in that split second | peanut butter & banana trail cookies

It feels like it's been a long time since I last visited this space. The boring truth is that there aren't that many readers and since things are pretty hectic with exams and week of work experience I thought I'd just post less. I have these cookies and some muffins that I baked ages ago - there's a bit of a weird time lag since I actually had prepared the other (muffin) post a couple of weeks earlier, but whatever. Anyway, I just thought I'd say hi. 

I have been working on this post for three weeks,  maybe that shows the extent of my exam-fatigue (which is a thing). I had my first law exam on Thursday... criminal law. We were with the marketing (as in the course, not PR ha) people which was apparently where all the cool kids were and they left after an hour, all the law losers were still scrambling, it was amusing. The questions were ok I guess. Hard to say. Fingers crossed for the foreseeable future, lots of waiting for 11:11. If you have a spare wish, direct it here. Just over a week until the next paper (but I'm working next week so it doesn't really count). It's going to be so strange when it's all over - I'll be so free. I can't remember the last time when I just woke up and thought wow, I have the whole day ahead of me to do whatever I like. School weeks from September to February/March aren't as bad as around exam time, it's been the case for the past couple of years. It's such a peacetime - wartime thing: when I study, I study. Everything pretty much comes to a hold for a couple of months, it reminds me of those books you read about the world wars. There'll be people saying they'll go on picnics, clean the house, plant roses, whatever, once the war is over and the peace is back. It's a bit like that for me - hostility, from March onwards. I say I'll delete 1000+ extra photos on Lightroom, repot one of my indoor plants, tidy all my papers, cuddle the dogs a bit extra... once the exams are over.

Someone, when they found out I was doing law, recently asked me what I was going to do to celebrate the last of my exams. Funny thing is that I have always found the end of the school year so anticlimatic, even when I was young and in school. It would just... finish, and I would go home, and wonder what to do with myself. It has felt even stranger in the years when I've studied hard, really crazy hard, for months because I literally forget how to live a civilian life, if that makes sense? Like if I'm doing anything else I'll unconsciously feel this guilt until I realize that the exams are done and I don't have to study any more... really strange. Anyway the first day of the summer will come and go, particularly since Layla and I are leaving for Rome the day after my last exam. So I guess I get a holiday to celebrate. No wild parties or anything, as I said last time I don't really do those. But sometimes I think it would be nice if I did because I'd really have that 'free' feeling - that it doesn't matter that your head is pounding and you need to lie immobile in bed for most of the next morning, just because you can.

In a way maybe it doesn't matter, because freedom and weightlessness are so heady. I remember something I said to my sister a few years ago, when we were running through the ruins of an abandoned French chateau in the rain, it was on a high hill that looked over rolling green fields and craggy escarpments. Deep in the heart of the Champagne region and because of the bad weather the whole medieval castle was quiet as a still life, and the hills and pastures seemed so still too. I said to her, this is what I need, now and then. Maybe that's why I'm different from other people my age but I was... so swept up by the fresh, wet air; the adventure of it, the emptiness and space, it made me so feel alive, something about obscure moments like those. Simple, so surreal, I wonder whether they actually happened or if it's all in my head. Other than another week of work in August I don't need to think about law, or read another statute, or find an academic text... and that's really powerful. Not at first, it'll be like the early hours of the aforementioned party, too eager to do too much. But after a week or so, I'll find myself with nothing really to do. Nothing to do! Now that really is something. That's enough for me.

The last few weeks counting down to exams are rough - almost out of material to study, but not feeling like I know enough, an awkward week in a law firm in between.  I tell myself to keep my eyes on the horizon, which is blurry, abstract and far, but exists, always. There are times when you're driving in the dark and it's been raining and the wipers haven't cleared the water from the windscreen... there'll be these fuzzy pillions of light in the distance. You'll know what they are just because the shapes are familiar - traffic lights, usually, and then the wipers work and you're waiting, the engine purring at a standstill, under the lights. I'm there, in that split second before the wipers sweep across and the roads are clear and empty, and neon signs for shops are streaking past, you feel... wired. Or maybe that's just me. Open stretches of road, either metaphorical or not. Emptiness, relief, contemplation... at this point, that's enough. 

“One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters. But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.”  Charles Baudelaire

Did that just bore you? Yeah it just bored me too, sorry about that but ugh these exams. If I thought glaciation was bad, I hadn't met vitiation. Anyway. Trail cookies, in the spirit of (prospective) summery events like picnics, road trips, hikes etc. These cookies travel well and use aaalll the pantry staples, so you can pretty much make them now. You probably have some black bananas somewhere... Aaaalso I originally made this for my baby Suzi's second anniversary waaay back in early May; that is the day she came to us two years ago. My monkeys go crazy for the pb + banana combination but if I was making these for myself I'd probably use any nut butter but pb (I'm not crazy about it) so feel free to switch in any nut/seed butter you/your dogs/your kids like, but just be sure that it's the totally natural variety (palm oil, sugar and salt are meh* ok) and reasonably smooth (stir the oil back in). I somehow managed to make these cookies gluten and egg free, which is incredibly rare for me, but if gluten isn't an issue, feel free to use spelt flour or even whole wheat in place of the flour + flax meal. If you are going the gf route, the flax meal is really good as a binder/absorbing agent, so I wouldn't replace it. You can just whizz flax seeds in a blender/food processor or similar handy tool. And bananas are the only sweet thing here, so make sure they're super ripe, they won't be overpowering.  I hope you try these little pucks this summer, they come together super fast and are probably the most virtuous cookie around. Thank you guys for your patience (and support), I can't wait to be back here (and in the kitchen) a bit more regularly. 

Love and cookies xx

*meh is such a great adjective, am I right?


peanut butter and banana trail cookies

makes 15-18 medium cookies  // gluten free + vegan (how did that happen??)

3/4 cup (75g) oat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (75g) (gf if needed)
1/4 cup flax meal (28g) (ground flax seeds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 medium sized, super ripe bananas
1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) natural peanut  butter / nut butter of choice
1 tablespoon coconut oil, solid is fine


Preheat the oven to 200'C, 390'F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, flax meal, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. 

In another large bowl mash your peeled bananas with a fork till they're pulpy, a little chunky is fine. Add the pb, coconut oil and vanilla, then stir well with a wooden spoon so the batter is smooth.

Pour the wet mix into the dry and stir firmly with a wooden spoon until well combined. Using a medium cookie scoop or a heaped tablespoon of dough, place mounds of dough on the cookie sheet.  Flatten each cookie (moist hands work well here) so they're more like flat pucks. They don't spread much, so you won't need to leave huge amounts of space between.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until set and slightly golden. Cool on a wire rack, or enjoy warm.

The cookies will keep well in an airtight container for 5 days and will travel great too.  


on-the-go snacks

your weight in gold | roasted banana & almond ice cream

it's poppy season, and poppies always remind me of you. the start of another wet Belgian autumn, summer long gone. a reminder of the sun and warmth in the tractors ploughing the fields. they leave behind the champagne-hued stubble of the wheat and a little verge of green by the path, along which the poppies grow. red and tender petals moist with drops of dew. you wouldn't notice that the wheat stalks poked your paws, you'd run with ferocious joy through the furrows, with the wall of wheat gone you could roam for miles. you'd run far from the path, come back to us, following your nose. you'd be caked up to your elbows in dark mud with little water droplets on your muzzle. the wind hammered us on that dusty track and your ears would flap like wings as you gambolled around. you are a bird, your wings took you places and kept you airborne when you fell.

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places. we opened the door of the car and you stood next to me on the back seat, you sniffed the air. it was a hot French summer day, the sky was a water color blue; a Monet painting come alive. trees were green and heavy with leaves, cherries had tumbled onto the lawn and dotted it with rich red baubles, the vines on the side of the house grew cheerful and rife next to blue shutters. you knew where you were when you jumped out, you remembered straight away, the wag in your tail became sweeping brushstrokes and there was a light in your eyes. This is the place! you thought, as you set off at a trot through the garden. The place where last time I found a hedgehog by the table tennis set! The place where they eat picnics and sit on the grass, so I can take sandwiches right from their hands! The place where walks are on small lanes that weave through fields in black ribbons of tarmac! The place where if they don't finish all that goat's cheese, they give it to me! you would run with your legs almost a pendulum, as if they moved subconsciously, so you could keep your nose close to the ground and take everything in. you ran with pure joy.

you fell; you fell hard and fast, quicker than the dollar, you're worth more than your weight in gold. just over four weeks ago, we almost lost you and you fought your toughest battle yet. like the soldiers in the trenches, you fought hard, you dug yourself out, through a battlefield with the all the guns firing your way. little prune girl, you are the bravest fighter. your fought so your wings could catch you, so you could pull through that long, low night. you fought to give us these four weeks, to give us more than four weeks, to give your wings a chance to take you places again. take me with you.

poppies and battles. the red petals will make me think of you, prune. your places, your wings, a brave soldier in a battle you never chose to fight. we will never, ever forget. you can teach anyone about courage. so much love for you, prune girl.

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I wrote a little about Prune's operation on my about page, and it's just over 4 weeks since she came home to us - I never thought we'd have four weeks with her and I am so so glad we did. pruney is a banana lover and suezie loves creamy things so to celebrate my furries, I made a dairy-free ice cream and oh my god it's so good. like a classy banana milkshake or smoothie. usually dairy-free ice creams are made with coconut milk but I was saving my one can for something else - I was worried this would be too icy, but the banana makes it super creamy and smooth, all dreeeamlike it's so good ok I'll stop now. remember life is fragile. make time for those you love and here's to you winning your battles. xo

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ROASTED BANANA & ALMOND ICE CREAM WITH VANILLA BEAN

makes about 700g (about 3 cups or so) //    gluten free + dairy free

3 ripe bananas, medium sized
3-4 tablespoons honey*, depending on the ripeness of your bananas
2 cups / 5ooml unsweetened almond milk
seeds of half a vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch salt
chopped almonds or walnuts to garnish, optional


preheat oven to 180’C/350’F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper

peel (was that obvious? sorry if it was) and slice your bananas into pieces of around 2cm (3/4ish inch), lay them out on the baking sheet. Drizzle around 2 tablespoons honey over the pieces, toss them around to coat

roast for around 35 minutes till the bananas are a deep caramel color, stirring once if necessary (they will also smell insanely good)

allow the bananas to cool a few minutes – while you wait, add the almond milk, salt and vanilla to a blender with honey to 1-2 tablespoons honey

scrape the fruit and any honey from the baking sheet into the blender, blend till well combined

you’ll need to chill the mix before you churn it: mine waited overnight, but 3-4 hours should do it (maybe quicker in the freezer)

churn the ice cream according to your ice cream maker’s individual instructions. pour the mix into a freezer safe container – if you prefer a soft-serve consistency, freeze for about one hour. If you’d prefer it a bit more firm, freeze overnight, then let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before scooping

garnish with toasted chopped nuts, chocolate shavings or whatever you’d like!

notes

if dairy isn’t an issue, you can of course use regular milk. and if you don’t have an ice cream maker you can just add a bit more milk & ice and have yourself the best banana milkshake of your life. simple.
*to keep this vegan, feel free to use maple syrup in the same quantity as the honey. If your bananas are very ripe (bright yellow and spotty) you may need 3 tablespoons, if they’re less ripe, feel free to up it to 4 or whatever you’d like. ice cream is pretty forgiving.
also, I think that some chopped chocolate would be a nice addition if you’re looking for something that’s a bit more of a dessert than a frozen smoothie (and if you’re not sharing with pups)

sleepy-pups

prune, soon after her op. suzi in the background.

just quickly, I want to ask that if you're in England and a dog owner, would you consider volunteering your dog to be a blood donor? I'm not affiliated to the charity in any way but with the severe haemorrhaging in Pruney's case, without the blood transfusion she would not be here today - it's thanks to another brave dog she pulled through. There are some criteria to fulfil, but perhaps you can think about it, the blood could really save a life and I can not thank whichever dog and owner who helped out enough. sometimes you can also donate via your vet. Also, this page has some information about ruptured spleens/tumours in dogs - with symptoms, because you can never be too careful.


more pup-friendly food