more than cookies

more than cookies

 

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The Track + Field Trials have been going on in town these last couple weeks and I originally intended to meet a bunch of Oiselle ladies, go on a group run or two, and generally engage (a little) in the festivities. This is part of my 2016 doing-the-hard-things mission of showing up, getting involved, and not hiding with the areas I’d like to do more but feel unworthy of–like being part of a more supportive community.

Instead, I have been tapering and then recovering from a race, feeling a little run-down like I’m fending off a summer cold, in deep with my two summer classes, and commuting to and fro work. I haven’t felt like being social and using up excess energy to meet new people and navigate crowds. So I’ve been hunkering down in my little corner of the city, not venturing beyond it.

It has felt a little like hiding but also necessary to preserve my energy, do some reflecting, practice breathing,  journaling, and listening to what I need.

 

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I was asked a couple weeks ago to be the leader of the local food action team I’m a part of in Corvallis and after considering it for quite some time, I agreed. It was a decision made with a lot of mixed feelings because the group is a part of a city I no longer reside in, likely won’t be working in much longer, and generally miss a lot. Eugene and I have had some growing pains, i.e. I’ve checked out most of the super-local trails, the too-crowded farmers market, and the little grocery store we prefer to shop in for local goods. I’ve ignored more than a few unnecessary comments while running, felt a little unsafe some days on the bike path, and  almost stopped using my GPS to go new places. At this point, it feels like the next step for me in this new place is to simply show up for opportunities to create and be a part of the community. Instead, I find myself avoiding the Eugene farmers markets, run meet-ups, and yoga invitations, shopping in Corvallis or on the farm there directly instead, and putting my energy and ideas into how to promote local food in Corvallis, in what still is my community, no matter my current address.

In times when more self-care is needed, like this last week, I often use my relationship with food and body image as a barometer for how I’m doing. As I’ve shared before, eating with the source of my food in mind has helped me to have a better relationship with my body, to not focus so much on good/bad, too much/too little, and stress about controlling all the variables. Since moving, I haven’t done such a good job of this. Relocating to a new city is stressful and adjustments are hard–my mind has often resorted back to the things that it (thinks) it can control, food, calories, amounts, and my body. More than ever, I’m conscious of  it these days and trying hard to stay gentle, to be kind with myself, to forgive, and to understand that there will be both good and bad days. I will eat too much. I will eat too little. I will listen to what I need and I’ll ignore it. This is normal eating and that’s okay.

One thing that is good practice is experimenting with baked goods. I’ve been experimenting with a good oatmeal raisin cookie that’s gluten free, dairy free, and enjoyable by all for going on ten months now. I don’t make them too often, once a month or less, and mostly on days I need some baking therapy. Thankfully, William loves my cookies and also shares them at work. The tweaks have been quite small lately and because I’m a perfectionist, I’ve been slow to call time on this experiment. The thing about baking is that I do have a sweet tooth but I eat a lot more fruit than other sweet things and refined sugar often hits my system like a drug. It feels like a trip that I do not necessarily enjoy, even as the first hit goes down real nice and I initially want more-more-more. Then my body says please do not feed me this- you’re making my mind crazy anxious. It is why I don’t eat or share many true desserts anymore.

The practice of baking is good though because it repeatedly allows me to ask myself what do I really want before taking a bite. Do I want a cookie? If not, what am I desiring? Am I being a little too obsessive about health and putting negative labels on treats? Most of the time, I choose something else or have one cookie and an apple. Sometimes, I have three cookies or two giant slices of birthday cake and try not to overthink it. It is okay to indulge once in a while. My body needs more (care/support/kindness/food) than I ever aim to give it. Thankfully I’m learning to feel what it needs, honor that, forgive, and ignore the thoughts that lead to disorder a little more as time goes on.

It’s not always easy to know and trust my own motives. I’m learning. I fail a lot.

 

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Prior to starting this cookie project, I hadn’t had an oatmeal raisin cookie in years, basically because I’m a giant snob and have found only one person who makes gluten-free, dairy-free cookies I consider worthy of eating (ahem, me). William is also a cookie snob and he has no dietary constraints or prejudices about trying all the cookies. A few weeks back I decided to tweak another version and in the process found I’d ran out of the main type of sugar I was planning to use. Thus, this version was born. William decided it is the keeper recipe and after eating half the batch, he gifted me with what I consider to be the best anniversary gift by casually mentioning, You make the best cookies: the flavor, the texture, they’re perfectly baked, everything. And I know cookies. I eat a lot of them. 

Even if I like the idea of eating cookies more these days than actually eating them, I’ll take the compliment. I’ll take the practice of baking and experimenting, I’ll continue asking the tough questions, being open-minded, and being a little more open about the process.

 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, makes ~ 2 1/2 dozen

Recipe Notes: I used Greenwillow Grains organic + raw rolled oats and Willamette Valley honey and flax seed in this recipe. I encourage you to seek out your local producers and support them as often as you can. I also only experimented with my own flour mix. It is 70% whole-grain by weight and contains 10% buckwheat flour. Though it comes to a small amount, we really love the addition of buckwheat to cookies. Lastly, we found a more favorable result in using both honey and brown rice syrup. If you only have one or the other, go ahead and use just the one. Keep in mind that honey is slightly sweeter than brown rice syrup. 

1 Tbs. ground flax seed + 3 Tbs. water or 1 egg
2 cups gluten-free flour mix
1 cup rolled oats, gluten-free as needed
1/4 cup oats, pureed in a food processor
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup raisins

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the ground flax and water to form a slurry. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients and then set aside.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the oil, honey, brown rice syrup, and vanilla. Then mix in the flax slurry.
  • Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and stir together until combined. Then mix in the raisins.
  • The mixture should be a little looser than standard cookie dough. At this point it can be chilled for about 30 minutes so the cookies don’t spread too much, or baked directly and they’ll be a little larger and thinner.
  • Using a medium cookie scoop or a spoon, drop onto a baking sheet or stone and bake for 12-14 minutes, depending on your oven.
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The Fall Flavors Raw Brownie

 

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I loaded up on Italian plums at the farmers market last weekend. Their sign said “last of the season” and I sighed because we’ve moved so quickly into the autumn months. It was a game day and all the college students have arrived back in town. These past few days, the temperature still got uncharacteristically up into the ’90s ’round these parts, but the mornings and evenings say summer has ended. It’s dark until 7:00 am. It gets dark at 7:00pm. Blink and those last few plums will be missed. The remaining local peaches sold out early at the market a week ago and the melons are on their final hurrah.

 

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Well and truly, though I’m reluctant to transition at this time every year, I’m a sucker for each new seaon. There are new-again flavors to be savored and weather and beauty in the natural world to be appreciated. Fall is my MOST FAVORITE of all because of the crisp mornings, colorful leaves, and the natural bent of light that slants just so each afternoon. Plus, I like comfy sweaters, hugging my cuppa throughout the day, the return of the rain, and warming spices that mean more in this season than all the others.

 

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The Recipe Redux folks requested a recipe this month with dehydrated food. I don’t have the equipment or the space these days to go all DIY and and get my dehydration-station on, but I do have grandparents that have stocked my parents’ freezer with no small shortfall of prunes. My mom never uses them. I’m the only one who ever takes a random bag home, and even then, I’ve only developed one recipe over the years that I really like to eat prunes in. No longer. They go well with hazelnuts, chocolate, and spices. Plus, they can be enjoyed all season long, since you know, they’re dehydrated and all.

 
 
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This brownie really is lovely and boasts a huge plus: it’s nutrient-dense. I know all my friends and relatives roll their eyes because I make desserts that always have some form of health benefit, but raw desserts are simply the best. These brownies have all the good flavors, natural sugars from the fruit, and are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats from the raw cacao and hazelnuts.

 
 
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Fall Flavors Raw Brownies, adapted from Oh, Ladycakes
2 cups roasted hazelnuts
6 Tbs. cacao powder
pinch salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
8 medjool dates
1/2 cup prunes
1-2 Tbs. water
 
  • In a food processor, blend the nuts, cacao powder, salt, and spices until they are all finely chopped and incorporated.
  • Next, toss in the dates (pitted and halved), and the prunes. Process until a paste begins to form, and add 1-2 Tbs. water until the mixture just begins to form a dough, but isn’t too sticky.
  • Line a 8×8 pan with parchment paper, and scoop the brownies in. Flatten them across the whole pan, and then stick in the freezer to harden up for about 30 minutes. They can then be removed and cut into square. If you’re not going to serve and eat them all right away, store them in the fridge or freezer in a covered container. This batch makes about 16 brownies.
 
 

Chocolate Chip Cookies {gluten + dairy-free}


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When I first learned to bake, I’d make all the cookie recipes in my mom’s old cookbooks. The vintage Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook and The Fannie Farmer Cookbook were well-worn and loved, so my first cookies came from those books. When we finally got Internet, I branched out and Martha Stewart’s recipes became my favorite. Chocolate Chip was never my go-to cookie, but it was my sister’s, so I ate my fair share.

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I had a particular fondness for oatmeal raisin, and while I always made chocolate chip as thank you gifts, I never could bring myself to choose them for my own enjoyment. Until W and I attempted a completely revamped chocolate chip cookie.

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These cookies have brown rice syrup and oil instead of butter, and just enough finely ground  oats to give them a hint of oatmeal-cookie-texture. They stay soft for days on end when other cookies go dry and crumbly. They have the best flavor. They dunk nicely in a cup of tea, if you’re a non milk-and-cookie person. And they are gluten-free!

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These are the cookies W requests, the ones we like to have on hand when friends come for dinner, the ones W liberally talks up to all the relatives, and eats by the stack during long study sessions. The Recipe Redux‘s November theme is holiday mixes, and these are definitely the cookies we will package up into a nice make-at-your-leisure jar snuggled into our holiday gift baskets.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies,adapted from Martha Stewart
2 cups gf all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats, finely ground into a course flour or 1/2 cup oat flour, gluten-free if necessary
1/2 cup sugar 
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
 
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg or flax egg
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. water
  • For a packaged cookie mix, measure out and layer dry goods into a large jar.  Lay chocolate chips along the top, and seal.
  • To make cookies, mix dry ingredients in large bowl.  In medium bowl, whisk together oil, egg, syrup, vanilla and water.
  • Stir into the dry ingredients, and mix in choolate chips.
  • Cover and chill the bowl of batter for about an hour or overnight.
  • Bake each batch for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees F.