In uncertain times, it can be comforting to honor the rituals that have nourished and grounded us over the years. And with so many people cooking at home these days, we thought we’d ask some of the writers in our communities to share favorite recipes and the stories behind them. We hope these recipes provide you with some inspiration, comfort, and company in your own home kitchen. If you’re a writer who cooks and would like to be featured in our series, please reach out to mfranke@pen.org.

Today’s recipe comes from KK Wootton, who has published short fiction in the Grove Press anthology They’re At It Again and creative nonfiction in the Houghton Mifflin collection, Personals.

power cookies on baking tray

Photo by KK Wootton

When Clementine and I moved to LA from Starkville, Mississippi in 2000, we were guided by seemingly divine forces to an apartment building called The Gaylord, once a swank hotel serving Old Hollywood’s C-listers, smack dab in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard.

The Gaylord featured rickety elevators and Polly‚ a down-in-the-dumps lobby regular who brightened at any talk of baseball, as well as the HMS Bounty, an in-house fish-and-chips dive bar. It was the perfect place for a young single mom and her four-year-old daughter. 

I couldn’t afford a one-bedroom, but we snagged a large single—670 square feet! I somehow got cleared for an Ikea credit card (they’d be sorry about that eventually) and got us a bunk bed, pink comforters, and a little table for the kitchenette.

Clementine Creevy playing guitar at a performance

KK Wootton’s daughter, Clementine, lead vocalist of American rock band Cherry Glazerr. Photo by @cjharvey2

The Gaylord was a dream. Clementine and I had a regular booth at the HMS Bounty, and Kathy, the 60-year-old platinum blonde with fabulous legs and a heart like a grand piano, got our order started when we walked in the door (grilled cheese, easy on the cheese, for Clem; sand dabs for moi).

In our time off from work and preschool, respectively, we strolled Wilshire Boulevard and our new Koreatown neighborhood, finding treasures everywhere (dumpling shops where we sat on silken pillows, secret courtyard shops selling strawberry milk bubble tea, arcades with the Dance Dance Revolution game). On Halloween, The Gaylord’s manager let us decorate with paper-bag lanterns around the pool, and we trick-or-treated down the hallways.

I find myself thinking now about what it would be like if Clem and I were in that one-room apartment during this time—having only that space, surrounded by other people, not able to make contact. And I’m reminded of when we were confined even further.

Clem had gotten a package of glow-in-the-dark stars. Naturally, we wanted to test them out. It was a sunny day, and following the directions, we held them out the windows to activate the glow.

“Let’s go in the closet!” I suggested, and we took the stars into the little closet.

I shut the door so that it would be completely dark.

“Oooooh!” They worked—like magic!

But when I went to open the door back to our room, I discovered there was no handle on the inside.

Frantic, I felt around for any way to open the door. There was none. We were locked in.

I took a deep breath and explained to Clem we would need to cry for help. Together on the count of three, to amplify our voices.

“One. Two. Three. HELP!”

The walls of The Gaylord had been built almost a hundred years prior, when things were made to last. The walls were thick. We were surrounded by darkness and silence. I could feel Clem’s terror in her tiny body, trusting me to protect her.

“HELP!” Again. And again.

No response.

The apartment maintenance philosophy of the new era, though, prized value over durability. And the door to the closet was not original. It had been an add-on.

I scooted up against the back wall of the closet and put my feet squarely in the middle of the door. I kicked with every force I had.

I broke down the door.

And we walked back out into our room, so grateful for the sun shining through the windows.


KK’s Power Cookies

When you need a little power.

Cait MacLennon deadlifting her boyfriendI’ve modified it a bit, but this recipe originated with my fitness guru, Caity Maclennon (@caity_maclennon). Here she is deadlifting her boyfriend (my routine is a little less demanding).

There’s a lot of baking going on right now. Excitement! But there’s also some talk of the dreaded COVID-19 (pounds). This recipe aims to address both issues. Sweetened with monk fruit (mostly); featuring 7.7 grams of protein, 4.5 grams of fat, and clocking in at 120 calories per reasonably-sized cookie—behold the Power Cookie. Excellent for breakfast; pairs well with coffee.

Warning: This is not a crisp cookie.

Ingredients:
Note: You might need to order some ingredients online.
1 cup oats
1/4 cup flour1
Dash salt
1 generous teaspoon baking powder
4 scoops Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Vanilla
3 tablespoons Golden Lakanto sweetener
1/4 cup pureed sweet potato
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 generous teaspoon vanilla
1 egg2
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon Lakanto chocolate chips
2–4 tablespoons finely chopped walnut (optional)—this ups the calorie count, but. . . delicious. Good fats, right?

Instructions:
1. Line baking tray with parchment.
2. Mix dry ingredients with a whisk.
3. Add sweet potato, maple syrup, vanilla and egg. Mix completely.
4. Fold in chips.
5. Chill in the fridge for 4 hours (optional, but a nice touch).
6. Heat oven to 350 degrees (or a few degrees hotter, if you’d like).
7. Scoop by heaping tablespoons onto a tray, to make 8 cookies. Press the batter down so the dollop becomes more of a puck.
8. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the edges and tops are golden brown.
9. Cool 20 minutes.

Ka-pow!

1. I use a gluten-free mix of 3 parts almond flour to 1 part millet flour (or rice flour). I have a lot of “alternative” flours in my cabinet, and I’m currently trying to use them. I’ve got cassava, but that can yield something a little gummy—not what we’re looking for in a cookie.

2. The grocery store only had duck eggs left. Duck eggs are sort of large. So, I just scrambled one and poured a little bit out.


After becoming a movie critic for The Chicago Tribune at age 17, KK Wootton received a BFA from New York University, and a master’s degree in writing from USC. She has published short fiction in the Grove Press anthology They’re At It Again and creative nonfiction in the Houghton Mifflin collection, Personals. In his column “On Language,” William Safire attributed to her the earliest media appearance of the phrase, “Get a life.” Visit her online at kkwootton.com