Recipe Box: The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

You know when you have weeks that feel like they’re never going to end? How about when that week is capped off by having to take your car to the shop AND going to the dentist to get shot up with novocaine?

Those weeks are not so great.

My favorite way to fix weeks like this one has been is to bake. Not only does baking do positive things for my mental health, it also results in delicious treats, which are generally good for my soul. I don’t subscribe to feeling guilty about food anymore, either, so making cookies or brownies or some other treats every once in a while is great – and definitely not something I feel like I have to earn or work off later.

Probably the most-loved recipe in my collection is my great aunt’s recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. It’s the most popular cookie in our family – my sister has perfected it – and we made a ton of them for my wedding to share with our friends and family.

And now I’m going to share it with you. Love this recipe, bake it with care, and most of all – enjoy it.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Auntie Joyce)

1 cup margarine (or butter)

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

 

2 eggs

Dash of salt

1 1/2 cup of flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp hot water

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups oatmeal

1 package chocolate chips (or however much you want)

 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream together margarine and sugars. Add eggs and salt and mix. Add flour, baking soda, water, vanilla, and oatmeal – mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake for 12 minutes. Eat your face off.

2017 Goals: Revisited

It may seem a bit premature to be revisiting my goals for 2017 and beyond, knowing we still have a month and a half left of this year. However, I like to think of this review as a last-ditch effort to accomplish as many of my goals as possible before 2017 ticks away and we welcome a new year.

TO REVIEW. I wrote about my goals in this post.

“We hear so much talk about #newyearnewme that is almost seems like a requirement that we all resolve to be skinnier or stronger or whatever. I have a hard time with that, because 1. The me that I am right now seems pretty okay, and 2. Shouldn’t we focus more on being a better human being and making meaningful changes in our lives than just the superficial?

Similarly, I don’t think the beginning of the year has cornered the market on when we’re allowed to set goals. Who says you can’t make resolutions at the end of January, or in May or in August? No one, that’s who.”

My mindset now is pretty much the same as my mindset back in January. I’m still working on being a better human in general – a process that I’m pretty sure should never end. It’s always a work in progress.

Some of the goals I set for myself are super easy to measure. Others are a little more subjective. But, let’s see where I’m at, so that I can see what I can work on through the holiday season.

Goal #1: Get More Sleep

I would love to say that this has been a rousing (or not?) success. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. I haven’t been terrible at sleeping, but I haven’t been nearly as dedicated to achieving 7+ hours of sleep a night as I probably should be. I’m always working on this – this weekend for example, I was in bed at 8pm on Saturday night. Mind you, I didn’t go to sleep until around 10, but I was allowing my body to relax and that felt good. As it starts getting darker earlier, getting to bed earlier will be easier. I will do my best to use this to my advantage.

Goal #2: Read More Books

Going hand in hand with getting to bed earlier was making time to read more – I used to be a card-carrying bookworm as a kid, but since college, I haven’t made as much time for reading as I should. I had a goal of reading 30 books in 2017. I think I’ve read… *counts* eight or nine. Fail. Well, maybe not a total fail – I still technically have read more books in 2017 than I read in 2016, so that’s a win. Of those eight books, three were Game of Thrones books, and honestly those should count for at least three books… each. They are effing long. Great, but long. Oof. I’m in the middle of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere right now and I’m really enjoying it. Happy to be back on the book train and totally riding it into 2018.

Goal #3: Balance My Workouts

I definitely worked on this one all year – mixing up my weightlifting with running and Kaza, and now making the jump to CrossFit. CrossFit has definitely given me balance without my having to think about it. Since each workout incorporates cardio work along with strength, I feel like the hour I spend in the gym nearly every day is well-spent and I feel a lot less guilty about missing a workout or taking a rest day (or two) because I know that my body needs the break.

Goal #4: Get More Involved in My Community

Ugh, you guys, this one is a hard fail. I hate admitting that. After the election last year, and after the Women’s March, I was so jacked to fight back through activism and involvement. But, aside from keyboard activism, and voting in my local elections, I have yet to really get involved locally. I can make excuses, but that’s all they’d be. I’ve been educating myself a lot in the last year. Time to turn that outward.

Goal #5: Adjust My Five Year Plan

This goal just makes me laugh out loud. Literally. I think I’ve changed or adjusted my five year plan about four times, significantly, in the last 10 months. Some of that has been because my priorities have changed, but mostly it has to do with external factors dictating some of that five year picture for me. Military life, you guys, it’s a bucket of surprises. Planning anything becomes an exercise in extreme patience and flexibility – something I’m not always good at, but am constantly trying to improve. Perhaps a new goal would be to work on being more tolerant of things that are not within my control. Yes. I think that’s it.

As I said in my post from January, these goals aren’t necessarily time-stamped, and they certainly don’t have an expiration date. I’ve just been trying to mindfully working on them little by little all the time. I will continue to do so through the next month and a half and as 2018 begins, I will have more goals to add, I’m sure.

Did you set goals for 2017? How successful have you been at keeping them? What challenges have you faced?

Finally. CrossFit.

I’ve been reading fitness blogs for the past five years or so. Running, mostly, obviously. But, way back in 2012, I also stumbled across a few blogs that kept talking about CrossFit: sharing workouts, talking about weightlifting, looking totally jacked and badass and strong. As an athlete, I was immediately intrigued by these workouts. They incorporated so many movements and skills that it seemed impossible to get bored.

I immediately started looking for CrossFit gyms near me – unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to pay for a membership. So, I put it off. I continued lifting weights and running and following CrossFit from afar. Trying some of the workouts here and there, but that was about it.

This continued until, finally, this past July, I bit the bullet. Clay was on board, too. I’d suckered him in to watching a couple documentaries about it (on Netflix, The Fittest on Earth), and a whole bunch of YouTube videos of past Games’ events and competitions and he was sold.

We’ve been going consistently since July – and consequently my entire fitness mindset has changed. I wrote a little bit about it in my last post, specifically as it related to my diet. I feel like I’ve been able to stop worrying so damn much about what my body looks like (it’s so hard to escape that mindset) and just focus on working hard in class and fueling my body appropriately.

CrossFit catches a lot of flack for being a fad or being too dangerous – none of which I think is true. CrossFit is simply defined as “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” Functional movements performed at high intensity, from varying fitness modalities, such as running, olympic lifting, gymnastics, rowing, biking and more. Pretty straightforward. What I like best about it, is that any CrossFit workout can be scaled to fit an athlete’s skill level – literally anyone can do CrossFit. Whether you’re a collegiate athlete in peak shape, or you’re a 70 year old who just wants to be able to bend down to pick something up off the floor, CrossFit could be for you.

I love being challenged every day when I go to the gym. Granted, I sometimes read the workout and crap my pants for half a second thinking about how smoked I’m going to be afterward. But. I still enjoy the feeling of being humbled by something as simple as box jumps. Or rope climbs. Or, as we did on Saturday, a 5K row paired with a gnarly barbell complex.

I’ve learned a ton of new skills since starting CrossFit – and improved many others. I’ve surprised myself. I’ve been frustrated. I’ve been nervous. I’ve overcome fears.

All in the confines of a gym, surrounded by other sweaty people going through the same progressions I am.

I still have so much to learn, so many skills to develop and improve – but I’m so glad I’ve finally made myself CrossFit legit. There is just so much opportunity for growth and I can’t wait to see where this takes me.

 

Recipe Box: Thai Red Curry

Shortly after our wedding, Clay and I decided that we wanted to change our diet. Again. Not entirely surprising, if you know us at all (I write about food a lot)… but this shift was definitely bigger than any we’d done before.

We’d been watching Food Inc., which we’d both previously seen, and it reignited our concerns about factory farms and agribuiness’ negative impact on the environment. Since ultimately we vote with our dollar, we decided to try being vegetarian – choosing not to buy meat, and really looking into where our food comes from.

This shift has been really eye opening all around. Since we also pay pretty close attention to our macronutrients to ensure that we are still getting the appropriate amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates, we’ve had to really consider carefully the types of vegetarian food we depend on. Turns out it isn’t as difficult as you might think to get plenty of protein with vegetarian food sources. We end up eating a lot of tempeh, tofu, and tofurky sausages to help us hit our numbers – and truth be told, everything is super versatile and very tasty.

We still try to eat pretty clean: no added sugars, lots of vegetables, very little processed food. While now we eat a lot more carbohydrates than previously, I’ve found – and I think Clay would say the same – that my body appreciates a more carb-heavy diet. I find myself with more energy, which is vital to fueling my workouts. I also find myself feeling lighter. Figuratively, if not literally. Being vegetarian has allowed me to eat much more intuitively, which has allowed me to feel significantly less stressed about food. I still track everything in My Fitness Pal and eat clean, but I also allow myself to enjoy cookies or Halo Top or pancakes. Consequently, my body feels good and so does my mind. This works for me – and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly fulfills my desire to have a positive impact on the planet as well as a healthy lifestyle.

Three cheers for finding peace with food.

One of our favorite go-to recipes while on this vegetarian venture has been Thai Red Curry from Cookie and Kate.

This recipe is super easy (we modify it a bit to cut out the sugar and the rice (sometimes we make it and sometimes we don’t). To make the prep easier, we’ll often split up the tasks: Clay will cut all the veggies beforehand so when it’s time to make dinner, all I have to do is assemble the pieces. We also add tofu to bump up the protein content, and it’s super delicious.

Give it a try!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ¼ cups brown jasmine rice or long-grain brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • Pinch of salt, more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (about a 1-inch nub of ginger)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin 2-inch long strips
  • 1 yellow, orange or green bell pepper, sliced into thin 2-inch long strips
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into ¼-inch thick rounds (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can (14 ounces) regular coconut milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups packed thinly sliced kale (tough ribs removed first), preferably the Tuscan/lacinato/dinosaur variety
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coconut sugar or turbinado (raw) sugar or brown sugar (we don’t do this)
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce (we use coconut aminos)
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar or fresh lime juice
  • Garnishes/sides: handful of chopped fresh basil or cilantro, optional red pepper flakes, optional sriracha or chili garlic sauce

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To cook the rice, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the rinsed rice and continue boiling for 30 minutes, reducing heat as necessary to prevent overflow. Remove from heat, drain the rice and return the rice to pot. Cover and let the rice rest for 10 minutes or longer, until you’re ready to serve. Just before serving, season the rice to taste with salt and fluff it with a fork.
  2. To make the curry, warm a large skillet with deep sides over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the oil. Add the onion and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, while stirring continuously.
  3. Add the bell peppers and carrots. Cook until the bell peppers are fork-tender, 3 to 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the curry paste and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk, water, kale and sugar, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the peppers, carrots and kale have softened to your liking, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and season with tamari and rice vinegar. Add salt (I added ¼ teaspoon for optimal flavor), to taste. If the curry needs a little more punch, add ½ teaspoon more tamari, or for more acidity, add ½ teaspoon more rice vinegar. Divide rice and curry into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, if you’d like. If you love spicy curries, serve with sriracha or chili garlic sauce on the side.

Goodbye, Alaska

I know that saying goodbye to your childhood home is a pretty standard part of growing up for most people. At some point or another, usually after we’ve left home for college or jobs or other adventures, our parents decide that it’s their turn. Whether it’s to downsize, or even to move to more agreeable climes, when the parents determine it’s time to leave, it sets in motion a bittersweet series of goodbyes. Some more difficult than others.

So, this past weekend, I went back to Alaska to do just that: say goodbye to my childhood home. My family has lived in the same house for 21 years – most of my life, and longer even than my youngest sister has been alive. But now that we’re all grown, and my parents have both retired, they wanted to be closer to family. So, they found a cute little lake house in Northern Wisconsin and sold our old home in Alaska…

The trip home this weekend was short – about 60 hours or so – and in that time we packed and sorted and cleaned and remembered. We visited some of our favorite places, ate some of our favorite food, and when the time came to leave for the airport Sunday night, we cried. Driving away from that house for the last time was weird. On one hand, it didn’t feel like the last time I’d be there at all, but on the other, all I could think about was how I didn’t know the next time I’d be in Alaska.

I haven’t lived at home full time in more than 10 years, but this weekend felt like I was officially leaving home for the first time. It is sad to say goodbye to a house and a community I’ve loved so well for so long, but this whole process has given me a chance to reflect on just how lucky we were to have lived in such an amazing place. The memories I have of Alaska are so special, and growing up there has shaped me in so many ways. I will miss being able to go home to Alaska whenever I need to, but I’m so grateful to have been able to call it that at all.

Alaska, I love you. Stay classy.

We’re just missing one sister. Anna, we love you!

If you ever go to Anchorage, this is the best pizza you will ever have. Moose’s Tooth.


This view will never not be my favorite.