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Lemon plus oatmeal makes a lovely cookie




Lemons and oats go together beautifully in a little cookie. (Photos: Kathy
Morrison)
Recipe: Celebrate citrus season with these little treats



Ask anyone this time of year whether they'd like a cookie, and they're bound to look at you like you're crazy. So soon after the holidays? It's diet season, not baking season. And yet ...

It's also citrus season, and a little baked treat is a great way to enjoy the fruit. Lemon cookies, especially lemon bars, are among the most popular types at gatherings. But the bars, as wonderful as they are, rank as complicated and rich in my baking experience.

Much easier is this little lemon and whole-grain oats cookie I found in a secondhand cookbook that a dear friend gave me. "The Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook" was printed in 1986, edited by Susan Mahnke Peery, then food editor of Yankee magazine.

The recipe, however, is even older. Peery herself contributed it to the collection, with the note, "This recipe is on a yellowed newspaper clipping I've had for years. The cookies are delicate and delicious."

Butter version on the left, Earth Balance version on the right.
(I used different topping sugars so I could identify them
off the pan.)
This definitely is a celebration of lemon: The unbaked dough smells so good that you might be tempted to eat it raw (but please don't).

It also is full of butter, so I decided to try a version using Earth Balance buttery sticks, a vegan product which comes close to the flavor of butter but is much lower in cholesterol and saturated fat. I discovered, however, that it's much higher in sodium than salted butter, which I don't generally use, so the recipe was adjusted accordingly, eliminating any added salt. I also reduced the amount of sugar in the "healthier" version.

A note on the oats: Quick oats, which are partially cooked and should not be confused with "instant" oatmeal, have the same nutritional benefit as old-fashioned rolled oats. Both have 4 g of fiber and 5 g protein per 1/2 cup (40g). I used quick oats in both recipes because it tends to blend better, but either is fine. Also, in the Earth Balance version, some of the unbleached flour was subbed out for oat flour (which is just ground-up oats).

Both versions of the recipe follow. How did they compare? The "healthier" dough is a little stickier; I think the oat flour helps keep it from spreading too much, since the two versions baked identically. When it came to taste, the butter cookie was a little crisper, the other a touch more cakey, but they both were delicious.

Each recipe makes a lot of little cookies; the amounts can easily be halved.

Healthier lemon oatmeal cookies
Adapted by Kathy Morrison
The butter-based cookies are on the left, the Earth Balance
ones are on the right.
Makes 6 dozen cookies, about 2 1/4 inches in diameter

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup oat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) Earth Balance buttery sticks, plus a little for greasing the flattening glass (see instructions)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (grate 2 lemons; you'll have a little extra)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup quick oats
Sugar for topping, such a demerara or sanding sugar, optional
Lemon zest for topping, optional (see note below)

Instructions:

Stir together the flours and baking powder in a small bowl. In a large bowl, cream the Earth Balance and sugar. Add the eggs, beating well. Beat in the lemon zest and juice. Gradually add the flour mixture, then stir in the oats.

Chill dough thoroughly, at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare cookie sheets (I use insulated ones for this recipe) by greasing or, my preference, covering with parchment paper.

Roll level tablespoons of dough into balls, or use a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop out balls of dough. Place dough balls on the prepared cookie sheet, allowing 2 inches between each cookie.

Using a flat-bottomed glass or custard cup that has been greased and dipped in preferred sugar, flatten each ball to 1/4-inch thickness, dipping glass into sugar each time.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until cookies are lightly brown around the edges. Very cold dough may take another minute or 2 more.

Note: The topping sugar can be eliminated, but it does provide a nice crunch. If you're skipping it, wet your fingers and use them to flatten the cookies. If you want to boost the lemon taste even more, stir a little of the leftover lemon zest into the topping sugar before flattening the cookies.


Original lemon oatmeal cookies
Adapted slightly by Kathy Morrison
Makes 6 dozen cookies, about 2 1/4 inches in diameter

A Microplane zester beautifully grates lemon rind.
Ingredients:
2 3/4 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus a little more to grease the flattening glass (see instructions)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (grate 2 lemons; you'll have a little extra)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup quick oats
Sugar for topping, such a demerara or sanding sugar, optional
Lemon zest for topping, optional (see note below)

Instructions:

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, beating well. Beat in the lemon zest and juice. Gradually add the flour mixture, then stir in the oats.

Chill dough thoroughly, at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare cookie sheets (I use insulated ones for this recipe) by greasing or, my preference, covering with parchment paper.

Roll level tablespoons of dough into balls, or use a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop out balls of dough. Place dough balls on the prepared cookie sheet, allowing 2 inches between each cookie.

Using a flat-bottomed glass or custard cup that has been greased and dipped in preferred sugar, flatten each ball to 1/4-inch thickness, dipping glass into sugar each time.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until cookies are lightly brown around the edges. Very cold dough may take another minute or 2.

Note: The topping sugar can be eliminated, but it does provide a nice crunch. If you're skipping it, wet your fingers and use them to flatten the cookies. If you want to boost the lemon taste even more, stir a little of the leftover lemon zest into the topping sugar before flattening the cookies.





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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Nov. 26:

Concentrate on helping your garden stay comfortable during these frosty nights – and clean up all those leaves!

* Irrigate frost-tender plants such as citrus in the late afternoon. That extra soil moisture increases temperatures around the plant a few degrees, just enough to prevent frost damage. The exception are succulents; too much water before frost can cause them to freeze.

* Cover sensitive plants before the sun goes down. Use cloth sheets or frost cloths, not plastic sheeting, to hold in warmth. Make sure to remove covers in the morning.

* Use fall leaves as mulch around shrubs and vegetables. Mulch acts as a blanket and keeps roots warmer.

* Stop dead-heading; let rose hips form on bushes to prompt dormancy.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location – and definitely indoors overnight. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they’ll bloom again next December.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Plant spring bulbs. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Daffodils can be planted without pre-chilling.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers and plant such spring bloomers as sweet peas, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Plant trees and shrubs. They’ll benefit from fall and winter rains while establishing their roots.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins now. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

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