Aunt Bev’s Oatmeal Cookies

When I was twelve years old, I gave my mother a recipe box for Christmas. I know this because she scratched “FROM CHARLES XMAS 1955” on the back of the box. Some of the paint has worn off, but the flowers are still cheerful and if you turn it over, you will learn that it was “MADE in U.S.A” by the Ohio Art Company.

My sister Patsy loaned me two of Mom’s recipe boxes, and they have taught me some new things about my mother. Here are three of them. First, she was an avid snipper of recipes from boxes, newspapers and magazines. Second, she collected lots of recipes from relatives, friends and neighbors. And third, she really liked cake and cookie recipes. Supporting this conclusion is the fact that the soup section of the box includes recipes for “Krunch Drops” and “Chocolate Drop Cookies.”

One of the recipes I found was headed “Bev’s Oatmeal Cookies.” Aunt Bev was my mother’s youngest sister. She and her husband live in Barron today, and she still has coffee and snacks ready when I visit.

Here is her recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies, simple to make and tasty to eat. Plus, with all that oatmeal, they are good for you. I love health foods that taste good!


1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 T condensed milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups quick cook oatmeal
3/4 cup raisins


Preheat the oven to 350º and grease one or two cookie sheets.

Cream together the shortening and sugars. Stir in the egg, vanilla and condensed milk until you have a smooth batter. Sift the flour, salt and baking soda by thirds into the liquid ingredients and stir thoroughly to make a soft dough.

Stir a cup of oatmeal into the dough, then add the raisins and stir to mix thoroughly. Finish by adding the second cup of oatmeal and stirring until all the ingredients are moistened and mixed evenly together. You should have a very stiff dough. If necessary, add another tablespoon of flour.

Drop rounded teaspoons of dough on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for twelve minutes and cool them on a rack.

NOTES: This recipe makes about thirty cookies.

You can substitute whole milk, half and half or cream for the condensed milk.

These cookies are nice and chewy a few minutes after they come out of the oven, but they get crunchy if you let them sit out on a plate. If you want them to stay chewy, put them in a storage bag with a slice of bread when they are still slightly warm.

As an experiment I made a batch of these cookies using only light brown sugar and think that they have an even better flavor.

Lightly Candied Sweet Potatoes

For my family, a holiday dinner was not complete unless we had baked sweet potatoes. Mom baked them next to the turkey or ham, cut each lovely potato in two or three pieces and taught us how to peel them, mash them with our forks and smother them in butter.

For Jerri’s family, on the other hand, a holiday dinner featured a casserole made by mashing canned sweet potatoes, mixing them with sugar and butter and topping the mixture with marshmallows before baking it in the oven.

“Horrible,” I said, as Jerri served our very first Thanksgiving dinner in Charlottesville, Virginia, nearly 1,200 miles from her home in Kansas. The marshmallows smirked at me with their toasted cheeks.

Looking back at that time, I realize that I was very lucky we were so far from Kansas. Also that it was not a very diplomatic way to express my appreciation for the hours she had spent in the tiny kitchen of our terrace (almost a basement) apartment. Also that Jerri has been incredibly patient with my prejudices and lack of flexibility about certain foods.

My friend Bob, who shares my lack of flexibility, is married to another patient woman. “Every successful marriage needs flexibility,” says Bob. “Jody is the flexible one in this marriage.”

Jerri is the flexible one in ours. Like Bob, I am blessed.

We have baked sweet potatoes with plenty of butter for the holidays. But we also have candied sweet potatoes from time to time, just not out of a can. Jerri likes these better than baked sweet potatoes, and you may also.


3 medium sweet potatoes
1/8 tsp. salt
3 – 4 T brown sugar
3 – 4 T butter
1 T water


Peel and quarter the sweet potatoes lengthwise, then cut the quarters into half inch slices. You should have four to five cups of chopped sweet potatoes. Put the potatoes into a heavy saucepan with a tight fitting lid.

Spread the salt, brown sugar and pieces of butter over the potatoes. Add a tablespoon of water, cover tightly and put the pan over moderate heat until the water starts to steam. Turn the heat to low to cook the potatoes until they are tender. Check every four or five minutes to make sure that the pan does not boil dry. If necessary add a little more water.

After 15 minutes, test for doneness with a fork.

NOTES: If you find that the potatoes boil dry very quickly, check to make sure that you have the heat at its lowest setting. You can also start with two tablespoons of water but keep in mind that you want to steam the sweet potatoes, not boil them.

With our “waterless” cookware, the sweet potatoes release water as they cook, so we end up with a very nice sauce. We tend to use the smaller quantities of sugar and butter, but you may prefer a sweeter sauce.

Although I have never done so, I am sure that you could taste a potato and if it was not sweet enough for you, add a bit more sugar. Cook a minute or so to make sure that the sugar is dissolved before serving.

I suppose you could melt some marshmallows on top.