Instead of going to day care growing up, I was blessed to stay with my grandparents during the summers and after school. In that time we had together, they taught me so much. My grandfather taught me what true love and compassion looks like. How a man can be so strong and yet so kind. That a real man carries a pocket knife. How to garden and grow beautiful things. My grandmother set the example in our family to be a strong, educated, successful woman. She patiently taught me how to sew. She taught me to cook and instilled a passion for baking.
When I was home over for the holidays last winter, I sat down with my grandma to go through the recipes I remember her making when I was growing up. She kept insisting that I take her oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, which I didn’t remember from my childhood. After the fifth time that she insisted I copy that recipe, I took it.
I decided to make them yesterday and instantly remembered the cookies. I remember her making hundreds of them at a time for a prison ministry program that they were involved with. And I remember being a kid wondering why I couldn’t have any of the cookies she was making.
That’s one of my favorite things about making family recipes – the memories that are associated with the food. Forever, these cookies will be associated with the compassion that my grandparents had for others. And how I can – should – strive to be as loving as they were.
5 sticks of softened butter
3 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
5 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
5 cups oats
2 cups raisins
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream together butter, sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth.
Sift together dry ingredients. Add to above mixture and mix well. Add oats and raisins.
Roll dough into small balls and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with a little extra cinnamon. Bake until lightly browned (about 15 minutes). Makes about 10 dozen two-inch cookies – great for freezing or sharing!
Until December 23, 2010, I was a city girl. I had daily lattes, shopped a little too often, relied on public transportation, and rejected the thought of ever living in the country. When my husband and I decided to leave it all for West Texas to farm, life changed completely. Read my “Farmwife Confessions” to learn about the transition.
I don’t know that this is actually a farmwife confession, as it’s not about farming. But, it is a confession. And I’m making this confession because Russell and I decided to move here to farm. So, in that sense, I suppose it is a farmwife confession.
Here it is: I cannot for the life of me properly bake a cake here.
It started in February when I tried to make a cake for Russell’s birthday and a Super Bowl party that his brother and his family were hosting. I decided to make him my grandma’s lemon pound cake – a tried and true family recipe, one that I have made literally hundreds of times over my life. And what a disaster it was.
First, I misread the recipe and added WAY more baking powder than I was supposed to. That, coupled with the high altitude, meant my cake rose and rose and rose and exploded all over the oven.
After cleaning it up, I tried again, using the correct amount of baking powder and trying to adapt the recipe for high altitude. A little less flour. Not too much mixing. Adjusted baking time and temperature. The cake rose properly and looked pretty while it was cooking – but when I took it out of the oven, it was as dry as a bone and half of it was still stuck to the pan.
I ended up salvaging the first cake for the party. And it tasted okay, but I knew that it wasn’t right. As a lifelong baker – and as someone who once won a competition with this cake recipe! – I was mortified that I couldn’t bake this cake properly.
So, last week, I tried again. For the first time, I followed the recipe exactly. And it still rose too quickly, dripped over the edges of the pan, and collapsed in the middle. It seemed to be another disaster. But, Russell made me fight my urges to take it out and throw it in the trash, and instead, I let it cook completely.
The bottom was an ugly, deformed mess and there were burnt pieces of cake all over the bottom of the oven. But once the cake was flipped, it started looking like the cake I grew up baking.
And when I took the first bite, I knew it truly was the cake I grew up eating. It might not be perfect – but, as I devoured the first piece, I had to call it a success.
And it was delicious to the very last bite.
As I took that last bite, I wondered how many things in my life I abandon half way through because it’s not going perfectly, when, with a little perseverance and faith, it would turn out to be a success. Just how often is perfect the enemy of good enough?
I have a friend, Muffin, who calls all of her friends Muffin. So, when we cook together, we often make muffins. Sweet, savory; it doesn’t matter.
One of my favorite recipes born out of my friendship with Muffin is for turkey meatloaf muffins. This recipe is adapted from my mom’s meatloaf – which is the only meatloaf I’ll eat. This is the healthier, easier-to-control-your-portions little sister of my mom’s meatloaf.
It’s tangy. It’s easy to make. It’s delicious. And, did I mention, it’s healthy?
Here’s the recipe:
1 pound extra lean ground turkey breast
1 slice of whole wheat bread, crumbled
1/2 white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bottle Heinz chili sauce
Salt and pepper
You can also sneak in some veggies – carrots, peppers, mushrooms, etc. – but, I’m a bit of a meatloaf purist and don’t include these.
In a bowl, mix together turkey, bread crumbs, onion, egg, garlic, 1/2 bottle of chili sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. It works best to mix with your hands.
In a greased muffin tin, divide mixture into 10-12 muffins. Cook for 30 minutes on 375, or until muffins are cooked through.
Cover muffins with remaining chili sauce and cook for another 10 minutes.
Get more updates from our farm in West Texas on Twitter: @andruswilliams.
This is – hands down – my favorite salad ever. It’s one of the recipes that my mom made throughout my childhood, but I refused to eat it. In fact, I pretty much refused to eat anything with onions. Of course, now, I put onions in almost everything I make.
When I went through my year of being a vegetarian, I was desperate for new foods and new recipes. So, I started making this salad – and not just eating it, but devouring it.
Russell can still remember the first time that I made it for him – it’s life changing like that.
Like most good salads, you start with a bowl of lettuce, cleaned, and torn (not chopped!) into bite size pieces. I prefer red leaf – but anything works.
Add to it….
Chunks of avocado.
Toasted sesame seeds.
Slices of red onion.
(Now, my mom thinks that the red onions are optional. But, I’ll let you in on a secret: They are definitely not optional. They’re almost as important as the lettuce. It wouldn’t be my favorite salad ever without them.)
Add in a small palm-full of salt – don’t be stingy on the salt!
And dress it with olive oil and rice vinegar.
Mix. Serve. Enjoy.
I make Russell play a lot of games – like “If you could only eat one thing for the rest of our life, what would it be?” kinds of games. One of my favorite is to name our favorite desserts. For Russell, it’s pretty easy because he doesn’t like dessert. But for me, it’s one of the hardest decisions I could be asked to make. So, I end up saying my favorite pie, my favorite chocolate dessert, my favorite cake. And then I realize I have three favorite cakes and the game ends.
But, I hands down have a favorite cookie. And this is it.
They’re crispy on the edges but soft in the middle, with a wonderful rich flavor. And the walnuts and dark chocolate combo is perfection.
Here’s the recipe:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus a little sea salt to sprinkle on top)
1/2 cup softened salted butter
1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla
1 bag of dark chocolate chips
1 cup walnut pieces
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
Mix together butter, shortening, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on low until just blended and then on high for a few minutes. Stir in flour mixture, by hand. Once mixed, add in chocolate chips and walnuts.
Chill for 2-3 hours.
Place large scoops on greased cookie sheet, leaving plenty of room between cookies since they spread out quite a bit. Return remaining dough to refridgerator.
Bake on 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes; take them out long before the center is cooked so they’ll stay soft. Let cool on pan then transfer to cooling rack.