when a snowball becomes an avalanche

In what shouldn't be any surprise whatsoever, I've found this semester to be nearly overwhelming in its demands on my time and energy.  I alternate between telling myself that this is just how graduate school is and that graduate school doesn't have to be this way.  Most recently, I'm starting to think that it's actually some combination of the two: graduate school is very demanding by design, and so I (still) need to learn to deliberately choose and limit my other activities in order to actually rest sometimes and not burn out again.  It's not easy to give things up, but I'm praying about it, and I have to trust that God knows what's best for me.

Now, without any appropriate segue, here are the past three weeks of cookies!

113. Oatmeal Bars with Dates and Walnuts
Lately I've been going after some of the healthier recipes in my cookbook, but after years of eating over-sweetened granola bars and poorly devised whole wheat concoctions, I am always skeptical of such recipes.  Especially when the little blurb under the title describes the cookie "like soft granola bars."  It turns out these cookie bars were really good!  Like, so good that my friends demanded the recipe.

The key to these cookies is oatmeal.  There's nearly 3C involved, half of it ground up before being mixed into the dough, which has a whole wheat (I used white whole wheat) and brown sugar base, along with cinnamon and allspice.  Finally, dates and walnuts give more flavor and texture.

These bars turned out soft and chewy, with a nice sweetness from the dates juxtaposed with the salt added to the dough.  They were amazingly easy to make, and a big hit with my bible study group, who thought I was lying when I told them that these were actually healthy.  I guess I'm not the only one who doesn't trust health food to taste good.

114. Hazelnut Cookies
I discovered, while making this cookies, that I still have no idea why I can't make meringues.  This recipe starts with whipping egg whites until they form soft peaks, adding sugar, and whipping the mixture to stiff peaks.  But every time I've tried this, the egg whites fall the instant I add the sugar, and I'm left with Elmer's glue in my bowl.  It still makes tasty cookies, but I think I'm mixing out on some amazing melt-in-your-mouth experience.

So after I made glue (okay, it's not glue, but that's what it looks like), I added ground toasted hazelnuts, flour, and vanilla, then chilled the dough, and then took it out and formed it into little pyramids for baking.  The result was kind of sloppy looking, but delicious.. until a bitter aftertaste showed up.  When I was at the grocery store, I was unable to find whole hazelnuts, and so I had a really hard time getting the skins off of the chopped ones I had to buy.  Those skins, I believe, are the source of this aftertaste.  Thankfully, that flavor faded after a day or two, and they were easy to share last Tuesday.

115. Whole-Wheat Date Bars
Do not be fooled by the appearance of these cookies.  They are not Fig Newtons.  They are not filled with figs, but rather with a puree of Medjool dates which were softened in boiling apple cider.  The cookie wrapped around them features whole wheat flour (the regular stuff this time), wheat bran, lemon zest, and applesauce.  All these put together give a soft, delicious cookie.  The apple flavors don't show up very strongly, although supposedly the applesauce is there to make these bars soft, which they are.  The lemon zest, however, has a very strong flavor, and adds an unexpected light contrast to the heartiness of the dates and whole wheat which otherwise dominate the cookies.

I have to say, I think these cookies are amazing.  They were very easy to make, not particularly expensive, healthy for cookies, they look good, and (most importantly) they taste good.  It may be hard for me to actually share these....

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