I should be writing but I'm baking, booted still from recent ankle surgery. The boot prevents me from walking outside in the unseasonably warm December weather. It's sixty degrees on December 4th in Nebraska. To keep my spirits up, I tell myself how necessary this latest round of surgery was, and it means I'll be able to keep walking well into my dottage. Which sometimes feels like now.
But as long as I can remember how to turn on the oven, I like to do a little holiday baking....and reminiscing.
Here's a holiday baking 'rerun' blog post from November 29, 2009.
My mother didn’t like to bake so she taught me when I was very young. Soon I was adept at family favorites from both sides, including chocolate applesauce cake, date nut bars, tomato soup cake, best two egg cake….and inept at things like fudge and one concoction involving powdered sugar, cocoa, milk and Cocoa Krispies. I think it was supposed to be frosting.
In 7th grade I nearly flunked the sewing part of Home Ec (In middle school, my sons took BASE, which was…home ec with careers added. Sensible addition.). I did much better in the kitchen. I can still remember the day we learned the ‘water displacement’ method to accurately measure peanut butter. It’s slimy, but it works.
Well, writing became a much better (and lower calorie) outlet for my creativity. Then there was my husband’s diabetes diagnosis…and the fact the disease runs on both sides of my family. The oldest of Grandma Andrews’ four daughters was Dorothea, a nurse, who had a foot amputated due to complications from the disease. Also, while both my children enjoy an occasional cookie, and Erik is very partial to the chocolate chip oatmeal cookies (recipe listed below), neither seems to have inherited my raging sweet tooth. Finally, the whole working mom balancing act ultimately left no time for laboriously rolling out cookies and decorating with colored sugar, not when there were papers to grade and copyedits due.
Now there are no more papers to grade, not for me. After 15 years at a large university, my husband and I were ready for a lifestyle change. This will be our second holiday season here on the prairie, in the town my husband wanted to live in for nearly 20 years. Long before we had children, we’d drive ‘home’ for the holidays from Flagstaff, Arizona to our folks in Iowa. This Nebraska town on Interstate 80 enchanted him, though at the time I thought he was nuts. And not the kind that go in cookies. Instead we went east. But when a job opened at this university of 6,500 students in his ‘dream town’ at the exact time we were ready for a move, it seemed like fate and faith were aligned.
It’s been a challenging yet wonderful change. Soon I will be realizing my life-long goal of staying home to write fulltime. It’s scary, exhilarating and, apparently, baking inducing.
Maybe next year I will pull out Grandma Rock’s cookie cutters.
What’s your favorite holiday cookie recipe?
Basic Cake Box Cookie/Bar recipe
- 1 box any flavor cake mix (Pillsbury Classic Yellow particularly good)
- 1/3 cup oil
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1 egg
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients. Add one 12 oz. package chocolate chips or any flavor. Spread in a greased 9 x 13 glass pan. Bake at 350 for ten – twelve minutes til golden brown. Let cool and cut into bars.
You can also use this dough to make cookies. Bake the cookies at 375 degrees.
Bake at 375 7-8 minutes or until golden.
Frost or sprinkle with colored sugar.
You can also use a chocolate cake mix, but it’s drier so use ½ cup oil. Or just make brownies!
Lemon is also a good flavor. Just form into balls and let flatten as they bake. Make a thin glaze out of lemon juice, powdered sugar and a little milk or water.
Or bake in a greased 9 x 13 pan again til done and frost with canned lemon frosting.
Iowa State Fair Cookbook Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup shortening or margarine (I use margarine sticks)
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 12 oz. Package semisweet chocolate chips
The dough works better after it’s been chilled a bit in the refrigerator. And the best thing about these cookies is you can freeze them as drop cookies or roll up as logs in wax paper. Either way you can bake right from the freezer when you want some.