Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Pursuit of happiness through cookies.

I recently finished listening to Bruce Feiler's audio book, The Secrets of Happy Families and thoroughly enjoyed most of it.

Several points that stood out to me was the chore board, the family mission statement, the deep family conversations, and the variety of new ways to connect with your kids and parents.  We've always held firm to family dinners around our kitchen table and have fascinating conversations about our days which I always believed gave my kids the idea of empathy towards each other and the world as we discuss politics and events.  The family dinner is discussed in the book and Bruce agreed that it is important to gather at the table it is even more important what you talk about the table so I've worked harder at discussing family history.  With two kids at the table I asked if the kids could think of where their grandparents had gone to school; both high school and college.  I was happy that every one enjoyed the conversation which was meant to talk about how each family has had good and bad experiences and all survived better for both experiences.

One of the latter chapters talks about bonding through challenges.  The example Bruce uses is through an ex-Navy person who now leads people on grueling challenges which creates a bond between participants.  I, myself, am NOT up for that challenge but I came up with a small mini-challenge for my own two-Make cookies together!  Didn't you wonder how I was ever going to pull this around to real food?  

Our two younger kids are 7 years apart and have very little in common, their words not mine.  Groovy Girl is all dance, glitter, AG dolls, Barbies, and drama while College Boy is all slightly sullen, bossy, king-of-his world attitude and they clash like Kronos' kids.  It was just me and the kids looking for something to do together while Dad was off practicing with his bluegrass band.  I casually offered the challenge to them as I handed them the recipe which came attached to a recent purchase of canola oil.  While I don't usually use recipes attached to packages this one appeared easy and kid-friendly.

I got the big mixer out for them and walked away.  Groovy Girl, bless her heart, knew to get all the ingredients out first.  College Boy took control of the mixer after his sister turned it to supersonic speed on her first go.  They worked together quiet easily.  She measured, cracked, and stirred, then handed each ingredient to him to add to the dough.  

As they worked I shot a few photos on my phone and listened to them chatter about other baking experiences with me.  Groovy Girl felt bad about  a recent baking experience with her and I where she blasted the mixer, letting flour fly all over the kitchen and College Boy recounted a similar experience when he was younger, which made her feel better.  They even smiled at each other a few times.  Food is a great bridge for people of all kinds,  We join with our families, sharing recipes, sharing traditions, exchanging recipes, and loving each moment.  I know my children will bring cooking into their own homes, remembering the times they spent with me in the kitchen and at the table.  

The cookie recipe they created together:

Brown Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup Crisco Shortening (I know-blech)
1/2 cup (unsalted) butter
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large (farm fresh) egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups (unbleached) flour (maybe even a mix of wheat and white)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  
Beat shortening, butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla in medium bowl of with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy.  Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.  Add gradually to creamed mixture, beating on low speed until blended.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Place two inches apart on un-greased baking sheet.
Bake 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 4 dozen.

*I wouldn't cook them until they get golden brown unless you like your cookies crispy.  I took several pans out at about 10 minutes because we prefer a softer cookie.  Also to the second half of the batch we added chocolate chips as College Boy feels strongly that there is no true purpose for a cookie to exist with out chips in it.  I probably won't make it again, opting to make our regular chocolate chip recipe instead but the experience was worth it.

Enjoy Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads where you will find many food-related posts.


JoAnn said...

Love how you tailored the challenge to your family! The cookies sound delicious, despite the Crisco ;-)

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

What a wonderful family experience; kudos to you and the kids for making this so successful and thanks for sharing it with us.

Marie said...

Great story!

Becca said...

How wonderful that they baked cookies together! You would have had to pay my sisters and I big bucks to do that at their ages. We did not get along. Now it is a bit better. You are right to be so very proud of them both!

caite said...

Of course cookies bring people together! They are happiness on a plate!

Tina said...

That's wonderful, I love it when cooking turns into a shared family experience. good looking cookies and I love that white mixer.

Beth F said...

Fantastic! I think one of the reasons I love cooking so much is that it does bring people together and it's such a satisfying thing for kids of all ages to see their families enjoy the fruits of their labors. Love this post.

Cecelia said...

How wonderful! I love the photos - and your kids are going to remember that experience so positively. What a great idea and challenge.

Sue Jackson said...

What a nice story! I've been hearing about that book and wondered if it was worthwhile. It sounds interesting. For better or worse, we don't need to create challenges - we have had plenty of natural ones in our family (mostly severe health problems), but the author is right - those challenges have definitely brought us all closer together. Fortunately, our two boys are just 3 1/2 years apart and have always been best friends, even now that the oldest is in college. The age difference does make a difference - my sister and I were 6 years apart and didn't have much in common (still don't), so it is great that you are encouraging them to do something together!


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Laurie C said...

My biggest challenge would have been getting their permission to post the photos on my blog! ;) Sounds like a great day! I've seen a couple of reviews of this book and wondered about reading it, if only to see what we did right and wrong, at this point.

Janssen said...

What a great post (and didn't you love that book?).

Heather said...

I love this post. Wonderful photos. Over the past few years, one of my nephews decided he liked jello and wanted a jello cookbook. I lent him mine and he used it at most family gathering. Recently he moved provinces and is living with my sister. For Easter, he told me he made a jello dish. I felt so happy about that.