Salted Dark Chocolate Cookies with Ginger and Coconut

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Emily had a yoga circle for her 40th birthday last week. It was such a gift to be there in that room, celebrating her and the love that wound its way around the studio.

One of the things the teacher (from Seattle Yoga Arts) said was, "Think of a strength of yours that you have in spades--something you've got extra of! Put that into the circle, and freely take from the circle what it is that you lack or want. I think of it as a 'give-a-penny-take-a-penny bucket'."

This morning, my mom and her best friends had a vintage sale (beautiful and beautifully arranged treasures) and I wanted to bring something. What I have in spades is SPEED in the kitchen and a mind and heart that's always wondering, "What can I bring? What can I give?" So I made this dough last night (almost all cookies benefit from a long time in dough form), baked them this morning, and brought them warm on a cookie sheet. All of us have gifts to give. Mine often happen to be cookies.

We are leaving for our annual Ross Lake trip tomorrow. I am loaded up on novels, bags of pulled pork for the dinner I'm in charge of, and an almost desperate readiness to get out of town, away from email, and away from laundry. As I do, I'm putting some gives and gets out into the world.

I want to give:

  • My love and attention to whoever is in front of me
  • Hospitality, warmth, and food to friends, family, and strangers
  • Good questions and intent listening (instead of advice--I'm working on that) 
  • Beauty and fresh perspective
  • Humor

 I want to receive:

  • Healing for my dog, who was diagnosed with a probable neurological disorder today. I cried at the vet's office and I'm sure it won't be the last time.
  • Guidance and energy for my consulting practice so I can keep giving my gifts in the world
  • Wisdom for the groups I'm leading at church and at Loretta's school, that I can provide good leadership and a non-anxious presence
  • A heart that still breaks for violence in Gaza, ebola in Liberia, and refugee children on the border

Thank you for being here with me. xo

Salted Dark Chocolate Cookies with Ginger and Coconut
Many of you will recognize the base of these cookies as my mom's famous chocolate chip cookies. I make them so many different ways, and this is one of them. Plan ahead, as an hour or two in the fridge will give your cookies the right consistency and more depth of flavor.

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. (2 cubes) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 pkg. 60% cacao chocolate chips
1 c. unsweetened big flake coconut
1/4 c. coarsely chopped candied ginger
flaked salt for topping 

In a medium bowl, combine flours, sugars, salt, and soda. 

Add melted butter, egg and egg yolk, and stir until almost combined. Add chocolate chips, coconut, and ginger and stir until just combined. Cover with platsic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight. If overnight, let it sit out for awhile so it's easier to scoop.

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Form dough into balls, press a bit of flaked salt onto each one, and bake about 10 minutes until firmed up and slightly golden on top but still a little underdone. Let cool completely.

Ginger Cranberry Scones

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Having less choice is a good thing.

When we have friends or family spend the night, I don't deliberate about what to make for breakfast. If we don't send someone on a donut run (if you lived near Lafeen's, you would too), I am predictable. Broiled eggs and some kind of scone, biscuit, or muffin. And more predictably than that, some version of these scones.

Isn't there so much pressure to be novel all the time? Pinterest, Rachel Ray's infinite hamburger combinations, piles and piles of new cookbooks being published every day. Do you want to know my little secret? I don't buy cookbooks! I love to browse at the bookstore and ones with beautiful photos certainly inspire me. And I will happily receive them as gifts. But I only own about 30 cookbooks. More than being frugal or trying to save space, the main reason I don't add to my collection is because all those possibilities overwhelm me. When it comes to making family dinners or something tried and true when we have company, those beautiful cookbooks don't seem to help me much.

I love to quote Christopher Kimball who says that most of us don't need more recipes. We just need to perfect a handful of things that we're good at. After that, it's easier to get inspired by novel things. For me, this repertoire is a few soups I can make in my sleep (minestrone, potato leek, lentil, mulligatawny), anything that can be baked all together on a big sheet pan (sausages with peppers, salmon with bok choy, chicken thighs with practically anything), a few pasta basics (puttanesca, tomato cream sauce with lots of sauteed veggies melting into the sauce), frittatas, and some sweets--galettes, pies, scones, biscuits. Sometimes (or most the time?), much as I love food, I don't really have the energy to THINK about being novel, let alone actually doing it. 

I love these scones, based on a recipe from Nick Malgieri's How to Bake, for many reasons. They can be made in the food processor. They're full of oats. The dough is soft but still easy to work with, and they emerge moist and sturdy at the same time. Three cheers for predictability!

Ginger Cranberry Scones
So many things can be subbed out for the ginger and dried cranberry. Add raisins. Or no dried fruit. Or take the sugar out and add shredded cheddar and dried dill instead. I often serve them that way with soup. Or make your own chai spice mixture and use dried apricots and figs.

1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. oats
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cube unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. candied ginger, finely chopped 

For topping:
1/4 c. buttermilk
cinnamon sugar mixture 

Preheat oven to 400.

In a food processor, combine first 8 dry ingredients and pulse a couple times to mix.

Add butter and pulse about 10 times until butter is in pea-sized lumps. Add buttermilk, cranberries, and ginger and pulse just until dough holds together, about 5 or 6 times.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead a couple times, then divide the dough into two equal balls. Using your hands, flatten each round until it's about 1" thick and cut each round into 6 equal wedges for a total of 12 triangular scones. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush each scone with buttermilk and spinkle a generous amount of cinnamon sugar over each. Bake for 12-15 minutes, watching carefully after 10 minutes so they don't get too crunchy on the outside. Let them cool for a few minutes before serving plain or with butter.

Salted Chocolate Cookies with Ginger and Coconut

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These really are worth reading about. Stay on the line.

As you must know by now, food is the way for me to talk about everything else. And since tomorrow is Mother's Day, I've got a few things on my mind.

As I've become a mother, I have really mixed feelings a about Mother's Day. I look forward to the cards my kids make me, and if I'm lucky Wyatt will write me a poem. I look forward to lounging around in the morning and sometimes reminiscing about having babies or what life was like before half my budget went to Target.

But...

There should be a Women's Day instead of Mother's Day. A day to honor whatever thoughtful choices we have made in our lives. 

Deciding not to be a mother is full of integrity. And brave. Our culture puts so much emphasis--overtly and subtly--on motherhood as the fulfillment of womanhood. I have been blessed, over and over again, by women in my life who are not mothers. They have more energy for their work in the world. They're less distracted, and they have a lot of love left for my children!

Longing for motherhood and not experiencing it is painful. I don't know about this firstand (2 weeks from decision to fertilization in this household!), but I know from listening and being with lots of women. I've learned never to be cavalier about it or assume anything. Everyone's got a story, and some of them are full of pain and broken dreams.

The maternal spirit comes in many forms. It comes with godmothers and godfathers. It comes with anyone who lovingly takes care of children for a living or as a favor. It comes whenever there's care for a dying, sick, or disabled person. It comes in how we connect with and care for our pets. In the Buddhist way, what would happen if we saw ourselves as mother to everyone AND saw everyone in our community as mother to us? A lot of love going around. And you don't have to actually be a mother to experience that. 

My children don't owe me anything. I don't need to be thanked for bringing them into the world--that was my choice, not theirs! They didn't ask to be born. I've always said that the decision to have children can be construed as selfish, and the decision not to have children can be construed as selfish. The truth is that all of us are just caught up in the mystery of living and we are doing the best we can.

The biggest reward of motherhood is relationship. And that can come in so many ways beside motherhood! No matter how it comes, it's still something we have to choose every day. I could co-habitate with my children, feed and clothe them, AND go to all their soccer games and still not really be in relationship with them. You can be a loving aunt on the other side of the country and REALLY have relationship if you're intentional. Surprise! Intention is the key. Having needy, dependent creatures that come from your own body might be the shortcut to relationship because I don't have to coordinate anything to see them! There are so many ways to have deep, intentional relationship with children or others in our lives, but it all requires work.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone. Every one of us is a son or daughter. Every one of us came from a mother and is going back to our Mother. Maybe you've landed on work that has exposed and deepened your maternal spirit. Maybe you've sat with the dying. Maybe you've negotiated a difficult relationship with your Mother and come out the other side, more reflective and more interesting. Or maybe you're nursing a newborn as you read this, and there are absolutely no words to describe how raw and how "yourself" that feels. 

Happy Mother's Day to my mom. Thank you for all the beautiful picnics our family went on, and your love of suprises. Thank you for being there when my children were born and throwing your love and energy into grandparenthood. Thank you for your great style, your appreciation of beauty, and bringing the party with you wherever you go. I love you.

Happy Mother's Day to these cookies. How's that for a transition? I really wouldn't mind being a direct descendent of these chewy, spicy, expletive-worthy morsels. That wouldn't be a bad lineage. And, fittingly, these are my Mom's chocolate chip cookies with some variations. I made them for my physical therapist, whose care for me in the past year has made me feel more like myself. Happy Mother's Day to her, too.

Salted Chocolate Cookies with Ginger and Coconut
This dough needs to be refrigerated, so plan ahead a bit. No mixer needed here. As with most cookies, watch them very carefully in the oven and take them out before they look done.

2 c. old fashioned oats
1 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 egg plus one egg yolk
1 c. (2 cubes) melted unsalted buter, cooled
1 c. unsweetened coconut chips (large flakes)
1/2 pkg (or more) dark chocolate chips
1/3 c. chopped candied ginger
flaked salt for tops 

Combine oats, flour, salt, soda, and sugars in medium mixing bowl. Add egg, egg yolk, and  cooled melted butter and stir until almost combined. Add coconut, chocolate chips, and ginger, and stir until just mixed. Refrigerate dough for an hour.

Heat oven to 350. Form dough into balls (about 2 Tb. per ball) and set onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Press a bit of flaked salt into the tops of each cookie. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until they're just baked. Remove from oven and cool. 

Pimm's Cup

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Clearly, I'm trying to extend our vacation. Pimm's Cup on a weeknight. More than one glass of it, too.

Yancey and I had a Pimm's Cup last week at the White Horse Trading Company in Post Alley. It's the sweetest, coziest, little pub, only open at night, and we've peered in there a million times, always meaning to go. We had been out for a delicious dinner, walking all night, and were back at the anniversary hotel room, eyes half-closed, when Yancey said, "We have to go to White Horse. Let's rally." It's incredibly hard to leave a Pokemon-free, clean room with the potential of room service. And The Food Network. But I rallied, and that turned out to be a wise choice. We cozied up to the bar, and I got their delicious version of this vintage drink, made with five kinds of wine, brown sugar, and fresh lemon juice. When the bartender learned it was our anniversary, he set a chocolate truffle in front of me and poured he and Yancey shots of sake. Yancey and I watched the probable first dates around us, wished them well, and were glad not to be enduring all the requisite angst. Give me soggy Pokemon cards and fights about laundry piles anyday.

This version is made with Pimm's Cup (available at your local liquor store), simple syrup, lemon juice, and lots of other aromatics. It is a Superstar Summer Refresher. One of the best I've ever had. Kind of a musky, more intriguing sangria, a drink that will make you feel like wearing your most floppy straw hat and learning to play bridge. Or maybe it will be just enough to get you off the couch, turning off Food Network, and having a little celebration of your own.

Pimm's Cup

Makes 4-6 drinks. The essentials here are the liquor, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Everything else is optional, though it looks so gloriously over-the-top all soaking together in the pitcher. I let it sit for less than an hour because I was impatient, but the original recipe on Epicurious says to let it sit for 1-3 hours. I imagine the all the floaty things would be more important in that case. I found this amount of sugar to be just right, but you can certainly decrease it to your taste.

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
2 c. Pimm's No. 1 (a blend of gin, liqueurs, and fruit extracts)
1 c. fresh lemon juice
1 thinly sliced lemon
1 orange, halved, and thinly sliced
1 6" long piece cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds
1 3" long piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced into coins
1/4 c. fresh mint leaves
club soda
ice cubes

Stir sugar and 1/2 c. water in saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Combine Pimm's and next six ingredients in a large pitcher. Mix in sugar syrup, mashing slightly to release flavors. Cover; chill at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

Fill glass with ice, then cocktail, leaving an inch at the top for club soda. Top with a splash (I don't like too much--just enough to make it fizzy).