As I reached for a box of chocolate pudding mix, I overheard a conversation behind me in the grocery store aisle. "Grandma, after my swimming lesson, can we bake cookies?"
I turned slightly and watched the grandmother lean toward the granddaughter seated in her grocery cart and gently kiss her on the cheek. The grandmother scanned the nearby shelves where I was standing and then replied, "It's too hot to bake cookies. Let's buy some instant chocolate pudding, and you can help me make it.
I couldn't help but smile, since the grand-mother's reply reminded me of my mother's words when I was growing up. I survived the muggy dog days of summer by wading in the creek behind our farmhouse, as we didn't have air conditioning. I remember one hot, sticky August afternoon when I'd grown tired of wading in the creek, trying to catch dragonflies darting through the air and frogs sunning themselves along the creek bank, and I, too, asked to bake cookies.
"It's too hot to turn on the oven, but I have a better idea," Mom said.
As I grumbled about not being able to bake cookies, Mom interrupted, "You can help me make No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies."
"How can we make cookies if we can't bake them?" I asked.
Mom laughed. "I've made them many times, and you didn't know they weren't baked in the oven."
I remember Mom placing the recipe, the ingredients, and a large saucepan on the kitchen counter. Perched on a red kitchen stool, I helped measure the cocoa and sugar. I watched as Mom finish mixing the cookie batter. Then she taught me how to drop the cookie dough onto wax paper-lined cookie sheets.
When the cookies were served for dessert that evening, I marveled at my accomplishment.
The no-bake cookiemaking continued beyond that summer into fall, winter, spring, and for many seasons to come.
As I grew older, I became more creative – adding toppings of coconut, sprinkles, and candies of various colors for the different holidays. I gave cookies as gifts to teachers, family, and friends.
Remembering all this, I forgot for a moment where I was, but gathered my thoughts when I became aware that the grandmother was standing beside me, reaching for a box of pudding.
"Excuse me," she said. "I want to beat the heat and make something cool for dessert."
I didn't hesitate to offer her my solution, "I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I have an old recipe for no-bake cookies. They're easy to make and a fun summer project for beating the heat. I'd be happy to send it to you."
"I'd like that," she said, taking a pen from her purse and jotting her e-mail address on the pudding box I held in my hand.
Several days after I'd sent the recipe, I received a return e-mail saying that not only were the cookies easy to make, but they were declared delicious and devoured by the entire family.
In fact, her granddaughter's swimming class would be making a batch of cookies that afternoon.
In my family, this old no-bake cookie recipe became a family tradition, passed down through three generations. And it pleases me that the tradition continues through a stranger met in a grocery store aisle.
No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
2 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine or butter
1/2 cup milk
3 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter
In a large saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa, margarine, and milk. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, stirring frequently. Boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat.
Blend the rolled oats, a little at a time, into the mixture in the pan. Then add vanilla and peanut butter and mix until thoroughly combined.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto wax paper. Cookies will harden as they cool. Makes about 3 to 4 dozen cookies.