Sometimes there are things that I want to write about, but the moment is a bit too close at hand. I started to write this post last August after a dear friend from Pella and her family visited us for a couple of days in the middle of their epic road trip from Iowa to British Columbia and then back down to the Oregon coast.
We’ve done a lot of moving around, Dave and I. From various apartments in upstate New York during graduate school through our impromptu academic tour of the American Midwest and now to Vancouver Island. Most of these “homes” have not lasted for more than two years before we move again following the job market. In each of these places we have been blessed with some amazing friends. The kind who we may not see for a year (or more), but the minute you are back in contact it’s as if you were never apart. Conversations pick up as if we had just been chatting yesterday, and it is this effortlessness that makes it all the more gut wrenching when you have to leave them again.
Which brings us back to the post that I started last August. Little Man still talks about Iowa as a place that he wants to go back and visit. In fact, he consistently talks about how “tomorrow” we need to catch a plane and go to Iowa then to China to visit his Kung Fu Panda friends. At first I thought he assumed that all travel must go through Iowa since that is the last place that he traveled from on our move here. So we pulled out the globe and his map and I showed him how Iowa is in no way closer to China than we are here. Then Little Man explained to me that the goal was to visit Iowa and his blue home (our house there was painted blue with a scarlet front door), then to travel on to the Jade Palace in China. Ah…
When our friends came out to visit from Iowa, it was as if we’d just parted company the day before, not the year it was in real time. We played, the kids played, and we ate, drank and talked for hours. It was fantastic. And as is often the case, the better the visit is, the sadder the departure. We had already taught Little Man the Turkish tradition of throwing water on the vehicle of loved ones who are leaving to ensure that they must come back soon. So as they were getting into their car, Little Man was urging me on quickly to grab a container of water to make sure they came back. We dowsed the car, and are still waiting with baited breath for them to return.
He was quiet as we went back inside after their departure. We closed the front door and Little Man looked out the window watching their car disappear around the corner into the woods. Dave scooped Little Man up and took him to the couch in his arms.
“Daddy, what does ‘sad’ mean?”
Little Man’s head was bowed so all I could see were his golden curls, not his face.
“Sad is something we feel when we are upset. Are you sad that your friends are leaving?”
A nod of curls followed by, “Do you cry when you feel sad?”
“Yes, some times we cry when we feel sad,” Daddy said. “It’s OK to cry when we feel sad. It’s OK to cry.” Daddy folded him in his arms as Little Man’s face crumpled into tears.
I stood in the kitchen, “good bye” tears in my eyes, and tried to gain control. My “plan” had been to hold it together for Little Man’s sake, so I could comfort myself with tears later after he was asleep. No such luck. So instead I baked. The known movements of measuring, portioning and stirring were comforting, as was the aroma from the oven. For this moment, for me at least, the main point wasn’t the special treat to eat afterwards, but the actions and senses leading up to it.
That visit spurred me on to try to find Little Man more friends here on our island. He was only 2 1/2 when we left Iowa, but all of his little friends that he’d known since birth were now far away and it’s hard (even for a little guy) to break into a community like Nanaimo where many people have lived for generations and don’t know what it’s like to be new in a place and friendless. Now, to celebrate when we make new friends or for special play dates (generally outside ones where errant chocolate chips won’t ruin someone’s couch), I like to make a baked treat to bring along. Sometimes this means mini-muffins or scones, but what we’ve started thinking of as special treats with friends are cookies.
One of my favorite comfort foods is an old fashioned chocolate chip cookie. However, the “old fashioned” part has had to be updated a bit for our current dietary requirements. My goal here was to take that standard recipe for a delicious chocolate chip cookie with crispy edges and a chewy center loaded with chocolate chips, and make it into something that while it would be a stretch to call it “healthy” I could feel good about feeding my child and offering to other children (and parents, of course). So in my case that meant getting rid of the wheat and using spelt flour, which still has some gluten for texture but has less of the gastro-issues than wheat has, and sneaking in some chia meal to up the “goodness” value.
As I’ve written before, there’s no need to go out and buy a special bag of chia meal. If you have chia seeds at home, all you need to do is pour some of the seeds into a coffee grinder or food processor and blitz them up. Creating your own chia meal has the added benefits of making all the great nutrients of chia more easily accessible to your body, and there is less chance of a stray whole chia seed getting into your dishwasher and growing like a chia pet. If you don’t have chia, but do have flax seeds feel free to use them the same way. If you have neither, then you can simply replace the amount of chia meal for a flour of your choice, or even oats.
Enough talking, let’s make some cookies…
Not So Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat)
¼ cup chia meal (see note)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) good quality dairy free margarine (or butter), softened
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 375°. Set aside an ungreased baking sheet.
- Combine the spelt flour, chia meal, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set this aside.
- Combine the softened margarine (or butter), sugars and vanilla in a large bowl either by hand or with an electric beater or stand mixer. Make sure the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter mixture, combining well.
- Carefully add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring slowly at first so that you don’t create a flour cloud by beating your ingredients too enthusiastically. Make sure that the dough is smooth and thoroughly combined.
- Add the chocolate chips, stirring just to distribute them throughout.
- Using two spoons (or a small scoop if you are feeling fancy) scoop out and drop tablespoon-sized portions of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them a few inches apart since the dough will spread while baking.
- Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes or until nice and golden brown. The cookies should not look wet in the middle, but will be soft when you take them off of the tray. Don’t worry, they will firm up as they cool. Remove the tray from the oven and let the cookies sit for about 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. They can be cooled completely or served immediately. Just warn little mouths about the potential for hot, melted chocolate chips.
- You can continue baking the cookies until the dough is done, or take any dough that you don’t wish to bake now, form it into a log on plastic wrap, cover it securely and keep it in the freezer until you are ready to slice and bake the cookies. You may need to increase the baking time by a few minutes, so watch them carefully towards the end. The dough can be frozen for up to a few weeks. Enjoy!
Note: Make your own chia meal by blitzing up chia seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor. You can also do the same with flax seeds, or make oat flour by blitzing up whole oats (not instant, please). Store any extra chia meal in the freezer to keep it fresh.
Click here for a printable version of the Not So Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe.