Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nutty, healthy cookies

Some people’s lives were ruined in their early adolescence by rock n’ roll: mine was ruined at age nine, by poetry.  Despite many years of incredibly mediocre grades in elementary school, I tested very well on the standardized tests given to all students in my state called the ‘Iowa Tests.’ (Why students from New Jersey were tested on exams named after a Midwestern state remains a mystery to me—and gave me a very strange impression of what people do in Iowa all day long). 

Because of my scores, I was placed in a program called A.T. (Academically Talented).  This proved to be my undoing: instead of sitting in orderly rows, doing worksheets and listening to the teacher, in A.T. the students sat at round tables, debated Serious Contemporary Issues like whether Pac-Man was rotting the minds of the Next Generation, put Hansel and Gretel on trial using the procedures of the criminal justice system, and wrote poetry in the style of Lorca.
The fact that I got excellent grades in my supposedly ‘harder’ A.T. classes and did rather poorly in classes that required me to follow the rules and hand in assignments on time unintentionally gave me the impression that I was a Creative Person and that instructions were for Other People. It didn’t help, either, that my kindly A.T.  teacher would even allow me to eat lunch with her, in her classroom so I didn’t have to deal with the confusing and frightening social environment of the playground and my peers who often taunted me.

Many years of having teachers write in large, red capital letters on my work: DID YOU EVEN READ THE ASSIGNMENT SHEET?????? followed.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to love school and taking classes, even when no grades are involved.  I’ve also learned that to be truly creative when writing, you have to master the basics—grammar, spelling, verse structure—before you mess with them and make something new.

Baking is often called a science as opposed to cooking’s more freestyle ‘art’ and one of my problems as a baker is my fondness for messing with the rules. I’m always apt to want to make things ‘healthier’ by substituting whole wheat flour, adding a bit of applesauce rather than butter, and so forth. But I really did intend today to make a macadamia nut cookie ‘by the book.’ Then, I couldn’t locate any jars of chopped macadamia nuts at Wegman’s.   So, like every bad student looking for an excuse not to do the assignment, I made these instead.

Whole wheat mixed nut cookies


The sifted 

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/ 2 teaspoon baking soda

The creamed

1 1/ 2 cup brown sugar
3/ 4 cup melted butter
2 eggs, beaten


1/ 2 cup chopped pecans, cashews, walnuts, and hazel nuts


  1. Preheat oven to 325F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Whisk together the flour and baking soda.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar, then incorporate the beaten eggs.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture.
  5. Drop or scoop onto baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Yields 18-24.
These would also be great with some chopped whole wheat pretzels or peanuts, for a kind of healthier ‘spin’ on a compost cookie.

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