Family Heirloom: Secret-Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies

We have a new favorite person in our family. Meet my niece, Molly! She’s pretty cute, right?


Four generations gathered in St. Louis to admire her last week. In between the feeding and playing and rocking to sleep, our talk turned to recipes.

I love how someone’s neighbor’s method for bread becomes a family tradition, how the recipe on the back of some box, or in some crumbling local compendium ends up getting passed down as a favorite.


We’re lucky to have a family cookbook, compiled some time ago in honor of my great grandmother Malvene and great aunt Myrtle. From meatball stroganoff to “jury wafers” named after a recipe torn from a magazine in a jury-duty waiting room, the collection is both dated and wonderful. I have no idea when the recipe for tomato gelée was last used, let alone the one for eingemachs (a sort of beet marmalade that cooks for an entire day.) I confess, the only thing I’ve made recently is these oatmeal cookies.


So, Molly, here is my favorite family recipe. Some day, you can make a batch for your mom and dad, and they will tell you how we made them at your house when you were five weeks old. They’re so good, we just couldn’t stop eating them—chewy with a hint of caramel from the brown sugar and just the right amount of spice. Don’t forget the secret ingredient—it’s the unsweetened cocoa powder that makes them great.


Feel free to halve the recipe unless you plan on sharing.

Oatmeal Cookies
From the M and M Cookbook

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt (scant)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups oats (not instant)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup raisins

Mix all ingredients in order in a bowl. Chill at least 1 hour, then make little balls. Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes, let cool on cookie sheet for a minute before cooling on a rack.

Makes 10 dozen tiny cookies.

In baking, cookbooks, cookies, dessert

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