Recipe: relatively healthy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

These cookies are like breakfast muffins except in cookie form… probably an attempt to trick your brain. So, if you’re looking for a crisp, chocolatey bit of sweetness, these cookies aren’t it. But they do carry their own charm if you’re willing to give them a try.

I started making these cookies about the time I tried to eliminate refined white sugar and flour from my everyday diet. I still make them today, but I added the “relatively healthy” modifier because although they’re healthier than regular cookies, I’m not sure how healthy they are when I eat them in uncontrolled quantities. 😉

Like most cookies, they’re best fresh. Make sure you serve them with milk or tea if they last for a few days.

unbaked cookies on baking sheet
  • 1 1/4 c. oats
  • 1 1/2 c. oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 5 Tbsp. (70g) coconut oil, melted then cooled
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce (I peel and puree an apple. 1 apple = about 1/2 c.)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • at least 100g chunked dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix ingredients. Chill dough for about 10 minutes. Press each dough ball before baking (see photo). The cookies hardly spread at all, so you can fit a lot on 1 cookie sheet.

Bake at 350° F. (180° C) for 15 minutes or until done. Makes about 30 cookies.

Recipe: arroz con leche

This recipe is one of my winter favorites. Warm, milky, cinnamony. Mmmm. You can make it how you like it. Sometimes, I add more milk. Most times, I skimp on the sugar.

  • 1 c. (200g) white rice
  • 4 1/2 c. water
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 c. hot milk
  • 1 1/2 c. (320g) sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (Cinnamon sticks come in varying sizes. Use 3 of the ones that fit inside spice containers. Use 1-2 of the long sticks.)
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 egg yolks, beaten
  • ground cinnamon
eggs and cinnamon sticks with dishes

Bring rice, water, and pinch of salt to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover and boil gently about 20 minutes, or until water is almost absorbed.

Add hot milk, sugar, cinnamon and second pinch of salt to cooked rice.

Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is thick but still soft and moist. Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon sticks.

Slowly pour in egg yolks while rapidly beating them. (Note: you can use a whisk here, but I prefer using my hand-held blender which also smooths the rice and froths the milk. It’s your preference.)

Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve warm or chilled.

Recipe: chai

Looking for a warm drink to carry you through winter? This is still one of my favorite drink recipes, although it’s more American than Asian. (I am still learning how to make the real stuff.)

sieve with chai and cardamom seeds
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 chai or black tea bags , or 2 Tbsp. (4 g) if using loose leaf tea
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp. ground)
  • 6 cardamom seeds, crushed (or 1/2 tsp. ground)
  • 1 whole clove (or 1/8 tsp. ground)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 1⁄2 c. milk
  • 1/4 – 1/3 c. (50-67 g) sugar

Combine everything except milk and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in milk, return to a boil for 1 minute. Stir in sugar (to taste) and strain before serving. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.

Recipe: Gingerbread cookies

Ever since North Africa, these cookies have been my Christmas tradition. Not only are they yummy, but they are also fun to make because they retain their shape. The original recipe can be found on thekitchenpaper.com. I’ve altered it very slightly and included some notes at the bottom. I’ve also included some of the weights in case you weigh your ingredients like I tend to.

  • 3 c. (384 g) flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1+ tbsp. ground ginger (a smidgen more for a better kick)
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 6 tbsp. (85 g) butter
  • 3/4 c. (150 g) brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 c. (160 g) molasses
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Whisk the flour, salt, and spices together. Cream the butter and sugar until they’ve just come together. Add the egg, and mix until incorporated. Add molasses and vanilla. Mix. Slowly mix in the flour mixture until your dough forms. If your dough is crumbly, add 1 tsp. of milk at a time until it comes together. Roll out at room temperature on a lightly floured surface to 1/4″ thickness. Bake at 375° F. (190° C) for 8-9 minutes.

shaped gingerbread cookies on counter

Note: You really don’t want your dough sticky. It’s a headache. The more flour you add to keep them from sticking to your rolling pin, the less flavorful they will be.

Also note: If you like your gingerbread cookies thin and crispy, by all means, roll them thin. But don’t forget to decrease the baking time like I forgot to do this year. 😦

Third note: These turn out best when you’re listening to Christmas music. 🙂

Aisha- part 4

She lost her job. Just when things had been going well. Just when little by little she had been saving up to furnish the tiny salon. She had talked of buying an oven. She had talked of the circumcision party she wanted to hold for her son in April. Now that was gone. There were no more dreams because there was no more money.

Her husband was working a little, she explained, but she never saw the money.

“It goes for cigarettes and coffee with his friends at the coffee shop.”
“Praise God he doesn’t use your money for that!” I reminded her. But I still hurt for her.

Eventually she found work two days a week. Enough to survive, but not enough to live.

It seemed that every time I entered her home, there was a storm brewing between mother and daughter. Today was no exception.

When I had reached Aisha’s house, things were calm. We sat in the salon, talking and watching Bollywood. God’s grace bridged the language deficit. We talked about life, about marriage, about her children, about her job hunt.

Her daughter, Soukaina, disappeared to be with her friends. A long time later, Aisha hollered across the rooftops of that tiny, sunken neighborhood: “Soukaina! Soukaina!” Soukaina emerged from her friend’s house and soon thereafter two young men followed.

To a mother with no education, a girl’s purity and family honor are the only things worth living for. There is no other option. And with her husband generally absent, Aisha is the guardian of her daughter and, essentially, the family honor.

I just wanted to hide. I had already had an encounter on the street with a man who left my blood boiling in his wake. And upon arrival to Aisha’s neighborhood, I had an argument with the taxi driver whether or not it was safe for me to walk the ½ block from the taxi stand to Aisha’s house. I didn’t want to get involved in anything else, for goodness’ sake!

Aisha offered me a way out: to go with her to buy sweets for the afternoon tea.

But God said, “Stay here with Soukaina.”

So I stayed and listened to the 16-year-old, heart-broken side of the story. Then I touched her hot and teary face and wondered what kind of life lay ahead of this girl. What opportunities did she have? What opportunities would she have?

My own heart felt achy for the women of the family, even as we sipped syrupy tea and I made boats, airplanes, and trains out of each bite of cookie for Aisha’s 2-year-old son.

Aisha walked me to the taxis, telling me again and again how “dear” I am to the family.

I responded with the appropriate reciprocal response, but I really meant it. Aisha will always be dear to me. As we turned out of the neighborhood, the evening sky came into view with bright pinks and oranges. It was so breathtaking I started to cry from the bittersweet mingling of Aisha’s pain and God’s faithfulness.

Hungry or not, here I come

How exactly does a one hour tutoring lesson turn into eight hours? Simple: I agreed to stay for lunch.

It was my first day of tutoring. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure how the protective father would view my method of teaching his 5-year-old son.

Exactly ½ hour before we had agreed to meet, the father came to pick me up.

He took me to his house where I met his family, extended family, the maid, and of course, his son. After a long conversation–some of it typed in google translate–we had breakfast (their first; my second). Then I spent exactly one hour teaching and reviewing with the little boy.

“Will you stay for lunch?”

Noting the family sitting around the salon table, I agreed. But I soon realized that I wasn’t sitting down to lunch; this was pre-lunch! After two breakfasts, I was expected to fill up on bread, cookies, and tea and then eat lunch a little while thereafter.

When we finally did get lunch around 3:00 p.m., it was several courses: a salad followed by a beef and plum dish with another salad on the side, and then a huge chicken stuffed with vermicelli noodles and resting on a bed of rice. Everything was eaten with bread.

And all of the while, if I wasn’t reaching my hand into the platter, I was being told to do so. “Eat! Eat! Please eat!” The extended family kept a calculation of how much I ate while persistently informing me that it was not enough. We finished with luscious fruits for dessert, of which I was too full to enjoy.

This story has no moral, except not to take a tutoring job if you’re on a diet!