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 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.