Down East 2013 ©
It’s getting dark. Really dark. Yesterday I looked outside and it was nearly black. I looked at the clock: 3:48 in the afternoon. The term “afternoon” implies that we are only mid-way through the day. But according to the scene outside my kitchen window, it is night.
We are close to the shortest day of the year and my inner clock is fighting hard to stay awake all day and remain on schedule. I am ready for dinner at 5 p.m. and bed at 8 p.m. Early bird special, anyone?
If I lived in another culture, a far more civilized culture, I would take a siesta after the mid-day meal. And I would do it proudly knowing that the rest of the nation was also taking a break and resting. But I am an American and, in general, adult Americans don’t nap. Napping makes me feel guilty. Plus, I’m no good at it. I lie down in the early afternoon and my mind races with thoughts of what needs to be done. I can hear the yoga teachers and the meditation experts in the recesses of my mind telling me. “Quiet. Simply quiet your mind. Be a blank canvas. Empty out.” But I don’t work like that. My canvas happens to be quite full. In fact, these days my canvas is more Jackson Pollack than Monet. When I go to sleep it’s for the night. And, when I wake, it’s for the whole day.
I have a writer friend who naps every day. After lunch, she takes off all her clothes, gets into bed, and sleeps for close to an hour every single day! I am in awe of her ability to shut down and stop everything in the middle of a workday. I also happened to be married to a man who says he is going to lie down for a few minutes and within seconds (I kid you not) of his head hitting the pillow (or the couch or the headrest in the car), he is happily snoring. Maybe one needs to have to have a special gene in order to nap.
As the holiday season approaches (encroaches) I suppose we should be napping more than ever. Do you nap? Once a week? Every day? Tell me about it. I want insight, direction. Do you think it’s a skill I could possibly learn, like knitting or cross-country skiing or speaking Spanish? Perhaps in the spirit of the season I should make a New Year's resolution to master the art of napping.
In the meantime I offer these recipes as great alternatives to napping. A healthy cookie chick full of fruit and ginger and a soothing ginger tea, perfect for warding off an oncoming sore throat. They are both perfect pick-me-ups in those drooping, dragging, dark, late-afternoon hours when it’s not time for dinner and you could really use an energy boost. Or a nap.
Oatmeal, Fig, and Ginger Cookies
Eating cookies in the middle of the afternoon might not sound like the best idea, but think again. These simple cookies are loaded with oatmeal (that’s good for you, right?) and dried figs (healthy and a good natural energy booster), and ginger. This is my take on the classic oatmeal-raisin cookie. This dough freezes well: freeze the dough balls on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet until solid, and then transfer to a resealable plastic bag. Squeeze out all of the air from the bag before sealing. Freeze for up to three weeks. The dough can be baked straight from the freezer for about 18 to 22 minutes.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/4 cups chopped dried figs
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (or grease the sheets) and set aside.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and two sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix on low speed until just combined, then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary between additions.
In a separate bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, and salt together with a whisk. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Using a spoon or spatula, by hand stir in the oats, figs, and ginger, separating the dried fruit with your hands as you drop it in to make sure it gets evenly distributed.
Form the dough into 2-inch balls, using roughly 2 tablespoons dough for each and place 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets front to back and top to bottom in the oven about halfway through cooking. The cookies should be golden brown at the edges. Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Makes about 30 cookies.
Try substituting the following for the figs and ginger:
This is one of the great “cures” for a sore throat, but it’s also an all-round healthful, energy drink.
2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger
2 1/2 cups water
About 2 tablespoons honey
Place the ginger and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until you can smell and taste the ginger.
Strain in a mug and add honey to taste. The tea will keep for a day or two. Makes about 2 cups tea.