what my daughter called it. This plain looking little brown cookie comes in a very boring little package. Sure, it might look fancier in a different wrapper, but the plain brown cupcake wrappers were all I had when I realized there was no way these things could be served without something to hold them together and separate. It had been years since I had made them, and I had forgotten how sticky they could get.

The recipe comes from Theresa Karas Yianilos’ “The Complete Greek Cookbook” that I stole off my mother’s shelf. I don’t know if she ever used it. I’m pretty sure the only thing I’ve ever made from it is this cookie. My first batch was sometime in 1985 or 1986 when I made a care package to send off to Bill who was at MIT while I was still living in Reno. I probably put in some other things, but these cookies were definitely part of my routine. His memory includes the packaging that came with the cookies–a less than charming odor of second hand smoke from my parents that puffed out of my boxes when he opened them. If you’ve ever had something sent to you by someone who smokes, you can probably imagine what I’m describing pretty accurately. Once the stale smokey smell cleared away, he was faced with a couple of dozen of these honey laden yummies to wile away his lonely hours.

I don’t remember making them at all since we got married, but I have been assured that I have made them at least once. Neither of us can remember when, and my sixteen year old is certain she’s never had them before. As I was looking through my cookbooks for an interesting addition to the dessert party I was having for the school fundraiser I was putting on, I decided to pull this one out of the closet and give it a fresh spin.

I sometimes wonder why I bother with cookies for this party because they usually get ignored in favor of the lemon cake, tiramisu or other gooey treats I make. Actually. I take that back. I know why I make cookies. I love them. I always have. I used to make 1-015 different kinds of cookies to send to relatives at Christmas time. I’d start the day after Thanksgiving and bake a different kind almost constantly for a few weeks, starting with the buttery rich nut cookies that taste wonderful after resting for weeks.

I make the cookies for the dessert party knowing full well only a few will get eaten and the rest will be left for me. It’s a nefarious plan, but there it is. The truth is out. I made these cookies though, knowing I don’t particularly like them and would be less tempted to actually eat them. They don’t exactly fit my diabetic friendly vegan-like diet. Here’s the recipe from page 170:

Theresa Karas Yianilos' "The Complete Greek Cookbook"

Venetian Honey Cookies (Fenekia, melomakarona)

These marvelous honey cookies fragrant with spice were brought to Greece by Venetian bakers during the time when Venice ruled certain islands of Greece from te 14th to 17th centuries. The women of these islands, particularly of Kefallinia, Zakynthos, Corfu, and Ithaka which are part of the Ionian Islands, pride themselves on making the best fenekia or melomakarona in all of Greece.

1 egg Yolk
1/4 cup orange juice
1 ounce whiskey
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups butter or oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup farina (regular Cream of Wheat)
1 1/2 cup regular flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon each clove and grated orange rind
1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups honey
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup ground walnuts or almonds (optional)

Melt butter. Allow to cool slightly. In a bowl or blender, put egg, juice, soda, whiskey and sugar and mix or blend together. Add butter or oil and continue blending until thick as mayonnaise.
In a bowl, sift flours and baking powder and spices. Add orange peel. Mix in batter, and finish by kneading smooth. Dough will be stiff. Place a tablespoon of dough in your hand and squeeze it to form an oblong egg shape. If a filled cookie is desired, add a small amount of nuts in the center before pressing it.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and press top slightly with a fork making a crisscross design or press with a cookie mold. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 350 F.
Bring honey and water to a boil and allow to simmer. Dip cookies for a few seconds in syrup and place on a cookie sheet to absorb syrup. Sprinkle with nuts and allow to cool. These cookies keep very well and taste better after a day. (or ten.)

The cookies soaking up the honey syrup.

I didn’t use nuts this year as I wanted to minimize allergy risks for folks…and, I don’t just dip the cookies briefly–I leave them on the cookie sheet and spoon the syrup over the cookies and let them sit on the trays until most of the honey is absorbed. Might be overkill for some people, and probably not very traditional. Whatever. People seemed to eat them up. I somehow managed to not put them all out, though, so we had a few leftover.

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“C” is for Cookie

A pretty standard pool at Holiday Inn.

Growing up a Navy brat has its disadvantages. One of them being that my dad was never stationed close to Montana where his and my mother’s families lived. Most of my aunts and uncles lived in Montana, and all our family reunions have been in Montana. As a consequence, our family vacations involved getting into the car and driving to…you got it…Montana. We’d drive at a determined clip that would require the least number of pit-stops and hotel stays. And, we always, always, always, stayed at a “Holiday Inn.” The smell of chlorinated indoor pools conjure up summer in a big way for me.

Once in Montana, we divided our time between my mom’s family and my dad’s family. Dad’s folks lived in Billings and Mom’s lived in a place most people have never heard of, a tiny town called Roberts that is close to Red Lodge. I know there was some intermixing of families, but I can’t recall them all that clearly. This post, however, was urged by a summertime craving that has kicked in big time for me. And I know it’s related to my Herbert family visits in Roberts.

My grandma owned and operated the Robert’s cafe. It was a homey place with a long counter lined with red leather and chrome stools that seated my generation in one fell swoop–there are thirteen of us. (If you are family and happen to read this, correct me if I’m wrong!) Across from the stools were several booths made of fir, I think, and thin barely bottom-relieving cushions. Were there dear antlers on the end of the booths as coat hooks? I can’t remember, but they wouldn’t have been out of place.

The kitchen was straight back from the front door, and there was an open sort of extra space to the right and behind the main counter wall that was used for family meals and storage. I don’t know where my parents slept, and I think my brothers slept in the garage. I do, however, remember where I slept. And this brings me to my craving.

My grandma was a down-home cook. I have her recipes compiled in a book and they go something like this:

“Chocolate Cream Pie”
Make a vanilla custard. Add 3-4 tablespoons cocoa.

Plain and simple...rolled and flattened. No rolling pins or fancy shapes.

She didn’t need to be told how to make a vanilla custard, she just did it. Her food was simple and unencumbered by capers, truffles or exotic spices. She had a daily special which came with a dessert. The dessert was ice cream and a cookie, your choice of vanilla or chocolate ice cream and your choice of cookie. She may have had a greater repertoire of cookies than I recall, but I only remember two kinds–chocolate chip and sugar.

When I was younger, I slept in the room off of the kitchen in a crib. I slept in that damn thing until I got too big and had to sleep with my knees up to my chest. I think I might have been eight or nine before I began sleeping somewhere else on our visits. Right above the crib was a shelf. On the shelf were several green (red? green and red?) coffee cans filled with…you got it…cookies! The secret to why I wasn’t so upset at being crammed into that crib was the perks that came with the spot. An unlimited supply of cookies just feet above me.

My grandma didn’t just bake a dozen or so cookies at a time, either. In my memory there were always thousands of cookies, but I’m sure it was more like ‘several dozen.’ The chocolate chip cookies were good,but they were not my favorite. It wasn’t hard to stand up in the crib, reach into a coffee can filled with cookies and snatch a couple. Or a dozen. I don’t know how many cookies I snitched as a child, but I probably didn’t fool my grandma. She never called me on it, but I do remember getting to help her make a few batches during our visits. The craving that seems to sweep down on me every year is for the sugar cookies. And, it always seems to come in the summer time. Like, right NOW. It’s linked with memories and nostalgia, but it is always sugar cookie time in the summer for me.

Cookie presses. My mom had one with four hearts in a circle.

Her recipe was simple. No rolling on the counter and using cutters for this busy woman. The dough is made, made into little balls, and then flattened. I can’t remember if she used a glass to press them flat. My mom had a set of cookie stamps that she used to make them, and I’ve since purchased a set of my own. Whether they are plain flat or intricately patterned, they taste the same.

Oh, and since you’re going to ask anyway:
Grandma Herbert’s Sugar Cookies

1 Cup Margarine
1 Cup Shortening
1 Cup granulated sugar
1 Cup powdered sugar

Cream the above.

Beat in:
3 tsp vanilla
1tsp salt
2 beaten eggs
4 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cream of tartar

Roll into 1″ balls and flatten with glass or cookie press dipped in sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees F until done. Makes a lot.

We’re having a reunion next year…in Montana. I’ll be bringing some cookies.

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