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Hey buddy, can you spare a dime?

Let’s rephrase that: Hey buddy, do you have a spare dime?        

That’s the call that’s rung across the Valley for more than 100 years. Since 1914, the Saturday night before Thanksgiving is known in these parts as Turkey Bingo night.

For some Valleyites, it’s a second-, third- and maybe even fourth-generation event. It’s typically a fun-filled family night that officially kicks off the holiday season.

I love seeing moms, dads, kids and grandparents line up, some clutching plastic bags jingling with dimes, all filled with hopes of being the first to yell “Bing-GO!” and walk off with their Thanksgiving entree.

Started as a way to raise the funds to build a town meeting place, Turkey Bingo served its purpose and perpetuates the essence of community life.

And, what was first held for 10 cents a game 103 years ago is still being played for a thin dime.

To tell the truth, those dimes add up. Now under the auspices of the Alpha Pi Charitable Organization, the money raised each year is put to good use.

So, not only is Turkey Bingo a local tradition and genuine fun, it’s definitely a painless way to support your community.

In years past, Alpha Pi members provided refreshments. We would bake cookies, bag them up and sell them. They were a big hit, some traditional, most family favorites and all homemade.

Now the energetic folks at the Buellton Senior Center have taken over the refreshments duties and offer a wide range of snacks and other goodies.

Although I don’t miss the work, I do miss the cookies and folks, I have to admit, if there were a Cookies Anonymous Association I would be a charter member. I am utterly addicted to homemade cookies and selfishly mourn the demise of those Alpha Pi treats.

This week with Turkey Bingo on the horizon I’m honor-bound to share one of my favorites. Dark, rich and chocolaty, these cookies have a surprising kick and are always a hit. Thin, crispy, easy to make, what’s not to like with these treats. Try them once and I guarantee you’ll love them as much as I do.

Spicy Chocolate Icebox Cookies

1½ c. flour

¾ c. cocoa powder

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. cayenne

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¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

¾ c. butter, room temperature

1 c. sugar

1½ tsp. vanilla extract

1 egg

3 to 4 oz. good-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Sift flour, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg. Gradually add flour mixture until dough is uniform in color with no unmixed flour. Shape into two 9-inch-long logs and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze overnight or for up to 6 weeks. When ready to use, thaw slightly, slice thinly — no more than ¼-inch — and bake for eight to 10 minutes at 375 degrees. When slightly firm to the touch, remove from oven. While cookies are cooling, microwave white chocolate on medium power for one minute. Repeat if needed another 30 seconds, then stir until smooth and, using a spoon, drizzle melted white chocolate over cookies. Store in an airtight container when cool. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

NOTE: Watch these cookies carefully. They are very dark and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to tell if they are getting too done or are burning.

Editor's note: The Turkey Bingo referred to above was held Saturday, Nov. 18.  

Santa Ynez Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com.

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