I know, I know. A cookie recipe on Christmas? I had lofty goals of doing a few whole-grain cookie recipes for you this season and then — the season really flew by, didn’t it? But if you’re anything like our family, there is a lot of down time together during this week and making (and eating) cookies is a nice break amidst wrapping and last minute errands. Plus, this cookie is decidedly wintery and could easily be bookmarked for a slow weekend in January or February instead — they’re warmly spiced; boast ground and candied ginger, a kiss of citrus, and a fragrant combination of both honey and molasses. If you’re an afternoon tea drinker, these have your name all over them.
I developed these 100% whole-grain cookies for Attune Foods; they’re made with whole-wheat flour, spelt flour, and honey graham crackers. We’ve made forays into spelt flour recipes on the site this year with Rhubarb Custard Crisp Bars, Buttery Almond Honey Cake, and Muscovado Fig Newtons — if you recall from any of those sweets, I especially love spelt flour for people looking to break into baking with whole-grain flours because it acts so much like all-purpose flour and is an easy substitute in most baking recipes; it’s what I call a great “starter flour.” The ground honey graham crackers help to lighten up and round out the flavor of these cookies, and add a bit of texture as well – making them delightfully tender and chewy at the same time.
We are in California now spending time with family (in the sun!), but I’m looking forward to joining you all back here in the New Year — planning a strong whole-grain breakfast line-up for January, including a book giveaway and all kinds of good, fresh morning ideas. As many of you know, Whole-Grain Mornings comes out December 31st (so soon!) — you can pre-order it now and it will arrive at your home just in time for some New Years inspiration. If you like the recipes and narrative around this space, I know that you’re going to dig the book. It has a good bit of each along with photos around our house and kitchen and the city we call home. Happy, happy holidays to you all! I’ve enjoyed a big ol’ 2013 with you here, and am so looking forward to the year ahead.
Learn More About the Book: Whole-Grain Mornings
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until they become fine crumbs (should yield about 1 cup)
In a large bowl, mix both flours, graham crackers crumbs, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt together.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using hand beaters), beat the sugar, butter, molasses and honey together for 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well. Working slowly, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in the ginger and orange zest.
Divide the dough into 2-3 tablespoon sized balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cookie tops become crackly. They will still feel a little soft to the touch, but will firm up as they cool. Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Winter Comfort Food
I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead.
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).
If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype.
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
It's been a uniformly gray and rainy week in Seattle, and I'd planned on making a big pot of salmon chowder to have for the weekend, but then the new issue of Bon Appetit landed on my doorstep with that inviting "Pies for Dinner" cover, and I started to think about how long it's been since I made my very favorite recipe from my cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I'm often asked at book events which recipe I love most, and it's a tough one to answer because I have favorites for different moods or occasions, but I'd say that this savory tart is right up there. The cornmeal millet crust is one of my party tricks; when we need a quick brunch recipe, this is what I pull out of my back pocket because it's so simple and delicious. This is a no-roll, no fuss crust with a slightly sandy, crumbly texture thanks to the cornmeal, and a delightful crunch from the millet. In the past, I've used the crust and custard recipe as the base for any number of fillings: on The Kitchn last year, I did a version with greens and gruyere, and I teach cooking classes that often include a version heavy on local mushrooms and shallot. So if you are not keen on salmon or have some vegetables you're looking to use up this week, feel free to fold in whatever is inspiring you right now. Sometimes at this point in winter that can be hard, so hopefully this recipe may help a little.