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.