Mysterium Tremendum Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

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This is a recipe adapted from Vegan World Fusion Cuisine, which is a cookbook coming out of Blossoming Lotus, a restaurant that previously had a location in Kapa’a, Kaua’i.  Adrionna, my dear friend, spent a summer working on an organic farm outside of Kapa’a, and when she would go into town to do her laundry she would always eat at the vegan Blossoming Lotus.  Among her favorites there were the Whole Enchilada Casserole with a Chili Cashew Cheese Sauce and these blow-your-mind minty good cookies.  Subsequent to Adrionna’s summer there I have spent some time on Kaua’i, but sadly, this restaurant with an epic reputation closed in 2009.  Finally, I bought the cookbook so I could see what all the raving was really about.  These cookies are fabulous.  The texture is smooth and nutty, the mint flavor is strong when you taste the dough and then settles into a calm back seat.  They are generally too good to taste like vegan baking.  Also, because there is no processed sugar, no wheat, no dairy, I like to eat these cookies with the illusion that they are “good” for me.

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Ingredients

Dry

  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • pinch of nutmeg

Wet

  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup safflower oil
  • 2 Tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Process

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Place dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well.
  • Combine wet ingredients in another large bowl, add wet to dry and mix well.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  • Roll cookie dough loosely (it doesn’t stick together very well, this can be messy) and place on cookie sheet (with parchment paper or a silicone cooking mat).  Space cookies evenly, as they will grow as the bake.
  • Makes between 8-16 depending on your desired size.
  • Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Let cool completely.


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Photos by DuYu Kim.   

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Spinach Artichoke Bread

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I recently had an email correspondence thread with one of my dearest friends.  We talked about, among other things, engaging in daily work that exposes you to others’ trauma and the transference that can happen.  My friend is a therapist/social worker and I worked for a decade as a teacher and then principal in East Oakland.  It was, in fact, this accumulation of transferred and personally experienced trauma that has led me to take some time to step away from school-based work.  As I work to heal, cooking has again become more a part of my daily ritual.  Over the past several years I did not have the time or energy to spend in the kitchen, as I was consumed with labor (albeit a labor of love).  My friend is in much the same predicament now, and something she said made me laugh out loud for its familiarity: “I also eat a lot more simple-to-fix meals, i.e. pretty much anything wrapped in a tortilla with salsa.”  That was my life for the past four years as an administrator in Oakland public schools; anything wrapped in a tortilla with salsa. 

This recipe is therefore dedicated to her, as it is super easy, super fast, super tasty, super adult and kid friendly.  As we struggle to maintain balance, we must first put the oxygen mask on ourselves (which includes making and breaking bread together) before we seek to be in service to others.  This takes about 10 minutes to make, and 20 minutes to bake.  

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 red onion chopped
  • salt (as generously as you’d like)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach thawed
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese
  • 2 pre-made pizza doughs (Trader Joes’ has a good one, most other grocery stores carry some sort, too.  They can be found in the refrigerated (not fronzen) section.

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Process

  • Preheat your oven to 350° 
  • Sauté onions, garlic, oregano and salt in olive oil. 
  • When onions become translucent add in the chopped artichoke hearts and spinach.
  • Stir to combine ingredients
  • Add in the cream cheese and stir until mixture is well combined.
  • Let cool while you roll out the dough.
  • Using a rolling pin and a floured surface, roll out the pizza dough into a rectangle.
  • Divide the mixture into two, and spread the spinach mixture over the rectangle of dough, leaving a ½ inch border. 
  • Beginning with the long side roll the dough up, jelly-roll style, and pinch ends to seal. 
  • Place seam side down on a cooking sheet, coat with your preference (egg whites, oil, etc) if you want it nice and shiny on the outside.
  • Make 4-6 diagonal slits on the top. Repeat with other dough ad the remainder of the mixture so that you have 2 rolls.
  • Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

 

Mac Nut Mocha White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have recently been on a baking binge.  I receive a lovely gift of a stand mixer for my birthday and although I have never before embraced baking, I am on a rampage now, trying to make good use of such a generous gift.  And, as I continue to try to temper my refined sugar intake as part of my overall goal of being in better holistic health (more water, exercise and meditation, less donuts, blah blah blah), my neighbors are benefiting from my binge. The giving of food is a value I hold close and something that brings me joy, so it all works out.

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This recipe is adapted from Simply Sensation Cookies, and I got good reports back.  They are an easy, breezy one bowl wonder (and something I like about this cookie cookbook is that the recipes all state how easy they are and how many bowls they will take–I imagine if I had a kid or two that this would be awesome!). With my frequent work trips to Hawai’i I have taken up the macadamia nut as a new guest in much of my cooking because their texture is just fabulous and irreplaceable.  I have added them here, but they can be easily be subtracted and replaced by tossing in a few more white chocolate chips.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 ½ tablespoon warm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon (high quality) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts (if you don’t have these add ½ cup white chocolate morsels)

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Process

  • Preheat your oven to 350° and prep several cookie trays.  I use silicone baking mats on my trays and it makes clean up easy and has kept my trays sparkling.  Also makes the removal of baked items a flash.
  • Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate together. You could do this in a microwave, but I don’t have one, so I use the stove top and place my big mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water and stir. When melted remove from heat and stir in sugar and espresso-water mixture. Let cool until warm.
  • Stir in egg, vanilla, baking powder and salt and make sure the mixture is well blended and smooooooooth.  Stir in flour, white chocolate morsels and chopped mac nuts until evenly incorporated.  Let stand for 5 minutes to stiffen.
  • Drop heaping soupspoons of the dough about 2 ½ inches apart on your baking trays (I rolled the dough into loose balls before dropping as I found this gave my cookies more consistent shape).
  • Bake for 9-12 minutes, until the cookies are not quite firm in the middle, but are browning on the edges.

Space and Silence

It has been a long haul since I last posted here.  There’s been a lot of tacos. And Ethiopian. And some wine drinking.  And other forms of irresponsible (but delicious) eating.  I am onto another kitchen in Oakland, still sunny and bright: 

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And I’ve made many a quick meal within its walls, but time has been slim these past few years because I became a high school principal.  And then, this past June, I resigned amid some ridiculous not kid-centered District politics that made me sick with rage, and eventually too sick and too sad to continue the work without that rage driving me in the wrong directions.  So here I am, after spending one quarter of my life working in a school (and most of the rest going to school), sitting in my bed at 8am on a Monday morning contemplating blogging again.

I am visiting my family in Vermont, the thick, humid air just cooled after a few consecutive days of high 90s, and I am hoping that the heat wave dried the fields enough so that I might go blueberry picking later today.  This time in the quiet green/blue mountains has been both what I’ve needed and what I’ve feared: space and silence have brought me both time to hurt and time to heal.  This last year of work in particular challenged me in ways that weathered my soul.  The love that was the driving force in all of my previous work as a teacher and administrator felt harder to keep central, and gun violence took from us a young man who I taught, mentored, cared for deeply and for whom I had a special place reserved in my heart, Marcus. Marcus’s death took out of me what I could not put back.            

And so now, for the first time since I began working in schools, I have this space in the summer where I have nothing to plan for–no units to map out, no classrooms systems to restructure, no master schedule to mold, no new staff to hire, no school to prepare to open–and because I do not have anything to busy and distract myself with, and I have all this quiet around me, there is little to do but attempt to distract myself by watching bad TV and spending ridiculous amounts of time looking at bougie kitchen appliances on Pinterest.  And when the wireless router in my parents’ house gives out, there is little left but to face the pain that I feel hallowing out my throat every day.  The pain not only of loosing Marcus, but the pain of loosing my school, because the District killed it.      

When I made the decision to leave the work that has defined me for so long the choice was not simply about leaving the work, but it was also about learning who I was if I was not the work.  If this year is anything, I hope that it is a chance for me to face the space and the silence and not rush to fill it with anything but to let it exist within me.  And in this existence I may find more time for the things that have previously brought me joy, among them the meditation of cooking.           

And here I am.  And I start by listening to the silence.  

 

Missing The Meditation of Cooking

I miss cooking.  It has been a long while since I was able to really delve into the meditations of the kitchen: peeling the thin skin of a red onion, the rhythm of a knife chopping, the sizzle of sauteing, the aroma of a meal waiting to be made.  This year has been filled with the unexpected, and so many interruptions have come between me and my love of cooking.  My graduate program ends on July 22. I plan on taking a long vacation after which I plan on returning to the kitchen with beautiful fury.

gelato italiano

Cumin Flatbread

A simple, easy and quick recipe.

1 1/3 cups warm water

1 Tbs dry yeast

1 Tbs honey

3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs minced lemon peel

2 1/4 tsps course salt

2 tsp ground cumin

3 cups bread flour

1 Tbs cumin seeds

1 Tbs sesame seeds

Place water in a big bowl, stir in the honey and sprinkle in the yeast.  Stir and let sit for 10 minutes.  Add oil, lemon peel, salt, ground cumin.  Slowly add flour and gently stir in.  Continue stirring for 5 minutes and then turn onto flour surface and continue kneading until smooth dough forms (the dough is very soft and can sometimes be sticky, just keep your hands well floured!).
Lightly oil large bowl, add dough and tun the dough to coat it with oil.  Cover with damp town and put in a warm place.  (Growing up in Vermont my mother used to put the dough near the wood stove.  Here in the Bay Area I don’t really have a “warm” place.  Usually I put it on the stove and hope the the pilot lights keep it warm.) Let rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Oil a cookie sheet and place the dough on sheet.  Using fingertips, press the dough out.  Sprinkle with cumin and sesame seeds.  Bake until golden, approximately 30 minutes.  Mmmmm….

Çoban Salatası: Cucumber, Tomato, Olive and Feta Salad

When I was a sophomore at Smith College I began cooking in the Kosher Kitchen as my work-study position.  We provided Shabbat meals every Friday evening along with some crazy-making. It was a great culinary experience and for some time it was also a great experience in the community it created for me (see my friend Jacqui Shine’s 2003 article on “the K”:  http://www.smith.edu/newssmith/spring2003/challah.php).  I worked there for a year a half and had lots of opportunities to experiment with ingredients and recipes on someone else’s budget.

Ingredients:
2 English Cucumbers, de-seeded and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut length wise
1/4 cup-1/2 cup (to taste) red onion finely chopped
1 cup black olives pitted and chopped
2/3 cup Greek Feta, chopped or crumbed
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
Juice of 2 (preferably) Meyer Lemon
2 Tablespoons Zaa’tar (A Middle Easter spice blend that includes sesame seeds, oregano, salt and other dried herbs)

Really all you have to do is mix it all up!  Add the feta last, just before serving as toss gently.  Serve with pita chips, also easy and quick to make.