Have I ever told you about that time when I was stuck? Not the type of stuck you get when you decide to venture out into a snow storm. I was stuck in life, in a place, in a job, with a boy, all things I didn't like. I was stuck so deep that I was unsure of how to get out. After a lot of self-reflecting and gin drinking, I dug myself out, moved forward, got an education, and left the boy. It was when I finally decided to grab the steering wheel, instead of riding in the back seat, that the car seemed to go in the right direction. Sometimes I look back at that time of my life, not with regret or shame, but as a point of reference. To remind myself of the person that I once was, and the person I am today. And although at the the time it seemed like a really terrifying decision, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
It's often good to self-reflect, so that you can have a chance to laugh at yourself. During that interesting time in my life, I was a farmer. I wasn't a serious farmer, more like 'I caught a case of farming'. Like a bad cold. I wasn't reading the farmers almanac or staying up-to-date on soy bean pricing, but I was a girl in rubber boots trying to figure things out, while in the background, there happened to be some soy beans, a large vegetable garden, a neurotic dog and a cow. Most things I could've handled back then. I tended to the garden. The dog was fun in an insane way. The soy beans managed themselves. But the cow. I'm really not sure where she came from. She just showed up one day in a truck. I'm sure she was purchased or something, but I was in my own world, and completely oblivious. I quickly learned that cows are generally more afraid of you than you are of them. They are large, totally unpredictable, and they move fast. I was always terrified that this cow would run right into me in the field. Sometimes I had the responsibility of trying to get her into the barn, and that meant me chasing her around the field waving a large stick in the air. You're laughing, right?
During that time, I passed the days drinking a lot of bourbon in the afternoon and gin in the evening. My dear friends lived close, and we would all often drink bourbon together, for lunch. The house itself was beautiful, the land was amazing. Peaceful. If I moved there today, I might just be happy. But instead, I choose to live in the city and channel my inner farmer/hippie on a regular basis to keep myself sane. I have turned my patio into a vegetable garden, I make tortillas from scratch, and on rare occasions I make almond milk. I draw the line at chickens though. Lets be real, they're unruly.
And just to add a little spice to the mix, yesterday I made fig newtons from scratch. Well, I attempted to make fig newtons and then realized that I had bought dates instead of figs because I had a lot on my mind that day. Instead of throwing in the towel, I just made a simple substitution. This resulted in a delightful sweetness, and bonus, we now don't have to worry about those ridiculous tiny seeds getting stuck in our teeth. The dough is a simple recipe - flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, and one egg white. The filling is a blend of great tastes - dates, orange juice, vanilla, and water boiled into a jam. The whole process was really fun, although just a heads up when you are working with a buttery soft dough, it's probably wise not to boil a large pot of corn, turn on the oven, and run the dishwasher all at the same time. It was basically like trying to roll dough in a hot box. Impossible. Every few minutes, I had to throw the dough into the freezer to chill, just so it was more workable. In the end, it all worked out. My mom's favorite cookies are fig newtons. She used to keep a stash in the kitchen in a blue wicker basket on the shelf. To this day, whenever I see a fig newton, it reminds me of her.
makes 27 cookies
1 lb dried pitted dates, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup water
8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
In a medium sauce pan, bring the dates, vanilla, orange juice, and water to a low boil on low-medium heat. Cover and let simmer until the date mixture becomes the consistency of jam. Remove from the stove and set to the side to let cool. Once cool, add the dates to a food processor, and pulse into a smooth paste. Set to the side.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg white and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge until cool.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Remove the dough from the fridge. Lightly flour the counter and the rolling pin. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and roll it into a 12x16" rectangle. Cut the dough, lengthwise, into three 4 inch strips.
Spread a thick layer of date puree down the center of each strip 1" thick. With a knife or spatula, gently fold the left side of the dough over the date strip, and then the right side of dough over top of that. The dough should now encase the date puree. If the dough has become soft or difficult to handle anytime during this process, place it in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Flip the dough over so that the seam is facing down. with a sharp knife, cut the strips into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Have a towel and bowl of water handy to wash the knife when it becomes to sticky. Place the cookies onto a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until light brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. The cookies are much better the next day, once the dough has had time to soften. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of weeks.