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National Raisin Day, April 30

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Having a National Raisin Day is a wonderful reason to make Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies, which I intend to make today as soon as my butter gets to room temperature. Raisins are a great discovery, very old, and of course people in areas that had no access to cold found that they could dry fruit and preserve it for much longer than it would last in its fresh form.

However, if you are out of raisins and need to use another fruit that you happen to have around the house, you can substitute most dried fruits for them in this recipe. Dried cherries are very good--I have tried that--and some fruits such as dried apricots will have to be cut up before they will fit into the dough. But other than that, what do you like? Feel free!

My mention of bringing the butter (and egg) to room temperature is a perfect opportunity for us to review the basic baking method for "short" breads and cookies, i. e., any baked good that is not made with yeast. You begin with the butter and egg at room temperature and then turn to your dry ingredients.

Everything such as flour, baking powder and/or soda, spices and salt is first whisked together in a mixing bowl. When that is done, set the mixture aside and turn your attention to the butter and sugar. In the case of these cookies, they call for both granulated and brown sugar, which means that you will beat both of them with the butter until you have a light, fluffy mix. Then you beat in the egg and the dry ingredients, and you have an exceptional cookie dough.

I am also fortunate to have my mother's recipe that she got as a bride back in the Forties. My parents were living in Harrisburg, Illinois, and she received many recipes from the ladies they knew, probably at the Methodist Church there. She also got recipes from my father's family. The recipe that I use is called "heirloom," but it is pretty much the same as the recipe for Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies that is still included in the Quaker Oats packaging. Look for it on the inside of the top of the large, round container for rolled or quick oats. I use quick oats in cookie recipes, but don't try instant oatmeal. It won't work.

If you stop by your local Sprouts or Whole Foods in Tucson, you can find some new and interesting raisins, by the way, and all of them organic.

HEIRLOOM OATMEAL COOKIES

From Bernice Needham, 1944

Ingredients:

2 cups organic quick oats
2 cups organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon organic ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon organic ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon organic ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick organic butter at room temperature
1 cup organic granulated sugar
1 cup organic brown sugar, packed
2 organic eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup organic milk at room temperature
1 cup chopped organic walnuts
1 cup organic raisins

Following the basic baking method, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the oats, flour baking soda, all the spices and the salt. Set this aside.

In an electric mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugars for 3-4 minutes, until the mix is fluffy and light in color. Beat in the eggs one at a time, waiting until the first egg has disappeared into the dough before you add the second egg. Beat in the milk briefly.

Lower the speed of your mixer to 1 or Fold. Add the raisins and walnuts and mix briefly just to combine them.

Drop the cookies with a scoop or spoon to a cookie sheet. Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, or until done if you make larger cookies. In any case, the cookies should be just slightly browned around the edges.

Most people know that you can make rather large oatmeal cookies if you like, although in that case you need to watch them while baking so that they are done but not burned when you take them out.

These cookies are also the basis of a very good breakfast if you are on the move in the morning. If you hard-boil a few organic eggs and get some organic applesauce in small individual containers, you can brew your coffee into a mug, grab a cookie, an egg and some applesauce, and hit the road driving or commuting. It also works for school children.

I'd also recommend that you make it your business to find out if you or your children have any friends who are not getting enough to eat, in these days of unprecedented hunger in America. Making two of these lunches and carrying one for a friend or co-worker isn't much, but it makes a difference; the same goes for your children who may have a classmate who doesn't get breakfast in the morning.

The church I go to, the Episcopal Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Tucson, has more than a hundred people who stop by there every day for food. In addition we send food to a local shelter. Please give to the Tucson Community Food Bank; they are easy to find online.

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