no stress baking!

i love recipes where you start with a solid base and then can just throw in whatever. usually this kind of laid back approach is confined to cooking, not baking. baking, in fact, is one of those things where people are all, "you HAVE to follow the recipe or it's gonna get all messed up." yeah, i respect that some forms of baking employ a certain careful chemistry that burritos or a stir fry do not, and that's cool. sometimes it's really satisfying to follow every step of a recipe to a T, and produce a flawless sponge cake or a beautiful cream pie (though i don't think i've actually ever made a sponge cake or cream pie...).

but some kinds of baking break away from that stringent, sometimes stressful chemistry and allow for wiggle room. let's call this "casual baking," good for quiet afternoons and any other situations when you want kitchen time to be relaxing, not intense or super focused. for instance, the cookies i made today: they resemble granola in the kaleidoscopic possibilities of fruit, nuts, and sweets that could go in them. and with banana, rolled oats and whole wheat flour, they are the closest to a healthy cookie you can really get without heading into the territory of wheat germ, kelp powder, hemp seeds, and the like. to the simple batter, i folded in chopped almonds, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chunks, and a tiny bit of shredded coconut that was hiding out under some brown sugar on the baking shelf. i topped each cookie with the dregs of a bag of pecans and they turned out so well! any kinds of dried fruits, other seeds or nuts, carob chips, etc. would be great too...see below for the recipe.

"tim's** variation to pat walton's oatmeal cookies"
from the tassajara cookbook
~~makes about 4 dozen small cookies~~
~~takes about 1/2 hour, start to finish~~

preheat the oven to 375 F.

- mix together 1/4 cup soy or rice milk with 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar. set aside.

- cream together 1 mashed banana, 1/4 cup canola oil, 2 tablespoons molasses, 3/4 cup liquid sweetener (brown rice syrup, honey or agave nectar), 3/4 tsp vanilla and 2.5 cups rolled oats. when all that is well combined, add in the soymilk and cider vinegar mixture.

- in another bowl, combine 1.5 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 1.5 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp ground clove.

- add the dry mix to the wet mix and stir gently to combine. then fold in 2.5 cups of whatever morsels you like. the original recipe calls for 1 cup of chopped pecans, 1 cup of chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup flaked coconut. but don't feel held to this! seriously, throw in all kind of odds and ends, the more the better.

- drop rough tablespoon sized pieces of batter on a well oiled baking sheet. your silpat, or any silicon baking sheet (or even parchment paper), is perfect for this, too.

- bake for 12 minutes and immediately transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack.


** who is tim? i don't know, but i like his style.

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