Chasing the Little Things for Big Reasons

Cookies and Bars / September 3, 2013

I grew up in a small town with one stop light. I ate in a restaurant that was adjacent to a bus stop, which was also adjacent to the Five and Dime, which was across the alley from the volunteer fire department. Our school clothes were from a boutique run by the ladies in town who always wore 20 bracelets on each perfumed arm. And our grocery store had aisles barely 5 feet wide.

It was fun to be raised around people who really knew you. You couldn’t get away with anything because everyone was watching. As I recall, though, (Mom, stop reading here…) we got away with a lot. Creativity is a by product of being raised in a bubble so we had plenty of moments that crossed the line, no matter how much our parents tried to limit our experimentation. Adventures were everywhere, even though our tame dilemmas were whether to order tater tots AND a sundae, or get a fresh lime soda at the drive in.

Our friends were divided into two separate clans, so to speak. The hippies and the grits. The latter named for the fact that they were all farmers and cowboys who always looked daring and brought beer to the dances. The former because the toes of our shoes were rounded and we tried to look preppie. Of course, we all secretly wished we were grits. And why not? How cool would it be to wear a cowboy hat to school? It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I tried on my first pair of real cowboy boots. Man, I had been missing out.

I wore clear lip gloss, swooned over boys, slept in pink sponge curlers and wore lots of hairspray. When I graduated, I did so with a full vocal music scholarship and an abrupt departure from some of the most wonderful friends I’ve ever had. For instance, my best friend, Tracey made everything bearable. We spent every waking moment together. Either I was at her house, listening endlessly to our record collection and torturing her parents by playing “Rock and Roll Hoochi-Koo” over and over again, or she was with me, dreaming about being grown up, or wishing we had each others hair, lips or figures.

It seemed that everything was about getting out of that small town back then. And yet, my memories of the annual county fair, the smell of the new mown hay in June, or fishing in the irrigation canal are some of the most wonderful of my life. I was chasing things, I guess. Not too different from kids today, who have everything planned out and can tell you in detail, “what they want next.”

Well, to make the story kind of syrupy, what I wanted next has come. But not in the order I thought it would. Never could a straight line have meandered more. But that just makes the quilt of life a little prettier. Don’t you think? It gave me a depth of experience and a point of reference for the tough times and a way to keep the good times in perspective. If I were going to chase something today, it would be to learn how to hold really still and listen; listen to the knowledge of everything around me, and try and obey the vast whispering of the universe.

It may seem trivial to talk about the vastness of everything in one sentence and cooking in the next, but it comforts me and it whispers to ME. I like that I can reach into my copper recipe box and pull out a handwritten 3 by 5 card filled in by my grandmother with the instructions for her date cookies written not only on the lines, but scribbled into the margins as she fit in the last of her baking admonishments. Or, work to read through the glue that obliterated the first three ingredients of a Peach Melba, cut out from a Seventeen magazine in the year Nineteen-Nevermind. It has also built a common bridge with my children who can hardly talk about their childhood without referring to some of their favorite meals through the years. And finally, after a day when nothing has gone right, I can reach for a pan and a pepper-mill and put together something pretty that tastes just right.

What are you chasing? Commonly defined in the culinary world a “chaser” is usually a drink of something after the initial drink. Kind of like a way to follow up on the POW of something with a small POW to soften the fall. I like that explanation and because I strive to think of new ways to name what I’m creating I thought, “Why can’t a dessert have a chaser? Something that comes after it, like RIGHT after, and makes the fall softer?” (Or more intense in my case…) And so, to signal the end of a day of wonderful food this Labor Day Monday, (of which you will be subjected to here and hereafter,) is the dessert, “Lemon Crinkle Cookies,” with a Milk Chocolate Almond Chaser.

Enjoy what you’re chasing. I’ll be busy with Chocolate and the memories I’m making right now.

The cookie recipe is by Lauren Brennan from Hood River, Oregon. Click the link to see her recipe. I followed it pretty closely although I used shortening instead of butter and the cookies were very pretty and fluffy. ( The chocolate is from Ben Heggy in Ohio. Go to to buy it.

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Makes 3 dozen


½ cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoons baking soda
1-½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cups powdered sugar


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

*If using a non-stick darker baking tray, reduce baking time by about 2 minutes.

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