My Great-Great-Grandma Selma’s Best Oatmeal Cookies

Okay, it’s about time I shared my (and my family’s) favorite cookie recipe. It came from my Great-Great-Grandma’s recipe files, and my mom has been baking these for as long as I can remember. This is a damn fine recipe, and the cookies taste like my childhood (and my mom’s, and her Dad’s!)

Selma’s Best Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 beaten egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups oats
3/4 cup finely crushed nuts (we  usually skip this)
1 tsp. vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C).
  • Cream together butter (Selma used shortening, but we’re so over that), sugar, brown sugar, and egg.
  • In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture.
  • Add oats, nuts (if using), and vanilla.
  • Next, Selma says to chill the dough for 1 hour, and put walnut sized pieces on a baking sheet. Then butter the bottom of a small glass and dip it in sugar, and flatten each cookie with the glass. (This is the cookie my mom says she grew up on, and they make excellent ice cream sandwiches). But we do something a little different:  Add a 12-ounce package of bittersweet chocolate chips (or some good quality chopped chocolate), spoon onto baking sheet, and skip the sugared glass.
  • Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.The result is a thin, crispy, and very flavorful oatmeal cookie!

2nd Anniversary Apple Raspberry Crisp

I surprised Dustin with one of his favorite desserts tonight. It’s the least I could do after he (secretly) planned a wonderful Anniversary trip to Universal Studios Japan last weekend! This recipe makes 1 small apple crisp, just enough for two:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190 C). Butter a small baking dish.
  • To make the topping, combine about 1/4 cup flour,1/4 cup brown sugar, a few dashes of cinnamon & nutmeg, a dash of salt, and 1/4 cup of oatmeal.
  • Cut 30 grams (just over 2 TBS.) of cold butter into bits and combine with the dry ingredients with your fingers until mixture becomes crumbly. Set aside.
  • Core and peel 1 large apple and cut into 1-inch pieces. Throw into a small bowl. Add the zest of 1 lemon and about a tsp. of lemon juice. Add the raspberries and a small handful of brown sugar. Mix together and pour into baking dish.
  • Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden. Let cool for at least 20 min. before serving.

Here are some pictures from our little trip:

We stayed 1 night at the Hyatt Osaka on the club floor! One of the perks was free champagne and appetizers. We especially enjoyed these giant corn nuts! When my family came to Japan for Christmas last year, we ate corn nuts like these at our hotel. One of the servers, a girl in her 20s, refilled our corn nut dish so often that every time she brought them to our table she would say, “nuts again!” We never caught the young girl’s name so she is now referred to as “nuts again girl.”

Here is Dustin enjoying his champagne.

We treated ourselves to a nice Italian Dinner at a restaurant inside the hotel called Basilico. I ate a blue crab salad with cabbage and lemony mayonnaise, followed by gnocchi with handmade pancetta and creamy fontina sauce. Dustin had king crab bisque and then bucatini with tomato sauce, onions, pancetta, and a dollop of ricotta cheese. We split a crispy margarita pizza, and then finished off our meal with creme brulee with berries!

On Sunday we went to Universal Studios, which was really fun and also a little humorous because all of the attractions (of course) were in Japanese! For example, before the ride “E.T.”, Steven Spielberg came up on the screen to give an introduction. Something didn’t quite fit when he opened up his mouth it was dubbed in Japanese!

Our favorite ride was a new roller coaster called “Hollywood dream.” We were impressed that each person can select what kind of music he or she wants to listen to while the ride is going! I went with hop hop and Dustin chose J-Pop (Japanese Pop) 🙂

Thank You, Dustin! 🙂

Spicy Corn and Potato Soup with Lime & Quick Yogurt Biscuits

Yesterday in Osaka it was 95 degrees. Today it was rainy and around 75. Fall must have finally hit us, and it’s about time because I’ve been wanting to make soup for ages!! This is one of our favorite soup recipes – Spicy jalapeños are a good match for sweet corn. The soup is thickened with coarsely mashed potatoes, brightened with fresh lime juice, and topped with cool avocado. We made it several times last fall & winter after we saw the recipe in the April 2006 Gourmet. We (more than) halved the recipe to serve 2-3 in stead of 6, and served it with Mark Bittman’s tangy yogurt biscuits (also called “Emergency” drop biscuits, because you don’t have to knead and cut the dough; just spoon it onto a cookie sheet and bake), slathered with butter & honey. Perfect.

Spicy Corn & Potato Soup with Lime

1 1/2 TBS. olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 or 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 water
a few handfuls of corn kernals (fresh if you have time, frozen if you don’t)
3 TBS. fresh lime juice
chopped fresh cilantro (but alas, we don’t have cilantro here)

  • Heat oil in a pot over moderate heat until hot, but not smoking, then cook onion, jalapeño, salt, and pepper, stirring occasionally, until onion is pale golden, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the broth, water, and potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, until potatoes are very tender, 12 to 14 minutes. Coarsely mash the potatoes in pot with a potato masher.
  • Stir in corn and simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in lime, cilantro, and salt to taste. Garnish with avocado. Serve with either tortilla chips and wedges of lime or these biscuits.

Quick Yogurt Biscuits

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 TBS. butter (60 g), cut into bits
1/2 cup plain yogurt

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees (230 C).
  • Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the bits of butter. Using your fingers, pick up some of the dry ingredients and rub them with the butter between your fingers (the fun part) and drop them again, until butter is thoroughly blended and the mixture looks crumbly.
  • Stir in the yogurt with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens.
  • Drop tablespoons of the dough onto a greased baking sheet and bake about 12 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Serve with honey.

Brown Sugar & Apple Pastries

This was a spur-of-the-moment dessert to welcome in the beginning of fall. Apples sautéed in butter with brown sugar create a lovely gooey topping for either vanilla ice cream or crispy puff pastry. Last spring I tried a recipe for Brown Sugar Apple Pastries in the Reader’s Quick Recipes section of Bon Appetit. The original recipe says to blend butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl and spread over the puff pastry before baking. But when I tried this, the mixture bubbled over as the pastry rose, coating my baking sheet more than the tops of the pastry. In my version, I add some extra butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon directly to the apples and skip the mess in the oven. I also cut its serving size from 6 to 2, perfect for you and yours tonight!

1 Apple (Fujis are our favorite)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 TBS. butter
some zest of a lemon
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 sheet puff pastry, divided into 2 rectangles

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the puff pastry for about 15 minutes. If needed, deflate with a fork after 10 minutes and continue baking for another 5, until puffed up and flaky.
  • In the meantime, peel, core, and cut the the apple into evenly-sized pieces.
  • Melt the butter in a nonstick frying pan. When melted, add the apple and cook over medium heat until just beginning to brown.
  • Add the brown sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cinnamon and stir until the mixture thickens and the apples soften.
  • Spoon apples over the puff pastry (or try ice cream too!) and drizzle any syrup that’s left in the pan.
  • Pop open a bottle of sparkling wine and say sayonara to summer!

Simple Peaches Baked in Puff Pastry

The funny thing about shopping in a Japanese grocery store as a foreigner is that you tend to buy stuff just because you recognize it – for example, puff pastry is the most familiar item among random Japanese frozen food entrées, so of course we had to pick it up (never mind the fact that we didn’t really have a plan). Luckily things came together quickly. At home I noticed a white peach sitting on the counter that was nearing the end of its lifetime. It was so simple to make these little tarts, and they got the husband’s approval, which is always a good thing. I think next time I’ll use yellow peaches, but the white ones did have a nice subtle, sweet flavor!

1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted

1 peach, cut into 8 slices
brown sugar

  • Cut the puff pastry in half, and flatten each half a little with the palm of your hand.
  • Place 4 peach slices in the middle of each half, dot with butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar.
  • Fold up the edges of the pastry around the peaches, brush them with a little milk and pinch them in place to create something that resembles a tart.
  • Bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes, or whenever they look golden and lovely.

Heavenly Blueberry Muffins

Dustin loves these muffins (which are so rich, they’re more like little cakes!) and could eat six in a row if I didn’t suggest that he save some. Fresh blueberries are ridiculously expensive in Japan, so I usually use frozen, but please use fresh ones if you can! And the only kind of milk we can buy at our grocery store is whole milk, so they turn out delectably rich! I made these for our first English Coffee House night at our church in Ibaraki, and since then, many of my students have requested I bring them to dinner parties, picnics, etc. I gave a few of them the recipe, but I wasn’t sure if they could understand all of the directions in English. I was especially concerned about the the phrase “toss the blueberries with the flour.” I imagine if they took that literally, their kitchen would be a mess. 😉

I found this recipe and printed it off of a few years ago to take with us to Japan. The recipe card says it is courtesy of Gourmet Magazine. Since then, I can’t seem to find this recipe on the Food Network’s website anymore, but if I find it again, I will post a link!

3/4 cup butter (170 g), softened
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup flour + 1 Tbs.
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
a dash of cinnamon
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
a few handfuls of fresh blueberries

  • Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a muffin tin or line with cups.
  • Sift together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and stir until combined.
  • Gradually add the dry mixture and the milk to the creamed mixture, and stir until just moistened.
  • In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with the Tbs. of flour, then gently fold into the batter. Fill muffin cups almost to the top.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown on top. (Makes about 18 muffins)