Let’s make cookies. How about a healthier version of a classic oatmeal cookie? It involves lots of oats, raisins, applesauce, and brown sugar. I make these often, when I want a relatively healthy treat. They come together breezily in just a few minutes, dirtying a minimum of dishes. They’re chewy, flavorful, and a little dense, each bite providing a nice, delectable mouthfull. The perfect thing for an afternoon treat.
I’m traveling to Israel next week. I am equal parts excited and nervous. I wasn’t planning on taking this trip, but in a confluence of events that included a change of date on my return flight, which had the airlines calling my parents’ home, alerting my family that I had a return ticket in my possession smack in the middle of summer (which I was planning on pushing off, and which no one was supposed to know about), as well as two weddings two days apart, one grandmother’s 80th birthday and another grandmother visiting from Paris, I seemed pretty destined to travel. Add to the mix a very persuasive brother and sister-in-law, and a father who is able to find a return flight for a quarter of the price at peak season, and here I am packing my bags. I’m looking forward to time with my family, catching up over coffee with friends, and lots of lunches at my favorite place in Jerusalem. In the height of my excitement, I might have planned an outing on a yacht complete with unlimited champagne and a cocktail party, though I will admit to neither. Perhaps most of all, I’m looking forward to this.
As for the nervous part, I’m afraid of flying. As a child, I grew up in Los Angeles, halfway across the globe from my grandparents in Paris. As young as five years old, come summertime, my parents would pack my brother and I up, hand us over to a flight attendant, and ship us across the Atlantic, to my grandmother’s outstretched arms. We didn’t think twice about flying then, the implications of being up in a large and heavy metal contraption far above the ground totally foreign to our trusting little minds. My brother would wander around the plane making friends, and I would promptly throw up into the designated paper bag at take off and landing. We met funny strangers, like a lady named Window, who in retrospect, was probably testing just how gullible little kids could be. We were doted on by flight attendants, marked as unaccompanied children by a big plastic sleeve containing our passport and ticket that we wore around our necks. My grandparents were probably overwhelmed by the two little children invading their quiet apartment every summer. My grandfather never really had patience for children, and my grandmother’s patience was so incredibly enormous, that it could, at times, be quite exasperating. Once, Zack and I awoke in the middle of the night, giddy from jet-lag, and wandered into the kitchen, where we proceeded to eat an entire box of very ornate chocolate bunnies covered in decorative gold foil. I’m sure my grandmother was saving them for a special occasion, but when we awoke the next morning, the kitchen was tidy and neat, and there were no signs of our midnight rampage. She never mentioned it. Zack was an active little boy, never sitting still and always up to something potentially dangerous. I was difficult too, but for the opposite reason: I sat in place for too long. As a child I was moody, introspective and very self-conscious. I remember my grandmother brushing my very long hair and tying it up into a ponytail, while I cried because she couldn’t get all of the bumps out, and told her that I wanted my mommy, and that she obviously couldn’t be trusted to brush my hair because she never had a girl. Also, I remember arriving in the dead of winter, faced with the magic of snow for the very first time, with a very inadequate supply of tights. My grandmother immediately took me to the mall, where I tested her patience as I turned up my nose at rows upon color-coded rows of tights, because I was determined to have ones with lace. When I think back at these moments, I think my grandmother should be awarded sainthood, or a medal, at the very least.
Where was I? Oh, yes, fear of flying. I had been flying without giving it a second thought, well over a decade, when the time came for Yaki and I to purchase tickets for our honeymoon. We had decided on Zanzibar, and chose to save on airfare by making not one, not two, but three stops. From Israel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and from there by small aircraft to Zanzibar. Before you ask, yes, a direct flight from Israel to Zanzibar did exist, but we were young and adventurous, and unfortunately, had never traveled together before. Unfortunately, because I was to find out, two minutes into the flight, that my brand-new husband was afraid of flying. And if we were having this conversation in person, it would sound something like this: AFRAID. OF. FLYING. By the time we landed in Zanzibar, let me tell you, I was afraid of flying too. It didn’t help that none of the literature on board, or any of the announcements were in English, but rather in Ethiopian (Yaki was quick to point out that if the plane crashed it wouldn’t likely make the news), or that we found ourselves narrowing in on a snow-covered mouintain range, well over an hour before our estimated arrival time in the coastal town of Dar es Salaam (turns out we were picking up a few passengers at Mt. Kilimanjaro. True story.). A few years later, Yaki casually informed me that he is no longer afraid of flying. Lovely.
So what I would really like to do is bake myself a batch of these cookies, and pack them up for my flight, opening up the box each time the Fasten Your Seat Belt light goes on. But I have those two weddings to attend, and dresses to fit into, and we all know I can’t be trusted with cookies. So make some for me, will you? Share them with someone you love and reminisce about childhood, and fantasies, and fears. Cookies have a way of setting the stage for these kinds of conversations.
Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
This recipe doubles easily, and more often than not, I’ll make a double-batch and form half of it into a log to stash away in the freezer, ready to be sliced and baked for impromptu guests.
Yield: approx. 36 cookies
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup dark raisins (or dried cranberries)
1. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C and place the racks on the lower and upper thirds of the oven.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar until smooth.* Mix in the brown sugar, followed by the egg, applesauce, and vanilla.
4. Stir in the dry ingredients, then add the oats and raisins.
5. Drop the batter by rounded teaspoons 2-inches apart on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and use a fork to lightly flatten the dough.
6. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they “look dull on the surface but are moist and soft”, as per Nick’s instructions. Rotate baking sheets for even baking.
*If you don’t have an electric beater, a whisk is just fine.