Bake a fresh batch of after-school activities

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Photo by Ann Cipperly

By Ann Cipperly

With a tint of color in trees around town, fall will soon be on its way with cooler temperatures. It has been a hot summer, and cooler temperatures will be a welcome relief. When the temperature turns cooler, fill the house with the sweet aroma of cookies fresh from the oven. Cookies are a popular after school treat with a tall glass of milk.

When my children were growing up, cookies were their favorite after school snack. It seemed the cookies were disappearing faster than I could bake them. No surprise, since their Dad was grabbing a handful as well.

One of my sons, who is now in missile defense, still prefers cookies for dessert over cakes and pies. When we visit, I know he will enjoy a batch of cookies more than any other baked goods.

While I was looking over my files of cookie recipes, it brought back many memories of baking for my children. Chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies were favorites. They also liked a no bake cookie made with cocoa, milk, butter, oatmeal and peanut butter. Timing was key for this cookie, as over boiling would make them too hard, and undercooking made a sticky cookie.

The easiest cookies of all to prepare have only three ingredients. Easy Peanut Butter Cookies combine peanut butter, sugar and an egg. Kids love to make these, and with no flour it keeps clean up to a minimum.

In the cookie files, I found several cookie recipes from Martha Venable when she opened the Sweet Shoppe in downtown Opelika. Martha first opened Venable’s Restaurant in 1993 on Railroad Avenue in downtown Opelika. She served lunch and catered. It was a wonderful place to have lunch.

Martha closed the restaurant in 2001 and did other jobs before returning to downtown with Venable’s Sweet Shoppe on 9th Street. While she was baking, she was still catering.

Martha was born and raised in Little Texas in Macon County. Her mother and both grandmothers were good cooks. Her mother served banana pudding for dessert on Sundays after church. When Martha was about 8 years old, she began helping her mother make banana pudding.

She learned to make more desserts while in high school. After Martha married she began cooking more, which led her to helping Ursula Higgins cater.

At the Sweet Shoppe, Martha offered assorted desserts as well as cookies. If you enjoyed getting cookies from Martha when she had the bakery, you will want to clip and save her cookie recipes.

Later, Martha sold the Sweet Shoppe, and it had another owner before closing.

I saw Martha last spring at the Campus Club Tea. She was busy helping caterer Billy Lee, but she had a couple of minutes for a hug and a quick catch-up.

Barbara Arrington also enjoys baking cookies and makes them to share with her Sunday school class. She bakes three batches for class members to savor with a cup of coffee before the lesson begins in the Thomas Samford Sunday School class.

When Barbara was growing up in Beaumont, Texas, her mother taught her to cook, but she was more interested in baking desserts, starting with pies. Barbara remembers her father could never decide what kind of pie he liked the best, so he would have a slice of each one.

Her tips for successfully baking cookies include lining baking pans with parchment paper to prevent cookies from sticking. When combining flour, baking powder and salt, she fluffs the mixture together with a whisk, She uses unsalted butter and keeps the cookie dough in the refrigerator between baking batches.

Barbara is the administrative assistant to Mayor Gary Fuller.

A few other good cooks are also sharing their favorite cookie recipes.

When the kids come home from school this week, have plenty of cold milk on hand and a fresh batch of cookies waiting. If there aren’t any children in the house, bake cookies for a fall treat to share with friends.

Cipperly can be contacted recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Yummy Oatmeal Cookies with Craisins, White Chocolate and Walnuts
Ginelle Weissinger
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream butter with sugars; add eggs and vanilla, beating well.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Combine flour, cinnamon, soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture.
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup chopped walnuts
1½ cups Craisins
1½ cups white chocolate chips
Stir in above ingredients. Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Amy’s Lemon Gems
3/4 cup butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
¼ cup colored nonpareils or colored sugar
Lemon Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. grated lemon peel
In a small bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in lemon peel. Combine flour and cornstarch; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.
Shape into a 1¾ inch diameter roll; roll in nonpareils or sugar. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until firm. Unwrap and cut in ¼ inch slices. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake at 375 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing to wire racks to cool completely. In a small bowl, combine icing ingredients. Spread over cookies.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Martha Venable
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 Tbsp. buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
Mix together first 6 ingredients. Whisk together flour and baking soda; add to first mixture. Shape into small balls, then press flat with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Easy Brownies
Martha Venable
1 cup butter
3/4 cup cocoa 
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/3 cup self-rising flour
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 or 9- inch square pan or brush with oil. Dust lightly with a little cocoa or flour and tap out excess.
In a medium pan, melt butter. Stir in cocoa and oil. Remove pan from heat and cool for 15 minutes.
In a bowl, combine sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour and remaining ingredients (do not over mix to avoid tough brownies). Spread evenly in prepared pan.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until center springs back when touched lightly with fingertip. Cool completely on wire rack before cutting into squares.

Peanut Butter Brownies
Barbara Arrington
3 eggs
1 cup butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup baking cocoa
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips
Filling:
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. 2% milk
In a large bowl, beat eggs, butter and vanilla until smooth. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to egg mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside 1 cup for topping. Spread remaining batter into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and milk on low just until combined. Carefully spread over batter. Drop reserved batter by tablespoonfuls over filling. Cut through batter with a knife to swirl.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (do not over bake). Cool on a wire rack. Chill until serving. Makes 3 dozen.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Barbara Arrington
2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ cups uncooked oats, finely ground
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz. milk chocolate bar, grated
1½ cups chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment.
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, finely ground oats, salt, baking powder and baking soda until well blended; set aside.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and vanilla extract until creamy.
Stir in flour mixture just until incorporated. Do not over mix.
Stir in remaining ingredients.
Make golf-ball size cookies and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with bottom of glass until they are about ½ inch thick.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are golden around edges but still soft on top. Makes about 60 cookies.

Blondies
Martha Venable
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butterscotch chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour an 8 by 8-inch pan. Whisk together the melted butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, mix it all together. Add the butterscotch chips or other mix-ins. Pour into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve.

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 small can evaporated milk
2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
½ cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter; add cocoa, sugar and milk. Bring to a boil over medium to medium high heat. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes or until a soft ball is formed when dropped into a cup of cold water. Remove from heat. Add oatmeal, stirring well. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla.
Drop by teaspoons onto greased waxed or foil sheets. Cool. For a fancier cookie, drop by teaspoons into greased mini muffin cups and top each with a pecan half.

Pecan Sticks
Martha Venable
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cup flour
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
1 egg, separated
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolk. Sift together flour and cinnamon, then add to creamed ingredients. Pat mixture into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan, then brush the egg white over top of the mixture. Sprinkle the pecans, pressing them slightly down into mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let cool before cutting into bars.

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
1 cup sugar
1 egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, mix peanut butter and sugar. Add egg and blend well. Drop by teaspoons onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Ruth’s Pecan Toffee Chip Cookies
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups toffee chips
1 cup chopped pecans, optional
Preheat the oven to 350°. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugars; beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, mix flours, baking soda and salt until combined. Stir in toffee chips and nuts.
Drop cookies onto greased cookie sheets. Bake until golden about 10 to 12 minutes.

Pecan Snickerdoodles
Barbara Arrington
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, slightly softened
1¾ cups sugar, divided
2 eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, pecans, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in large bowl; set aside.
Beat butter and 1½ cups of the sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat until well blended. Add dry ingredients; beat on low speed until well mixed. Form dough into 1-inch balls. Mix remaining ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon. Roll balls in cinnamon sugar. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. Makes about 6 dozen.

Oatmeal Cranberry Spice Cookies
Martha Venable
1½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1½ cups whole oats
1½ cups dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In medium bowl sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and all spice. In separate large bowl, cream together shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine well.
Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Then add oats, cranberries, and chocolate if you so desire.
Use 1/4 cup and scoop onto cookie sheet. You should get about 6 per sheet.
Bake for at least 8 minutes but most likely will bake for 12 depending on your oven.

Double Chocolate Cookies
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil shiny side up. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; set aside. Cream sugars and butter. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla until well combined. Stir in flour mixture just until blended. Add chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased foil lined baking sheet. Bake 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on wire rack completely before peeling foil from cookies. Makes about 4 dozen.

Surprise Cookies
1 and 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups chopped nuts, optional
14 oz pkg. milk chocolate candy kisses
Confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. shortening
In large bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Add flour and nuts; beat at low speed until well blended. Cover; refrigerate at least one hour for easier handling.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape scant tablespoonful dough around each candy kiss, covering completely. Roll in hands to form ball. Place on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake at 375 for 8 to 12 minutes or until set and bottom edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely.
Lightly sprinkle cooled cookies with powdered sugar. In small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate chips and shortening, stirring until smooth. (Can melt in microwave.) Drizzle over each cookie. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

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