Self Care, Sanity, and Einkorn Thumbprint Cookies by Dorothy Grant
How are you doing? Oh, don’t tell me you’re fine. I’m a woman; I know full well just how vast and unhappy the spectrum of “fine” can be. It’s been a crazy few years, and at some levels, like national politics, the forecast is calling for 100% chance of more crazy. (It’s the rising percentage in the forecast for boogaloo that worries me more.) However, right now we don’t get to armor up for the zombie apocalypse or break out the metal colander mask and the thunderdome. Right now, we need to keep going, and not let the crazy break us down.
In aviation, we say to passengers, “In the even of the loss of cabin pressure, put your own oxygen mask on first.” There’s a reason for this: by the time you get through an OODA loop after loud noises, sudden shocking cold, completely unexpected turbulent motions and the chaos of things falling and flying in your face… you barely have enough oxygen left to remember to take care of yourself, and if you spend that trying to do something else, you’re not likely to make it. Down here on the ground, the need for self care is rarely so sudden… but it’s also rarely so immediately obvious, and by the time you realize that you are a complete wreck, well, you’re a burned-out complete wreck, and that’s really, really hard to crawl back to sane, happy, and healthy from. Why not start taking better care of yourself right now, so you don’t hit that in the first place?
So, treat yourself like someone you’re responsible for helping. (Hail Lobster! He has some really good ideas.)
And that’s going to involve making sure you eat healthily, and get some sunlight and some sleep, and stop spending so much time on social media. National politics isn’t going to stop being stupid if you take a few days away from it, I assure you… but you might sleep better if you’re not grinding your teeth and dumping a load of cortisol into your system.
Speaking of cortisol, I lift weights three times a week, in part because I cannot breathe well enough to do the things I want to do – but also because it lets me burn the stress hormones out of my system, which makes life a lot more chill. You don’t even need to go to a black iron gym like I do: if you cruise over to youtube and hit one of the bodyweight exercise videos, I’m pretty sure there’s something you can find that you can do, at whatever skill level you have. Or do like a friend and go bang on sheetmetal in the garage and build medieval armor. Or whatever makes you happy, as long as you’re moving.
As for sleep – you do have a blue light filter like f.lux installed on your computer and your phone, to cut the blue light after dark, right? Because there’s no point in making it harder on yourself to get some sleep. As even Count Rugen advised: Get some rest. After all, if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.
And then there’s getting sunlight during the day. Yes, yes I know – a goth is telling you to go out in the sun. However, it really does help, and we need all the bits of help we can get. Jen Satterly mentioned this one either in Arsenal of Hope as part of the treatment modalities for complex PTSD and self-care when living with same, or in the supplemental material on the All Secure Website. (Which, if you have, or live with someone who does, I cannot come up with enough adjectives and adverbs and expletives to express how strongly I recommend you check her book out.)
She recommended, among many other things, getting a handful of minutes of daylight, sunlight if possible, every single day. And it’s not just the Vitamin D, though we’re all pretty deficient these days. It’s also that being out and around green and growing things, and away from the same four walls, is healthy. My garden of potted herbs is actually doing really well this year, because if I’m going to be outside, I’m going to water them and check on them. (Interestingly enough, some kinds of migraines actually respond to green wavelength light. Which means my coworkers can tell if it’s a headache or a migraine by whether my desktop background is pulled off the Hubble telescope or from the botanical gardens.)
Getting sunlight actually helps sleeping at night. It also helps my mood, and makes dealing with panicked people easier. Some of you lovely people only have to deal with panicked and stressed people on the freeways and on the intertubes; I get to deal with them every day as part of my paycheck. Which… is nothing new, really. Never, ever, walk through the pax side of the airport with an ID badge showing if you can help it, even if the employee cafeteria is closed for remodeling. You don’t get your food; you get a steady stream of panicking people wanting to know where Gate A34 is (hint, you’re in C terminal. It ain’t here.) and where their husband is (like I would even know? I’m not that kind of woman!)
And then there’s fixing your food intake for reduced inflammation and increased nutrition. Which I’m going to say… do what works for you. High carb does not work well for many people, myself and the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess among them. But people are highly individual, and you get to find what works best for you, not what works best for me. Personally, I need a much higher amount of protein in my diet than our lovely hostess, but as we mentioned above, I weightlift for exercise and relaxation. I can also get away with more carbs than she can, though I try to keep that in check other than at meetings of the North Texas Writers, Pilots, and Shooters Association. Which, if you’d ever had LawDog’s Chicken Spaghetti or Jim Curtis’s shrimp and grits with tasso gravy, you’d know why I’m not even going to think about sticking to low carb while beta reading a chapter and bouncing ideas off the others.
What I can’t get away with is eating wheat without suffering the consequences. I claim no trendy diagnosis, only the sad fact that cutting out wheat for a couple weeks made it painfully obvious that eating that ingredient makes my arthritis flare. Yes, sourdough bread is made of utter delicious foreboding that the pain is going to hit… and some days, it’s worth it.
Because taking care of yourself isn’t about living a strict life of no joy and no fun; it’s about reducing inflammation and pain while also deciding where and when it’s worth it to cut loose, and making sure that you enjoy the heck out of cutting loose when you do.
On the other hand, as I’m human, I’m eternally searching for the cheat mode that lets me have my cake and eat it too… or at least eat the cake and not hurt so badly afterward. And this is where einkorn comes in. As a grain, it fell out of favour in the early Bronze Age, as our intrepid ancestors worked hard at breeding more corns – more grains – per stalk, in order to increase food density per acre.
Which means that it’s stupid expensive compared to the end result of five thousand years of selective breeding and experimentation in wheat… but it’s really fascinating to bake with, and cook with, and realize the limitations on rising and proofing and dough structure that they had to work with. I no longer wonder why ancient breads were depicted as disk-shaped; the gluten is so weak that it’s hard to get it to rise instead of spreading. On the other hand, unlike modern wheat, it doesn’t make my arthritis flare. So while it does up my carb load… I get pain-free proto-bread!
Today, I upped the game: I made thumbprint cookies. And what cookies they are! It’s always awesome when you find something that’s actually *better* than the recipe it’s replacing. In this case, the nutty flavour of the einkorn (it’s definitely not domestic wheat) pairs well with the butter, the richness of the egg yolk, and the bright notes of the lemon juice to create a thoroughly flavourful shortbread cookie base. Better still, the weak gluten that makes it so hard to turn into bread or pasta shines here, because you don’t have to worry about overworking the dough!
As for the filling: I pulled a sunrise jam from the local farmer’s market (apricot, mango, and other stuff), and a strawberry-rhubarb jam out of the fridge, where they’d been languishing on the shelf as too good to throw away, but never spread upon the dearth of bread. Polishing them off in good conscience leaves me with more fridge space and delicious cookies. I had one cookie left to fill, so I tried some orange marmalade. That one disappeared in a haze of happy noises and buttery crumbs!
My Calmer Half sampled a cookie, and promptly helped me make a bunch of the batch disappear – but they’re filling enough we still have 3 left in a tub for snacking overnight and into the morrow. This does not contain live bobcat, will make again!
Einkorn Thumbprint Cookies
1 stick butter
1/4 cup sugar (52 grams)
1 egg yolk
1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
1.25 cups all-purpose einkorn flour (145 grams)
1/2 tsp salt
jam (or marmalade for more awesome!)
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Slap some parchment paper on a baking tray
3. In a large bowl, stick the butter in the microwave to soften. Mine half-melted, and came out fine.
4. Cream/Mix the butter and sugar together, then add in egg yolk, lemon juice, and salt. Mix until smooth.
5. Break out the kitchen scale and tap in flour if you do weight. This stuff is finicky enough about moisture I actually do that. Otherwise, scoop and dump the flour and whisk it all together (or use a mixer; whatever floats your boat. These are not supposed to be stressful to make.)
6. Grab a spoon and dust your hands with einkorn flour, then start rolling the dough into balls. At the size I rolled, just under ping-pong sized, I got 11 cookies. Remember they are going to be smashed, and then spread further while cooking, so leave space. Re-flour your hands frequently to prevent sticky dough sticking.
7. Keeping your thumb dusted, make a… thumbprint. Or a cross. Or whatever design kicks over your gigglebox, as long as it doesn’t make the bottom of the jamwell too thin for cookie integrity.
8. Spoon jam into the depression, in quantities just small enough it won’t overflow.
9. Bake for 12-19 minutes, until golden brown. If you like tiny cookies, 12 will do. If you like large cookies, just keep careful eye on ’em once past 14 minutes.
10. When you pull them out, set the timer for 8 minutes, and do not, no matter how tempting, give in to poking the cookies before it goes off. You just pulled boiling sugar out of the oven, and it’ll stick like napalm to the roof of your mouth with great burnination if you don’t let it cool!
11. When cool enough, grab a drinkable and enjoy!
If you were hoping for a calorie or carb count, you’re missing the point of having fun. Make your treats actually treats, and don’t detract the joy by worrying about it!
Link to Arsenal of Hope: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08R6NJJMH/