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Fran’s Favorites: Cookies by first ladies


There were two themes going on in my life this week as I traveled around Ohio: first ladies and country music!

On Saturday night we, along with some of our daughters and granddaughters, attended a great concert in the middle of wheat and soybean fields in Fairfield County. The stop at Miller Family Farms in Pleasantville was part of Luke Bryan’s Farm Tour. Luke picked six places in the country to perform in an effort to honor farmers and help feed hungry families. It was amazing to look out and see 20,000 fans standing in the fields, loving the concert as much as we were!

On Wednesday night I traveled to Heidelberg University in Tiffin where Laura Bush and her daughter Barbara spoke. It was the 10-year celebration of the Patricia Adams Lecture Series. Barbara spoke of the two-week trip that she took to Africa with her parents to see the AIDS problem, and how it shaped her vision of the world and the future. She co-founded Global Health Corps, which mobilizes young leaders to work toward solving global health challenges. It was so great to see Laura again and hear her talk about literacy and helping military families and all the things that are so important to her. I remember her presence of comfort and calmness that was so amazing after 9/11, especially to the young people of this country.

The very next night, I went to the National First Ladies’ Library in Canton. The library is located at the Saxton McKinley House in Canton. Mary Regula, wife of Congressman Ralph Regula, came up with the idea of establishing the library there. It consists of the McKinleys’ home, plus a separate building with a large library with books about our first ladies. On special occasions there are many actors “in character” such as Dolly Madison and William and Ida McKinley! I’ve been doing a little research on first ladies’ recipes for one of my projects, so I picked up a couple of cookbooks to check out, too.

After I left Canton, I drove to Loudonville, not far from Mansfield, to meet Mike for the 131st Loudonville Street Fair. It seemed like everyone in town, plus friends from miles around, were seated in chairs on Main Street in front of the stage to watch “Whisperin’” Bill Anderson and his band perform. Bill is a regular on the Grand Ole Opry. He is a great song writer and I knew just about every song he sang.

Today I’m back to trying out some of the first ladies’ recipes I found. It’s hard to find a cookie recipe that we know Martha Washington made, but this recipe for jumbles is one that she may have made. We know jumbles were popular at that time. The recipes are difficult to follow because measurements and baking equipment were so different. So I’m trying this adaptation from a recipe book from James and Elizabeth Monroe. I thought the kids would like to help me make them since they are rolled rope-like and formed into circles. And, in honor of Laura Bush, I’m making her cowboy cookies!

Laura Bush’s Cowboy Cookies

3 cups flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 Tablespoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed

3 eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla

3 cups chocolate chips

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

2 cups coconut flakes

2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, powder, soda, cinnamon and salt in bowl.

Cream butter and sugar in mixer until smooth and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla.

Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Add oats, chips, coconut and pecans.

For large cookies, drop 1/4 cup dough onto un-greased baking pan 3 inches apart. Bake 17-20 minutes. For smaller cookies, use a rounded teaspoon and bake 10-12 minutes.

Martha Washington’s Jumbles*

*an interpretation

4 cups flour

1/2 pound butter

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 Tablespoons rosewater, or 2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups light brown sugar, packed

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and flavoring. Stir in flour. Chill dough for 1 hour or longer. Pinch off a piece of dough and roll it into a rope. Join the ends to form a ring shape. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen.


By Fran DeWine

Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.