Category Archives: NY

New York Peanut Butter Cookies

Columbia County, New York  I  Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Believe it or not, I hadn’t ever made peanut butter cookies until recently!

While I was isolating during COVID-19, I decided to give them a try and work on them until I thought they were perfect. During eight weeks of isolation, I tried variations of this recipe seven times!

It’s like this, folks. The isolation of COVID-19 left me a bit worried and lonely and sad. New York was the hotbed of virus cases in the United States, particularly New York City, which is only a few hours away.

Lots of people who live in the city also have weekend houses up in my county, and they came here to escape. I don’t blame them, but it also made me nervous.

There is a nursing home a mere two miles from me, and they had 30 cases of the virus, with 12 deaths. I was too cautious to even go to my favorite sandwich shop in town, because I knew the nurses and CNAs and other workers from this nursing home were passing through there.

So, I asked myself, what could I do at this frightening time that was positive, to try and take my mind off all this?

I’m not a nurse, or a doctor, or a scientist, and I can’t treat people, I can’t cure them. I can’t figure out what causes COVID.

I’m not a musician, and I can’t put on a Facebook Live concert every Friday night to entertain people, and help them forget about their worries for awhile. I’m not a famous singer who can record another version of a beloved song from my living room which will make people happy, and score a million YouTube views in the matter of a few days.

But what I can do, something positive, one of the things I’m good at, is baking cookies. My cookies always turn out. They make my house smell good. They make my son happy. They make me feel smiley and successful.

Baking makes me feel a bit more in control of this crazy world. I can usually predict how things will come out, and if it’s not quite right, then I can tweak a few things until I’m satisfied.

I love making cookies. Cookies are one of the ways I add a little bit of happiness and beauty back into a world which is sometimes full of sadness and ugly, unpredictable things.

So, when I first started researching peanut butter cookies, I looked up a bunch of different recipes and background information online. I wondered why peanut butter cookies always have a crisscross pattern made with a fork. Have you ever thought about it, or just taken it for granted?

I discovered the main reason is because the dough is so dense, it needs to be flattened out before it bakes, so the cookies will bake evenly.

I also suspect it’s to make peanut butter cookies easily identifiable. Without the crisscross, they might be mistaken for sugar cookies, right? People with peanut allergies need to be able to identify them at a bake sale.

Then, I found out something even more fascinating. The very first mention in print of peanut butter cookies having a crisscross pattern happened right here in New York state!

On July 1st, 1932, the Schenectady Gazette published a recipe calling for the fork crisscross. Schenectady (that’s pronounced Skeh-neck-tuh-dee) is a city just about an hour north of here!

So New York, this what I did, to try and stay positive during such a scary time. I made delicious peanut butter cookies, and I named them after you.

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in peanut butter.

Add egg and vanilla and mix. Dump in flour and sprinkle baking soda across the top. Then stir again, until all ingredients are incorporated.

Roll into small balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Using a fork with long tines, make a crisscross pattern on each cookie. Bake 8 minutes. Enjoy!

Helpful Hints
Save the wrapper from your stick of butter and use it to grease the cookie sheets.

I hate cleaning peanut butter out of a measuring cup. I think it’s a waste, because it’s hard to get out. I just place a one-cup measuring cup near my mixing bowl, and use it to gauge the amount of peanut butter I put directly into the bowl.

Speaking of peanut butter, I don’t refrigerate mine. It’s much easier to spread on a sandwich or mix into cookie dough this way!


Dennis DeYoung singing and playing “The Best of Times” from his home in April 2020. Viewing time is under three minutes.

Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx, performing live in Los Angeles in 2014. Viewing time is 1 hour, 40 minutes.

One of Dennis’s guitar players, August Zadra, put on Facebook Live acoustic guitar concerts every Friday night during COVID. At this writing, they’re still happening. Check out his Facebook page at August Zadra Music.

I used this recipe from Fannie Farmer the first two times I made the cookies, then adapted it to be more to my own liking.

In order to get a softer cookie, I increased the amount of brown sugar and decreased the amount white sugar. I experimented with baking times of both 8 and 10 minutes, and decided 8 made for a much softer cookie.

Then I increased the amount of peanut butter, wanting a more peanut-buttery taste.

Here’s the recipe I started with:


REPOST: Welcome to Skinny Classics!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Columbia County, NY  I  26 November 2017

(Author’s note: this was originally published on 1 May 2015, when I was still living in West Valley City, Utah. Enjoy!)


Howdy, friends and family! Would you like to read some books with me? OF COURSE you would! Pretty sure I don’t have any friends who don’t like to read, as I’ve been selling books for the past fifteen years. I also hung with a pretty bookish crowd in high school. Of course, we didn’t spend much time reading for pleasure back then, since we were too busy studying for tests and cruisin’ the boat docks by the Hudson River.

But, as an elementary school kid, I’d read five library books a week (thank you, Philmont Public Library!), as I lived way out in the country with no friends nearer than a mile away. A great treat was to go to Bookland, an indie bookstore near where my mom grocery shopped. I still remember the little, round, yellow kiddie table in the back, and spending my babysitting or house cleaning money on book after book after book…

This idea has been dancing around in my head for a long time, the idea of a Skinny Classics Book Club. There were even physical meetings for awhile, but I had to stop going because the only time we book peeps could all get together was on Sunday nights, when our store closed early, and that just didn’t work for me.

Sunday nights were a flurry of motherly activity: most importantly, squeezing in a nap after church, and secondly: making a nice Sunday dinner, cleaning up afterwards, getting Thing 1 and Thing 2’s lunch money envelopes and school clothes ready, signing school papers (NO! They could not POSSIBLY have been dug out of a festering backpack on Friday afternoon!) and preparing my own lunch and clothes for work the next day.

Monday morning comes so very early.

Most of my friends at the time were younger, and either single or without kids, and seemed to have waaay more play time than I did. I simply just couldn’t carve out the time anymore.

Years later, enter my friend Jason (he’s the one who came up with my blog’s tag line: pretty living for pennies). He and I fantasize quite a bit about co-teaching a high school English class. Half the year will be spent reading and discussing Skinny Classics (under 250 pages), and will be taught by yours truly.

The other half of the year will consist of reading books which are indicators of the time they were published. (The Great Gatsby is the perfect example of a book which details the history and society of the time it was written, the Roaring Twenties.) Jason will teach that half of the year.

Now, if we could just stop fighting over where the class will be held. He says California, she says New York. NO WAY are we meeting in the middle, in Kansas, so don’t bother to bring it up.

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