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July 25, 2008

Chocolate Cashew Raisin Oatmeal Cookie: A Tribute

Back in October of last year, I stumbled upon a website that featured a video with the title, “Dying 47 year-old Professor Gives Exuberant ‘Last Lecture'”. The premise of a dying professor giving his last and final lecture intrigued me so I decided to check it out. As it started to play I realized the video was over an hour and a half long. I figured I’d watch the first ten or so minutes and move on but I ended up watching the entire thing! What I didn’t expect was to find Randy Pausch so likeable, humble, and funny. I thought I'd see a frail, bitter man but instead I saw someone who looked healthy, with a beaming smile and kind eyes. Within moments of arriving on stage he said, “If I don't seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you” and then starting doing push-ups! I was hooked.

Throughout the lecture I learned a lot about Randy’s many great accomplishments and his dreams, but my favorite part was what he called his life lessons. I’ll leave it up to watch the video to hear them all, but my favorite was: Focus on others, not yourself. This one hit close to my heart because I have tried in my life to focus on others too. Part of the reason I bake so much is to show others how much I care and to feel special and appreciated. I really try to make an effort not to be selfish.

After Randy mentions this specific “life lesson” he said he wanted to show a concrete example. This is what he said, verbatium:

“See, yesterday was his wife’s birthday. If there were ever a time I might be entitled to have the focus on me, it might be the ‘Last Lecture’…but no, I feel very badly that my wife didn’t really get a proper birthday and I thought it would be very nice if five hundred people…”

That was when a white sheet cake was wheeled onto the stage; the entire audience starts clapping and sings Happy Birthday in unison. This was the point in the lecture when I started to sob inconsolably. So much in fact that my son burst into my room out of concern that I had somehow injured myself. I was so upset that I couldn’t even speak. It was only after the lecture was over and I calmed down that I could even explain to why I was crying in the first place. It occurred to me as Jai, Randy's wife, was blowing out her lone birthday candle the brevity of what I had just witnessed. Randy had less than a year to live and this was the last birthday she’d have with him. This was his last chance to sing Happy Birthday to her. The very fact that he would remember to take the time to celebrate his wife's birthday said volumes about the type of man Randy was. I get weepy just thinking about it!

From that day on I became very interested in Randy’s story. He had a website that he would update from time to time with snippets of his life with cancer. I cheered when he was doing well and sent warm thoughts his way when he wasn’t. And then the updates stopped and although I think I knew deep down that that wasn’t good news, I had hoped he was doing so well he just forgot to update the site. Then this afternoon, as I sat on my couch to eat my lunch, I heard the news that he had passed away. Even though I had never met Randy, I felt like I lost a dear friend. I sobbed for a good, long time.

Last night, in preparation for “Sugar Shock Friday” – a little thing I do every other Friday for the kids at work - I baked about 10 dozen cookies. These were cookies I had never made before and essentially just invented on a whim. They sat on the table waiting for me to take to work. And so, in the midst of my sniffling and in trying to calm myself down, I decided I would name these cookies after Randy. I would always remember bringing them to work to share on the day that he passed away. I have no idea if he even liked oatmeal, cashews, or dark chocolate covered raisins – but these will always be my way of remembering a man that had such a profound impact on me and so many millions of others around the world. You’re be missed Randy!

My sincerest sympathies go out to Randy’s family. My thoughts are with you all.

Chocolate Cashew Raisin Oatmeal Cookie 
Yield: About 5 dozen cookies

2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
3/4 cup of white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unsalted cashews, split in half and/or roughly chopped
1 big box (approximately 8 oz) dark-chocolate covered raisins (if you can’t find them, use the milk chocolate variety)

Using a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup of the oatmeal in a blender until it has a flour-like texture. Combine the floury oatmeal with the whole oats into a medium sized bowl. Add the whole wheat flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Mix together with a fork and set aside.

Cream together the butter and the sugars for about 2 minutes – until pale and very fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined. Slowly beat in the bowl of dry ingredients a little at a time (be sure to scrape down the bowl to look for pockets of trapped flour). Add cashews and chocolate covered raisins and mix on very slow speed just until combined or just use a wooden spoon.

Chill the dough at least a half-hour before baking (if you plan on waiting longer, be sure to cover the dough). Keep the dough in the fridge throughout the baking process.

About ten minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare your cookie sheet either by using a Silpat Mat or parchment paper.

Drop dough using a one-tablespoon cookie scoop 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or just until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and leave them on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. NOTE: Keep in mind that when you take them out of the oven, the centers will look underdone. The cookies will continue to cook for a few minutes after you remove them from the oven but I can assure you that the centers will cooked. If you wait to take them out of the oven until the centers look done, the cookie will taste burnt.

Store in an air tight container.

Would I Make This Again? Yes, the combination of cashew and dark chocolate covered raisins were in the words of my co-worker Alex, "brilliant". Next time I plan to make a normal sized recipe so that the chocolate covered raisins are better distributed in the dough. I have a few that were sans raisins. Oh and I think these are better 12 or so hours after they are baked. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars


  1. What a nice post. Great advice to "focus on others." Baking is a great way to do that.

  2. How thoughtful you are...I've seen parts of his lecture as well and get weepy myself. Randy was an inspiration to so many. You're correct in saying that baking is good way to "focus on others". While it make others happy to receive the baked goods it makes me happy to see their reaction and receive their warm thanks.

  3. Love the post, and I love people like Randy. I try to be like them as well. Who better to have as an example than others who love and serve so well?

    Great tribute, and I can't wait to try these cookies out, they're genius.
    I completely agree with Ingrid as well. Baking brings people together.

  4. what a lovely story. i'm sure randy would have counted himself lucky to have you in his life... especially when you made him such a nice cookie :)

  5. My feelings exactly. What a way to live.

  6. AnonymousJuly 29, 2008

    ... and what a nice way to remember him.

    I heard this somewhere, and I think it is a really nice idea: to collect the deceased person's favourite recipes, and give them (as a little cookery book) to his/her friends.

  7. AnonymousJuly 31, 2008

    I watched the news special on Monday too and it was so very sad. Inspiring but sad as well. I think I may have to try and make these cookies myself. They sound perfect.

  8. heart of gold, girl.

    for some reason, this reminded me of how i feel everytime this commercial comes on and shows this little girl playing with a dollhouse, and then her mom comes into the room and tells her it's time to go, and then you find out their house is being foreclosed and they're losing their house. it breaks my heart everytime and makes me stop whining for a bit about my small apartment.

  9. you probably know this already but they've actually made a book. Its actually on my amazon wish list! http://www.amazon.com/Last-Lecture-Randy-Pausch/dp/1401323251/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1219350041&sr=8-1

  10. Hi Julia

    I just stumbled upon your blog today and you have a lot of nice recipes on here, I plan to visit often. I have a few questions about Randy's Oatmeal Cookies. Is this the single version or double version, if so could I have the measurements for the single version. I do not like cashews, is there any other nuts I can use in place of the cashews. Also can I swap regular all-purpose flour for the whole wheat. What if I chill the dough for 12 hours before baking instead of waiting 12 hours after they are baked will this serve the same purpose. If using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop what will be the ideal baking times. Thanks.

  11. Thank you to everyone for your comments. And thanks for telling me about the book.

    The recipe I posted makes 5 dozen cookies. If you don't like cashews then choose a nut that you do like, but I'd suggest a softer nut, like Macadamia. However any nut would probably be great. Yes, you can use normal flour, but you'll lose some texture in the cookie which is something I like.

    I cannot really comment about chilling the dough ahead of time and what that would do for the cookie taste as I've never baked these cookies like that. I've heard that baking cookies that are kept cold creates a different cookie texture all together since the outside cooks at a much different rate than the centers. That creates a softer, doughier cookie. Keep in mind that even though I suggested waiting 8-12 hours to eat the cookies, they are still awesome right away.

    As for the 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, I'd suggest that baking one or two for 10-14 minutes and keep checking them after 10 min. You want to watch the edges and when they turn brown and the centers of the cookie are slightly baked in the center (not liquid) they are done. You'll need to experiment a little. Hope that helps!

  12. I, too was positively impacted by Randy's attitude in the face of death, particularly leaving behind three small children! What a positive, uplifting energetic legacy to leave them:)Amazing!!!


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