Category Archives: Recipes

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.

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Birthday (Cake) Week

It’s the husband’s birthday on Thursday, and what better way to kick off a week of celebrating (because one day isn’t enough) with cake? Cakes, actually. This week I’ll be posting 4 recipes, because we both have 4 letters in our first names and John is turning something-4. 

First up is Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry crumb cake, which is currently in the oven. I’m a little nervous, because I don’t have a fancy stand mixer, nor the patience to mix with my adorably old-fashioned  egg beater device that you crank by hand. So, I mixed all the liquid ingredients at once with my trusty stick blender, and hoped for the best. Also, my oven temperatures are kind of a joke. There’s a dot for 175 C, and then again for 200 C, so I had to guess where 190 was. And finally, of course I don’t have a 9-inch cake pan, so I used a small round (5-inch, maybe) souffle dish and a 4 x 8-inch glass baking dish. 

Everything I’ve read about baking warns you to be precise (in ingredients, tools, temperatures and times) but I usually have good luck just winging it. Except for those failed lemon-rosemary cookies that turned into one big puddle. 

Oh, I found another stranger’s shopping list today. This one is less interesting but also more confusing than last week’s edition, so I figured I’d share: 

– Method wood polish (I’m a shameless Method fan, too).

– milk

– milk for children (they need different milk than adults?)

– Peper Shop (no idea)

– black chorizo (I’m pretty sure this doesn’t exist)

– Gaugin Guitars or Picasso instruments (they definitely don’t sell these at Waitrose)

My prediction is that the owner of this list is a housewife who can’t spell, and who believes your age should determine the kind of milk you drink. I hope she finds her black chorizo someday.

P.S. The cake looks good!

Fighting screen-time

John and I are upstairs with our neighbor Mike and his cousin, watching crappy reality tv. Mike is about to take a bath (a totally normal thing to do when you have company, right?) and the smell of his Lush bath salts is torturous. It’s been a long week already, and a bath sounds SO good. And I never take baths.

I wrestled for a good 5 minutes with the idea of blogging today. That’s right, I verb-ed that word. I’m a serious blogger now. I fought the (urge to) blog, and the… Well, you know the rest, because you’re reading this.

I like writing, but I don’t like my bloodshot eyes at the end of a long day, 8 hours glued to the computer, interspersed with meals and commuting, finished off with a few more hours of multiple screens, including but not limited to iPads, laptops, TVs. Er, tellys (tellies?)

Have I become one of those (eye-roll inducing) anti-technology people? I don’t think so, but lately I do seem particularly drawn to open windows, staring at my cats, meditating over simmering massaman curry chicken noodle soup. Avoiding the pixels when I can.

I got a flat tire (tyre) today, and ended up taking a new way home from the overpriced repair shop in Cowley. Passed a nice park, huffed up the hill to the appropriately named Hilltop Road, weaved through the JR hospital parking lot. Just when I thought things were getting familiar, Oxford continues to surprise me.

Thai Curry Noodle Soup (totally improvised and seconds-worthy)

coconut oil
2 T curry paste (I used massaman)
1 large shallot, halved & thinly sliced
2 birds eye chilies, de-seeded and diced, optional
1-2 chicken breasts, diced
14 oz can coconut milk
Handful (a bundle?) wide rice noodles
1T lime juice
1 T fish sauce

1. Heat a spoonful of oil over medium in saucepan. Add curry paste and stir-fry for a minute.
2. Add onions and chilies. I forgot to de-seed and our eyes were watering with each bite.
3. Add can of coconut milk, then fill the can up with water and dump that in as well.
3. In a frying pan, add a little oil and stir-fry the chicken over medium-high, until lightly browned on all sides. Add chicken to saucepan.
4. Did you catch that mistake?
5. Submerge noodles (broken in half worked for me) and cover. Bring to boil, then simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Finish with lime juice and fish sauce (for the brave) and enjoy!

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.

Don’t make this about the rain

That’s not really a title inasmuch as a little note to myself to not whine about the rain. That’d make me the typical American tourist, right? So, I will not write about biking 4 miles uphill (both ways) through the cold wind to get to a job interview that I was late for and riding home, slaughtered by an angry rain that left me with water pouring out of my shoes. Nope, won’t do it.

I will write about my second attempt at pizza, because it went better than the first, even though once again the dough lacked sugar for the yeast to gobble up. But this time the recipe came from an expert in all things dough, Jim Lahey, and his no-knead crust truly is worth the hype. It’s hard to improve upon genius, but here are some tips that work for me, including two new ones:

1. Bring your dough to room temp. at least an hour before go-time. You’ll want to makesure it’s not sticky, so get your hands dirty (with flour). And if you can avoid turning your kitchen into a floury mess within the next five minutes, tell me your secret.

2. Handle the dough gently (to avoid hurting its feelings). Meaning, don’t roll it into oblivion with a bowling pin, just gently lift and stretch from the corners. I don’t have a pizza stone, so I baked on parchment+a baking sheer.

3. Throw pan with dough in oven as it preheats, maybe 3-4 minutes or so. Watch it carefully. You just want it to get a little firm, not bake. This helps avoid a soggy crust, as does this next tip:

4. Top partially-baked crust with thin layer of olive oil, then your sauce and toppings. A random Internet commenter argues that this prevents the sauce from soaking into the base, preserving that crispy crust. It sounds plausible.

5. Never trust bake times. Since it’s baked in a hot-as-possible oven, pizza can go from underdone to burnt fairly quickly. Just watch it like a hawk, which you’ll be doing anyway, because there’s something magical about seeing your creation spring to life in the oven.

If anyone makes this and wants to wax poetic about pizza, please report back! No, seriously. It can’t be just me.

I wasn’t planning to ramble about pizza, though. I was going to offer a lighter topic than the last post, heavy in statistics and journal citations, so here’s an enlightening list of some cultural differences that are on my mind this week. Now I am being that obnoxious American tourist. But my aim is to admit the wrong of my ways, because the differences I’ve noticed are all positive.

1. People don’t wear a lot of clothes here. Wait, that sounded wrong. I’ll explain by giving you a glimpse into our home: a washing machine that looks like it belongs in a dollhouse, and already too many drying racks. We have to be picky about what to wash (do we want to wear it again soon?), when (things take a while to dry– when do we need this sweater or towel or pair of jeans?), and how often (one load needs to finish drying so the next one can be hung up). I think this type of setup is common in these little houses/apartments, and Europeans (gross generalization, I know) just don’t have extensive wardrobes.

kitchen storage and washer
teeny-tiny washing machine

Basically, I should have packed 1/6 the amount of clothes that I did, because that’s how much I actually wear. When something is dry, I’ll most likely wear it again, rather than dig for that other shirt or pair of socks.

Okay, I have a cat on my lap, telling me to put down the laptop and put up my feet. Because it’s Friday. And all I want to do is watch Homeland, and eventually pass out at an embarrassingly early bedtime. You’ll have to wait for the continuation of this list ’til tomorrow. Or Monday. My blogging habits are sporadic at best, and I’m not going to apologize for it.

Have a nice weekend!

A picture post

Dear audience of 5,
My apologies for taking so long to put up another post. This week flew by, and I find myself sitting here on a snowy (you read that right) Sunday afternoon, finally getting around to photo edits.

First, I suppose I should address what’s on my mind above all the good stuff, because somehow the negative always rises to the top, like oil above water or an alka-seltzer tablet. I applied for a library marketing job and around 2 part-time library assistant jobs, among others. You can see where I’m going with this– I basically don’t handle rejection well. I knew the first job was a stretch (I don’t have an MBA) but part-time library assistant? Shelving books, using databases, customer assistance? I hardly think I’d fail there. I can’t take my own advice that I’d give to others in this situation: it’s not you; it’s who you know, not what you do; be patient, the right job is just around the corner.

I finally shook some sense into myself when I remembered that I’m not here to chase a 9 to 5 or any job, for that matter. I need to enjoy my time off, and not feel so damn guilty about it. With that, let’s move along.

A crisis happened yesterday morning: we were out of eggs. Some Googling for ingredients I had on hand led me to this gem of a blog, but of course I’m incapable of following a recipe without making five thousand tweaks. My improvisation (based, again, on what I had in the kitchen) led to a pretty awesome breakfast, so I thought I’d share the results.

Hearty Oatcakes
Yields: 4 decent-sized pancakes

2 cups oats (instant or rolled)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 Tbsp soy flour (could sub flax seed)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar

Butter (or bacon grease. Yes, I save that stuff in a jar and cook with it. You should, too!)

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients up to and including milk in a food processor (or large bowl, and use your immersion blender like I did) and blend until smooth. Fold in baking powder, soda, sugar.
2. Heat grease in a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat. It’s ready when you throw a drop of water on the pan and it sizzles. Lower heat to medium.
2. Ladle about 1/2 cup of batter onto pan and let cook for 4 minutes on each side. You want the edges to look a little dry before flipping. These pancakes won’t get quite “bubbly” like those made with flour. The second side will take about 3 minutes to cook, and I’d recommend carefully monitoring your heat (i.e. lowering it a notch as you go along).
3. Serve warm with peanut butter and chocolate syrup if what you really wanted for breakfast was a Reese’s Cup (guilty) or your favorite toppings.

John and I biked all around town yesterday, in the rain. Just like the locals. We happened upon a chocolate festival and scored some delicious samples of fudge and something called Scottish butter toffee…or something. Whatever it was, it was good. I also met a nice labrador-mix from Oklahoma, who only intensified my desire to get a dog. I remembered to snap photos for once. Not of the dog; that would’ve been slightly too forward. You’ll also see that our home is shaping up, with nice little touches, including a tv stand I scored for £3!

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