Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Newspaper - OATMEAL JAM JAMS

This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix newspaper on 20 March 2006.

Have you ever tried a new cookie recipe and loved it so much you made it over and over again for several weeks running? It’s quick and easy. Your family loves it. And best of all, it’s made with your favourite vegetable. I recently found just such a recipe on my doorstep in Saskatoon. Well, in the mailbox, to be exact. Somebody (and you know who you are) placed a little green cookbook in my mailbox called "Zucchini: You can never have enough."

Readers of this column may know that zucchini is my favourite summer vegetable. Strange choice, you say? Consider the versatility of the zucchini. You can eat the vegetables when they are very small or very big, and in many different ways from grilled to stir-fried. You can even eat the flowers. In the garden, it grows fast and furious whether or not you have a green thumb. Have you ever heard of a zucchini crop failure? And the flowers are so big and beautiful, I feel sunny just looking at them.

Up until now, I have tended to eat my zucchini as a vegetable and not as an ingredient in desserts. I’ve never made a chocolate zucchini cake, primarily because grating zucchini seemed such a tedious task. All that changed with this little cookbook. It arrived in February at a crucial moment – I had just discovered one large green zucchini still in storage in the basement.
This zucchini was picked last fall and had obviously escaped detection in the garden for a long time because it was really, really big. Perhaps it was the sheer size that helped preserve it all these months.

The flesh was a bit soft and had passed its prime as a vegetable, but I hated to throw it out (ie: compost it). As it turns out, it was perfect for grating. The recipe I choose was Zucchini-Oatmeal Cookies, which were so good I made several batches before that zucchini expired. With ingredients like oats, honey and zucchini, it was perfect for my Saskatchewan-only diet. For the past year, my husband and I have been trying to eat nothing but Saskatchewan-made foods in our own home.

Our Saskatchewan desserts have included cherry pie, carrot cake, oatmeal jam jams, bread pudding, berry cobbler and rhubarb upside-down skillet cake (the recipe for which was included in this column last May. You can look it up at homefordinner.blogspot.com). Although we are eating a Saskatchewan diet, we do permit ourselves some "foreign" ingredients like sugar, raisins and cinnamon for a mostly-Saskatchewan recipe.

Our friends and family often help us along with gifts of Saskatchewan foods that have included venison, moose, fish, apples, wild rice, fruit preserves, potatoes and honey. Usually I know our benefactors, but this little cookbook remains a mystery. I would like to share the recipe for Zucchini-Oatmeal Cookies but it would be inappropriate to print it here without permission from the author, John Butler. I’m sure his book is in the stores.

Instead, here is the recipe for my Grandma Jo’s Oatmeal Jam Jams. I used organic rolled oats from the Daybreak-Scheresky Mill at Estevan and filled them with a thick preserve of lingonberries (better known here as wild cranberries) made by a friend.

Oatmeal Jam-Jams
2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sour milk

Grandma’s instructions simply say, "Roll these." To elaborate, mix everything together, form it into two balls, wrap it in plastic and place it in the fridge to cool down. Using a floured counter and a rolling pin, roll each ball of dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch (3-4 cm). Cut out circles with a cookie cutter or a glass. Bake on a cookie sheet for 8-9 minutes at 350 degrees. Transfer the hot cookies to a rack to cool. Spread a dollop of jam or preserves on one cookie and press another cookie on top. These cookies are crisp when they come out of the oven but the filling will soften them up.

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