can we dumb it down | chocolate + cherry rye oatmeal cookies

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I don't love talking about politics, not here or anywhere else. I also don't love valentine's day. But I think, considering everything that's going on right now, that it's a bit hard to miss the irony. I walked into the store the other day and looked at the news stand at the front. The newspapers, headlines to the back page, filled with hate. Hate from the people for a campaign that's built on it; the words of its supporters. People killed, families torn apart. The shelf next to the papers, the valentine's cards. The pinks and reds and roses, telling husbands and wives and friends you love them.

I don't propose we all start to love everyone, because we don't all live in some fair trade commune in southern Philadelphia. Maybe we need to rethink about how we think about love. Perhaps it's been over complicated. Perhaps we should just dumb it down to acceptance and quiet respect. Not even acceptance, just tolerance. That there will be people who don't want to celebrate valentine's day. That there'll be girls who want to show off their hair and others who'd prefer to keep it covered. That there are happy families with parents who never married and content kids with parents who married in a church. That there are some guys that love toting guns and driving tractors and there are some who curate art and live in lofts with exposed brick.

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chocolate + cherry rye oatmeal cookies

Maybe it's because we're actually scared. Maybe have good reason to be. Maybe we're not as accepting as we thought we were. Maybe it's because fewer and fewer families are actually composed of a mother, a father, two kids, a dog, a suburban detached house with a double garage and a toyota. Maybe the acceptance of change is on the outside. Maybe we did it because it's the cool thing to do, to feign openness; maybe it became trendy. Maybe, deep down, we cling to tradition. The tradition that love is romance, or perhaps duty to care. For soul mates, your children, a sibling. Maybe it's what we were taught. We grew up watching TV shows were people give each other candy hearts and pink cards and wait breathlessly for the popular boy to ask them to the dance. But maybe things have changed. Maybe now there are people getting hurt, pushed aside, loosing opportunities. And there's no moral high ground. You know how you read everywhere, every day, that we can't go on eating processed wheat and sugar because it's just not modern? Not sustainable. Not healthy. People have seemed very happy to jump off the ship of what health food once was, into a very stormy sea and onto a very shaky lifeboat that is what eating well has now become. In the same way, maybe love as it once was isn't sustainable, healthy or modern. Would we abandon our ship of chocolates and slinky black dresses and acceptance being cool? Watch the sinking of the concept with which we're comfortable? People will moan that we have jumped ship and that I said it myself. That we're not all married in churches anymore, we're ok that some people don't marry at all, some of us are hipsters these days. But love was simply supposed to keep people afloat, stop them from getting hurt, stop the coldness. Whatever we've done, then, is far from love.

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On the one hand we've hijacked the concept. Not just that it's cool to claim tolerance. The number of bloggers and social media people who sign off with a 'love you friends'. People ask you in class whether you know the funny guy, and you're supposed to say 'him? I love him! he's so funny'. We're supposed to love our friends, right? So is this our broader, trendy definition? If it is, why I am I so put off by saying that I 'love' the neighbours? They're fine, but to say I love them would be going a bit far. Because, like everything else, we've taken love out of context sometimes, when kicking the tradition is cool and ok, detached. On the internet, it goes out to too many people to really think about. The funny guy? He'll never find out you said that.

Your friends? Well, maybe, you love them in a way. If love can encompass actual, quiet tolerance of individual quirks, warmth and acceptance, then it's there. Acceptance of differences and that you'll never see some things the same way, that your values and priorities might even clash. Maybe it's just not been something people think about. That love could be much simpler than the marriage-or-not debate, than a cold analysis of the number of broken families, and a whole lot more simple than dinner dates and bouquets. More rational than trying to make acceptance the new in thing. Maybe it could just be letting people walk down the street without feeling unsafe; or being able to take public transport without funny stares or being asked where you're from. Maybe we do love our friends because we put up with all their eccentricities, like we do our own family. Tolerance for differences has always been there, as part of love, in our living with kids and siblings and soul mates. Maybe we can stretch that out a bit - just the tolerance, to all the people around us. The hate has evolved, maybe it's time that love does too. It's not love as we know it. But then it's not just candy hearts and popular boys and the world as they said it was, either.

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But there are cookies and there will be cookies as long as I'm around :) since I posted the house loaf cake a few weeks ago, I now present the house cookie. I pretty much sum up its amazingess in the recipe header but seriously. So good. Rye flour isn't bitter as you may have thought, it's actually quite mild if used with sweet, rich goodies (cherries, hi) and the cocoa really highlights the beautiful colour. The little flecks of oatmeal add some chunky texture and the cherries are so moist and sweet. They'll be a bit more puck-like than regular cookies because of the oil but still. So good. To share, on Valentine's Day. Whether with your little loved crowd or a bigger crew. treat yourself. Big hugs and cookies for you all xx

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Ps. I would've made something for any doggie loves you have but Prune is meant to be on a diet (!!!!) so you could make these if you'd like, my monkeys are crazy about them.

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chocolate + cherry rye oatmeal cookies

Little pucks of goodness - slightly malty rye, the color and richness of dark cocoa. Plump, velvety, sweet cherries. Light flecks of chewy oatmeal. Infinitely loveable. 
// makes 18-20 medium cookies // dairy free

1 cup (110g) rye flour
2/3 cup (70g) rolled oats
1/3 cup (40g) natural cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (100g) dark muscavado sugar
1/4 cup (50g) turbinado sugar
1 free range egg
1/3cup (75g) melted coconut oil
1/2 cup (75g) unsweetened dried cherries, coarsely chopped if large
1 -2 tablespoons of any milk, as needed


Preheat the oven to 180’C, 350’F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the rye flour, rolled oats, salt, baking soda. Add the cocoa powder, you may need to sift it into the bowl if it’s very clumpy. Mix together so evenly combined and set aside.

In a small bowl, add the melted coconut oil and the two sugars, stir well with a flexible spatula. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

Combine the wet mix with the dry oat mix and stir together well, you may need to use a stiff wooden spoon for this since the dough is quite thick. If it’s way too dry (this depends on the cut of your rye flour) slowly add a little milk, teaspoon at a time. Fold in the dried cherries.

Using a medium cookie scoop or heaped tablespoons, portion out the dough. Use the bottom of a glass/measuring cup to flatten each poof into a disk, leaving about 3cm/ an inch between.

Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.

Allow to cool on the sheets for about 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

The cookies will keep for about 4 days in an airtight container, but are something else straight from the oven 

notes

I think these could take some other goodies as add-ins too – about 1/2 cup worth. Hazelnuts might be nice. If you’re feeling decadent, half a cup (75gish) chopped dark chocolate would be amazing. Next time…


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nothing in return | orange & cranberry (holiday) granola

nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger

I wasn't particularly planning on writing to you, you were just rolling along being yourself, I'd just written to your sister and I didn't want to bore everyone. But then you hurt your claw (that was partly my fault for not trimming the damn thing. For that, I'm sorry. Promise.) and I changed my mind, but that's not the only reason why. I've been thinking about you since we put up the Christmas tree .

You came, little tail wagging. Sticking that velvety muzzle into all the boxes, sneezing in the glitter and pine needles. You look at life through fresh eyes, don't you? You're not like your sister, not like Prune who is the cynic, she knows what she wants. You're like that little amber bauble in the box of decorations. There are lots of similar ones, many are bigger, maybe more shiny, maybe a perfect sphere. You'd be slightly dusty, maybe chipped, slightly forgotten. But then I'd pull you out and dust you off and you shine. There's no face that I want to grab and cuddle more than yours. It may not be an elegant face, your paws may be too big for your body, you may bark too much but the real problem is that you have too much to give. You expect nothing from anyone, you're surprised when we talk to you, when we call Suzi over just for a cuddle. You want to give it all to us- joy, love, whatever, expecting nothing in return.

nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger
nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger
nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger
nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger

In some ways I think I see myself in you, Prune too, but sometimes with you it's so obvious I have to laugh. There was that day we went to the vet's, we'd lined up on the ramp, the receptionist came to open up. And there's Prune, all tail wags, friendly licks, instantly loved, lots of hugs, a roomful of new friends. And you? You stand in the background, alone, and you even bark. It takes a long time for people to realise how sweet you are - I'm nowhere near as sweet as you, but I'd be the one waiting at the back (I don't bark yet, but people don't ever take to me straight away, so I might as well). It takes you a long time to trust people, you'll do with your own company, but when you do start to trust, you'd do anything for them, you show them in your own suzi-like ways. You have so much love to give. The way you always bark at strange men, the way you climb onto my bed sometimes, how you curl your whole body around our legs and sleep like a little bean.

nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger

And before this season of giving, you've taught me so much about true generosity, patience. How do you manage, even if you're worried and scared, even though you've been hurt, to make us all smile and love us so much? I've learnt to give you time to warm to us, time to calm down when you're nervous, and it's been worth it, for the tic tac of your paws running to meet me when I'm up in the morning, for your snuggles and how you rest your whole face on my lap. So to you, the little forgotten bauble, just know for me you're the shiniest of the bunch. You can be the angel on the highest branch. Thank you, suzi, for teaching me that in our own way, we all know how to give. And thanks for giving me something every day, all year. You could teach Santa a thing or two.

nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger
nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger

I think I mentioned giving in my last post? To me the nicest things to gift are homemade, and I this granola would fit the role perfectly. It's pretty adaptable and looks cute + rustic in a glass jar with a little pine sprig, and granola keeps forever too - so make the whole batch and gift some. In case you were wondering what this had to do with Suzi, the answer is not much, but she simply doesn't ask for anything or expect anything - and that's just so rare. I expect and ask for my Christmas granola to be really tasty, warmly spiced and distinctly festive, and this recipe ticks all those boxes. The orange juice & zest in the syrup with a hint of molasses and ginger puts a Christmas candle in your breakfast (or snack)(I've never eaten a candle before though) + cranberries & oranges are made for each other. At other times of year, I switch the molasses for honey and tone down the ginger, which makes for a really bright and refreshing taste, so this recipe is a keeper for the whole year. In the notes under the recipe I give some switches for making the granola gluten-free and pantry friendly, so I really hope you try this one out. Try to make some time in the craziness for homemade gifts and cherishing the less-shiny baubles, whatever form they come in. The cheer is upon us. Happy holidays xo

nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger

ORANGE & CRANBERRY (HOLIDAY) GRANOLA

//gluten free option + vegan // makes about 8 cups/ 2l

1 1/3 cup (320ml) unsweetened orange juice, freshly squeezed or pure fresh bottled juice
1 tablespoon (15ml) unsulphured molasses*
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (40ml) extra virgin coconut oil (room temperature)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
finely grated zest of one orange, optional

2 cups (200g) rolled oats
2 cups (200g) rolled rye/rye flakes**
2/3 cup (94g) pumpkin seeds
2/3cup (86g) sunflower seeds
1/2 cup (50g) walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (75g) almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons  (20g) flax seeds

2/3 cup (100g) unsweetened dried cranberries


preheat the oven to 180’C or 350’F. line a large, rimmed baking tray with parchment paper.

start by making the ‘syrup’. in a medium saucepan over high heat, add the orange juice and molasses. you’re essentially making a reduction, so let the mix boil, uncovered, till reduced by about half: you want about 2/3 cup (160ml) liquid. after about 10 minutes of scarily rapid boiling, steam etc, carefully (this is real hot stuff) pour into a measure and check. if there’s too much liquid, boil longer and check, if there is too little, don’t panic. you can top it up with extra juice.
while the liquid is still hot, pour it back into the pan, stir in the coconut oil till it melts through; add the spices and vanilla and set aside to cool/infuse.

while the oj mix is cooling, find a very large bowl. add all the dry ingredients to the bowl and stir them to combine (I use my hands, less messy)
retrieve the cooled wet mix. drizzle it over the oat-nut mix and stir well, so the grains are just moistened without being wet. toss it well so that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t stay dry.

dump the bowl out onto the prepared baking tray – there will be a lot, use a wooden spoon/spatula to spread it evenly over the tray. put the tray in the oven for 10 minutes.
after 10 minutes, open the oven and stir the granola around on the tray, bringing the granola from the edges into the middle and the middle towards the edges – this is important or the edges will burn/brown much faster. rotate the tray.
bake for around 40 minutes, stirring/moving edges and rotating every 10-15 minutes. This granola is best with the grains nice and separate, not the clumpy kind; the frequent stirring ensures this.
40 minutes leaves the grains and nuts deeply toasted, which I love, but if this is not your thing, you can check on it after about 35 minutes.

Allow the granola to cool in the pan, then toss through the cranberries. Once fully cooled, use the parchment paper as a funnel (do this over a baking tray, it helps) to pour the ‘nola into a sealable glass jar, where it will keep a month or so. You can of course also put into small jars, paper bags etc. for gifting.

notes

*health foodies actually swear by blackstrap molasses, but it’s very sharp/spicy – I just used a natural variety that adds huge depth without the sharpness or being overly sweet, but remember, this and the juice are the only real sweeteners here. Your call. Also, if you’re in Belgium or Holland, I think appelstroop (apple syrup – can you find it elsewhere?) would work really well.
** to make this gluten free, switch the rolled rye for more gf certified rolled oats. I use it here because I like the contrast in color and shape to the very pale rolled oats, so you could try another gf rolled grain like rolled millet or quinoa. It adds nice variety

As a general note, you can keep things in the same volume and use what you have – 1 cup (around 150-160g) total of nuts, for example. And as I said, for something less in-your-face holiday, I switch molasses for honey and sometimes the cranberries for unsulphured dried apricots, blueberries or raisins. Granola just lives to make your breakfasts easy.

 

ps. This blog has been in existence almost 2 months now... I just want to say a huge thank you to the small handful of loyal readers who visit my little corner of the net often. Every comment, email, just you reading means the world to me. As a heads up, I might be changing the URL of the blog because after 'settling in' to the blog, I'm not sure how fitting it is. I will send an email to my subscribers when a change happens and I'll try to set up some kind of redirect. Thanks for all your support, if I could bake you all a cookie, I would.

suzi-smile

suzi, the littlest one


more holiday breakfasts

lucky enough | dark chocolate + cardamom rye scones

The doors and windows were open from 5am but it had been 21 celsius overnight. The cushions lived out on the patio table, the stove stayed switched off, the oven was given a wide berth. The tap was ran till the water came out ice cold, fans whirred all day, Prune and Suzi panted in the shade. The strawberry plants were heavy with red fruit, the ground finally dry, we could wear good shoes to walk the dogs. In the middle of the day it was simply too much to sit in the sun, I'd sit in my room in front of the fan, reading a Jack Reacher and watching the curtains flap in the semblance of a light breeze. 2016. The year of the heatwave, though I think we were lucky enough to have three or four in a row.

Four weeks or so of proper warmth, no rain; no storms, no fog. My sister makes (beautiful) scrapbooks and she has a screenshot of the weather forecast from her phone; 27 degrees and wall to wall sunshine for the rest of the week. We'd been commissioned by our parents to paint the fence of the front garden and rather than the wet and wind we expected, we were blessed with cloudless skies in a technicolor blue. From the little orchard in the front garden, in the heat of the afternoon there was some kind of a hush. It was like something out of Huckleberry Finn, in the distance was the soft thump of a ball being kicked around by kids playing in the fields, a farm dog barking on a rambling country lane, the occasional cough of a caravan taking tourists to the sea, church-bells singing for the hour. Picking strawberries from the garden, making salads with feta and nectarines, eating dripping ripe peaches over the sink.

That real heat eventually petered out, leaving behind a sky that was light teal painted with streaks of gray, occasional rainstorms and temperatures that hovered vaguely in the mid-teens day and night. It was nature's transitional phase, as frustrating as waiting for a web page to open: wishing you'd not closed the tab in the first place, but since you had, willing the new screen to appear. Cars and rooms were still too hot but the wind was cool, it was too wet for most shoes but not cold enough for boots and some shops decided it was time to break out the Christmas decorations. The fall deserves some sympathy as a season, especially in Europe, where the trees take their time erupting into golds and ambers, storms pick up and the nights start drawing in. But when it arrived, this year it came with a bang. It was as if someone had opened the door of a very stuffy room, letting in a strong breeze that whirled right through us, throwing everything up in the air. It was the start of the new year, my first few days of university flew in as the leaves started to pile up. It was time for the supermarkets to retrieve the squash, for slippers in the house, for my warm glow in the corner of the kitchen. It was time for scones, time to preheat the oven again.

Scones! I didn't really 'introduce' my recipe in the last post for the loaf, but I thought I would this time. Rye flour isn't gluten free but is lower in gluten than whole-wheat flour, making these scones a bit delicate but it has such a nice flavor (and color). Dark chocolate and cardamom are an unlikely but amazing combination, slightly exotic and that smell. Just try them for the smell. And the fact that they're a lot easier than normal scones! There are some changes you can make to tailor them to various diets, they're in the recipe notes. I now establish how much I love scones, and hope you try them too. Lots of autumnal hugs xx


dark chocolate and cardamom rye scones

// dairy free. Makes 6 medium scones


1 cup (110g) rye flour
1/4 cup whole spelt flour (40g)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8teaspoon salt (that's a pinch)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (30ml) maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
3 tablespoons (45g)  yogurt of choice (I used goat's milk yogurt)
2 tablespoons (30ml) milk of choice (or replace milk and yogurt with 1/4c or 60ml full fat coconut milk)
1 free range egg
50g/1.8oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (about a heaped 1/3 cup when coarsely chopped)

Preheat the oven to 180'C, 350'F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, add the vanilla extract, maple syrup, oil, yogurt & milk; stir well to combine. Add the egg and beat till it's smooth, pale and creamy.

Add the wet mix to the dry mix and slowly, gently combine. It will be pretty thick and take some time to come together, that's ok, but if it's very dry add another tablespoon of milk. -As the dough starts to come together, fold through the chopped chocolate

Cover a work surface with parchment paper (or flour it pretty well) and gather the dough into your hands. Gently squash/shape it into a vague oval, about 9cm/3.5inches thick and 18cm/7in long. If there is any chocolate left in the bowl, push it into the dough (the more the better, right?)

Using a pastry wheel, divide the dough in two, then each half into 3 triangles to form 6 scones

Place on the parchment paper, well spaced, and bake for about 15-18 minutes, till the tops are golden. The skewer trick works for these too - if it's inserted into the middle and comes out clean, you're good. Cool on a wire rack. The scones keep in an airtight container for about 3 days. 

Notes

I list yogurt and milk as ingredients and by all means, use dairy yogurt and milk, or plant based yogurt and milk. I also think that 1/4 cup (60ml) full fat coconut milk would work instead, the milk & yogurt give the tenderness that butter and cream would traditionally. I always use freshly ground cardamom and 70% dark chocolate. Try not to rough the dough around too much so they stay nice and soft and fluffy and amazing.


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