While judging last month's Christmas cookie contest at the 6th Annual Holiday Kick-Off Celebration: A Tribute to "A Christmas Story" in Hammond, a winning recipe for old fashioned chocolate chip cookies reminded me of a controversial photo with then First Lady Hillary Clinton that appeared via the Associated Press wire service two decades ago this month.
The reason I recall it, is because it really wasn't so controversial, and it had to do with plates of homemade chocolate chip cookies.
The photo in question from December 1993 featured President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary at the White House, with the President sitting on the couch munching on Hillary's famous "Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe" while the First Lady busily served trays of the cookies to reporters.
The reason the photo caused a stir is because the previous year, while the couple was campaigning to win their first term election, Hillary came under fire for remarks she has made to the press, when questioned about her busy law career and celebrated professional life independence: "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life."
And then suddenly, gone was her once familiar longer locks of hair and headband, exchanged for a shorter, fluffy new "First Lady" hair-do, and she seemed to be posing for photo ops serving cookies to reporters.
Silly as all of this sounds today, it was big news back in 1992 as I was just starting my career as a newspaper reporter. After Hillary's off-the-cuff cookie comment during the 1992 election, "Family Circle" magazine even hosted a contest asking both Hillary and Barbara Bush to submit their Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes to be judged with a public vote. Some media hinted that Hillary's wasn't an original recipe and had been supplied to her by her staff. However, her delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe, which contains oatmeal, easily won and was sent out to the media, which is how I got my copy.
There was much less controversy at last month's cookie contest in Hammond, which I judged along with fellow panelists Chef Terry Zych of Ivy Tech, Eloise Valadez, my columnist colleague here at The Times and our friendly columnist rival Joan Dittmann of The Post-Tribune.
As for our 2013 winners, Best Overall Award went to Carol Skirmont of Hammond for her Butter Pecan Turtle Cookies. The Best Use of Favorite Ingredient Award went to Nora Kopaczewski of Hammond for her Chocolate Chip & Maraschino Cherry Slice & Bake Cookies. The Best No Bake Cookie Award went to Patty Grigutis of Lansing for her Butterscotch Oatmeal No Bakes and Best Old Fashioned Cookie winner was Tammy Trevino of Hammond for her Chocolate Chip Cookies.
My congrats to all of the winners and thank you to the participants. Both Kopaczewski and Grigutis agreed to share their recipes with Times readers this week.
Chocolate and Maraschino Cherry Slice and Bake Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped Maraschino cherries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS: Cream butter and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients and then combine with creamed butter and sugar. Blend in the remaining ingredients and form dough into a log and cover in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Cut log into 1/4-inch slices and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or just until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on rack before storing in container. Makes 2 dozen.
Butterscotch Oatmeal No Bake Cookies
1 and 1/2 sticks of butter
1 and 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
6 ounces evaporated milk
3 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 small (3.4 ounce) package instant butterscotch pudding
DIRECTIONS: Bring butter, sugar and milk to a boil in saucepan. Boil mixture for 2 minutes and remove from heat. Add in oats, nuts and dry, instant pudding. Stir mixture together until combined, and drop by rounded spoonful onto parchment paper. Allow to cool and set before storing in airtight container. Makes 2 dozen.