cranberry, date + walnut oatmeal cookies.

Are the kids all safely back in school where you are? They are here, and holy sweet Mother Mary, I could not be happier about that. Kids cramp my style in the summer. Not my own, obviously; she’s too young to be in school and besides, I love her like crazy. I mean everyone else’s kids. You know the type: always out running around, heading to the pool or crowding up the stores with their boredom and unimpressed little faces. They have nowhere they have to be, really, and nothing in particular to be responsible for except keeping themselves alive and unhurt with fast food and Coppertone. Sometimes, I shake my fist at them and say “get a job, you little vagrants!” and then I remember: I’m 35, not 85. I need to chill. out.

Someday, I’ll have a teenager. I never want that day to come. Until then, I should be grateful that most of the kids around here are indeed not vagrants, but rather fairly respectful almost-adults. I should give them the benefit of the doubt (except for that jerky one who drives the loud, revvy sports car up and down my street at all hours of the day and night; get a job!). They deserve something special for back-to-school time.

More specifically, they deserve these cookies. To commemorate this school year, I thought I’d do a little remix of my mom’s oatmeal cookie; the ones she always made for us growing up. We love it to this day, and certainly it needs no adjustment, but I did what I always do and threw in some other things to make it interesting.

When I was in school, I remember eating lots and lots of those Quaker Instant Oatmeal packages. I don’t know when Quaker first began making flavored oatmeal in packet form, but it was great for chilly winter mornings when we knew cereal just wouldn’t cut it. My favorite flavor back then was Maple and Brown Sugar, but has since morphed into the less-sweet Raisin, Date and Walnut flavor. I still eat it when I don’t have time to cook myself breakfast, or in the winter when I want something for dinner that isn’t, well, dinner food.

In the spirit of that combination of flavors, I stuffed this cookie big-time. It’s loaded up with dried cranberries (instead of raisins), chopped dates and walnuts, all of which give their own unique texture and flavor to this dreamy cookie. Could you eat it for breakfast? I did several times could. Certainly I won’t say i recommend it daily; there’s obviously things in this you don’t need for breakfast, like sugar and flour, but there’s a lot of good things in here too. So maybe it’s not a protein bar, but maybe you won’t feel so bad eating it after a long day at school. Or a long, blissfully quiet day of your kids (or other people’s kids) being at school. Yeah? Yeah.

Now, pour yourself a nice cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, and breathe a little easier. Fall is almost upon is. Relax and have a cookie. By yourself. Save some for throwing out the window at the kids.

Adapted from my mom’s oatmeal cookie recipe. I’d link to her, but she’s a person and not a website.

A few notes on the ingredients:

When I say “old-fashioned” oats, I mean it. no subbing in the instant or quick cooking oats, please. Their textures are completely different, and one of the great things about this cookie is how oaty it is. You tend to have a less oaty/more floury cookie the more “instant” you get. As a good rule of thumb, always use old-fashioned oats for baking; you’ll love your results.

I’ve noticed with chopped dates that there’s not the uniformity of product one would see with, say, dried cranberries. For instance, I saw several options at my grocer, ranging from a refrigerated kind, chopped and sugared, a shelf-stable kind, also chopped and sugared but in larger pieces, and your fresh dates, which are obviously not sugared and which you could easily pit and chop yourself. I don’t care what you use; I used the refrigerated sort, chopped and sugared, and the dice on them was about a 1/4 inch. I don’t feel like, given the qualities of dates, that fresh versus dried would matter too much in these cookies.

I say light or dark sugar because unless it factors in to a recipe success/failure, I like to give people a choice. If you use dark, you’ll have a slightly more spicy/molasses flavor to the cookies, but it will be undercurrent only. People will love them whichever you use.

 If I am famous ever for anything, it will be for my seriously random and lengthy notes. You should hear me leave a voicemail; not pretty.

Stuffed Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup tightly packed brown sugar (light or dark, you pick)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  •  2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • pinch nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans, if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, oats, and nutmeg (if using). Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric mixer), cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together until fluffy, high speed, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of your bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on high until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of your bowl again, checking to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed.

Add your flour/oat mixture to your butter mixture in three parts, mixing after each incorporation for about 10 seconds to blend and scraping down your bowl as needed.  When you’re finished with the final addition, scrape down your bowl once more to check for any rogue patches of flour mixture. Once you know everything is evenly mixed, add your dates and cranberries to the bowl and, on low speed, mix until distributed, about 20 seconds. Add your walnuts and mix again on low speed for about 10-20 seconds.

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and scrape down the bowl again, stirring in any clumps of cranberries/dates/walnuts with your spatula. It’s much easier to find patches of things and work them in manually with your spatula than it is to use the paddle at this point, so just work your dough until everything looks nice and even.

Scoop dough out using a 2-inch diameter ice cream scoop (it gives you nice, round cookies which are big but not what i would call “too big”) and place on prepared sheet pan, spacing them about 3 inches apart.  I used a half-sheet, and I got about 6 cookies on it.

Everyone has their own way of baking cookies, but I do it the “slowly but surely” method, meaning I’d rather put less on a sheet at a time and have them cook evenly than bunch too many and have them run into each other and be funny-looking and uneven. Not everyone likes this method, because it means more time spent. Just remember that the more cookies you squish onto a pan, the more your chances of funny cookies increase. Not ha-ha funny, either; Funny weird. 

Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 13-15 minutes, checking at the 11-minute mark for doneness. If you want to make smaller cookies, either roll them out by hand or use a smaller ice cream scoop, but lower your time on them to between 10-13 minutes, checking at the 8-minute mark. Your cookie result should be just golden around the edges but not dry or crispy; oatmeal cookies tend to harden slightly as they cool, so your concern should be less about underbaking them and more about overbaking. As always, I suggest a test batch of a few cookies, just to see how your oven does with them.

Using my 2-inch good-sized scoop, you should get 24 cookies. If you’re making smaller cookies, I imagine you could work anywhere from 36 to 40 out of this dough. These keep very well at room temperature, tightly covered, for 4 days. I’ve frozen them for up to 2 weeks and guess what? Still good.

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  • Reply Jen @JuanitasCocina August 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I have dates in the freezer that I need to use. They’ve been there since Linda insisted that we buy 10 pounds of dates at Sam’s Club…telling me she was sure we’d be able to use them.

    After 3 rounds of bacon-wrapped dates, I’ve been looking for new things.

    She’s going to be so happy there’s no bacon and they’re in a cookie.

    • Reply shannon August 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      my enjoyment of linda’s bulk value-shopping knows no bounds. Truly, i need someone like her around who randomly purchases 10 pounds of dates – DATES! – for no other reason than they can. who’s sure you can use that many dates? Tomatoes, maybe. Dates? i love her. and this should end the vicious cycle of bacon-wrapped dates, which – don’t get me wrong, are delicious – but could get old after awhile.

      maybe you should add more dates. you could maybe substitute them in for the cranberries, if you need to get rid of some more. date and walnut oatmeal cookies would be just as delicious.

  • Reply Emma August 24, 2012 at 11:46 am

    If I make cookies, they’re usually of the funny / weird variety. But mostly I overstuff because I only have one cookie sheet that I like. And then one that’s okay. And then one that’s good but small. And all of these are of different cookie sheet consistency, and they all bake at different rates in different ways, and it’s TOUGH, man, you know? It’s just so hard. Maybe it’s why I don’t really dig cookies.

    Speaking of cookies, when are those orange ones coming up? I’m super pumped about those, actually. Supa pumped. Supa supes. Shazam!

    • Reply shannon August 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      emma, agree; cookie sheets are so incredibly varied and they really all do cook at different speeds; it’s weird. and makes cookie-making harder, for sure. I just counted, and i have 5 types of pans in my supply – i use all of them for different things, but mostly i use the good ones for cookies. why? like you said, it’s just easier than trying to guess what’s going to cook which thing the right way. Cookies can be unforgiving and frustrating when in the hands of the wrong pan.

      are you pumped? yay! i’m going to do my veggie tray curry for farmers’ market monday, and then those orange macaroons will be comin’ at ya. you’ll love them…i had to freeze mine for fear i would just keep randomly grabbing one and saying “but it’s almonds; so, good for me!”

      needless to say, they have become a favorite of mine. 🙂

  • Reply movita beaucoup August 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    First, I eat a lot of Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Quaker Oats. A lot.

    Second, I’ve been perfecting an oatmeal cookie recipe – but it is a poofier sort. And 2.0 has been requesting a thinner oatmeal cookie for making ice cream sandwiches. Also, he likes dates. (I despise them.) I feel this cookie addresses both our ice cream sandwich needs, and 2.0’s need for dates. Also it addresses my need to make him über happy. Thank you.

    • Reply shannon August 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      instant oatmeal is like magic; i could probably eat my weight in it during the winter.

      i can’t wait to see your poofy version! i have zero recipes for a pooftastic oatmeal cookie, and i’d love one. If 2.0 needs ice cream sandwiches (and who doesn’t), make this one for him. I promise it will make him happy. If you want to make yourself happy in the process, add dates to some of the batter and reserve a little date-less batter for you. It’s only fair.

      commence uber-happiness.

  • Reply Susan R August 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    OMG. I just gained 5 pounds by looking at these cookies. How wonderfully Fall they are.

    • Reply shannon August 27, 2012 at 4:35 am

      susan, they’re totally Fall! I had to pawn these off on people so I wouldn’t pretend they were a breakfast cookie/granola bar/perfectly fine to eat 10 of in one sitting. I’ll be making them repeatedly as the weather cools down.

      (hi, by the way! 🙂 )

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog August 27, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    The kids are driving me crazy! They run up and down my road, with no fear of being run over as they dart behind my car as I’m backing up. One day I may actually run over a kid. Let’s hope not, but it may happen. Needless to say, I’m so glad they went back to school today.

    I love oatmeal cookies, but I despise raisins, so thank you for not adding them to this lovely cookie. Thank you! I’m gonna need this cookie in my lunch box. That’s right, I have a lunch box. Jealous 😉

    • Reply shannon August 27, 2012 at 2:35 pm

      it’s about time those kids were enclosed in one area, right? i’m new to the mom game, so i guess at this point i consider myself a mom hybrid: i love my Wee so much it hurts, but i’m not all in love with kids “in general.” 🙂 i have the bike problem, where they like to play chicken with me if i’m out running with the jogging stroller (i totally win EVERY TIME), but i have the more dangerous teen driving to worry about. ICK.

      mr. table also despises raisins, so i’m used to making these with dark chocolate chips (a very nice alternative; i’ve also done it with the chocolate and dried cherries instead of cranberries; YUM!). as it turns out, he despises dried fruit in general, so these were not for him. 🙂 more for me, then.

      every year, i want to get myself a lunch box. but i always eat lunch at home. jealous? yes…yes, i am. very much.

  • Reply Ashley August 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Ha! Fantastic – both the cookies and the rantings about those crazy kids (they really are everywhere and, yes, I am not 85 either but they still get me riled up when they are in my way)! I work at a medical school and as the med students begin classes, my blood pressure rises. They take all the parking spaces (if they could park in one space at a time, that would be fantastic!), they stand in clusters in the gym and hallways, and they don’t realize other people are here year-round. Oh well. I may not share these cookies with them, but at least they’ll help calm me down.
    (Obviously I also leave long notes and voicemails. It’s very hard to desist! I blame it on trying to be helpful…)

    • Reply shannon August 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      ashley, just using the phrase “riled up” is awesome – that’s SO the young 85-year old feeling! 🙂 it made me smile. the parking space thing drives me nuts too; i like how they all seem to park just so, to where they manage to curve their car to take up at least two, if not three, parking spaces. and since they’re always late, they fly into those spaces with great speed; also annoying. i don’t envy you having to work with kids, even if they are older; kids that are your approximate height are even MORE dangerous than the younger, short ones.
      not at all; you should hear MY voicemails…they would blow your mind. it’s like i can’t. stop. talking. 🙂

  • Reply natalie August 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    fruit, oatmeal, nuts… yea, sounds like a healthy well-rounded breakfast to me. 🙂

    • Reply shannon August 30, 2012 at 5:12 am

      exactly! all that’s different from regular oatmeal is the portability. So what if it’s all being held together by flour and sugar and eggs? eggs are protein, right? and i mean, flour? duh…wheat. it’s almost more nutritious this way. 🙂

  • Reply Katherine @ eggton September 5, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Scott is totally behind you on the fist-shaking and vagrant-calling. The other day he sent me a text message that said “the guy whose parents bought him a house in our neighborhood just pulled up. He was driving a 5 series BMW. And he’s 12.”

    I love the picture of the cookie on the notebook. It put me in the best mood.

    • Reply shannon September 5, 2012 at 10:32 am

      does he also get really riled up if he sees a kid who is maybe 8 years old riding a bike WHILE TALKING ON THEIR CELL PHONE WHICH THEY SHOULDN’T EVEN OWN MUCH LESS BE RIDING A BIKE AND OPERATING? because i do. cell-phones didn’t even exist for the general public until i was maybe 19, so i get fluffy about kids having them.

      that dude in your neighborhood? never going to be someone you want to be friends with. because he will be mostly intolerable for the rest of his life.

      viva la school supplies! thank you…it seemed right. i went with it.

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