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

a second black muzzle | Goat yogurt + honey tart

We had talked for a long time about getting a second dog to keep Prune company. The new dog couldn't be a puppy because we didn't have the time to dedicate to training, but Prune had come to us as a two year old and her breeder sometimes had other girls who were retiring (early) from competitions. That's how little Suzi came to us just after her third birthday. Dual's Hope Lovely Sue, more commonly known to us as Tiny,  Beanie, Little Bean, Small or Snoozie. Because Sue was just too... not her. Lovely, no doubt, but Sue seemed sensible and orthodox, neither of which she is. She's so full of love for life, playfully spirited, cheerful but sensitive. I have always wanted a puppy - like a real, baby puppy, and she acts so much like one. She still mouths my fingers when she's excited, wags her tail in these really short strokes when she sees you coming and is terrible at bringing the ball back when you throw it. It's hard to believe she's five. How did that happen? How do they grow up so fast?

I feel that I have maybe talked disproportionate amounts about Prune and much less about Tiny. Which is something I worry I do quite often.  But she's really found herself a special place in my heart, one way or another. Suzi girl really started life in our family as my sister's dog, I don't know why, but she adopted Layla and became her little pal. Suzi was not in such good shape when she came to us, perhaps being in a multi-dog household hadn't suited her, and she had retreated deep into a shell. Like the earliest of the spring flowers that tentatively bloom, and shrivel back into their buds as the frost hits. But she did settle in. She struggled to understand some things that Prune had grasped really quickly - that it was no big deal when we wiped their paws after walks, that they could sleep anywhere they wanted, that there is always fun food and toys on offer. Suzi just wanted to sleep in her crate, seemed confused to be offered snacks and hated (ok she's not over this one yet) us touching her paws. Slowly things improved, she trusted us, she'd ask for snacks, she'd take a slice of bread outside and lie in the sun with it in her mouth. She has a darling habit of crossing her paws when she lies down and keeping her glossy head held proudly high.  A charming way of nuzzling my legs with a cold nose when I'm wearing gym shorts, an endearing quirk in the how she sneaks under the table and pops her head out when we laugh. When she first arrived she wouldn't even come to us when we held out a hand for her to sniff, and now who manages to curl up in a ball, all 30 kilos of her flopped on my lap when she's in the back seat of the car? Yeah, a fully grown Labrador who thinks she's the size of a Jack Russell. That's my Suzi bean, in a nutshell. 

Before Suzi came I asked myself if I could ever love another dog as much as I loved Prune. With the same, crazy intensity, that meant her happiness was my own. Prune seemed to, figuratively at least, take up all the space in my heart. At first I thought that was that. But it seems like there are more cracks and gaps to hearts than I thought before. Which makes sense, considering all the downs a person goes through. Lots to patch up. It's hard to explain but it's probably a feeling to which parents can relate when a second child is born. Suzi bean came to us for Prune, as a companion for her, and has become so much more. Frosting on the cupcake, a missing piece of a very chaotic puzzle. She took her time to figure out life as a family dog but I can't imagine rides in the car without a second black muzzle peering over the seat and mornings without the sharp slide of her clumsy paws as she stretches.
Happy birthday, my girl. We're crazy about you and I can't believe how far you've come. 

"If I told you a flower blooms in a dark room, would you trust it?"
Kendrick Lamar ft. Drake, Poetic Justice 

I made this tart with Tiny in mind. She must be my dog because she usually adores yogurt, she always the licks the lid of our yogurt pots. What, your dogs don't do that? Anyway a while ago I started buying goat's milk yogurt after reading that the structure of the protein molecules in goat's dairy is such that it's easier to digest. Yogurt was never such an issue but I see a huge difference with goat's milk versus cow's milk... granted, it's not available everywhere, so it's your call.  Either way the bonus is that goat yogurt is easier for pups to digest too. Apparently New Yorkers make goat's milk popsicles for their dogs in summer... so I'm actually not totally alone on this one. You can of course use regular yogurt, and Greek yogurt would probably strain really well. If you're looking to make this dairy free I think that coconut yogurt would be a bit weird here but I've seen this almond milk yogurt making the rounds, if you can find it, it's definitely worth a shot. The filling is based around labneh - strained yogurt that started out in the Middle East but is pretty mainstream now. It's thicker so holds up well, but if you're looking for a super clean cut, freeze the tart for a few hours before you want to serve, and let the tart sit out a bit before slicing. 

Last thing to mention: I used sunflower seeds because they're 100% ok for dogs (most nuts are ok, though macadamias are actually poisonous, as are any rancid nuts) but you can switch in the same amount of any other nut or seed. Same for the oats actually, you can use more nuts if you'd rather. Have fun with it. Eat a slice for breakfast.
Hoping you have a lovely end to your week xx

Ps. I'm not wearing a bathrobe in the photos, the sweater is just fuzzier in real life than it looked online. Just fyi.


Goat yogurt + honey tart

gluten free     //  makes one 6inch/15cm tart, easily doubled for an 8/9 inch tart

For the strained yogurt/labneh

450g / 15oz full fat goat yogurt (or other yogurt ofc)
1/2 teaspoon salt
(you'll also need a fine mesh sieve and a cheesecloth/muslin/thin piece of material)

For the tart

// crust

1/2 cup (50g) rolled oats, gf if necessary
1/2 cup (70g) sunflower seeds (or other nut/seed)
2 tablespoons (30ml) coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 tablespoons water, as needed

//filling

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
2-3 tablespoons (40-60g) honey, to taste
labneh from 450g yogurt (a bit here or there won't affect the outcome)


//To prepare the yogurt

At least 24 hours before you'd like to make your tart, line a fine mesh sieve with a few pieces of muslin/cheesecloth or a fine sheet of material. Place the sieve over a high sided bowl - it will look like the bowl is way too big, but the height keeps the sieve up.

Stir the salt through your yogurt (it will taste salty if you taste it, that's ok) and then dump all the yogurt into the cheesecloth in the sieve. Cover with a large plate and set in the fridge for at least 24 hours*

When your yogurt is strained, you can spoon it out of the cheesecloth and continue with the recipe or refrigerate it for a few days. The liquid that collects at the bottom of the bowl is whey; you can discard it or (apparently, I've never tried) use it in any baking.

// For the tart

Grease and line a 6 inch/15cm round springform pan (with removable base/sides) with coconut oil. If doubling the recipe, use an 8 inch/20cm pan.

Warm a large pan over medium-high heat and add the oats and seeds/nuts, stirring them around till they are darker in color and smell nutty + fragrant. This should take 5-7 minutes. Slide off the pan, onto a plate to cool.

While the crust things cool you can prepare the filling. Retrieve your strained yogurt from either the cheesecloth or container (if you made it in advance) and add to a medium bowl with the cinnamon and honey. Stir it around so all ingredients are well combined and it's creamy.

Add the cooled oats and nuts/seeds to a food processor and pulse till a coarse meal forms. You can either add the oil, honey and water to the food processor or if your machine is very basic (like mine ha), tip the ground seeds and oats into another bowl and add the oil, honey and water. The dough should come together when you squeeze it.

Pour all the crust things into your prepared pan and spread it into an even layer along the base, using your hands to pack it flat. You can then cover it with your filling, again aiming for some kind of an even layer (an offset spatula is helpful).

You're pretty much done. Let the tart sit in the fridge to set for 24 hours minimum, or more would work too. Depending on how thick your yogurt was after straining, you should be able to release the sides (gently) and slice it with a clean sharp knife. If it's particularly soft, you can freeze if for a bit and it will firm up, but it might turn into a yogurt-frozen cake rather than a frozen-yogurt cake.

In the fridge the tart will keep for about 5 days, again you could freeze it but it may come out a little icy. If sharing with a dog, that's probably not such a problem.

Notes

* You can make the labneh in advance; once it's strained just keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. If you strain it for more than 24ish hours, it will get suuuuper thick, enough so that you can scoop it into chunks to put in salads, like mozzarella / burrata balls. In case you were interested.

the thief that stole our hearts

you light up the universe | doggie oatmeal-ginger cookies

doggie- oatmeal- ginger-cookies

Pruney and Suzi, For years I tacked ' a dog' on to the end of my Christmas list. You two have been the best gifts I'll ever receive. Prune, you came just before my 13th birthday and Suzi just as I was taking some of the most important exams of my life. And you know my life can be crazy, full. School work, applications, work experience. The blog, editing photos, fitting in runs, more work. My world just seems to be spinning really fast, my seasons keep changing. But amid all of that crazy are you both. The real center of my universe.

What I won't do is say that because of you, every day feels like Christmas because that just wouldn't be real. But if Christmas is about goodness, light, and joy, then you two are Christmas. You two little monkeys light up my whole damn universe. Every. single. day.

doggie-oatmeal-ginger-cookies
doggie-oatmeal-ginger-cookies
doggie-oatmeal-ginger-cookies

I wanted to make my dogs a cookie, something a bit festive for when I am stuffing my face with gingerbread. Dogs can have ginger - in fact, it's often used as a natural way of easing travel sickness, so if you are planning on taking your dogs on any car trips these holidays, these cookies might be fun to take along. They are totally gluten free so they are a little fragile, but my two monsters have been pretty good at cleaning up any crumbs :) they also come together in one bowl, with really only one measuring utensil, because your dog isn't going to care whether you spent four hours making them or 20 minutes. mine always do know. though, that they are homemade. They were eaten in a ratio of 10:2 Prune:Suzi, hence the photo of Pruney doing what she does best.

doggie-oatmeal-ginger-cookies

Doggie oatmeal - ginger cookies

makes around 12 medium cookies    // gluten + dairy free

Now your pup can join in the baking fun, it just for the holidays! They are close to allergen free, just being oat based, but gently sweet and tender. Nothing stops you from adding a little more spice and keeping them for yourself.


1 cup(100g) rolled oats
3/4 cup (75g) oat flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup (60ml) melted coconut oil or neutral tasting oil, like organic sunflower
3 tablespoons honey
1 free range egg

Preheat the oven to 160'C, 325'F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, add all the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Measure out the oil using a tablespoon measure, add to the oat mix. With the same measure, add the 3 tablespoons honey (it will slide off easily), then crack the egg into the bowl. Stir till evenly combined.

Using a medium cookie scoop or with a heaped tablespoon, spoon rounds out onto a lined baking tray, and flatten gently with the back of the spoon/scoop. Leave a little space, but they don't spread much.

Bake for around 12-14 minutes till light golden. Allow to cool 10 minutes on the sheet then transfer to a cooling rack.

They stay pretty tender, but will firm up with time and keep well in an airtight container for about 4 days. My monkeys usually finish the whole batch in 10 minutes after cooling. Warm cookie feasting... my dogs, no doubt.

notes

you can literally mix the whole thing in one bowl. Sometimes I measure, mix and scoop with the same tablespoon... 


doggie-oatmeal-ginger-cookies

more to share with your pups