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.
Winter Soups and Stews
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Last weekend it was so windy – apocalyptically stormy, you could say – that our tent at the farmers market was uprooted by gusts of wind that were not messing around. I wasn't there, but apparently despite being heavily weighted down and with four customers holding onto each corner, it quite literally blew down the block. Sam, from across town, was reporting trees falling on every block and traffic lights out across the city. The next morning on a walk with Oliver around Green Lake, we were met with that same biting wind and ended up retreating for a hot chocolate instead. 'Tis the season in Seattle: we all get a little giddy and ahead of ourselves when we spot the cherry blossoms and daffodils, and I always trick myself into thinking that with the start of daylight savings time, summer must be right around the corner. In truth, before we had Oliver, we'd often travel somewhere sunny for a little mood boost around this time of year. When I moved from California, many friends – other (empathetic) 'expats' now living in the Pacific Northwest – recommended this: if you know what's good for you, they'd all say, go find the sun in February or March, and we would follow that advice faaaaaithfully. But with a baby, this just isn't where our priorities are this year, and I've found myself relying on other antics like buying out of season strawberries, drinking white wine with dinner, buying a new pair of sandals that likely will not see the light of day for the next two months, and making big, colorful pots of feel good, springy soup. Let's not kid ourselves: Cherry blossoms or not, Seattle's no Palm Springs when it gets down to bathing in the sunlight. But if you step outside onto your little porch, smell the honeysuckle blooming, take notice of the longer, lighter days and think about how you simply can't wait to see your baby crawling around on the sand when it's warm enough to stroll down to the beach, it starts looking better in its own light.
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
One of the things I wanted to accomplish before really returning to work in earnest was to print some of our honeymoon photos and get them into an album. This project has taken far longer than expected as I find myself daydreaming about the craggy streets of Naples and meeting up with our friends Mataio and Jessica for a late night slice of pizza which we ate sitting on the sidewalk before embarking on an aimless but wonderful stroll of the city. There are photos of our balcony by the sea, most with tanned limbs, sandy sandals and a Campari and soda gracing the periphery of the frame. There was the little grocery store up the hill from our apartment on the Amalfi Coast that had the sweetest, tiniest strawberries and the best yogurt in little glass jars. Tomatoes drying in the sun, Aperol spritzes and salty peanuts before dinner at the bar across from the church square where all the neighborhood kids played kickball. As I sit here typing this now, photos remain scattered on my desk and it's likely they may not make it into the proper slots in the album anytime soon. Of course, they have me dreaming of sunshine and long days with little agenda, but they also have me thinking about the simplicity of our meals in Italy and how truly easy it was to eat well. Coincidentally, a few days ago Rachel Roddy's lusty new cookbook (can we call it lusty?!), My Kitchen in Rome, arrived at our doorstep. Clearly it was time to set the photos aside and get into the kitchen.
And suddenly, it's fall. I find that realization always comes not so much with the dates on the calendar as it does the leaves on the ground, the first crank of the heat in the morning, the dusky light on the way home from an evening run. Because we were gone on the train for nearly a week, I feel like fall happened here in Seattle during that very time. I left town eating tomatoes and corn and returned to find squashes and pumpkins in the market. It was that quick. And so, it only seemed fitting that I make this soup, one that has graced the fall table of each and every apartment (and now house) I've ever lived. In fact, I'm surprised that I hadn't yet made it for you here, and delighted to share it with you today.