Date everything cookies

Let’s enter in the daydreams of Jenn for a moment here–the by-myself-staring-at-a-random-object sort of daydreaming–kay?

So, I’m a college girl, and what does a college girl think about all the time? Her future husband…of course. I’ll be all like staring at a tree and then wondering Geez, I wonder what he’ll be like? And then I go through the possible options; Maybe he’ll be a surfer-longboard type of dude,or one of those artsy-photographer types, or a rocker band guy…man, I really like rocker band guys…And then, of course, I analyze enough to wonder what it would be like to have to choose between a surfer-longboard dude, arsty-photographer man, or a rocker band guy if each one of them came up and stuck a ring in my face. And then I have to get myself to stop thinking…

But, apparently I’m the same way with cookies. There are SO many things I could put in a cookie; walnuts…peanut butter chips…M&Ms…Dark chocolate…white chocolate…apples…Geez, so many choices! Why can’t I have it all?

So this is what happened–do you remember that Oatmeal Date Cookie recipe I posted a while ago? Well…I took that recipe and decided to shovel my whole pantry in it. Well…maybe not all of it. Because there are definitely not pita chips in these. But just about everything else is in there.

Dates. Shredded coconut. Bananas. Unsweetened chocolate bits. Walnuts. And OH MY GOODNESS, oatmeal!

Oh, and guess, guess, guess how much sugar is in these? 3/4 a cup of brown sugar. That’s it. Half of what a normal recipe would have. And guess how much butter? Only 1/4 a cup. Which is a quarter of what normal oatmeal cookies have. No, I’m not lying! Geez. Why would I lie to you?

Best part? These cookies are just…amazing. Haha, yeah, I know! Who needs sugar when you have dates? Talk about candy that grows on trees…

Okay! Full recipe, right here, right now–

Cream:
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar

Beat in 2 eggs

Blend in:
1/2 cup ripe mashed banana
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup lowfat plain yogurt
3-1/4 tsp. vanilla

Add in:
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
heaping 1/2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix in 2 cups of white whole wheat flour (aka whole wheat pastry flour)

Stir in 3 cups of oatmeal

Now for the fun goodness stuff! Stir in:
heaping 1/2 cup of shredded coconut
1 cup chopped dates
rounded 1/2 cup of chopped unsweetened baking chocolate
1 banana, split into thirds and then cut into pieces
1 cup walnuts

Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Dang, there’s a party going on in those cookies.

So, eat these warm, eat them out of the freezer, or do what I’m going to do and take them with me on a backpacking trip (who needs Clif bars?) and try not to worry about the fact that I can’t do the same thing with men that I can do with cookies.

I Go to the Barn Because I Like the Oatmeal Date Cookies

Band of Horses has this song called “I Go to the Barn Because I Like the.”

Now, I love this song, it’s one of those “let’s go sit on a swing tied to a tree in the middle of a moonlit field” sort of songs. Melancholy, sad, chill, nostalgic.

But, to be honest,  I can’t help feeling kind of bothered that I’m not really told why the writer likes to go to the barn. “Because I Like the”…what? What is it? Why won’t you tell me?

I was listening to this song while I was baking today, though, and I think I figured it out.

Band of Horses is hiding something…in the barn, I mean. Cookies. They’re hiding cookies in the barn.

Bear with me here.

I was baking cookies, trying out a new recipe, and I used butter, eggs, yogurt, and buttermilk. Everything that comes from a barn, hence…Band of Horses goes to the barn because they like cookies.

And you would go sneaking off to the barn too, if you found these cookies there.

These cookies are just whoa. Think coffee cake meets granola bar. Dates, oatmeal, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut, allspice…secretly whole wheat and reduced fat…sounds good? Chya, that’s what I thought.

Cream together:
1/4 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar

Beat in 2 eggs

Add in:
3-1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

Mix in:
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Stir in:
3 cups oatmeal

Finally, add in:
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped dates
rounded 1/2 cup shredded coconut

Optional: 1/2 cup bits of unsweetened baking chocolate (which will compliment the spicy sweetness with a dark, earthy flavor )

Bake at 350 degrees for about 16 minutes or until the cookies have slightly browned edges.

 Do eat these warm. Do eat them with milk. Do take them with you on a hike or a picnic. Do continue to wonder what it is in the barn that Band of Horses likes so much.

Joshua Tree Date Nut Bread

I am now convinced of two things: dates are amazing and great things come from Joshua Tree.

Not only do dates make amazing milkshakes, give cause for an awesome harvest festival down in Indio, or have 50 references in the Bible (according to Wikipedia), but they also make amazing bread.

Not only is Joshua Tree a funky-lookin’ tree…

(Photo credit not mine)

…or the name of an incredible U2 album…

…but it is also the place where my great-grandmother lived, who made fame in my family for her Date Nut Bread. So when I received a surprise care package from my aunt that featured a fine-lookin’ box of dates, I decided I must try my hand at the recipe.

The first time I made it, I ate it in four days. By myself. I wish I was joking.

I made it for the second time last Saturday, and worked up enough self-control to get it to last through the week. There’s still one piece left and I had actually shared some this time.

Fortunately for my conscience , this bread is full of natural ingredients and rather nutritious as a result of a few changes I made to my great-grandmother’s recipe. I used whole-wheat pastry flour, which adds some hearty fiber, and I substituted half of the sugar with unsweetened applesauce. The dates are the key ingredient of the bread, acting as a natural sweetener and giving it a very exotic flavor…if there is such thing as an “exotic” flavor…

First, crank the oven to preheat at 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine:
1 cup chopped dates
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup boiling water
After stirring mixture, set aside and let cool.

…don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like something you might encounter in a college boy’s dorm room…

In a large bowl, beat together:
2 eggs
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened natural applesauce

Stir in the date mixture. If it hasn’t cooled enough, the eggs will coagulate…and that’s bad. Frowny face :(

Hand-mix in:
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Pour into greased loaf pan and bake from 45 minutes to 1 hour.

And check it out! Look at that fine bread!

Let’s get some natural lighting on that bad boy…oh yeah!

Just a little suggestion: I ate this for breakfast with hot Breakfast tea and a bowl of sliced banana with granola and plain yogurt (mixed with a few drops of agave nectar to sweeten it a bit)…and the combo was to die for. The experience might even have been further maximized if I had listened to U2′s The Joshua Tree at the same time…

Dates with Switchfoot

If Switchfoot asked me on a date, I imagine I would say yes. I imagine we would go surfing. Switchfoot seems like the let’s-surf-together-for-a-date type. And we would definitely get ice cream afterwards.

(Jon Foreman in the surf at Switchfoot’s Bro-Am…Photo credit not mine)

But stuff like that doesn’t really happen, which is too bad.

So instead, I went to a Switchfoot concert at a Date Festival. The Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival, that is.

Each year in the Coachella Valley, the Date Palm Harvest is celebrated by a 10-day fair festival that features the classic fair-style fried food, the spin-around-till-you-barf-all-the-fried-food-you-just-ate roller coaster rides, lots and lots of overpriced stuff to buy, and music entertainment.

Particular to the Date Festival is an Arabian theme that includes ostrich races, camel rides, a Queen Pageant, and a small showcase of exotic animals. And besides the regular fair kitsch, there are a lot of neat cultural things to buy, too, like Mexican sweaters, ponchos, and blankets, along with Native American jewelry, and hand-tooled leather purses. I definitely spent way too much time gazing over the Native American jewelry, which could have pulled me completely out of college if I had a spending problem. I did end up getting an ear cuff which probably isn’t antique at all, but it’s cute and it has a turquoise stone in it.

And, of course, what’s a Date Festival without Dates? I split a Date Shake with my roommate, and let me tell you, the hype about them is completely true. Basically, a Date Shake is a vanilla shake in it with dates (some recipes add vanilla extract, too), which I figure is somewhat akin to how Red Velvet Cupcakes are just regular cupcakes except with a major kick in them from the cocoa powder.

(Not a very good picture of a Date Shake)

Switchfoot was also kind enough to take a break from recording their new album Vice Verses and come chill with us at the Date Festival that night. Except when I say “chill with us,” I mean “they played some music on a stage and we screamed at them.”

There was plenty for us to scream about too, because the setlist was unbearably awesome, including “Stars,” “The Sound,” “Meant to Live,” “Dare You to Move,” “Bullet Soul,” “Mess of Me,” and “Your Love is a Song,” amongst many others.

If you ever have a chance to see Switchfoot…do it. The band gives a tight performance with stellar sound quality and loves to engage the crowd by directing everyone to contribute vocally during certain parts of the songs (like the whoa-ohs in “Awakening”).

And Jon Foreman can play the mandolin, featured in the song “Hello Hurricane,” which the band played for their encore.

Oh, and apparently he likes to climb things, too.

He’s one of those guys that just makes me want to smile.