20 December 2007

Not-So Christmas Cookies

This time of year, everyone's buying the refrigerator rolls of sugar cookies, sprinkling them with red and green and sometimes using frosting to augment the (obviously lacking) sugar content. Though I must admit I do sometimes indulge in a traditional treat or two - I love yoghurt pretzels and peppermint bark, plus the Moravian Sugar Cookies I get every year from a family friend and the petit fours my aunt sends me - my fondest holiday memories are not of the usual fare but of my mothers overloaded and delicious Christmas concoctions. The cookies she made were a classic Tollhouse recipe with chocolate and butterscotch chips, but I decided to improvise with the ingredients I had on hand to create some tasty variations and clean out my fridge a little more.

Cranberry Oat and Everything Oat Cookies

One of the most pleasant surprises about moving to Iowa City in May was the public transit system. We have very reliable busses here, allowing me to work on the east side and live on the west, and excellent bus drivers. One of my bus drivers, Doug, has become a friend and we frequently have conversations about politics, environmental concerns, literature... and food. I keep promising to bring him something I've made, but I never have something that's easy to carry on the bus. Hence, I thought cookies would be a great idea. Jim, my morning bus driver, also is deserving of many treats after he and his wife picked me up one evening after I missed the last bus and was walking home, admittedly in tears, my arms full of groceries and an hour and a half away on foot.

I thought I'd try to make something a little like mom's recipe, and I knew I wanted to use oatmeal, but NOT raisins. I started by following this recipe more or less diligently. It was nice and smooth, and I also added a dash of nutmeg and a dash of cardamom to the dry ingredients to enhance the flavour. After stirring in the oats, I divided into two batches. One batch got chopped fresh cranberries and the other got whatever I could find in my "miscellaneous" tupperware - peanut butter chips, toffee chips, and coconut were the final contenders. Instead of spooning onto the cookie sheets, I rolled the cookies between my hands and then flattened them a bit. I think I may not have used quite enough baking soda, because they didn't spread out hardly at all, but they were still pretty tasty if you're a fan of chewy cookies, and Jim and Doug seemed grateful.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

After dithering between various online recipes to find a chocolatey cookie with mint chocolate chips to bring to the Quire potluck Sunday night, I finally settled on the recipe on the back of the mint chocolate chip bag. Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to copy it down, but you can find a recipe on the back of the bag (Hershey's brand) if you're interested.

The recipe did require a lot of beating with an electric mixer, and the dough seemed very creamy and brownie-like after that, so I tried adding a bit of flour. Again, the cookies didn't spread out a ton, but it worked fairly well. They were chewy and a bit like brownies, so I think next time I will use chopped chilled butter instead of margarine. That said, the taste is pretty fantastic, especially straight out of the oven!

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