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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Irish oatmeal cookies

Oatmeal cookies (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

This Sunday, March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day! And Monday, March 18 is National Oatmeal Cookie Day!

In Ireland — and throughout the British Isles — oats have provided sustenance for common folk for thousands of years. Long before the potato traveled across the Atlantic, oats are what they had on hand. They ate lots of oatmeal as breakfast porridge –  and used it in baking bread and delicious cookies!

One of the first cereal grains cultivated by man, oats originated in China. They made their way west with Arab traders and north to Ireland with Roman conquests. They’re well-suited to the Emerald Isle’s temperate climate, ample rainfall and light fertile soil. And that was good — because this ancient, traditional food not only tastes great, but it’s also very healthy!

This complex, gluten-free carbohydrate contains more soluble fiber than any other grain. Fiber fills you up, improves digestion, and helps stabilize blood glucose levels. According to David Grotto, R.D., director of nutrition education at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Evanston, Illinois, “Oatmeal has the highest satiety ranking of any food. Unlike many other carbohydrates, oats digest slowly, so they have little impact on your blood sugar.”

Studies show people who eat more oats are at a lower risk of developing heart disease. That’s because oats’ soluble fiber helps reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’) without lowering HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ kind of cholesterol). The phytochemicals and insoluble fiber in oats may have cancer-fighting properties. Oats are also a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, vitamin E, B vitamins, and many minerals: zinc, selenium, copper, iron, potassium, manganese and magnesium.

As more people require a gluten-free diet, oat flour is gaining in popularity. You can easily make your own oat flour by grinding rolled oats in a food processor.

Oatmeal cookies are, of course, made with oats. The best oats for baking are the coarse long-cooking rolled oats. Steel- cut rolled oats contain up to 5 grams of fiber per serving; instant oats have less, 3 to 4 grams per serving.

Irish Oatmeal cookies transport you to the Emerald Isle where butter and oats are staples. Irish oatmeal is chewy and nutty. Irish butter is rich and creamy, with a higher fat content than American butter.

You can buy imported Irish oats (McCann’s is one popular brand) and imported Irish butter (like Kerrygold). But you can also get great results with regular American oats (the longer-cooking kind are best) and American butter. Irish whiskey and Lyle’s golden syrup (which has a toffee flavor) can impart a more distinctive Irish flair for our St. Patty’s Day celebration. Here in the Adirondacks, I prefer the distinct flavor of pure maple syrup.

So, whether you’re one of the 34 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry and go all-out for St. Patrick’s Day, or not Irish at all, l hope these oatmeal cookies will become part of your celebrations! Serve them with a cup of Irish breakfast tea.

Irish Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Irish whiskey, apple juice or water

1/2 cup raisins

1 cup all-purpose flour (can use part whole wheat)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional

1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) Irish butter (or regular butter), softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup Lyle’s golden syrup, corn syrup, honey or maple syrup (note: Lyle’s has a distinctive butterscotch / toffee flavor)

1 to 2 eggs

1 1/2 – 2 cups oats

1/2 cup butterscotch chips or toffee bits, optional

1/4 cup granulated sugar, optional (for tops of cookies).

Directions:

In a small saucepan, bring whiskey and raisins to a boil. Stir; cover, remove from heat and allow to steep. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In large bowl, cream together sugars and butter. (An electric mixer is good for this, but a wooden spoon also works). Beat in syrup and eggs. Stir in flour mixture until incorporated. Stir in the raisins that are steeping, together with their liquid. Stir in oats until proper consistency is achieved. Stir in butterscotch chips, if using.

Use a teaspoon to drop cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Flatten.

Optional: Place 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl. Place water in another small bowl. Dip the bottom of a glass first into the water, then into the sugar. Then press the glass onto the top of each cookie to slightly flatten and coat with a little sugar. Repeat for each cookie. (For green-topped cookies you can add green food coloring to the sugar).

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

Cool on the cookie sheet 2 to 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in airtight container.

Optional ingredients: Use 1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips in place of raisins and butterscotch chips. Or add chopped walnuts. Or any combination of the above.

Flourless Maple

Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

3 cups oats

1 cup slivered almonds

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

3 eggs

1 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup flaxseed meal

Optional yummy additions:

1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup currants OR

3/4 cup raisins OR craisins OR 1 chopped apple OR 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place 1 cup oats and 1 cup slivered almonds in the bowl of your food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse 30 seconds; check for consistency – it should be a powder. If needed, pulse a little longer in 10-second bursts. Place in large bowl and stir in baking powder, salt, and remaining 2 cups oats.

Melt butter over low heat.

In another bowl, beat eggs. Add maple syrup and flaxseed meal. Add to dry ingredients alternately with melted butter; stir to combine. Stir in optional ingredients.

Use a spoon to place on buttered or parchment-covered cookie sheets. Bake 12 – 15 minutes or until brown on the edges.

Oat Flour

Ingredient:

1 cup rolled or old fashioned oats

Directions:

In your food processor, pulse 1 cup oats until they are ground to a powder, 30 – 60 seconds. (This could take less time in some food processors). Stir to check that all the oats are ground; if not, repeat. 1 cup of rolled oats yields about 1 cup of oat flour. Store unused oat flour as you would other flour, in an air-tight container.

I leave you with an Irish blessing from the side panel of McCann’s oats:

“May you have warm words on a cold evening,

a full moon on a dark night,

and the road downhill all the way to your door.”

 

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as Author

Yvona Fast.