Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Autism Cooks

Yesterday, I got bored and craving sweets, so I made some cranberry oatmeal cookies. I’ve made cookies many times before, but these turned out great!

 

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

1 1/4 C      (2 1/2 sticks) Margarine or Butter, softened

3/4 C         firmly packed Brown Sugar

1/2 C         Granulated Sugar 

1                Egg

1 t              Vanilla

1 1/2 C      All Purpose Flour

1 t             Baking Soda

1 t             Ground Cinnamon

1/2 t          Salt (Optional)

1/4 t          Ground Nutmeg

3 C           Oats, uncooked

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy.
  3. Add egg and vanilla; beat well.
  4. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg; add to butter mixture; mix well.
  5. Add oats; mix well.
  6. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
  7. Bake 8-9 minutes for a chewy cookie; 10-11 minutes for a crisp cookie.
  8. Cool 1 minute on sheets; transfer to wire rack…

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Making Lasagna

In my process of learning to cook, sometimes I still need help. I can make a chili just fine…but it might be a little spicy. Sometimes, though, a recipe of food comes along that I need some help or a reminder or two on, like lasagna. It was actually much easier to make than I thought – just forgot all the assembly steps. I have decided to post the recipe:

Mom’s Lasagna

Makes 12 Servings

Ingredients

Lasagna Sauce

2 lb.     Ground Beef

2 Tb.    Garlic Salt

2          24 oz. jars or cans favorite Italian Red Sauce

1 Tb.    Italian Seasoning

Ricotta Mixture

1         15-oz. tub Ricotta Fresca

1          Egg

            Salt, to taste

Cheeses

2          Cups Mozzarella, shredded

5 oz.    Parmesan and Romano, shredded

Lasagna

16 oz.   Lasagna

Step 1: Preparing Meat Sauce

1) Brown ground beef with garlic salt

2) Add Italian Red Sauce.

3) Add Italian seasoning; simmer while doing next stage.

Step 2: Preparing Ricotta

1) Mix ricotta, egg and salt to taste. Set aside.

Step 3: Preparing Lasagna

1) Follow package instructions (you may use Oven Ready Lasagna instead).

Step 4: Assembly and Baking

1) Gather Sauce, Ricotta mixture, Cheeses, and Lasagna together to assemble.

2) In a 9″X13″ glass baking dish, spray with cooking spray.

3) Spread a thin coat of sauce on bottom of pan, careful to avoid spreading meat.

4) Layer three pieces of lasagna across sauce.

5) Layer one third of sauce on lasagna.

6) Place small dollops of one half the ricotta mixture; gently spread in area with a fork.

7) Sprinkle one third Parmesan over ricotta.

8) Layer one third Mozzarella over Parmesan.

9) Repeat from 5 to 8.

10) Layer three pieces lasagna over Mozzarella.

11) Layer sauce over lasagna.

12) Layer Parmesan and Mozzarella over sauce.

13) Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes.

14) Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve into cut squares.

NAMIWalks Kickoff, 2014

Last night, I attended the NAMIWalks kickoff event at Boyd Orchards to begin fundraising for NAMI. Basically, NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness. We are a national organization dedicated to wiping out the stigma associated with mental illness. We had barbecued chicken, heard bluegrass music, played around on their various equipment, then had a hayride to a bonfire where we roasted marshmallows for s’mores. We had to come in early due to lightning, but it was so much fun.

Here is a personal history as to how I came to be known with this organization:

When I was younger, I suffered a psychotic break. All the signs were there: lethargy, slipping grades, no interest in theater (I was a theater bug, one who spelled it “theatre”), and I wrote once about committing suicide. I was placed in a juvenile mental ward on suicide watch, diagnosed with clinical depression, and eventually I was prescribed Paxil. I now go to therapy and take my meds. I like to say “Take the meds, go to therapy, move along,” as how regular the routine has become for me. However, my experience with mental illness does not stop there. My own mother suffers from bipolar disorder. She takes her meds, goes to therapy, moves along as well. She, though, lost her friends, was isolated in her church, and even lost her job as a result of revealing bipolar disorder to those around her. I noticed how increasingly isolated she became. She reached out on the internet, and found a man who scammed her out of $100,000 dollars…when it was all added up. She is currently isolated from her family from talking about it, and only a few people in the family are halfway decent toward her. Most of her friends are on the internet, as are mine. There are, however, bright spots in all of this, and those are the Lord, and NAMI. NAMI has given us friends and acquaintances who are nice, faithful and just good human beings. We all suffer from the same thing, and we all have had people run when they learned of our illnesses. I mean, how many people have heard “I am getting tired of this cancer of yours” like cancer is some moral flaw? Of course, this all stems back from an ancient belief that all illnesses, even physical ones, were signs of something morally wrong, even punishments from God. Of course, there are refutes to that in every religion. The point is, we have suffered terribly from our illnesses, and NAMI has brought us the community we have hoped for and long been denied.

Now, not to say that others have not brought us community, but  NAMI has worked among the hardest to bring us out. They are among the kindest, most interesting people I have ever known.

Can We Really Call Them “Disabilities”?

I remember watching an episode of the Oprah show, and I learned of this young man of sixteen with blindness…who developed a system of “clicks” to figure out his surroundings. This intrigued me greatly, because I never heard of such a thing in the human world. It also made me remember a time when I did a blindness exercise in theater arts. We would blindfold ourselves and people outside the blindfold would lead us around to experience the world. My personal partner in the exercise led me into a parked Volkswagen Beetle with a broken light, but I did not get hurt. (No sharp edges, you see.) We even tested to see if we could identify objects we brought from home through our other senses. Guess what? Even if we were not pop cultured, we guessed right every time. The strange thing was, our other senses took over as much as they could to give us a picture of the world. The hard metal feel and smell of keys, the yard that made a doll’s hair, the slightly nubby surface of a basketball – it led us to a good picture of the world, even without sight. Thinking about these things just now reminded me of something: I have been able to get around in the dark somewhat better than other members of my family, due to autism’s inability to filter out unimportant sensations. I have knocked over my share of trays, but I have yet to find a coffee table with my shin. I can also The autistic experience of their environs is usually cluttered with sound, cluttered with sights, cluttered with feelings. Here is an example: Jimmy Fallon on the television talking with his guest, the feel of the keys, the sounds of the tapping on the keyboard-I could go on about this environ if I did not shut out most of it by only typing by laptop light. I digress a bit, but some disability can be turned into an extra ability with practice and coordination. Sign language is very fast for my eyes; I do not know how someone who speaks it can fly their hands around like that. Watching sign language scenes from “Switched at Birth” leaves me depending on the subtitles-a LOT. So, who is up for a comment or two? How do those with “disabilities” in your life surprise you? So many people surprise me every day. Maybe that’s why they try to call it different ability.

 

Living with “disability” is more like Daredevil than a sad sack story. Sure, they cannot do this, but they have really sharp that in order to make up for it.

Thank You, Robin WIlliams and Lauren Bacall

It has taken me a couple of days to process the information of the deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall. On Mr. Williams: I was getting my dog back from his evening walk when my mother got the news from my aunt. At first I thought it was a Twitter joke, to be honest. Twitter wants to kill everybody. But I looked at the news from more reputable sites, and sadly it was true. The method by which he chose to exit this world, not knowing for absolute certain what was on the other side, was even more tragic. Of course, depression, as a real medical condition, was what really took his life.  Now, before you say that is not logical, that he had the American Dream, keep in mind that disease is certainly not logical. I should know. Depression once had me in its grip, literally taking everything away, even the color out of my eyes. (Yes, there is research proving that.) Of course, as you think I am musing about depression, we need to also look at Robin Williams’ achievements. The many films, stand up specials and television work is much too storied to even forget. You can look at the Facebook feeds of just about everyone to see an influential man at work.

Of course, now people are remembering the work of another screen legend, Ms. Lauren Bacall. A lovely lady from the Bronx…I wish I knew her. From what I gather, she had style, grace and a demure sexiness you do not get to see from the stars and starlets of today. She was a maven of style, grace and could dress wonderfully. It was also sad to see her go. Of course, will anyone’s death be a thing of joy?

Of the tributes that poured in from these two, I think Jimmy Fallon’s tribute to Robin Williams is the best so far. I’ll update you, if one for Lauren Bacall even comes close.

Ugly Betty, Part 2

I have mused upon my beauty insecurities before, but I did not do enough. I did not exactly say what my insecurities were. Ill be blunt: I’m fat. I’m 4’11” and weigh 250 lbs.. That is enough weight to get people to say “you’ve got a pretty face” (meaning: “your body doesn’t match. Lose weight!”). There is a lot to be hateful to myself for – I don’t exercise enough, I got the wrong size, there is society looking toward me saying “Lose weight! You’re ugly!” (Well, not directly saying it-saying it through magazines, ads, games, the fact that all the girls on television are skinny except the clown who is the size of a Dodge Caravan….) How do you beat all that? Sometimes, the only way is to look within.

I have not had a boyfriend, or heck, even a date, in over a year at this point. I don’t think I can get that validation for being a person who exists from men. I certainly can’t get it from the television or print, or the internet, for that matter. Who is going to make the Ugly Betty’s  of the world know their worth? Do they have any worth? I grew up believing and knowing in my heart that every life has a precious worth to my God…even those who don’t do his word perfectly (which amounts to, oh… everybody). The fact is, I exist. I have something to contribute to the world, simply because I exist. The fact that I take care of my mother when none of her other children do cements my place in the family. I can also give credence to my worth simply because I help out whenever I can around the house. I do most of the cooking and cleaning (because she can’t), and many other things. But besides toot my own horn, I know that everyone has their own intrinsic value. And that is the truth about having worth. That makes me more than an Ugly Betty.