Cabin Feverish

I was in a long line at the grocery store, feeling mild contempt for my fellow store-goers – and if I am being honest, the contempt extended to myself. I had done what I swore I would not do (again with the doing and the swearing) and popped out for a last minute trip as the snow was setting in. This was my second last minute trip after my second to the last, last minute trip.

I wandered around the store, glassy-eyed, on the first go-round, and left with the following emergency preparedness items: wine and butter. Criticize all you like, but two of my girlfriends (one who even keeps stashed vitamin C in case a catastrophe leaves her subsisting on frozen pine cones) texted me this: “You have wine don’t you?!?!?” Yes, and butter!

When I emerged after my second trip, (this time I had mandarins and a savoy cabbage, lest you think I don’t know what I am doing) the storm had built up a good head of steam. People were driving in mad defiance of the parking lot arrows, already casting aside all social convention in a post-Armageddon-we-feed-on-corpses-now-because-we-have-no-choice fashion. In short, everyone skipped straight to panic, no build-up. Evidently, no one in the south sound area has ever seen snow, or coping skills. The town owns one snowplow, and it’s missing a tire.


I fetched my children, who were released early from school. After I located the matches and flashlights in case we lost power, I texted my husband to come home so we could get a jump on being cooped up and sick of each other. He was at the gym getting in a workout before it closed early. Ok, that’s practical. If the end was nigh, he might as well be toned, in case he’s in charge of repopulating, or chopping wood, or something.

The next morning we were greeted by a gorgeous blanket of snow, and my youngest daughter’s flu virus. She ran a temperature intermittently for four days, missing all the winter fun, but watching copious episodes of The Vicar of Dibley. Like her mother, the flu doesn’t do much to dampen her appetite for food, or BBC.

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The first morning, I baked banana-coffee muffins and my favorite cookies, just in case we were going to lose electricity. Later, I roasted sweet potatoes, made black beans in the slow cooker, and grated up an Asian slaw. My husband made excellent tacos with all that – plus some avocado and lime – and the sweet potatoes made it into sweet potato biscuits a few days later.

The next day I baked a chicken pot pie and my older daughter made thumbprint jam cookies (good thing I had that butter). On what felt like day 44, I made steel-cut oats and green smoothies. If school was cancelled, and we were trapped with my daughter’s death rattle cough, I thought we should have something to look forward to.


As time wore on, the meals actually got healthier, culminating in this tofu, sesame and orange salad I made for just myself. The bowl is 12 inches across. If I was going to catch the flu, I just wanted to live large while I could (which, for me, means eating salad from a very large bowl).

It’s funny, you would think the seclusion and lack of outside commitments would result in a forced, but welcome, period of productivity. Why shouldn’t I emerge, after the thaw, fluent in Spanish, with knife-edged folded laundry, dust balls running scared, and abs of steel? But storm or no storm, I once again found myself to be…just me, with all my sloth and excuses intact. I did organize my pantry, but only after watching an entire season of Damages while pretending I was busy backing up my hard drive.


The snow turned to rain and it’s still slushy out there; it’s still winter, and I am still my same scattered, last-minute-trips-to-the-store, unproductive self. Is that why we were all wandering around Fred Meyer, weeping and driving like idiots? Because we were afraid of being trapped indoors with our shortcomings? Well, I suggest we bundle up Eaters, and settle into our flawed selves. Until that one-wheeled snow plow comes to dig us out, we are stuck with us. In the meantime, learn a little Spanish for me, and eat something with butter.






Where the Magic Happens

Ah well. Again, I have been too long away. I keep getting swept under by the permanent high tide of bad news (complete with a low tide stench). The madman and half-wit minions someone thought should run our country, (into the ground) make writing about pasta seem pointless. And I resent, deeply, anyone who does that. I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead (those who are dead inside, that is) but I ask myself sometimes: why crawl out of bed?

Well, that’s easy actually: to bake. My daughters rely on me to keep a babbling brook of baked treats flowing through the house, so they have fuel to complain about homework and chores. Hey, it’s tough to stress-bake your way out of the current atmosphere of violence and vitriol, but grab your aprons, because if we don’t try, who will?

I know I have published a couple iterations of chocolate chip cookie recipes, (“Chookies,” “Cookies Again“) but this one includes coconut and oats and is top notch. I like these the best, and this is due, in part, to my employment of the larger of my two dough scoops. Larger cookies not only ease the psychic pain, they are more moist. But are they really more moist, or did I just manage to not overbake them? It’s unclear. Indeed we live in times where one can only assume sales of large dough scoops have soared, along with “WTF?” cross-stitch throw pillows kits, and one-way tickets to Canada. Don’t overthink it, just switch to the large dough scoop.

My friend Jenni enjoyed one of these cookies the other day when we were out seeking solace in the woods in the uncomplicated company of our dogs. She described the cookies as magical. That was sweet. No magic here though, just love. Or perhaps then it’s magic after all – because what is more transformative than love? Answer: large infusions of cash to politicians.

My daughter says these cookies taste like girl scout Samosas, “but homemade, so even better!” I read somewhere that every day that you wake up and someone loves you is a miracle. Every day that you wake up and someone loves you, and makes you cookies, is a day to throw off the covers, Eaters, and hit the ground running. Or at least crawling.

Transformative Cookies

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened, dried coconut
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (you can replace some, or all, with coconut oil)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I have also used Sucanat with good results)
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate (You can use chips, chunks, or a chopped bar, but my favorite chocolate to use here is chopped barkTHINS with pumpkin seeds – notice I did not say pumpkin spice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and oats together.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together for about 30 seconds until blended. Beat in the egg until smooth and barely fluffy. With mixer running on medium high, drizzle in the maple syrup and vanilla until incorporated. Turn the mixer down to its lowest setting and gradually add the dry ingredients. Blend just to combine, then mix in the chocolate.

I think these turn out best if you chill the dough for half an hour. If you can form the dough balls and then chill it, even better. I know it’s hard to wait, but the sad fact is, cookies spread out on baking sheets and melt into cookie puddles. Place large dough balls on a parchment, or silicone lined cookie sheet at 3 inches apart. Pat them down slightly but don’t stress them out. Check at 9 minutes, but they may need to bake a bit longer. They are done when lightly browned on top.



Cookies Again!

thEH0EFWFCRecently, I tried to make my family a batch of cinnamon rolls that would cause a veil to lift and reveal how blessed they are to have me. I don’t have much experience using yeast, and the coils of ominous jerky that resulted were dubbed Dwarf Bread by my husband. He actually ate it – I think he savored the challenge – but he pronounced it better suited to weaponry than breakfast. Yes well, “It stays with you,” I told him, grimly. The children, unconvinced, reached for toast.

I probably need to play to my strengths. I have, at last count, two strengths: one of them is chocolate chip cookies. I know Eaters, I have yanked this chain previously, but hark! Listen! It’s National Chocolate Chip Cookie Week! So how can I not bake CCC? HOW?!

th59DKZ2FNMy friend Kirstin came over for a walk a couple days ago, but needles of freezing rain descended as the sky appeared to be building toward a tornado, so we opted to have tea while I made cookies. As I have mentioned, I am a devotee of King Arthur Flour products and recipes. This cookie recipe has replaced (!!!) my Yummy and Tempting cookies. The inclusion of honey and espresso powder makes for a toffee-like flavor, that will have you baking these every week until you are too aged and infirm to press buttons on your Cuisinart.

If you just started dating someone, serve them these and prepare yourself for a proposal, or at least to be named the beneficiary on their life insurance. But beware, here’s what marriage gets you: a text on March 14 that reads, “It’s National Pi Day! Where’s my pi(e)?” Advice? Keep your spouse in ignorance of days of culinary special observance.*

These Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies are easy to make, especially with the aid of a cookie scoop. Whoever invented cookie scoops is the Johannes Gutenberg of baking. You can hand-mold each cookie, slaving away in monklike fashion by a guttering candle until you perish from repetition, or you can employ a handy tool that will let you whistle while you work, just like those cheerful dwarves.

Cooks Note: I made so many changes to this recipe, but only with regard to amounts. I halved both sugars and the resulting cookies were more crumbly than soft, I admit it. My friend Susie, a blogger and flavor scientist, informed me that sugar adds moisture to recipes: I had no idea. I fancy myself a flavor scientist but Susie is an actual scientist, not a person like me who just eats a lot. So the reduced sugar changes the texture, but I can’t imagine them sweeter. I used the full amount of honey but (great leaping blood sugar levels!) I did not use the suggested 3 (what?!?) cups of chocolate. I used one half cup. Chopped dark almond bark works so well in this recipe, as do Guittard extra dark (63% cacao) chips.


*It’s also national celery month, but he doesn’t care.




We’d get sick on too many cookies, but ever so much sicker on no cookies at all.

Sinclair Lewis

I always say I am not a cookie baker. What I mean is that my cookie repertoire is not extensive. But what I lack in variety, I have more than made up for in sheer output.There are several love languages, (so I learned in my recent foray into self-help) and mine happens to be baked goods.

I probably have a limited palette where homemade cookies are concerned: I like peanut butter, frosted lemon, Mexican wedding teacakes, the occasional ginger, and of course, the queen of cookies: chocolate chip. Well, queen might be too regal a term. CCC are the workhorse of cookies. They aren’t fluted, frosted, or shaped like elves, but they get the job done.

I don’t feel tempted to duck behind a hedge with a snickerdoodle; where cookies are concerned, I am monogamous. The last couple years I have made hundreds of what my youngest refers to as “Yummy and Temptings,” (she called them that when she was about 25 inches tall, and it stuck). I can make these in my sleep (and as with unbaked cheesecake, I often do).

These aren’t Mrs. Fields’ cookies, (remember those?) but please understand, I have nothing against Mrs. Fields. Those cookies, at least the ones I bought at the mall growing up, were delicious. Chewy cookies are just not my specialty, requiring as they do, greater sugar and precision. I like a dough I can bang together in the Cuisinart with my phone cradled in my shoulder and one hand repotting a plant. From the moment I get a twinkle in my eye regarding an after school snack, to the moment said snack emerges warm from the oven, no more than 30 minutes should elapse.

The chocolate is important here; I like it DARK. I use 72% cacao bars and chop them in the food processor. Chocolate chips are a convenient shape, but the bars are more cost effective. I recently made cookies that took CCCs to another place entirely. I chopped pumpkin seed dark chocolate bark (NOTE:  I did NOT say pumpkin spice, I never say pumpkin spice, and not just because it’s the name of my daughter’s deceased goldfish [may he rest]) and it made these nutty little shavings. I won’t go on and on about them because it makes me sound like a cookie snob (I absolutely AM a cookie snob, my mother was a cookie snob, her mother was a cookie snob…).

A tip: lining cookie sheets with parchment paper and employing a dough scoop revolutionized the business of cookies. These two innovations took me from a person who made cookies on occasion in a desultory fashion, to a one woman cookie baking machine. The uniformity of the cookies produced when you use a scoop is satisfying in the way of all OCD activities.

Just let me say this: I believe that if someone walks into your house and is met with a plate of warm cookies, or even cold cookies, it says: I am glad you are home from school, work, the store, or wherever you blew in from, and these are for you (and if your love language is yard work, then let’s make a deal).

Yummy and Tempting Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cube butter, cold and cubed (I substitute in some coconut oil because I
I love the flavor)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, room temperature is desirable
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 to 1.3/4 cups flour (whole wheat pastry is my preference, sometimes mixed with almond flour or Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free flour)
2 Tablespoon ground flax meal*
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips or a scant 3 ounces chopped chocolate (truly, it’s up to you, but I don’t like to be overwhelmed by chocolate in my cookies)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugars for a couple minutes, then add the egg and extracts. Mix. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl, whisk together, then add to wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Add chocolate and mix briefly.

Chill for ten minutes or more (I find all cookie dough easier to work with once it’s cold). Scoop out onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.


*I could say the flax meal is optional but don’t turn down the opportunity to claim that your cookies are yummy, tempting AND healthy. You can’t put a price on smugness.