spelt flour

Maple Christmas Cookies & Mamahood

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Last week I took the only bus in Casper, (that looks like a resort shuttle,) to the dentist.  It took an hour to get there, and an hour to get back.  This means that with travel time, and dental work, I had about 3 1/2 hours all to my lonesome.  I brought my favorite Ina May Gaskin books, but I couldn’t read because motion sickness got the best of me.  So I sat, and I looked out the window, and I let my thoughts take over.  Rarely do I get the opportunity to truly be alone, and revel in my thoughts.  Sitting on a bus brought back sweet memories from some of the most formative years in my life.  Taking public transit made me feel young, and alive, and ready to grab onto life again.  Even in Casper, Wyoming, a silly little shuttle bus, with a bus driver who will stop in route, (at what appeared to be a random house,) for coffee creamer, has potential to flood my memory, and bring me back.

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I remembered the time I was on a bus, in the middle of no man’s land, Croatia with Jasmine, while a chicken sat directly behind us.  A chicken!  I remembered many long days of dancing in NYC, followed by slightly, and sometimes not so slightly, boozy nights(usually margaritas), poetry, and real talk.  I remembered convincing Jasmine and Adrienne to hold hands with me in the middle of union square, and scream at the top of our lungs, at the completion of our year-long professional program.  I remembered my roommate and dear friend Jess, getting terribly annoyed at my constant theatrics, and inability to go to the bathroom with the door shut.  Living life in a few hundred square feet with my complete opposite expanded my heart and mind to levels I never knew were possible.  I remembered standing in gold sparkled Toms on the day I vowed forever.  I remembered that just before Christopher got an unexpected job offer in Denver, I had started my own massage practice in NW Portland.  I forgot that just a year before I met Christopher I was researching where I wanted to study chinese medicine, specifically acupuncture.  I dreamed of China.  I still do.  I remembered standing on a mountain top in Italy, while I shaved my head, and cried tears of joy, because I had just faced one of the few things that scared me.  I remembered improving to Ani Difranco’s “Joyful Girl,” on stage, and under the stars that night with my newly shaved head, exposed for all to see, and scared shitless about what I might just do next.  I remembered taking a 34 hour train from Oslo to Budapest because I read in a European dance magazine about an audition that sounded like my dream opportunity.  I arrived to find myself awkwardly placed between perfect hungarian ballerinas, the only one without ballet slippers, and a few extra traveling pounds.  I was cut within minutes.  I cried, I laughed, and I drank a lot of espresso.  I missed Hannah so I flew to London.  I missed Chandrae so I flew to Los Angeles.  Then I ran out of money, so I flew home.

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I remembered that living in the moment has always been my thing.  Caution to the wind, was always my motto.  So after all these flash backs I started to wonder where this woman went.  I have a husband who fell fast, and hard for these qualities, and I have a daughter who shares a deep enthusiasm for life, and by her toddler nature, has no choice but to live in the moment.  My closest companion, and dearest friends love me for exactly who I am, the spontaneity, the messiness, and all.  So I’ve been asking myself, where did I go, and why?

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I read this post, from a blogger I love, and admitted something about myself that I had not ever recognized, or perhaps have been too afraid to admit…

I love being a mama, but becoming one has not been natural for me.  I didn’t always dream of having children.  Not because I thought I didn’t want them, but I’ve always been so lost in the present that I hardly ever day dreamed about the future until a few seasons before my heart and mind were ready to embrace a big change.  So while I adore this role more than any other role I’ve known, it has not been natural, and I have carried guilt for feeling this way.  This guilt has quieted my intuition, and taken away my confidence.  I have agreed with hundreds of other women who appear to have it together and seem to know more than me.  I hear things like, children need rhythm, children need consistency, children need…fill in the blank.  It’s all rather overwhelming, and so I’ve assumed that they were probably all right.  Octave may or may not need consistency or these things people claim, that is not the point.  The point is that I recently realized that I’ve projected my own needs on Octave.  I am the one who has needed structure, and consistency, and this has been a fairly new need for me.  When something doesn’t come natural, you have to work extra hard at it.  With that hard work, and maybe out of survival, I’ve replaced spontaneity and freedom, two qualities I’ve known well, with structure and consistency, while all along telling myself this was good for Octave.

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Octave is intuitive, and she is smart.  I believe she has sensed this all along, and she buts heads with me most when I work against myself and my better judgement. It’s as if she is trying to remind me of who I really am, and is asking for the real me to be her mama.  She needs me, my inconsistency, and all.  She needs my mess, and vulnerability.  She needs that Mama who will sing, dance, laugh and cry, whenever the moment arises.  She needs to see me admitting that I have no idea what I am doing.  She needs to knows that most of the time I feel too young and immature to be telling someone else what to do.  I want to guide her, and teach her, but I just can’t get behind being a super strong authoritarian, it is just not me.  When I explain myself and reason with her, which contrary to popular belief TOTALLY WORKS for me, she responds really well.  That may not work for others, but this is my style, it’s who I am, and Octave knows that.  When I explain the who, what, when, where, and why, even to my almost two-year old, I see major progress.  When I parent with my heart and guts, she believes me, I believe me, and we are both much better off.

I’ve doubted myself because I have not ever seen my ideals played out, because I don’t have an example for the type of mother I want to be.  That probably sounds like I have a stressed relationship with my own mother, but that is quite the opposite.  I have an incredible mother, who I have always been very close with.  She has always given me room to be exactly who I am, without judgement.  My mom was my biggest supporter for moving to NY at 18 and or following my wanderlust, learning about different religions, or whatever else I was curious about, and questioning social norms.  She’s always supported me, even when I came home with a shaved head!  Nothing was ever too much for her, or at least she did a good job at biting her tongue.  With that said, I have many examples of great women, and mothers in my life, but I have danced to a different drum most of my life, and I always thought I would parent the same way.  I have bits and pieces I can adopt from my own mother, but ultimately, I am still very different from her, and will do things very differently.  Not out of spite, but simply because I am not her.  And while paving a new path alone has always given me a high, I will admit that with another little human, it is kind of scary.

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Deep down, I just want to just be me, a messy, inconsistent, confused, spontaneous, present, laid back mother who loves her daughter fiercely.  It’s taken almost two years to realize that this is what Octave needs and wants too.  In the last few weeks we’ve turned over a new leaf.  Last week we wore helmets, and danced on wet pavement outside of Target, simply because she asked me to dance with her.  She always asks “mama dance,” at the least opportune time, but for a feeler ready to smash her face back into life again, her timing is impeccable.  Later, we laid down together right in the middle of the snowy sidewalk because there were squirrels to watch, and were we really in a hurry to just get home and sit?  These are little things, and yet they are everything.  No agenda is more important that what life brings when out eyes are open and our hearts are ready.  These past few weeks, I’ve been available for what each moment may bring, and this is me to the core.  I am finding my very own rhythm, and I am trying not to be afraid of my inconsistencies.  I am trying not to parent in fear. Sigh(deep.)

This little lady of mine…I have so much to learn from her.

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Maple Sugar Cookies

Makes 2 dozen (depends on size)

2 1/3 cup spelt flour*+ more for rolling out

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 egg, at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Favorite cookie cutters

Sprinkles

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces full fat cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla extract

* All purpose works fine too.  I prefer using spelt in place of white flour and prefer its taste and texture over whole wheat, which tends to be super heavy.

Directions: In a medium size bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In a stand mixer or large bowl, if using a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add maple syrup, egg, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Slowly add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Divide dough in half and place in a large piece of plastic wrap.  The dough will be slightly sticky still but it will work well once it is refrigerated.  Wrap in plastic, making sure dough is completely covered, using your hands press down to create a small square.  Let rest in fridge for 2 hours, but overnight is best.

Preheat oven to 350.  On a floured surface, roll out dough to be 1/8 inch thick.  Cut dough into desired shapes, and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  This will vary depending on the size of your cookie cutters, so watch carefully.  Let cookies cool before frosting.

For the frosting, beat together cream cheese, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Store in the fridge until ready to use.  Garnish with your favorite sprinkles.

 

Maple Pecan Cookies & A Traveling Babe

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Christopher is going back to Oklahoma City for the rest of his ATC training, so Octave and I will be sweeping the west coast these next 6 weeks.  It is going to be really rough to be apart that long but thankfully we have a lot of really fun things, with our most favorite people planned.  We are starting in Seattle to visit Nana, heading to LA for a long-awaited sisterhood reunion, and ending in Portland for more time with friends and family, and a dear friend’s wedding.

We leave for Seattle first thing in the morning, and while we have flown many times together in Octave’s 17 months of life, this is the first since she has become an incredibly active, walking toddler.  I’ve been given advice to pack lots of snacks, a new toy, and even to give her Benadryl to help her sleep.  I thought it had to be a joke, but apparently a lot of people do it.  I am in no place to make a judgement, we all have to do what gets us through.  However, I will stick to snacks, a doodle pad, and pull out these delicious maple pecan cookies, in case of a meltdown.  Maybe bribing my daughter with cookies is no different, but for some reason it sits a little better with me:)  Octave loves cookies more than anything, and asks for them daily!  Luckily, she thinks lara bars and goji berry bites are “cookies” too.   However, there is a special light in her eyes when she is eating a proper cookie with butter and sugar, straight out of the oven.  These are made with pecan flour, spelt flour, coconut palm sugar and maple syrup, making them a little more friendly to your body, without sacrificing any taste.  Seriously, they are delicious!  We may have a 6 am flight tomorrow morning, but I am prepared to pull these babies out at the first sight of a meltdown.  Or heck, we will eat them regardless,  because coffee and pecans go great together and I hardly ever need an excuse to eat a really good cookie.

See you soon Nana…

Maple Pecan Cookies

Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 cup raw pecans for flour+ more for topping

1 1/4 cup spelt flour

1/2 cup coconut palm sugar

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. baking soda

A few shakes of cinnamon

1 stick cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup maple syrup

Directions

Grind pecans in a food processor.   You want to make sure they are ground fine enough to be considered flour but not so fine that a paste starts to form.  Add in spelt flour, coconut palm sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon, and pulse a few more times.  Cut  the chilled butter into small pieces and place in the food processor.  Pulse a few more times.  Add in maple syrup and blend until everything is combined.  Dough should be fairly sticky.  Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop out dough and place evenly on a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place a whole pecan on top and repeat until finished with dough.  Pre heat oven to 350 and place your baking sheet(s) in the freezer while your oven is heating.  When ready, bake cookies for 10-12 minutes.  After removing from the oven, immediately give the baking sheet a few good taps on your counter.  This will help them settle and create lines in your cookies.  Let cool completely.  Try not to eat them all at once.  Or in my case, before we even make it to the airport.

P.S. I shared a recipe over at A Denver Home Companion yesterday.  Check out these tasty pops and Emily’s awesome blog!

Our Loyal Chocolate Chip

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"Just one more Mama?"

“Just one more Mama?”

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She didn’t like my answer.

It has taken me 27 years of life, 3 years of marriage, and 1 bambino, to realize that I am a cookie person.  My parents have video footage of me at two, relentlessly begging for “cookie.”   It was one of my first words.  Growing up I always asked my mom if we could bake cookies from scratch.  From scratch, was kind of a foreign concept in my household, and apparently even at a young age I had an infatuation with the idea.  Now years later, I bake cookies for my family almost weekly.  I lay awake at night dreaming up cookie combinations like, chocolate and cayenne, rose and honey, ginger and lemon, and so on.  It seems so obvious that I am a cookie person, I have just overlooked this detail.  Maybe cookies are so foundational, and such an obvious favorite, that they go unspoken of.  They are comforting and loyal, both of which are endearing qualities, and yet as classic as they are, our preferences are as diverse as we are.  Some prefer soft, chewy, sweet, salty, crispy, with nuts, or without nuts, and this is only the beginning of such preferences.

I’ve been so consumed with trying new cookies, that I have forgotten about the most classic and loyal cookie of all…chocolate chip.  Smitten Kitchen’s recipe was always my go-to, and while I absolutely love it, I have not been convinced it was the one.  I recently read this tutorial about perfecting the chocolate chip.  Then soon after I saw this post on one of my favorite blogs, and I was inspired to find a recipe that we could confidently call our favorite.  While I thrive off of trying new things, the whole point of this blog is to have a collection of our favorite family recipes, original, borrowed or adapted.  I want to give Octave a book of our memories that surround food.  I want to document and share recipes that are enjoyed so often,  I can remember them by heart.   I want a classic cookie that can be passed down generations. I want something constant that won’t change and evolve, like we do.  While change is fresh and fun and always welcome in my life, I often find myself craving tradition and stability.  In this season it seems this new cookie recipe may just be everything I have wanted.  I will look no further, this is our chocolate chip cookie!

The Classic Chocolate Chip

Makes 2 Dozen

Blend together…

1 cup unsalted butter(room temperature)

1 cup+2 tbsp. cane sugar

1 egg(room temperature)

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Mix together…

2 cups+3 tbsp. spelt flour

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. baking soda

Add in…

1 heaping cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Add in chocolate chips and mix until combined.  Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop out dough and evenly place on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 9-11 minutes, rotating pan half way through.

A few helpful tips… 

*Use the highest quality, most local ingredients you can find and afford.  My favorites are, Bob’s Red Mill flour, Wholesome brand sugar, Simply Organic Vanilla, Organic butter from grass-fed cows, and the most local eggs you can find.  The quality of ingredients really does make a difference, even when baked in chocolate chip cookies.

*Pulling the cookies out slightly underdone, and letting them cool completely, gives you the best of both worlds, slightly crispy on the edges and slightly chewy in the middle.

*As soon and you pull the cookies out of the oven, give the baking sheet a few taps on the counter.  This helps them set and gives them the attractive lines, I am always striving to achieve

Lemon & Honey Shortbread Ice Cream Sandwiches

Just when I thought warmer weather was here to stay, this happened…

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It doesn’t seem to add up but I prefer ice cream in cold weather.  Of course, I eat ice cream in the summer too, but I have to eat it all too quickly for fear it will melt.  Melted ice cream stresses me out,  just the way spilled coffee and being late does.  Ice cream in the snow just makes sense to me, and so I made these today.  These cookies are not a traditional shortbread but are a little more health conscious and just as tasty, if not more, in my opinion.  Coconut sugar and honey replaced cane sugar,  spelt flour and whole wheat replaced the white flour and coconut oil was added to substitute some of the butter. They are crumbly, buttery and I promise, absolutely delicious!  Add in some of your favorite vanilla ice cream and you will taste perfection.

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Honey & Lemon Shortbread

(Makes about 12 sandwiches)

1 ½ cup spelt flour

¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp baking powder

½ cup unsalted butter

½ cup coconut oil

¼ cup raw honey

1/3 cup coconut sugar

Zest from 1 lemon

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. lemon extract

Turbinado sugar & a pinch of sea salt for garnish

Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 325.  Mix flour, salt and baking together in a bowl and set aside.  Blend butter, coconut oil, and honey together. Add coconut sugar, lemon juice and zest and vanilla and almond extracts.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry with hand mixer until dough comes together.  Try not to over mix.  Form two discs of dough, place in plastic wrap and store in fridge for an hour.  Once dough is chilled, remove from fridge and place on a lightly floured surface.  Roll out dough ½ inch thick and cut into desired shapes.  Hearts and Squirrels were made here:) Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely.  Using a tbsp. scoop out your favorite vanilla ice cream and place between two cookies.  Hubs and I disagree on the best vanilla.  He claims Breyers Vanilla Bean to be the best, while I won’t go for anything other than Haagen Dazs.  Unless we are in Portland and we have access to beautifully handmade ice cream like Salt & Straw, we will agree to disagree.  In any case, any vanilla ice cream will do here.  Squeeze all that yumminess together and savor every last bite!  Store sandwiches in air tight container in the freezer.

Dutch Baby

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Birthdays in the Cheney family have always been celebrated at the Original Pancake House in Portland.  It doesn’t matter how many times we go, the highly anticipated Dutch Baby or German Apple Pancake is always chosen.  I don’t even think I have ever even looked at a menu becasue the Dutch Baby just never gets old.  It is always enjoyed with coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, oregon berries and fresh whipped cream.

In high school I learned how to make them from my friend Stacie and I have been making them ever since.  Since leaving Portland I have yet to find another breakfast spot that makes them and so I love to create a little bit of home wherever we find ourselves.  Enjoy this beauty on a Birthday, a special weekend or on a Tuesday, becasue sometimes a new breakfast is all that is needed to break up routine and make the mundane extraordinary.  At least for me.

Dutch Baby

Serves 2

½ cup unbleached flour works

½ cup whole milk

4 eggs

1/4 tsp. salt

Pinch of nutmeg

2 tbsp. butter

Lemon wedges

Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in 9-inch pie pan once oven is heated.  While butter is melting, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and nutmeg.  Add in flour.  Whisk vigurously until batter is completely smooth, without clumps of flour.  Once butter is melted take the pie dish and swirl butter around until it is coated in the pan.  Or you can also use a pastry brush.  Pour the batter over butter. Do not touch the butter; it will puff up beautifully if left alone.  If you mix it, it will not turn out.  Let bake for 20-22 minutes.  It is normal for the Dutch baby to deflate once taken out of the oven.  Melt 1 tbsp. butter on pancake and garnish fresh squeezed lemon and powdered sugar.DSC_0035

Marionberry Orange Glazed Scones

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A good pastry with a good cup of coffee, is without question, the best part of the day.  It had been quite awhile since I enjoyed both, because when you get a taste of the very best, meaning anything in Portland, it is really hard to settle for anything less.  I can’t bring myself to spend money on coffee or pastries anywhere else.  When I go back home all I want to do is eat, and drink,  so I do.  I am usually buzzed out of my mind from espresso at my sisters, a latte from one of my many favorite coffee shops, and an Americano, extra room, no cream, for rehearsals with Michelle at Dance Vision, all in the same day that is.  No shame.  I live it up where and while I can!

This morning I got a taste of home because my mom sent Christopher and I some Stumptown coffee.  Perfection. Life in a cup.  We just needed a good pastry to go with it.  Frozen marionberries (from Oregon,) are often in our freezer for some teething relief for Octave and our bountiful basket this week was full of oranges, blood oranges and tangerines.  Everything I have made and probably will make this week, will have an orange in it!  So, a marionberry, orange glazed scone got the honor of being savored along with our happy cups filled with Stumptown.  Now the only thing missing was  the smell of crisp clean air and the sound of rain.  And maybe the sight of my love taking off his balaclava and helmet as he walks inside to meet me for a cup of brown earthy goodness. I miss those days.  One day we will be back and we will be in walking distance to exquisite beans.  One day we will be back and not take the most simple things for granted. Until then we will continue to enthusiastically accept the beautiful life-giving gift of roasted beans from Portland and drink them here in Wyoming.

(Makes 8 scones)

1 1/4 cup spelt flour

1 cup all purpose flour + 3-4 tbsp. more for shaping

1/3 cup raw sugar

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

8 tbsp. cold butter (reserve 1 tbsp for topping)

3/4  cup whole milk

1/4 fresh squeezed orange

1 tbsp. vanilla

Zest from 1/2 orange

1 cup marionberries

-Glaze-

1 cup powdered sugar

3 tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice

1/8 tsp vanilla

Zest from 1/2 orange

Preheat oven to 400.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt in a large bowl.  Add berries, and gently mix in. Grate butter with a cheese grater and sprinkle over dry ingredients.  Add vanilla to milk and orange juice, and pour over dry ingredients.  Use a large wooden spoon or spatula and mix ingredients until just combined. Don’t over mix.  The dough will be a little sticky.  On a well floured surface shape dough into a circle about 3 1/2 inches thick.  Cut into 8 equal parts.

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Place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a small dish and  use a pastry brush and generously brush butter on the scones.  Bake for 18-22 minutes.  While scones are in the oven whisk together ingredients for the glaze.  Let scones cool completely and drizzle glaze on top.

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