I am a big fan of boxing day.
First of all, it’s my sister’s birthday, so it seems only natural to greet the 26th of December with nearly as much fanfare as the 25th.
Also, there is something about the energy on the day after Christmas that I just adore: the house is slightly disheveled, with the detritus of yesterday’s gifting and feasting and drinking still lingering about, but it’s not so painfully messy that I feel I have to get up from the couch – and the new novel I just started – and actually deal with it.
We seem as a family to be moving around in a haze of love this week, all goodwill toward one another (read: a remarkable, if no doubt short-lived, absence of sibling strife) and small moments of joy, and none of the high anxiety-slash-anticipation inherent in the big day.
There have been many videos watched. I’ve nearly gone blind putting together a pair of Lego superheroes. We’ve skated and sledded. The sun has come out.
There is an abundance of food in the fridge and wine in the cupboard, amazing leftovers (if I do say so myself) and enough residual holiday spirit to make a batch of these cookies, which, it must be said, may actually be the best cookies I have ever made.
Chocolate Ginger Cookies
adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook
1/2 c soft unsalted butter
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c dark molasses
1 1/2c all purpose flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
8 oz. (240g) dark chocolate, chopped
coarse granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. Add flour to butter mixture and beat until just combined.
Stir in chopped chocolate.
Pour a cup or so of sugar onto a plate.
Scoop up a tablespoon of dough and use your hands to roll it into a ball. Dredge in coarse sugar before placing on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough – I got two pans os 15 cookies each when I made these.
Bake cookies one sheet at a time, in the centre of the oven, until surface is cracked and they are barely dry at the edges, about 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet.
Eat with abandon.
Makes 30 cookies.
I have spent the last two years grappling with a particular fear.
You could argue (and you wouldn’t be the first) that my fear is essentially unfounded, and that the odds of the thing that I dread actually coming to pass are so minimal that what I am feeling could more accurately be described as paranoia; but nevertheless, it’s there:
I am afraid of being attacked by predators in our local park.
The park is vast and beautiful, and I used to spend hours upon hours there. From the time of my first pregnancy, I have run through it, walked around it, thrown sticks for the dog, eaten ice cream, fed ducks, visited the zoo, gone sledding, and all around revelled in that park.
It’s part of the reason that we chose to live in this neighbourhood, and it’s full to bursting with memories of happy moments.
I could not have imagined a time when my children and I would not while away a large part of our days there, until two years ago, when a dear friend was attacked and killed by predators in the kind of freak encounter that makes international headlines. It didn’t happen in our park, but, to my mind, it could have.
So, to keep myself safe, I have skirted around it – the park, the grief, the horror. I just don’t go there. My running route takes me well around it, and I visit smaller playgrounds with my kids. Instead of the zoo, we take the car to a farm across town.
I don’t think it’s been so bad. But I have been feeling, lately, that something has to give.
So this morning, I met up with another dear friend of mine who has been grappling with some rather weighty concerns of her own. It was pitch dark and pouring rain, and we walked her dog all through that park, chatting all the while. It was wet and muddy and intense, and I was afraid, but mostly it was great.
I loved reconnecting with her, and getting back to a place that has meant so much to me.
It was a start.
I slipped in the door to the sound of my children laughing and the smell of cookies baking in the oven, and not long after that, the sun came out on the most glorious fall day we’ve had yet.
I can’t wait to do it again.
Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
1c light spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
6 tbsp. melted coconut oil – or other light-tasting vegetable oil
1 1/2c unsweetened apple sauce
1/2c brown sugar
grated zest of 2 oranges
1 tbsp vanilla
3c large flake oats
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, oil apple sauce, and brown sugar. Stir in zest, vanilla, oats, and craisins. Add flour mixture and stir well to combine.
Drop heaping quarter cupfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, and flatten cookies slightly with a fork. Bake, one sheet at a time, about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely on baking sheets.
Makes 16-18 cookies.
I’m all about attempting balance in my life these days. If that statement has the whiff of the broad-swath, take-no-prisoners, tomorrow-I-start-a-new-life New Year’s resolution about it, you’ve caught me out: January 1st, 2010, four and a half months after the birth of my second child, slightly nauseous from the lack of sleep and the things I was constantly putting in my mouth to compensate, I decided it might be time to take things in hand a little, or at least attempt it.
Order from chaos might be asking a bit much of my life these days, but a little balance? That seemed like a pretty reasonable goal for the new decade.
Six weeks in I’m nowhere close to achieving it, of course, but I’m taking refuge in the little things: I balance the fact that I am only drinking wine on the weekends with eating chocolate nearly every day. In deference to the fact that I’m breastfeeding, I’ve managed to resign myself to drinking decaf coffee and avoiding all things dairy – and that includes butter, yowch! – but I can handle that, because there is always goat cheese.
And if all else fails, I have engaged a running coach, ostensibly to help me shed some post-baby flab, but mostly because I feel that any amount of overindulgence can in theory be balanced out by lots and lots of cardio.
Recently, my friend Alysa came by on a Tuesday night, and we shared a bottle of wine after all of our kids went to bed. Alysa is the kind of person who really knows how to make things happen, whereas I tend to fantasize about things happening while flipping through cookbooks.
Alysa cooks food that her husband sometimes calls “too healthy to be tasty;” I cook food that causes my husband to murmur wonderingly that we’ve managed to exceed our daily recommended fat intake in a single serving.
About two thirds of the way through our bottle, we both confessed to a secret desire to start a blog.
Our divergent approaches notwithstanding, both of us love food and believe that there is no better place for friends and family to gather than in the kitchen, or around the table; and so, by the time we had finished our wine, Alysa and I had decided we’d start a blog together.
As in elsewhere in our lives, despite our differences, the hope is that some kind of balance will prevail – and if not, a little chaos in the kitchen never hurt anyone, did it?
Chocolate Cookies for Balance
My daughter and I made these together the other day to calm a craving – so yes, they’ve got chocolate in them, but also whole wheat flour (healthy!), brown sugar (unrefined!) and dried cranberries (antioxidant!) so fit the balance requirement nicely – or at least that what I’m telling myself…
1 stick (1/2 c) soft unsalted butter
1 c lightly packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 c + 2 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c chocolate chips
3/4 c dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment.
Cream together butter and sugar (I use my Kitchenaid fitted with the paddle attachment) until fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg.
Combine flour, cocoa, and baking powder in a separate bowl and stir into butter mixture in three additions until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and cranberries.
Drop batter by tablespoonsful onto prepared pans – I got a dozen cookies per pan.
Bake 12-14 minutes, until cookies are slightly dry around the edges. Cool 5 minutes or so on pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 24 cookies, depending on the generosity of your spoonfuls.