Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Go Tos

I've seen a rash of it around lately. It sneaks up on my students and renders them heavy-lidded and drooly after lunch. It infects the undereyes of my peers, making them darken and sag. Friends whine more than usual, coughing up their versions of the disease. My own movements are slowed, weighted down by too much to do and too little time to do it, with little opportunity to catch up. To quote The Red Hot Chili Peppers, "I'm getting sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Yup. It's the October Blues.

October and March are the two most dreaded months in the school calendar, for they are break-free and loooooooooooong. Right now I'm caught in what seems like the unending month, panting for November with its two mini-vacations and an even more refreshing vacation promised in December. So, instead of trudging through much writing (for tonight, it really does feel like a trudge in my state of mind), I'll offer a photo-essay instead. This is a photo-essay of no-brainers, things from my repertoire that require little thought and produce great pleasure. This is a brief list of my Go Tos when I'm out of other ideas.

Looking for something edible, floral, reliable, and downright pretty for the winter vegetable garden? My Go To: Violas.

When I'm searching for a fascinating place to bring out-of-towners , I know exactly where to take them. My Go To: The Huntington Library and Gardens (especially during the Southland Orchid Show and Sale) .

And when I need a reliable, yummy trick to woo coworkers to yet another meeting, I have this Go To: Brandon Fishbine's Grandmother's Oatmeal Cookies.

This recipe comes from one of the most entertaining (yet least well-organized) cookbooks I've ever owned, The Ex-Boyfriend Cook Book: They Came, They Cooked, They Left, by Erin Ergenbright and Thisbe Nissen. I found the book on a discount rack a few years ago, bought it for a buck, and have been giggling at it ever since. Not every recipe in this book is a winner, and if you do find one you like, good luck finding it again, because there is no table of contents or index! But (and that is a big but indeed), it is full of fun stories, collages, and it gave me this recipe, which has turned out to have the best proportions I've ever discovered for good ol' oatmeal raisin cookies. I've tweaked the ingredients slightly to fit my palate (and added flax meal because I add flax meal to almost everything I bake); however, the basic recipe is from the unlikely, but happily-found source.

You will need:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon flax meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups raw rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1 cup broken walnut halves

To make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, spices, and flax meal. Set aside.

Beat together the butter and the sugars until they have increased in volume slightly and thoroughly incorporated into each other. Add the egg and milk and beat again until the mixture is completely homogeneous; then, add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the raisins, oats, and nuts.

Use a large spoon to dole out balls of dough (with diameters of about 1 1/2 inches), spaced about 3 inches apart, onto a Silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until toasty-brown on the edges and peaks of the cookies. Remove from the oven, cool on racks, and keep in a sealed container at room temperature.

These babies won't last long.


Rowena said...

The Ex-Boyfriend Cook Book?(Slaps herself on the head) Now why didn't I think of that?!?! Sit tight...October is almost over!

Wendy said...

I feel for you Christina! Our long terms are the spring and summer term. Mid-February, with no break in sight, I'm usually tearing my hair out.
Hang in there. November is just around the corner. Hugs.

winedeb said...

Christina, your go to's are great!
We all need our escape "pods" and yours look like ones that I would like myself - flowers! And no better way to escape than with those cookies, yum! I can smell them now.
Only 9 days and it will be November! And 2 of those days are the weekend!
PS - those fires I am seeing in the news, hopefully not near you!

Anonymous said...

Oatmeal cookies can chase away any case of the blues! I'd send you a fuzzy kitten "Hang in There!" poster, but that would just be lame ;-) The cookies are a much better solution!

Susan said...

First you show us lovely photos of violas, THEN orchids! Shame on you for bandying about such beauty!

No long weekend for Columbus Day? The best thing (the ONLY thing) I liked about investment banking was the holiday schedule; it was like being in school again.

Christina said...

Rowena: Tell me about it. What I've learned from the men that came before ECG . . . but NO ONE can barbecue like he can. Thank goodness he came a long. And yes, it is a good thing indeed that October is nearing its end.

Wendy: Thank you! Aren't long stretches horrible? But of course, November, December, and January are so riddled with holidays, I hardly have a right to complain.

Winedeb: Thank you for your concern. The fires are close enough to lay a dusting of ash on everything and to turn the sky the color of roasted pumpkin, but not nearly close enough to threaten where I work or live. It's pretty ugly business though. And, flowers and oatmeal cookies always make me feel better--I'm glad to hear they do the same for you.

Ann: Meow. (That's me hanging in there.) I think your idea to stick to the cookies is a good one, but the poster image made me smile.

Have a nice night, everyone!

michael, claudia and sierra said...

a good oatmeal raisin cookie recipe is a must have... i'll be making these soon!

The Passionate Palate said...

Oh yes...the Huntington Library/Gardens is one of the great treasures of Southern CA. I love the cookbook name. ;-)

Lucy said...

Violas - I never knew I could actually eat them! Well, there's no stopping me now...May your holiday season begin. And soon!

Christina, slightly off topic I know, but are you okay? (By which I mean, are you safe from the fires ravaging Southern California?)

pam said...

That does sound like a good cookie recipe! Yes, October is long. I almost counted the days till Christmas break today, but I made myself stop!