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.
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.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.