Life is an interesting fellow. From great triumphs to horrible failures, each trial that we experience shapes us into the person we are meant to be. I have lived in many different places and met many different, wonderful people. But in the end my heart will always go back to where I grew up– the rolling farmland and beautiful Amish country of Pennsylvania.
The church I grew up attending was a tiny, century-old building out in the country. In the summer we opened the windows (because there was no air conditioning, and seldom a need for it) and let the fresh air circulate during the service. I still remember the rustle of the trees and happy songs of the birds as we sat there, feeling that sweet country breeze on our faces. It was a beautiful experience for both body and soul.
One of the sweet women in the church was named Etta H. Etta was a classic Pennsylvania woman– with hands rough from working hard all her life, and a quiet, settled soul. Like so many honest, hard-working country people, she never complained, but her eyes told the tale of hardships and hard work, all bravely endured. When Etta was a young girl her mother tragically passed away, leaving a husband and 9 children behind. As the oldest, Etta dropped out of school and stepped immediately into the role of Mom to her 8 younger siblings– washing clothes, keeping house, and getting food on the table for the entire family, every night. Oh yeah– she was about 13 years old. This always blew my mind, just picturing the responsibility that such a young girl had to take on, almost overnight.
And yet, Etta was never bitter or entitled, with the “You owe me because of what I did for you!” attitude so common in today’s world. She had a sweet, honest face and hands that were always busy and ready to help others. Her siblings still get her Mother’s Day cards each year because of the colossal sacrifice she gave in raising them. A few years ago Etta suffered a light stroke. In her confused state she kept saying a single phrase over and over, but the doctors couldn’t make it out. Finally they discovered what she was saying– she was praying the same phrase over and over again: “God, please bless and keep them all. God, please bless and keep them all.” I can only imagine how many times she must have prayed that prayer, as a scared little girl trying to do her best to keep her family together.
Thankfully, Etta almost completely recovered from the stroke and will soon celebrate her 100th birthday. Her favorite cookie was always an effortlessly soft Oatmeal cookie. She used to make these cookies especially for me when I was in college, because I loved them so much. And although this isn’t Etta’s secret recipe, I think of her every time I have oatmeal cookies. They remind me of her, somehow– warm, comforting, and just tough enough to get the job done. Etta, may you have another 100 years. These cookies are for you.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Soft Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
(Adapted from allrecipes.com)
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips (can leave these out if you prefer plain oatmeal cookies, or you can swap the chips for raisins or anything else you love. No. You may not substitute them for Ryan Reynolds, even if you love him.)
Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Add in baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and flour and blend to combine. Stir in chocolate chips and oatmeal and use a cookie scoop to place cookie dough “blobs” on a silpat-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 10-11 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking to ensure even browning, until set and slightly brown. Allow cookies to rest for 5 minutes on cookie sheet before removing them to finish cooling on a cooling rack (this “resting” helps them to keep their shape better). Eat one to test, and then another because you’re the chef, and you deserve it. Wash it all down with a big glass of milk.
Now, in pictures! 🙂 And don’t forget to check out my new book, Sunny Days and Sweet Tea, which is finally available after much hard work! 🙂
“You’re the cream in my coffee! You’re the salt in my stew!” Come on, sweetheart– let’s start creaming! Want to know my words to live by?
Cold ingredients are the enemy of good cookies.
That’s right. Anytime you make cookies, you will have much better results by using room temperature ingredients. Basically, just get your butter and eggs out of the fridge about 1/2 hour before you’re ready to become “Mean and Cream.” Or something like that 😉
Beat your butter and sugars together until they are light and fluffy– and congrats. You “creamed” them. 🙂
Next mix in your egg and vanilla. I like to scrape the sides of the bowl a little bit, too (with the mixer stopped, obviously) so that all the ingredients “play nice” and work together. Mmmmmm . . . looking creamy and dreamy now! Let’s keep going . . .
Now play mad chef and throw in your baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and flour. Use your mixer to “beat that thang” into creamy loveliness. Niceeeee. Oh– be sure to start out mixing at slow speed, so you don’t have to play “winter wonderland” in your kitchen with the flour avalanche.
Next, stir in your oatmeal (you can call these cookies healthy because they contain oatmeal, right? *cough, cough*) and chocolate chips if you are using them. If you aren’t sure which kind of cookies you want, separate your cookie batter and mix chips into half of it. You’re so smart. I love working with you.
Use a cookie scoop to place your batter on a silpat-lined baking sheet. (I don’t need a cookie scoop! I have used a spoon for years and years, and it works just fine for cookies!). Ahh . . . so thought I, my friend. So thought I. In all my hard-nosed stubbornness, I avoided buying one of these little gadgets for years. And then I spent the couple bucks and tried one. And oh man . . . I will never go back. If you want to turn your misshapen cookies into the envy of the other Moms at the school bake sale, then you need one of these little babies. Get a whole variety of sizes here. I used the black (2 tbsp.) scoop for these cookies, and they were fluffy, beautiful, and all perfectly round and uniform. OCD lovers, rejoice.
Bake the cookies at 375 degrees for 10-11 minutes, just until they are set and slightly browned. Now here’s the kicker: LET THOSE COOKIES SIT ON THE BAKING SHEET. That’s right. When the cookies look nicely golden brown and set, take them out of the oven, but don’t take them off the baking sheet until 5 glorious minutes have passed. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. These cookies are pampered ladies of leisure . . . they need a nice rest before they look their best. After 5 minutes you can move the cookies to a cooling rack to finish cooling (or you can stuff a few in your mouth– I mean, who are we kidding, here?).
With a perfect, light spicy/sweetness and a beautiful, wholesome nuttiness, it’s hard to beat an old fashioned oatmeal cookie.
Why not package up some of these beauties and give them to a new mother, sleep deprived from infant “awake all night” torture? Pack up a box and send them to a lonesome college student. Gift them to a neighbor, friend, or coworker. Or just have one for yourself. Pour yourself a nice, hot cup of coffee, grab a seat on the porch, and have a bite. Chew over the nutty oats and do some quiet thinking. Oatmeal cookies are good food for thought.
“God, please bless and keep them all. God, please bless and keep them all.”
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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