So the holidays quickly approach, and I look forward to them with my usual mix of elation and dread. For all the wastefulness and stress, I love Christmas trees, and medieval carols, and eggnog. My favorite holiday dessert is boiled custard, a family tradition at Christmas in my family, where my father’s clan always gathered around several tables to eat turkey, ham, green beans, yeast rolls, mashed potatoes, and of course the custard. The custard was always accompanied by a variety of cookies: Mama D’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (generally delivered to Christmas dinner in the battered tin that once had lived on top of her refrigerator), lace cookies, ginger snaps, and those cookies with a hershey’s kiss poked into the top. I am sure there were other flavors including the standard gaudy icing and colored sugar cookies, but generally I stick with “the good stuff” (this definition is loose, but includes cookies with high butter and chocolate ratios). One of the advantages of boiled custard is no matter how much you have eaten, there is always enough room for it. It “fills in the corners” as my father likes to say. Another custard custom is for as many womenfolk as possible to convene at my Aunt Virginia’s to make the custard, talk and drink huge mugs of tea the week before Christmas. The clan is large, so, lots of custard, lots of talking. It then gets tucked away in the fridge in gallon jugs until needed.
In my continuing struggle to keep things simple, affordable and fun, I have tried to make it a tradition of giving only home cooked or handmade gifts. If I run out of time, or don’t make it home for the holidays I will at least send comestibles that are unique to Oregon and might be fun for my Kentucky family to try: boxes of Comice pears, local willamette valley pinots, truffle oil. Food excess for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to bother me as much as material excess, I don’t know why. And it is impossible to feel guilty about giving people pears, in spite of the carbon footprint. They are often touchingly grateful to receive something low calorie and high fiber at Christmas. Plus Comice pears are so beautiful, and take up less room than a pear tree.
Here’s the recipe for Mama D’s Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I am sure if you like raisins, you could substitute them for the chocolate chips. I could never come up with a good enough reason to do such a crazy thing. This is a pretty standard chocolate chip cookie recipe, with oatmeal.
1 1/2 sticks butter (or half butter half lard) cream with
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar then mix in
1 tsp salt maybe more? I am one of those pinch-of-this cooks (don’t forget the salt!)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla then gradually add
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups oatmeal
semi sweet chocolate chips to taste (half a bag plus), or, chop up a bar of your favorite dark chocolate. It’s the Holidays, after all.
chill dough in the fridge for 30 minutes or so, then drop by the spoonful onto greased cookie sheets, bake at 350 8-12 minutes.
If you can keep yourself from eating all the raw dough, or eating all the cookies once baked, these make excellent Christmas gifts. I often send them to old friends along with some homemade Oregon hazelnut biscotti, and perhaps a pound of really good locally roasted coffee.