Who I Want to Be & Summer Brownies


The smoke filled air instantly takes me back to standing in the smoking porch of a favorite pub, years ago now.  Almost another life.  I watch the dazed people look up from their gaming machines.  They meander around as if possessed, plunking more cash into the slots.  At the tables, the dealers’ hands flash and fluidly swoop up another round of cards.  My sister, and then my friend, squeal when up a few and then subsequently moan when all of it is lost.  The lady across the aisle sits reclined and relaxed, one elegant hand holding a long cigarette, the other poised on the ‘bet 5’ button.   The woman two seats down banks $1,500 on a quarter machine.  Her carefully contained delight emanates the space as she makes plans to see her friends there again within the week.

I delight in nothing more than watching these people, knowing this is not my place.  I’m not a smoker.  Or a gambler.  Not necessarily even a drinker.  Oddly enough, this place, this observational haven, reminds me of who I want to be.

W reminded me recently that how I see myself and how I present myself don’t always coordinate with each other.  Analyzing this statement and realizing he’s correct got me thinking.  I value authenticity, yet don’t always live authentically.  Often when surrounded by family, I retreat into a shell and only show the pieces that can’t be so easily criticized.  I camouflage how I truly feel because I think someone else will be aided by my self-sacrifice, or I long to avoid conflict and judgement.

As I sit surrounded by people delighting in only the next moment in a smoke-studded casino, I realize they don’t care what anyone else thinks. Heck, they don’t even care about what’s going on in their own lives in this moment.  For the moment, they are all-in.


That’s who I want to be.  A person that chooses to confront controversy, to embrace how I feel, to present the same person to the outside as I feel inside, despite another’s observation, perhaps in their eyes coming up short.  To live a life that’s all-in every experience.

That’s what I did with these brownies.  I wanted chocolate and nectarines, the ones on the counter going soft.  Not in a pastry or cobbler or something usual.  In something gooey and cakey. Yet still with a tinge of health and nutrients. I’m being true to myself now after all. My gluten-free flour blend has a bit of buckwheat in it so it has the fairest hint of a rustic tone, I threw in some honey from my uncle’s bees, a small zucchini, and used extra virgin olive oil.  The result was exactly me.  Exactly what I wanted to taste and share.

Summer Brownies with Zucchini and Nectarines, adapted from Happyolks
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 2 cups grated, smashed or finely chopped nectarines with juice
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2.5 cups gluten free flour blend
  • 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 3/4 cup  cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2.25 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 11 baking pan with a tsp of oil and set aside. Grate zucchini and dice nectarine and juice onto a cutting board.
In a large bowl, mix together oil, eggs, honey, and vanilla.  Fold in the nectarine and zucchini. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture slowly, stirring to combine. 
Bake for 30-45 minutes and let cool on a wire rack.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

“Good habits are as addictive as bad habits but, you know, much more rewarding.”  That simple thought may be my lifeline right now, as I consider the extreme parallel- interests my thoughts have taken lately.

School –  Running –  Cooking.

Teaching –  Running –  A Quick and Healthy Meal.

Learning New Curriculum –  Running hours before sunrise –  Breakfast with pumpkins.

Got to get to that stack of grading –  Workout tomorrow – Remember to check the lights on the hydroponics at school – Roast up those pumpkins for cookies.

Welcome to my world.  The only thing that has kept my new work life “balanced” is equally obsessing over my other two loves, running and spending quality time in the kitchen.

Weeks ago now, I know, but as I was leaving my parent’s house the week before Thanksgiving, I was encouraged to take two perfect little pie pumpkins.  I intended to use them for a pumpkin pie.  That week got busy, however, and I pulled out a can instead.  Now, a couple weeks later and already full force into the Christmas season, I am busy pumpkin-ing up meals on a regular basis.  Pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin oatmeal, rosemary roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin risotto, the list goes on.  What I’d really been meaning to re-vamp for months now are amazing pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  They are gluten and dairy-free and even better than the original recipe (less cakey, more cookie-y).  Perfect to share for holiday festivities.  Or just to warm and comfort on a cold December day!

Going back to that, ahem, good habits and balance thing, I know my diet may be a wee bit heavy on the orange veg lately, but I keep saying to myself, “You are balanced.  You have three lovely things to not stop thinking about”.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from Culinate
110 gr / 1/2 cup coconut oil 
1 egg or 3 Tbs. aquafava
320 gr / 1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
200 gr / 1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
330 gr / 2 3/4 cups gluten-free flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
120 gr / about 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a mixer, beat the coconut oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the egg, pumpkin, and vanilla extract.
  3. In a medium bowl, weigh out the flour and combine with the baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.
  4. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture. Fold in about half a cup of chocolate chips.
  5. Pack a cookie scoop level with dough and drop the dough onto a cookie sheet.  Add a couple chocolate chip pieces to each cookie.
  6. Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

Cranberry-Cherry Chocolate Bird Cookies

Are you ready for New Years, 2011, a new resolution, and some positive change? Do you want to clean up your health in the coming year (finally), but aren’t ready to cut yourself off from everything good and wonderful? Or do you simply want try a new take on an old tradition?

If so, I have a wonderful little recipe for you.  It’s actually a combination of two of my favorite cookie recipes.  And really, it’s amazing.  This is a classic chocolate chip cookie with a twist (or several), and you can customize it any way you like.  Personally, mine has an addition of millet and brown rice syrup.  The latter is what keeps these cookies moist for days and days and days, if you’re in the mood to limit yourself, and adds a bit of a unique taste that everyone adores.

I added dried cranberries and cherries, and only a teeny bit of chocolate chips, a combination with a great festive flavor, but certainly feel free to omit and add whatever you like.  To get oat flour without searching at a specialty shop, simply put oatmeal (any kind) in the food processor for a quick whiz.  You’ll find the oat flour adds a bit of earthy- flavor and texture. In a pinch, you can substitute part molasses for the brown rice syrup, but it will really change the taste!

Cranberry-Cherry Chocolate Bird Cookies, adapted from Whole Living & Culinate
To make gluten-free, swap in 2 cups of  Gluten Free Flour Mix instead of the wheat flours. 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown-rice syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbs. water
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup millet
3/4 cup dried cranberries and cherries
a handful chocolate chips
  •  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, rice syrup, sugar, egg, water, and vanilla until completely blended. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients; fold in the millet, fruit, and chocolate. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or as long as overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Scoop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until light golden brown, 10 to 13 minutes.
  • Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.