I’ve been making cookies every day for the past week with a rigor normally reserved for desperate acts and imperative tasks, as if escaping reality or offering this activity to myself as a salve to comfort feelings of sadness and confusion– nothing out of the ordinary, just run of the mill garden variety worry– about my new dog who is a little sick with mange and fragile sore skin, (maybe a belly ache, hard to know) and about my family whose members are struggling and the future which of course is uncertain. I have also been making them in joy to give away as gifts, knowing the value of homemade gestures so many of which I am incredibly fortunate to have received this week from my dear students (and their awesome kids).
We still have several Christmas boxes to mail to family out west so even though the 25th came and went, it’s not over here at our home. I received so many incredibly thoughtful gifts this year, including a banjo (how’d you know Chris?)
and perhaps best of all, a book of letters to our dog written thoughtfully by a third grade class in Boulder CO where Chris’s step mom Pam teaches. Tomorrow we start writing back.
There are so many fun things to make and learn and connect with (this year, banjo, crochet, sock knitting and canning!). I am frequently wondering whether or not I’m moving forward in life and therefore working myself into a dizzying pace of action in order to feel productive, a quality very much tied to my self-worth. I share this because I think it must be a fairly common conundrum, especially noticeable during this time of year when caught up in the frenzy of generosity and hosting and cooking and gift giving. I come from a lineage of workaholics and specifically of women who don’t sit down, so I keep moving and at the same time, bringing my awareness to this attachment to action and fear of inertia. It’s not all negative, this impetus for activity- much of it is fueled by my excitement to create, the thrill I get from producing a carrot, a cookie, a photo, a song, a drawing, a sentence, an essay. Besides thrill, comfort comes from chopping and piecing together (food, words) in the same way I do when making visual art and inside its slow meditation I can get lost in the process so that time feels like a whisper, or a whisker, a crack of gleaming sunset light and then suddenly it’s night. There is the eating too, and I have to admit I’ve eaten probably as many cookies as I’ve given away.
Other highlights from the past two weeks: prayer flags made with my yoga students, Christmas dinner at Chris’s mom’s house (Cheryl wraps presents in reusable cloth bags that she makes and decorates her house with art and her ceramic stars and one of my favorite art pieces, a hanging paper sculpture) cozy dinners with dear friends where we had meaningful conversation, delicious food, and made cranberry kumquat and popcorn garlands (something I’ve always wanted to do but never have), a lot of dog love, a rare breakfast at home together on Christmas morning, buckwheat pancakes with black raspberries we picked and froze in July (usually one or both of us runs off to work in the morning 7 days a week so breakfast together is so special), blooming narcissus (a gift), the way our kitchen table looked all week (a jam-packed factory of cards, cookies, and dishes to bring to collaborative feasts) one of the coolest handmade cards I’ve ever received- a little wheel composed of cardboard and fastened with a button and twist tie.
Itsy Bitsy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (slightly adapted from 101 cookbooks)
5 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate bar (Scharffen Berger 62% or Dagoba 59%)
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts, very, very finely chopped (by hand)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
scant 1 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
scant 1 tablespoon organic unsulphured molasses (blackstrap)
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup large-grain sugar (for ex: turbinado)
Preheat your oven to 350F degrees, racks in top and bottom third. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper. (or silpat sheets- one of my awesome christmas gifts)
Finely chop the chocolate bar into 1/8-inch pieces, more like shavings really. Try to avoid big lumps and chunks, which make flattening out the cookie dough later more difficult.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, oats, walnuts, and shaved chocolate. Set aside.
Using a mixer (or by hand) beat the butter until fluffy. Beat in the sugar and mix until it is also light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Beat in the molasses, then the egg, mixing until both are well incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mix and stir by hand until the ingredients barely come together into a uniform dough.
I like these cookies tiny, barely bite-sized, so I scoop out the dough in exact, level teaspoons. I then tear those pieces of dough in two before rolling each 1/2 teaspoon of dough into a ball shape. Place two inches apart on your prepared baking sheets. Gently flatten each dough ball into a thin, round patty with two fingers and then sprinkle the top of each cookie with a pinch of large-grain sugar. Bake for 7 minutes or until cookies are golden and fragrant. Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack.
Makes about 12 dozen tiny, bite-sized cookies.
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Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies (Grain free/gluten free)
- 2 cups blanched almond flour (I did one cup of my own almond meal made in food processor and one cup Bob’s Red Mill Blanched Almond flour)
- ¼ teaspoon celtic sea salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ cup either room temperature butter or virgin coconut oil (I used butter giving them a shortbread quality)
- 2 tablespoons honey (or coconut nectar)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
Combine almond flour, salt and baking soda in a food processor.
Pulse in butter or coconut oil, honey and vanilla until dough forms
Remove blade from processor and stir in chocolate chunks by hand
Scoop dough one level tablespoon at a time onto a parchment lined baking sheet (or use a cookie scoop)
Press balls of dough down gently
Bake at 350 for 8 minutes or until very slightly browned on edges
Cool for 15 minutes (do not handle prior or cookies will break)
Makes 18-24 cookies depending on the size of scoops