Tag Archives: breakfast

not in kansas anymore: vegan almond oat thumbprint cookies with jammy middles

When I lived in the city, being awoken in the middle of the night was a regular occurrence; there was always a cacophonous drunken melee spilling out of White Horse Tavern or the screech of a lover’s quarrel ping-ponging off of the Meatpacking District’s cobbled streets.  These were the types of things that a city mouse became used to; a discordant melody of almost constant noise that coursed through the city’s veins and into the windows and ears of it’s snoozing dwellers.  Now that we have swapped our townhouse for a real house and the city sidewalk for a backyard, I’ve become accustomed to the gentle symphonies of crickets and the (very pleasant) general lack of any real noise whatsoever.  Until lately, that is.

As I am sure you can identify with, there are few things more dreadful than being jolted out of a deep slumber by a foreign crash or terrifying thud.  That type of heart-thumping moment where you’re sent shooting out of bed, cell phone queued up to 911, sure that at that very instant there is a knife-wielding-mass-murderer lumbering through your kitchen coming to kill you.  Of course after a bit of cautious inspection, all of my ‘close encounters’ with ‘intruders’ have turned out to be slippery shampoo bottles crashing in the shower, or strong summer breezes toppling picture frames onto the floor – hardly anything alarming.

Although the things that woke me in the city were generally benign in nature and thankfully outside the confines of our double-locked doors, I am finding a slightly more twisted version of events here in ‘peaceful’ Colorado.  It all started at two-thirty in the morning three weeks ago: just a few days before our wedding I was in the throes of an already fitful nights sleep (dreaming of forgotten dresses and toppled cakes), when I awoke to what surely was a psychopath breaking down our basement door.  I sent a half-dressed and one-eyed James off to investigate with the only dinky flashlight we owned, and assumed a three point stance, ready to bolt, pug football-tucked under my right arm.  Of course, as it has been each time before, this wasn’t a murderer, or a psychopath, or a even deviant of any human variety – oh no.


It was a BEAR.

A! BEAR!  Not forty-feet from our house! Holy Moses!  Being that we live at the base of a state park I’ve heard tales of wild animals ambling down the mountain and into people’s yards to snack on trash – or worse, pets – but I had not expected to be throttled awake in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning by a bear rooting around violently through the neighborhood’s recycling.  Although I was relieved we were not about to be kidnapped by  a maniacal loony toon, I could not fall back asleep — all I could think about were the cookies that I left out in plain sight on the kitchen counter.  Do bears like vegan almond-oat cookies with jam in their middles?!  Me thinks they might.

 


Unfortunately (or fortunately, rather) this story does not have a dramatic ending.  The bear did not break down our front door to get at my treats, and the morning sun arose to little fanfare – other than a dozen or so bashed about trash receptacles.  Since this episode however, this little wildlife reign of terror has anything but subsided; two weeks ago a mountain lion was discovered lurking in a tree on CU’s campus (less than a mile away), I’ve had multiple startling showdowns with a raccoon the size of a hog (who fancies our plum tree), and just last weekend a squirrel ran into – yes, INTO – our house and and river danced in the living room before scurrying back out the door and into the great wild yonder.

Clearly I am not in Kansas anymore; the only wildlife I had previously encountered in Manhattan was of the 4am-West-Village-club-hopping variety, and I have been all but unprepared for the veritable episodes of National Geographic that have been playing out in our new digs.

Now when I walk outside, I carry a giant spotlight and tap my feet whilst making awkward and loud noises to fend off the unwanted critters – the neighbors must be getting a real kick out of it.  But enough of my wildlife complaints and back to those cookies – they are the real stars of the story here.  They are chewy, dense, just a touch sweet, and a total cinch to make with ingredients you most likely already have squirreled away in your cupboard (pun definitely intended there folks).  In short – these cookies are ahh-mazing.  Though there are a bunch of recipes floating around the interwebs for very similar things, the one I first saw for them referred to them as “life-changing vegan thumbprints,” and I must admit….that’s not too far off.  They totally rock – they are the type that with a cup of coffee or milky tea make a fine breakfast, and don’t make you feel like cookies for breakfast is something that is unreasonable.  (Is it?)  As  a bonus these cookies are also vegan – which is great if you are into that sort of thing – but even if you’re not, they are still just plain delicious.

“Life-Changing” Vegan Thumbprint Cookies
makes about 4 dozen 2-inch cookies
Adapted only Slightly from thekitchn.com

These are so easy to make and come together in as much time as they take to bake – 15 minutes.  I like to use lots of different fillings to keep things interesting; here I used fig jam, blueberry preserves, orange marmalade (and topped a couple of this variety with candied ginger), pomegranate jelly, and some local pumpkin butter I scooped up at our farmer’s market.

I pretty much stuck to the recipe spot on, except for subbing in whole wheat flour for the called for white; I like the extra nutty flavor that it adds, and also gives you even more reason to think cookies for breakfast is a perfectly reasonable notion.
2 cups whole almonds (I used raw & unsalted)
4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups flour (I used whole wheat flour, but use whichever you like)
1 cup canola oil
1 cup maple syrup
Assorted jams and fillers – see above
Preheat your oven to 350F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they are chopped into smallish pieces – I like to leave mine slightly chunky, but grind yours however you like (just not all the way to almond flour).
Place the ground almonds aside in a large bowl.  In the same food processor bowl, grind the oats with the salt into a fine meal and add into the large bowl with the ground almonds.  Add in the flour.  Measure and pour the canola oil and the maple syrup into the bowl, and mix with a wooden spoon until combined.  The dough will seem sticky & soft, but allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so; the flour will absorb some of the liquid ingredients and it will stiffen up a bit.
Form the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball; I found the best way to do this was using two spoons to scoop up a ball with one and help slide it off with the other.  The dough will be slightly wet and a bit sticky, but thats ok.  Take the dough-ball in your hands and push to compact it.  Then, while keeping your hand around the ball to prevent it from cracking and falling apart, press it onto the cookie sheet, and use your thumb to create a little dimple on the top – this is where your filling will sit.  After you make a few, you will get the hang of it.  The cookies can be fairly close together – they will really not spread at all.

When all of the cookies are formed and on the baking sheets, fill each cookies indentation with the filling of your choice using a teaspoon.  I like to use different fillings as this makes a good bit of cookies; suggestions are fruit jams (fig, raspberry, quince, pomegranate, blueberry, or red currant), marmalades (orange, grapefruit, or lemon) or fruit butters (apple and pumpkin are both nice).

Once filled, bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes, or until they are to browned slightly.  Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before moving them to a rack to cool further – they will be very crumbly and fragile at first, but after cooling they will have set up nicely, like a soft granola bar.

Cookies keep, in a sealed container, for at least a week.

a tad bit jealous: sour cherry clafoutis with whipped mascarpone

Is it something I said?

First, the mercury blasted through records to all-time highs back in July. Then there was an EARTHQUAKE (!). Now, my former coast-mates have just battened down the proverbial hatches and weathered hurricane Irene. It’s as if the East coast waited just till the plane carrying me West jerked off the tarmac to launch itself into the headlines with all manner of interest garnering natural disasters. What gives?!

Despite all three of these weather related anomalies being generally undesirable,  thankfully everyone made it out relatively unscathed – but I have to admit, I’m feeling just a bit…..left out.  I’m grateful I wasn’t there to experience New York City’s best impression of Hades and didn’t have to fend off half of the village for the last package of Twinkies at Duane Reade — but this Earthquake thing really has my knickers in a twist. I’ve never experienced an earthquake before!  I wanted to feel that ground shake and I wanted to post pictures of the ‘devastation’ (amounting presumably to a toppled picture frame and one confused looking puppy). I’ve got a mild case of the sour grapes, with my former stomping ground stealing all this spotlight. Harumph.

I’ve been sitting on the last dish that I made before I left New York for over a month now, and not because I was waiting or some special occasion to pull it out; I’ve just been busy coordinating couch deliveries, going cross-eyed reading wedding RSVPs, and chasing around a pooch who happens to think that unrolling every spool of toilet paper in the house is the most hilarious thing on planet Earth. (I think so too.)  I had forgotten all about it, until I was on my way home from a baby shower in Denver last weekend and drove past Mile High Stadium, where I looked over to see the inconceivable: thousands of people packed into the stands, watching football.

Yes.  Football.  Preseason or not, football is a sad, sad harbinger that the.best.season.ever is undeniably coming to a close.  Upon seeing that speckled montage of jerseys, I immediately thought about this last New York city born Summer treat and oh how I so meant to share it with you when “September” was still a dirty little word that no one dared utter aloud.  Alas, here we are: staring down the barrel at an impending Labor Day weekend – and thus the official end of Summer, in my book anyway.  Where I started telling you about my sour grapes for missing all the East Coast action and digressed to complain that our sweet, sweet, Summer is narrowing down to a bare thread, I finally have for you a sour cherry clafoutis – a sweet, slightly sour, cast iron baked cake studded with gorgeously red sour cherries.

A clafoutis is akin to a giant, puffed up pancake, and this one is no different: a thin and quick to make batter is draped atop pitted sour cherries that have been scattered over the bottom of a cast iron skillet. The cake bakes up eggy and springy, and since it isn’t overly sweet is one of those great desserts that easily moonlights as breakfast, with a cup of fresh coffee.  To serve the cake, I whipped a bit of mascarpone cheese with a drop of vanilla and sprinkle of sugar until it was fluffy and slightly aerated. The sturdiness of the sweetened mascarpone is the perfect contrast with the dense yet light cake, and I polished off almost the entire skillet in just around 3 days time (what wedding?).

Since I was lazy busy and am just sharing this with you now, sour cherries may well be a thing of the past; I found mine at the farmer’s market, and their season is generally from early June through late July.  Whatever you do, do not let that deter you – this cake is equally amazing with any variety of cherry (or any sliced stone fruit for that matter), and if you can’t get your mitts on the sour kind just choose your favorite type.  Traditionally, clafoutis (say it: clow-foo-tee) made with cherries are baked with the pits still inside, as it is said to lend a nuttier flavor to the finished product.  I however prefer to reduce the chances of ironically choking to death on a cake I baked for myself to nil, and prefer instead to add a dash of almond extract (hey…whatever works).

Sour Cherry Clafoutis with Whipped Mascarpone Cheese
Makes 1 nine inch cake
Adapted slightly from Dorie Greenspan’s ‘Around My French Table’

Once again I love Dorie’s recipes for both their simplicity and versatility. As I mentioned above, feel free to substitute any stone fruits in for the cherries (both sour and sweet) here: plums, pluots, peaches, nectarines, and apricots would all stand in deliciously.

1 pound sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted* (I used sour cherries)
3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup half & half
½ cup whole milk
1 tsp almond extract (optional, if you’d like a slightly nutty flavor)

whipped mascarpone
1 cup mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp confectioners’ sugar (plus additional for dusting)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 9″ deep dish pie pan – I find a 9″ cast iron skillet works perfectly here. Add the cherries into the buttered pie pan; they should fit in a single layer.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until they are foamy, about 2 minutes, then add in the sugar and whisk for another minute. Whisk in the salt and vanilla, and then add in the flour and whisk vigorously** until the batter is smooth. After it is smooth, while still whisking (but less energetically) add in the milk and cream and whisk until blended. You should have a thin, pale yellow batter – similar to pancake batter.

Rap the bowl on the counter to cause any trapped air bubbles to be released, and then gently pour the batter over the cherries. Bake the clafoutis for 35 – 45 minutes (I found that mine took just over 40) until it’s puffed and lightly browned, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean (with no raw batter on it at all).

Transfer the clafoutis to a cooling rack and allow to cool until it’s just barely warm, or room temperature.

Whisk in the flour until well-combined. Add the half and half and whole milk and whisk until just combined.

Pour the mixture over the cherries.

Bake the clafoutis 35-45 minutes, or until it has puffed and browned. Test the doneness by inserting a knife into the center. It should come out clean.

Cool the clafoutis on a cooking rack until it’s almost cool or room temperature.

To make the whipped mascarpone, whisk the cheese, vanilla extract, and confectioners’ sugar together until the cheese is slightly fluffy. Serve wedges of the cooled clafoutis with a dollop of the sweetened cheese and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, and be sure to eat plenty of the leftovers for breakfast (if there are any, that is).

*Dorie advises you leave the pits in – you can decide how you’d like to do it, but I think eating around pits sounds cumbersome.

**Dorie also acknowledges that normally you would not want to beat a batter too vigorously as the final product would then become tough; here, this is an exception, and the batter actually benefits by being beaten more.

In the Rotation: Lemon & Cranberry Irish Soda Bread

I have a giant soft spot for seasonal dishes that harken in their respective events with a hefty dose of nostalgia and a reassuring piece of consistency.  I adore those spicy-sweet gingersnaps with doughy soft centers that magically appear in early December.  I could endlessly nosh on those divine and sugary icing-crossed buns that crop up in April, just before Easter.  And who is not overcome with sheer joy when sinking their teeth into the first cinnamon-y pumpkin spiced cupcake of the fall (I legitimately come thisclose to shedding tears).

I think these things are all so special because they serve as little reminders that despite everything that is going on around us, life goes on and moves us forward just as it always has and always will.  They’re small tokens of regularity that help keep us centered as we navigate our way from one harried day to the next, month to month, from season to season, year after whirlwind year.

{But Wait! There’s More…}

breakfast, decoded: homemade granola, better than any bag

When you live with someone in a city where you’re almost never by yourself, occasionally it’s refreshing to have a few days totally solo.  I can spend 2 hours browsing in Anthropologie.  I can pop into Corner Bistro for a cheeseburger and a chat with the bartender who has been there for twenty years.  I can stretch out on the couch and watch Real Housewives re-runs till 3pm….did I just admit that?!

Sometimes that ‘cat’s away’ feeling is just nice. I have exactly that going on for me this weekend, and as I’ve been battling a beast of a cold-flu-hybrid, having some time to clear out my calendar and run on my own clock is just what the doctor ordered.

So far my weekend is off to a great start – Last night I sat at the bar at Recette, ordered the most *amazing* scallops, and struck up a conversation with a lovely girl who turned out to be a pastry chef at Marea.  Talk of butter and flour ensued, but I was happily in bed by 10:00pm.  This morning I awoke amazingly cheerfully before my alarm and hit up a much needed hour long spin class, then took the pug for a brisk stroll around the neighborhood before heading back for breakfast.

{But Wait! There’s More…}