Dear friends,

I just finished lunch of canned tomato soup poured steaming over little chunks of cheese that I dredged up, all melty, with a spoon. Mmmm. It’s the meal my mother made for me when I had a cold, as I do now. Even in my adulthood, if the cold was bad, Mom would drive up from East Liverpool to heat up a can of soup with a side of TLC.

Almost everyone has a get-better food of questionable pedigree that goes down like a hug. I also have a Christmas cookie along those lines. It’s so humble it barely earns its place on the cookie plate. I’m almost embarrassed to share the recipe with you, but this cold has gotten me down and I’m not up to much more work this week.

I made a batch of Mom’s Cookie Candy because I ate too many of those fancy lemon knot cookies I wrote about two weeks ago, and didn’t have enough for my doctor AND my mail carrier AND the neighbor who did me a favor last summer.

My emergency gift cookie goes by many different names. My family calls it Cookie Candy because it’s basically fudge with oats stirred in. I clearly recall my first taste of this chocolatle-peanut butter wonder. I was in the fifth grade, and for weeks after, my friends and I were obsessed with getting our hands on more of them.

The cookies remain one of my favorites, edged out only by nut-filled kifli. Making them takes me back to Mom’s kitchen and her big plastic Tupperware drum of Christmas cookies that was refilled as needed with reinforcements from the basement freezer.

I don’t care if they are stupid-easy to make and look like — well, never mind; I still love these cookies.

COOKIE CANDY

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2 cups sugar
3 tbsp. cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/4 lb. butter or margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups uncooked oats

In a saucepan combine sugar, cocoa and milk. Add butter and chunk it up with a spoon. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a steady boil. Boil steadily but gently for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, until a small amount dropped in cold water can be formed into a soft ball.

Remove from heat and quickly stir in peanut butter until smooth, then stir in oats. Immediately drop by tablespoons onto foil. Cool complettely before storing in a lidded container. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.
THE MAILBAG

From Pennie:
I’d like to buy nice imported cold cuts and cheeses for the holidays — the sort of things I used to get at West Point Market. Where is a good place to find them now that West Point no longer has refrigerated items? I’m a huge fan of the sort of cold cuts served for breakfast in Belgium on hard rectangular rolls.

Dear Pennie: I have been wondering the same thing about a lot of items I used to buy at West Point. I know you can get European cheeses at Earth Fare and Mustard Seed Market. Some luxury cold cuts are available at Leach’s Meats and Sweets in Barberton, DeVitis in Akron and Kirbie Meats in Stow, but I haven’t seen a selection that rivals West Point’s. Anyone want to jump in here?

From L.W.:
Congratulations on your recent conversion to fruitcake tolerance from aversion. If I had a circle of nearby friends and family who would share it, I might have given your recipe a go. But you had a tease about a single-serve microwave version, then left us hanging — no recipe, no link, just that Jane Snow endorsement to start us drooling. Please share with us…my bottle of Bourbon is at the ready.

Dear L.W.: Sorry for the tease. I ran that recipe last year, but should have realized not everyone saw it.

PERSONAL FRUIT CAKE
1/2 tbsp. butter
8 pecan halves, cut crosswise in halves
2 tbsp. mixed candied fruit
1 tbsp. dried apricots in 1/4-inch dice
1 tbsp. raisins
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. powdered ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. Bourbon or water
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt butter in a 12-ounce microwave-safe mug. Stir in nuts and fruit. Sprinkle in flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices and mix well with a fork, turning over fruit and nuts several times. Add egg yolk, Bourbon or water and vanilla and stir until thoroughly mixed. Microwave at 50 percent power for:

1 minute 45 seconds for 1000-watt microwave ovens or 1 minute 15 seconds for 1100- and 1200-watt ovens, adjusting the time up or down for lower or higher wattage ovens.

The cake is done when the top is dry and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the mug. Let rest one minute, then run a knife around edge of cake and invert onto a plate. Eat warm or at room temperature.

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