For a woman who calls herself a foodie, I’ve been consuming a dreadfully large amount of frozen, pre-prepared foods. Granted, I try to purchase those foods from farmer’s market vendors who use real, local ingredients, but let’s face it, there are days when only chicken fingers will do. Or a bagel smeared with sticky cream cheese from my local drive-thru coffee place. I’m sad to say the food court in the building where I work has been a fixture in my daily routine.
This kind of eating is a fairly big diversion for someone who makes her own granola rather than buying cereal at the store, but I’m chalking it up to a particular season in my life which has necessitated some fairly drastic survival measures.
You see, my husband has been deployed overseas since July, and shortly after his departure, I found out I was pregnant with our second child. Since then, life has been a roller coaster of adaptation to solo parenting, combined with the exhaustion and emotion of early pregnancy. I have had to practice a lot of letting go. My girl has watched quite a bit of Dora while I lay passed out on the couch next to her. We have eaten more bowls of cereal for dinner than I can possibly count. Though some of these changes have required just a little grace and self-compassion, there are others that weigh more heavily on my heart.
Eating cereal for dinner – not having the time, or energy, or genuine desire to prepare a healthy homemade alternative – for someone who takes deep comfort and pride in preparing food, comes with a feeling of loss. As have the other sacrifices; the fact that I’ve not written a blog post in three months; the stand-up paddleboard that remains in my garage, virtually untouched this summer; the feeling, on my worst days, that I’ve given up everything but work and parenting these past few months.
Surely, I am grateful to have my beautiful daughter and to be pregnant again, for a roof over our heads, and the ability to put food on the table, even when it’s chicken fingers. I am thankful that I can remind myself that this time in our lives will end; sometimes that is the only thing that keeps my head above water. But perhaps it’s also okay to acknowledge the ache that I feel when I see fathers out walking with their children, imagining that mama is at home with a hot cup of tea and a good book. Perhaps it’s okay just to have a good cry about my untouched journal, the camera that’s collecting dust, and my racing bike with two flat tires and a net of cobwebs encircling it.
These cookies are a fairly good option for times like these. My dad used to make them when we were kids; there were always a few rolls of icebox cookie dough in the freezer. It wasn’t until he sent me some in a care package when I was in university that I realized the sheer delight of just slicing off a few discs to bake on a whim. Just for me, just because I felt like eating soft, chewy oatmeal and hot, sweet maraschinos.
These can be made while balancing a toddler on one’s hip, or by sitting her on the counter and telling her to dig her hands in and help with the mixing. They should be eaten with cold milk or a cup of tea, and should taste of love, and a bit of sweet relief.
Easy Icebox Cookies
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups large flake rolled oats
- Dried fruit, type and quantity of your choice (I use maraschino or candied cherries, candied ginger, raisins, and candied pineapple); nuts optional
- Using a whisk or a stand mixer, cream the sugars and egg together. Add in the shortening, and mix thoroughly.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, salt and rolled oats.
- Combine the dry ingredients with the wet until they begin to form a cohesive mixture. Add in the desired quantity of dried fruit; I just "eyeball it" here. The dough will be quite sticky and tough, so you'll likely need your hands at this point to mix it thoroughly.
- Form the dough into square-ish bars approximately 10" long (you'll likely get about 3-4 bars from this recipe). Wrap first in parchment or wax paper, and then in tin foil. Store in the freezer until ready to bake.
- (Note: if you'd like to eat some of these right away, chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour before baking)
- When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 325F. Remove the cookie dough from the freezer and slice off the desired number of cookies (it's helpful to used a serrated knife here so they don't break apart). Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, or until slightly browned on the bottoms.
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