Grain-free Midsummer Madness Cake

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This cake rocks, smothered in whipped cream — or with the cream served on the side. Enjoy with different fruits throughout the summer …

This post was supposed to be published yesterday on the 21st.  Due to technical difficulties it’s now today.  So please just pretend it’s yesterday ….

Today I woke in the dark to the sound of birds … from a dream in which I fell from an airplane with my father, tumbled through the air, down into the ocean and kept sinking all the way to the bottom. I pushed up off the ocean floor and thought I would have no problem reaching the surface. I could see the sunlight through the water, but it was a very long way, and I began to wonder if I’d make it. But I did. The first thing I remembered when I awakened was something I’m feeling sad about. The second thing was that it’s Midsummer.

Here in New Mexico it seems strange to celebrate light, when it exists in such overwhelming abundance. Most of the time I am trying to hide from its searing white hot blue glare. But in places of dark cold and frosty stars, the longest day of the year feels magical and almost impossibly sweet. With half my genes rooted in Scandinavia and a childhood in the Maine woods … Midsummer conjures up the fairies no matter where my tent is pitched.

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The first wild strawberry flowers never cease to be a miracle in the woods. So much sweeter and more precious even than the field grown.

We always had a party on the porch and often talked about heading to New Sweden, the little town up North where Midsummer is still celebrated in the traditional fashion with dancing around a pole, flower wreaths, and special foods. We never made it … because who wanted to get in the car and drive away from the Lake? My Mom, the keeper of holidays, baked Scandinavian style cakes all summer, but especially in June, when we had our gluttonous fill of strawberries after the measly produce offerings of the local A&P all winter. I would wait all year for the two weeks of ripeness, when we drove to the farm in the pre-sunrise darkness to join the other pickers in the fields with flashlights, bent on scoring the juiciest, reddest berries.

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Mom-made dress …

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… the summer before the exodus to Maine.

My mother had no desire to live in the wilds. Left up to her, I would have grown up a city girl, and who knows what I’d have become. It was my father, who hauled us to Maine from Manhattan, and hacked a life out of the wilderness. My grandparents back in Queens never forgave him for spiriting their only child and grandchildren off to what they perceived as Outer Siberia – and let’s face it, back in the 70’s that assessment of Northern Maine wasn’t too far off. Mom coped – rather brilliantly it must be said, given that she hadn’t chosen the outhouse or the unplowed road or the tarpaper walls or the months of endless snow. “Be cheerful” was her mantra, which got her through quite a bit of pioneer style craziness. She sewed all my clothes – her sewing machine never stopped whirring. She home-schooled my brother and me back when that was just plain weird – she learned and taught us all the plants, rocks, and animals we lived among and mapped the constellations, lying on the four foot thick lake ice on freezing nights. She filled long winter days with tea parties and art projects, igloo building and sledding, cooking and stories. Mom made a lot out of a little with almost no money in a place she never dreamed she’d be. In the end, a lifetime of living someone else’s script caught up with her, and it all came splintering apart in a spectacularly nightmarish mess … But that is another story.

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He loves me … he loves me not

Today we’re sticking with the summer solstice and the bliss of waking up to the fragrance of pine trees and a giant puffy golden Swedish pancake, smothered in butter, fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar … with absolutely nothing to do all day and for days ahead but swim and lie on the rocks reading, and swim some more. Mom would always go into town early before it got hot so the ice cream wouldn’t melt in the car, and on the way home she’d pick armfuls of wildflowers. She loved daisies best, but we picked anything that grew – black eyed susans, lupine, queen anne’s lace, goldenrod, lilacs … There were always flowers in the big copper kettle on the kitchen table. One recent summer, visiting home after a long absence, I filled the empty vases with familiar blooms and realized Mom was truly in another place when she didn’t notice, had no joy left in flowers.

Today my thoughts turn to my hometown, the lake and woods, my beautiful friend, Stephanie, another amazing mama, who is the epitome of Nordic beauty with her white blond hair and astonishing blue eyes. I miss her and haven’t kept in touch well enough. Steph’s Mom hails from Monson, a community settled by Finns in the 1800’s, who came to work in the slate quarries. At the Finnish Farmers’ Hall they still hold dances on summer nights, where you can whirl your sweetie around the old wood floor while fiddlers crank out the tunes and fireflies cavort outside. Stephanie also happens to be a talented baker, who makes the most delectable Finnish sweet rolls. Perhaps we’ll pry that recipe out of her come the holidays …

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Oh, how I miss fields of Maine lupines!

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Nothing like a pretty apron …

In celebration of Midsummer I’ve ordered up a copy of Faviken, the sumptuous cookbook by Swedish chef, Magnus Nilsson. Oh, yum, yuuuuum, I can’t wait til it arrives in the mailbox!! I’ll also be rereading my worn copy of the epic classic, Moominsummer Madness, which is definitely, hands-down one of the all time best books EVER WRITTEN. Along with all the rest of the Moomin series by Tove Jansson. If you are not yet acquainted with Moomintrolls, stop reading right this second, sprint to the nearest bookstore like your butt’s on fire, and grab any Moomin book you can get your hands on. If the store is closed, break in – it’ll be worth it – you can read the book while you’re in jail.

When you get out of jail, make this cake. Scandinavian desserts are divine in their simplicity, relying on lots of butter, subtle flavorings, and fruit. Please do me a favor, and do not get all hip and try to make this with coconut oil instead of butter. Excuse me, we’re Swedish – what the hell is a coconut?? Go out and milk the cow. This grain-free version of my Mom’s basic summer cake was inspired by a recipe from my good friend, Ann, whose little baby girl looks so much like a nissa (Swedish elf) I suspect she may in fact be one. You will get to try Ann’s recipe later on … this one is true to the Nordic dessert heritage, while skipping the flour and white sugar. Have a piece on the porch with your best friends. Have another after midnight skinny-dipping. Finish it off the next morning with some good strong coffee as you rev up to launch into summer …

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Home … actually a fall photo of the Lake but the only one I have on my laptop!

Grain-free Nordic Midsummer Madness Cake:

  • Two 15 oz. cans great northern beans

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    Strange bedfellows that make magic together!

  • 9 tablespoons butter
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup honey or maple syrup, plus a little more to taste
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

In addition you will need:

  • 16 oz. whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • dash ground cardamom
  • rosewater or vanilla
  • lingonberry (traditional) or raspberry (much easier to find) jam
  • two 16 oz. boxes of fresh strawberries
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
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Rhubarb … one of the first fresh things out of the ground in spring … such a treat!

Optional Rhubarb Sauce (highly recommended!):

  • 6 stalks rhubarb
  • maple syrup to taste
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Would you guess this had beans in it??

Making the cake is super simple – just put everything but the sliced almonds in a food processor, and hit the ON button. Whiz until everything is smooth, then add the sliced almonds and pulse just for a few seconds to mix. Pour batter into two 8 or 9 inch cake pans, and bake at 350 until firm in the center. Now you can make your rhubarb sauce if you want it. Chop rhubarb into chunks and add water to cover and maple syrup to make it as sweet as you like it. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the stalks completely break down, and the water has evaporated so it is all a silky saucy consistency. While the cakes are cooling, hull your strawberries. Slice half of them and drizzle with a splash of maple syrup. Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks, adding maple syrup, cardamom, vanilla and/or rosewater to taste.

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Breakfast, lunch & dinner! (And leave a piece for the fairies.)

When cakes are fully cool, put one layer on your prettiest plate, and spread the top with jam, a about half the strawberries, sliced, and half the whipped cream. You can also spoon some rhubarb sauce between the layers. Put the top layer on, cover with whipped cream, and the whole strawberries. Sprinkle sliced almonds over the top. I like to decorate with wildflowers too. There is an old Swedish custom of picking seven different wildflowers on Midsummer and putting them under your pillow to dream of the person you’ll marry. I think I’ll try it. Happy Midsummer, everyone!! May you walk in light, dear friends.

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Sugar Nomad makes a fast grab for the frosting, early in the game. Thanks, Mom, for all those cakes!

 

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LOVELY RAW LIME GODDESS POWER PIE

IMG_6347Just how many times do you have to bang your head against the wall before discovering that you can just take the wall down?? In my case it seems a LOT of times. That bruise on my forehead can get pretty huge and purple, but I just keep knocking away like a maniac until finally realization dawns … you are making this much more difficult than it needs to be. Ah hah.

Coming to the end of a fairly long cycle of simultaneous head banging and healing, love and not-love, learning and complete mental flat-lining, stops, starts and whirling in circles, I am thinking that perhaps it is time for a period of accelerated wall-disassembly. And I don’t think I can waste time rummaging around in various toolboxes, searching for the right implement. This calls for full on explosives. Ram in the dynamite, light the fuse, and stand back.IMG_6726

It’s at times like these when I start to pray particularly fervently to sweet mama moon and all her manifestations, every goddess ever to bless this little green blue space marble. I once read that if you call on the Buddhas, they will appear. Apparently, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. They just come – poof – like the genie in the lamp – except you don’t need the lamp, you just need your open heart. I’ve also heard the same thing from reliable sources about the spirit guides who are all around us. Just talk to them, and they’re there, ready to lend a hand. I choose to believe it’s the same deal with the goddess, and I talk to her a lot.

There is a ten mile loop around Santa Fe that I faithfully traverse every night. It’s my own loop that I found by wandering until the perfect path appeared … the way all the best paths reveal themselves. The time with my feet on dirt roads under the high desert stars is the part of my day that I most look forward to, and no matter how exhausted, frustrated, depressed, or flat out bamboozled I may be at the beginning … by the time I make the turn back up Fiesta Street, I am cured.IMG_6493

I have an awful lot of friends along the way – not human friends, but plants, animals, rocks, hills … these days even smells – that I say hello to every night. One of the dearest is a house I call the Guadalupe House even though the statue of Mary that stands over the adobe arch is actually Italian … Mary of the Miracles, I believe. Not being Catholic, I’m a little shaky on all the different versions of Mary that have popped up all over the place, but the short story is that I love this old, vacant house that once must have been bursting at the seams with family and, I imagine, lots and lots of prayers. There is a little house shrine inside the gate and a tile mosaic of Christ by the front door, whose face reminds me of the weathered faces of some of my patients. The house is built into the side of a hill so I always feel like I’m entering a little, enchanted hobbit domain when I slip inside and sit on the steps. It seems a good place to dream a few twilight dreams and pray my guts out.

Many nights I just stop and look up at the figure standing there, firmly planted in the adobe, silhouetted against the expanse of New Mexico stars. She has been covered in snow, lit by moonlight, battered by wind, but she’s there every night, arms spread, smiling beatifically and a little mysteriously.

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My goddess friend, Liana, digs into an early version of Goddess Pie …

Today’s creation is an offering to the goddess in us all. One bite of this and you’ll be radiating divine shakti all over the place – splattering it on whatever you touch … shooting gobs of it out your fingertips. And this is practically a vitamin in a piece of pie – in fact, it’s got way more good stuff than most vitamins. You could live on it … so go ahead … live the rest of your life high on Goddess Pie. I dare you. 

LIME GREEN RAW GODDESS PIE —

Crust:IMG_6544

  • ½ cup pecans
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Pulse nuts in a food processor until finely ground. Add coconut oil and honey, and mix well. Press into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan, and let chill in the fridge for 20 minutes or so.

IMG_6547Filling:

  • 4 small avocados
  • 1 cup light honey (I use a thick, semi-crystalized one)
  • 1 medium sized pineapple
  • 1 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed is best!
  • 1 cup coconut butter
  • ¾ cup coconut oil, liquified
  • 1 ½ cups raw cashews

Soak cashews overnight in water. Peel pineapple, cut out the core and chop into chunks. Put in a blender or food processor with the drained cashews and avocados. Puree til smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients, and whiz till perfectly smooth. Pour over the crust and allow to chill until firm – usually an hour or so.IMG_6550

Raw Red Berry Coulis:

  • ½ cup goji berries
  • ½ cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 package frozen raspberries (about 2 cups)
  • 1 box fresh strawberries
  • Honey to taste

IMG_6564Soak goji berries overnight in cup pomegranate juice. Put in a blender and process til smooth. Add raspberries and pulse. Pour it all into a large bowl, and slice in the strawberries. I like to mash them slightly with a potato masher so it is chunky. Add honey to taste. Serve over the pie … Divine!!

A couple of Nomad Notes … this pie is perfectly raw, vegan, gluten-free, kosher for practically every sort of food freak out there, myself included — but will also appeal to anyone who loves a good, old-fashioned, hold-the-weird, please dessert — guaranteed!!  Even my purist roommate dug into the first version sitting in the fridge, and texted me, “your pie is pretty good” — high praise from this one, believe me.  This was served at a graduation party for a talented teenage musician, and everyone scarfed it down — kids and grownups alike.  I’m not sure how strict Paleo folks feel about honey — it’s my personal favorite sweetener; I think it’s medicinal AND divine (Minoan bee goddess, anyone?), but you could use coconut nectar in this.  It’s darker, though, and will probably mess with the gorgeous green color … and you’ll probably need to add more or prepare to pucker up from that lime juice!

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Served on the beautiful graduation party table of another goddess friend, Caroline … surrounded by her gorgeous fresh pea soup! Thanks to Lexie, yet another divine babe, for snapping the photo!

 

 

 

 

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THE LOST MACAROON OF SAN FRANCISCO

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Remember that old show, Land of the Lost?? That seems to be where I’m residing these days. Trying to remain stable in the vortex of uncertainty and remember that it’s all divinely ordained. That it’s part of the complex tapestry of my life that will be revealed to me in all its intricate, totally awesome perfection after I stagger on to the next dimension. Waiting for guidance from my dreams that I do not seem to be having but nonetheless pay lots of money to analyze into a fermented pulp in a fancy, erudite, depth-psychology kind of way. Magnum mysterium, my giant fat behind.

Yes. When totally off your nut, turn to the chocolate around the nut, and look for a brownie. I attended an artsy event last night, having ridden my bike straight from ten hours in clinic, where I consumed nothing but green chile spiced beef jerky and Italian sparkling water all day. I showed up at the event with a large paper bag of food, rapidly purchased en route at Whole Foods in a state of extreme starvation. I wanted to lurk in the back and work my way through the entire contents, which I couldn’t even recall by the time I sat down, but somehow I ended up sitting in practically the front row. Which was a good thing because decorum required that I limit myself to a small container of organic chocolate pudding and some weird, expensive, mindblowingly healthful chia-cacao-agave-maca-spirulina-matcha-mocha-gogi beverage – which actually somehow tasted mostly like plain old iced coffee and wasn’t all that bad.

In any case, none of this is actually what I sat down to write about. I was about to blast off on the theme of LOST. As in — CANNOT FIND ONE’S WAY.  CANNOT FIND A PARTICULAR ITEM.  CANNOT LOCATE A PARTICULAR SUGARY TREAT THAT ONE ONCE CONSUMED AND WANTS MORE OF.

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As part of the ongoing endeavor to find the next step and become less lost, I was recently in San Francisco, with my dear friend, Sadaf. A few blocks of walking around our Air B&B room in the Mission (yes, in the rain) revealed that San Francisco is not the same city it was 20 years ago, when I was sitting on the street, selling Guatemalan textiles after Grateful Dead shows. I was feeling more than a little disoriented by the $10 artisan chocolate bars and the former bodegas now stocking kombuchas and gluten-free hemp muffins, when my nostrils were assailed by a powerful wave of medical grade exhalation from a gentleman whose last encounter with a bathtub may have been circa 1969. Who needs soap when you have patchouli? He was hunkered down with a giant 1980’s vintage boom box, cranking the mellow strains of Air Supply’s All Out of Love … Phew, yes, the heart of San Francisco still beats. Faintly.

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This affirmation was rigorously tested the following day when we met a “play party” organizer at a friend’s birthday party. Play parties seem to be orgies to which you have to apply through some sort of complicated Google application. Um, Wow. Thank you, Silicon Valley, for all you do, have done, and will no doubt do in the future. Anyway … onward to the point here, which is that I was desperate to get to Tartine, the bakery I’ve been lusting after for years. It’s apparently where Alice Waters gets her birthday cakes. Hello?? I was staying a few blocks away. Nothing was going to keep me out of there.

… Except the half block long line to get in the door on Saturday morning. Sadaf and I needed coffee. Like, not in 3 hours. So we veered off, right into a dog shitting in the middle of the sidewalk, inspiring the idea of a “Dog Asses of San Francisco” photo series for her and … well, inspiring nothing in me because I was really mad that I couldn’t get into my effing bakery. But then I ran into a real live Unicorn, and everything got better.

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Sadaf doctors her very good coffee in the home of the Lost Macaroon.

Poof!  A coffee shop materialized on a corner. No lines, no particular décor except some local art.   A canister of dog biscuits by the door for dogs to process and deposit later on the sidewalk. And a really nice woman in overalls, who rang up our coffee – which was excellent. I also spied in the small bakery case a single wheat-free item – the honey macaroon. Why not? The friendly woman stuck it in a paper bag, and I put it in my bag, where I forgot about it til the next day.

By the time I finally remembered the macaroon, I had done battle with some Pacific crab from a hygienically marginal Chinese restaurant and lost badly. My insides were pretty much entirely empty. Pristine. Turned inside out. I had that particular, ravenous, post-food poisoning hunger. So the squashed macaroon at the bottom of my bag was like gift from the heavens. I’ve never been a tremendous fan of macaroons until recently, and I’m still kind of easing into the groove with them. But this was turbo-powered instant burning love at first bite. Tender, meltingly squishy but firm on the outside, perfectly sweet. Vanilla. Honey. I swear it had butter in it, but it didn’t. This macaroon was a thing of delicious, voluptuous, soul searing beauty, and when I finished it I wanted another … dozen.

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Umm, yeeeess … IT EXISTS!!!

Unfortunately, we were heading to Berkeley, and there was no time to go back to the coffee shop and buy out the rest of the case. No problem … I had scribbled the name on a scrap of paper. UBSF Café. I could link their website on my blog post! Screw all those too-famous-to-get-in places! Up theirs. To be fair, I continued to dedicate myself to intensive macaroon research throughout the rest of the trip, diligently sampling options from old Italian bakeries to sickeningly hip raw food outposts. None held a candle. I had found the greatest macaroon on the West Coast! Woo. Hoo.

Except I hadn’t …

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This guy looked like he had some information … but he wasn’t sharing.

I returned to New Mexico, triumphant, having not gotten any closer to solving the tangled mystery of my existence, but it mattered less because I had experienced a Transcendental Macaroon Encounter.  (T.M.E.)  Visions of mail order competed with visions of wrestling the recipe from that woman in the overalls. I dug out the scrap of paper and googled. But nothing. I urban spooned, combed maps of the Mission … nothing. I cannot find a trace of this coffee shop, and I have no idea what the address was.  Not the slightest shred of honeyed coconut remains.

And so the legend begins … Of the Lost Macaroon of San Francisco. The Holy Grail of Macaroondom. The shining golden beacon on the hill.  Perhaps I will spend the rest of my life searching and never find it. Perhaps I will spend the rest of my life searching and never find my life, for that matter.  If anyone out there has any hits on the UBSF Café, do please send word by any means available. I’ve begun to entertain the possibility that it wasn’t there at all. There was that Unicorn after all, and things have been known to get a little cosmically tilted in San Francisco, Googlized play parties notwithstanding. Like, maybe I said a secret password and didn’t realize it.  Or maybe that pooping dog was actually a disguised wizard who briefly unlocked an interdimensional portal …  DID I actually eat that macaroon?

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What’s that in Ganesha’s left upper hand? Round. Golden brown … Could it be??

In any case I’ve been making macaroons with a vengeance. I bought a cookbook exclusively devoted to them with all kinds of exotic flavors, but all I really want is that simple, subtle honey-vanilla goddess perfection macaroon. I console myself with the fact that the 19th century porcelain chamber pot I found in a thrift store for $5 and then had to lug all over the Bay Area did make it home in one piece to add to my collection. (I like to use them for fruit bowls.) But it’s really no solace when my thoughts turn to the Lost Macaroon.

So here I sit, listening to the Jerry Garcia Band work through Mission in the Rain, while my latest batch of macaroons bakes. They’re good. They smell really terrific right now.  They’re totally worth making. They’re not the Lost Macaroon of San Francisco. Maybe it’s good that it’s lost? Maybe if I had eaten a second one it wouldn’t have been so completely wonderful? Maybe it’s even good that I’m lost? Joseph Campbell supposedly said something like … “If your path is clear, it’s probably someone else’s.” He also said the Grateful Dead were the antidote to the nuclear bomb. From Professor Joe’s perspective, I’m totally rockin’ it.

Happy Mother’s Day, Everyone. Hip hip, Hooray!! I’m giving macaroons to all the terrific mamas I know, except my own, who hates coconut. Here’s my original recipe; still on the quest …

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Now let’s be honest. There is just nothing like a nice chamber pot full of delectable macaroons. Fire up the teapot!

LOST MACAROONS:

  • one bag unsweetened shredded coconut (mine is 8.8 oz.)
  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Half of a 14 oz. can of coconut milk (not the lite kind!)
  • 1/3 cup honey (or to taste — must be in liquid form; heat if necessary)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 egg whites

Mix together the salt, coconut and almond flour, breaking up any lumps of almond.

Make sure your coconut milk is well blended.  I put the whole can in a blender with double doses of the honey and extracts, and whizzed it all up.  The leftover can be used for another batch of macaroons or it makes a pretty whopping good smoothie addition.  Or you can just slurp it down right out of the blender as is.

Mix the liquid mixture into the dry with a big wooden spoon.  The beat the egg whites til glossy and fold into the rest.  I find the easiest way to do this is with my hands.

Optional ingredients are chocolate chips, cacao nibs, slivered almonds … as much as you want!  Roll into small balls and bake at 325 degrees until just lightly brown on top.  Enjoy with your favorite Mom.  Or Unicorn.

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Wheat-Free Tea Cookies & Sweet Turmeric Milk

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“Come, oh come ye tea-thirsty restless ones — the kettle boils, bubbles and sings musically.” — Rabindranath Tagore

Oh wow, so, mere minutes after publishing my last post about tea and cookies, I broke the lid of our yellow teapot! Totally broke it in half. Not sure how to take this, omen-wise, but I was NOT pleased. Sigh. Well, in general I don’t have any desire to emulate those of the British persuasion, but in this case I think I will maintain a stiff upper lip, snap open my umbrella, and press on with the tea theme. I doubt any Brit worth her salt would let a slightly damaged teapot get in the way of afternoon tea.

Thus, we at Sugar Nomad will not either. Today as promised, I have a wheat-free version of last week’s tea cookie recipe. If you use the lesser amount of sugar these will be a bit less sweet than those made with white flour. I made the cookies with ½ cup sugar and then rolled them in turbinado (raw) sugar before baking to give them a slight extra sweetness and crunch. I and the other taste testers agreed that this was perfection. You could also use milk chocolate discs instead of the dark ones for a little more sweetness. Also, if you’re adding any of the flavorings suggested in last week’s recipe, you might want to add a touch more — again, because of the more robust flavor of the flours.

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Checking out the rain … what’s that??

Since I last wrote it has both rained and snowed here in the high desert – and gotten cold enough that all the blooms on the apricot trees have shriveled into brown. So I’m afraid there will again be no apricots this year. But the tea is in the pot and cookies on the table … so how bad can things really be? This cooler weather has brought me back to winter a bit, and I’ve made a couple of cups of spiced milk, which I first started making last year with almond milk, but which I now can make with amazing RAW MILK from a local dairy. I grew up on this nectar straight from the udder back in Maine and haven’t really drunk milk since I had to buy it in a store. As discussed back in the posts about Karen and her lovely goats, it just isn’t the real stuff after it’s been pasteurized up the wazoo. Anyway, versions of spiced milk are served in many parts of the world with many different spices. This is an Indian version and is so warming and nourishing, it’s almost a dessert. Adding a few eggs would make it a pudding. I’m convinced that any way we can get the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric into us is a good thing!  This is a big favorite any time of year, not just winter and especially good if you’re feeling a little bit under the weather or just a little sad.  It’s happiness-inducing.

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My Mom’s teacups, ready for duty in the woods of Maine …

Cookies for the Wheat-free Tea Goddess:

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup spelt or sorghum flour
  • 1 ¼ cups garbanzo flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill brand.)
  • ½ to ¾ cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • chocolate discs
  • turbinado sugar
  • ½ cup raw cacao nibs
  • Grated peel of one small orange

If you’re using a food processor, chop cold butter into cubes. Put the dry ingredients in, followed by the butter, egg yolk, and vanilla or other flavorings. Press the button, and whizzz until it forms a dough. Alternatively, soften the butter and cream with sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, and the dry ingredients.

Roll into walnut sized balls, then roll balls in sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Top with a chocolate disc, pressing down just slightly. Bake at 325 degrees until edges are just brown.

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Don’t forget to use a pretty plate …

Spiced Turmeric Milk:

  • 2 cups milk (any sort you like)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • dash of black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon rosewater or vanilla
  • Raw honey to taste

All spice amounts are to taste. I often use more turmeric. Put the dry spices in the bottom of a small pot with a nice, heavy bottom, and turn the heat on. Let the spices warm just to the point when they begin to release their fragrance, stirring them around so they don’t burn. Pour the milk in and heat until it just starts to bubble. Stir in as much honey as you like, but don’t cook the honey – let it hang onto its wonderful enzymes!

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Float some goji berries in your cup!

Last week after I wrote about the tea cookies, my very dear friend, Arooj, emailed me almost instantly. She originally hails from Pakistan, which is serious tea country, and we have shared many a cup of tea in many different locales. Tea in Pakistan is practically a religion, and one to which Arooj is fervently devoted. Here we are a few months back in freezing cold Boston … sharing a cup of tea. I hope you’ll share one (and some cookies) with a friend soon. xoxo

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Happy tea for two!

 

 

 

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TEA COOKIES FOR TOUGH TIMES

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Tea for two … or two hundred.

Is there anything nicer than tea? Perhaps not. On this blustery, overcast spring day – a rarity in Santa Fe – I’m sitting in a coffee shop, reading for my course in women’s herbal medicine. But I’m having tea, not coffee – also a rarity for me these days. Medical training transformed me from a complete non-coffee drinker into a bona fide addict. But lately for some reason I’ve been craving tea to the point where my brain periodically conjures up the smell of it in improbable places like my clinic or out in the woods. (Anyone else out there get nasal hallucinations, by the way??)

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Teapot from the Museum of International Folk Art’s exhibit on Foods of the Americas. You can find one at the thrift store and pretend it’s from your great great grandmother in 18th century Mexico.

The longing for tea may have a vague something to do with being poised on the brink of lots of changes. I feel overwhelmed and rootless. Tea is homey and oozes contentment. My Mother deployed tea parties the way other mothers make use of television. Many a long winter afternoon during my childhood in Maine was occupied by a tea party with stuffed animals, dolls, my brother and me in eager attendance. We had a tiny table in a corner reserved for such occasions. The fare was simple – black tea with milk and something to snack on. But it always felt festive just because it was a tea party at the special table. Not coincidentally, one of my favorite books was Tasha Tudor’s The Dolls’ Tea Party, now long out of print but worth tracking down if you have a little girl … or a little boy.

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Full tea cabinet = Happy home

These days I associate tea with home because my roommate and dear friend drinks Earl Grey tea the way I drink coffee. I particularly love when he makes a pot of loose tea in the cheerful yellow teapot and adds cardamom seeds, slightly ground in his Mother’s little brass mortar and pestle from Afghanistan. There is something about the citrusy Earl Grey with cardamom, milk and some local New Mexico honey that trickles down over every nerve fiber like a sweet caress.

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Nomad kitchen teapot at work …

I’ll have lots more to say about tea in the future, but for now I’ll keep it simple, which is how I’m feeling. And plus, the coffee shop is closing, and I’ve finished my tea.

Cookies for the Tea Goddess

  •  2 sticks salted butter
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • Dark chocolate discs (I get them at Whole Foods)

I put everything in the food processor, starting with the dry ingredients, ending with the cold butter, chopped into cubes, and the egg and vanilla. The food processor turns it all into a perfect dough in minutes. If you don’t have one, you will have to soften the butter, then cream it with sugar, add egg, then the rest of the ingredients. If you do it this way, you’ll have to wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. The food processor method keeps the dough cold so you can use it at once.

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Feed your inner tea goddess … it’s good to keep her happy!

Roll dough into walnut-size balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Top with a chocolate disc, pressing down just slightly. Bake at 325 degrees until edges are just brown. I like to put the baked cookies on a plate in the freezer for 5 minutes to harden the chocolate before filling up a Tupperware. These keep fresh for a long time if they’re in a sealed container – so you can always have some on hand for impromptu tea parties!

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You can always throw loose herbs into your teapot too …

Some Lovely Cookie Flavoring Suggestions:  (If you use any of these, reduce the vanilla to 2 teaspoons.)

  • 1 teaspoon rosewater & 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water & 1 tablespoon fennel or anise seeds
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract & 1 tablespoon lavender flowers
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract & 1 teaspoon nutmeg or ginger

These can easily be made gluten free or entirely grain free. I do it all the time but have never written down a recipe. That will be my task for this full moon/eclipse week, and I’ll share it with you next week. According to my astrologically attuned friends, there are some major planetary events upon us, and things could get rough from now until the end of the month. I recommend hunkering down with tea and cookies til it all blows over!

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Best to keep that tupperware stocked and ready for when the blustery winds of life … or New Mexico snow in April hits!!!

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NEW ADVENTURES IN WHEAT-FREE HAPPINESS!

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Open for Business!!! New, improved, and wheat-free …

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The Sugarplum Fairy … a little off kilter this year …

Happy January, everyone!! Oh yes, folks … Sugar Nomad lives.  Why such a dreadfully long silence from the trail?  Good question.  Well, first of all, the Nomad household moved.  Not by choice.  Unanticipated eviction from the comfortable campsite right before the holidays.  Followed by the development of a lake at the new house, fed by a waterfall from the skylight into the middle of the living room.  Followed by several snowstorms, a frantic search for dwellings, and a second move.  Yes, we moved twice in ten days.  Even for a Nomad this is not recommended.  Then somehow the heating system in new house #2 was set on both the heat and air-conditioning modes at the same time.  Causing not only a freezing house but the death of the entire system.

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Glorious Maine … over the river and through the woods … to a brand new, wheat-free year …

Totally awesome.  All of this was punctuated by my trip to the Northlands for Christmas.  I enjoyed the usual festive 12+ hour flying saga to the East Coast, followed by a drive from Boston to Maine in a cherry red, rented Camry, during the worst ice storm in 15 years.  Naturally, I had not purchased the extra insurance on the vehicle.  Creeping along the turnpike at 20 mph, I begged God to please not let me survive the impending wreck and be forced to pay thousands of dollars for that crappy piece of junk.  I walked the last frigid, wet mile to my brother’s house after the car slid straight backwards down their hill.  Picture driving on a skating rink tilted at 80 degrees.

Yes.  Well … I’ll skip the story of the rest of the holidays, which were largely depressing.  I did get in some cookie baking with my beautiful niece, Tessa, which brings me to the next reason for the long absence of posts:  I no longer eat wheat.  This is highly unexpected but, I think, a positive development both for me and for the Nomad kitchen.

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Baking with Tess — Love my girl xxx

I had decided to do a little research into the whole gluten-free phenomenon.  It didn’t make sense to me that all of a sudden after thousands of years of wheat as the staple of so many cuisines, suddenly everyone is allergic to it.  What I didn’t know is that wheat has been aggressively genetically modified over the past 50 years as part of the “green revolution,” which had the noble goal of feeding the world, but in reality disrupted a lot of ancient indigenous agricultural practices.  This all may or may not have been a good idea, but what is definitely not a good idea is changing plants so dramatically that our bodies can’t adapt to them.  The new Frankenstein wheat that we all eat today is not the same wheat our grandparents ate – it has much more gluten, more carbohydrate and less protein.  The bottom line is that some people — perhaps more than we currently know — do not tolerate it well.

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The beautiful Adrienne … feeling the fresh vibe in the brand new Nomad kitchen …

After reading the book, Wheat Belly, by cardiologist William Davis, I stopped eating wheat.  Literally, I finished the last page of the book and that was it.  Interestingly, the few times I’ve had little bits of it in the last few months, I’ve woken up the next day with stomachaches.  Something is going on … I’d rather not be a guinea pig.  I can feel that my baseline blood sugar is lower now.  I get hungry – as in, really hungry more often.  I still eat plenty of sweets, believe me, but I lost five pounds in the first two weeks without wheat.  It just happened.

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… In mad pursuit of sweets without wheat …

I don’t plan on becoming dogmatic.  Occasional recipes using wheat may appear here.  I just got an amazing new cookbook on the history of Arabic sweets, and I have yet to find a wheat-free phyllo dough … But for the most part, Sugar Nomad will be sans wheat.  It makes me sad that we’ve done this to our old friend, the staff of life.  Ancient strains of wheat are still available, and I’ll probably order some flours at some point for recipes that simply demand it.  In the meantime, it’s been really fun experimenting with all kinds of different flours.  I was a vegetarian for thirteen years, and the current baking process reminds me of the early days without meat – suddenly, everything became so much more creative in the kitchen, and I learned about ingredients I never knew existed.  Well – here we go again … hop aboard!

Today’s recipes are two old favorites that needed to make an appearance for the holidays.  I make them both at Valentine’s Day too, which I am eagerly anticipating here in the January doldrums.  Tess and I made both of these.  One has been made by our Swedish foremothers for generations, and I really hope she carries on the tradition.  This will give her a healthier way to keep it alive.  She also was fixed on making a cookie with peanut butter and honey.  I created this variation on a childhood favorite.  I have to say both versions are even better than the original white flour/sugar versions.  And the almond butter kiss cookies are altogether grain-free.  Try them, and see what you think!

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Oh, paleo bliss!

Almond Butter Kiss Cookies

(These are grain-free and paleo too!  This is my version of the cookie I first fell in love with at school bake sales, growing up in Maine.  That one was made with peanut butter and milk chocolate Hershey’s kisses.  My best friend, Amy’s mom made the very best ones.  These are still the real deal but high in protein and a little more sophisticated … I think!)

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You can’t eat just one! And it’s okay if you don’t. These are nutrient-packed!

¼ cup butter

½ cup almond butter (or peanut butter)

½ cup coconut sugar

½ cup honey

2 eggs

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups almond flour

1 bag dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses (These have purple foil wrappers.  There are so many kinds of kisses now that it gets confusing!)

Cream softened butter, honey, coconut sugar, almond extract, and almond butter.  Add eggs, then almond flour and salt.

Roll into walnut sized balls – dough will be very sticky – don’t worry.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and top with a dark chocolate Hershey’s kiss. Press the kiss down a bit into the center or you will end up with lopsided cookies!  Bake at 325 degrees until set and slightly brown on the edges.  Let these sit a bit before removing from tray, and then do so very carefully.  Cookies will firm up nicely as they cool but stay chewy!

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The stuff of legend … but with no white flour.

Rosenmunnar for a New Age:

(These are the Swedish thumbprints we made by the millions when I was growing up.  I’ve adjusted my Grandmother’s recipe …)

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Bake with your kiddos! Those measuring cups are good for learning fractions!

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

1 cup millet flour

1 cup sorghum flour

½ cup brown rice flour

1 egg yolk

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon lemon or almond extract)

¼ teaspoon cardamom

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Remember, don’t overfill …

I like to throw all ingredients into the food processor.  If you do this, make sure the butter is cold, and cut it into chunks first.  Alternatively, soften butter, and cream with sugar.  Add egg yolk and extract, then flours.  Roll into walnut sized balls, and create a well in the center with your thumb.  Fill with jam – I like raspberry, cherry or apricot.  Do not overfill.  About a teaspoon is right.  You’ll learn to eyeball it – too much jam, and they overflow.  Bake until just light brown on the edges.  These cookies need to be completely cooled to be at their firmest.  When they first come out of the oven, they’re very fragile.  As they cool, they pull themselves together into relatively sturdy little creatures.

For a super decadent and outrageously delicious cookie, top each blob of jam before baking with a dark chocolate disc.  I get mine at Whole Foods.  They are just flat chocolate circles about the size of a nickel.  You could use a few chocolate chips if you can’t find the chips.  The chocolate melts over the jam … need I say more?

So, All — I hope you’ll enjoy these new adventures in the sweet kitchen as much as I am.  This is an experiment, and we’ll see what develops and how it evolves.  As a lover of traditional foods and all the history, meaning, and love that comes with them, I’m not about to give up sweets.  But the challenge of maintaining all the things I adore and crave about them, while creating versions that don’t make our bodies sick is pretty exciting — especially for a family doc, who wants very much for you all to remain healthy, vibrant, full of energy — and OUT of the doctor’s office.

LOVE, SWEETNESS, HAPPINESS & HEALTH IN 2014 xoxoxo!!!

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Oh, gluten-free YUM!!!

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SUPERPOWER PALEO CUPCAKES

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Surrender, Dorothy …. view from the bike path …

The glorious fall continues to unfold with astonishing beauty and curious happenings in the air.  Synchronous events blossom along with the too-beautiful-to-be-real fields of yellow flowers here in Santa Fe.  The Aspens are starting to turn gold up on the mountains, mirroring what’s here below.  Life has a shimmering quality as if the veil between the worlds grows thin with the change of seasons.

On Friday morning I was biking to work along the bike path as usual, except that the Wicked Witch of the West’s theme song was pumping through my head inexplicably.  I started to hum it under my breath … then out loud.  I envisioned myself in a pointy hat, face green, black cape fluttering madly in the wind.  Faster and faster I pedaled, propelled forward by my inner movie soundrack … Dum de dum de da da ….

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Of bikes & cupcakes … the intrepid Jamie’s sidesaddle, single-handed cupcake delivery technique earlier this summer. Do not try this at home!

Until BAM – an elderly lady suddenly crossed the bike path 20 feet in front of me without looking.  OH SHIIIIIIIIT!!!  I slammed on the brakes harder than I ever have before, nearly flipping myself over the handlebars.  It was such a close call that I almost can’t bear to write it down.  It could have been epically horrendous, but instead all that happened was that my bike fell over after I succeeded in stopping it, and the metal basket hit her in the back of the leg.  It gave her a bruise, and I felt terrible.  She felt terrible for crossing right in front of me.  We both felt terrible for almost killing one another.  By the end of the ensuing conversation we were exchanging hugs and love.  As I got back on my bike, I asked her name.  “Dorothy,” she replied.

It wasn’t til a few minutes later as I was heading into the coffee shop next to my office that I realized I’d been channeling the Wicked Witch all morning and then almost ran over Dorothy.  I’m still not sure what to make of this, but I’m pretty sure it supports the energy that whatever intention we put out into the universe manifests … sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

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Early Sugar Nomad cupcakes for a little brother’s birthday

It’s exciting – and terrifying at the same time.  Kind of like the concept of a paleo cupcake.  Cupcakes seem to manifest love and happiness like nothing else in the world of sweets.  Dig deep into your heart, and you will find your inner cupcake, filled with all the joys of your five year old self just waiting to bubble to the surface with the first bite each new cupcake you encounter on the journey of life.

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Cupcake adornment from the late summer garden …

My friend and colleague, Zach, is doing an 8 week fitness challenge at their gym that consists of following a Paleo diet, supplemented by lots of exercise.  Personally, I couldn’t survive on the Paleo diet mostly because it requires too much meat consumption for my mostly vegetarian self, but also because it puts a serious damper on the consumption of, well … sugar.  This weekend Zach’s zeal inspired me to look seriously into creating a Paleo cupcake.  I get confused about the details of what exactly constitutes Paleo other than meat and leafy twigs, but I did manage to produce a gluten-free, grain-free, very high protein cupcake that tastes pretty fantastic and contains no refined sugar.

I’m fairly certain that if some cavemen had stumbled upon a tray of these during the weekly wooly mammoth hunt, the woolly mammoth might never have gone extinct.  Those cavemen would have figured out how to make cupcakes or died trying.  Anyway, I ate one of these for breakfast and felt energized and full all morning.  Highly recommended.

SUPERPOWER PALEO CUPCAKES:

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He’s a fan. Need I say more?

  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Cream together coconut sugar, maple syrup, and coconut oil til fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat until smooth.  Mix in the dry ingredients.  Spoon into cupcake pans lined with papers.  The batter will be stiff.  It rises but not hugely so fill them quite full — more than you would a regular cupcake made with grain flour.  This recipe made 15 perfectly sized cupcakes.

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Paleo Cupcakes = Health & Happiness

LOVE YOURSELF FROSTING:

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • ½ cup coconut oil or ghee
  • ½ cup raw honey (I used a luscious local honey from Taos, yum.)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk plus more as needed

Beat together almond butter, whichever shortening you chose, and honey.  Add cocoa powder and vanilla.  Start with two tablespoons of almond milk, and add more until you get the consistency you want.  Add in tiny increments.  If you get too much liquid in, the texture of the frosting becomes less like a fluffy buttercream.  Spread on cupcakes or fill a pastry bag and make fancy spirals …  (You could also spread this all over your body, and it would probably do wonders for your skin!)

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Dr. Zach, living the Paleo dream with his superpower cupcake!

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