Oatmeal Wheatgerm Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes I think I am the human incarnation of the Cookie Monster. “Me want cookie” all the time.

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I don’t just like eating cookies, I like baking them. They don’t take much time, but keep me occupied for long enough to clear my head. My mind has been racing for the past few weeks as I completed another round of auditions, accepted a new job offer, and re-entered the dating scene. All of these experiences and changes have given me lots to think about… and stress about… so I needed to zone out for a bit!

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Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery has an incredible Oatmeal Wheatgerm Chocolate Chip cookie. I like to pretend it is healthy (duh… oats and wheatgerm are good for you!), even though it’s loaded with sugar and is about the size of my hand. For my cookie therapy Monday afternoon, I decided to re-create this tantalizing treat.

After a successful first experience baking with coconut oil a couple weeks ago, I decided to use coconut oil instead of butter. The combination of coconut oil and wheatgerm gave the cookies a delicious nutty taste. Whole wheat flour, a dash of cinnamon, and Madagascar vanilla extract added more complexity. This is possibly my new favorite cookie recipe!

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Oatmeal Wheatgerm Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields 5+ dozen cookies

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup wheatgerm
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease large baking sheets and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour, wheatgerm, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and set aside. In another large bowl, beat coconut oil and sugars together with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the oat mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Shape dough into 1-inch rounds and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake on center rack for 12 minutes. Cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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Unless you have a lot of people to share these with, I recommend halving the recipe. Having 5 dozen delicious cookies on my hands is really challenging my self-control! I’ve split the remaining cookies into packs of 6 to give to friends/co-workers/random strangers tomorrow.

What are your favorite cookies?

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Since Easter is right around the corner, I busted out my bunny apron while I was baking and included it in my photos. As you may notice, this is the same apron Lindsey used in the Buckwheat Granola post. Shout out to Mama T, the giver of the bunny aprons!

Happy Eating!

-C

Buckwheat Granola and Other Musings

Spring is officially here!

Bust out the colorful bowls!

Bust out the colorful bowls!

Though winter is holding on tight (we have a chance of snow again this weekend…), there is a shift in the energy lately. The extra hour of daylight, the first purple buds popping up on the trees, and the daffodils offering a sunny “hello!” hint of the good things that are just around the corner. I for one am anxiously awaiting the opening of the City Market on April 6!

In the mean time, I’m making basics like granola, and busting out my bunny apron to use as a photography backdrop.

Buckwheat granola

Buckwheat granola

This week has been busy, but in the best way possible. Early in the mornings, my yoga practice has taken a step forward as I started learning the Advanced A series (just the first two poses), and returned to practicing tic-tocs after a few weeks of taking it easy. In the day time, work is going well, and I have been enjoying many new opportunities to expand my leadership in the past few weeks. On weekends, we have been seeing a lot of our family, with more to come next weekend for Easter.

Life is good.

So is this granola.

Simple and Delicious

Simple and Delicious

Inspired by many other bloggers, I have been exploring buckwheat in many forms lately. I bought a big bag of raw buckwheat groats in bulk, and have been using them as a crunchy topping for salads and smoothies, blended as breakfast porridge, cooked into oats, ground into flour for muffins, and tossed with oats, pecans, and sunflower seeds in this simple granola.

You could add coconut flakes or dried fruit, but I decided to keep things simple. Pecans are by far my favorite breakfast nut (yes, that is a thing), especially when they are toasted. I used the overnight method, and was once again pleased with the crunchy result (not to mention the delicious aroma in my kitchen).

Granola

Granola pile

Buckwheat Granola

Inspired by Kath Eats

Ingredients

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup raw pecans
  • 3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • scant 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Method

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring at 15 minutes intervals. Turn the oven off and leave granola in the oven overnight. In the morning, it will be perfectly crunchy!

This week's breakfast, on repeat.

This week’s breakfast, on repeat.

Simple, no fuss, perfectly delicious, homemade granola–what more could you ask for?!

I have been enjoying the same breakfast all week– Greek yogurt, sliced banana, a drizzle of coconut milk, a drizzle of Blackstrap molasses, and granola on top! I’m not usually a “repeat” kind of girl when it comes to breakfast, but this combo is so good, I’ve just wanted more and more of it.

Hope your Spring is off to a wonderful start!

-L

Spinach, Pesto and Sausage Pizza

Pizza is often used to teach math, especially fractions and percentages.

I recently finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which, for one year, Kingsolver and her family ate almost entirely locally. They live on a farm which enables them to raise poultry and tend an incredible garden. At the end of each chapter, Kingsolver’s daughter Camille shared her thoughts, recipes, and seasonal weekly meal plans. I was inspired by the Kingsolver’s weekly pizza night to make my own pizza as close to 100% from scratch as possible.

Let’s see how I did with my “pizza math”.

The Elements

  • Crust
  • Sauce
  • Pesto
  • Cheese
  • Sausage
  • Spinach

Crust: 100% made from scratch

Pizza Dough, pre-rise

Pizza Dough, pre-rise

I often purchase pre-made pizza dough from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to have on hand to make pizza at home. But this time, I overcame my “fear” of yeast, and whipped up Camille’s recipe for pizza dough.

It was so easy, and delicious!

Note to self: make your own dough more often…

Sauce: 50% made from scratch

Pizza sauce ingredients

Pizza sauce ingredients

For the sauce, I followed my typical “recipe,” which involves throwing canned tomatoes and some seasoning into a pan. I used 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 can of diced tomatoes (I like my sauce chunky!) 1/2 cup red wine, a generous sprinkling of dried basil, a dash of red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine all ingredients and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.

Combined sauce, simmering

Combined sauce, simmering

While I have taken the step away from pre-made tomato sauces, opting instead to make my own from canned (no salt added) tomatoes, I give myself 50% on this one because I have yet to take the step towards canning my own tomato sauce. This is a definite goal for me this summer! I plan to grow tomatoes again this year (and maybe one or two other vegetables, but that is a story for another day), and I will definitely be canning my own 100% from scratch tomato sauce.

Pesto: 100% made from scratch

Pesto ingredients

Pesto ingredients

Our favorite pizza from Mellow Mushroom (our go-to take out pizza place) is Kosmic Karma, tomato sauce base topped with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, and a pesto swirl.

When I asked my husband what he wanted on our pizza, he asked me to recreate the Kosmic Karma. I was pleasantly surprised to find nice, local basil at the store, and jumped on the opportunity to make my own pesto, using walnuts instead of pine nuts (since that is what I had on hand).

Raw Basil Pesto

Raw Basil Pesto

Raw Basil Pesto

Inspired by Edible Perspective

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender and puree until smooth. Add water as needed to reach desired consistency (I used 3 Tablespoons).

Pre-baked pizza

Pre-baked pizza

The Toppings: 0% made from scratch

I decided to add a bit of sausage to our Kosmic Karma imitation. I used a Tuscan sausage made in-house at my local Whole Foods using local pork. While I am happy with this choice of meat, no from-scratch points for me here… though I’m not sure I will ever reach the point of making my own sausage…

As for cheese, I chose mozzarella and goats milk feta. Kingsolver has a chapter on cheese making, which peaked my interest in this unexplored area of kitchen science. Kath makes it look easy… I might be ordering rennet and experimenting with cheesemongering in the near future…

His and Hers pizza slices

His and Hers pizza slices

The spinach also gets 0% made from scratch since it was neither local nor home grown…

So, let’s add things up:

“Made From Scratch” Pizza Math

  • Crust – 100%
  • Sauce – 50%
  • Pesto – 100%
  • Cheese – 0%
  • Sausage – 0%
  • Spinach – 0%

Total: 41.67% made from scratch

Delicious!

Delicious!

Had I made this without the sausage, my percentage would have been much higher… Not bad for my first foray into homemade crust.

This pizza was delicious, and it gave me great joy to know that I had made so many of the elements from scratch. The added time spent making crust, sauce, and pesto was time well spent in the kitchen.

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

-L

Touring and Tasting San Francisco

Last week, two of my best friends from Texas finally came to visit.  I’ve talked San Francisco up quite a bit over the years, so I knew they were arriving with high expectations.  One of my favorite things about San Francisco is the diversity of the city.  Each neighborhood is distinctly different, and I wanted to show them as many areas as possible.  We ate our way through the city, taking in the sights as we went.

San Francisco, from the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco, from the Golden Gate Bridge

Day 1: Come Fly With Me

Before picking my friends up at the airport Wednesday night, I made a batch of banana muffins, using Jenna’s banana bread recipe as a guide.  If you have not yet read her book, White Jacket Required, I highly recommend it!  These little muffins were great to have available for breakfast or snacks while my friends were in town.

Banana Muffins

Banana Muffins

The girls arrived hungry after a long flight.  We dropped their luggage at my apartment, then went straight to the Blue Jay Cafe for dinner.  This colorful little spot serves up hearty comfort food at low prices.  They have an extensive side list, full of tasty options, so 2 of us ended up ordering plates of sides.  Our favorites were the mac and cheese and brussels sprouts, with sweet potato fries close behind.  We chatted the night away, finally falling into bed in the wee hours of the morning.

Day 2: Coffee, Carne, and Cacao

Cafe Au Lait

Cafe Au Lait

Thursday morning I had a client to see in the Financial District.  My friends came along and stopped at Coffee Bar, a small cafe that I frequent, while I went to the studio to teach.  As soon as I was through, we hit the ground running!  My roommate, another friend from Texas, joined us as we walked to the Ferry Building and grabbed lunch at Il Cane Rosso.  All 4 of us ordered the sunchoke soup.  I paired it with half a pork sandwich, and the girls both had half a beef brisket sandwich.  It was all delicious!

Pork Sandwich and Sunchoke Soup

Pork Sandwich and Sunchoke Soup

After perusing the shops at the Ferry Building, we continued up the Embarcadero to Tcho, my favorite chocolate maker in San Francisco.  I loved the chocolate tasting at Tcho after my tour a few months ago, and I was excited to experience it again.  The second tasting did not disappoint!  My friends liked the milk chocolate best, while I was partial to the “Nutty” dark chocolate.  This stop reminded one of my guests of a visit to Ghirardelli when she was a little girl.  We decided to make it a chocolate day, and continued walking to Ghirardelli Square.  We checked out the views from the square, rested briefly by a fire pit, then got some ice cream at the cafe.

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square

I had planned to take the girls to Absinthe, but after a day of rich, sweet food, we were craving something a little lighter.  We ended up going to Lers Ros, also located in Hayes Valley, for Thai food instead.  We shared a green papaya salad with prawns, pad thai, and red curry with chicken.  By the time we walked home, we were all worn out!

Red Curry with Chicken

Red Curry with Chicken

Day 3: Around the World in 12 Hours

Anxious for something “normal”, I started Friday with coffee and a bowl of oatmeal at home before going to ballet class at ODC.  One of the Texas gals joined me, and we had a great time dancing together for the first time in 3 years.  The three of us teamed back up after class and went to lunch at La Boulange.  This French bakery has a number of locations in San Francisco.  It has good coffee, delicious pastries (almond croissants… mmmm), and nice salads and sandwiches.  My Nicoise salad was great, and the girls enjoyed their egg salad sandwich and quiche/soup combo.

Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad

We were joined by another dancer friend of mine, and journeyed through the Gates to China Town.  Spotting a familiar sign for free tea tasting, I led them into Vital Tea Leaf.  Lindsey and I had an amusing visit to this little store during her first visit to SF years ago.  Our favorite teas of the day were a rose green tea and lychee oolong.  The young woman helping us was full of information, and also full of smiles.  We hit the street again, taking in the sights and sounds of Chinatown.  Turning right on Jack Kerouac Alley, we ended up outside the famous City Lights Books.

Tea Tasting

Tea Tasting

We continued walking on Columbus Avenue, into North Beach.  After a little pick-me-up, AKA gelato, at a sweet shop, we walked up to Coit Tower.  We opted not to go inside, but we enjoyed walking around the tower, seeing the beautiful views of the City and the Bay.  Walking back down the hill, we stopped at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, arguably the best pizza in SF.  We shared a Cal Italia and a Margherita pizza.  All I can say is “YUM!”  The tour continued as we walked across Lombard Street to see the crooked block, consisting of 8 sharp turns.  Fun fact: Vermont Street is actually the most crooked street in San Francisco, though it is less of a tourist destination.

Cal Italia at Tony's

Cal Italia at Tony’s

The day concluded at the War Memorial Opera House, where we watched our friend perform with the renowned San Francisco Ballet.  The highlight of the program was Yuri Possokhov’s new Rite of Spring.  After the performance, we went to get a drink at Dobb’s Ferry with a couple dancers.

Coit Tower

Coit Tower

Day 4: It’s Always Sunny in the Castro

I had to neglect my post as tour guide on Saturday morning and go to work!  I met up with my friends to see the matinee performance of San Francisco Ballet’s Program 4.  I thought Scotch Symphony looked more solid than when I saw it last season, but my favorite piece of the day was Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour.  I was feeling restless after working at a desk all morning and sitting through the performance, so I was happy to move as we walked to the Castro.

Cosmos and Food

Cosmos and Food

My SF girlfriends and I used to frequent Cafe Flore to take advantage of their Saturday 2-for-1 special on Cosmos.  I was happy to share this spot with my Texas girls.  Cafe Flore has a a beautiful outdoor patio (with heat lamps), good food, and an entertaining staff.  After a drink and a late lunch/early dinner, we moved on to Hot Cookie.  As we ate our cookies, we continued wandering.  I gave a brief history lesson when we passed Harvey’s, but mostly stayed quiet as the girls took in the sometimes odd, but mostly awesome, neighborhood.

We ended the day at Cafe du Soleil, chatting over wine and coffee with a good local friend of mine and her out-of-town guest.  It was a great place to wind down!

Coffee

Coffee

Day 5: International Orange

Breakfast

Breakfast

The one thing my friends really wanted to do was walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Sunday morning, after grabbing coffee at Mojo Bicycle Cafe and pastries at the Divisadero Farmers’ Market, we made the trek to the bridge.  It was my first time to actually walk on the bridge!  I’ve biked across twice, but never have tackled it on foot.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we had a lovely walk across.  We wandered down through the Presidio, stopping to play around in Crissy Field, then went to the Marina.  Our first stop was lunch at The Grove.  After fueling up, we went window shopping.  We stopped at Kara’s Cupcakes for a treat before heading home to rest.  I had the special Bailey’s flavor, and my friends both had red velvet.  I want to play around with Bailey’s baked goods now!  It was so good.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

My roommate joined us for dinner.  Tapas and sangria at Picaro!  We ordered calamares fritos, broccoli con almendras, pollo al ajillo, tortilla de patata, and patatas aioli.  The broccoli and tortilla de patata were my favorite dishes.  We had a great time catching up all together, and laughed a lot.  I’ve had some great nights at this restaurant, but Sunday will join the ranks as one of the best.  We moved on to Lion Pub, where we enjoyed some delicious margaritas.

Bailey's Cupcake

Bailey’s Cupcake

Farewell

We stopped at Cafe Abir Monday morning before driving to the airport.  I was sad to see them go, but was happy to have had so much time with them.  I hope they understand now why I love San Francisco!  We laughed a lot, ate a ton, and walked a grand total of 23 miles.  It was a wonderful few days!

San Francisco

San Francisco

Happy eating!

-C

Further Lessons Learned in the Kitchen – Patience

Spending hours in the kitchen not only results in food that nourishes the body, but it is a process that nourishes my soul. It is time that allows me to disconnect from technology, from other concerns, and to focus on the task at hand.

Kale, Cabbage, and Quinoa Salad

Kale, Cabbage, and Quinoa Salad

It is also a time for me to experience powerful learning moments. In the kitchen, I have learned the value of process, as well as the value of failure. Most recently, I have been reminded of the value of patience.

Weeks ago, I picked up a bag of hazelnuts at the store, thinking about how incredible it would be to make hazelnut butter. Hazelnut butter soon turned into Nutella. So, last Saturday, after breakfast and crosswords with my husband, I placed 2 cups of hazelnuts into the oven for a quick 10 minute roast in order to loosen the skins.

I slowly and painfully** rubbed the skins off of the nuts, and placed them into the food processor.

Roasted hazelnuts

Roasted hazelnuts

**Do not do as I did and use your bare fingers…it will create a slight blister. Use the “kitchen towel” technique!

Once the hazelnuts were pulsed into a coarse meal, I added a few teaspoons of raw cacao, and kept on blending…. and blending… and blending…

Pulsed hazelnuts

Pulsed hazelnuts

But unlike when I have made other nut butters, that magic moment when things get creamy kept illuding me. Getting frustrated, I figured that I must need to add some moisture, so I added one, and then two, tablespoons of almond milk. The mixture became moist, but not smooth and creamy. Deciding that Nutella was no longer an option, I threw some dates into the mix and made “Nutella Bites.”

They aren’t great, but they are edible. I need to tweak some things before this recipe is “shareable.”

Nutella Bites

Nutella Bites

Curious to learn where I went wrong, I sat down and started to research (something that would have served me well before my experiment began…). I learned from Oh She Glows that I lacked the necessary patience. Getting the mixture to that creamy place can take a full 15 – 20 minutes of constant processing.

So, my failed attempt at making Nutella, just like my failed attempt at making yogurt, was due to a lack of patience… And yet, the next day, I sliced, roasted, peeled, chopped, and simmered ingredient after ingredient to make a delicious, healthy, and hearty quinoa, cabbage, and kale salad, inspired by Ashley’s quinoa salad and Sarah B’s braised cabbage.

I documented the process with my iPhone, and the finished result was so beautiful, I just had to take some “real” photos to share this creation. On a slow Sunday afternoon, creating this colorful salad was a labor of love.

Sliced Cabbage

Sliced Cabbage

A 3 pound head of cabbage (the smallest I could find) is a LOT. I braised the whole head, but used only about half in this salad.

Cut in half and roasted for 10 minutes, then seeded, peeled, and cubed

Butternut Squash – Cut in half and roasted for 10 minutes, then seeded, peeled, and cubed, and roasted for an additional 15 – 20 minutes.

Squash is easier to deal with once it is softened.

Peeling a blood orange

Peeling a blood orange

Blood oranges are so beautiful – one of nature’s many delights!

Combine sliced kale, chopped orange, and chickpeas

Combine sliced kale, chopped orange, chickpeas, and dressing

I took at least an hour preparing this hearty salad that provided me with meals all week long. It occurred to me after the fact that while I continue to procrastinate my experiments in bread making because “it takes too long,” the active time to make bread is far less than the time I spent making this “easy” salad.

Add ~2 cups cooked quinoa

Add ~2 cups cooked quinoa

It’s all a matter of perception, I guess. Something about working with vegetables relaxes me. I love chopping them. Fresh herbs, however, often intimidate me with their “laborious” preparation process (i.e. washing, drying, and chopping). Clearly, my mental perception is slightly skewed.

Toss in squash

Toss in squash

Awareness is the first step, though, so fresh herb chopping and bread making loom on the horizon.

Braised cabbage

Braised cabbage

Perhaps because of the time and attention it took to prepare this salad, I delighted in eating it for lunch or dinner each day last week.

Last but not least, toasted pecans

Last but not least, toasted pecans

My patience was rewarded! With so many textures and flavors, this salad was great. I look forward to repeating it with variations here and there.

What lessons have you learned in the kitchen?

-L