“You see it often in people who return from long, quiet fishing trips. Often they’re a little defensive about having put so much time to “no account” because there’s no intellectual justification for what they’ve been doing. But the returned fisherman usually has a peculiar abundance of gumption, usually for the very same things he was sick to death of a few weeks before. He hasn’t been wasting time. It’s only our limited cultural viewpoint that makes it seem so.” – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
I finished reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values” about a week ago. I should have completed this book several years ago, but, like many people who were assigned it in college, I did not. I didn’t read “Zen…” at the time because I knew I didn’t have to; it was a summer reading intended to ignite conversation the first few weeks in the lecture hall. I was not going to waste my time on something that was not even graded (foreshadow alert: this was an unhealthy belief system)!
If you’ve read my About Page, you may have gathered college made me a bit…searching for right word…insane. I learned the system early on and conditioned myself to perform in a certain manner (i.e., study and do homework all.the.time.) to earn good grades, regardless of whether any real learning was achieved. The problem was I didn’t escape this after I graduated college—I still felt like every action had to be associated with a direct purpose. Even if you weren’t good-student conditioned like me, you probably agree it’s easy to feel as though you’re wasting time in moments of leisure because we’re programmed from an early age to think that way. Well, the lesson I’m slowly learning is time is not being wasted if you’re doing something you enjoy or find restorative.
For me, that something is not fishing (the terror of potentially catching one!), it is baking and also reading. In response to an extreme afternoon cookie craving, I resolved to bake some healthy oatmeal cookies.These Best-Ever Healthy Oatmeal Cookies are soft but full of texture. The dough is incredibly moist—thanks to applesauce, maple syrup, and dates—and is studded with oats, dried cranberries, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seeds. I could not resist these healthy add-ins because I’m someone who will always choose chunks over no-chunks. This is a fundamental difference between me and Jake, who will spit out the chunks of chocolate in Ben and Jerry’s “Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz!” ice cream…while I look on with a single tear streaming down my cheek. It’s just not right.
Unlike coffee ice cream, which Jake believes should be un-tainted by chunks, he’s been happily eating these healthy Best-Ever Healthy Oatmeal Cookies as is. That is because the flavors and textures of the oats, cranberries, chocolate, and pumpkin seeds only help to enhance the naturally sweet and cinnamon-y dough.
I have been jokingly calling these cookies “breakfast cookies” and also “snack cookies” and also “after-dinner cookies” because I can’t stop eating them.Go Bake! Or Read! Or fish (well, maybe it will have to be ice fishing this time of year)!
Best-Ever Healthy Oatmeal Cookies:
(makes two dozen cookies)
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup maple syrup
4 medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
1 tbsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ cup rolled oats
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup dried cranberries (or sub golden raisins)
½ cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup pumpkin seeds (or sub chopped walnuts)
First… Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Second… Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Then… In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix first three ingredients on low-medium for about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl a few times.
Fourth… Add the dates, egg, and vanilla and resume mixer and mix for about a minute.
Next… With mixer on low speed, add the rest of the ingredients in order. Do not over-mix once flour has been added.
Finally… Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden on bottoms.
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 4 medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- ½ cup dried cranberries (or sub golden raisins)
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds (or sub chopped walnuts)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix first three ingredients on low-medium for about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl a few times.
- Add the dates, egg, and vanilla and resume mixer and mix for about a minute.
- With mixer on low speed, add the rest of the ingredients in order. Do not over-mix once flour has been added.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden on bottoms.