the first man whose heart I won and the cookies that did the job

Roger lived up the road from the tiny homestead we lived on when I was a teenager. “Up the road” is common enough to hear out there, even though all the roads are flat as can be. To this day, my brothers and I have to say the words in our best ‘German Midwest bachelor farmer’ accent, followed by a deep sigh and then, “Poor Bob….” It’s become a tradition, and you’ll have to ask me about it another time.

But – back to Roger. I believe he parked his old truck on our front lawn the first day of fair weather the year we moved there, introduced himself and told us in great detail about having died after a heart attack and how the miraculous physicians at the Toledo hospital had resurrected him. My brothers and I stood amazed and slightly terrified on the stone driveway, but we very quickly came to realize that Roger had a talent and deep passion for telling amazing and terrifying stories, and sometimes they were even true.

He was sixty-five and retired from a life of doing anything and everything that was dangerous and just barely decent. When he was young, brave and insanely good-looking he shipped himself off to the jungles of who-knows-where to fight some smokey war and when he came home he married a fiery Quaker girl and kept right on fighting. He was a widower now with not much adventure left in his hard-used heart, so he took up with our farming ventures and was always deeply interested in whatever it was we had going on. He would park his truck on the side of the road and lean against our fence and talk for hours if we’d let him. He never came in the fence, never stepped foot inside the house, he was just as happy as could be standing on the side of the road telling stories and doling out advice.

One day I baked him cookies and he ate them right there.

“Annie – I swear you’re gonna make some poor shmuck a good wife someday! Mark my words. Why, if I were a hundred years younger, your mama would have me to deal with!”

I blushed deeply and didn’t know what to say. I was fifteen and still reeling from the dizzying heights of my most awkward phase.  “You know, you remind me something of my Marty – she was quiet and all domestic and ornery as heck! ” I tucked his words inside and kept them there as protection against the spinsterhood I saw rapidly approaching (at fifteen!!)

He would spoil us with warm, juicy Indiana melons in the summer – a luxury we could never really afford, and we baked for him. One spring he presented me with the loveliest yellow rose bush that fragranced my entire garden. He watched us ‘grow out our pinfeathers’ as it were, and go from a bunch of ambitious kids to a handful of dreamy-eyed young adults bent on moving far from home and finding adventure of our own.

 

Roger’s Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter or shortening

1 cup each brown and white sugars

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon each baking soda and salt

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup raisins

I admit, this recipe doesn’t seem to hit the mark health-wise but it certainly reminds me of good times and the sweet man who lived up the road and made a very awkward, frizzy-haired teenager feel pretty with his blatant praise. In my old recipe notebook I’ve scribbled out the proportions for tripling the recipe, which goes to show you how well-loved these cookies were, simple though they be!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the fat and sugars then beat in the eggs until the mix is ‘fluffy’. Add the vanilla and stir again, then add your dry ingredients. Stir to combine well then drop the cookies with a cookie scoop onto a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Share with a neighbor, served with icy milk on a warm Spring day.

 

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Autumnal Pumpkin Cookies

It’s ten o’clock at night and I should be sleeping. The morning will come quickly, I know, but I hear something outside. I hear Autumn coming. I don’t know if anyone else notices, but Fall sounds different at night than Summer. Its the leaves, I think, changing into their more festive outfits. I can hear them outside rustling and whispering and shivering in the chilly breeze and I can’t just roll over and go to sleep. Tomorrow I might wake up to find that the sound was really Summer fleeing from the cold days to come and all the trees have shed their green and blaze with Autumn color; there must be something that I, too can do to welcome the new season.

I quietly roll out of bed, careful not to wake my sleeping husband nestled deep in the quilts that have lately come out of storage, and head out to the kitchen in my pajamas.

It is cold in our dark apartment, but the windows remain open because I can’t bear to have them closed just yet. In the kitchen I can still hear the whisperings of the leaves outside while I gather up my baking supplies. The town is silent, I seem to be the only one awake in Brandon, accompanied by the small town mouse who lives beneath the cupboards. Flour, sugar, salt, spices and an egg – they all get lined up on the counter along with a big bowl and a wooden spoon. I turn on the oven and stand over it for a moment, warming my chilled fingers before I get started.

The trees are making Fall outside – I shall make it inside.

Is there a more Autumnal flavor than pumpkin? They are the choice fruit of fall adorning doorsteps, surrounded with brilliantly colored mums, and finding their way into kitchens, seasoned with cinnamon and brown sugar.

I am going to make Cake-Like Pumpkin Cookies, a slight variation of a recipe I found earlier on in the year and tucked away for such a night as this. In the morning, the mountains will greet us with dew-covered leaves in various states of Autumn dress and  I will see to it that the house is filled with the scents and tastes of Fall.

Cake Like Pumpkin Cookies

makes 2 – 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup softened butter

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. You might want to use a mixer for this, either a stand or hand one will do. If you are doing it by hand, use a whisk and mix until the sugars and butter are completely blended and sightly ‘fluffy’ looking. Add the pumpkin puree and stir, then add the egg and stir again until everything is mixed well. Add the vanilla, spices and salt, stirring so that they are completely incorporated. Now add the flour and oatmeal and blend thoroughly. There should be no dry spots in the dough. Don’t over mix it, however, and make your cookies tough!

Get out two baking sheets and grease them lightly then drop the cookies onto the trays. They won’t expand much in baking but you don’t want them to be touching. Once you have them placed on the trays they can head into the oven for 8-10 minutes. They will be a little brown around the edges and slightly firm to the touch. Remove them from the trays and let them rest on a rack until completely cool before storing.

I think the best way to have them is while they are still slightly warm, with a glass of milk or a mug of hot tea.

Welcome Autumn!

bacon haters gonna hate

But that’s not going to stop me, no way.

I read this statistic once that claimed that people who eat a mere two pieces of bacon a day can expect a 20% higher mortality rate than non-daily-bacon-eating people.

Given the inerrant accuracy of Internet statistics, and comparing the 20% mortality rate with other mortality rates such as those tacked to smoking or taming lions or riding in cars on highways – I figure that my current bacon-eating ratio of 2 pieces every third month shouldn’t kill me any time soon.

Having said all that…

What if I add chocolate to bacon, and sugar, and eggs? What if I tempt fate and wrap marshmallows in bacon before I roast them and eat them like that? What about a bacon-wrapped s’mores?

I feel my mortality rate spinning out of control just thinking of it. The rush is making me feel dizzy and Alive. How far can we go without doing serious damage to our life expectancy? Or better yet, how can we make bacon into something that isn’t so prone to be hated on?

What about Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies?

Yes. Let’s do it.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

*dedicated to Andy and Lizzy, two people who will go out with a smile on their lips, no doubt*

4-6 pieces of  uncured bacon, cooked until crispy, drained well and then crumbled

1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

 1/3 cup egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup and 2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Before we dive into the actual making of the cookies, let’s sit down and have a word about the ingredients, shall we? You are about to start a culinary revolution in your oven and I don’t want anyone rushing into this without having given it enough thought.

I borrowed the basic chocolate chip cookie recipe from my trusty, batter-splattered copy of Irma Rombauer and Marion Becker’s immortal classic, “Joy of Cooking” cookbook and altered the daylights out of it. Firstly, I cut the amount of butter called for in half (figuring that the bacon will add a little fat on its own) and instead of using whole eggs, I used whites, trying to save a little on the cholesterol intake and thus lowering our overall mortality rate to about 17.5% higher than those who wouldn’t touch the cookies. As for the flour, I mixed half whole wheat and half white, and I figure that brings us to an even 14%. Lastly, but not least, I spent the extra couple of dollars and bought the all natural, uncured bacon *without* nitrites. No nitrites?  No problem. These cookies are practically health food.

Now, for the business end of things.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and then gradually add the two sugars, then beat them well.

Now add the egg whites and vanilla and beat again, until everything is smooth and creamy.

Stir in the flour, salt and soda with a wooden spoon or spatula.

When everything is all mixed up and there are no pockets of dry ingredients – fold in the chocolate chips and bacon crumbles. Go ahead and sample some while you do, you have my permission.

Drop the cookies by tablespoons onto a lightly greased cookie tray and then bake them for about 10 minutes. When they’re golden brown – and remember, if you use whole wheat flour they will be a bit darker than if you use only white – take them out of the oven and put them on a cooling rack so that they can cool off. Once thoroughly cooled, they are ready to enjoy. And enjoy them you will.

This recipe made about a dozen cookies for me, but this is because I like them decent-sized and I ate a good deal of the cookie dough while waiting for the oven to finish heating up. True story. Use smaller spoons, don’t eat the dough, get more cookies -it’s really very simple. Not saying that I’ll do it any differently next time… but it’s a good thought.

hate me if you dare