Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snowbound Sugar Cookies

When you last saw Eberle & I in our kitchen, we were snowbound & preparing her delicious pumpkin stew. However, that wasn’t the end of our cooking adventures on that snowy Tuesday—of course not, because as delicious & hearty as that pumpkin stew assuredly is, it doesn’t cover the most important course, which is dessert of course.

I’ll start out by saying that our cookie baking is a humble recipe, tak
en from an old & well-beloved copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook—also the source of my macaroni & cheese recipe (& its attendant white sauce), my gravy recipe & several of Eberle’s more elaborate baking recipes. What makes these cookies stand out is the freshness of the ingredients. If you recall, we have a couple of students who pay for music lessons in commodities like milk, butter & eggs—you can see that right there we’re already on the way to some fresh & tasty cookies!

The ingredients are simple:

½ cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 Tbsp of cream or milk—we used a half & half mix, all from Sonia, our favorite Jersey cow
½ tsp of vanilla—real, please
Sometimes we add a ¼ tsp of lemon or lime juice; we didn’t this time simply because we didn’t have any. The cookies are good either way.
1 ½ cups of flour—unbleached if you have it
¼ tsp of salt
1 tsp of baking powder

That’s it. Pre-heat your oven to 375. Then you cream the butter—now just check out that farm
fresh butter from Sonia the cow in the pic!—& following that beat in ¼ cup of sugar. I have to make a bit of an aside her. Last summer our friends Sally & Erich & Anna Lu came to visit us from SoCal. Eberle was baking something—I forget what now, tho whatever she bakes is great—& it fell upon yours truly to cream the butter. At this point in time we didn’t have a mixer of any sort beyond a fork & elbow grease; I’d asked Eberle if she wanted a mixer, but she’d always said she didn’t. I can tell you, friends, after that experience of creaming the butter with a fork, I bought a mixer the very next day at the local supermarket—you can see me wielding it right here.

Beat your egg, then add the cream or milk, the vanilla, flour, juice if you’re using it, flour, salt & baking powder. Drop the cookies on a buttered baking sheet & bake until golden (but watch the bottoms lest they get too crispy!)—should be around 8-9 minutes. I think you all can take it from there!

So obviously this is a recipe practically anyone can make—but I think the point here is something in addition to this simple but very effective cookie recipe, & that's the concept of “know your farmer, know your food.” I know this is a kind of rallying cry amongst food activists, & it makes a lot of sense—in terms of food safety, in terms of resources & in terms of flavor, too. This country doesn’t eat well: I think that’s a fact that’s acknowledged by all but the most hidebound amongst us. Not even getting into the scourge of fast food & soda pop, there are a lot of
overly processed foods out there, milk that's amped up on hormones, apples covered with wax & pesticides, & high fructose corn syrup anywhere it can be added. The problem with supermarket organics is frankly, they're often prohbitively expensive; & as an aside, have you ever looked at the chart in the supermarket line of how many healthy foods are covered by food stamps?

A couple of practical answers to this: folks can band together & buy healthy food at bulk prices
thru a number of health food stores &/or mail order services. But even more to the point: if you're fortunate enough to live in an area where there are still small family farms, please do yourselves & these small farmers a favor & consider patronizing them for whatever staples they have available—buy their produce at farmer's markets & similar outlets. Take advantage of resources like community gardens. Also, grow your own, because that's really know your farmer, know your food.


  1. Yum. You have the same copy of Fannie Farmer that I grew up with! I love the photos which accompany this post, and I want to go out and get my own cow right now!

  2. When do we get to meet Sonia, the Jersey cow?

  3. Hi Robin & Jacqueline

    Robin: Thanks for stopping by, & glad you enjoyed the post! We really love that Fannie Farmer cookbook. I think if my wife & I had actually gotten into dairy farming ourselves--which we considered for a time--we would have done it with goats. Cows are big critters!

    Jacqueline: I think that may happen pretty soon!

  4. That fresh butter looks amazing. There's nothing like good old Fannie Farmer!

  5. I really love your food posts. I went to high school on a farm (an agricultural vocational school) and I learned the importance of supporting local farms and buying local produce whenever possible. So I applaud your efforts!

  6. Just may have to try these cookies today on this not so pleasant rainy day.

    Would love to look at your Fannie Farmer cookbook next visit!!!

  7. Look at you, all Mr. Mix-it in the kitchen!
    I like the idea of a bit of lemon in the cookies and I only ever use real vanilla - straight from the bean!

    I may just have to break my super-healthy diet for these, you guys.

  8. I read in the New York Times Magazine last month that cows who have names give more milk. I'll bet it tastes better, too. Great recipe, insightful thoughts on eating well--thanks, John!

  9. Give more milk than cows who don't, I should have said...

  10. Hi Willow, Raquelle, Heather, Kat & Audrey!

    Willow: It's really amazing butter--& you're right, Fannie Farmer is such a great cookbook!

    Raquelle: I think you've mentioned that about your schooling, either in a comment here or on one of your blogs. That sounds like a great curriculum. & so glad to hear you like the food posts here--great to hear that coming from a food blogger!

    Heather: Everybody will love them if you do make them. & for sure, take a look at the Fannie Farmer on Thursday!

    Audrey: You know it makes sense because cows that are named are probably loved & cared for, whereas cows in a big dairy operation--well, from what I understand, it's a pretty brutal business. I think it's safe to say that Sonia is a well-loved cow.

  11. Hi again Kat! (whoops)

    Real vanilla is the only way to go! & a touch of citrus helps a lot of things--Eberle adds orange juice to all sorts of things, including roast chicken & as you may recall, last week's pumpkin stew.

    You can afford to go off your diet just for a day for these! You won't regret it.

  12. There are few things on the planet better than a good, old-fashioned sugar cookied.


Thanks for stopping by & sharing your thoughts. Please do note, however, that this blog no longer accepts anonymous comments. All comments are moderated. Thanks for your patience.