If you’ve ever watched the NBC show “Who Do You Think You Are?,” you’ve likely wanted to uncover your own family’s origins. While I am fortunate to know more than most about both sides of my family, some mysteries still remain.
A couple of years ago, my curiosity led me to Ancestry.com — yes, the same website the celebrities featured on the show use to search for clues — but, in my version, there are no fancy historians or trips to Europe. (Ho hum).
Specifically, I was seeking more information about my paternal grandfather’s family and how we eneded up with our last name, which literally translates to “secretary to the Pope.” Now, follow my logic: The secretary to the Pope is a holy man. Holy men are supposed to be celibate. How exactly then was our last name passed down?
I’m sure my Grandpa is shaking his head at me right now.
Speaking of Grandpa, one of eight children, he was quite the character. The self-proclaimed “black sheep” of the family, he had many “interesting” stories to tell. He always said I should write a book about his life; he was convinced it”d be a best seller. He’s probably right.
Since I knew almost all of his brothers and sisters, their children and their children’s children, I wanted to learn more about the two people I never had the chance to meet: my great-grandparents. Alas, my search on Ancestry.com didn’t yield many useful results because, in order to access any documents from Italy, you kind of need to take a trip there. (Guess those fancy historians and a private jet come in handy after all).
My efforts did, however, put me back in touch with one of my cousins who had been searching for the very same information. While we are disappointed to not be able to learn more about our great-grandparents, it has been super fun to stay connected on social media through our passions — mine, obviously, being TRB, and his, Secret Staten Island, a website dedicated to uncovering the most interesting facts about our hometown and keeping its history alive.
When TRB recently entered the Chase and Living Social Mission Small Business contest for a chance to win $250,000 to finance a (dream come true) retail store, there was a minor technicality. The contest rules required each entrant to receive 250 “Likes” for their small business on Facebook. Now, I have a lot of friends and plenty of fans on Facebook and Twitter, but actually getting 250 people to take the time to visit the site, search for your business and click “Vote” — yeah, it’s harder than it sounds. Without my even asking, in swooped my cousin, promoting TRB to his Secret Staten Island fan base of approximately 15,000 and, you know what? TRB received 319 votes to qualify.
Of course, I wanted to express my appreciation for his help and, in my world, that means baking something sweet. He may have hinted that Peanut Butter Cookies are his favorite and, well, the rest of this post is history.
I hope you enjoy the cookies, Jim. Here’s to hoping we can get to the bottom of the origin of our family name before either of us ever runs for public office.
Peanut Butter Cookies
(Original recipe from Clockwork Lemon)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (natural / unsweetened)
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, peanut butter and egg until well combined. Add the vanilla extract.
4. Add the flour mixture in three batches and mix until just combined.
5. Roll out 1.5 tsp. balls of cookie dough and place onto prepared sheets. Gently flatten each cookie with a fork both length- and width-wise.
6. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through baking. Let cool for at least 5 minutes on cookie sheets or until firm enough to move to a cooling rack.
Do you have a family recipe for a special sweet treat? Share it with us! Post a comment below.