Hello there, August. You have brought with you wonderful tomatoes which I’ve been eating almost daily, outdoor weddings, a new camera to play with, and sunny clear mornings. You’ve brought iced coffee with a touch of simple syrup, dinner with friends outside, and nights spent sharing a beer while watching the Olympics (those runners!).
You’ve brought picnics and big fava beans and juicy peaches. And so far, lots of time in the kitchen testing recipes and writing recipes, but little actually preparing real meals (thank goodness for Delancey pizza and late night burritos from El Chupacabra). You know that summer slump feeling when, although you’re surrounded by beautiful produce, you can’t quite think of what to cook? That’s where I’ve been lately. We’ve been eating lots of egg salad and tuna salad for lunch and simple grain salad concoctions for dinner. Little to no baking. Until just the other day when inspiration struck in the form of a cookbook.
In case you don’t already know, Sara and Hugh Forte, creators of the blog Sprouted Kitchen, have a cookbook coming out in a few weeks. It’s a true feast, visually and otherwise. I wrote to Sara the day after I received it in the mail to tell her I stayed up until 1 a.m. reading it and awoke thinking of all the recipes I was excited to make. Right up at the top are the buckwheat crepes with smoked salmon, creamy millet with roasted portobellos, and that coconut lime tart. And these cookies, of course, which I promptly made and we promptly ate most of the same afternoon.
On the blog and in the cookbook, Sara is the force behind the very do-able and delicious recipes (her salad recipes alone are worth a visit to the blog) and husband Hugh takes the photos. He approaches each dish with a unique angle and eye, resulting in some of the more innovative food photos I’ve seen in a long time. Thanks to both of them, you want to make dinner again. And breakfast. And lunch, too.
Which brings us to these cookies. They are the perfect little tea cookie — an afternoon treat or late night nibble much in the same vein as the sesame cookies we talked about a while back. Strewn with coconut, toasty cacao nibs, and little bits of fragrant almonds, they’re wonderfully nutty and naturally soft from the combination of coconut oil and almond meal. In the cookie world, these are keepers. You’ll get the sense before you even get them into the oven.
I should mention a few tweaks I made before getting to the recipe: I used a touch more salt than Sara does and ended up using demerara sugar instead of the muscovado she recommends. I’d recommend using any natural cane sugar you have on hand. If you don’t have any, it’s easy to find in the bulk aisle of a well-stocked grocery store and will make a difference flavor-wise here (you’ll notice a special chewiness from darker, natural sugars). I also decided to toss in some chopped toasted almonds at the last minute for a little extra crunch.
This afternoon, I’m hoping to break our usual Sunday farmers market routine and check out the Wednesday market instead. To stock up on a few things to cook for dinner tonight, thanks to Sara and Hugh.
Adapted from: Sprouted Kitchen
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Toast the sliced almonds until fragrant and golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Let cool, and then chop well.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the almond meal, cacao nibs, chopped almonds, coconut, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In another bowl, beat the egg very well until it’s a uniform color and doubles in volume. Whisk in the coconut oil and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Refrigerate bowl for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Roll the chilled dough into 1″ balls using your hands. Place on baking sheet with 1 1/2-inches space between them, and give them a gentle press with the palm of your hand to flatten them slightly. Bake until edges just begin to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.
Healthy Comfort Food
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.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
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.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)