Viscose #6 Steam Engine fall run on the DURR

Disappearing Rails – why give a damn?

Ben rounds, Catskill Mountains, trains, Travel, upstate new york

– by Rebecca Andre

So you are wondering why you should care about the railroad of Upstate New York when California and Montana are burning and Florida and Texas are drowning. I get it. I sometimes wonder the same thing myself. Then I make a donation to flood or fire victims and move on with my day.

After all, we can’t fix it, right? The state of our country, politically, physically and morally is so precarious right now. I would like to stick my head in the sand and pretend like none of it is happening until a flame or a flood actually reaches my doorstep, or until the insurance drops my family.

Then I will get angry and all kinds of scared.

In the meantime…there is something I can do, we can do. Like donate to the local food pantry, raise money for animals waiting for adoption or vote on a local level believing this vote will actually count.

Also, I can pitch a fit to keep the Ulster County rails in place. At least until I actually see the steel being carted away. I do this not only because I am in love with trains. I do it because of the incredible blow it would mean for our economy and loss to our future generations if these rails were to be permanently deleted from our landscape.

“Future generations?” you ask. And “Who needs train travel? We have planes, and smart cars, etc. Why not just go back to horse and buggy?”

“Economy?” you ask. “Rail upkeep costs money!”

Trains and minimalism go hand in hand.

Well, to address the former, Millennials are reverting back to foot and pedal travel, and car-sharing. The throw-away culture of my generation is becoming a thing of the past.   The core hipster mentality is sweeping the nation: Minimalism.

I can back up the above statement . I’ve traveled Amtrak all over the country. Most recently, between NYC and Baltimore. The amount of young people hopping the train to get out of the city boggled my mind. One vintage Woolrich-clad group was particularly vocal about the horrors of bus travel and the expense of renting a car.

But the train only takes one out of the city into the Hudson Valley. After all, it can’t travel along the west shore of the Hudson. Oh, wait, yes it can. Proof positive this past weekend, Oct. 14 & 15, when the Amtrak Autumn Express found its way tunneling under then crossing over the Hudson, for a sweet and well-spent $169.00 a ticket. I know of a train enthusiast that was flying out from California and spending two nights in a NYC hotel to make this historic run.

Back to logistics. If you want to travel via train to actually visit or stay in the Catskills, you better hope you have a friend you can presume upon to pick you up at Rhinecliff. But you probably don’t, so you will be one more scale on the snake of vehicles slithering along Routes 17, 87 and 28. And, thanks to AirBnB, a house-sharing phenomenon, this congestion is only going to increase exponentially over the next few years. (I am surrounded by AirBnB rentals. Four to six cars in the driveway of a house that sleeps six to eight people is the norm.)

Wait, I’m getting ‘off track’ here…entering into the reduced environmental impact trains afford us…Have you seen the amount of cars overflowing the trail head parking areas?

To quote Steve Porter and Ken Anello, co-chairmens of the U&D Railway Revitalization Corp  (UDRRCorp)in their February 7, 2017 letter to Gov. Cuomo, “A revitalized railway has the possibilities of increasing the usage of the area by the most number of visitors with the least carbon footprint.

But the Govenor has yet to respond to this letter he received from UDRRCorp, a non-profit organization with a mission to “preserve and protect the entire Ulster and Deleware railroad corridor.”

“Rail travel is far from dead and being old fashioned.” writes Steve Porter in ‘Why Trains Are Good For Ulster County’. “More areas are starting to use trains to provide options for transit. No, it’s not going to replace the auto. But our culture is changing and cities and communities are going to be connected by more than just roads and bike trails. At least the progressive communities will.”

As the UDRRCorp would say, “Imagine the possibilities.”

Imagine less cars.

Imagine if the AirBnB-ers could car-share to Kingston and travel by train to innumerable destinations in the Catskills? They could plan to spend the week in one town, or if they want to explore, they can put on their hiking shoes.

Imagine climate-conscience youngsters hiking from Pinehill to Roxbury finding it’s just too long of a trek for them. They could, theoretically, take a train, do dinner at some overpriced, hand-cut-ice-serving-boutique restaurant and head back to their AirBnB one county over.

Imagine skiers leaving Kingston, destination Belleayre. This is not a far-fetched stretch (well, maybe the completion of the proposed resort is). In our not so distant past, trains used to carry vacationers to the doorsteps of Catskills’ resorts. Even Amtrak sees the positives of a rail line heading up country to deliver riders with the new and highly successful  Winter Park Express weekend train between Denver Union Station and the high-country ski resorts.

Imagine in vogue upstate nuptials taking place on the train. Considering the weddings exploding all over the Catskills, imagine photo shoots, rehearsal dinners or even bachelor parties on the train. Imagine all the intoxicated wedding-goers having a safe option for commuting.

Imagine none of this happening if the rails are removed.

It won’t happen tomorrow, next year, or 50 years from now. Because once the rails are ripped up they will never be re-built.

Thank you to George Bain and Ken Anello, Co-Chairman of UDRR Corp for these numbers I used for these beautiful shareable MEMEs!.

“The real problem would be the permits,” says George Bain of the UDRR Corp. “A railroad does not need a permit to maintain or repair itself unless it involves the waterways nearby. [Re]building a railroad would require permits and planning that would take decades.”

Another issue holding up all we can imagine for the rails (for example Rail Explorers) is the FEMA repairs Ulster County has yet to make after the severe flood damage between Shandaken and Phoenicia that Irene left in her wake.

I’m sure Thomas Cornell, the businessman responsible for the commencing of Rondout and Oswego original railroad construction in 1866  is restless in his grave. As are the many men who sacrificed blood, sweat, tears and even their lives to build these rails only 150 years ago.

The rails connect to the past while they serve the present, and can connect to the future. -Larry Roth, UDRRCorp

Should the rails be ripped up, I will have to tell my daughter, who was blessed with the travel bug and an adoration of trains like her mother, that the rails going through her town may not be there one day. That the precedent being set by removal of this seemingly unimportant set of tracks is that rail travel will soon be obsolete. That maybe when she, or her own daughter, is 21, soul-searching and forced by her inherited wanderlust to travel West, she won’t be able to cross this country on a train.

My daughter on CMRR’s ever popular Thomas the Train a few years ago.

Trains and sustainable tourism go hand-in-hand

Now to address the economical positives of keeping the rails in place, I mention my personal favorite: sustainable tourism. This article ’38 Reasons To Save The Rails’ is much more detailed than these few paragraphs, and compiled by experts, so please be sure to click on the link and read.

Even with only heritage rail companies running on sections of the Ulster and Delaware corridor, the amount of money being brought to these towns served is indisputable. Here are CMRR numbers for their last full season, 2015.

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Remember the traffic jam in Arkville, Delaware County the October weekend the Viscose steam engine came to DURR?(pictured at top of this article)

If you are reading this and don’t know where Arkville is, well, that’s my point. There are small towns all up and down the state funded Scenic Byway (Rt. 28)  where regular, working people live. People who own shops, cafes, real hotels, etc., that would only benefit from a train delivering hundreds of potential customers to their doorstep. Folks that never see the tourist dollars spent in Kingston.

This is what I mean about economy.

This is what I mean about making a difference locally. It really is not that complicated.

So you can’t damn the floods, or put out the fires, or fix a Texan’s home. But you can vote for rail/trail supporting legislators. You can attend a rally and make some noise. You can even contribute to the cause by actually buying a ticket for one of the train excursions still offered, and encouraging your friends to do the same.

By the way, The Polar Express is back!  Thanks to a temporary permit procured by CMRR for short excursions out of Kingston that began this fall. That’s a mere 25,000 person guaranteed increase in ridership during the months of November and December.

To take a train ride in Ulster County, click here.
To take a train ride in Delaware County, click here.

If you are so inclined, you can even reach deeper into your pockets and show a little love for the big undertaking that is my first documentary: Disappearing Rails. A short film to raise awareness about the importance of of keeping Upstate New York heritage rails in place for our economy and future generations.

Filming for this documentary, the brain child of Ben Rounds, local musician and major proponent of the railroad, begins this Sunday October 22 during his Whistle Stop Tour. We hope to include footage form this tour along with original Ben Rounds music to produce a small teaser of the film before year’s end. But time is of the essence, and so is money!

The reporter in me will make sure the film addresses both sides of the issues. Historians will be interviewed, along with rail/trail activists and trail-only supporters. Politicians will be given an opportunity for an on-camera interview. If they decline, that will be documented as well.

And if the rails are ripped up during production, well, it will be on film. For all the world, or at least the State of New York, to see, and to know, who is responsible. I am not being dramatic here, Ulster County’s opening of bids to remove rails was slated for October 12 and has been moved to October 19.

IMG_3307

 

If you would like to show your immediate support for the rails, here are details of the Whistle Stop Tour. Show up! At one, or all stops. Your presence will make a difference.

Whistle Stop FINAL simple

If you are more of a behind the scenes supporter, or a business owner directly affected by the fate of the rails, consider being a sponsor. Ben and I are funding the teaser on our own, but the film itself is going cost too much money without outside contributions.

All sponsors will receive thanks plastered throughout our promotional campaign and spending will be transparent in readily available reports.

And don’t forget the contribution to the Karma Jar. 🙂

What is written here is just the tip of the iceberg. If you really want to educate yourself about the possibilities in store as long as the rails are kept in place, please go to:

http://udrrcorp.com/wordpress/about

http://www.udrrhs.org/html/udhistory.html

http://savetherails.org/wordpress/

 

 

Chasing trains

Catskill Mountains, trains, Travel

Steam and Diesel locomotives side by side DURR

I was a virgin train chaser until this weekend. Now I am an addict.

It is not every day a steam locomotive and diesel engine share the same track in a small upstate New York hamlet.  Train chasers travel all over the country to capture a shot like this. I needed only to drive down to the bottom of my hill.

If you are not a rail fan, you most likely will not understand the adrenaline rush and pure joy that comes from chasing trains.  No, I am not talking about traveling along a stretch of highway parallel to the rails, speeding up or slowing down to stay in synch with the train. This is dangerous.

The safer form of chasing trains entails researching and choosing a train you wish to photograph, mapping out strategic stops for photography ahead of time, and following the train from its departure station to its arrival station and back.

I was a virgin train chaser until this weekend. Now I am an addict.

It all began while location-scouting for an upcoming documentary project (about trains, of course.) I got wind that the local tourist train, Delaware and Ulster Railroad, had rented a steam engine this weekend for a “Haunts of Rip Van Winkle abbreviated rail tour. The steamer would come to my town, “turn around” and head back to the station.

Twice this weekend, overlapping departure times of the usual 116 diesel pulling the silver liners  all the way to Roxbury, NY from Arkville, NY caused these two historic locomotives to pass each other like two ships in the night.

Above is the money shot, a still taken from the video footage I captured of the event.

But true passion is never satiated, and I was not going to head back up the hill to my house. I rushed out to Rt. 30 (adhering to speed limits, of course) and hurried up and waited until the steamer rounded the curve with the Round Barn as its backdrop.

Running back to where my car was parked, across the tracks and across the road, I worked off the morning’s pancakes.

My next stop was at Kelly’s corners, and I kneeled down, prayer like, camera resting on the guardrail, and snapped shot after shot of the steamer crossing the bridge over the East Branch.

By the time I got to the parking lot at my last stop, the motley crew of chasers I had inadvertently joined had grown. A friend I wasn’t expecting to see was there. We hugged. The sun was shining. The whistle floated towards our ears, the scent of coal teased at our nostrils, we all took our places. We waited.

The wait climaxed into 10 or 15 seconds of the train’s approach, sun on her nose, brakes screeching, steam filling the cloudless sky, and following her cars with my lens.

Most of my footage from today is being kept under wraps for the above mentioned project. I really can’t wait to share it with the world. The world of rail fans that is!

Social Media Prayer – a poem

#social media, Baltimore MD, blog, photography, poetry
Hippodrome, Baltimore, B/W by Becca Andre

Hippodrome, Baltimore, B/W by Becca Andre

But you can Pin me!
It’s my latest favorite thing.
Pin me to a wall, any wall.
I will take a link back to my website
in any way, shape or form,
I am not a picky girl
and I love to Share!

#############

#Social Media Prayer

Just a few requests –
Please do not follow me if you know an unfollow is in the near future.
Please do not friend me if you cannot love on me every so often,
or at least hit Like.

I would rather your total disregard;
complete ignorance to my words and images
as they appear in your feed,
than a ❤️ that is insincere and empty.

I would rather you comment that you hate it!
As opposed to your lukewarm skimming
and eye roll as you move to the next best thing.

And please, please,
if you are at all feeling like a twat today,
please do not Tweet.
Those words never go away –
they live immortal in screenshots.

Sometimes I wish there was an IG filter for words…
You know, to soften the edges,
to brighten or blur
because life is NOT black and white.

But you can Pin me!
It’s my latest favorite thing.
Pin me to a wall, any wall.
I will take a link back to my website
in any way, shape or form,
I am not a picky girl
and I love to Share!

©Rebecca Andre 9.25.17 1st draft

P.S. – I paired this photo with this poem because I was inspired by the thought that life is more of a stage than ever before, thanks to digital media. Do you agree?

Layered, with poetry, weekly photo challenge

Catskill Mountains, outdoors, Photo of the Week, photography, poetry, upstate new york

Layered is the theme for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge  that I have decided to participate in for the rest of the year.  How appropriate, as today at 4:02 pm is the time of the Autumnal Equinox, when day and night are about the same length.

Result: I will be forced to blog at least once a week. I will be forced to take a new photo (i.e. take a walk) or at least re-edit an existing one. If I decided to follow this week’s template, I will be forced to write new or re-examine previous poetry.

Today, I decided on the waiting woodpile as my subject. Stacked in late July, I have been waiting patiently to enjoy the fruits of my labor via a warm and comforting fire in my cabin’s wood stove. Still waiting…

Waiting wood pile on first day of fall

Waiting wood pile on first day of fall

COVER ME IN ORANGE | rebecca andre

Surround me

with an abundance of citrus-coloured coals

that promise a winter-long fire, an amiable warmth,

that seeps into the logs and into my soul.

Allow me

to lay down and nap on a fragrant fabric of leaves,

leaves like crunchy clouds, that take on cookie-cutter shapes

of hearts and stars and diamonds.

Carve me

a smirking pumpkin, a face eerily lit in the evening,

turning to a crooked grin in the morn,

as a layer of shimmering frost smoothes its sinister edges.

Let me

pass time at my stove, instead of my desk,

whipping up spiced cakes and all sorts of gourd-inspired dishes,

finished with nutmeg and cloves and mace.

Layer me

in scarves of crochet, in flannels and corduroys.

Camouflage my abundant curves in sweatshirts and woolen jackets,

as I dream of knee-high leather boots.

Cover me

in the handsome hue of autumn.

Dust me with its cinnamon scent…

Cover me in orange.

 

 

Flash Mob Marks End Of Summer

Catskill Mountains, halcottsville, Music, music videos, new york, outdoors, upstate new york

Halcottsville, NY – Labor Day weekend for the Catskills has come to mean an influx of  Air BnB hipsters, long lines at the store, a four day seafood station at Freshtown, actual real traffic jams, fireworks in the park, and packed farmers’ markets.

The weekend would not be complete without the Halcottsville Flash Mob, a tradition that keeps on growing.

Carried out by the local neighbors and weekenders alike at the Seuss property, the gathering begins around 7pm, but the preparation begins weeks earlier. You see, the whole point is for the DURR passengers, onboard the dinner/music train that runs from Arkville, NY to Roxbury, NY, to get treated to dancing torches in the Seuss’ back yard that appear from the darkness just as the train slows to the perfect viewing spot.

I guess you kind of have to be there…

In case you weren’t, here is a fun edit I did of the almost seven minute event, now under three minutes, as I took liberty to focus on the highlights and re-arrange the song a bit. I hope Johnny Cash and Blues Maneuver don’t mind too much.

Halcottsville Flash Mob Torches for the Train to Ring of Fire 9.2.17 from Mountain Girl Photography… on Vimeo.

A fire dance flash mob choreographed to “Ring of Fire” by Johny Cash performed by Blues Maneuver on 9.2.17 in the small hamlet of Halcottsville, NY. (Please note, song was re-arranged for post editing purposes)

My Auntie T.’s Poetry

Family, poetry, Uncategorized
IMG_3110

My Aunt at 16. Yes, I am aware of, and happy for, the resemblance.

Heredity is a double-edged sword. Never has this become so apparent as in the last week.
According to doctors, my little girl is going to struggle with the same weight and anxiety issues as her mother, yet she has also inherited my empathy and sense of adventure.

Finding out pancreatic cancer is hereditary was not a treat, I hope my Mom doesn’t pass that on to me. I hope all I get from her are the traits of thriftiness and intense loyalty to family.

Speaking of family, I have been blessed to have some of the most amazing, talented, accomplished Aunts and Uncles a niece could ask for. Growing up I was aware of my Uncle’s black belt in karate, and his brick-laying artistry. I was nine years old when I first watched my other Uncle perform on stage with his own modern dance company; he is still a sought after NYC choreographer. I watched all of my Uncles put their children first, and always make their nieces and nephews feel special, even though we didn’t see each other a lot. My Auntie T.’s husband was my first introduction to camo! I wonder if my sis remembers dressing up in his hunting gear?

All of my Aunts are women of deep faith, tireless care-givers and some of the most hard working women I have ever known. They may not know it, but their examples still inspire me.

Just last week one of my Aunts discovered my poetry online and she shared some of hers with me. We are talking lines written almost 40 years ago, starting in and around the year of 1969.

That’s when it dawned on me! We have a serious streak of creativity in this family!

So, I would like to share a few of Auntie T.’s full length poems and some excerpts. I poured over the snapshots of her hand-written lines and yellowed pages she sent to me. I feel honored to be privy to the love, pain and hard life lessons documented on those pages.

Auntie T. wrote this one when my cousins were babies:

Complex sensations dwell in the length of a day.
Kindness expels from deep within.
Expanding with style and grace,
vibrations are there,
meant to be felt.

Confront each day in the light of reality.
Take caution and care not to indulge.
The thread of the Universe ties everyone together.
Our combinations, all slightly complex.
Life is given to live as an individual.

To see Life for what it is,
and not for what it seems.
With hope our world will long endure the pain.
To continue through eternity,
with the love it gives.

Taste of the fruit Truth can possess.
Giving could be a link to satisfaction!
Fill your environment with happiness,
then truly the fullness of Life
will be felt.

~~~~~

And two more sweet limericks she wrote for her babies. First, on trying to get my cousin to eat her breakfast:

BANANA, BANANA HALF MOON FRUIT

Banana, banana half moon round,
Yellow, yellow fruit I found.
Fill my tummy, stop its growl
Tasteful, plentiful, makes no sound.
Slice and sweeten, cover with milk
Hmm, hmm, good down smooth as silk.
Another please and thank you do,
Have a half moon fruit and chew, chew chew!

~~~~~

And this one from 1984, written for her son’s school book week, and ending up being painted at the entrance to the school library!

Read a book
Dream new dreams
Explore the real
Take a look
Words together
Words apart
Start a book and fill your heart
Complete it and your mind is full
Adventure leads to open doors
The more you read, the less you miss
As the world ensures your mind insists.

~~~~~

SEASONS

Morning dew, evening mist.

The Autumn daze remembrance
of horse drawn carriage rides.

The fields of bright flowers gone
buried beneath the leaves.

Romping about very merrily
happy to be alive.

Forgetful, I find myself while gazing,
that Nature takes its course.

The changes seem to me a miracle:
As birds and aging trees,
as old and new repeat the course
of Nature’s nostalgic seasons
that come to us
each year.

~~~~~

MINUTE CRYSTAL GLOW

Rainbow blossomed colors flow
within the bright beam of light.
Tiny particles make within my mind
the beauty seen.
Could I taste your shiny flake?
If so promised my love, redeemed.
Shine!
Oh, shine my loved delight.
Reflect your beauty with all your might.
Glow of love’s blossomed flight.
Touch my body from head to toe,
the warmth and loving for your foe.
Why waste your minute beauty
to those who fight?
Glow forever on and on…
Gradually you’ll penetrate…
I’ll guard thee always sworn,
for each are soon to meet their fate.

~~~~

Excerpts from “THE MEADOW” poems:

…The meadow of a peaceful life can harvest beauties of untold treasure.
As love for life brings continued endurance
on the rocky path we all seem to follow.
To feel the rewards of a harmonious life,
One must tune oneself into reality…

~~~~~
…Since to live is to die,
each flower opens its petals to their fullest annually….
The beauty the new Life brings with it
Love unquestionable…

~~~~~

This is the final poem I will share for this round of “Auntie T’s poetry. Dated 1969, its application to 2017 is eerie.

FREEDOM CALL

People live dreaming free,
gazing at reality.
“I am you, you are me,
together we will see.”

Long distant battle….
helping company;
pleasing sounds
of a child’s faint cry.

The War has just begun.
President (Nixon) talking rhymes; people die.
A brother and mother sigh,
the War, it must be done….

Help each other, dreaming free.
Fighting for reality.
We are all brothers,
together we will be.

Heavens in the silent night,
God extends his light.
Helping each other to live,
sorry for those that die.

Harmony prevails,
silence bring less tears.
The War –
it has been done.

~~~~~

Thank you Auntie T. for reaching out to me with your poetry and helping me break my writer’s block I have had regarding this blog. Most importantly, thank you for being there beside us this last year and a half, helping us navigate Mom’s cancer journey. Now, it is time to get back to writing and taking pictures!

*All poetry is intellectual property of Auntie T. (pseudonym).  This blog is for sharing, but the words within are protected by copyright laws.

Spring in the Catskills

Catskill Mountains

Ramps, rain, fiddleheads, waterfalls, mud, allergies, ticks, trout…  on goes the list.

In the few short months of Spring/Summer, a lot needs to happen as soon as the weather shift takes place. The snow has melted, leaving a mess on the property.  The firewood stack has dwindled. The lawn mower needs a resurrection; a new batch of chemical-free bug spray needs to be concocted.  The list is endless.

IMG_2710

Fiddleheads and dandilions – a forager’s feast

This spring I have welcomed with wide open arms, as she marks the end of my Mom’s chemo, and perhaps a tiny promise of a return to slight normalcy.

Enter ‘In Bloom, 2017’, my first official gallery exhibition, shared with two amazing artists, Alix Hallman Travis and Mary Overly Davis, at the Common’s Gallery.

Finally my poetry and photography on the same wall for all the world to see. Actually, not sure how I feel about that now that I see it in writing….

'She Knows There Will Be Lilacs'

#20 ‘She Knows There Will Be Lilacs’

This collection is over three years in the making. Since I have moved to the Catskills, there has been abundant inspiration for my poetry and photography to intersect and intertwine. I have taken hordes of landscapes and also close ups blooms that bless these mountains, wether native or cultivated.

Of course, for me the first herald of spring is not a bloom at all, but rather a pointed little green nosing itself from beneath the decaying leaves: ramps, aka, wild leeks.

Catskill ramps

Ramps have risen

Whatever Spring means for you, or to you, be sure to embrace her. In the Catskills, Spring is fleeting yet fulfilling.

Hope Is Chartreuse

‘Hope is Chartreuse’ #5 – A Mother’s Day picnic by the Beaverkill inspired a poem and this photo of maple leaves being born

And with that…I leave you with a poem…or several.

MOTHER’S DAY BY A COVERED BRIDGE ON THE BEAVERKILL – A HAIKU COLLECTION

Pool of peace –
water flows steady beneath
stockade of trusses.

Glowing sun heats
freshly bared skin as hope grows;
a chartreuse promise.

Green and blue sea glass:
tiny gems too fragile for
this fast, fickle stream.

Distant thoughts hover
like black flies or nymphs just caught
in daydreams of silk.

Here we both sit:
Fly rods and trout, lens and pen
peace pulling us in.

Almost Healthy Chocolate Chip Joy Infused Cookies

photography, Recipes, Uncategorized

About four minutes into the baking of these chocolate gems, a caramel warmth wafts towards my nostrils and all is right with the world.


On a bitingly cold Saturday, complete with a play-date, there is only one thing to do: make cookies. Upon informing the my 8 year old daughter and her friend that I was working on a healthier version of chocolate chip cookies, using agave, I was bombarded with protests.

“Oh no, you are going to use oatmeal, aren’t you?”

“AGAVE! What is that?” 

Their words dripped with “ick” and fear.

I calmed them with a little mini spoon dipped in agave, and eyebrows raised, they were forced to concede to its sweet goodness.

Back to these Almost Healthy Chocolate Chip Joy Infused Cookies. My goal in developing this recipe was to lower the fat content and glycemic index and to up the intake of whole grains in one of America’s favorite desserts. 

I succeeded.

Hand delivering one (before-dinner) cookie each to the girls, the first bite solicited the following response: “These are AMAZing,” and “nice job,” complete with a thumbs up.

“See,” I said, with grin of a conqueror spreading across my face. I did a little happy dance back to the kitchen. 

You too will do a little happy dance when you first bite into these mood altering baked discs of delight (aka cookies).


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup blue agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 4 tsp. vanilla bean infused vodka (or pure vanilla extract works too)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole oats
  • 10-12 oz. of the most seriously dark chocolate chips you can find, malt-sweetened if possible, so as to completely avoid processed sugar.  I only had Hershey’s Special Dark semi-sweet chips on hand.
  • (As you can see, there is not salt added in this recipe. I forgot it, and it isn’t needed. I am not sure why. Greatly reduces the sodium content!)

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter and coconut oil together, about 45 seconds in the microwave, allow to cool slightly.
  2. Use a mixer to blend the agave and coconut palm sugar together, add the melted butter and oil. Add the vanilla then the egg whites (warmed to room temp. in a bowl of warm water for about 10 min.) Beat until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the two flours, baking powder, cornstarch and cinnamon. Add slowly to the wet ingredients.
  4. Stir in whole oats and, finally, chocolate chips. Add some nuts if you so desire.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
  6. Chill dough in freezer for 30 minutes.
  7. Spoon onto sheet in generous tablespoons. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Makes 40 cookies (if you don’t nibble at the dough during the baking process)


So how did I determine this comparison? I used the nutrition tracker on MyFitnessPal. As you can see from above, my agave-coconut-whole-wheat-oats recipe is not only lower in fat, sugar, carbs and sodium, but packs a nutrition punch with potassium from the coconut sugar and egg whites and a dose of iron from the dark chocolate and oats.

Yes, Costco’s Kirkland brand cookies may be a tad larger, or could it be an optical illusion, as they are flat. And full of artificial flavor. I will take a smaller, cleaner cookie any day.

The only way to make this cookie of joy better is with a cup of Safari Spiced Chai, a Traveler’s Tea African Rooibos blend that pairs so very well with dessert, and boasts a dose Vitamin C, anti-oxidants, and minerals.

Mom and kid approved, I could not have developed this recipe without inspiration from Amy’s Healthy Baking and this agave nectar cookie recipe. I have absolutely no affiliation with the websites mentioned, except for the tea sites, which is my company. I highly encourage you to check out the online store, Mountain Girl Made, and buy some organic, additive-free tea to go with your baked goods while supporting this blogging housewife.

Kindred Spirts – a poem

outdoors, photography, poetry, Travel

Young caribou | Newfoundland

I got so close to her

I could see the glint in her eye.

With every step,

both our hearts pounded.

Exposed, but not in danger.

Alone, but still safe

as a swaddled baby.

Oh, sweet caribou,

don’t run away.

All that is pointed at you

is my lens.

becca andre | twenty sixteen