Category: Cookies

Never had we gathered around the dining room table.  In various combinations we had been joined in those same chairs, but never all at the same time.  When Sweet One came home, it was a promise we made to one another.  We would gather together with those that we love, with those that he served with an ocean away, with friends we have each made along life’s journey.  Dining out, it’s a challenge these days.  Gluten free was somewhat possible to manage, but gluten free and msg free is an altogether different ball game.  Every time MSG finds its way in the affects on my body reaching deeper and taking longer to fade.  I know, in time, if I keep exposing my body to the poison I will be where I am with gluten.  I am bound and determined to avoid that catastrophe.  Bearing this in mind the texts flew between sister and I flew.  Dinner, was arranged.  This time, I would cook in my own kitchen and they would come.

I spent a few hours, the night before we were slated to gather, preparing the meal.   I had the pork roast in the crock, the apple pie cooling on the counter, the cookie dough resting in the refrigerator, the cutting board cleansed from the salad prep, the bread risen and safely stowed in the refrigerator to be baked the next afternoon.  The sweet potatoes waited to be peeled, but they would continue to wait until just before everyone gathered.  I glanced around the kitchen, content with the evenings work.  I am always happiest when the kitchen has been torn apart and been put back together again, the labors of love resting quietly on the counters, in the refrigerator, in the freezer, or anywhere else they will fit in my ridiculously tiny kitchen.  Someday I will have a kitchen that is more fitting to the passions of my life, but for now we make do with the tiny little counter as we fumble around one another.  I chose to be grateful that he is there, underfoot and willing to help.  My eyes grew misty more than once at the simple fact he was there doing the dishes that I was dirtying.  We waited a long year for nights like this to occur.

They came, the next night.  The clan that became mine five years ago, the man who chose to love me, and I gathered around the dining room table they gifted me.  That table saw sis through her collage days, saw the early days of her parenthood, was given to me in my days as a single woman, and now sees us through this season of change as families morph into something new and yet familiar.  It’s an old table, just the way a table ought to be.  The scuff marks and faded paint make me smile.  Aren’t we all just a little scuffed and faded by the time we enter our third decade of life?  I don’t mind that the table reflects that sentiment.  It seems proper to me somehow.  We devoured the food set upon that old table.  The sweet potatoes disappeared, though not quite as fast as the bread.  The pork roast was exclaimed over multiple times.  I love the words my people give me when it comes to food, but no praise speaks quite so loudly as the silence when they chew, the slight clatter of spoons against ceramic as they reach for second portions.  My heart danced a bit when the eldest boy asked me “Can I have more of THAT?” and reached for the roast he originally wrinkled his nose at.

The mere scraps of pork roast that remained on the platter, the scant crumbs scattered over the cutting board that held the bread a mere half hour ago, the half empty bowl of sweet potatoes, the still full bowl of salad, they told me all I needed to know about our evening meal.  The content smiles, the nearly empty glasses of wine, and the grown-ups gathered on the back patio as the children played the games of boys who are given flashlights were a peaceful ending to the clan dinner made my heart sing. Later as the men reached for second portions of apple pie and the eldest nephew gave me his most pathetic begging eyes as he requested “Just one more awesome cookie” I settled into the happiest place of my culinary heart.  I have missed cooking for those I love.  It was good, to gather again and feed them food I know is good for the bodies.  That is good for my soul.   Never before had we gathered like this, with all of us around one table in person rather than one joining via cell phone.  Never before, but many times to come.  This is the prayer I whispered as I sat enjoying the laughter and the clatter of so many under one roof.  A simple prayer “let there be more, of this”.


The Flours

When I first began to understand the havoc that gluten was wrecking on my body I read.  I read everything I could find on the subject.  I read books on celiac, gluten free cookbooks, and gluten free blogs.  I did not merely read them.  I devoured them.  I read them sitting on my couch, at the dinner table, while soaking in a hot bath, and curled into my soft cotton sheets.

I read the books cover to cover, trying to retain every tip and trick they held.  Don’t bake with a preheated oven.  Use parchment paper or silpat.  Don’t over mix.  Don’t over touch.  My list of dont’s was long but I was determined.  I read and I read and I read.

Still, I refused to bake.  Dinner I could muster.  Lunch was easy to solve, last nights leftovers worked just fine.  Breakfast, that wasn’t too hard.  I ate a lot of eggs in those first days until I discovered Rice Chex cereal was gluten free and came in cinnamon flavor.  I took to heart the advice, don’t try to replace all the old gluten laden loves, just learn to love the things God gave us that are naturally gluten free.  This I could do.  Bake with a whole new mindset?  That was a different story.

Yet, a mysterious thing began to happen.  Each week at the store I would find some new bag of flour had made it’s way into my cart.  It started with this mix.  It was good, but I have never been one to bake from a mix.  Then it was the brown rice flour, it seemed to me I might need that one if only for dinners.  The sorghum flour too, after all I had seen that used for fried chicken so it must be necessary even if I wasn’t going to bake.  It continued into a true quest, hunting down the amaranth and the still on-going hunt for the teff flour.  I read the origins of these ancient grains and I learned their nutritional benefit.  Slowly I filled my kitchen cupboard with jar after jar of powdered substances I did not yet understand.  They were familiar only in the words of those authors.

Eventually, it had to happen.  I had to bake.

The dark eyed boy came over for a visit and as small boys are inclined to, he holds a special passion for cookies.  Particularly chocolate chip cookies. I sighed and reached into the cabinet.  I had a mix on hand, purchased in those early fear filled days.  Those days when I was convinced baked goods were gone forever.  I kept it there in the cupboard to remind me that though life had changed, it was not gone merely different than it had been. I hesitated, but with a steely resolve I reached past that mix and picked up a jar.  I began to hand jar after jar to the boy, the assistant just waiting to measure and pour.  My countertop was filled with starches and flours, sugars and gums.  Ingredients I had yet to touch.  I remembered the proper way to measure and promised me that by this fall I’d own a kitchen scale so I could do this baking properly.  For now, I helped the wee hands scoop and measure, pour and stir.  With a smile  I slid the tray in the oven and wondered what I had done.

What had I done?  I baked cookies.  Good cookies.  Light, crisp, slightly salty and still just vaguely doughy cookies.  Cookies oozing with chocolate goodness.  I ate them warm from the oven in crumbled bits (which will happen if you ignore the requirement to let them sit for twenty minutes before you move them, but seriously who waits twenty minutes for the first cookies to cool?).  I ate them room temperature.  I stashed them in the freezer in a vain attempt to protect my waist line, but discovered that I love them frozen even more than I do fresh from the oven.

The boy?  He said “These are good” and that was it.  I asked him if he thought they were different and he shrugged and said “They are cookies” and I smiled in response.

I baked.