I wake up in the morning and consult the Google calendar. Lately I’m not sure how I could make much of anything happen without it. Tasks are driven largely by to-do lists with breaks for an occasional lunch. And lots of granola baking in between. My yoga teacher hasn’t seen a whole lot of me, and Sam and I finally went grocery shopping for real last night (it’s been awhile). This time of year seems populated by things that other people need done: from the farmers market organizers to new Marge vendors and book-related emails — there’s a lot to tend to. That is, until the craving to bake cookies strikes on Sunday night and it seems that, actually, everyone can wait.
This newfound uber-busyness is largely because the farmers market season has started for Marge, so the week is dotted with new markets, new baking days, and lots of errands. Regardless, we’re going to try and sneak away on Saturday night for a quick camping trip. Preferably with cookies, a little flask of bourbon, some oats for morning oatmeal, a good flashlight and a few books. Sam wants to cook steak over the coals — I’m nervous about that and am voting for pesto pasta instead. We’ll see who wins out.
Ultimately, I suppose, it really doesn’t matter because we’ll be in the woods without email. And sometimes when everyone else needs something from you (and needs it now), it’s really nice to just close the computer screen, put on a Townes Van Zandt record, and do something for no other reason than ‘just because.’ Like getting out in the woods or baking cookies. I hope you enjoy a long weekend, too. And that you answer to no one other than yourself. For at least a day.
A quick note on these cookies: These were inspired by a cookie recipe on Sprouted Kitchen last week for Mapled Chocolate Chip Cookies. For ‘just because’ cookies, these may seem a little high maintenance on first glance. But they’re really not. The method is a wet/dry ingredient affair, but I do understand that all of the ingredients may not be in your cupboards. Quinoa flakes are so wonderful in baked goods — they add a nice, chewy texture and a good hit of protein. They’re easy to come by in gourmet or natural grocery stores but if you can’t track them down, feel free to substitute rolled oats (not instant) instead. If you don’t have almond meal, simply grind raw almonds down in your food processor until a fine powder forms. As for flax seeds, they’re optional. They add a nice crunch that I really love, but you could also grind them into a powder and fold them in that way instead; your body will absorb the nutrients more readily, but you’re sacrificing that beloved crunch. And I choose crunch. Ultimately, for this weekend at least, choose what makes you happiest.
As with all of my recipes, substitute away as you wish. If you like raisins or dried cranberries, you could fold those in in lieu of chocolate chips. Instead of pecans, chopped hazelnuts would be dreamy. As would walnuts. And instead of whole-wheat flour, spelt flour would be a great swap. You’re going to pull these cookies out of the oven and they’re going to seem not quite done — they’ll firm up slightly as they cool, and they’re oh-so-wonderful when they sag a little in the middle. They’re much softer and chewier than they are firm and crisp — just how I like them. I think that you will, too.
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or line with an oven-safe baking mat.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or hand beaters, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until they’re pale and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and salt and mix until just combined.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the almond meal, quinoa flakes, whole-wheat flour, and baking soda. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add the chocolate, coconut, flax and pecans and fold a few times to combine – be careful not to over mix. Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Form a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into a ball and place on the baking sheet, 1 ½-inches apart. Flatten very gently with the palm of your hand and sprinkle the tops with flaky salt. Bake for about 12-14 minutes, or until golden on top (they may seem a touch underdone, but they’ll continue to crisp up as they cool).
Remove from the oven and cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.