[The Pacific from the blowhole, Point Reyes National Seashore 2015.]
Happy new year! I hope your holidays were merry and bright and full of delicious bites and warming drinks. We were asleep by 9:30 on new year’s eve – welcome to parenthood of a young child – but up early on the first day of 2015 with plans for a hike in the Point Reyes Seashore. I made cheese and avocado sandwiches, tucked a bar of good dark chocolate into the backpack along with a few mandarin oranges, filled the water bottles, and left Sierra with her grandparents while we drove through the sun along Tomales Bay. Highway 1 was mostly empty except for a few intrepid bikers here and there and our Hardcore espressos fueled us along the trail for 4+ miles out and back. It was warm and clear at the coast and the Farrallons seemed close enough to touch. Mostly what I think when I am here (and what I always did think) was California, you are so good to us. And, thank you.
Gratitude is a worthy emotion to clasp no matter the day but particularly on the first of a shiny new year it’s one to hold tight. I’ve been sorely neglecting it of late and I hope if it’s not my word of intention for 2015 at least to find more peace with it in these coming months.
My state, the golden state, has been burnished and bright with sun for the past few weeks and we’ve taken full advantage. Just after Christmas we spent a few days up north on the coast at Sea Ranch where we drank loads of coffee and cuddles a wee sick girlie while looking out at the Pacific. The quiet, the deep blue of the ocean, the space and emptiness were like a balm. I feel my inspiration seeping back with every trip to the redwoods, every back roads run, every walk along a wide and empty beach. I want to save it up for when I go back to North Africa; alas, I’ve learned during this past year it just doesn’t work that way. So I try to appreciate the time we have left here and will plan a trip home again soon. All the yoga classes I’ve taken have taught me to be in the moment and, well, that’s another one of those tricky emotions I hope to catch hold of more this year.
Unsurprisingly we’ve eaten very well in and out of my parents’ house (the burrito consumption has gotten wayyyy out of hand and I’m not sorry. Plus the coffee. Damn have I missed really good coffee.). I’m rather pleased to say that while I’ve done a bit of baking it hasn’t gotten too out of hand. I will share a recipe for some killer – and simple – vegan chocolate chip cookies very soon but before then I want to post a recipe for the flourless/gluten-free sugar cookies I made on Christmas eve with Emily. Though we had plenty of treats in the house I was admittedly obsessed with the idea of making a plate of (gluten-free) Christmas cookies. So we did. We made the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies from flourless., a batch of vegan gingery thins, and two baking sheets-worth of lightly spiced sugar stars. I adapted the recipe from my standby Fannie Farmer cookbook which rarely fails to deliver reliable baked goods recipes.
I swapped the all purpose flour for a basic mix of oat flour and white rice flour. We decided to take Fannie’s suggestion to add a few holiday spices and sliced almonds and then at the end! a bit of mandarin zest since there’s been a pile of them on the counter almost since we arrived and we eat them like candy around here. The cookies are lightly sweet and not at all crumbly and hold up impeccably as part of a cookie plate or simply with afternoon tea. If I weren’t finally veering back into salt tooth territory after over a year of choosing sweets over savory I’d probably bake more cookies as soon as I hit ‘post’. As it is this one is definitely going in my holiday cookie arsenal for next year and beyond.
Wishing you peaceful and cozy and sunny days ahead.
Again, if you do not need to keep gluten-free substitute all purpose flour for the gluten-free flour mix. If you prefer a traditional sugar cookie omit the spices and orange zest. You may also make these as drop cookies with good results. To make dairy-free: use vegetable margarine for the butter and a nut milk for the milk or cream.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies depending on what size you cut them.
1/4 pound butter at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cream or milk
1 cup finely ground (gluten-free) oat flour
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped sliced almonds
finely grated rind of 1 (organic) mandarin orange
Heat oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy then add the sugar; beat until light. Add the egg, vanilla, cream or milk, and continue beating until well incorporated.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, spices, baking powder, salt, almonds, and orange zest. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until well blended.
If using cookie cutters, roll out the dough on a well-floured (I used rice flour) counter or board and cut out cookies until dough is used up. Alternatively, use a teaspoon or cookie scoop to form cookies. Arrange on prepared baking sheets 1 inch apart.
Place in oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until very lightly browned – try not to over bake! Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheets a few minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.