May You Build a Ladder to the Stars

I love underdogs. I also love television.

For those reasons, I try to watch great television shows that don’t receive as much love or acclaim as they deserve. This isn’t to say that I’m going to watch all sixteen Real Housewives shows or everything on E! and tell everyone that they’re really missing out on some great television. This also isn’t to say that I will go out of my way to watch things that no one in the United States is watching, like I’m going stream Japanese television illegally because there are some great programs over yonder (I’m sure there are, but that’s a little out of my way for me). Nope. I’ve seen Videodrome.

Everyone loves Parks and Recreation and Community. I adore those shows, too. As far as dramas go, I’ve heard a buttload of praise about Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones. Although I don’t watch those series, I’m absolutely certain that they completely deserve all of the love that they receive. Nonetheless, I’m not one to watch the most popular of the critically acclaimed shows because everyone else is. I’m sure they’re popular for a reason. However, I hold myself back from watching them because I just don’t think it’s my time to start watching those. I may seem like a contrarian with the sort of hipster “I hate everything popular and mainstream” sensibility, but I’m not. I just simply can’t wear shirts with wolves on them and I can’t “enjoy” too many things ironically before I start throwing up on my very expensive yet ostensibly dirt cheap clothes.

This little rant gets me to my pop culture recommendation of the day: a brilliant little NBC series called Parenthood. Its ratings are dismal (like everything on NBC, but it doesn’t have the fervent cult following of 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, or Community), but it really is one of the best things I’ve seen in a while. It was created by Jason Katims, who was the showrunner for Friday Night Lights. To be fair, Friday Night Lights is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, and I don’t know if Parenthood will or can ever top that series. Nonetheless, Katims has something special with Parenthood. He has built such a quietly touching series from a solid ensemble cast. Every episode is full of great emotional moments that have been solidly grounded in each of the characters’ development. The show mixes these dramatic, emotional moments with comedy, and Katims manages these tonal shifts without making the show seem incoherent. By the way, this post was definitely not brought to you by NBC. Definitely, definitely, definitely not. (edit: what is this show about, you say? Well, describing it makes it sound pretty boring. It’s about an adult who, alongside her two children, moves in with her parents in their house in Berkeley. Her two brothers and sister still live in Berkeley, albeit with their own families and lifestyles. Hijinks ensue)

It helps that the climax of the show’s third season is a segment set to the entirety of Death Cab for Cutie’s “Transatlanticism,” which is definitely in my top ten list of best songs of all time.


If you’re looking for a recipe, you’re in luck.

If you’re looking for YouTube videos of paper being produced or pictures of dogs eating strips of bacon, you’re actually out of luck. You can check out my photo-memoir, The Ballad of Jonfen: Pictures of Things I Do When No One’s Looking, Like Watching You Eat Breakfast and Check Your Facebook, coming out Christmas 2012.

Cookies are a lot of fun to make. It’s usually easy to halve or double recipes, there’s a lot of hands on work, and it’s always fun to rebelliously eat some cookie dough when no one’s looking. That’s right. Stick it to the man.

I’m going to come out and say that oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are probably my favorite cookie, followed by brown butter cookies, straight up chocolate chip cookies, Snickerdoodles, and sugar cookies (in various forms. I’m not vanilla enough to love just sugar cookies. There’s a recipe out there for Nutella stuffed, sea salt sugar cookies that’s pretty gosh darn delicious). Thus, when my mom asked me to make dessert for our family’s viewing of the Manny Pacquiao fight last Saturday, I was all, like, BUT MOM THERE’S GOING TO BE A LOT OF FOOD THERE ALREADY WHY DO I HAVE TO MAKE MORE OH WAIT COOKIES AND KETTLE CORN YAY! As you can tell, it doesn’t take a lot to persuade me to bake.

This recipe is ingenious. It produces cookies that are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, which makes for the perfectest type of cookie (yes, I majored in English and still make up words). There isn’t too much to say about this cookie, except that if you make a batch, my nose will know. And I will be at your house in five seconds to gobble some up.

A little note on the recipe: I have halved the original recipe and added some cinnamon (because what kind of oatmeal cookie lacks cinnamon?). To be fair, I’ll probably omit the cinnamon the next time I make the recipe and perhaps brown and subsequently slightly chill the butter. This would add a healthy nuttiness of the brown sugar and enhance the flavor of the oatmeal.

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
(adapted slightly from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures)

3/4 c (3.75 oz.) all-purpose flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg (the original recipe calls for freshly grated nutmeg, to which I don’t have access. If you do, use it! I’m sure the cookie will come out so much better)
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
3.5 oz. brown sugar (1/2 c, according to the original. I cannot verify this because I weighed my sugar. I know that last sentence sounds really snobby and what-not, and that’s probably because I’m better than you. Blehhhh!)
3.5 oz. white sugar (also 1/2 c, according to the original recipe)
1 large egg (the original recipe calls for the egg to be at room temperature, but I had neither the time nor the patience to wait for the egg to reach room temperature. I also didn’t feel like cheating/being sneaky and submerging the egg in warm water until the egg reaches room temperature)
1 1/2 c oatmeal (I used the quick cooking oats, which will produce the same taste as old fashioned oats, for which the original recipe calls. However, I do acknowledge that old fashioned oats, if you have them or are not too lazy to buy some, will yield a toastier, wholesome texture. Also note that I measured out oats whereas the original recipe has a measurement of 4.5 oz. for the oats. You may now call me a hypocrite)
3/4 c chocolate chips (the original recipe does not give a weight for this, even though it totally could if it wanted to. TAKE THAT, SCALES!)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Using a paddle attachment (or, if you’re using a handheld mixer, the whisk attachment, even though I think it would be amazing if handheld mixers could somehow have paddle attachments) in a stand-up mixer, cream the butter and the sugars on medium speeds until light and fluffy, about three minutes. With a rubber spatula, scrape the sides of the bowls. Don’t lick the spatula yet, because (a.) you still have to use it and (b.) it’s just butter and sugar (actually, (b.) is invalid because butter and sugar are delicious together). Add the egg and mix to combine. Scrape the sides of the bowl again. Add the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Don’t overmix, because I said so, and because you don’t want to develop the gluten in the flour. Preferably using a wooden spoon (if you’re awesome, but I’m not, so I used the mixer in order to save myself from washing one more dish), stir in the chocolate chips and the oatmeal. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Take the cookie dough out of the freezer. Taste test the dough, if you’re adventurous like me. Don’t taste the dough if you’re afraid of salmonella, as I should be. Line your cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper or a Silpat if you remember that you have one sitting in your kitchen. Roll the dough into one-inch sized balls (about one tablespoon each) and bake for 10-11 minutes each, until the edges are golden brown but the center isn’t quite cooked. Let cool on the sheet for four minutes before removing to a cooling rack or your mouth.

SUPER SPECIAL BONUS/SAD CONFESSION! Because these cookies are small, it doesn’t feel like you’re eating so much when you eat one cookie. Then you’re all, like, hey. I could probably eat another one or two. It’s all a slippery slope from there.

And now that you’re at the end, here’s my song of the day, a live version of Jónsi’s “Go Do.” The original song is already fabulous, catchy, upbeat, and tons of fun. This live version definitely pushes the already great song to God-like levels of awesomeness.

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