Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday's Thoughts

Since last Thursday's thoughts I've put a lot on my mental plate, so to speak. I watched an Oprah show about obese teens and their families that really affected me - odd since I was never obese as a teen.  I have no doubt that I would have been, had I not been swimming about 2 miles per day during the winter and walking nearly everywhere I needed to go. As I watched that show - at times sobbing so hard my breathing came in gasps -  I came to realize I've been hanging on to a great deal of anger since my teenage years.  A lot of stuff happened from the ages of 13-18 that no kid should have to deal with, so I simply didn't. Deal with it, that is. I pushed it away and saved it for later.  This is how people become junkies. Seriously. My dope of choice just happens to be food. I really wish there'd been a similar kind of intervention around when I was a teenager, though it's never too late to intervene. Every day, every moment - hell, every choice ... is a chance to get it right. 

Which brings me to my next point.  This article sort of encapsulates everything I've been trying to learn about how to cope and recover from my self-defeating behaviors. I found this to be very compelling:

People tend to think that urges will escalate infinitely if they don't yield to them — but in fact, like a wave, they rise to a peak and then fall. That is, even if you don't give in, the urge dissipates.

Indeed, because of the way the brain is wired, each time an addict lets an urge pass without engaging in the unwanted behavior, it weakens the neural connections that underlie the desire; each time he or she rewards the craving with the bad habit, the brain pathways, and the addiction, are strengthened. It helps for people to remind themselves that if they can resist an addictive urge once, it will become easier and easier to do it again in the future.

How powerful is that? I mean, somewhere in the back of my mind I'm sure I know that every time I do something good for myself, that I will tend to keep doing things that are good for me. But to see it there in print, that every time you make a good choice for yourself rather than an unhealthy choice, you actually change how your brain works. That is powerful. 

I did something that made me proud of myself yesterday and reinforced that all this work I am doing is having an effect. I had given myself permission yesterday to skip my scheduled run. I had had a long night at work, and I just don't function too well when I have to day-sleep. Add in some hormonally-based fatigue and a slight case of the fuckits, and I pretty much had myself talked out of it. Later in the day, just a couple hours before I had to go in for my shift, I got myself really worked up and po'd over something.  Today, that something is totally insignificant, but yesterday it had me irritated to the point of feeling jumpy and shaky. It was dinner time, and I was hungry. I was just about to heat up my dinner and sit down in front of the news with it. Something made me stop and realize I was in a really negative frame of mind, and did I really want to cement that in my neural pathways associated with food and tv? Believe me, that path is already there, and it's more of a 10-lane freeway. So I did something I rarely do: I went upstairs, still irritable and shaky, put on my workout clothes, and banged out 2 quick miles on the treadmill. A new and healthy little footpath tromped down in my brain. It's never too late to try a new path. 

Last thought: I've been having trouble motivating myself the past week. I wish desperately that I could be the kind of runner that blissfully zones out and before I know it, look! I'm done! Well, I'm not that runner. I'm the runner that covers my treadmill display with a towel so I can't obsess over it. I have a few requirements that, if not met, can cause me to torture myself during an entire workout session. I have to have music. Gum is a big plus. It keeps my brain occupied a little. Doesn't matter how cold it is outside. The heat in my house has to be turned off while I run. Bedroom window is open. One thing I had been overlooking, however, is the power of the playlist. Sure, I give props to my playlists all the time for giving me that push to finish. The problem is, I get accustomed to playlists quickly, and soon start to obsess about which song is next, what song is starting to bore me, where I was in the playlist last time I ran - was I ahead or behind?  The answer? Change the playlist! Don't ever underestimate the power of a new playlist to motivate and inspire. 

Yesterday: 2
Today: 3
Tomorrow: Off!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I can't wear Nike shoes.

Not to run, anyway. I have an old pair of Nike ACGs that are falling apart, but I still wear them out running errands occasionally because they're both blue (and look great with jeans) and they're badass looking.  Damn if they don't rub my pinky toes the wrong way, but I love those shoes. More than the looks of their shoes, though, I love the message of  Nike's ads. 

They remind us that function + strength = beauty. They tear down the plastic airbrushed illusions and images that bombard not only us, but more scarily, impressionable little girls. 

3 miles today. 

Monday, January 26, 2009


3 today. 

Knee feels twingey. 

Monday Recipe Review

Brown-Bag Popcorn!!


  • 1/4 cup good quality popcorn
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or popcorn salt
  • Sprinkle jalapeno seasoning mix
  • Paper lunch bag
  • Stapler


Toss the popcorn with the olive oil, salt, and jalapeno seasoning mix in the paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over and staple the bag twice to close. Place the bag in the microwave and microwave on high for 2 minutes to 3 minutes, or until there are about 5 seconds between pops.

NOTE: Popcorn salt is a super-fine salt that is designed especially for sticking to food such as popcorn. It has the taste of regular table salt, but its granules are much finer.

*note - I don't use the jalapeno seasoning mix, although I am sure it tastes wonderful. I'm just a purist when it comes to popcorn. Also, I have had more success lying the brown bag on its side - and on a plate because the bag gets greasy. If the staples in the bag happen to touch the top of the microwave, you'll get that hideous burning smell, and the bag may actually catch fire. Don't ask me how I came by this knowledge. The "popcorn" button works just fine on most microwaves for this, though you should keep an eye (or ear, rather) on it the first couple times until you get your cooking time down. 


I first saw this recipe on an episode of Good Eats a couple of years ago.  It was an epiphany on the order of figuring out that dream career or the first time you realize you're in love, that you could actually pop your own popcorn in the microwave, and have it turn out good. No. Not good. Perfect. 

I had grown up with oil-popped popcorn.  A good oil-popped popcorn stands on its own. It needs nothing more than a little salt to become a fantastic and (for me) nostalgic party in your mouth. I remember fondly having a bowl of popcorn on Friday night, then eating the stale leftovers Saturday morning while I watched the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show

It always bothered me that the commercial makers of microwave popcorn took something that could be a somewhat healthy snack, and added enough trans-fats to make it more of a guilty indulgence. Then came the news that workers in plants that manufactured microwave popcorn are actually becoming disabled due to exposure to a dangerous chemical that give the popcorn its fake buttery smell: Diacetyl

I mean, why the hell would you want to use butter in your popcorn, when you can use a fake buttery-smelling chemical that, when heated, could cause damage to your lungs? There are people who will actually eat the "lighter" brands of microwave popcorn because it's "healthy!" and "doesn't have all that fat!"

David Michaels, a former assistant secretary of energy, has been studying the issue for the last four years.

"I know in my home when we make microwave popcorn, we open it up under the vent over the stove so no one breathes the fumes," he said. "I'd like to see some branch of the federal government actually go out and test what's coming out of these bags."

That doesn't scare anyone?  Still think butter is bad?  I've never heard of anyone sustaining permanent lung damage from butter or olive oil fumes. 

Friday, January 23, 2009


Let me tell you about Brian. Brian is my 22 year old nephew, the second son born to my brother and his now-ex wife. He was born in Okinawa, Japan, because my brother was stationed there during his enlistment with the USMC. My sister-in-law was already raising a toddler on her own with my brother overseas, and staying in my childhood home with us, just a year after my mom had died. She was understandably miserable and lonely without her husband, so she traveled to Japan - 24 hours on planes with a toddler in tow - so that the family could be together for Brian's birth.

The first time I met baby Brian, his eyes followed me and when I spoke to him his eyebrows would rise, as if to say, "How interesting. I'm listening. Please do say more." As a little boy, there was just something about him. He was sort of an old soul, with an empathetic sweet nature that belied his gender and his youth. I remember one trip we all took together, all of us piled in my brother's van on the way to Deep Creek Lake. About 9 years old at the time, he looked into my eyes and took my hand. He held my hand for that entire drive. What little boy would risk ridicule from the other kids just to sweetly hold his old aunt's hand for 3 hours? Brian would, that's who. To this day, the memories of that ride bring happy tears to my eyes. Any time he talks to me - even at the age of 22, when many young men are self-absorbed little bastards - the conversation ends with him first saying, "I love you, Aunt Jan". Brian knows what's important in life, and he's come by that knowledge the hard way.

When he was a preschooler, we noticed that he ran sort of prancy, with his butt sticking out. He would sometimes go up stairs on all fours rather than upright. He had difficulty getting up off of the floor, and his calves were muscular looking compared to his thighs. Something we all thought was a phase or maybe some developmental delay turned out to be much worse: Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. We learned that we could expect Brian to have increasing difficulty standing and walking, and he would most likely be completely confined to a wheelchair by age 12. From that point on, the disease would continue to attack his muscles, and he would not even be able, in the future, to even roll himself over in bed. Finally, the disease would weaken and at some point, incapacitate his heart and lungs... and he would die.

My brother and especially my sister-in-law were very matter-of-fact with Brian when he'd ask questions about his condition. Brian took in the information in his quiet and thoughtful way. You hear this about kids with disabilities all the time so much it sounds cliche', but the God's honest truth is, I never once heard that kid complain. The closest he came was during that Deep Creek trip, when his brother was running down to the lake, racing some other boys. "I wish I could run, Aunt Jan", he said. He was still holding my hand, and he looked at me with so much sincerity that all I could reply was, "Yeah, I wish you could run too, bud. It really isn't fair." What else was there to say?

I adore my nephews, if you can't already tell. I sort of grew up as they did, being only 13 and 15 years older than they are. For a very short time, they lived close by, but those dyed-in-the-wool southern boys were like fish out of water here in the northeast. I hated to see them go, but I knew in my heart of hearts they'd be happier living in the south where they'd put down roots. It's been hard to watch them grow up 700 miles away from me, and only being able to visit occasionally. It's even harder now that Brian's disease is progressing.

At age 22 (soon to be 23 in April), he is now to the point at which he can't roll himself over in bed. Put himself into his wheelchair on onto a toilet. Open a can of soda. Hold a pencil to write for any length of time. They've got quite a system going there, however. Between his mom and his older brother, he gets placed into his powered wheelchair before she goes to work in the morning. He has the cordless phone with him, and there's a little cooler full of snacks and drinks laid out on the table that he can access easily throughout the day. His mom, a dairy department manager at a grocery store, calls him during every break to check on him and chat. She's been mom, dad, confidante, hardass, and best friend to those boys - and what seems to be the only constant in their lives.

As a little boy, he had many painful muscle biopsies, and barbaric-sounding surgeries in which his Achilles tendons were cut to relieve contractures in his lower legs. As a young teenager, while his parents were going through a messy breakup, he had a metal rod screwed into the entire length of his spine. This was to prevent increased pressure on his heart and lungs from increasingly severe curvature of his spine. I remember sitting beside him in the noisy, crowded ICU ward of Emory Hospital. He, as always, was holding my hand, even though it caused him great pain to move at all. I put my head down close to his and told him, with tears in my eyes, that he was the bravest boy I'd ever known. He always has been.

Every time I travel to visit him, there's a little less he can accomplish physically. That never dampens his spirit. The kid who would only say, "Hi... fine... yeah... love you... bye" on the phone talks my ear off while I am there visiting with him. We watch a Braves game and talk baseball, or he shows me his knife collection, or he just tells me funny stories about stuff that happens around the house day to day. He takes more and more medications every day, because now his heart is not pumping as efficiently as it once did. He has more aches and pains than he once did. He can feel the screws of the metal rod shifting around in his neck a little when we transfer him from bed to chair. When he overindulged on his 21st birthday (4 beers, in case you are wondering), I was awakened in the middle of the night by the phone ringing. It was Brian, calling on the intercom. He felt like he was going to throw up and needed someone to sit him up in bed. I remember sitting there with him, holding the garbage can for him as he puked up his birthday beer, thinking to myself: What if nobody had heard him? As if he had read my mind, he laid his head on my shoulder and told me not to worry, that he was fine.

So now with a single email, opens another chapter in this sweet boy's life:

hey hows it goin? im doin fine let me tell you about this girl she is 19 and she is the sweetest girl in the whole world we have been datin for seven months i love everything about her and i believe she is the best thing that has ever happened to me and im gonna be with her forever she makes me happy and i reckon thats all that matters the only hard time we had is we were apart for two months and she waited for me we both went crazy without each other and this month i asked her when she wanted to get hitched and we came up with march 1st we are gonna get married at the house nothin big or fancy if you want to know anything else just ask me. oh yeah her name is cassie ****

I sat there, mute, for a couple minutes. My sweet little boy. Getting married. Though still as sweet and thoughtful as always (he's the one I hear from most frequently, of all of them), I finally realized he's no little boy any more. Then, as the news set in, I broke into a perma-grin for the rest of the day. One of the things that had always made me so sad about Brian's condition was that I thought he'd miss out on so much; once more, though, he has defied the odds and has not allowed himself to be defined solely by his condition. Some pretty little girl sees in him what I have always seen in him. I hope that he realized when he typed "i believe she is the best thing that has ever happened to me", that he is most likely the very same to her. If not, he can ask his old aunt.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday's thoughts and fears

Well, here it is Thursday again; the day I've chosen to vomit out all of the thoughts, musings and fears that clutter my crispy brain, so that there's room once again for more important stuff, like knowing which key fits my house or how to launder my pretty panties without ruining them. 

Something struck me today as I was plundering my way through my 3 mile run. The best way I can describe it was a sense of trepidation. For what? I'm not sure. Possibly because I have a recovery day tomorrow during which I don't run. Maybe I'm afraid I'll find an excuse on Saturday not to pick it back up. In fact, I'm almost positive that's what I'm afraid of.  See, I've done this before.  Started Couch to 5K numerous times and quit.  It finally stuck last January, and I graduated the program last spring - which, don't get me wrong, is quite an accomplishment - but then I sort of just petered out from there.  It was like, "Ok, I did this. Now what?"  Without a plan, I was lost. 

I'm kind of wary that I'm setting myself up in a similar fashion by sticking this Komen 5K carrot out there on a stick in front of me.  First, make it a HoHo instead of a carrot. I'll run faster. Second, am I going to just look around, lost, after the 5K dust settles? I enjoy what running does for me.  I have been an athlete all my life and have never found anything that can condition me like running.  My legs felt strong.  I could see the muscle definition I used to have, returning.  My jeans and work pants were loose.  I had so much endurance.  At everything.  My waist thinned out.  My resting heart rate was 56.  But do I enjoy the actual running part? I don't know. Right now, while it's still painful?  No.  I seem to remember back in the latter stages of C25K when I was just running for 30-40 minutes at a time that I had sort of a love/boredom/hate relationship with it. 

I don't know what to do about that.  Maybe I'm overthinking it. Maybe a summer break from running isn't that bad, with all the other activities that go on in the summer.  However, it seems to turn into a break until I-gotta-do-it-it's-January-oh-shit-Ha!-signed-up-for-a-race-now-gotta-do-it thing.  A friend of mine who graduated C25K around the same time I did continued to run daily and is way ahead of me as far as being in condition for a race.  I sort of wish I'd have stuck to it like Karen did.  

I don't know what my goal is going to be after May, but it's clear that I'm going to have to have one.  Going to have to think about that one. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Today's theme - Momentum

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A day for inspiration and change

You'd have to have dust running through your veins not to be inspired by the inauguration of Barack Obama. I remember the day after election day, and the conversation I had with my 93 year old patient. How we commiserated on the state of the economy, the world's view of the United States, and the general feeling everywhere, of just wanting to get this 8-year span of time over with. It amazed me that someone so many generations removed from my own, someone who had personally experienced so much history and so many changes, still wanted change with all his heart. I never thought I would have that much in common with a person 56 years older than me.

As I stopped what I was doing today to listen to our new President speak - something I did just about every time he's given a speech - I contemplated my own life and the positive changes I wanted to make. Who do I want to be, when others think of me? More importantly, though: Who do I want to be when I envision myself?

With that in mind - and newly determined to meet my latest goal - I got back into 5K training mode today. First and foremost I need to be a person who exercises every day, and exercises hard most days. I need to be the 93 year old that walks proudly to the polls on election day; one who has no use for a wheelchair, or a walker, or even a cane. I need to be the mom who can run after the kids, after a 14 hour day that started with a 3 mile run or a run across the lake on a kayak. I need to be that person in the woods running uphill with the dog, not stopping mid-hill. I need to be the person who respects myself enough to give myself an hour each day for my health and my future health. I need to be the fun Grandma who plays tag and tosses a ball around with the grandkids.

Today: 3 slow miles

Today's musical inspiration:

Alan Parsons Project
So What
Devil Without a Cause
Kid Rock
In the Ayer
Flo Rida
Bad Influence
All That We Needed
Plain White T's
The Notorious B.I.G.
Bleed It Out
Linkin Park
Hey Mama
Black Eyed Peas
Synchronicity I
The Police
Salt Shaker
Ying Yang Twins
Hands Held High
Linkin Park

...Back at it tomorrow for 3.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Recipe Review

This recipe comes from the October '08 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  It was posted last fall on our forum by my friend Karen and it looked so seasonal and delicious, I had to try it. I've made this twice and shared it both times with my best friend, also a lover of squash and anything you could call comfort food. We agreed: This dish fits the bill as a perfect fall comfort food, and would have been a perfect accompaniment to any holiday table. 

Don't be intimidated by the recipe itself. It seems like a great deal of work at first glance. However, much of the rest of the dish can be put together while the squash is roasting. 

Butternut Squash Bake
  • 1.5 lb.  butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut in 1-inch cubes (3 cups)
  • 2  Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8  oz. dried extra-wide noodles
  • 4  Tbsp. butter
  •  - shallots, chopped
  • 1  Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1   8oz. carton mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, snipped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese-style) bread crumbs or soft bread crumbs (I got one bun from the bulk bin at the bakery and processed it in the food processor because I hate that most bread crumb mixes contain HFCS. It made the perfect amount of bread crumbs.)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In bowl toss squash in oil; place in oiled 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Roast, uncovered, 30 minutes, until lightly browned and tender, stirring twice.

2. Meanwhile, in Dutch oven cook noodles according to package directions. Drain; set aside. In same Dutch oven melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add shallots; cook and stir over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until shallots are tender and butter just begins to brown. Stir in lemon juice.

3. Add noodles and squash to shallot mixture. Stir in mascarpone, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Transfer to greased 2-quart oval gratin dish or baking dish.

4. In small saucepan melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter; stir in bread crumbs, remaining Parmesan, and parsley. Sprinkle on noodle mixture. Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes, until crumbs are golden. Serves 8.

  • Servings Per Recipe 8 to 10 side-dish servings
  • Calories 413, 
  • Total Fat (g) 26,
  • Saturated Fat (g) 13, 
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g) 9, 
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g) 2,
  • Cholesterol (mg) 82, 
  • Sodium (mg) 278, 
  • Carbohydrate (g) 37, 
  • Total Sugar (g) 3, 
  • Fiber (g) 2, 
  • Protein (g) 15, 
  • Vitamin C (DV%) 31, 
  • Calcium (DV%) 14, 
  • Iron (DV%) 12, 
  • Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Well, I've gone and done it.

I had to do it. If I hadn't done it, then I'd just sit on my ass like a slug all winter. Come springtime you'd have to hear me bitching and whining about how my clothes are tight, my face is fat, and I'm 10lbs heavier than I was last year, and how I can't run like I could this time last year, how great that felt and how sorry I am I let myself go again, and how my poor treadmill broke up with me and ran off with some dedicated winter runner, due to my inattention and neglect.

So I did it. Registered for the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure, in Atlanta on May 9, 2009. I hope some of my PW sistas who have been talking about it join me. Ya'll know who you are!

This has put me in a position of put up or shut up. I'm a person who can procrastinate with the best of them, but I function very well when cornered. I'm not going to want to be *that* person, who signed up for a 5K and couldn't finish at least at a jog.

So there it is. The gauntlet has been thrown down. A line in the sand! The skin-boat is going to Tuna Town! (Oh, wait. That last one was a quote from Grumpy Old Men, not a back-against-the-wall cliche'. Damn.)

Hope to see some of you there. Ya'll know who you are.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday's Thoughts - What, exactly, does this shopping trip say about me?

It started out as a hectic Wednesday afternoon. I had a class to teach. He had work to do and a little one to meet at the school bus. We weren't going to see each other til at least 9pm anyway. I luck out and my class is cancelled due to weather. He, however, is busy doing his own thing. All the stressors of working together and trying to have a relationship while doing so have meanwhile come to a head. This culminates in us deciding that we're going to take the evening and cool down some of the volatile emotions that we've been lobbing back and forth at each other at work this past week, like toxic little poison-filled racquetballs.

So, what do you do with yourself when it's finally dumping snow (not rain!!) on your town, the sparkly white fluffy stuff of your dreams, and you've got an entire evening to yourself? If you're me, you go on an Odyssey, of sorts. 

Ok. So he's made his points. I've made mine. Ad nauseum, I'm sure. My first stop was a mushy card that he'll get tomorrow. 

I'll admit, sushi is a strange comfort food, but to me.. comfort food, it is. I guess a sushi binge is better than a Big Mac attack.

A girl's gotta have a beverage. *shrug*

Uhhh. I don't really have a good explanation for these. 

This, I've been wanting for a while. I could have picked a more inspiring time to buy it. Like.. when I graduated C25K - rather than making its maiden voyage a bloated post-sushi/wine/pistachio crunch weigh in. 

Again. No explanation, really. Except that they tested it on the news and gave it 4 out of 4 stars. What goes better with wine than hair removal?

When you put it all together, it actually looks pretty ridiculous. 

This, however... this is heaven on a plate. Working Girl on the dvr. Snow falling outside. My old dog leaning on me and looking deeply into my eyes (I'll pretend it's love-related and not sushi-related). And the promise of a better day tomorrow. 


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Today's theme - Unadulterated Joy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Like finding an old friend...

Ever do something you hadn't done in a while? Remembered how good you were at it, and how good it felt to you? I had a similar reawakening during the pool portion of our water rescue class. Despite being fully clothed - shoes and all - I glided easily through the water, remembering my swim team days in high school. When the class was over, I wanted more pool time.

The nice thing about my high school alma mater is that they open the pool up to the public 3 evenings per week, and charge a mere $2 for an adult to swim. My fiance and I have brought the little one and her best friend several times. It's great! The kids wear themselves out, and we get a workout chasing them around the pool. I swim a few laps here and there when we're all there together, but I don't concentrate on working out during these outings.

I discovered that the 7pm-9pm timing of these family swim nights works nicely around my work schedule at times. When I actually get out of work on time at 8pm, I can get a good 40 minutes in. Now that I'm on nights, I can get a good solid 30 minutes in, if I get there exactly at opening time.

It's put quite a spring in my step the past couple weeks, knowing that if I budget my time right, I can get a swim and a workout in at the same time. There are other things I could do, and will do, on off days. But let's face it; if the treadmill and workout dvds are all I have to look forward to, I'll get bored and start blowing off workouts. Variety is the spice of life.. just add some water to mine.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Recipe Review Monday

I'm going to try something different and review recipes on Mondays, as time allows. There will be no rhyme or reason as to where the recipes originate. Like any foodie worth their sea salt, I follow lots of food blogs. I belong to a forum which has become a source for many of my new favorite recipes. I read cookbooks for fun, and I'm a big fan of Cooking Light - especially since they have gotten back to using real ingredients like butter and real cheese, rather than gross chemically-altered substitutes. Once in a while, I even come up with something myself. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, you know. The hard part with my so-called recipes is actually remembering to write down ingredients, and proportions, and what I actually did. I'm one of those "pinch of this and that" and "cook it til it's done" kinda cooks. The way my Grandma cooked, the way my Dad cooked... the only way I know how to cook.

It actually stresses me out in some ways to have to follow a recipe. This is surprising, because my career prior to becoming an ass-wipin' lifesaver was as a baker and cake decorator. Ask anyone who knows and they'll tell you that baking is purely science. There is wiggle room in cooking, and room for individual interpretation; in baking, not so much. Screw with proportions too much, start that "little of this, little of that" crap with the wrong ingredients, and you can end up with hockey pucks instead of muffins.

So, having said that, what is the first recipe I'm going to post and review? A fool-proof pasta sauce, maybe? A great appetizer? How about my favorite side dish? Nope.

A cookie. Not just a cookie. A cookie made with healthy, non-processed ingredients, without the flour/butter/sugar combination found in 99.9% of the cookie recipes we tend to use. This is what attracted me to this particular cookie.

Let me first credit the source of this recipe: 101 Cookbooks
If you're going to browse this site, leave a trail of fresh-baked, organic bread crumbs, 'cause it's easy to get lost for hours in the huge variety of healthful recipes. The other wonderful tool on the site is that you can search recipes by category, or by ingredient. The photographs of the finished product are gorgeous, bordering on (food) pornographic. So without further adieu...

Nikki's Healthy Cookies - from 101 Cookbooks
3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, barely warm - so it isn't solid (or alternately, olive oil)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 - 7 ounces chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the top third.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips.The dough is a bit looser than a standard cookie dough, don't worry about it. Drop dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart, onto a parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheet.

Bake for 12 - 14 minutes. I baked these as long as possible without burning the bottoms and they were perfect - just shy of 15 minutes seems to be about right in my oven.

Makes about 3 dozen bite-sized cookies.


I really liked how these cookies turned out. They are dense, and only minimally sweet. I opted to use coconut oil, and really liked the mellow coconutty flavor in the background of these; The banana flavor is pretty subtle. I added a sprinkle of Demerara to the tops as I took them out of the oven, for just a little sweetness. I'm sure if you wanted to sweeten them up, you could opt to use sweetened shredded coconut, or a sweetened chocolate chip. I used an 85% cacao dark chocolate bar, chopped up. If you like the flavors of coconut, banana and dark chocolate, as long as you're not expecting the typical extremely sweet treat, I'll bet you'll enjoy this cookie.

These would be a great treat at the midpoint of a long hike.