Grown-up cookies: vaguely paleo, definitely good
Is this blog jumping the shark? Over the years it has descended from serious issues through miscellaneous fads to, finally, today: a recipe requested by my sister-in-law (Hi Lynette!).
[photo by Chris & Jenni, used under Creative Commons]
But hey, these cookies are wheat-free, and feature a delightful clash of chunks of bitter chocolate and coarse sea salt, which give them a decidedly grown-up flavor. That’s why I call them Grown-Up Cookies. Unlike most advice on this blog, you can actually apply this material and receive some enjoyment now. :)
Call it my holiday gift to the Internet.
That clash of flavors and textures is my small innovation, and I’m kind of proud of it. Otherwise these cookies are largely similar in ingredients to other “paleo” chocolate chip cookie recipes out there — there are dozens.
One of those recipes, Jenni’s, had a cookie picture that was fantastic, and infinitely better than any picture I could take. And yet, the cookies looked quite similar to the cookies I make. Jenni had her picture licensed under Creative Commons, so I used it as the visual reference above. Thanks Jenni!
The “paleo” diet is fashionable in the Crossfit world, and it fits well with the kind of food I like to eat anyway, so I’ve been eating an easy, non-radicalized version of paleo lately.
The basic notion — that it makes sense to eat foods that fit with one’s evolutionary history — seems quite defensible. But the application of it gets kind of silly. The forbidden foods of paleo are things like wheat flour and cane sugar — substances which in a chemical sense are natural but were not part of our evolutionary experience because creating them requires laborious agricultural and/or industrial processes.
When it comes to creating paleo cookies, the typical response is to use non-cane sugar — for example coconut sugar. Yes, it’s got a lower glycemic index and you can make a health case for it on that basis. But it’s still a concentrated product of agriculture and industry. There weren’t any cavemen walking around eating this stuff, or other concentrated products such as chocolate chips. So come on — if you want to spear a deer and eat it with some huckleberries, that’s paleo for sure, and I’ll be at the feast. But otherwise let’s get real about what’s modern and what’s not. :)
Grown-Up Chocolate-Chip Cookies (with bitter chocolate and sea salt)
preheat oven to 350F
2 squares (2 oz.) UNSWEETENED baking chocolate (unsweetened is key)
1/3 cup butter, softened, or corn oil (canola oil may also be substituted but cookies will be flat)
1/3 cup sugar — white, brown, coconut, whatever
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp honey
1 and 1/2 cups almond flour
2 tbsp corn meal
2 tbsp flax meal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp COARSE sea salt (coarse is key)
the fun part: put chocolate squares in a sturdy plastic or paper bag, and go outside on a rock or concrete and break the chocolate squares apart with a hammer, until you get chunks and shards of various sizes. The bigger the pieces are, the more bitter they will feel in the finished cookie. I make the biggest pieces about the width of a pea. Put the bag aside until later.
In a mixing bowl, mix well the butter (or oil), egg, sugar, vanilla, and honey. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients — the almond flour, corn meal, flax meal, baking soda, and coarse sea salt.
Combine the dry ingredients with the wet, but DON’T MIX TOO MUCH. Just get everything evenly distributed.
Put in the chocolate chunks. Mix, but again, don’t do too much.
Now you will have very sticky and delicious sludge. Form into 9-12 ping-pong sized balls and place on parchment paper (another thing cave men didn’t have :) ) on a cookie sheet.
Bake for approximately 12 minutes. They won’t quite look done but take them out anyway.
Let cool if you can.
Devour. I like them with milk, just like Santa.
My tiny house, finally furnished right
When my tiny house was finished six and a half years ago, my mother-in-law needed to move in immediately, and our budget was spent. So we never really furnished it the way in a way that did justice to the architect’s design. No more!
After 6 years of wonderful support for my spouse and child, my MIL has moved back East to take care of another grandchild, and we finally have dressed up the place for its new life as a furnished rental. I got help from interior designer Ann Reed at Redu.
Here’s a tour. (All photos by ElleMPhotography and Martin Brown, used by permission).
Over the patio and through the door:
Installing and using Arke Karina alternating tread stairs: a review
As a fan of alternating tread stairs, and the owner of a rare city-permitted custom made set of them in the granny cottage I built, I’ve always been curious about one staircase option I did not use: the Arke Karina stair kit.
My own alternating tread device, like most I see around on the internet, was custom made out of wood by a carpenter, and is straight. However the Arke kit uses a modular metal unit as its spine, giving it a lighter appearance, and giving it the ability to curve. The Arke kit isn’t cheap ($1600 minimum, plus >$200 extra if you want a second handrail), though custom carpentry isn’t either. Neither a custom made wood alternating tread stair, nor the Arke kit, meets most residential codes in the US so it’s a wash in that respect. What’s the better choice for someone building or modding a small house?
I finally got a chance to see an Arke Karina kit in action, …more
A low-power HTPC running Boxee on linux 64 bit (and XP, sigh, brickbats to Netflix)
Last month I finally got sick of cleaning peanut butter off DVD’s. Between me and the 4.5 year old, there probably was a whole jar of the stuff inside the dvd player, and a corresponding amount of skipping. We’d turned to online streaming services like Hulu, which sat on remote servers and were invulnerable to the mess, but they tied up my laptop every time the kid wanted to watch Finding Nemo, or Super Structures. Also, I didn’t enjoy the vibe that was building up, where there was no separation between the machine I use for work and the one I use for vegging out.
It was finally time to realize a scheme I’d been mulling for a while: making a tiny little home theater PC (HTPC) that would allow my household to go diskless. Here’s how I did it and how it’s working — which is great, even if some providers of content and software seem determined to keep users stuck in the past.
I got a little Acer Aspire Revo R1600 computer. …more
Beyond the kitchen triangle: saving work in the kitchen with some simple hacks
Lately I’ve been obsessed with kitchen efficiency. Not green efficiency, but efficiency in terms of work. I would prefer to spend my time enjoying food, not preparing it or cleaning up. Why does my mother-in-law’s kitchen seem like such a breeze to work in while my own kitchen felt so awkward? And how can I save work without spending $20K-$100K on a major renovation?
I embarked on my own amateur analysis of kitchen flow and modded my kitchen to match. My work began with this kitchen work flow diagram:
I’m not much of a graphic artist, but it succinctly shows why it can be so hard to do work efficiently in the kitchen: …more
An attic playroom
I refit this end of the attic in my 1922 house as a play area for my son. I wanted this attic to continue to feel like an attic, even though I was finishing it off. So I did the walls and ceiling in tongue & groove beadboard, a material which was also used when the house was built. It has new fireproofing and insulation underneath. Other features inlcude: marmoleum sheet scraps for flooring, with soft padding underneath; an antique star-mullioned window to suggest a sunset; a Velux roof window for emergency egress; low-temperature LED light fixtures; a verdant-brand thermostat with an occupancy sensor, controlling a “hydronic” baseboard heater; and a tent-sized nap bay.
More pics on flickr.
A thermostat that knows when you’re away (review of Verdant V8-BB-7S with occupancy sensor)
Resources used by housing and transportation dwarf those associated by other parts of our “lifestyle.” (Click here for geeky background data.) If you want to be green in deed as well as attitude, you’ve got to take on the way you get around, and the energy used by your house.
In the house, technology can obviate the impulse to nobly suffer to save energy (remember President Carter in his sweater?). Probably the first thing I installed in my family’s house when I moved in was a programmable thermostat. It saves energy by lowering the thermostat when I’m not likely to be home or wanting heat, and raise it when I know I want it to come on. No more running across a freezing floor at 5:30 AM to turn the heat on.
Now comes a thermostat that takes this idea one step further …more
Cheap fix for overheating LCD TV — a USB powered fan
I’ve never been one to agree that thrift — as in trying to live “simpler” and “cheaper” on a purely personal basis — is much of a solution to global environmental challenges.*** Still, nothing motivates me to get thrifty more than planned obsolescence.
It just offends my cheapo scion-of-a-depression-era-farmgirl-and-WASP-engineer sensibilities when perfectly good, or even quite nice, product designs are made of crappy materials and/or nonrepairable parts. Many products seem designed to fail precisely 1 day after the warranty expires — take the nonreplaceable Apple iPod battery as the most famous example.
My LCD HDTV seemed to be on a similar plan — failing for an obvious reason, just a few weeks after the warrranty expired. Damned if I was going to be a victim and go out and buy another one. Here’s how I fixed it. …more
Making a DIY balance bike for $5
There’s been a little trend brewing in the world of kids’ bikes: skipping the training wheels and getting the kid to ride a “balance bike” or “runbike” instead. It’s a pedal- and chain-free kids bike with a low seat so the feet can comfortably touch the ground. Here are pictures of two: a fancy one for $315, and a functionally similar one I made recently for $5.
Here’s why I made the second balance bike, and how: …more