“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh quote
I love tradition. There is a warm feeling that comes over me like hot towels just out of the dryer when I think of my own family traditions. Perhaps this is because many of these traditions that are centered around cozy things, like the holidays, baking and happy times spent with loved ones. One of the biggest influences of tradition in my family was my grandma Grace. She passed over to watch over us nearly 7 years ago. If you are new to this blog, you will come to learn that I had a very special relationship with my grandparents, particularly my grandma growing up. While she was undoubtedly the family matriarch she had a soft spot for her grandchildren.
Grace is my mother’s middle name and my middle name is my Mother’s name. When E was born, I struggled with the idea of breaking that tradition. To not give E my first name as her middle name would be to break a tradition that my beloved grandma started and my mother lovingly passed on to me. But I did break it with my own twist; I gave E Grace. Emma Grace. The tradition changed a bit, but it’s still in tact, much like my other favorite Grace tradition, baking.
To bake like Grace is to be deliberate, precise and delicious. With great ease my own mother became an excellent baker and as time passed, I seem to have acquired this skill. The tradition of baking has deep roots in our family. Everything is from scratch and don’t even think about skimping on the quality of the ingredients. Whether or not it makes a difference in the outcome is irrelevant, don’t just don’t skimp.
Like the action of baking in our family, there are certain traditions within the baking. Today I will share with you my internationally famous (I made them in Japan once and my fellow Japanese teachers raved about them:)) Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Within this recipe I will let you in on a seemingly innocuous “Grace” family baking tradition. I will promise you, if you try, it may just change your life (or maybe just the way you view baked goods, either way I think you will be pleased with this tip.)
Like all good traditions you start with the foundation. In the case of my cookies it’s the ingredients. If you want to replicate this recipe you have to use name brand ingredients. Start with the recipe on the bottom side of the lid of Quaker Oats Old Fashioned Oatmeal. Note, you will not add the Cinnamon or raisins to this recipe.
From there, I always use the following for my ingredients:
– Nestlé Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate chips
– Gold Metal All-Purpose Flour
– C&H Pure Cane white and brown sugar
– Land O’ Lakes Butter (or the equivalent)
– McCormick’s Vanilla
– Morton’s salt
– Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
– Eggs (I use grain fed – but this is personal preference)
Prior to embarking upon combining ingredients, I like to get everything out and ready. This is obviously personal preference but it makes baking a lot easier when the ingredients are prepped. Additionally, for this recipe, I like to pre-mix the dry ingredients so that they are ready to add all at once. One thing to note per our family’s style of baking, which is different from cooking, is that for best results, we are very precise with our measurements. In our family we have always used a butter knife to level everything down to the last grain of sugar or speck of flour.
Once your ingredients are prepped and ready and the oven is turned on, you are ready to go.
As you follow the recipe you will mix the sugars and butter together. If the butter is refrigerated I usually put it in a glass bowl and heat for 20 seconds to soften. Put everything into the electric mixer and mix until smooth and creamy but do not whip.
Next up time to do the super double top secret family tradition which is to add the eggs and an EXTRA teaspoon of vanilla. So instead of just adding 1 tsp, you will add 2 (you can thank me later).
After you mixture is mixed well but not whipped, be sure to get out your spatula and get the bits off the side as well, it’s time to add the pre-mixed together dry ingredients.
Next up you will add the oats and chocolate chips. Be sure to mix in the oats and the chocolate chips by hand with a spoon or it messes with the texture of the cookies. You can also always add more chocolate chips. I usually use the whole bag as extra chocolate is just a bonus!
Intermission: As I prepared the dough, Q helped me by cleaning out the pantry.
And then he helped me by dumping sugar all over the floor and then
he went I sent him to play with Nana H.
Now back to our baking. I usually put 12 spoonfuls of cookie dough on the cookie sheet and always bake the cookies on the top rack of my oven. Depending on your altitude, the time will vary. Here in LA I bake them for about 11 minutes until they are browning on the top.
After you bake them and then it’s time for the fun part. Cool them on their baking racks.
These particular cookies went into baskets for my visit with the March of Dimes to the NICU nurses at Cedars to say thank you for all of their hard work. Lest you think I have turned over a crafty leaf, my friend T again came to our rescue (remember Pebbles and Bam Bam at Halloween!) and helped me make them look very pretty in these baskets.
This baking and giving will become an annual tradition for me as it’s good for my soul and it heals me to give in this way. To see all the nurses who lovingly took care of our minis was cathartic in a way. To stand in those hallowed halls and not feel scared or anxious was its own gift to me.
And so our old traditions from my family as a child, and my new traditions for my own family will continue. We will keep traditions that can be passed down from generation to generation. Perhaps not always in the exact way they have been held in years past, perhaps now with a twist on a name or a recipe but the traditions will stay alive in their warmth and meaning just the same.
Keeping these traditions alive in my heart most definitely helps to make days like today ‘mynewfavoriteday.’
What traditions do you have in your own family that mean something to you and make those day ‘anewfavoriteday?’
Featured post image shared from: mommahawkcooks.com