Mother of six bakes cookies,
hides them in the washing machine.
As I study and experiment with different ways to tell stories, one method I'm experimenting with is telling a story in one sentence.
It seem like an easy task and in some ways it is, but the key is to use words that load your story with enough information to garner interest, build mystery, or add humor.
Of course I never knew my mother hid cookies in the washing machine.
It was a brilliant move.
After all, who was doing the wash?
Who was baking the cookies ... and maybe wanted to save one or two for herself?
And who didn't want to hear, "___ and ___ ate all the cookies and I didn't get any."?
Today is Bake Cookies Day. I've been baking a lot of cookies these last few weeks, and while I don't need to hide them, I do like to bundle them up and give them away.
The cookies in the photo above are Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies (note: I cut the 1-1/2 cup sugar measure to 1 cup in the batter and they're plenty sweet). Oatmeal Raisin are always popular and remain one of my all-time favorites (note: I don't add the cinnamon).
And this time of year, I do like a Pfefferneusse cookie, though I'm looking for a new, spicier recipe than the one I've been using ... if you have one would you share it? Thanks.
One sentence memoir
Are you a baker or a cook? How many stories could you bring to life in one sentence?
The bagels were good, but it was the dog biscuits that kept me going back to the bakery in the square where they made fresh-out-of-the-oven dog biscuits along with bagels, cookies, and cakes.
So it became a routine after our walk on the other side of town to stop at the bakery for a bagel and a biscuit on our way home.
I'd park the car and as I got out, say, "Time for treats."
And she'd track my every step ... from the car to the bakery door and back again.
When I returned to the car, she'd thump, thump, thump her wagging tail against the seat back and quiver with anticipation. Leaning forward she'd press her nose between the front row seats and sniff the air as I put my coffee in the cup holder and reach into the small white bag for the treats ... mine and hers.
Until the day there were none.
Dog biscuits that is. Sold out they said.
When I returned to the car, I put the coffee in the cup holder, and said, "Sorry, Ag, no biscuits today."
She let out a whimper.
"I know," I said, "I'm sorry."
And she whimpered again ... and again.
So I reached into my pocket to offer up a dry, everyday, boring biscuit that I called a treat but knew, today, it really wasn't. Bakery biscuits were the real treat, and she knew it.
I reached back and held the biscuit steady for her to take it from my hand as she had so many times before.
But not today.
No. She turned her head to left, lifted her nose, closed her eyes, and went silent.
There would be no more wagging, no more whining, and certainly no substitutions.
Read more of my adventures with Agatha ...
A recipe for memoir: stories filled with ingredients you can measure ... and some you can't
The request is always the same. Birthday pie, not cake. And this year, apple pie. If I had to choose, I'd probably go with mincemeat (the dried fruit version).
I might choose mincemeat as my pie of choice to eat, but when it's comes to making pie ... blueberry, pumpkin, mincemeat, cherry, or key lime, it's the apple that gets my attention.
It's the one overflowing with ingredients that can't be measured.
The one that makes me think of my mum peeling ribbons of peel with each apple. And my grandmother ... whose voice neared a whisper when she told me she used only half the white sugar measure, instead balancing it with half brown sugar, despite what the recipe called for.
And when I make the crust I think of my friend who is a baker. She adds a splash a vinegar. And another, who shared her mother's recipe that includes an egg.
I'd never added an egg to my pie crust. Yesterday I decided to give it a try.
What a pie! It's delicious. My best ever, I think.
The crust is flaky and tender and the filling as sweet as ever. It's the perfect blend of ingredients ... some that can be measured and so many others that can't.
Recipes we love, remember, and share offer endless story ideas.
Share your experiences with traditional foods, comfort foods, that recipe your friend won't share, or that recipe fail ... we all have them.
Share your stories in a narrative poem, short essay, or a chapter in that book you want to write.
But before you go, how do you like your apple pie ... with a side of vanilla ice cream, or maybe like "M", with a few slices of sharp cheddar?
A picture book memoir of Agatha, nose-to-the-ground, scent sniffing basset hound who loved to walk ... and stop and sniff.
A beautifully illustrated book for dog-lovers of all ages.
"... We love everything about it. Dogs, nature, and phenomenally innovative art! Well done."
Summer, and the baking is easy
Crumb, cobbler, or crisp?
What's the difference? A fruit crumb is a lot like a crisp with a streudel-like topping, but a crisp has oats in the mix. Cobblers have a dough that bakes on top of the fruit.
They're all good, but I must say, crisp is my go-to preference. It's easy, requires only a few ingredients, it's really good, and you can go from recipe to plate in an hour or less.
4-6 cups fresh fruit
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut up
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
Preheat over to 350°F
Arrange fruit (sliced peaches, nectarines, apples) on the bottom of an 8" x 8" baking dish (or a pie plate, or loaf pan will do).
Using a fork or your hands, combine the sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt. Add rolled oats.
Sprinkle mixture over the top of the fruit.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling, the edges are browned, and crumb topping is golden brown.
Serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or yogurt, or whipped cream. Or eat it straight up. Oh, and it's really good warm.
*You can also use blueberries or a combination of fruits like blueberries and peaches, apples and cranberries (a good autumn combo).
Let me know if you make it or have a different recipe to share.
Beyond the boiled dinner
A recipe of one's own
Forgive me, but I’ve never liked a boiled dinner.
I know. A lot of people like a boiled dinner, and for many, it’s the traditional meal on St. Patrick’s Day.
I’ve got a wee bit of Irish in me and I like to cook, but I had to find my way beyond the boiled dinner. It took some trial and error, but this has been my St. Patrick's Day dinner menu for a while now. And I won't say who, but even those who remain on the side of the boiled dinner have been known to ask for seconds.
St. Patrick's Day Menu
• Corned Beef (flat cut) with a brown sugar/mustard glaze
• Colcannon - mashed potatoes with sauteed onion and cabbage
• Roasted Carrots
• Soda Bread
• Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
I sometimes make the cupcakes a day ahead, but otherwise make all the dishes the day we celebrate. Especially the soda bread. It’s best the day it’s baked.
What holiday dishes and traditions do you modify and make your own?
What to do?
I was 14 years old, home alone, and I was bored. I paced from my bedroom to the living room to the kitchen, and back again. In the kitchen, I opened and closed the cabinet doors. Over and over again.
I was looking for something. Something to eat? Something to do? I didn't even know. Round and round I went, until I found what I didn't know I was looking for: a tub of Quaker Oats oatmeal.
I decided to make cookies.
My mother was an occasional baker and her go-to cookie was the oatmeal raisin. I'd seen her make them, helped her make them, and I knew where to find the recipe: it's printed on the underside of the lid of every tub of oatmeal.
I gathered the ingredients, followed the instructions, and waited for the first batch to bake through—ten minutes, maybe twelve.
To my surprise, baking the cookies lifted my spirits, erased the boredom, and filled the better part of my afternoon. When my mom and brothers and sisters came home we ate cookies together. And they were good. Really good. Just as good as Mom's.
And I was hooked.
I went from being bored (and to be honest, a little lonely), to feeling good, productive, interested, and happy.
It was the gathering of ingredients, the measuring, and the mixing that shifted things. I was focused on baking, no longer distracted by my boredom. Dollops of dough and a baker's dozen. I was hooked.
Baking cookies helped me understand that it's the doing that makes the difference. That hobbies offer not only distraction, but reward, too. Maybe not always with baked goods or a finished product, but a shift ... in mood, progress, outlook, or skill.
The cookies became the start of a life-long pursuit of hobbies, passions, and pastimes. Of baking and hiking, sewing and stitching. Writing letters, cooking, and camping. Some experiences long-lasting efforts, others one-and-done.
I sometimes think my hobby is finding new hobbies.
And why not?
I can whip up a batch of bread and butter pickles, stitch a popped button back on a shirt, and skate backwards on a frozen pond.
And I can bake.
I make a pretty good apple pie, a decent Irish soda bread, and yes, a darn good oatmeal raisin cookie.
I made some this morning. Here's the recipe.
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(Adapted from the Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies recipe. I don't add the cinnamon.)
Heat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer (or by hand) until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; add to butter and sugar mixture.
Add oats and raisins; mix well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly on cookie sheet, remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Enjoy!
If there are any left over, store tightly covered.
Ideas for making the most of the time between the things you have to do for the things you want to do