November 28, 2009

Rising to the Challenge: NaCoBakMo Day 1.

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:59 am by the Green-Eyed Siren

It was a Modest Proposal; a gauntlet thrown in jest at a Facebook comment.

As a member of Unfocused Me‘s support staff during his soon-to-be-successful NaNoWriMo efforts, I had been feeling slightly unambitious and unaccomplished in comparison to my superproductive husband. Thus, when I decided that the day after Thanksgiving was a good day to bake up a batch of oatmeal scotchies—in part as a treat for him (they’re one of his favorites) and in part as a way to get the Christmas endorphins started around here—I celebrated my baking success by posting something to the effect of, “Hey, it ain’t NaNoWriMo, but at least I got my first batch of Christmas cookies done.”

In any given Christmas season, I try to make the effort to produce between four and five varieties of Christmas cookies. Some years I fall woefully short, and I don’t particularly worry about it. Still, I know from my own childhood that Christmas cookie baking is a nice experience for a family to share, and my kids are really quite nice people and not yet cynical and jaded, and I should really make the effort to do this while it still means something to them and they’re not spending all their days obsessing about Pokémon or vampires. It’s a reasonably important part of my “putting love in the bank” theory of parenting: it’s stuff like this (I desperately hope) which will be there for them to draw on when life becomes challenging.

Yesterday’s oatmeal scotchies were not actually a communal project, however; Unfocused Girl has only recently recovered from H1N1, and Thanksgiving was (deliciously) exhausting, and the kids weren’t really in shape for much other than sitting around and watching the fine “puppies-run-amok-at-the-North-Pole” holiday entertainment offered by the (new! straight-to-DVD!) film Santa Buddies. I decided the kids would probably appreciate them anyway, and I knocked out a nice double batch (although some were scotch-less for my son, because the butterscotch chips have a “manufactured on the same equipment as other products which use peanuts”-type warning, which is our line in the peanut-allergic sand). The kids were very excited, Unfocused Me was happy, I felt like I had taken the first step to Christmas preparedness, and the cookies were enjoyed by all. Quite a few extras made their way into the freezer.

After I cleaned up the kitchen, Mr. Unfocused said, “You know, you might want to take a look at Facebook.” Considering that I rarely go ten minutes without checking Facebook I was a little surprised that I might have missed anything, but apparently something was up. There it was, a friend’s response to my simultaneously self-pitying and self-congratulatory announcement about my oatmeal scotchies accomplishment:

“Maybe there should be a National Cookie Baking Month (NaCoBakMo?). I’d be up for that.”

Delightful back-and-forth ensued, as it so often does when one has witty and charming Facebook friends such as mine. Ha-ha! A dozen a day! Ha-ha! I’ll be your beta eater! Ha-ha! Book proposals will follow! Ha-ha! Mr. Unfocused, ever attempting to draw me back into his sad writing habit, enticingly whispered, “You know, you could get a quick and easy blog post out of that.”

Ha-ha. Yes, indeed. Off-the-wall wacky crazy talk.

But somehow, overnight, my chuckles became thoughtful. My mirthful expression turned quizzical. Forget a single, one-off blog post. What if I actually did it? Baking cookies every day for a month started to sound almost…appealing. I could, conceivably, do this.

As I turned it around in my mind this morning, the idea started to gain some traction. Maybe that would be a reasonable goal for me, as far as unreasonable goals go. Granted, committing to baking a batch of cookies every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, one of the busiest times of year in the Unfocused household, is certainly as full of dumb-assery as saying, “Uh, yeah, I’ll bill 180 hours in November AND get 50,000 words into my next big writing project.” Usually I’m frantically trying to keep up with all of the assorted Christmasy deadlines the month relentlessly presents, so…why not just add to the joy? Yes, I know I still have to write the Christmas pageant, and there’s a tree that will need to go up, and I have choir rehearsals to rehearse, and we have multiple social and entertainment events coming up, and there are gifts to buy and packages to wrap, and perhaps even holiday cards to send (although I’m thinking it might be a President’s Day card again). But, nonetheless, the question remains…why not?

Still, I am a person who needs a better reason than “Why not?” for just about everything, so I figured there would have to be some point to this. Plus, what the hell was I going to do with all of those cookies? There aren’t too many recipes that make only a dozen cookies; figure on an average of 3 dozen per day for enough days in a row and you end up with…let me get my calculator…oy! That’s a hundred pound weight gain in the month of December alone!

I considered giving the cookies to our local food pantry. Here in our area—in my zip code, even—there are many, many families who struggle year-round to put food on the table, and our community is fortunate to have a strong organization devoted to feeding the hungry. The Irving Park Community Food Pantry serves over 400 households on a monthly basis, a number that rises every year. They would unquestionably be a worthy recipient of my baking insanity; however, I’m reasonably sure a bunch of random Christmas cookies aren’t really exactly what they’re looking for. What they really need is cash to buy the things that are most needed by and helpful to these families.

So here’s what I propose: during my personal NaCoBakMo, I will bake one batch of cookies every day between yesterday (the day after Thanksgiving) and Christmas Eve. I will then share said cookies—those precious, home-baked nuggets of love—with YOU lovely people, in exchange for a $25 donation to the Irving Park Food Pantry. They have an online donation form, so it should be pretty easy. Send me your online receipt, and I’ll pack up and ship you a nice assortment of cookies once they’re ready. Further, Mr. Unfocused and I will match donations up to $500. (Not that I truly believe I have 20 readers who would be willing to shell out $25 for a plate of cookies, but you never know. And, well, maybe my mom and dad and in-laws will take me up on it. That’s a few right there!) I will post pictures and recipes on my blog so you can keep up with how it’s all going, as well as get a sense of the sugary goodness that will be coming in the mail. Hopefully by the time we get to day 10 you’ll be so seduced by all of the cookie goodness you won’t be able to help yourself.

Now, don’t ask me exactly when I’m going to ship these babies. If I try to get them out in time for Christmas, there will be some varieties that won’t make it in the box. Maybe I’ll have to send out some boxes three-quarters of the way through for those of you who would like to be able to leave them out for Santa. Maybe you’ll be happy to wait until between Christmas and New Year’s so you have something to look forward to. We’ll see…still a few details to work out. I’ll let you know after I’ve had more than twenty-four hours to think about it.

I’m going to need more butter.

Oatmeal Scotchies (à la Nestle)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or grated peel of 1 orange
3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Butterscotch Flavored Morsels

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats and morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 7 to 8 minutes for chewy cookies or 9 to 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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11 Comments »

  1. Unfocused Me said,

    I volunteer to help clear space by finishing up the Thanksgiving Day brownies.

  2. harri3tspy said,

    This is such an awesome idea. You go, girl!

  3. chel said,

    What a fabulous idea! Its a great way to get ready for the holidays and to share with those in need in a really hard year for many. GO!!!

  4. bb said,

    Shouldn’t this recipe call for a tbsp. of toddlers?
    You did say it was a Modest Proposal.

  5. […] our neighborhood anti-hunger charity, the Irving Park Community Food Pantry.  You can read about Day 1 here, and Day 2 here.  She’s baking cookies every day from now through Christmas Eve, and will […]

  6. Jeanne said,

    What a reasonable unreasonable idea–love the way you put it!

  7. readersguide said,

    Okay — this is me! I contacted you on facebook this morning. So I’m in. Receipt to follow.

  8. Fantastic, Readersguide. Thanks!

  9. […] you’re just joining us, here is the explanation for what the hell is going on with National Cookie Baking Month. In short, I […]

  10. […] Posted in Uncategorized at 9:27 pm by the Green-Eyed Siren Channelling Cookie Monster. Gaaaah! Cooooookies! I bake coooookies! You give to Food Pantry, I give you cooooookies! […]

  11. […] that every day through Christmas Eve, the Green Eyed Siren is making a new batch of cookies for NaCoBakMo, National Cookie Baking Month. Make a donation of $25 or more to the Irving Park Community Food […]


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