“Fig Newton” Cookie Recipe

Our family is doing well. My physical recovery time with this baby was amazingly short (it’s crazy how much better it is to NOT be recovering from major abdominal surgery…). Other than being deeply, deeply disorganized that is. I hesitated to take people up on their offers of food since I felt so good compared to last time, but then I realized that I am experiencing a normal amount of tiredness and that it’s okay to need help even if I’m not a complete puddle on the floor. I’m not totally overwhelmed, but I am somewhat whelmed and that’s to be expected.

Anyhow, this relates to fig newtons because it’s a symptom of exactly how with it I am not. I spent  three hours the other day researching recipes, grinding flour, and making these cookies. Then I finished them at around 6 p.m. and realized we didn’t have anything for dinner. Luckily, I had some soup that my friend JJ. had given me, so my family did not have cookies for dinner.

If you wanted to skip the stove-top portion, you could get fig jam or any other kind of jam, for that matter. Honestly I still want to tweak this filling recipe a bit (it wasn’t bad…just not quite fig newton-ey enough for my taste), so please let me know in the comments if you make these and come up with something delicious.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe:

 

Dough

  • 3-4 cups whole grain spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ cup pure (not extra virgin) olive oil, or other vegetable oil.
  • 4 eggs, divided
Filling
  • 2 cups figs, chopped (can use dried)
  • 2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp. sugar (optional–depends on your sweet tooth)
  • 1 tsp. orange peel, or zest of 1 orange

The method:

Make the dough:

  • Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in oil and mix until the dough is sandy loooking.
  • Whisk 3 eggs together with 1/2 cup apple juice and add to the dough. Mix to combine. If the dough is too wet, add more flour. If too dry, add more apple juice. The dough should be only slightly softer than you want to use. Form the dough into a ball, place in an airtight container and refrigerate for 2 hours or so.
Make the filling:

  • Combine all the filling ingredients in a saucepan or skillet and cook over medium heat until all the liquid is absorbed by the figs and the mixture is thick.
  • Let the filling cool slightly, then puree it in a food processor until fairly smooth. Refrigerate until time to bake.
At baking time:
  • Heat the oven to 375F. Make an egg wash by whisking the remaining egg with a little water (a couple of teaspoons or less). I have quite a sweet tooth, so I added some sugar to the egg wash and it made for a nice sweetness on top.
  • Divide the dough into workable portions. On a lightly floured surface roll out each portion of dough into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Work with 1 portion of dough at a time. Cut the dough lengthwise into strips, about 2 1/2- 3 inches wide.
  • Paint around the edges of each strip with egg wash. Spoon the fig filling down the center of the strip and then fold the dough over to enclose the filling.
  • Place the tubes, seam side down, on the greased (or parchment-lined) cookie sheet. Press down lightly to flatten. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
  • Brush the tops with the egg wash and bake until light golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  • Let them cool, then cut with a sharp knife into cookie-sized pieces.

Normalizing Different

The “popular kids” and I have never been what you’d call close. In high school and beyond I have usually had a somewhat adverse reaction to doing what was mainstream just because. Even when I tried to blend in I did it so awkwardly that it was doomed to fail even before I bought my over-sized flannel shirt (yes, I grew up in the 90s, before flannel plaid was worn ironically in a tight-fitting style).

But one valuable lesson I have learned from them is this: if you act like what you’re doing is normal, other people probably will too.

Or, on the flip side, if you act like you are a freak, then other people will treat you like one.

The first time this post started rattling around in my head it was in the context of breastfeeding. If women continue to act as though it is something to be done exclusively in a separate wing of the house, in the car, sitting on the toilet, or worse, then it will always be something that is considered ‘other’ in some significant way. I’m not saying we should all insist on the right to walk around shirtless until our children wean at age 4 (like they do without social issue in Africa, I have it from friends who live in Tanzania and Uganda). Yelling loudly “I am not weird!” is another way of admitting that yes, in fact, you do feel disenfranchised in some way and have to cover your feelings by making a scene about it. It doesn’t normalize the behavior.

Another example of this that comes to mind is that I was reading a story a while back in which this woman was talking about the first time she refused a plastic bag at Target, since she was only purchasing one small item. Her telling of the story revolved around how everyone had treated her as though she was stealing the item and she was very uncomfortable the whole time. I have to wonder; what was her facial expression and body language like? Did she act like she was stealing it?

I have developed the habit of just calmly stating that I don’t need a bag, or a straw, or whatever. I don’t furtively glance at the cashier or my fellow customers as I say this, or act embarrassed to be refusing something they are offering (obviously this is trickier in certain situations…if a dear relative offers my daughter a piece of plastic crap toy certain to break and spread tiny beads of plastic all over my house it is much harder to refuse in a way that isn’t taken personally…I’m still working on that one!).

On the food front, I know people I respect who will loudly declare something to be ‘poison’ for everyone to hear in a somewhat misguided effort to educate those around them on the dangers of chemical additives in food. I’m not talking about how we explain things at home…I want to be clear with my daughter about why she can’t eat certain things. I tell her that there is just too much in them that isn’t food, so we aren’t going to eat it. Bless her, for a long time she didn’t even recognize most candy as something edible. As she’s gotten older, though, I just explain to her (quietly, off to the side…not on a soapbox for everyone to hear…) the reason we are not going to eat something. And then I tell her that other people have different mommies, so they might eat things that we don’t and it’s not our job to make them feel bad about it.

This is also glaringly obvious to me (now) when it comes to sharing faith. I grew up in an evangelical tradition wherein it was highly valued to be ‘bold’ in speaking the truth of God’s love to people. In practice it was often more of the same “I am not weird” rhetoric but dressed up in religiosity. Unfortunately, I was not able to communicate in a way that was at all sensitive to the fact that God might say different things to different people at different times. I was not even able to admit He might change the wording a little. If you tell people in an abrasive or confrontational way, “God loves you!” most people will be put off for the same reason that I suspect people reacted oddly to the woman in Target who was made to feel like she was stealing. If you act like what you are saying or doing is false in any way, it can be sensed. It will ring false and people can tell, even without realizing why they are put off by you.

So in conclusion………..if you really think you should do something, then do it and don’t be afraid to not act like a weirdo about it. Also, I’m certain there will be some point today at which I’ll need to take my own advice, as I do lots of stuff that some people might think is weird. Wish me luck with that.

Can-Can?

I just spent almost $30 to can tomatoes.
And I’m not even sure if it’ll work. Lots of people keep telling me it’s easy, so I’m hoping I can figure it out (hearing so many people say it’s easy gives me both comfort and added pressure. On one hand, it’s easy, so it should be fine. But on the other hand, if I mess it up, how much of a jerk will I be? Apparently about 30 bucks and a few hours’ worth).
This is the next step in my effort to eat locally…it makes sense that tomatoes grow in Ohio in August, so if I want to eat tomatoes in January then I need to learn to preserve them in some way.
I read this article the other day decrying the local movement as mostly misguided. They sited the example of people in NYC being lambasted for buying a California tomato due to the energy required to move said tomato across the country for consumption. Apparently these same people will buy local greenhouse tomatoes in December or February, even though just as much energy (or more) is required to grow that tomato. Huh. I begin to see the editorialists’ point.
For us, it’s not just important that our food be ‘local.’ Local food often gives me an added benefit of knowing the person who grew it, which lets me have a clearer picture of what its history is. Also, someone who looks me in the eye every week is less likely to feel comfortable withholding information about what chemicals may or may not be involved in my food’s production. I think relationship is important to me in the food aspect of my life, as in other aspects. We as a culture are so disconnected from each other. I am only recently beginning to realize how deeply the disconnect runs–we don’t ask ‘nosy’ questions of each other. We don’t want to think about where our vegetables come from–ick! dirt! We eat meat, but God forbid we should have to touch something that resembles a dead animal!
I decided a couple of years ago that if I was going to avoid veganism but live a morally integrated food life, I needed to become okay with touching something that I recognized as a dead animal. Now when I prepare a chicken I spend time thinking about that chicken and all the hands that touched it on its way to my plate. And what was previously just something to shove in my mouth becomes…something important, and something to be thankful for.
Paul told the church at Colosse, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
To me, this means we should be grateful for every action we are blessed with the ability and opportunity to take. How can we be grateful for something we are not willing to really think about?