Category Archives: Coffee

Toasted walnut white chocolate chunk cinnamon-sugar dipped cookies

“Mmm. You could sell these.” Those were the winning words of praise that John gave me as he took a bite of my greatly-improvised cookie concoction on Saturday night. Then he made me write the recipe down. And because I’m in a generous mood, I’m sharing it with you.

You’ll probably do just fine if you follow the recipe I blatantly ripped off (I mean, adapted. That’s the legal, slightly-respectful form of stealing, right?) But I’m incapable of following a recipe. Even when it comes to baking, which is less forgiving on random additions/substitutions and half-assed measurements. I tend to think, “this would be better with cinnamon,” or “what can I use instead of half an egg? Uh, yogurt is similar, right?”

Anyway, this time it worked out and here is an approximation of how it went down.

P.S. Apparently I can’t call these snickerdoodles because they don’t feature cream of tartar, so you’re stuck with an even longer title.

Cookies with the long title

1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

14 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar (or do what I do: white sugar + 1/2 teaspoon molasses)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract (optional but adds a lovely buttery/marzipan-y flavor)

2 tbsp thick yogurt (vanilla works)

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup white flour

1/4 cup oat flour (finely grind some oats – oat flour adds a lightness to the texture)

1/4 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut (also adds a good texture)

100 g bar white chocolate, chopped in small chunks

topping: 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 cup white sugar

1.. Toast walnuts in a dry skilled over medium heat, until light brown and toasty-smelling. Remove from heat.

2. Microwave butter in a medium-sized bowel. Add sugars, salt, extracts, and yogurt. Mix well for a minute or so – this helps the butter and sugar get those caramelized notes.

3. Add white flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until incorporated. Add oat flour and coconut, stirring well. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chunks (warning: don’t eat half of these two things because they’re too delicious on their own to make it into the batter).

4. Place dough in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and place in freezer for 30 minutes (if impatient) or refrigerate overnight.

5. Preheat oven to 350F/180C and line baking sheet with baking paper. At this point, dough should be thick but workable, meaning you don’t have to take a hammer to it to break off balls of dough.

6. Mix cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Break off tablespoon-sized pieces of dough and roll into balls (or use a cookie scoop. Yes, you need one. I burned through mine – don’t ask – and am now coveting another for Christmas. Hint hint to my readership, which is 90% my parents).

7. Where were we? Roll those balls into the cinnamon sugar, place 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet, press down a bit if you like them fatter (I prefer to leave them ball-shaped so the centers stay softer). I got about 15-16 because I ate a bunch of dough (oops!)

8. Bake 8-10 minutes, until golden at the edges and almost-golden on top (basically, you don’t want to press down on one and have it completely deflate right away). Let cool on baking sheet. Eat.

The only time I read

We have a few minutes until boarding time. I just refilled my coffee (cup # 5? 6?) and my stash of airport snacks is rapidly diminishing. Organic lamb & bacon burgers and steamed sweet potato is a totally normal snack, right?

It’s almost time now. 7 hours plus change, and no excuses not to finish this book I’ve been reading for months. It’s not even a very long book, but flights are the only time I read. Sad, but true.

It’s likely John will tempt me with countless episodes of House, stored on his laptop, but I must stay strong…and read. Reading! It’s for book lovers.

See you on the other side of the pond.

Number 5

As I should have predicted, my “things to do in Germany” list turned out not to be that important. I accomplished most of the list without thinking, but have neglected the meat-eating part so as not to offend my vegetarian Oma too much. I’ll try to catch up on that tonight, when I meet my friends in the Stadt for some German food.

Apparently there are pictures of us in the bath tub together– now, we’ve all grown up and are starting to form our own families. It still feel surreal to me. I’m sure this feeling– growing up– is not uncommon, but I’ve been working on number 5 on the list (diving into old photos) and that’s why it’s on my mind more so than usual.

Last night, I found the goldmine: an entire bookshelf of photo albums in Oma’s room. The familiar and unfamiliar faces from the 60s-70s made me wish I lived back then, if only for the hairstyles and dresses. However, I was more absorbed by the album my mom made, that captured the years ’99-2000. I’m always thinking about the past and the evolving versions of myself, trying to figure out how I got from there to here.

Maybe we all do this to some extent, as a form of self-preservation– as the researchers and writers of our autobiographies, even if we never put pen to paper.

Those photos brought back some powerful memories. In one, I’m sitting hypnotized in front of a bulky Windows monitor, looking at a Prodigy Internet site. I wish I could make out the information on the screen. My AIM buddy list, showing all of buffy1547’s friends and some non-friends, is minimized in the bottom left corner. In the snapshot above this one, a conversation is captured on the screen. One name in dark blue, the other in red. The red correspondent is writing in acqua-blue Lucida Handwriting.

Instant Messenger was such a vital, drama-enabling tool of being a teen in the late 90s and into the next millennium. I got teased about my short pants (before they made “tall” jeans) and crush on the popular boy, because clearly, I was out of his league.

I also got dumped by my first boyfriend online. It happened right before my family and I went out to see a play. I’m sure I didn’t pay attention to whatever was happening on stage, because I was replaying that Instant Messenger conversation over and over, wishing I never signed online. Although, it would’ve happened sooner or later.

Of course, I forgive him now (mostly. You have to admit, that’s a cowardly move).

In another photo, it’s my dad’s 39th birthday and my mom wrote about how I’d get up for school an hour and a half early for my “beauty ritual.” I wish I could go back and tell 13-year-old Clea (confession: I had to pause for 2 minutes and count on my fingers) to sleep in and focus less on conforming to whatever the standard of beauty was at the time (answer: Britney Spears. In another photo, Emily is showing off a “B.S.” figurine out of homemade playdough).

I probably wouldn’t have listened to my older and wiser self, though. She still doesn’t know much about fitting in, after all. (She’s much happier, but ’99 Clea won’t believe that).

When I finally shut the album and went to wash my face, I looked in the mirror and was a little surprised. I was half-expecting to see my blue-rimmed eyes staring back, shaded by overly tweezed eyebrows, furrowed in a slight frown.

Then I wondered what my 2027 self will look like. Will she be expecting to see ’99 or ’13 Clea? Facebook albums have replaced photo albums, and I haven’t been keeping inventory as carefully as my mother.

Will my 41-year-old self wish that she could tell my 2013 self to do x, y, z differently, even though it won’t make a difference, and maybe that’s not a bad thing? I guess only time, and photographs, will tell.

London, finally

When I began telling people about my impending move to Oxford, a common reaction was, “Oh, you’ll have fun in London!” Or, “Oxford…that’s in London, right?” Really, I can’t blame anyone for thinking that. Oxford is known for its famous university, and probably not much else. Even after proving to some that Oxford is, in fact, an actual city, it was not uncommon to hear, “Oh. Well, you can still go to London on the weekends!”

I spent a semester in London during college, and knew I’d love the chance to return. What I didn’t expect was that I’d fall in love with Oxford as its own entity, considering it much more than just a suburb of that famous metropolitan city well known for its clock tower and falling-down bridge. I didn’t expect to find Oxford satisfying enough to, well, not really be tempted to leave at all.

But the temptation finally arose this week, after finding out my aunt and uncle would be in London for a few days while my cousin attended an English School course. They came into Oxford for the evening; we had dinner, and enjoyed surprisingly gorgeous weather. The next day,I got to leave work a few hours early to hop on a bus and head into the other city.

As soon as I stepped off the bus and into the crowds of Marble Arch, I sort of…regretted it. That sounds pretty terrible. Maybe I’m less of a “city person” than I thought I was, but I had a similar reaction to whatever I feel when I visit NYC. Sure, I like getting out and exploring an exciting place, but there’s something about crowds, busy people pushing their way as they rush rush rush from here to there, that’s just too overwhelming for me. Maybe I’m just getting old.

Oh, happy belated birthday, self– you have to remember you’re 27 now, not 26, which was finally starting to roll of the tongue, effortlessly. I’m 27: saying it will make it seem true, right?

I don’t want this to sound like I hate London. I like it. I particularly like where I am now, in a Harry Potter-esque castle, waiting for my cousin to come back from his school excursion into city centre, battling the same traffic we fought to get here. Funny story: Bought 2 bus tickets –> Sat on bus and moved maybe 2 blocks in 40ish minutes –> got off bus –> Did the smart thing and went underground, £30 poorer from topping up Oyster Cards with a sum that sounded reasonable.

Anyway, this makes me think: did I really love London all that much when I lived here, 6 years ago? Sadly, I was too wrapped up in early-twenties angst to fully enjoy it. Maybe the busy-ness, the sense of overwhelm, was a good distraction at the time. Maybe I’ve just gotten better at filling my days with enjoyment and reflection, engagement and confidence, a sense of self that isn’t a complete embarrassment.

This is getting a little too heavy for what was meant to be a light travel post, but I guess what I love best about being here in London, right now, is that I’m learning about myself. Learning about change. No, the best thing is seeing my family– that emotional crap comes second. Of course, it’s also kind of scary to think that the last time John and I were in London together was after a few months of dating. He visited once, then came back for a second time. I never pictured this kind of future for us, or myself, but I guess the unknown is what keeps life exciting.

And with that, it’s time to get bak to enjoying London, to the fullest extent.

Even if that means taking a break, or a nap, when needed.

Brunch for One

Brunch for One

Some people thrive on independence, solitary space, me-time, being alone—and then there are those who collapse into mild panic at the notion. I think it goes a little beyond introversion and extraversion; our comfort with having time to ourselves depends on our current mood, outlook, and level of motivation.

There are times where I need company—to drag myself out of a funk, or get out of my own head, or just to reaffirm that I’m a real person and have both feet on the ground. As funny as that sounds, I’m kind of a daydreamer, and tend to get lost if I don’t have someone anchoring me to reality.

My anchor is in Utah right now for a Physics conference, oddly enough at the same ski lodge where my dad worked once. Luckily, today is one of those days where I like being alone. I was wide awake when he left at 8 am, but then I turned on a geeky podcast (on how nutrition affects our skin, hair, teeth) and fell right back to sleep. Too bad, because I could’ve learned something.

Anyway, I woke up hours later, after a series of bad dreams involving a fictitious heroine hiding from her murderous husband who started killing the whole family (don’t worry, she joined in on the killing eventually and was the only one standing at the end). The dreams confirm that I definitely have a cold, if my runny nose and mannish voice weren’t strong enough indications. Bizarre dreams are the ultimate diagnosis.

I decided I should get out of bed, since it was 1:30 in the afternoon, although Zora didn’t like that idea. Yep, she cuddles with me under the blanket—my little purring spoon. It’s sickeningly cute.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted savory or sweet, pancakes or eggs, so I came up with something seriously blog-worthy. I might have to make this all week. It’s basically crepe batter, the way my Oma taught me how to make it, but poured into one thick, flappable pancake-omelet hybrid. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious.

Give me a title, someone.

2 large eggs

2 Tablespoons flour (I used Sainsbury’s gluten-free mix)

Splash of whole milk (maybe ¼ cup—you want the batter to be thick, but pourable)

–       Thoroughly mix the ingredients above. I just cracked my eggs into one of those blender bottle things, and shook it all up. Worked like a charm!

–       Heat large non-stick pan to medium-high. Add butter. When a drop of water is flicked onto the pan and it sizzles, it’s ready. Pour in all of the batter.

–       When the edges are dry and the crepe no longer looks liquidy on top, flip it.

–       Cook other side on medium for another minute or two, just until the eggs set.

Now the fun part- fillings! I spread on some “soft cheese” (cream cheese), sliced avocado, and cooked bacon (“back rashers,” which shrivel up more than my beloved “streaky bacon,” but which are equally tasty). Salt and pepper. I rolled it up, and topped with a little honey (the opaque, creamy kind, please). And maybe some bacon grease, if we’re being honest.

The rest of the day has gone by quickly. I got a package in the mail from my mom: a birthday card and some gorgeous earrings that I’m wearing now. I cleaned the whole house, including wiping down the messy kitchen, fridge, bathroom, surfaces, etc. Vacuumed—or should I say hoovered? They call vacuums “hoovers” here. Drank PG Tips with coconut milk. Organized all of our clothes. I really like cleaning, but I realize I’m probably putting most people to sleep.

I needed to get some fresh air (even though I can’t smell much today), so I walked into Headington and put my new Waitrose membership card to good use. It’s sort of like Whole Foods—overpriced and basically like a toy store to me. I signed up for a free membership card basically for the promised cup of coffee with each visit, and was delighted to find out that I can get coffee, a latte, or a cappuccino (I opted for the last one). I can see myself seriously abusing that privilege. Since it’s my birthday on Monday, I also stocked up on Lindt dark chocolate (one bar with blueberries, and one with sea salt).

Now I’m in Starbucks, and it’s closing soon, so I’d better pack up. The rest of the night will include marathoning season 6 of Dexter, homemade pizza, and more hot beverages. All in all, a decent me-time Saturday.

This weekend’s pancakes

I like to make pancakes once a week. And in the never-ending quest to find the “best”– the elusive, fluffy-yet-hearty, nutritious-meets-indulgent pancake– I’ve tried too many recipes to count.

I haven’t found the perfect one yet, but this one comes pretty close. 

Made some modifications, of course:

-the rest of some coconut milk + whole milk, to use up what was in my fridge

-chia seeds instead of flax (either will work, and I decided buying a 2 lb. bag of chia seeds was a good idea, 2 years ago. I’m still working through that supply).

-coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, ’cause veg. oil is gross. Butter for the skillet, of course.

-sugar instead of honey, because my honey was a little too thick to mix in

-I used a standard gluten-free flour mix from Sainsbury’s, which works really well (rice flour + potato and tapioca starch is all that’s in it, I think). I’m not gluten-free, but try to cut down where I can, after reading some convincing scientific journal publications that suggest it’s not all that great for us).

-double the salt (I ❤ sodium).

 

I topped those babies with peanut butter and banana, as per usual.

Now it’s off to Headington to do some last-minute educational technology product summaries for the upcoming May print edition of my freelance work. I know you’re as excited as I am.

Long weekends and languages

I guess any weekend’s a long one when you don’t really need to be at a certain place at a certain time on Monday mornings. I took advantage of that and slept in. For once, I was up late on A Sunday night, because John and I were in the middle of Django Unchained. Tarantino movies might be a rare exception to the multitasking bad habit I have. We’re finishing the movie now, and it’s taking me forever to write this post, because it’s quite the captivating film. I can normally pause whatever I’m doing in order to meet my old lady bedtime, but last night the clock struck 12:30 before John reminded me how late it was.

See, this is already a really poorly organized post. Where was I?

Oh, the weekend. We rode our new bikes around different neighborhoods, stopping in Cowley to get some soup and hummus. We made our way through center city, stopping in Primark and Poundland for essential things like throw pillows, hardware and peanut butter, and finally, to check out Aldi in Botley. We lugged £35 of cheese, milk, coffee and a huge kitchen rug back home, covering around 8-10 miles overall. The weather could have been warmer, but at least the skies were dry.

On Sunday, I woke up with a stomach ache (which actually started Friday night, and has just been a persistent stabbing pain since then. It comes and goes but I’m hoping it goes for good soon). It was even colder that day, so we passed on the bikes and bundled up for a walk into Headington, after a hearty “streaky bacon” (that’s “regular” bacon for Americans– British bacon is less marbled and cut wider), eggs and “soft cheese” on naan. I worked on my CV (Brits never call it a resume, for whatever reason) and tried to eavesdrop on the conversation of the French guys next to us.

And that brings me to the second part of this post’s title: languages. I thought I’d hear more American English here, but the language I’ve heard most often (aside from English, obviously) is French. I sat in Starbucks for a good two hours today, and at least 3 groups of people around me were parlez-ing francais. Unfortunately, my grasp of it has slipped so much since I graduated with that pointless BA in French 5 years ago, that I couldn’t understand any of it. But hey, if its the norm here to hear copious amounts of French in every Starbucks, maybe it’ll come back to me in a few weeks.