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.
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?)