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Grandmother's Ginger Cookies


        I love old things: old clothes, inherited jewelry, old books, pictures, letters, and of course recipes. Recipes are a special kind of inheritance. They pass among family members, across generations, and through history. Special recipes become legendary, especially when the written record is lost. The dish may acquire amazing qualities in memory that outlive it’s physical presence on the family table.
        These cookies are part of my culinary family tree. If I have my stories, grandmothers, and cookie legends right, these were my grandfather’s favorite cookies. My father and grandfather always raved about a certain ginger cookie that my great-grandmother used to make. She was quite a baker. I also hear she made seriously over-the-top amazing cinnamon rolls and the kitchen table was covered with her marble slab for candy making long after she was gone. I remember standing in that kitchen listening to my parents and grandparents try to remember what the cookies were like and figure out where the recipe was. My grandmother always swore she had it somewhere but could never find it.
        This is what they said about the cookies: They were like ginger snaps…but not snappy. They were soft. They were also like molasses cookies…but not the dense, sugary molasses cookies you would expect. The cookies had white frosting. I think I also remember my parents and grandparents saying the recipe was not my great-grandmother’s. It actually came from my grandfather’s family but his mother in law made the cookies because he liked them so much (I might be making this part up, memory’s a bit fuzzy!).
        Anyway, a cousin of my dad’s contacted me a few weeks ago and said she had some old family recipes I might want to try. Of course I wanted to try them! She copied the recipes and shipped them off the old-fashioned way. When it arrived, I opened the envelope with excited anticipation, hoping it would contain the legendary ginger cookies. They were in there, along with several gems from my great aunt and a version of my grandmother’s cornbread dressing. The recipe in question was titled “Ginger cookies from RA”. What’s RA? It also indicates that they came from the kitchen of Mrs. McKay in Duluth. Who was Mrs. McKay?
        At first, I was amazed at the simplicity of these cookies. No eggs, no milk, not much in the say of spices? Then I realized this was probably a depression-era recipe crafted to be delicious without certain luxury ingredients. I set out to make a half-batch of my cookie inheritance. Finally I would get to taste them for myself!


        The verdict: I must say, they are good. They’re definitely different. Lee’s dad took a bite of one with a quizzical look. He wasn’t sure what kind of cookie they were but he guessed molasses. I’d say that sums my family ginger cookies up pretty well: We call them ginger cookies but they’re not very gingery. If you had to guess, you’d say molasses. They’re soft and cake-like. There’s butter in there, and spices.
Two details I have questions about:
        First: the icing – the recipe was very vague about how to make the icing. It definitely calls for powdered sugar and it’s cooked on the stove. The card said to add vanilla and cream and that the frosting was always creamy and good. So how am I supposed to re-create this frosting? I used a simple powdered sugar and water cookie icing but it’s pretty boring.
        Second: According to the recipe I have, “grandmother” cut the cookies with an oblong cookie cutter. Oblong? I envision an oval but i’ve never seen a cookie or a cookie cutter shaped like that. Where does one find an oblong cookie cutter?
At least I have some things to work on!


If you like ginger cookies or molasses cookies you will love these cookies. They may not be able to decide what they are but they’re certainly delicious!

Ginger Cookies (The full recipe. I made half)

1 cup lard (I used butter)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
7 cups flour (give or take)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

The recipe I received doesn’t actually include directions so I guessed on how things go together.

Cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses in a large bowl. (I had issues with this since I don’t have a mixer…woe is me!)
In a separate bowl, sift the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt together.
Add the hot water to the sugar mixture.
Add the flour mixture to the sugar and water, stirring as you do.
Mix the whole thing up into a nice ball of dough.

The recipe said to roll the dough out and cut it with a cookie cutter but I opted for something simpler since I didn’t have a proper cookie cutter.

Pinch off hunks of dough, roll them between your palms to form balls (bigger than a Whopper but smaller than a ping-pong ball).
Place balls on an oiled cookie sheet or silicone mat/parchment paper covered cookie sheet.
Flatten balls with your fingers till they’re about the size you want the cookies to be. They don’t spread out much at all but the poof up.
Bake at 325 for 15 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly, then ice with your favorite cookie icing (something that hardens when it dries). I just mixed about 2 cups of powdered sugar with 3 tablespoons of water and it made way more icing than I needed. I also left a few cookies un-iced to see what they were like plain. They’re great, of course, so feel free to skip the icing!


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Rocky road cookies

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        Everyone has a favorite ice cream flavor. As a kid, mine was rocky road. I have very vivid childhood memories of standing in front of the counter at Buster’s in South Pasadena, reaching for a rocky road-topped sugar cone. What’s not to love about chocolate ice cream studded with walnuts and tender little marshmallows? The marshmallows were my favorite part. Something about coming across one mid-lick and slurping it out of the melting ice cream made savoring a rocky road cone blissful. Nothing was better than ice cream at Buster’s followed by a romp on the railroad tracks next door. My brother and I left countless pennies to be squished by the trains and retrieved on our next family trip for ice cream.
        Sorry, I guess I’m feeling sentimental. The point is, I came across a recipe for rocky road cookies online and felt a hankering to recreate my favorite flavor combo in a cookie! The recipe I found didn’t quite translate to the rocky road I remembered. The cookies weren’t chocolate and the nuts were peanuts. I fixed the recipe up easily, though, and made a little dent in the half bag of mini marshmallows leftover from Lee’s birthday cake. I ended up with a cake-like chocolate cookie generously filled with carob chips, walnuts, and marshmallows. The marshmallows melt and toast in the oven making for some very sticky, gooey cookies. Oh, and if you use vegan marshmallows like these, my rocky road cookies are vegan!


Rocky Road Cookies
Adapted from this recipe on VegWeb.com

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup natural turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or your preferred oil/butter)
3 tablespoons applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp water
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chocolate or carob chips
mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
Combine flax mixture, applesauce, coconut oil, vanilla, and sugar. Mix until smooth.
Add dry ingredients to wet, mixing as you do until a dough forms.
Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips.
Place a couple marshmallows in a tablespoon, scoop up a spoonful of cookie dough, and place the ball on an oiled cookie sheet. This way the marshmallows end up on top of the cookie, don’t stick to the cookie sheet, and get all toasty! You could, of course, just mix a couple handfuls of marshmallows right into the dough.
I got all the cookies on one sheet. They don’t spread out so it you want them to be flatter, press down on the top of each cookie a bit with the back of a spoon.
Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

If these cookies weren’t gone, I’d try crumbling a few into some chocolate ice cream for a real rocky road experience!

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Oatmeal goji berry carob cookies


On my last visit to the nearby natural food store I was on the lookout for a special treat: something indulgent in a yummy and good for you kind of way. I wanted to make an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie variation. Way back when I asked my fiance what his favorite kind of cookie was so I could bake some for our third date (a hike up a Colorado 13er) he admitted his love of oatmeal chocolate chip. I mustered my best cookie skills and impressed him with delicious hiking fuel cookies.
Ever since then I’ve baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies as special treats. This time I picked out goji berries and grain sweetened carob chips to throw in. Those fit the bill of yummy, healthy, and expensive indulgence. I adapted a regular oatmeal cookie recipe and baked up 20 nice sized cookies for everyone to enjoy after dinner last night. My future father in law declared that I should open a cookie factory. I’m a bit more modest about the results. One of the cookie sheets was dark colored and it burned the carob chips on the bottoms of the cookies. The cookies on the sheet with the Silpat did not burn. I’ll have to remember that for the next time I try to bake on two very different surfaces. I don’t typically have this problem since my usual oven only has one rack.


Oatmeal Goji Berry Carob Cookies

3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup applesauce
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour (I used half whole wheat, half white)
1 1/2 cup oats (I used half thick cut and half quick cooking. They balance each other out)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup goji berries
1/2 cup carob chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
In a large bowl combine sugar, butter, applesauce, vanilla, and egg; beat until thoroughly mixed
In a seperate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, oats, and salt
Add dry mixture to wet mixture; stir till it’s all blended together
Add carob chips and goji berries

Spoon onto cookies sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes
(makes about 20 medium sized cookies)

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