Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Let's get to the HEART of the matter...

I think I was a weird child. Did anyone notice? I recall my mother once telling everyone in earshot on Mother's Day that my stories of everything I looked at and considered in the Rexall Drug before I decided on something I felt was perfect were more interesting than the actual gift. I was crushed - of course when you're a kid, you can't see the positive for the negative, and realized that less is probably more when it comes to yammering on about stuff around adults. I recall being somewhat introspective, but my siblings will surely step up and tell me I"m full of it - it just seems to me I spent a lot of time by myself, which in a family of 5 kids, with 5 next door, 3 across the street, and untold legions if you ventured further down the block seems kind of odd.

My neighborhood was quiet, and was bordered on one side by a fairly busy highway, but stretched out a long way in the other direction through a comfortable patch of suburbia. We walked to school, which you had to go through town to get to, rode our bikes even further - once I remember someone breathlessly telling us that the store over by Gabriel Park had avocado's for 10 cents each, and we rode all the way there with our berry picking money and spent the rest of the afternoon eating that creamy green deliciousness with salt. 10 avocado's can make you really sick, BTW. We used to go to that park, and my dad would push us on the giant swings...I always wanted to go over the bar, but he always stopped pushing before I could make it. And no matter how hard you pump, you need an extra "oomph" to get over the top.....I'm sure it's been done by kids with crazy dads.

Once I was invited to the neighbor's house for dinner, and I can only remember one thing they served...a whole artichoke. You had a little cup of melted butter, and you picked the leaves off one at a time and dipped the bottom in the butter, then scraped it with your teeth...how weird was THAT?! No one believed me at home....I don't think I ate them again until I was dating Handsome Stranger and his mom made them. Now I love 'em...butter and Best Foods are both good, but homemade hollandaise is the BEST!

So how about a recipe with artichoke hearts? Are you game, or did you just think "If there isn't a can of SOMETHING in this, I'm NOT eatin' it"? That's OK...you can go pout in the corner while we have fun. I love artichokes AND hollandaise, so why not mix it up a bit? I can make the best damn scrambled eggs on the planet, but I don't anymore because I'm off real mayo...but this is a great dish for you who are not chronic users of butter, mayo and cheese - just remember it's a special treat not to be abused.

Eggs Benediction

OK, sorry if that seemed a bit irreverent...it's not though, because after the first bite you will close your eyes, make the Sign of the Cross, and give thanks to your Maker that He created the ingredients you just put in your mouth....

6 white corn tortillas, cut in 1" squares
10 eggs plus the 4 whites you'll end up with after making the sauce...
1 can artichoke bottoms, drained and chopped coarsely
3 T. mayonnaise
Salt and pepper

Hollandaise sauce
4 egg yolks (save the whites for the scramble)
2 tsp. lemon juice (this is to taste - add more at the end for more tart)
1/2 c. butter (a whole stick...) cut into 8 squares
Salt and a dash of cayenne pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, whisk yolks and lemon juice until blended, then put the pan on the stove over medium heat and add 4 squares of the butter. Start whisking as the pan heats, continuing as the butter melts - if it looks like the yolk is congealing, use a spatula to scrape the pan so you get it all whisked in. It should melt and become part of the sauce, and be completely smooth. At that point you want to add the rest of the butter, one slice at a time, whisking until melted and smooth. When all the butter has been melted and incorporated, continue to whisk (and scrape occasionally) until you see it trying to bubble remove from heat immediately and continue to whisk for another minute or so, or until the pan starts to cool. Set aside, but NOT on the warm burner.

Put eggs in blender or use a hand blender, add mayo and a couple pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper and liquefy. In a large skillet, melt a couple tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then add corn tortillas. Spread out and let stand for a couple minutes, stir and continue to cook until they soften and start to brown a bit. Sprinkle just a little salt on them, then add drained artichoke heart pieces, and stir until warm.

Pour eggs over tortillas/artichoke hearts and start using a rubber or metal spatula or flat edge paddle to scrape the bottom of the pan - keep scraping every square inch so nothing sticks to the bottom. Use a rubber spat to scrape the sides occasionally, as the eggs form curds it will thicken slowly - the more you stir in and the slower it cooks the finer the curd. I like my eggs still creamy - damp not so much wet, and if you think that's undercooked you're mistaken. Mayo changes the texture, and they will never get to be the squeaky lumps of what appears to be pieces of a rubber chicken, so if you like your eggs like that you may want to skip the mayonnaise and abandon any idea that you have good taste. (Sorry...I have to stop being so judgemental - if people want to eat crap, it's their right....the 8th Amendment say's it's OK as long as they only require their kids to follow suit.)

When the eggs are done, divide into 4 servings and plate em up. Rewarm the hollandaise on the burner, whisking madly until smooth (sometimes it will separate a bit, but whisking it over a little heat will bring it right back) and spoon over each serving, using as much as you dare. Serve with sourdough English muffins, perhaps some home fries or hash browns, or if you don't want to curse the dryer for shrinking your pants again, maybe a nice big side of fresh fruit. And you probably think the tortillas are weird, but toasting them in a little butter softens them and gives your eggs a nice nutty flavor, with a little more texture - I tend to pick pieces out before I pour in the egg so should probably start with a couple more tortillas..but I'm sure YOU have more restraint...yeah, I'm not buying that either.

AND...if you can find avocados for 10 cents, slice a few of those on top too - what the hell.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mmmmmmm....Chocolate-Covered Zucchini!

Today at a meeting my boss made us introduce ourselves by giving our name, job, high school graduated from, the mascot of said school, and our favorite candy bar growing up. It made the intros less painful and I learned stuff about people I work with I did not know....and that I'm not the only weirdo when it comes to candy bars.

I think most kids love candy, and will stoop to even mints, ribbon candy, and those white and pink hard lozenge thingies that are made out of the same stuff conversation hearts are, strictly due to the fact that they are made of sugar. I loved Necco Wafers...I have since broken up with them because after becoming an adult and gaining a more discriminating palette, I determined that I was hooked on the cane monster and would eat something that I now realize tasted like what a poker chip covered with toothpaste would. Especially the "chocolate" ones...why, as a kid, would you eat pretty much anything that was brown thinking it would taste like chocolate? Blech.

Once again, I suspect my parents used weird candies as a kind of evil torture they could snicker about when they were locked in their room...what ELSE would they be doing in there for heaven's sake? I remember my dad sharing pieces of Callard & Bowser candies with me - stuff like horehound, black licorice and something that looked like amber or that soap you used for zits...but they came in a cool box that looked just like a cigarette hard pack, and was a solid brick you had to break pieces off of. I can recall a little muslin bag that hung from a yellow drawstring that swung from one of the myriad of knobs on the green station wagon with fins on the back fenders that I was SURE was full of delicious multi-colored candy until the day I snuck in and tried it. I then determined that if that WAS candy (it was actually tobacco they used in the olden days for air freshener), I was ready to quit cold turkey. Do you KNOW how many days little pieces of tobacco will surface in your mouth after just a little pinch? I do...

My favorite was not an easy pick - I loved Rocky Road, filled with marshmallow, a few nuts and chocolate that more resembled brown wax, Payday because it was like eating chips AND candy at the same time, and the 7-Up bar that had 7 sections, each with a different flavor filling. Once a friend and I devised a plan to get even with my little brother who would sneak into my room and eat my stash when I wasn't around, and we carefully cut the bottom out of one of the sections, removed the filling, then packed it with black pepper and sealed the bottom back on. Brilliant, but of course he never took the bait, and eventually I re-opened it to find a fine mist of mold over the entire candy bar EXCEPT the pepper section. Go figure.

So, the answer you ask? It was the cherry Mountain Bar. As I explained to those who were under 40, a Mountain bar was about yay big (approx. the size of a goose egg...a Leggs egg...shit, it was about the size of a computer mouse) and looked a lot like a big turd but with pink filling. It had a nougaty, cherry flavored filling, and was coated with chocolate mixed with chopped nuts. They also had vanilla and peanut butter, but it was all about the cherry for me. It's still a fave flavor...nothing like red fake cherry taste to make you enjoy koolaid, popsicles, nyquil and ludens cough drops. I had one a few years ago and came to the conclusion that those stories we heard about rat hairs in 'em would have been a plus...how did we ever make it through childhood?

So this has absolutely nothing to do with the recipe I am about to post - the only connection I can think of is that there is cocoa in this, a dab of sugar and the sweetness of butternut squash. Back then if I had two pieces of candy and one fell on dog poop and the other on squash, I would probably have only picked one up and eaten it, and it wouldn't have been the one on the squash....but I have become decrepit and my tastes have changed. Now that I am eating healthier, I am striving to find and try recipes I would never have dreamed of giving a shot before, and have found some real winners - this is one! And I LOVE mole' - the spiciness and subtle chocolate flavors are so warm and appealing to me, and squash carmelized in the oven where the natural sugars are given a platform to really shine TRULY blows my dress up. Simple but delightful, and surprisingly complex in flavor, it also comes in at 3 Weight Watchers Plus Points for an entire 3# squash....and SO filling! O freakin LE!

Butternut Squash Mole

1 butternut squash, approx. 3#
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (you know I'm a wimp and just sprinkled a tiny bit on...and it was HOT)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon - use the mexican kind if you have it
1 T. sugar
1/4 C. cocoa powder (I use a wickedly extra-dark kind I find on a website...see below)
Olive oil spray or mist

Heat oven to 375. Generously spray a cookie sheet with olive oil spray. Peel entire squash, and it's a pain in the arse - squash is really hard. Cut off ends, quarter and scoop out guts/seeds with metal spoon, then cut in 1" chunks. Or you can go to Costco and buy a tub of it already cubed up if you have nothing better to spend 7 bucks on. Put in large bowl, spray liberally with olive oil spray, toss and spray again, then add pepper, cinnamon, sugar and cocoa powder and stir or toss until evenly coated. Spread coated cubes over the oiled cookie sheet, making sure you scrape every bit of cocoa-ey goodness out of the bowl, and pop in the oven and roast for 45-60 minutes, or until fork tender. I have fantasized a bit about getting my hands on some roasted salted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) to chop a bit and sprinkle over the top, but it's more points, I don't need it, and I don't know if I can still get those at Winco. But since pumpkin seed are normally ground up and put in a traditional mole sauce, it makes sense, si?

Let me know what you think - now I'm getting an urge to make a chicken mole soup...it's freakin' cold today and anything turned into soup sounds like the next greatest thing to me. With the exception of Cherry Mountain Bars and Necco Wafers. GROSS. Don't live to eat, eat to live....but have a candy bar once in a while!

*I get my extra dark Ramstadt-Breda Rich Dark Cocoa from www.preparedpantry.com - they are in Idaho, and have TONS of amazing stuff!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Waking Up: Better Than the Alternative

Restaurants are something I frequent far less than I used to - you have much less control over what goes in your food, and it doesn't seem like a treat if you have to order salad with no dressing, or fish broiled and your potato with no butter on it. Going out to eat is a treat, not a necessity when you know what you're doing in the kitchen - I've been out of town long enough to crave making my own meals, and it's because I'm just a better cook than most restaurant staff. That sounds kind of snobby, but I've been a line cook myself, and I'm pretty sure that most restaurants shouldn't be calling their staff cooks, and certainly not chefs - altho there are those who are much better at cranking it out than others.

My station was primarily eggs - I also did lunch, but mostly breakfast, and I got really good at it. With a good pan, I can still turn out an exceptional omelet - and I am so picky about eggs that when Handsome Stranger is cooking the first meal of the day, he waits until he's done cooking everyone's eggs before he picks which one's I'm getting. It's a lot harder to make them right when you use spray instead of butter...slippery is good when you flip 'em. And I remember my dad refusing to eat eggs with any scorch whatsoever on them....I'm the same way. I used to get a horrendously delicious sandwich at Jack in the Box for breakfast, and I swear they deep fried the eggs...they were CRUNCHY. I would open it up and start peeling the brown skin off, and by the time I was done I would end up with mostly just a hard yolk...mmmm, yolk.

A couple egg tips: Heat your pan and melt the butter, coating the entire bottom of the pan before you put the eggs in; if you don't like runny whites, use the tip of a fork to break the membrane that holds the thick part of the whites around the yolk - it is runny because it's too thick to cook through before it starts to brown; For perfect eggs, flip em and remove from the burner....they will keep cooking but it will slow it down and they won't scorch if they're not on the heat.

I make omelets by beating the crap out of 3 eggs, then adding about a Tablespoon of milk - water will work too - AND a little salt and pepper. Salt makes your eggs tough, blahblahblah...it does NOT. You pour it in your medium hot skillet that is well oiled/buttered, and swirl it up the sides, then use a rubber spatula to push the sides back down and create an "edge". Then you start in one spot by lifting the edge with the spatula, then tilting the pan so the egg runs underneath. Keep going around the pan doing that until there is no longer any runny eggs on top, just a wet surface. Add a little butter, lifting the edge so it goes under, then shake the pan so it's all loose (use the spat to unstick any problem areas), then pick up the pan and hold it about hip level and give it a flip. If it sticks together in a fold, you can use the spat to gently pull the fold out from underneath...it does take some practice. Do not put back on the burner - it's already done.

Put your fillings on it, then fold the left side over the top, then tip the pan over your plate and slide and roll it off the pan so it forms a burrito shape right on the plate where you wanted it. A little cheese, a few pieces of whatever you put inside and voila! We used a white sauce in the restaurant, which would cover up some boo-boo's....but it was gross, and if you totally screw it up, just call it frittata and keep trying.

My most FAVORITE omelet in the WORLD, and actually the ONLY omelet I like, is one we used to get at Sweet Oregon Grill. It was housed in a big old renovated barn, and one night it unfortunately burnt down...I miss that place because it had cool old kitchen dinettes and one of the best chicken fried steaks I've EVER had. Altho the cream gravy, as creamy and delicious as it was, still wasn't as good as my sausage gravy. I forget what they called this offering, but never forgot how it was made - it is worth the time and effort, and if you bugger it up, it will still taste heavenly...and cream cheese is KEY. I love, Love, LOVE this omelet....I may have to save up some bonus points and make it this weekend!

The OMGoodness Omelet

Eggs (3 per person)
Milk (1 T. per omelet)
Salt & Pepper
Home fries (recipe follows)
Cream cheese
Mushrooms (optional)

You will need to make home fries first - it's essential, and you must use red potatoes. Onion is optional - in my house they were a point of contention, but it was finally determined that cooking them this way would result in a product that was guaranteed no longer crunchy, therefore more acceptable than sprinkling eggshells in the potatoes. (funny tho, he likes the crunchy part of burnt EGGS, but not onions...what a weirdo).

Home Fries
6 red potatoes, scrubbed, quartered and sliced thin to moderately
1/2 onion, quartered and sliced thinly
Olive oil

Rinse sliced potatoes and shake dry in a colander, heat oil in large skillet (preferably cast iron) and add potatoes, spreading out evenly over the bottom. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper, add 1/4 cup hot water and cover, then leave them alone on medium heat for at least 5 minutes or until they get a nice golden brown on the bottom and the water has steamed the spuds and evaporated. Turn potatoes and add onion, let alone again for another 5 minutes, and turn when nicely browned again. It will take 20-25 minutes to cook them properly - check them by tasting to see if the potatoes are done. There is nothing grosser to me than raw potatoes in a cooked dish...that is why I do not buy potato salad from a deli. (Except Elsie's potato salad at the Canby Thriftway...that woman is magic!) Onions should be nicely caramelized and potatoes tender and bronzed...you will want to eat them right then and there, but patience, grasshopper....

Now you can cook the bacon. A whole package if you dare....this should be enough to make 6 huge omelets, so adjust amounts according to the size of your group. I cut it crosswise in slices and fry it that way, it's easier than crumbling and it cooks faster and more evenly. Drain on paper towels and hide it from the mouth breathers. I am notorious for nibbling the fat off bacon, so if necessary, hide it from yourself.

Soften the cream cheese by scraping it off the foil and into a freezer ziploc bag, then either knead it until it warms up and softens, or zap it in the microwave for 10 seconds. You are going to use the bag to pipe the cheese out of, so don't seal it or it might blow up in the mic. Cut off the corner fairly large unless you want a hernia like Uncle Ernies...too small and it's gonna be like sucking an orange through a straw, but backwards.

OK, this is where my memory escapes me. I swear it had sauteed mushrooms, but I could be so wrong....but since I love mushrooms, I'm going to add it anyway. I put some in my shepherds pie tonight, and used my egg slicer to cut the mushrooms - DAMN that worked fine! Saute over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until browned and cooked through - do not add salt until they're done or they will lose all their water and just boil in it and you'll lose the brown.

OK, now you're ready - line up your filling: cream cheese, home fries, bacon, mushrooms. Now start cooking your omelets, and have someone else man the toaster. When you flip your first omelet (after you're done cursing), squirt a nice healthy squiggle of cream cheese across the center, then a layer of home fries, bacon and mushrooms. I suppose you could use cheese as well - but cream cheese is what sticks it all together tho and give it it's signature flavor and texture. Fold omelet onto first plate, garnish with a little smudge of cream cheese, a potato or two and a piece of bacon and mushroom slice, then start on the next while your homie slathers the toast with butter ALL THE WAY TO THE EDGES PLEASE (when I worked as a cook my toast was ALWAYS buttered to the edge) and puts it on the plate. Continue until everyone has one, then make your own, putting all the hidden bacon fat on it, then make the toast man cry if he forgot to put some down for you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

In memory of memories...

"Memories.......like the CORNERS of my mind....." Memories are kind of like cleaning out a closet; you've finally think you've gotten everything out and vacuumed the rug, then go to dust the high shelf in there and you hear a rattle and your Oreck hand vac makes a sound like a cat coughing up not just a hairball, but an entire kitten. There, stuck to the end of the wand, is a long forgotten item covered in dust - it could be anything, junk, garbage, hopefully not mummified, but something you forgot, or maybe didn't even know existed. Who knew?

We bought my gramma's house when she decided to move into my parent's home, and over the years have done some necessary remodeling whenever we: A. have some extra money; B. something breaks catastrophically; or C; when I can no longer stand the mere THOUGHT of living in a house with 2" long green shag carpet, a kitchen with exactly 5-1/2 feet of counter space, or ONE bathroom. OK, my need for more than one bathroom is apparently not as strong as my husbands lack of desire to rip the house asunder to add another...someday I SWEAR I will have a bathroom I can call my own, where the toilet seat is never sullied by errant droplets, the paint does not peel from emissions so foul that meters at the DEQ 10 miles away dance wildly to their operator's bewilderment, and where the ONLY curly hairs I see are the ones I apply mascara to around my eyes, NOT the ones stuck on my moisturizing body bar.

After adding on a beautiful and spacious kitchen/dining room, then gutting the former "kitchen"/laundry room, we had to rip out a linen closet to put in a door for the new and improved laundry "salon" (makes it sound like a lot more fun that the repository for dirty chonies and giant/empty dog food bags it really is). As we removed the shelves that were built in to the closet, a photograph that had been on an upper shelf made it's presence known, and I was looking at my Aunt Kathy and her first husband, Larry the musician, smiling at me with their young and shiny faces. I remember little about the day they got married, just that the very small reception was at my parents house, and that she wanted lilacs for her flowers since they were in season and she loved them.

That picture brought back a lot of memories...how she loved dogs so much she had 4 mutts at once, most of them rescued dogs, all with their little quirks, her "big hair" wigs and glamorous outfits either made on her sewing machine or gleaned expertly from the tons of dreck at second hand stores, which she always wore anytime she left the family compound, along with makeup perfectly applied. Then there was the weird food she ate, the wheat grass kick, and her laugh - I collect laughs in my memory, and I think that is one reason I am such a goof....I LOVE to hear people laugh, and some are just unforgettable. She divorced Larry and remarried - to a man who treated her like the queen she wanted to be, and whom she left a widower when she died too early at age 50 due to health issues - I hope I see her again someday. I'm also keeping the picture - Gramma doesn't need it, her 97 year old memory is better than mine for cryin' out loud.

So in honor of Aunt Kathy, I thought I would pick a recipe that she would have appreciated - simple, good ingredients, and because she went abroad for a spell, a little European. And as I found this in the newspaper years ago and didn't pay a dime for it - I know she would approve.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I like to think of this as breakfast food - shoot, put eggs, bacon and cheese together and you have an omelet or quiche....this just has noodles in place of the toast, and garlic and pepper to wake you up instead of coffee! And everyone has a glass of wine for breakfast.....right?

12 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
3-4 oz. pancetta (I usually just use bacon - your call), diced
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
4-6 cloves garlic, crushed with the blade of a knife
3/4 C. white wine (remember to use stuff you like to drink)
2 eggs
1 C. freshly grated parmesan or similar cheese
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped

Bring 4-5 quarts water to a boil, add a couple tablespoons of salt and throw in the pasta. Bring back to a boil, turn down to medium and set timer for the minimum cooking time.

While pasta is cooking, heat large skillet and add oil and butter, then garlic over medium high heat. Saute garlic until it starts to brown, remove crushed cloves and add pancetta/bacon. Fry until it starts to get crispy and browned, the pour in the wine and let boil away a bit.

In a very large bowl, whisk eggs, stir in cheese and add a good amount of fresh ground pepper, as soon as pasta is al dente, drain and immediately dump in egg bowl, tossing immediately until eggs are cooked and pasta is well coated. Add contents of skillet and toss, mound on a serving platter and garnish with parsley, additional cheese, and more pepper if you can stand it. It should need no salt if you salted the pasta water sufficiently - the bacon AND cheese should give it the boost it needs.

SO simple, and with a caesar or green salad, some good bread warmed up right on the rack in the oven, and a nice glass of that white wine, all you need is some Dean Martin on the phonograph, a drippy candle and a checked tablecloth for a delightful and romantic meal. Except NO DOGS - mine are not Lady and the Tramp, and I am mad at them right now because they tore the hell out of my tree planter box in front of the house. They would have loved Aunt Kathy - she would have just give them kisses, milkbones and forgiveness....

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trolling for friends....and recipes!

Cookies part deaux! The oatmeal raisin prompted a request for the snickerdoodle, and I do not mean Handsome Stranger. Altho he is sweet, tender in the middle, and is one of my favorite things...but enough with the foreplay, we be talkin' COOKIES.

When I was a kid, my mom made a few different cookie recipes, and she made them well - I remember Chocolate No-Bakes, Russian Tea Cakes, Peanut Butter with the fork marks in em, Toffee Bars, and Our Favorite Cookie, a no-roll sugar cookie. When you're a kid, you usually aren't too picky...a cookie is a cookie, and they were all good, but I think the sugar cookie was my favorite. I don't know if I recall her making snickerdoodles, but I know my sister did - she gave me the recipe I have had for 31 years, but they just never came out like I wanted them to. My SIL made really good ones too, but I think after a couple hard batches, I just gave up...I was cinnamon-deficient for so many years!

Well, not completely deficient - cinnamon rolls have been a staple....but it's not the same as a snickerdoodle. Cookies are pocket friends...just try it with a cinnamon roll and you'll have a linty pastry and a sticky pocket, both of which you'll still want to lick. What kid doesn't smile when they open their lunch box and pull out a baggie with home made cookies in it? What co-worker won't walk all the way to the other side of the building and then litter their keyboard with crumbs that could attract rodents for a treat that did NOT come from a box or bag? And what kind of gramma doesn't have cookies in a jar or at least rolls wrapped in wax paper in the freezer for a quickie...that's one sad excuse for a granny.

I keep two recipe binders in my cookbook collection, and that is where I glue in clippings from the paper or magazines, hand write recipes that have come to me in many different forms, and even put notes on things like catering guidelines and some fabulous pictures of food for inspiration. There is a tiny little list on one page, and it is titled "My Favorite Cookies"....there is a short list, and it tells where exactly the recipe is for it - I have a lot of cookbooks and sometimes I forget which recipe is in which book. It is my memory index, and it works pretty good - if anyone ever broke into my house and stole my cookbooks, I would most likely wither away and die.....I just had a horrifying thought and am now on the lookout for a fire-proof file cabinet! So yes, recipes are important to me, and this one, even being a fledgling, ranks right up there.

This was another labor of love for Belle and Tommy's wedding, and I put a call out on fb to see if any of my homies had a good one that would produce CHEWY ones, not puffy and soft, not hard and crispy. Lucky for me, Shannon, aka "The Troll" ponied up with this offering, which is now on the very tip top of my FAVE cookies....I have waited for this for YEARS, and her recipe exceeded all my expectations. It's actually not like any snickerdoodle I have ever had, so I am even changing the name - but for once in my life, that is the ONLY thing I messed with on this one...it's utter perfection. And "Thank YOU" Shannon AND your Gramma....think of the smiles you are about to share!


Haha, when I first saw Shannon on fb, I mistook her for a lady I work with of the same name...it was hard to tell because her profile pic was a troll doll. After I friended her, my SIL complained I was "fb stalking" her friends....hence the new name of this recipe!

1/2 C. butter, softened
1-1/2 C. white sugar
2 large eggs
3 tsp. vanilla
2-3/4 C. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

2 T. white sugar
2 T. cinnamon (NOT a misprint...it's a lot, but it MUST be cinnamon-ey!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put parchment paper on your cookie sheets if you got it. Cream together butter, shortening and sugar for about 5 minutes; mix in eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and blend in, then add flour and mix just long enough to incorporate the flour...too long and they will lose their chewiness (as per Shannon).

In a small round bowl, mix 2 T. sugar and cinnamon. Roll dough into 2" balls (I used the medium scoop and cut in half, that's 2 T. per cookie) and toss in cinnamon sugar mixture. Place a couple inches apart - they will spread so don't crowd - and bake for 8 minutes....and ONLY 8 minutes (according to Shannon's gramma...see what I mean about Gramma's?) Remove to cooling racks as soon as humanly possible - it may be 30 to 60 seconds before you can get them off the sheet without ruining them, but I consider those necessary collateral damage. With milk.

For the wedding I made 120 bee-yoo-tiful cookies out of a triple batch - and as I am an expert at this, didn't ruin any so I had to poke a few with my spatula so they were damaged enough to eat. While I am attempting to modify some of my more heinous food behaviors, I like to eat just the middle, less caloric (just let it go) part of cookies where they are the most tender and delicious, with Handsome Stranger right behind me eating the "point-free" crusts. But alas, this time they were good right to the edge, so he was able to keep his blood sugar at an acceptable level during this round, much to his displeasure.

So for all you grannies out there who are cookie slackers, here's your cue - get off that Rascal, put your Life Alert necklace on, and strap on an apron that is the uniform you SHOULD be wearing instead of that velour track suit with the "Worlds Best Gramma" sequined on the back...it's a LIE. Unless Matlock is on....then it can wait.

Which came first, the raisin, the oatmeal, or the whining?

Just gonna say right up front that if you hate raisins, use chocolate or butterscotch chips. Now you have no reason to complain, except that you just ruined this recipe if you use chocolate. Bleah...something about oatmeal, chocolate and spices is just wrongwrongwrong.

My neice just got married on New Year's Eve, and she wanted to have cookies and milk before midnight - her favorite is snickerdoodles, his is oatmeal raisin, and they thought chocolate chip would be a good third. I have a recipe I've used for years for oatmeal cookies, but have never been completely happy with it - it was too thick and not chewy enough. I found out years ago that allspice is the key to MY perfect oatmeal cookie - it doesn't taste right with any other spice or combo in my opinion...and since this is my blog, it's the ONLY opinion. Not to mention the chocolate chip thing....it's a damn oatmeal cookie, people! So I started looking for something new and fantastic, and did I ever say how much I LOVELOVELOVE the internet?? I swear I have found more fabulous recipes by just typing in the name along with the key words "best EVER"...sometimes they just ARE.

So using the word "chewy" as a cue, I came up with three new recipes, and tried each one. I found that cinnamon, as I already knew, makes a wimpy flavored cookie, molasses used in excess makes your oatmeal cookie a molasses cookie, and that soaking your raisins in the egg and vanilla makes them plumper and juicier....and that even a LOT of raisins is not enough if you really love oatmeal raisin. Funny thing - I don't like raisins in my oatmeal...go figure. Someday I want to make oatmeal cookies with prunes....it would be fun to make gigantic ones on a pizza pan with a bunch of whole prunes in each one. I am so weird.

This came from Tasty Kitchen, a site that is within Pioneer Woman's website and consists of reader contributed recipes. I, of course, made changes....but mostly just the allspice thing - I also only had quick oats, and personally believe they make a less dry, more chewy cookie anyway. I think there are 2 key point to this recipe: 1. soak the raisins in the egg/vanilla 2. DO NOT overbake. That is a cardinal sin for cookies....unless you like to eat fruit studded hockey pucks. Following those rules, you should end up with an almost caramel-like flat cookie, studded with raisins, and that will bend without breaking when they are still fresh. They are shiny, brown and beautiful to behold, and have a wonderful warm flavor that the allspice and molasses impart without fighting each other or the oatmeal-raisiness of the cookie - perfect! Enjoy....

Heavenly Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

2 eggs
1 T. vanilla
1-1/2 C. raisins
1 C. butter
1 C. brown sugar
3/4 C. white sugar
2 T. molasses
1-1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1-1/4 tsp. allspice
3 C. quick oats

In a small bowl, beat eggs and vanilla together and stir in raisins. Let stand and soak for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350, line baking sheets with parchment paper (if you don't have it, just put cookies on ungreased pan - I just like using the paper).

Cream butter, sugars and molasses in mixer for 5 minutes. In separate bowl, combine flour, salt, soda and allspice and stir to blend. Add to creamed mixture and mix well, then add egg and raisin mixture and stir, then oatmeal and beat to combine.

I used my medium scoop for these, then cut them in half - that is 2 Tbsp. per cookie. A small cookie is 1 Tbsp, which would work fine for a small cookie, it's just up to you what size you want. I do know that a 2 T. cookie is 3 Weight Watchers points....but if you eat the middle and leave the outsides for your husband, he says they are no points because they're "crust". Don't crowd them on the cookie sheet, they will spread out a bit - I was able to get a dozen per jelly roll pan without too much "grow together". Bake one sheet at a time at 350 for 11-12 minutes - they will look slightly underdone in the center, but should have little tiny divots in the puffy part without looking doughy...kind of like the holes that appear in pancakes. Remove from oven and let stand 2 minutes (they WILL fall apart sooner if you did it right), remove to cooling rack

If you take one out and decide it isn't quite done enough, and you have another pan already in the oven, you can put it in under the other pan for a few minutes...it takes a while to get back up to temp, so it will take another 4 or more minutes to cook what would have taken just one more minute if you just left them alone. But you can also just eat them that way too, they'll just be a little softer....really, how much RAW cookie dough did you eat anyway? Also, leaving them on the pan longer will help a little...that's why it's important to take perfectly cooked ones off in two minutes or less so they don't become overcooked.

And congratulations Tommy & Belle, you are possibly the cutest couple I have EVER seen - and what better way to start off your new life than milk and cookies in the new year? Weddings have become such productions, it's nice to see those little "down-home" touches...and no, I do NOT mean camo wedding garb, or pets as attendants...."class" is not spelled with a "K".