Michigan: Michigan Rock cookies – big taste, big errors

I was humming along, producing a new cookie every two weeks, until my recent cookie disaster, but it’s not Michigan’s fault.  Jeremy and I continue our tour of the 50 states, searching for the most interesting Christmas cookie for each.  Two weeks ago, I baked Michigan Rocks, a cookie that has a lot to offer in terms of taste, but I was derailed by a dog. . .or two.

Before Michigan, I tried a cookie recipe from Charleston, South Carolina, Benne Wafers. That nutty sesame cookie was delicious and different.  Before that, was was  Indiana,  New JerseyAlaska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Alabama.

I had trouble finding an origin story for Michigan Rocks, a fruity type of cookie that attracted me because it was filled with dried dates, raisins, nuts, and more.  I had my choice of several recipes–united only in general fruit and nut ingredients.  Unlike other recipes, Michigan Rocks had so many different versions.  I admit I settled on the one below, in the archive of a Pennsylvania paper, because white wine was an ingredient–and that sounded adventurous.

And then all hell broke loose.  I had measured and mixed all of the ingredients, and the paddle and bowl of my Kitchenaid mixer began to thump–that’s unusual.  I was just beginning to realize that the recipe makes nine dozen cookies. I would need baking reinforcements and thought to ask my teenage neighbors if they would like to help eat some.  And then the doorbell rang. . .

It was the three teens I had just summoned in my mind!  They needed me to look at a sick chicken, and in that moment, my dog (and his friend dog who I was babysitting), ate the one teaspoon of dough I had put on the tray.

Calls to poison control, dog vomit, counting raisins in the yuck, and hours later (everyone lived), I baked a tray of the cookies.  They were soft and delicious, but, somehow, I had lost my appetite for this particular kind of cookie.  I gave all of the remaining dough to the neighbors, and they pronounced the cookies delicious!

So there you have it.  I’m ready to leave Michigan behind, but take my neighbors’ word that these cookies are keepers.  You  might consider cutting the recipe in half the first time you make it.

P.S.  We have a new kitchen dog gate–it’s terrific.


1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 lb. margarine

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups flour, sifted with 1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 lb. chopped walnuts (2 cups)

1/2 cup raisins

1 lb. cut-up dates

7 oz. package flaked coconut

1/2 cup white wine, any kind

Cream margarine with brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add flour mixture gradually until all is used up. Add rest of ingredients up to wine. Mix together well. Then add wine. Drop by teaspoons onto lightly greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Makes 9 dozen.

—Pat Zaengle, Nesquehoning

The Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log?

If you saw me this afternoon, I was outside mulching in an orange stocking cap, with my earphones plugged in.  I could mulch for hours if I’m listening to a good book.  My current favorite is The Dog Says How by Kevin Kling.  I chose it for the catchy title and the brief description of the author as an award-winning storyteller from Minnesota.

Little did I know that the series of short stories deals largely with Christmas and his memories of his childhood.  My favorite takes his family through Iowa on Christmas Eve to have Christmas at his grandmother’s house. None of the punch lines, typed here, would have the same ring, but when I’m listening, I’m  imagining myself at the dinner table with my siblings. Kling and I grew up at the same time, so his autobiographical stories and love of Spaghettios sound like my childhood.

I looked into checking out other books by this author and found that his most recent is Holiday Inn, a series of stories about a year’s worth of holidays.  Then, I discovered we are really kindred spirits.  His stage show is titled: Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log.  I’m not kidding.  Has anyone seen this guy in a live performance?  He talks too fast, and I keep mentally urging him to slow down, but now I’m hooked!

Jingle Cats? Meow!

Close to my top choice for “Worst Christmas Song Ever” is the version of “Jingle Bells” sung by barking dogs.

When Jeremy and I decided to talk about “Jingle Bells” on Monday,  I was prepared to complain.

Then, I read an article in Atlantic Magazine, by William Weir, published in December 2010, and I have changed my mind completely.  Weir explains that the Nazis  guarded their magnetic tape recording capabilities, and when the war ended, there was a frenzy of experimentation. In the early 1950’s,  Danish ornithologist Carl Weismann used the new recording techniques to catalogue bird sounds.  According to Weir, the recordings were often marred by the sound of angry dogs.

He spliced together the barking, mixing the sounds together and alternating playback speeds to change the pitch.  The resulting Jingle Bell dog song was released in the United States in 1955.  Today, with the applications we have available on the computers, the same editing would take an easy few minutes.

I checked, and to be sure, there are about a million versions of barking dogs on YouTube, but the Dr. Demento cd has the original version.  I also checked out  meowing Jingle Cats.  There are several, but the quality and variety of their meowing voices leaves a lot to be desired.  I don’t see the Jingle Cat versions becoming best sellers next Christmas (thank goodness). One version of “Holly Jolly Christmas” posted in 2010 is not too bad.  Believe it or not, people love these meowing and barking pets.  It has spawned a company, jinglecats.com with entire albums of beastly Christmas music.  Check it out.

Cats or dogs?  Which make better singers?

Countdown Podcast #13- 279 Days to Go!

J-J-J-Jingle Bells!– Click to hear this week’s podcast.

Today we take a look at one of the most well-known songs of the Christmas season, Jingle Bells!  This timeless favorite of children is not just one of the most recorded Christmas songs.  It is one of the tope 25 most recorded songs ever!  There are many unique facts about Jingle Bells. Did you know it was written before the Civil War and for Thanksgiving?  Did you know there’s a connection between dogs “singing” Jingle Bells and Nazi technology?  Did you know which singing legend’s version of Jingle Bells makes Natalie cringe?  We reveal all this and much, much more- like who hit #1 on the charts with a version of this classic tune.