There’s no reason to not take five minutes right now and read this blog. I guarantee you’ll want to run to your kitchen, pull out nuts (any kind), sugar, 2 eggs (whites only, freeze the yolks) and flour. Within ten minutes, no KitchenAid needed, you’ll have mounds of these little darlings on parchment-lined baking sheets ready to pop into the oven. No butter, oil, salt, extracts or leavening required.
Besides turning into Cookie Monster this week, my first month in Cambria officially ended. It’s been productive and quite wonderful. I hesitate to throw out those adjectives because I don’t want to whammy myself. Have you ever felt like that? It’s always seems whenever things are running smoothly, on an even keel, I relax, get complacent, a little cocky. Until things take a bad turn or two or three and I am forced to change gears. That’s just Life, isn’t it?
Michael’s last ten years were all bumps and bruises and disasters. While I did many things right in those ten years, I never handled those many crisis well. As I’ve often said, when my second grade teacher asked who wanted to be a nurse when they grew up, I never raised my hand. I was unequipped and lacked the knowledge, tools and DNA to be a caregiver. Oh, I tried, would smile and soldier on but no one ever mistook me for Florence Nightingale.
I wasn’t a total loser, however. I was all about running our affairs with their many complications and intricacies, keeping us afloat. Organization is my forté. Never underestimate the importance of that. When a critical issue had to be solved, I would seek advice and help. The final decision, however, was mine alone and I made it. I really never gave up hope we could beat this disease until Michael entered the Memory Care unit. I never cried much throughout this entire journey but that day I sat by his wheelchair and sobbed.
After Michael died, it was my job to create a Lifestyle for myself. This, I could do. I had the knowledge, tools and DNA to build a business. The business of living, if you will. The majority of spouses who become longtime caregivers can never reestablish a contented life. Either they do not have the energy or health or resources or will to jump back into life after so many years. It’s too overwhelming or they don’t know how.
Sometimes I wonder if my friends, family or you readers find it puzzling or odd or weird that I appear so happy and content and laugh so easily. How could someone who lost a spouse of 25 years bounce back so quickly. Does she ever feel sad or grieve? (This quiet month in California has given me thinking time, do you get that?) What I’ve chosen to remember and celebrate are the 15 good years. Returning to Aspen has given me that gift. I used up a lifetime of sadness and grief during Michael’s illness. There is none of that left in my tank. Plus, it’s not my nature. My good times will continue to roll, hopefully, just as they have the past two years. That is my hope for all caregivers who walk this road.
I haven’t, however, used up my fondness for cookies. In all modesty, I admit that Mary Hirsch knows her cookies. Although pies, cakes and pastries don’t tempt me, dare not get between me and a cookie. My mom’s speciality was Hermits, a spicy New England classic. When her cookie jar was empty I was partial to Archway’s crispy Windmills and, twist my arm, Oreo’s. My friend, Jane Carey, makes me Mexican Wedding Cookies but only at Christmas. In Aspen I now live a 5-minute walk away from my favorite cookie bakery. Buy two, get the third free….Peanut Butter, Molasses and Snickerdoodle. It’s a blessed Life.
Can you understand why I don’t often bake cookies? That may change with today’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe. A Croquant is a crispy morsel that doesn’t know if it’s a macaroon or meringue.They are readily available in France at boulangeries, patisseries and supermarkets. I was once in Paris with a friend who loved ice cream. Everyday she and I would walk to Île Saint-Louis where France’s well-known glacier, Berthillon’s, had a store.I would buy a Chocolate Noir ice cream cone. While every lick was heavenly, it was the little crunchy wafer stuck in the ice cream that I loved most. With all its leftover egg whites, Berthillon’s makes Croquants. Genius.
The recipe is below. Here are some tips. Unskinned hazelnuts and/or almonds are the classic nuts of choice. For fun, Dorie suggested cashews. I loved that. Chop the nuts the size of chocolate chips. NO smaller. The recipe makes 4 dozen delicious cookies.
CROQUANTS by Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table cookbook
3 ½ ounces (about a cup) of nuts, coarsely chopped (I used cashews)
1¼ c. sugar
2 large egg whites
½ c. plus 1 Tbsp. flour, sifted
1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
2, Put the nuts and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and, using a rubber spatula, stir together. Add the egg whites and stir so the nuts are evenly coated. Add the flour and stir to blend until you have a thick mixture.
3. Measure out a teaspoonful of dough and put the little mounds on the parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies.
4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through, until puffed, crackled and nicely browned .
5. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack, and let the cookies stand for about 10 minutes, until you can easily peel them away from the parchment. Transfer the cookies to the cooling rack, and allow them to cool to room temperature.
6. Store in a dry, covered container, not in a plastic bag or plastic wrap, or they will lose their crunch. They will keep for a week.