Well, that’s it!  Today was the last day of my job as a dietitian at WIC (it occured to me that this might be the last time I ever have to dress business casual for a job…weird).  Nothing I have ever done has changed my world view and myself as much as this job did.  In the thirteen months I spent at WIC I was forced to face some of life’s more difficult and controversial situations; from immigration, HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty, teen pregnancy, child abuse, and childhood obesity, I saw it all.  It was also the most difficult thing I have had to deal with on a professional level and unfortunately all to often I found myself thinking “I hate this job.”  Today I am going to think about the positives, because in the end, I am better for it.

I am still enrolled in graduate school until December, because I made the final decision about all my changes after the school year had started.  Last week in my Gender Issues class my professor asked us to write down the five greatest accomplishments in our life up to this point.  After thinking for a while I was suprised to realize that working at WIC was one of them.  It is an accomplishment for me because I got to “help people”, I got to brush up on my Spanish, and I was able to support myself without any outside help, but mostly, it is because for the first time in my life I got to experience what it is like to be a minority.   I think we Americans hold on to this need to believe we are color-blind, but deep down I don’t think this is ever 100% possible for anybody regardless of race.  Before you all flip, I am not racist by any means, but I don’t think you can say you are color-blind (and maybe I don’t want to be, differences are good!) or understand another culture until you have made yourself vulnerable and immersed your life in theirs.  I had never had to do this before and as open as I like to think am to different people, ideas, and circumstances it is a little scary once you are faced with it everyday.  So, I am proud to be coming out of this job with a greater understanding and love for those different than me.  I now feel like I can talk to and help people who don’t look like me, speak like me, dress like me, and who grew up in completely opposite situations as me with respect and appreciation.  While they will never know it, I am at a great debt to those moms and coworkers who came into my office and challenged my previous beliefs and stereotypes and as a result have made me a more well rounded person.  I will miss nothing more than hearing about the food, while often horrifying, my clients eat, what matters to them, and how they see the world.

Speaking of food, I was often equally horrified with the way my coworkers ate.  I always had to remind myself that they did not go through a dietetics program and thus aren’t as crazy about food/nutrition as I am, but I still gave them a hard time about it sometimes.  Yet, the pleaser in me comes out and I always found myself wanting to make them happy via baked goods.  So as best as possible I tried to bake them treats with a healthful twist, and it worked!

I go through bouts of vegetarianism and for the majority of this year, I was eating primarily vegan (this is a post all on its own).  During my time as a close-to-vegan, I baked a lot of vegan desserts and by far, my favorite (and my coworkers’) were the cookies.  As a pastry chef I forsee many cookies in my future, but between you and me, I would be happy eating these the rest of my life.  They are so decadent with the added bonus that they are much healthier than traditional cookies (no eggs or butter) and I often find myself eating them for my second breakfast (shhh!).  So, as a going away sentiment, I made a batch of these for my coworkers one last time.

Goodbye WIC.

Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Veganomicon by Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Makes about 30 cookies

Note – this recipe would work without the flaxseeds, but I think they make the cookies perfectly chewy.  Flaxseeds may be bought either whole or already ground and stored in your refrigerator for a very long time.  I usually buy mine whole and grind them myself, as needed, in a coffee grinder.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

2/3 cup canola oil

1 1/2 cup sugar

4 teaspoons ground flaxseeds

1/2 cup almond milk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional – but I would recommend using)

3/4 vegan chocolate chips (or just regular chocolate chips if you aren’t vegan)

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking, soda, and salt.

In a separate large bowl, mix together the oil and sugar.  Add the flaxseeds, almond milk, vanilla, and almond extract if using and mix well.

Fold in the dry ingredients in batches.  When the batter starts to get too stiff to mix with a fork, use your hands until a nice stiff dough forms (sometimes my dough gets stiffer than others, I am often able to continue mixing with a spoon with no problem).  Add the chocolate chips and mix with your hands again.  Your hands will get covered in chocolate, but worse things have happened.

Wash your hands and grease two baking sheets.  Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place 2-inches apart on baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Suggestion – mix in 1/2 cup of your favorite nut in with the chocolate chips