School is back in session throughout the region, and this week I'm sharing a recipe for an easy after-school snack that has been a family favorite for generations.
Old-fashioned Aggression Cookies are an excellent treat to make with kids, and I've been making them for years with my now-teenage son, Gio. All you need to get started are a few pantry staples, a bowl, a baking sheet, an oven and your hands.
Several years ago, we hosted a cooking series for kids at our former restaurant, Sarello's. We started each session by making Aggression Cookies, which receive their name from the process by which they are made. Using your hands, a simple formula of oats, flour, brown sugar, butter, baking soda, salt and vanilla is aggressively mixed to create the dough, and the more you mix, the better the cookies will taste.
This was a great way to break the ice and engage the kids, who threw themselves into the process with great enthusiasm. Some of the parents expressed surprise that we would invite such an opportunity for mess into our restaurant, but the mess was minimal and nothing that couldn't be easily cleaned up with a little soap and water. The passion and pride from the kids made it all worthwhile, as each child left with a tray of cookies to bake and share at home.
Baking is a great way to get kids involved in cooking and creates an opportunity to talk about where our food comes from. As the kids were measuring their ingredients, questions would arise like, "What IS flour?" "Where do oats come from?" or "How is sugar made?"
You can make an adventure out of answering these questions with a simple drive just a few miles out of town, in any direction, and show your kids fields filled with wheat, sugar beets and oats.
This recipe makes about four dozen cookies and is versatile enough to be made with a variety of add-in ingredients like M&M candies, chocolate chips, raisins, nuts and coconut. I've given measurements for each add-in, but you can also just eyeball it depending on your preference.
My sister's family came for a visit over Labor Day weekend, and Gio was delighted to introduce the fun of making Aggression Cookies to my nephew and niece, Cooper and Zoe Lein of Apple Valley, Minn. Cooper and Zoe embraced the entire process, carefully measuring out the ingredients, smelling the vanilla (a baking ritual in our house) and watching the cookies magically expand in the oven.
There's something wonderful about watching kids cook, especially when they're making a recipe that has been passed down through generations. I hope that you'll enjoy these cookies as much as we do, and that you and your kids make them together for years to come.
Back-to-School Aggression Cookies
Makes: about 4 dozen
3 cups old-fashioned or quick-cook oats
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
1 ½ cups butter, room temperature (3 sticks)
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup plain M&Ms
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup chocolate chips
½ cup chopped nuts
½ cup coconut
½ cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wash hands. Place all the ingredients (except any add-ins) and use your hands to mix them together until well combined. The more you mix, the better the cookies will taste, so be aggressive. Mash! Knead! Pound! When everything is combined, add any add-in components and mix again. For best results, choose just one or two add-ins.
Use a spoon to scoop the batter into walnut-sized pieces, then roll each piece into a round ball. Place balls on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart (cookies will spread as they bake).
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 17 minutes, until cookies are a light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for at least a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Recipe Time Capsule:
This week in...
• 2017: Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Soup
• 2016: Monster Cookies
• 2015: Chunky Butternut Bacon Soup
• 2014: Italian Pork Braciole
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com.