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Almond thumbprint cookies

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Let me start with a disclaimer: I think most food fads – Paleo, juicing, Atkins, etc – are a little silly. I am a firm believer in the everything-in-moderation diet. I reserve the right to consume bread and cheese and wine on a Friday night after a long week, and to not feel bad about it.

Considering that baking is one of my passions, it’s a cruel joke that I actually can’t tolerate dairy very well. This is going to sound crazy, but dairy makes my nose all stuffy. After a wild night eating ice cream or hitting the cheese board pretty hard, my sinuses are a mess. Apparently, for people like me who already have bad allergies, milk products can make allergies worse. I know this from lots of personal experience. If you or your child has chronic sinus problems, I highly recommend eliminating all milk products for about two weeks. I think you’ll be amazed by how much better you feel.

Ok, end of soapbox!

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I tell you all of this because lately, I’ve realized that I need to experiment with recipes that don’t use those ingredients that cause problems for me. I have good news! As it turns out, almonds and coconut oil actually make pretty delicious cookies. Now, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you these ingredients taste as good as these or these. But if you’re trying to avoid butter and gluten, or just want a healthier sweet, this recipe for almond thumbprint cookies is pretty damn good.

Almond Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from this recipe. I made my own nut flours by grounding up raw slivered almonds and cashews in a food processor. Makes about one dozen cookies.

1 cup of almond flour
1 cup of cashew flour
1/4 cup of gluten-free oats (optional)
1/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup of cherry or apricot jam (I like Bonne Maman)
2 T dark chocolate, chopped (optional; I made a few with chocolate in the center instead of jam. They were really good.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. In a mixing bowl, cream together the coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and almond extracts until relatively smooth (there will still be some lumps). Slowly add the nut flours, oats, shredded coconut, and salt until a dough forms.

Use your hands to roll the dough into smooth balls. Place them on the cookie sheet and use your thumb to press into the center of each ball, making a well for the jam. Spoon a small amount of jam in the middle of each cookie .

Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool and enjoy.

Salt, chocolate, butter

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Lately I’ve been focusing on treasuring the small moments and not worrying so much about all the to-do’s. A demanding job means I don’t have time to get everything done. I’m a person that always has a list and loves crossing things off of it. My new schedule is teaching me to be easier on myself, and more reasonable about what’s possible and what’s important.

Some things that have been making me happy lately: coffee dates and Friday night dinners with my husband, just the two of us; salted chocolate chip cookies; sleeping in until 8am on a Saturday. I hope you’re all taking time to enjoy the little stuff.

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the New York Times recipe by Jaques Torres. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen small cookies.

3 2/3 cups (16.1) ounces of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (natural, not artificial)
1 1/4 pounds semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sea salt

1. Whisk flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just barely combined. Don’t overmix. Mix in chocolate. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 12-36 hours. Dough can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Using a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, create golf-ball sized balls and place onto baking sheet. Sprinkle raw dough lightly with salt and bake until lightly golden brown, about 12 minutes (depending on your oven – it’s always best to underbake a bit because the cookies will continue to cook after you remove them from the oven). Let cookies sit on the warm baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining dough. The dough also freezes well; just increase the baking time by about 4 minutes if frozen.

Snickerdoodles

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It has taken two-and-a-half years of living in coastal California to realize that I miss seasons. I even miss winter a little bit. I can’t believe I just said that. But in a way, it’s true. I miss the sense of impending change, of time passing in increments. Living in a place with no seasons starts to feel a bit like Groundhog Day sometimes. It’s predictable.

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We’ve gotten some unseasonably cool weather for October lately (our Octobers are supposed to be our summer) but I’ve really enjoyed it. It feels like fall. I’ve been listening to a lot of Louis Armstrong and Etta James and thinking about cinnamon and pumpkin-flavored things.

So I made snickerdoodle cookies for the first time. I don’t know why I’ve waited so long; they are incredibly easy to make and so (I mean SO) delicious. Still warm from the oven, they’re like a piece of cinnamon sugar toast. I highly recommend them eaten while cozied up on the couch, watching a movie.

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Recipe adapted from this one. Makes about 3 dozen medium-sized cookies. The secret ingredient is the extra sprinkle of coarse salt. Don’t forget it; it really makes these cookies spectacular.

1/4 cup granulated sugar (for cinnamon-sugar topping)

1 1/2 T cinnamon

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

1/4 tsp vanilla

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt plus some extra for sprinkling

Coarse sea salt (kosher or fleur de sel)

In a shallow bowl, whisk 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon together. Set aside.

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each one. Add in vanilla and beat until well-mixed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, just until combined.

Using your hands, divide the dough into small balls (about the size of golf balls) and roll each one in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until fully covered. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place balls on a cookie sheet and top each cookie with a healthy pinch of coarse salt. Bake each batch for about 10 minutes or until the tops have cracked but are not overly golden brown. Do not over-bake. Store all remaining dough in a resealable container; sprinkle with salt right before you bake. You can keep the raw dough refrigerated for up to one week.

 

Otis Redding and Ricotta Crostini

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There are small moments in life you hope you’ll always remember. These are a few of mine lately:

Sitting around our living room with my favorite red head, my brother, and his little family, bellies full, drinking wine, laughing and singing along to Otis Redding and the Righteous Brothers.

My godson on the phone, telling me in his tiny three-year-old voice that he misses me from 2,000 miles away.

Getting a surprise package in the mail from my mom with a ring she picked up for me on a recent trip to Greece.

I am truly thankful.

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Ricotta, Pistachio and Honey Crostini (makes about 15 pieces)

1T olive oil

1/2 french or sourdough baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

2-3 T raw honey

1/4 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped

salt & pepper

Heat oven to broil. Arrange baguette slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1T olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toast for about 90 seconds or until bread is golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool.

Spread each baguette slice with 1 small spoonful of ricotta cheese. Drizzle with honey and top with pistachios. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and pepper on top. Serve immediately.