On one of the hot days of summer, I decided I should do a bunch of baking. This is not the first time in my life or the first summer that this has happened. I saw this recipe in the Shepherd of the Valley cookbook and knew I wanted to try it when the right occasion came up. Last month I wanted to send some treats to a friend and these seemed perfect — a little melty, but able to hold up. The cookie base was a little bit like shortbread, and the milk chocolate Hershey bars made for a great creamy contrast to the flaky, buttery crust.
Hershey Center Bars
1 c butter
3/4 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 giant-size Hershey chocolate bars
Cream butter and sugar; add egg and vanilla. Add flour and salt. Put half of dough in a greased jelly roll pan, until almost to corners. Put 3 Hershey bars on top, leaving 1/2 inch of dough all the way around. Ease the other half of dough on top. Seal sides with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool slightly, cut while still warm.
I don’t know why, but the dining hall on my campus makes sugar cookies that, to me, have a slight hint of cornmeal in them that truly enhances their flavor in a way that I could sit and eat a dozen of them in one sitting. Ridiculously, then, I thought I should try to recreate that flavor at my house because you should always keep stock of the things you will overeat. Nevertheless, when I saw this recipe for cornmeal cookies in the Iowa State Fair cookbook, I thought I should try them. Luckily for me, while they taste great, they don’t quite have that component of I-can’t-put-them-down that the on-campus cookies contain. A few notes — I didn’t find them to spread nicely, so I ended up flattening some of the cookies in later batches. I also didn’t include the raisins because I was planning to serve them with an ice cream which I did not believe would be enhanced by raisins. I did, however, add a sprig’s worth of rosemary to the dough for later batches.
3/4 c butter or margarine
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c flour
1/3 c cornmeal
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c raisins
Mix butter, sugar, egg, flour, and cornmeal. Stir in vanilla and raisins. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
When I was in graduate school in Fort Collins, my colleague and friend Sara and I would find moments to go and spread joy within our department, to our friends and colleagues, and to encourage delighting in the little things. I took this into my first job after grad school and would, on occasion, walk around or drop off treats for folks. Over the course of the last ten years, this has continued to evolve, and on my current campus, we often use the phrase “Make people matter.” It seems a little cheesy sometimes, and in this times of higher education, there certainly is not a budget for this, but when it’s easy to become frustrated by the day-to-day or be reminded of the frustrations, one of my goals for the last eight weeks of the academic year is to do a better job of demonstrating to people that they matter and thank them for doing the parts of their job that are not always fun, but need doing. And, while it’s nice to do things to acknowledge the work other people are doing because it helps them to know I see their work, it also helps me to maintain a positive attitude when I am intentionally recognizing the hard work of others across the campus.
In order to achieve this goal, I spent some time over spring break mixing up different cookie doughs and freezing cookies so that I could then bake a dozen cookies and bring them to someone when I see them doing something great. When I came across this six-in-one oatmeal cookie recipe from the Moss Heaven cookbook, I thought it looked worth trying out. For the batch photographed below, I incorporated a raisin, golden raisin, craisin mix from Trader Joe’s and grated orange peel into the recipe.
Six-in-One Oatmeal Cookie
1 c margarine
1 c brown sugar
1 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
3 c quick-cooking oatmeal
Variations (mix in one of these):
1 c coconut
1/2 c chopped nuts
1 pkg chocolate chips
1 c cut up gum drops
2 Tbsp grated orange peel
1 c raisins
1 c cut-up dates
Drop from a teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Earlier this month I wanted to bring some treats to some of the staff at work who are working really hard, but who are not always noticed as putting in long hours and helping our students succeed inside and outside of the classroom in all the ways they are contributing. So, I decided to bring some cookies into the office to share with them. When I was looking through our family cookbook, I was intrigued by this recipe for Cinnamon Jumbos. The cinnamon flavor is very subtle in the cookies — I’m curious how to strengthen it in the future.
For those who like kringla, but don’t want to go to the work of rolling them out, I found this recipe to taste very similar to the taste of traditional scandinavian kringla that we eat at the holiday season.
At our division of student affairs staff retreat, we were playing a game where we had to answer questions about ourselves with a small group. One of the questions posed was, “If you could have a room filled with anything, what would you choose?” We pondered it for a bit and finally one of our team members said she would have a room filled with sugar cookies. Coincidentally, she was coming to my house for dinner the following weekend and so I knew sugar cookies were a necessity on the menu. I love making a sugar cookie, but there was a recipe that wasn’t a roll-out that I had been wanting to try from our family cookbook. This recipe originated (at least within our family) from my grandmother’s sister, who was a nun. I’ve also made her pineapple oatmeal cookies and posted the recipe in the past (and wrote briefly about my plan to be a nun so I could bake like she did).
Well, I threw these together over the weekend and was happy with how they turned out. Hopefully, my colleague was as well and enjoyed them.
It’s nearly impossible to live in Iowa, look through a recipe book, and not make a recipe that is called Pride of Iowa Cookies. This is another recipe I’ve had flagged for awhile, but haven’t made. So, I decided to make them for the holiday season, because why not? After tasting them, I would have identified them as Ranger Cookies, if you’ve ever had those before.