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Monday
Oct222012

EVERYTHING COOKIES

What I love most about her is her creative thoughtfulness. My Aunt Suzy sent care packages to my dorm room in college themed around the given holiday or "brain food" when it was time for finals. She makes these really delicious cookie-brownie bars that I hesitated to share and always included a homemade card. I could spot her hand writing anywhere, small and long, just a bit loopy. Aunt Suzy never forgets a birthday, is the first to organize family dinners or the Christmas gift exchange. When Hugh and I got married, the venue had lounge couches that were a bit worn, to say the least, and my aunt sewed new slipcovers for them. I mean, seriously. I wouldn't have even done that for my own wedding. I can't paint a colorful enough picture of this exceptional woman. She is a leader, organized, a problem solver, assertive and goofy enough to soften those qualities out. Always the generous type, she piped in during my book writing process to be a recipe tester when I mentioned I needed more feedback. As I could have assumed, her emails to me were full of detail, responses from her family and how she visited multiple markets in search of mushroom broth. She has always made me feel loved through quality time - be it an intentionally themed care package, planning a coffee date when we haven't chatted in a while, or the support and effort she showed me when the process of writing a book overwhelmed every part of me.

Now, as an aunt of two girls myself, I see more clearly every way she has cared for me and how that love has matured as I've grown up. Surely you can read through the lines how much I admire her, and how strong she is. The type who trained to climb Half Dome, in Yosemite, CA right after her second year of chemotherapy. Her cancer is back for a third time, a battle I know many others are watching a loved one fight, and I am motionless on how I can give love back to her. Every letter I start seems underwhelming, as I cannot relate to what she is going through or how defeated this must make her feel. How do I tell her I am angry and completely scared while being a voice of hope, encouragement and support? I want to be her most enthusiastic cheerleader, while still needing to kick my feet that this is not fair. I brought over soup a few weeks ago, which felt so lackluster compared to how my heart feels - a feeling I can't put my finger on let alone communicate to her. So I baked. Not to give these cookies away, but to be in a familiar process, to slow down, and let myself feel sad so I can be a niece who sits right next to her, as I'm confident to say we're both scared.

I bookmarked this recipe in the newly released Small Plates and Sweet Treats: My Family's Journey to Gluten Free Cooking by Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille. It's truly a stunning book, beautiful and romantic in the same way that Aran's blog is. Her book takes you through the seasons featuring gluten free desserts and small meals that are full of color, creativity and fresh produce. I am excited to try her bread recipe and a few of the soups as the weather around here is getting a bit of a chill. I had the ingredients for these cookies, always a reinforcement to make something immediately, and they are just as delicious as I assumed they'd be. The book is beautifully designed and photographed, like a fairytale of gluten free foods. Congratulations to you Aran, I'm glad to have your fabulous cookie recipe in rotation around here. The book is a treasure to be proud of. 

EVERYTHING COOKIES // Makes 24

Recipe from Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

I only tweaked one thing in Aran's recipe to avoid a trip to the market. She calls for 1/2 cup superfine brown rice flour and 1/4 cup tapioca starch and I substituted 3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour (I use King Arthur, which has rice flour and tapioca starch in it). I found this substitution to work fine, though maybe a tad more delicate, but want you know what the original states. 

 

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup natural cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark muscavado or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour (see note)
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (or hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, roughly chopped

 

Combine the butter and both sugars in a stand mixer and mix for three minutes. 

Add the vanilla and egg and mix to combine, scraping the sides. 

Add the gluten free flour (or rice flour if using), buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix until dough just comes together. 

Add the chocolate, oats, pecans and coconut. Mix until ingredients come together, dough will be sticky. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment and roll into a tight log 16'' long and about 2'' in diameter. Refrigerate for one hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350'. Cut the cookie dough log into 1/2'' thick disks. Place the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, spaced 2'' apart. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, you want them to look slightly underbaked. They get very crispy if overcooked, air on the side of undercooking. 

The raw dough or baked cookies keep for 5 days.

Tuesday
Oct092012

BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD WITH TAHINI-HONEY DRESSING

This seems to be the season of new cookbooks because I have quite a few I want to share with all of you. This recipe hails from the soon to be released cookbook Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp. It arrived on my doorstep shortly after I had a passionate conversation (on my part, of course) over breakfast with Hugh about how important it is for cookbooks to be practical. In a generation where a lot of people lean more towards convenience food, I find it so important to encourage the actual cooking of real foods, which seems most successful when offering approachable, healthful recipes. Of course I love when there are lots of pictures and the design is attractive, (duh) but I really appreciate when the recipes featured are ones you would make for a weeknight dinner, something special when guests come over or a new idea for a sweet treat to have on hand for coffee breaks. Aida's book reminds me of a modern day Joy of Cooking. It's equally, if not more so, a resource as it is a book of recipes. She goes through tools, cuts of meat, pantry staples, ingredient substitutions, quick dinners, and any other question that a cook may come cross in the kitchen. I think it would make a wonderful gift for someone just learning how to cook, or wanting to get the basics down. It is definently text focused, but I find that to be a strength and consistent with the book's title.

I made this salad because I adore tahini dressings. I upped the lemon a bit, added some sunflower seeds as Aida suggested and it was the perfect accompaniment to some grilled albacore tuna. So simple and clean with that "healthy" flavor profile (I may be one of the few who enjoy eating at the cafes in health food stores, but their house salads always seem to have carrots, sunflower seeds and a tahini dressing, yes?). The book comes out on October 24th, but is available for preorder now. Congratulations Aida, it's a gem and a true testament to your hard work. 

BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD WITH TAHINI-HONEY DRESSING // Serves 2-4

Adapted from Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp

This made about twice the amount of dressing I needed but that's ideal for me. It's so nice to have a great dressing on hand for next time I make a salad. I get the ribbons on the carrots and cucumbers with a veggie peeler but I'm sure a mandoline would do a great job as well. 

  • // tahini-honey dressing //
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. honey or agave
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • big pinch of parsley or chives
  • 2/3 cup water
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  •  

  • 1 large head (7 oz.) butter lettuce, cleaned and dried
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 persian cucumber, halved and thinly sliced or shaved
  • 1 carrot, grated or shaved
  • 1 cup sprouted (broccoli, pea, sunflower, radish etc)
  • sunflower seeds, optional

Blend all the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Rip the lettuce into large pieces and combine it in a large bowl with the avocado, cucumber, carrot and half of the sprouts (saving half for garnish). Toss the salad ingredients with desired amount of dressing. You'll likely have more than you need. Garnish the top with remaining sprouts and sunflower seeds.

Tuesday
Oct022012

SPICED LENTIL SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK

It is not fall in my pocket of the world. Summer is still lingering with warm ocean water, people in shorts and tank dresses and tomatoes at the farm stand. Sure there are pumpkins at the market and the sun sets earlier but those are the only telling signs the season is changing. The weather makes me crave salad and fruit, but a big pot of soup intrigued me for some emotional reason. I feel a bit drained lately, and there is something about soup that is comforting. Just a bowl and spoon. No stabbing bits of lettuce or cutting with a knife. Just simple eating. The kitchen is a place of solace for me - a place to be creative, to give, to appreciate small things, to refresh or to be pointed towards something in myself that I haven't taken the time to recognize. And in this case, that awareness came from wanting to make a pot of warm soup on a 97' day. I knew when I saw this soup on The Travelers Lunchbox that I would make it and like it. At first taste, it seemed all the spices didn't marry, but after a bit of sitting in its own goodness, my mouth was filled with warmth, spice, a bit of heat and lentils just tender to the tooth. I garnished it with some toasted coconut because I'm a sucker for a nice garnish, but this is certainly optional. The recipe makes a good portion of soup, which is not inconvenient because it is actually better the next day. So, maybe you're wearing a sweater or maybe you're still in shorts, but soup is never a bad idea.

SPICED LENTIL SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK // Serves 6

Recipe adapted from The Travelers Lunchbox who adapted it from Once Upon a Tart

The recipe calls for green lentils. I used a mixture because I have a large amount of them and they worked just fine. Split or red lentils will likely get too mushy here. I used 4 cups broth because I like my soups on the stewy side, if you prefer more broth to you soup, add another cup or two when cooking the lentils.

1 1/2 cup lentils, rinsed (green suggested)

4 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 1/2 tsp. tumeric OR curry powder

2 tsp. dried thyme or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 stalks lemongrass, outer layer removed, lower portion finely minced

1 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 tsp. cardamom

1/2 tsp. cinnamon pinch of red pepper flakes to taste

pinch of fresh grated nutmeg

1 1/4 cup coconut milk (use full fat, just believe me)

3 Tbsp. lemon, lime or orange juice

a few handfuls of swiss chard, spinach or kale

1 cup flake coconut, toasted (optional)

chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Add the rinsed lentils, broth, thyme and tumeric or curry powder to a large pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

While the lentils cook, heat the coconut oil in a pan. Add the onion and saute until just browned. Add the lemongrass, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, pinch of red pepper flakes and some fresh ground nutmeg and saute another minute. Add the onion mixture to the lentils and stir, keeping the heat on a low simmer.

Add the coconut milk and greens and simmer another five minutes, stirring occasionally until just wilted. Taste for salt and spice and add as you prefer. Finish with the citrus juice and serve warm with toasted coconut flakes and cilantro on top.

Thursday
Sep272012

SEATTLE AGAIN.

Tightly rolling clothes to snuggle into carry on luggage. Packing snacks. Watering the plants one more time, and tidying up for the simple pleasure of coming home to a clean house. The anticipation of going away builds by way of lists and errands - trying to make life out of a suitcase as easy as it can be. I'm always fascinated by airports and all the people going places (where are all of you going?). There are nuances of the actual traveling that are charming in their way, which is why I think both the heading out, being away and coming home are all so special. While packing up, I'm anxious for a change of pace. Trying new food, long strolls down new streets with my favorite person, and someone else making my bed, but am also challenged by living outside of my daily comforts and routines. Said routines are lively these days, but they are still routines, and I am happy in that.

Included in this entry are a few images Hugh captured (via iPhone and Fuji X100) while we were visiting Seattle. We had some really great food, I met some truly lovely readers at a couple book related events, spent time with dear friends, and reveled in the excuse to sit in coffee shops and read without feeling the self-imposed guilt of "being productive." Away. Home. The cycle keeps me feeling alive. 

Favorite Seattle spots: Analog Coffee, Milstead Coffee, Essex, Paseo Carribean, Revel, Walrus and the Carpenter, Sitka and Spruce (holy heavens, this beet dish, I will try and replicate because I'm still thinking about it), The Book Larder and Ashley Rodriguez's cookies.

Thursday
Sep202012

ALMOND DATE TRUFFLES

We're heading out of town early tomorrow. Hugh has some work in San Francisco, I'm going to Portland with my mom and sister for a book signing and then we're meeting in Seattle for a few more days for another book event (if you live near either place, I hope to see you!). I've visited both cities before, and I adore them for how different they are from home. So many places to eat, more trees, independent coffee shops and new faces. I wanted to throw something together quick to pack as a snack for the flight, even though neither are long. A two hour flight is still a 4-5ish hour process of getting from A to B and that's long enough to need some sustenance. I may have a subconscious fear of starving to death, because I always have a snack in my car and my purse, even on the days I'm not going far from home. Without fail, every time we leave for a flight and Hugh sees my purse filled with fruit, trail mix and snacks "Sara, they have food there," but would you guess who eats most of my loot? 

These date truffles are dense little nuggets that give you a bit of energy and also cure a sweet tooth. The sweet dates compliment the rich cocoa powder and the crunchy almonds give just enough crunch to make you feel like you're having a real special treat. I do prefer them cold, but regardless they are great for road trips, plane flights or kids lunches etc. They're so quick and easy you don't exactly need a reason to make them. 

Excuse the brevity. We'll be back with the last of the summer produce I'm gripping onto after the trip. Happy weekend. 

ALMOND DATE TRUFFLES // Makes 18 

I'm not sure who to give the credit for this idea - there are versions all over the internet for these vegan/gluten free treats. Below are my measurements but cheers to the mystery person who invented this combo. 

Some dates can be super dry and hard, but for this recipe, you want to try to get your hands on some that are plump and slightly glossy, with no crystalized sugar on the surface. I get really have good luck at Costco or Trader Joes. You can taste the good quality cocoa here, so while a bit pricier, I like Scharffen Berger or Valrhona.

  • 20 Medjool dates, seeded and halved
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup creamy almond butter
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, well chopped

Put the dates and vanilla in a food processor and run until a chunky paste forms. Add the almond butter and pulse a few more times. Add the coconut, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon and pulse a few more times. The mixture should be a tad crumbly, but press between your fingers and stick together. If it seems too wet to hold in a ball, add more coconut, if too dry, add a touch more almond butter or a spash of water. 

Roll a heaping Tbsp. of the mixture between your palms to form a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture. Put your chopped almonds on a plate and roll each truffle in the almonds (apply a bit of pressure to get them to adhere). Place the plate in the fridge to chill for at least an hour. Truffles will keep covered in the fridge for a couple weeks.