Monday, November 12, 2012

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

It's cookie season, and we all wanted something old-fashioned, something that said "pure comfort."  So I decided to shuffle through some of the cookbooks taking up space on my shelves.  I focused on some of the oldest books that get little use.   Were they even worth keeping around anymore?

I had all my old books spread around me.  I picked this book up first.  It was my mom's favorite cookbook.  I remember the day she got this book when I was very young.  "This is the book for me," she'd declared.  I gazed at it sadly when realized our family was doomed to a lifetime of boring dinners.

I love those people who wax on about what great cooks their parents were and how their lives have always revolved around food, but the truth is my mother hated cooking. She'd rather spend her time drawing or sewing.  In fact when I gave my first book to an editor, she said, "I sense a conflict between you and your mom."  We were different, that's all.  It used to be hard to accept that cooking was not one of mom's favorite activities.  

 Mom made no secret about her feelings and spent as little time in the kitchen as possible.  Meals were mostly boring.  I hate the little pieces of meat leather, served in the same boring way.   By the time I got to high school, mom was an outspoken proponent of Dr. Stillman's low-carb diet, and she refused to serve anything more than a slab of meat and a green salad for dinner.  Spaghetti was too fattening, and rice, potatoes and homey casseroles were also dropped from her recipe index.   

It was with reluctance that I opened this book.  I only keep it because it was Mom's favorite.

But I've got to admit, Peg Bracken is funny.  Sometimes laugh out loud funny.  I love the disclamer on the book flap:  "A hint for cooks who love to cook: this book isn't supposed to be for you, but you ought to have a copy.  The recipes are excellent, and Peg Bracken is very funny.  I'll admit she's funny, but the recipes, well,  whoever the editor was, she's entitled to her opinon of the recipes.

The term  Foodie hadn't been invented in the 1960s.  It was a time of big change, and American women were encourage to work and were pushed into accepting all manner of convenience foods. Sandara Lee's Semi-Homemade tips can't really hold a candle to the all the tips women passed around to cut time in the kitchen in the1960s.  Plus this book game my mom a reason to get out of the kitchen.  It was finally okay for women to admit cooking was not their primary interest in life.

Howeer, most of the recipes in the I Hate to Cookbook, involve meat or dairy and most of them include cans of this or that or packaged mixes, which definitely saves time.  When I was learning to cook, I discovered the limitations of packaged soup stock, boullion cubes, cans of various products.   The end result always tastes a little off, and it's definitely not as healthy as when you use natural products.  I'm not against canned tomatoes, or even canned olives, pickles and some vegetables, but many of these processed foods are too sodium laden and contain questionable ingredients. 

I guess the kitchen is where Mom and I parted ways in terms of our interests.  I learned most of my cooking skills from early cooking shows on TV and talking with friends who liked to cook.  I also picked up tips in many of the vegetarian cookbooks, like Laurel's Kitchen.   Early on, I choose a vegetarian path (perhaps I'd just had it with low carb this and that dreary hunk of meat on the plate).  Plus the idea of eating animals has never appealed to me.

I feel lucky to have found one good recipe in this book.   

Feel free to source as much as you can from local farms.   Your cookies will have lots more flavor with fresh foods, including local flour.   Often we don't realize just how stale grocery store food until you try local options and compare the flavors.

Every year we get a big box of walnuts from Grouse Mountain Farm to carry us through to spring. It's hard to resist baking with these  nuts.

This machine, made by a farmer, winnows the wheat from the field, separating it from the shaft before grinding it.

My Cooking Assistant wasn't very happy to wake up from his nap to pose with a stupid book.
A note before you begin:

This is an old-fashioned recipe that calls for eggs and butter, but if you want to try to veganize this recipe, use about 1/4 cup mashed banana or flax seed egg replacer for the egg, and use vegan replacements for butter.  Using oil changes the texture of these cookies.  Also, if you're sharing with your pooch, omit the mini chips and don't use raisins.

We get all our eggs from River Farm near Ellensburg.  River Farm chickens forage in the forest and the yolks are the deepest yellow I've ever seen.   The only thing you can't do with these eggs is hard boil them until they are a few weeks old.  They are simply too fresh!  We use them sparingly.

Here's the recipe:

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies
(Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies)

1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten (from River Farm) or  use a flax seed egg-replacer 
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (from Nash's Organic Produce)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup thick, old fashioned oats
1 cup lightly toasted, chopped walnuts (from Grouse Mountain Farm)
1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (nectarines from Rama Farm) or chocolate chips (optional)

1. Cream together butter or oil and brown sugar.  Stir in vanilla and the beaten egg.   In another bowl combine all dry ingredients except walnuts and dried fruit.   When mixture is blended, stir in nuts and fruit.

2. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or place in the freezer for 1/2 hour.  

3. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Roll dough into small walnut-sized balls.  Press down with a glass dipped in cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to a cooling rack.

Now this is the way I want to wake up!  


Carole said...

Just to let you know that your link to Food on Friday: Salad was featured in my Need Some Inspiration? Series today. Have a great week.

Joan said...

Great post! I love oatmeal cookies and made some oatmeal scones last week. Delish! I totally agree with your eating philosophy and appreciate you featuring recipes as such!

Miz Helen said...

Wishing you and your family a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you soon!
Miz Helen

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks so much for stopping by. Thanks for the nice compliment Joan. Love oatmeal anything. I try and always use the old fashioned oats in cooking since they're the healthier version:)