Denise Jarrett always carves out time for good food. She and husband Steve own Back Roads Art in Weston, which features woodcarvings and metal sculptures that whimsically greet and entertain people.
When not at the gallery, the Jarretts travel the countryside in search of good food and artistic finds. Originally from western Kansas, Denise is happy to return to their small town after long trips, saying, “There’s no place like home.”
Q: What is the appeal of Missouri’s Mayberry — otherwise known as Weston?
A: It just feels like home to us. Even though Weston is a small town, it is big into neighborly involvement and community pride. We’ve had our gallery here for six years, and small town living suits us.
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I think we are all craving a return to the simpler life, to slow down and savor the company of family and friends.
Q: You are one sharp cookie to make enough sweet treats to feed a crowd …
A: This was my mom, Dora Parker’s, favorite cookie recipe because it made so many. I was born one of four kids growing up in Oberlin, Kansas, and someone always needed treats for something. The best part is that this recipe makes enough to cover the number of warm ones snatched off the baking sheet after coming out of the oven. I’m not sure what the vinegar does in these cookies, but they are chewy, not crispy.
I still mix the dough by hand with a big wooden spoon (although you can do it with an electric mixer), like I did when I was a child. I can remember that it was a really big deal when I had developed the arm strength to mix the cookie dough all by myself.
I also really like this recipe because you can be creative when adding in chocolate and nuts. Instead, you can add dried cranberries and white chocolate chips, raisins and walnuts, butterscotch and peanut butter chips, and on and on. … You can make this cookie to suit your tastes. As much enjoyment as others get from eating these cookies, it’s even more fun for me to share them.
Q: The hand-carved wooden container seems the perfect serving piece for these made-from-scratch cookies.
A: T.J. Jenkins, a local chainsaw artist from Farley, made this unique bowl using a rotary tool. The bear outside our store was carved by Steven Higgins from Grandview. The thing I love about these carved pieces is that there’s always a story attached to them from the artists that created them.
Like cooking, there’s always stories attached to the food we eat, too. Cooking and baking are creative skills that people appreciate, especially when they’re hungry. Like working with wood, there’s a sort of magic that happens when you bake.
You take simple ingredients and through the process, you have something at the end that many people can gather around and enjoy. There’s also something about woodcarvings and imagining the work that went into transforming a simple log into something that delights so many.
Q: Do Steve and you have adventurous appetites for life and food?
A: We are laid-back and enjoy nature and exploring the countryside. When it comes to what we eat, I am far more adventurous than Steve. I love to read the Chow Town section for ideas — like the (recent) recipe for super-hot Callie’s Chili. I plan on making that, but whatever I don’t share with others will find its way into the freezer, just for me.
That’s the great thing about these cookies, too. It makes so many that you can bake them, put them into plastic bags and store them in the freezer. When you need a sweet treat to share, they’re waiting for you.
Also, you can make the dough, divide it into plastic containers and freeze it. Defrost dough and you can have fresh-baked cookies in 10 minutes. Then offer people cookies and watch them smile.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Join Denise and Steve Jarrett for a Back Roads Art daylong chainsaw-carving demonstration by Iowa artist Gary Keenan on Saturday, Oct. 29, starting at 9 a.m. in the parking lot at O’Malley’s Pub, 500 Welt St., in Weston.
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 10 dozen cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups chopped pecans, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Set aside dry ingredients.
In a separate large mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugars with an electric mixer. Beat in vinegar, eggs and vanilla until well combined. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into creamed mixture until a soft cookie dough forms. Stir in rolled oats, chocolate chips and pecans until evenly distributed throughout dough.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoon onto baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Using a spatula, place cookies on wire racks and allow to cool completely. Store in tightly lidded plastic containers.
Per cookie, without pecans: 92 calories (42 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 11 milligrams cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 66 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Per cookie, with pecans: 110 calories (48 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 11 milligrams cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 66 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.