If we’re talking about the most important thing about making oatmeal cookies, we could go many ways. The add-ins, white vs. brown sugar, white to wheat flour ratios, letting them cool on the pan vs. off… But do you know what the actual most important thing about oatmeal cookies is?
The oatmeal. Not the kind. Just putting it in there.
I made oatmeal cookies the other day in a rush. I had worked my overnight shift the night before (11pm-730am) and the baby factory had been a-crankin’ (I work postpartum in a busy metro-area hospital). When I woke up around 3pm or so the next day, I couldn’t move. Get up and go right downstairs to my loved ones, the hubs and the babe? Waste a half hour (okay an hour) and low-key anxiety-scroll through social media? Take a shower and attempt to act human again?
Sleep deprivation or even just an interrupted Circadian rhythm is no joke, peeps. Just FYI I was able to rescue the oatmeal-less cookies after only a minute or two of baking time, scrape them back into my trusty KitchenAid, and rectify things. Cookies turned out pretty yummy and chocolate-y throughout because of the melted chipz also (score).
PS, I’m so very lucky for my job. At the risk of sounding Polly Anna, I love it. I went back to school to get my (entry-level) Master’s degree in nursing at 29 just so I could enter into the profession. I got my first choice, maternal/newborn health, as far as what department I started in. Other people worried at me about starting in women’s health care and being stuck and I never once thought they sounded anything but ridiculous. I’m also part of a strong nurses union and get a pension – a crazy deal for us late Gen X-ers/early millenials, huh?
But this night thing, man. I struggle with it, as most night-shift workers do I suppose. I get paid a little extra, have a mostly stupendous team that supports each other throughout our long nights sans physicians that are physically present, and can put my little girl to bed every night before I leave. These are huge pros, but the cons can be brutal. Well, the overarching con:
Guilt for sleeping after being up all night working (which is cuh-razay). Guilt for requiring my husband to parent our daughter solo on weekends (which is also cuh-razay, I’m the first to freak out when people talk about fathers babysitting their own kids. Like, no – that’s being a parent, ding-dong). Guilt for my sweet baby angel girl perhaps getting anything but the best from her nanny-babysitter. But still, I feel guilt and maybe a little of being left out that I’m not there to co-parent at least. Pre-guilt (is that a thing?) that I wont be my best self even after a good 5 hours of sleep, and still be kinda prone to snapping, sulking, or being susceptible to weird survival-feeling eating patterns…
Idk. It’s all just a lot.
So every once in a while when I awaken out of these guilt-sleeps I have…ambitions. My “inactive” brain, while asleep, has smooshed all these feelings and thoughts together and synthesized them into a sudden burst of ambition. To be super-mom, to make my daughter into a more fully-functioning human, to put up wallpaper (?!), to be an extra nice wifey when I really just want to give into my snarly introverted tendencies and be a wolf…I’m not sure.
Last time the ambition manifested itself by (you guessed it)…cookies. When I make cookies I have a hard time making delicate ones. Tim’s favorite are like, thin, lacey almond cookies that only his Grandma Gigi can make. At a grocery store, faced with an overwhelming amount of bright and shiny packaged ones (which we rarely buy) he will pick whatever is closest to a cracker available and be delighted. I have tried and…still need practice. Growing up my mom was much more a cook than a baker, so I’d make them from simple recipes but didn’t really have thoughts on my cookie preferences yet.
As I’ve come to be aware, I am more of the monster cookie ilk myself.
Also, I always want there to be some healthy element to them whether it’s banana or flax seed, definitely at least some wheat flour, oats oats oats…it’s kind of insufferable. But maybe makes for a cookie that’s more appropriate for a hefty snack or even a naughty breakfast vs. a delicate treat post-meal or at like, high tea?
This could be from my Nona – she was definitely more cook than baker but I can still remember racing to her deep freeze in the cool, dark cellar basement even after the long 6 hour car ride from Cleveland to Rockford, IL (glamour alert!) and unearthing whatever package of frozen dough balls I could. Usually chocolate chip, sometimes oatmeal, but never too much fussiness (she was so great.) She had a peanut butter problem too, couldn’t really keep it in the house for fear of sneaking spoonfuls of it. Thinking of that all plus the hint of a taste of freezer burn only makes my nostalgia receptors go of all the more.
These guilt-cookies were pretty good and made me feel like a decent mom. Kind of like an annoying partner-wife – slightly crazed levels of activity, general kitchen mess for…a guilt-inducing food? – but I’ve got a good one and I think he gets it. Sometimes you just hafta make cookies and enjoy them and feel like you’re helping to make some sweet, sweet memories with your little. Fiona helped me bake for the first time and it made my weird heart swell.
Incidentally I’m in the middle of both reading “Shrill” by Lindy West and also hearing/dealing with a few different family members with recognizable eating disorders. Making and enjoying cookies that are probably high in calories but also some healthy stuff is one of my little flags in the sand. As someone who has dealt with disordered eating patterns in the past and still do – I think it works like being an alcoholic – and as a concerned mom, aunt, cousin, friend – I so, so hope that when people eat mah cookies that they do so with happiness and joy and self-acceptance and not as something that gives them some kind of moral measure, or something they do as an escapism or something. TBH “Shrill” is inspiring me to take more pictures of myself, preggo body and all. “(Eternal reminder: Representation matters.)”
I think when it comes to guilt you maybe should be looking within and getting your validation there. Or something. And I’ll get to it, and am working on that right now (see yoga, and spending time alone, and writing this here blog, and the like). But after a bunch of overnights and a one year old and preggo with the next and trying to be a good wifey…there’s always cookies.
Anyways anyways, here’s my recipe for said oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. It’s pretty much the one from Joy of Cooking with three minor changes: some wheat in addition to white flour, some ground flax seed, and no nuts (but pretty well chopped up walnuts could be good, maybe pistachios with cranberries instead of the choco?) Also your nurses at the hospital will love you if you bring these in, and say “From Room Number ___” and omg you’ll get spoiled. I always make at least a double batch and freeze a bunch so I can pretend to be Donna Reed and effortlessly have fresh-baked cookies around later. You do you.
Oatmeal Choco-Chip Cookies with Oatmeal
(Adapted heavily from the Joy of Cooking oatmeal cookie recipe)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose white flour
1/4 cup wheat flour
1/4 cup, scant, ground flax seed
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 lb soft-ish butter (aka 2 sticks or one cup, Jesus Irma)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 white sugar
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup choco chips (I like Ghiradelli bittersweet, you can do whatever you like)
3 1/2 cups ROLLED WHOLE OATS DON’T FORGET
Now pull out all your ingredients first, Virginia. I like to put them all together and as I use put them close to or on where they’re going to be put away – always be closing, as they say. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease up or line with parchment paper or Silpad your bakin’ sheet. Put your dry ingredients or flours, baking soda/powder, and salt into bowl. Ol’ Irma likes to use cinnamon but that spice has no place in MY oatmeal cookies. Or any and all meat dishes – but that’s a whole ‘nother thing).
If you’re using a KitchenAid like I do (God bless you S.O. for gifting this to me early on) put dry ingredients in a regular mixing bowl and the next part in the KitchenAid. Cut your butter into chunks and throw it in there (or just a separate mixing bowl if that’s your situation) with the sugars, eggs, and vanilla and beat/mix/cream away (sounds naughty). Once mixed – you cannot over-cream – STILL NAUGHTY – go ahead and little bit by little bit add in the dry flour mixture. Gently fold in your add-ins like choco chips and then…
…take a breath. Think about what you’re making. Delight in the happiness you will bring yourself and others with these delicious treats. NOW and only now – ADD THE OATMEAL. Once mixed, spoon it in roughly 1.5 inch, uniform balls (this is too easy) and get ’em on the pans and in that hot, hot oven.
If you’re freezing, do your to-be-baked ones and then get another baking sheet (or tray) lined, and then spoon onto there with no big gaps. Freeze them for a few hours until hard, and then put in freezer bags with what they are and the date on there. There ya go, Donna Reed, get ready for your close-up next time you just happen to have homemade cookies a-baked! PS, For making cookies, this is one wedding present that I will never regret asking for: the cookie baller! This thing is amazing and makes making a big batch so, so easy and less messy and more uniform.
Bake for 10 minutes and check. They should be done but can be still pretty soft. I like to take them out then and leave them to cool on pan as they’ll keep baking and firmin’ up for a little while. Seriously, you’re great for making cookies for everyone – now have one and enjoy yoself!