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Oklahoma on My Mind To-night

{Lemons in the backyard, December 2007.]

It’s been chilly here the last few days; winter seeps in the doors and the cats are reluctant to go outside. My brother left for the East Coast yesterday morning, and I saw the sun make its way up the horizon as his old truck rumbled off up the street, dad as copilot for the long trip across the country. They’re driving something like 12 hours a day, and are far more ambitious than I. When I think about the temperatures he’ll experience in Maine in the coming months I know I’m pretty much a wimp for layering on the sweaters when it’s only in the 40s.

Tonight they reached Oklahoma City with clear skies and below-freezing on the thermometer, and I wish a little I had gone along for the ride. I’d have loved to have seen New Mexico shining still and cold in December.

I’m in that quiet in-between period post holidays — all the wrapping paper has been neatly tucked away, the cookies nearly consumed, the bills from all the gifties still a few weeks off. I had the food blogger’s worst nightmare of having an unhappy stomach, and I’ve had to eat lightly (though, of course, I still ate!) the past week or so. Luckily my appetite is finally creeping back, and the other day I had a dish of peppermint stick ice cream from the ice cream shoppe in downtown Sebastopol that was so good I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Screamin’ Mimi’s, I love you and your to-die-for ice cream, and I love that I’ve been been able to indulge since I was in high school.

In these last few days before the new year I’ve been holed up with books to read (“Atonement” and Laurie Colwin’s “More Home Cooking”) and lots of tea. Leftovers have been the norm, and that’s quite fine by me. I’m filing away cooking projects for ’08, but I’m savoring this lovely quiet period before the rush begins again.

[The ocean on Christmas, December 2007.]

So on Christmas after I saw that gorgeous view, we came home and opened presents (for me, some lovely new Le Creuset baking dishes, a book, a bit of jewelry; for others, baked goods, a salt dish, the new Eagles cd) and Kurt and I made dinner. He cut up some root vegetables and rubbed a turkey with olive oil, and put them all in a dish and roasted for about three hours or so. In the meantime, I made a vegetarian gravy, crumbled up cornbread and mixed it with dried apricots and walnuts, and prepared two heads of cauliflower to roast as well. We didn’t sit down to eat until well after 8p, but it didn’t much matter; the fire was going strong and the white wine was very cold, and there was plenty of time to linger over dinner.

In the morning before breakfast, I made cookies for my dad’s Christmas present, from a recipe I adapted from here. I swapped the butter for vegetable shortening to make them lower-fat, and made half as chocolate-chocolate chip and half as spicy-sugar cookies, heavy on the ginger.

I packed the lot up for the cross-country journey, and I hope the trail of crumbs from Sebastopol to Flaggstaff, to Oklahoma City, to Indianapolis, to Philadelphia, leading finally to to Pemaquid, brings my wanderer back to Northern California one day not so long from now.

[Holiday cookies, before the oven, December 2007.]

Slice-and-Bake Cookies, adapted from Dorie Greenspan, by way of smitten kitchen

Makes about four dozen cookies.

2 sticks unsalted vegetable shortening of margarine, at room temperature
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1. Beat the margarine or shortening at medium speed until smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolk, followed by the salt. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, a 1/2 cup at a time, beating just until it disappears, until you’ve put in 1 3/4 cups.

2. Divide dough in half. Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to one half, along with the chocolate chips. To the other half, add 1/8 cup flour spices. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

3. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick. Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)

4. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Using a sharp knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/3-1/2 inch thick. Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch space between them. Dip each spice cookie in granulated sugar before placing on the cookie sheet.

6. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Cool before serving.

Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature, or in the freezer for a month.

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