Improvising

Cookies from memory

Cooks love gadgets…even if we don’t really need them. In fact, we probably don’t really need most of them. Many kitchen items can do double, or even triple duty. And you can always improvise with ingredients.

Case in point: I’ve been staying with a friend for a couple of weeks, and his kitchen is, shall we say, minimally equipped. Cooking isn’t his thing, but it’s certainly mine, so I’ve had fun improvising with the available ingredients and equipment. He doesn’t have a hand mixer (and certainly no stand mixer), for instance, but he does have a blender, albeit a cheap, tiny model more suited to blending margaritas than to mixing cookie dough.

And cookies were what I was craving. I was going to make this work, dammit! Here’s the recipe for chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies–with my clever MacGyver-like moves to get ‘em done.

Ali-Gyver Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda**

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or semisweet, white chocolate, peanut butter, etc.)

1/2 cup chopped almonds (or pecans or walnuts)

1/2 cup raisins (any kind of dried fruit works here. I’ve used dried figs, golden raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries, even dried marionberries)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer*** until smooth. Combine flour through salt, stirring with a whisk. Stir in oatmeal. Stir in chips, nuts, and raisins. Drop dough by level teaspoonfuls onto 2 baking sheets covered with parchment paper (or sprayed with nonstick spray). Bake for 15 minutes; let cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 2 dozen.

(Adapted from the New York Marathon Cookbook.)

* MacGyver move #1: there was not granulated sugar in the house, but there were packets of Sugar in the Raw. That stuff is too chunky to use as is, so I whirled in the blender for a 30 seconds to achieve a fine, granulated-like texture.

**MacGyver move #2: couldn’t find baking soda, but there was a new container of baking powder. I used 1/2 teaspoon of that and the cookies tasted fine, but came out taller than usual (see photo above).

*** MacGyver move #3: As noted, there was not mixer in the house, and the blender was a tiny, flimsy model. I used the blender to cream the wet ingredients (step 1), then stirred them into the dry, ultimately using my hands to combine everything. It came together just fine.