I spent the weekend slowly packing — working through my office and then moving down to the kitchen. We’ve still got about two weeks until we actually move but I hate leaving things to the last minute and feeling like a crazy person (regardless of how much one plans, doesn’t moving pretty much always make you feel like a crazy person?) So instead of working on freelance projects or doing carefree spring weekend things, I spent some quality time carefully selecting kitchen items I know we can live without for a little while: colander, salad spinner, yogurt maker, madeline pan. Making donation piles of books, old games and pants I haven’t worn in two years doesn’t seem to be a problem, but when it comes to the kitchen it’s hard for me to let go. Case in point: the madeline pan. Do I remember the last time I made a madeline? Not really.
But beyond the things I chose to pack, I’m interested in the ones I’ve deliberately left out, knowing I clearly can’t live without them: ice cream maker, muffin pan, favorite salad bowls, pie plate. Apparently, there’s ice cream and pie in our future balanced with a few good salads and a muffin or two. At about 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, we’d run out of newspaper and good packing boxes and it was time to take a break. I scanned a few recent cookbooks to see if a recipe called to me right away, and sure enough I found just the thing in Anna Jones’ new A Modern Way to Eat. Cookies. And not just any cookies. These are soft, slightly chewy Coconut Oatmeal Cookies made with oats, toasted coconut, coconut oil and a little brown sugar. They’re so simple you can pull them together even if you’ve packed much of your kitchen into boxes and aren’t entirely sure where your measuring cups now live.
I received a copy of A Modern Way to Eat in the mail a few weeks ago and was immediately smitten. The style of food is simple, healthy vegetarian and most of the ingredient lists are short and familiar — because of this it comes off as approachable right away. While recipes such as Deep Dish Leek and Greens Pie, Smoked Paprika Oven-Baked Fries and Strawberry Poppy Seed Crisp entice, I’m charmed by the ways Anna gives you a blueprint or snapshot into making your own salads, soups or roasts. For example, there’s a great page on Ten Ways with Avocado on Toast, or Three Go-to Pasta Recipes. I love the page on How to Make a Great Salad, which contains steps 1-5 that start you off Choosing Good Salad Leaves (and listing options) followed by Adding Some Interest (again, with lots of inspiring ideas), Adding Texture, Make it Hearty, and so forth. Anna encourages you to get creative with food on your own terms, off script, without strict formula or recipe.
Her Coconut Oatmeal Cookies won out on Sunday simply because I had all of the ingredients on hand and didn’t have to make an extra trip to the store. Oven preheated, ingredients weighed out, and we were in business. Climbing over boxes to melt the coconut oil, burning the coconut once and having to start over, realizing I was out of raisins and relying on dried cherries instead — nothing could hold these cookies back. Sam worked the farmers market for me that day and when he got home I handed him a cookie on my way out the door for a run and he texted a few minutes later that they were ACTUALLY AMAZING. Sam is critical when it comes to cookies and he doesn’t have as much of a sweet tooth as I do, so for him to really get behind something sweet in a way that would necessitate capital letters is a rare occasion. That’s a big endorsement around here.
Megan’sNotes: I made a few tweaks to the recipe as I went: I added 1/2 teaspoon of salt (original recipe didn’t call for any), I swapped in whole wheat pastry flour (the recipe calls for either spelt or coconut flour), and I actually ended up adding 1/2 cup more flour than the recipe calls for because my cookie dough was pretty wet once I’d completed the instructions. This could certainly be user error (although I did carefully weigh all ingredients), but I just had a hunch they weren’t going to turn out well if I put them in the oven as is. What I ended up doing is giving you my tweaks below for what worked for me, but perhaps be mindful that Anna calls for 3/4 cup flour in the recipe so if you want to be a purist and follow her formula precisely you could certainly start there. Then if your dough is quite wet like mine was, you’re going to want to add a bit more. I found 1 1/4 cups flour to be perfect, and that’s what you’ll find in the recipe below. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
Anna’s recipe calls for raisins, but we happened to be out so I used dried cherries instead. Certainly use any dried fruit you’re excited about — I thought chopped dates would be really nice next time. Or perhaps fold in some toasted nuts like pecans or walnuts instead of the fruit. The options feel endless.
Adapted from: A Modern Way to Eat
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread the coconut out on one baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown and fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. Set aside to cool. Increase oven temperature to 375 F.
Weigh out the following ingredients into a bowl: both flours, oats, toasted coconut, cherries, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda.
Next, melt the coconut oil in a small pan (or use the microwave) until liquid. Allow to cool slightly before adding the maple syrup. Stir the warm mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix well — the dough should look a little crumbly but should come together when you squeeze it and form into a ball.
Using a spoon and your hands, form the dough into balls. For larger cookies, make them just over a tablespoon in size; for smaller ones, make them a generous teaspoon size. Place on prepared baking sheets, leaving 1-inch inbetween each cookie. Gently press down on the tops of each to flatten slightly.
Bake the larger cookies for 11-12 minutes and the smaller ones for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and even in color. When you pull them out of the oven they will still feel soft and you’ll wonder if they’re done — they firm up as they cool. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the trays before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.
Glimpses of Spring
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).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.