In this installment of Diaspora Dining, Jessica B. Harris' series on foods of the African diaspora, the author and historian rings in some changes to the Christmas traditions of her own childhood., December 2022


Credit: Brittany Conerly

Recipe Summary

15 mins
30 mins

Dried Cranberries Bring Tang to Some Traditional Holiday Cookies

For many Americans, baking is very much a part of the holiday season. Those from the Caribbean regions have their rum-infused black cake or Christmas cake. Those from northern European traditions have a range of cookies. For many African Americans, it's about pies or even a gargantuan bounty of baked goods. My family was the exception. None of us were real sweets eaters, and, with only three of us, it just didn't make sense to go all-out. Therefore, I don't crave the heavy desserts that are for many a part of the season. 

Rather, when I think of the Christmas holidays, I think of the oatmeal cookies that my mother and I would invariably make. Unlike the oatmeal cookies that are for sale in many places these days, these cookies were not chewy, but were thin, crisp and crunchy. Several years ago, I resurrected my mother's old Fannie Farmer cookbook and tried my hand at our holiday recipe.

The cookies were as remembered, but being me, I could not resist the temptation to play around with the recipe. I confess, I am an inveterate recipe fiddler and always am ringing in the changes even with my old favorites. I add a bit of this and a dash of that and come up with something that is different. And so, I went to work on the oatmeal cookies on a cool day this past fall while I was in my kitchen on Martha's Vineyard. 

I started with my basic recipe but found myself also adding coconut flakes. Then, as I was looking around, I saw some dried cranberries that I keep around for snacking and for throwing into salads. I minced them up and added them to the cookie dough. What the cookies lost in crispness from the addition of the cranberries they gained in taste with the chewy tang of the berries nicely counterpointing the crunch of the oats and coconut. For the holiday season, I'm going to bake all my variants of the cookies and have them on hand to share with friends. They'll be surprised to see me eating sweets, but hopefully they'll enjoy them as much as I do.


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

  • Beat egg in a medium bowl. Gradually add sugar, stirring to combine. Add oats, coconut, cranberries, butter, salt, vanilla and lemon extract; stir until thoroughly combined. Drop the dough by the teaspoonful onto the prepared baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Spread each dough mound into a circular shape using a fork dipped in cold water.

  • Bake until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 


Tip: People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use oats that are labeled "gluten-free," as oats are often cross-contaminated with wheat and barley.

Nutrition Facts

1 cookie
74 calories; protein 1g; carbohydrates 13g; dietary fiber 1g; sugars 10g; added sugar 8g; fat 2g; saturated fat 1g; cholesterol 17mg; vitamin a iu 43IU; vitamin d iu 3IU; folate 2mg; sodium 55mg; calcium 5mg; magnesium 5mg; phosphorus 25mg; potassium 24mg; selenium 1mcg.