Don’t get me wrong, food processing isn’t all bad. Your great-grandmother probably used some of the 32 food processing methods recognized by the FDA. She likely dried apples for use in winter, preserved berries for jam, fermented cabbage into sauerkraut, or milk into yogurt, or pickled beets from the garden. These traditional processes extend the shelf life of crops to last through the winter.
Other processes make food healthier. Sprouting grains can make trace minerals more available by reducing phytic acid, and increase vitamins A and C. Cooking tomatoes releases the lycopene, a potent antioxidant. Fresh tomatoes are great, but be sure to enjoy pasta with tomato sauce too.
Make vs Buy
In the prior post we discussed the proper limits on food processing and opened the door to doing more home processing. Commenting, reader Laura noted that she makes her own cheese and Graham crackers. Jessica observed it’s a balancing act, what to make at home; she prefers to buy both pasta and spaghetti sauce. (Though we did post a recipe for Real Spaghetti Sauce.)
There’s an interesting book, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, by Jennifer Reese that reviews the various make vs. buy decisions. Reese, newly out of a job, decided to cut costs by doing more of her food processing. She found it cheaper to buy butter, but better to make your own bread. Reese tried a lot of home-made items but I’d like to add one: oatmeal cookies—the subject of this post. You can't buy cookies with this kind of love and taste in the store.
Skip’s Oatmeal Cookies
I started with the recipe on the Quaker Oats box and made these changes:
- Butter: We like a crisper cookie, so I reduced flour ¼ cup and increased butter ¼ cup. This helped but I learned to also press the dough flat with a fork for an even thinner, crisper cookie.
- Sugar: The recipe called for 1-¼ C of sugar (3/4 C brown sugar plus ½ C white sugar). We reduced this to 1 C turbinado sugar (less processed; slightly more vitamins and minerals), though we use regular brown sugar if turbinado isn’t available.
- Flour: I used fresh-ground wheat flour instead of store-bought flour. This made a crumbly cookie, especially in humid weather. After some experimenting, I solved this by combining whole-wheat flour and white flour. Another solution, if you want 100% whole-wheat flour, is to add 1 tbsp of wheat gluten.
- Seasoning: We replaced the cinnamon and raisins with walnuts (source of omega-3) and dark chocolate chips (60% cacao; rich in antioxidants). The beautiful wife says some prefer the semi-sweet chips, but darker means more of the healthy cacao. There’s nothing wrong with cinnamon and raisins—just a taste preference.
Skip’s Oatmeal Cookie Recipe (Guess I made enough changes to put my name on the recipe.)
- 1 C butter (2 sticks, or 16 oz.)
- 1 C turbinado or brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¾ C fresh whole-wheat flour
- ½ C all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 C oats
- 1 C chopped walnuts
- 2/3 C small dark chocolate chips
- Cream butter and brown sugar together. (Some experts claim that colder butter results in less crumbly cookies, but I didn’t see a difference in my testing.)
- Beat in eggs and vanilla.
- Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Blend well.
- Add oats, walnuts, and chips. Stir together.
- Drop on cookie pan (rounded tablespoon size nuggets) and flatten with a fork (as though you were making peanut butter cookies). We don’t coat the pan but we have a cheap aluminum pan that gets a little sticky and I’m cautious of aluminum cookware so we drop the dough on parchment paper with this pan.
- Bake about 12 minutes at 350 F. Makes about 4 dozen. We put some in zip-lock sandwich bags to freeze (so I won’t eat them all at once).