Friday, February 20, 2015

Sugar-free Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These (processed) sugar free vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are delicious and very simple to make. Yes there are 14 steps in the recipe but I'm a technical writer so I have to make sure the process is completely and explicitly explained. A normal chef would write this recipe in five steps. (Rolled oats are gluten free unless processed in a facility which also processes glutenous grains like wheat so be sure to check the packaging on your oats if you want to be sure this cookie is gluten free.)

  • 1 cup dates, packed
  • 1 mushed up banana
  • 2 Tbsp all natural almond butter or peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup nut meal (ground from raw nuts: almonds, pecans, etc.)
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • Add-ins: dried fruit, dairy-free chocolate chips, flaxseed, seeds, coconut, nut pieces

  1. Soak the dates for about an hour in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Drain the dates.
  3. Chop the dates, drop them in a bowl and mush them up.
    When finished, they should almost (but not quite) be the consistency of a mushed up banana.
  4. Speaking of a mushed up banana, add it and the almond butter to the dates and mix until combined.
  5. Add the nut meal and rolled oats.
    I grind the nuts in a dedicated coffee bean grinder I use for nuts, flax seeds and the like.
  6. Mix the mush until a loose dough is formed.
    It should be wet and sticky. If it feels too wet to form into cookies, add more almond meal and/or oats.
  7. Add 1/4 cup of your chosen add-in: dairy-free dark chocolate chips, raisins or nuts.
    I've also added a handful of blueberries or a chopped up pear and neither made the dough any less sticky.
  8. Chill the dough for 10 minutes while preheating the oven to 375 degrees F.
  9. At 10 minutes, mix the dough and chill it for another 10 minutes.
  10. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  11. Scoop out 1 Tbsp amounts of the cookie dough and form into loose discs on the baking sheet.
    They won’t expand so you can pack them close together (but not touching).
  12. Bake for 20-35 minutes or until golden brown and somewhat firm to the touch.
    The amount of time is dependent on how thick your cookie scoops are. The thicker they are, the more time in the oven.
  13. Remove and let set for a few minutes on the pan, then carefully transfer to a plate or cooling rack to cool. Serve immediately.
  14. Store leftovers in an airtight container for several days, or move to the fridge or freezer for longer term storage.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hazel: The Maid With The Most

Miss Hazel Burke is a single white female who lives with, and works for, George and Dorothy Baxter and their young son, Harold. As chief cook and bottle washer she makes between $75 and $100 per week (including raises) and lives rent-free in a small room off the kitchen of the Baxter residence at 123 Marshall Road in Hydsberg, New York. She is a gregarious busybody with a penchant for telling old jokes and socializing with the other maids in the neighborhood in a collective known as The Sunshine Girls. Hazel's Social Security number is 111-07-7619 which tells us her card was issued somewhere between 1936 and 1950.

Despite having a Social Security number*, Hazel is not a real person but a cartoon from Ted Key, who created the single panel series in 1943 from a dream he had. The print Hazel, published in The Saturday Evening Post, was a huge success and Key was approached to adapt the cartoon for television. The television Hazel debuted in the fall of 1961 and was also a huge hit, ending its first year as the fourth most popular television program in the United States. Its run ended in 1966 after 154 episodes aired on two different networks. Since watching the luminous Shirley Booth in the decidedly charming and criminally underrated film About Mrs. Leslie, and remembering her heartbreaking, Tony and Oscar-winning performance in Come Back Little Sheba, I decided to revisit the actress's most famous role in a binge of the series - available on Shout Factory DVDs.

Hazel is a well-written, nicely-paced, emotionally satisfying piece of television history. The characters are appealing, intelligent and funny and the situations are somewhat atypical for a series from the early 1960s. Some of the themes the series addresses include civic pride, immigration, diet/health, women's rights, divorce, commercialism, class, politics, and racial equality. Although the story templates can be somewhat derivative, each episode ties itself up nicely with some of the story lines even crossing over.

Hazel theme with lyrics by Sammy Cahn, music by James Van Heusen, sung by the Modernaires
only used in the closing credits of the first two episodes of season one

The first four seasons (which ran Thursday nights on NBC at 9:30 PM) follow the proud Miss as she corrects those who deem to call her Mrs., cooks exemplary food, cleans the house (next door to Samantha and Darren Stephens of Bewitched), runs to answer the telephone, causes (and resolves) havoc for Mr. B (her loving but exasperated employer), helps Missy raise the tow-headed Sport (as she helped Missy's mother before her), bowls an almost perfect game, pals around with her compatriot in cleanliness Rosie, sings with the Sunshine Girls Quartet, increases her vocabulary, helps the dotty Johnson neighbors, infuriates Deirdre (Mr. B’s uppity sister), feeds the blustery Mr. Griffin, dates some eligible gentlemen, rejects a few marriage proposals, turns down successful business ventures to stay with the Baxters, and generally runs the city in which everyone just calls me Hazel.

Although William D. Russell directed every episode of seasons 1 to 4, several more in season 5 and deserves infinite kudos for keeping a consistent tone, it is Shirley Booth who is the heart and soul of the show. Ms. Booth can make you laugh, cry and jump for joy with one line of dialog. Her Hazel is proud and charitable, defiant and warm, nosy and helpful; one can't help but become involved in the shenanigans she causes for family, friends and town folk. Shirley summed up her feelings about Hazel in The Saturday Evening Post. Judging from her words Hazel predates Seinfeld as a show about nothing by thirty years.
Good situation comedy makes the audience feel that the things that happen in their daily lives are important. By dramatizing these things -- actions as commonplace, perhaps, as cleaning out a closet or washing the dishes -- a show can make their lives more interesting.

Hazel also subtly addressed women's rights. Dorothy Baxter is a mother with her own interior decorating business; this allows her to be home and to work. She was often found working in her studio or hosting guest star clients. Over its five seasons, Hazel had numerous guest stars who went on to, or were plucked from, established acting careers. Many of the following played recurring characters.
  • Diane Ladd (original Flo in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore) plays one of Mr. B’s many cousins, Sharlene.
  • Harold Gould (Rhoda, The Golden Girls) appears in several seasons
  • Robby the Robot (Forbidden Planet) appears as a maid in Hazel’s nightmare.
  • Maidie Norman (The Well, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, Airport ’77) is approached by Hazel to sign a petition to keep industry from razing a city park - if she is registered to vote. Ms. Norman, an African American woman, is registered. (I also spotted an African-American mailman and county employee in episodes of season 5.)

  • Harvey Korman (The Carol Burnett Show, Blazing Saddles)
  • James Stacy (Cagney and Lacey)
  • Philip Ober (Vivian Vance's husband, I Love Lucy)
  • Doris Singleton (Carolyn Appleby in I Love Lucy)
  • Lurene Tuttle (Julia, vaudeville, radio)
  • Ellen Corby (The Waltons)
  • Jamie Farr (MASH)
  • Alan Hale, Jr. (Gilligan's Island)
  • Barbara Shelley (Village Of The Damned)
  • Mabel Albertson (Jack Albertson's sister, What's Up Doc)
  • William Schallert (The Patty Duke Show)
  • Ken Berry (Mayberry RFD, Mama's Family)
  • Dabney Coleman (9 to 5, Buffalo Bill)
  • Leif Erickson (westerns among other gigs)
  • Frank Gifford (football) plays himself looking to buy a bowling alley
  • Claude Akins (Movin’ On, BJ and the Bear)
  • Lee Meriweather (Miss America, Batman)
  • Jack Dodson (The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D.)
  • Bonnie Franklin has an uncredited walk-on in season five. Ironically ten years later she would star in One Day At A Time, the CBS situation comedy created and written by Whitney Blake. Blake herself was nixed for the part as being too old, much to her consternation.
  • Don Kirshner (Rock Concert) is credited as a music consultant

This pilot episode features Edward Andrews as Mr. B
the part played in the series by Don DeFore

The regular members of the cast are also uniformly excellent (especially Don DeFore and Cathy Lewis holding their own against the powerhouse Booth) and deserve mention.
  • George Mr. B Baxter (1961-1965) ... Don DeFore (wonderfully plays an endearing foil to Hazel)
  • Dorothy Missy Baxter (1961-1965) ... Whitney Blake (a stunningly beautiful woman whose graciousness and love for Hazel shines)
  • Harold Sport Baxter ... Bobby Buntrock (a charming child actor who died in a car accident at the age of 22, eight years after the series end)
  • Rosie ... Maudie Prickett (Prickett plays kind-of prickly)
  • Harvey Griffin ... Howard Smith (one of Mr. B's many clients and Hazel's many suitors)
  • Deirdre Thompson (1961-1965) ... Cathy Lewis (played to the hilt by the underrated Lewis, Mr. B's snooty sister can never quite one up Hazel - not for lack of trying)
  • Harriet Johnson (1961-1965) ... Norma Varden (wonderfully dotty)
  • Herbert Johnson (1961-1965) ... Donald Foster (wonderfully dotty too)
  • Harry Thompson (1961-1965) ... Robert P. Lieb
  • Steve Baxter (1965-1966) ... Ray Fulmer
  • Barbara Baxter (1965-1966) ... Lynn Borden
  • Susie Baxter (1965-1966) ... Julia Benjamin
  • Millie Ballard (1965-1966) ... Ann Jillian (It's A Living, Mae West)
  • Mona Williams (1965-1966) ... Mala Powers
  • Fred Williams (1965-1966) ... Charles Bateman
  • Jeff Williams (1965-1966) ... Pat Cardi
  • Smiley the dog (Harold's pet)
  • Black cat (Susie's pet)
Special kudos to William D. Russell who directed 136 of 154 episodes: all of seasons 1 through 4 and 11 of 29 in season 5.

The ratings dropped from #4 in season one to Top 30 in season four when NBC cancelled it. Shirley Booth purchased the rights and worked out a deal with CBS for another season. Season five was to follow The Andy Griffith Show on Monday nights at 9:30 PM. After looking at the payroll, Booth and the other producers decided not to renew the contracts of DeFore and Blake. CBS was also looking for younger demographics so George and Dorothy were sent overseas and younger actors were hired for the roles of Steve and Barbara Baxter, George's brother and wife, who became Harold's caretakers. Bobby Buntrock didn't make a lot of money so dropping him wouldn't have balanced the budget and keeping him preserved continuity.

The context of the season five episodes stayed the same: Hazel works for a blustery (albeit younger) man of the house and his pretty blonde wife. The role of George and Steve Baxter's snooty sister Deirdre was even usurped by Barbara Baxter's friend Mona Williams who, with her husband Fred and son Jeff, lived next door and appeared in a number of episodes. (Thankfully, Cathy Lewis makes several season 5 appearances as well.) Most surprisingly, Hazel gets out of her uniform quite a bit to sell houses for the younger Baxter's real estate office - even dressing as a beatnik in My Son, The Sheepdog, the series' ode to rock and roll. Ultimately though, season five ratings were worse than season four and Hazel was cancelled for a second time.

From baking cookies to driving the Baxters to paying a toll Hazel
filmed a myriad of opening credits. Here is a mashup of five seasons worth.

Most recently, the story of how Hazel found her way to the Baxters has been revamped as a musical with music by Ron Abel, lyrics by Chuck Steffan and book by Lissa Levin. (In the 1950s, Key adapted his cartoon into a play which Booth read; reportedly, she liked the character but didn't think the play held up for two hours.) Hazel, A Musical Maid in America was showcased for producers (with direction by situation comedy and theatre veteran Lucie Arnaz) in October, 2014. The latest news brings it to Broadway sometime in 2015. Only time will tell if the Maid With The Most can match the success of her print and television runs with a live action run on the boards.


Season Four of the Hazel DVD set released by Shout Factory contains digital ephemera in the form of a Screen Gems promotional booklet for potential advertisers of the television series. It contains text about the show and the characters, some Ted Key illustrations and a preface by Peter Key, the cartoonist's son. I probably shouldn't have done this (since it's not technically public domain) but I've put this booklet to PDF. Email me for a download link.

*Hazel's Social Security number is revealed when she takes a part time job in Masterson's Department Store (season 1, episode 12).

See my Pinterest page for more pictures of Shirley Booth and the cast of Hazel.

Follow Michael,'s board Hazel, the Maid with the Most on Pinterest.

See Peggy J. Shumate's Pinterest page for even more pictures of Shirley Booth and Hazel.