Comparing election cookies
Feeling defensive? Good–that way you will pay attention as Election Day approaches! I am sure that by this time most of us are sick and tired of all the campaign ads. So, where do we go when we want that valuable clue who to vote for in the presidential election? Since 1992, Family Circle magazine has held a cookie contest between the incumbent First Lady and the opposing candidate’s spouse. Amazingly, these cookie contests have nailed the general election in four of the last five elections! The only time the poll was wrong was in 2008. That year the readers picked Cindy McCain’s Oatmeal Butterscotch cookies over Michelle Obama’s shortbread cookies shortly before Barack Obama’s victory at the polls.
Once again, when in doubt about important issues–head to the kitchen! The current First Lady, Michelle Obama, was crowned the champion of this year’s bake-off after 4,844 bakers from across the country gave her White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies the seal of approval. Ann Romney’s M & M Cookies secured the taste buds of 4,557 voters. Only 287 votes separated the two women; it was the smallest margin in First Lady Cookie Contest history.
Now there may be some folks out there who think this is a ridiculous exercise. However, they are probably the same folks who find the debates to be unappetizing. Yet they are not willing to make a change in their menu. Only a fool would believe that the election is about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. No–a wise soul looks at the complete picture, which in this case includes two very extraordinary women with powerful influence. Show me a successful man, and I will show you a woman of great leadership, faith, and skill. We all know of college presidents, farmers, store owners, photographers, educators, welders and bankers who, without the aid of their wife, would be simply dim. Both Michelle and Ann are well able to portray a variety of feelings through facial expressions, gestures and fashion choices. This is the exact reason I took an interest in elections. Not for the abstractness of the candidates, but for the ever-so-often slotted pastel role of their wives.
I was not quick to dismiss the so-called random events of the presidential candidate’s wives. As an artist, I have come to notice there is a meaning to the pattern put in order by a husband and wife. You usually find it if you look hard enough; it becomes very clear. They play off and respect each other’s views on so many issues, from women’s rights to faith choices; table manners to language used in private conversations; and maybe even the color of the walls of the bedroom that they share. I do not relish long campaigns, but I must admit through the course of this campaign, we have had the time to see the rest of the picture come into complete perspective. That surely includes the gifts of balance that both Michelle Obama and Ann Romney bring to their husbands collages. As an artist, you soon realize that everything is part of a pattern; these two women definitely enhance the assemblage of their husband’s public mosaics.
The important part of the past three debates to me had been when the candidates greet their wives.
It would be hard for them to conceal what they are feeling at that moment, but why would they want to? I pay strong attention to that first moment of eye contact they share with their spouse. It certainly reveals much about their patterns as a couple. Deep-rooted harmony makes public waltzing manageable.
Both Michelle and Ann are behind and striving for many worthy causes such as breast cancer awareness, childhood obesity, and multiple sclerosis to spotlight a few. In the first debate, I will admit, their fashion statements let us as viewers to know they were suited up for business–and that is o.k.! When they both appeared after the second debate wearing bright, beautiful pink dresses–now that was a highlight. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and Ann is a survivor. This was effective communication with uttering a word-bingo!
How fitting after third debate that once again Michelle and Ann walk on stage. This time Michelle in a recycled, simple Thom Browne gray and black lace number– jazzed up with her own touches of a fashion pin and flattering black belt that esteemed the full skirt. Ann appeared in an A-line Oscar de la Renta dress featuring an emerald green bodice with a printed skirt accented with tones of blue-green, aqua and a leaf design. She sported a fun Lucite necklace. We live in a country where our closets are jam-packed and the motto “new is better” dominates. Michelle, stepping on stages looking lovely in a recycled garment, speaks volumes without saying a word.
Michelle Obama’s cause for the past four years has been childhood obesity. Both Michelle and Ann wore belts–making a statement that moderation in diet is important! They both are beautiful women, and I admire them for using their talents and sending a message with even the fashions they choose to wear. They are not pallid ladies resting on a golden easel– rather they come forth with compassionate and vibrant possibilities to real living concerns.
Now, some attention comes to Michelle and Ann with baking cookies; however, we realize it is so much more than that. Maybe the next thing our First Lady will do is to take to mowing the White House lawn from time to time. It would be in this statement that she shows that even though life is greener on the other side, we never fail to champion a worthy cause!
White & Dark
Chocolate Chip Cookies
This recipe was created by the girls’ godmother (Mama Kaye).
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 stick Crisco butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup each white chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips and mint chocolate chips (or Andes mint pieces)
2 cups chopped walnuts
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.
2. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat in flour mixture. By hand, stir in white and milk chocolate chips, mint chips and walnuts.
3. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
M & M Cookies
This is a recipe which Ann says her grandchildren go gaga over.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (such as Karo)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
6 ounces chocolate chips
2/3 cup M&M’s candies
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream sugars, butter, peanut butter and corn syrup on high speed until well combined. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in vanilla extract.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together oats and baking soda. Stir into peanut butter mixture until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and M&M’s.
3. Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets (about 9 per sheet). Bake at 325 degrees F for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Here is my cookie troubleshooting guide compiled from experience and knowledge gained from my wife, mother, and my mother-in-law.
1. Bake cookies that you like to bake and be sure to use accurate measurements. Have on hand a glass measuring cup for liquids and metal or plastic measuring cups for dry ingredients.
2. Follow the recipe explicitly the first time, then make changes.
3. Combine ingredients according to the method suggested in the recipe.
4. If your cookies are too tough, you have used too much flour or flour with too high a protein content.
5. If your cookies are too crumbly, they may have too much sugar, shortening or leavening, or may not be thoroughly mixed.
6. If your cookies are too dry, remember the same elements that make cookies too hard may make them too dry. Try baking them at a higher temperature for a shorter period. Substitute light brown sugar (with its higher moisture content) for part of the granulated sugar.
7. If your cookies are too brown and look like a bad day at 4-H, they were most likely baked too long or at too high a temperature. Too much sugar may make a cookie brown too readily.
8. If your cookies spread too much, the baking temperature may be too low. Too much sugar, shortening, or leavening will also cause the spread. If pans are greased with too much shortening, spread may occur. Add a little more flour or chill your dough before forming the cookies often helps.
9. If your cookies are not browned enough, the baking temperature was too low, they were not baked long enough, or there was too little sugar.
10. Check the temperature in your oven often with an oven thermometer. I have also noticed that baking at high energy use times, such as early morning or later afternoon, temperatures often fluctuate so avoid these times of day if possible.
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