Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Credit: Sandy Oliver

Back in March, when there were only two reported cases of COVID-19 in Maine, far away in Cumberland County, my neighbor Nancy Wuori and I had tea together at her kitchen table for the last time in what will likely be months. She set out a plate of cookies that I fell in love with, and asked me to guess what was in them. I got the pumpkin and the chocolate chips but missed on the oatmeal which seems to melt undetectable into a lovely, chewy, satisfying cookie.

Now Nancy and I both grow pumpkins, so ours came out of the garden after a detour into the freezer that often happens in January or February, when stored pumpkins get black moldy spots signaling that it’s time to cook up any remaining whole ones and stash the pulp away for future cakes, pumpkin bread, pie or soup.

Here’s an idea to remember for next winter: after you cook your pumpkins and have the pulp ready for freezing, measure out the amount you need for favorite recipes, store it labeled for its future use: “pumpkin for bread” or “pumpkin for pie” and the like. When you’re ready to use it, you’ll thaw exactly what you need.

Maybe last fall, with pumpkin on the mind, you picked up a few cans of pumpkin and only used one at Thanksgiving. Time to dig it out and use it up.

Lots of recipes call for two cups of pumpkin, but these days it often comes in 15 ounce cans. Of course, they used to be 16 ounce and someday, just wait and see, they’ll be 13 ounce. For now, worry not. Fifteen ounces is just as good as two cups.

You might have a pre-mixed pumpkin spice in the cupboard that you could use for these cookies. I prefer my own combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves which you’ll see in the recipe below. Or you can make a homemade pumpkin spice mix by combining one teaspoon of cinnamon, one-quarter teaspoon of nutmeg, a quarter teaspoon ginger and a big pinch of cloves.

Let’s hope you still have chocolate chips on hand. They are a handy snack, aren’t they? Funny how they seem to evaporate very gradually. If you don’t have any, use a handful of raisins.

Plan on using non-instant rolled oats because the instant kind can get a little gummy. You’ll see that you actually soak the oats in the pumpkin puree which softens them nicely.

Since the recipe makes a lot of cookies, I didn’t mind blowing two whole sticks of butter on it. You can substitute a half a cup of shortening if the butter is a little scarce. Make them any size you like, baking them longer if you make them larger than suggested in the recipe below and then, of course, expect fewer cookies.

I suppose Nancy and I can do what lots of people are doing: have tea over Zoom or Skype. That way we can serve ourselves a batch of the cookies, and eat as many as we want without looking rude.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields 70 two-inch cookies

2 cups rolled non-instant oats

2 cups pumpkin puree

¼ cup honey

2 whole eggs

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cloves or allspice

1 cup, or 2 sticks, butter at room temperature

2 cups light brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups chocolate morsels

1 cup chopped walnuts

— Mix together well in a medium bowl, the oats, pumpkin, honey, and eggs, and let stand for fifteen minutes.

— Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

— Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and the spices.

— Cream together the butter and sugars and add vanilla.

— Beat in the pumpkin oatmeal mixture and mix until all is incorporated.

— Sift together and beat in the dry ingredients until they are used up.

— Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

— Drop generous tablespoon sized pieces of dough on the cookie sheets. They don’t spread a great deal, you can flatten them a little before baking.

— Bake for about 12 minutes, checking after 10 minutes to see if they need more time. They will be somewhat risen, feel firm, and have a dry top.

— Cool on a rack and store with a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper between layers because they are a little sticky.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...