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With fewer people to share my bakes with these days, I’ve been cutting way back on my baking. However, sometimes you find a recipe too intriguing to not try – like Smoked Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies. I quickly contacted some friends to see if they would be game for a cookie drop off, and once I had the affirmative, I jumped right into baking.
This recipe was met with positive reviews all around. They were all gone after the first day and I even received a couple of texts letting me know that they’d be interested in having more cookies if I felt like making a second batch. Overall it was a pretty easy recipe, and I will definitely be tucking this one away for future use – maybe for something like holiday cookie boxes?
150 g unsalted butter, cubed
250 g light brown sugar
80 g granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla bean extract
1/8 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke (optional)
150 g tahini, smooth and runny
180 g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
225 g dark chocolate or smoked dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Smoked salt, fleur de sel or flaked salt, for finishing
1. Place the unsalted butter into a medium sized saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until melted. Pour the melted butter into a large mixing bowl and add in the light brown sugar and granulated sugar. Whisk until well combined. Add in the egg and whisk until glossy. Add in the vanilla bean extract, hickory liquid smoke (if using), and tahini. Whisk until well combined, about a further minute. Set the bowl aside.
2. In a separate medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Add half of the dry ingredients into the bowl with the butter and sugar mixture. Use a wooden spoon to mix until just combined (some dry flour pockets should remain). Add in the remaining dry ingredients, again, mix until just combined. Fold in the dark chocolate chunks until evenly incorporated throughout the dough. Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
4. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180 c (350 f). Line three large baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper.
5. Using a small cookie scoop, or a generous tablespoon as a measure, roll out as many balls out of the dough as possible. Arrange the dough balls evenly amongst the baking trays, then, sprinkle over a little of the smoked salt.
6. Bake, for 10 to 12 minutes. Half-way through baking, open the oven door and raise the cookie sheet by a few inches (The cookies should be beginning to puff in the middle). Use a little force to tap it against the oven rack, so that the cookies deflate slightly. You should see the chocolate begin to spread. Close the oven door and let the cookies bake and inflate again, for a further minute. Again, repeat the raising and tapping process above for a total of 2 more times. The cookies should be just crisp around the edges, and the middles should be beginning to set with chocolate puddles throughout. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on their baking trays for 10 minutes, before carefully transferring them to a wire rack to further cool slightly, before serving.
* These were good cookies. Not “the best”, but I’d definitely make them again. The nutty tahini flavor was perfection with the smoked sea salt, and even though I think I’d like less chocolate if I were to make these myself alone, the semi sweet chunky definitely provided a lovely sweet counterpoint.
* Do NOT skip or cut the chill time. I actually let my mix sit in the fridge for 45 minutes since the kitchen was so warm. If you don’t you’ll end up with flat overly crisp cookie puddles, that tahini wants to spread and we gotta keep it in check.
* These are great cookies if you know someone who is a picky eater. As long as they like peanut butter, they’ll love these. Very similar flavor profile, but it sounds far more glamorous.
We all know that the pandemic has lead to LOTS of cancelled plans. We spent the spring shut up tight in our homes, and unfortunately it’s probably even more unsafe to be out now than it was then. I haven’t really made concrete plans in months, but as we sit her almost half way through July, I decided that I wanted to set some expectations for the rest of my summer. I decided to crate a bucket list.
*Tie Dye Something
*Expand My Succulent Garden
*Have a Picnic
*Plan a Staycation
*Enjoy Summer Fruit
*Drink an Iced Beverage On a Patio
*Pack Snacks, Get in the Car, and Just Drive
*Make Infused Water
*Read 3 New Books
*Decorate the Back Porch
*Find Plants for the Mantle
*Paint & Hide Motivation Rocks
*Try a New Food
*Make a Summer Playlist
*Make Friendship Bracelets
*Do an at Home Summer Mani/Pedi
*Do a Family Puzzle Night
*Make a Blanket Fort
*Do a Summer Closet Purge
*Figure Out How to (while observing pandemic safety measures) Dip My Toes In the Water
*Find the Perfect Floral Sundress
*Have a Movie Night
*Make Iced Tea
*Eat Ice Cream in a Cone
*Watch the Sunset
*Cook Something on the Grill
I think it goes without saying that safety has to come first when it comes to any activity, but I think there is still plenty of room for summer fun and I can’t wait to start crossing things off my list.
Sounds a little unhygienic, right? But let’s start at the beginning. It was just another pandemic weekend, and I was binge watching YouTube videos as one does, when I found this video by Devin Lytle former part of the Buzzfeed Ladylike crew. The video detailed Devin’s recent* decision to stop washing her hair and become part of the No Poo (as in shampoo) moment. The movement asserts that modern washing practices are damaging to our hair and scalp and can lead to dandruff, hair breakage, and hair loss, and that we can have stronger, fuller, healthier hair if we just take it easy and let our hair, for the most part, do its thing.
Now this is not the first time I have heard this idea, but in the past, the women singing the praises of the concept had hair situations that were dramatically different from my own. They had thick un-dyed long hair, and a lot of their “tips and tricks” seemed to hinge on the ability to pull their hair back in a number of styles that could camouflage or utilize the natural oils produced. With short fine color-treated hair, that was a big no go for me. Now back to the day I watched Devin’s video. Devin and I have very similar hair, and I knew from watching her videos in the past that we dealt with many of the same issues when it came to care and maintenance. So when she decided to take washing her hair off of her daily routine, I for the first time thought, “wait, this might be something I can do too!”
I am still telecommuting, and I only leave the house once or twice a week, so I figured there couldn’t be a better time for me to give this a shot. I tried to take a picture every day or so to track my progress:
And I’ll be damned if it didn’t work. Now before you get excited and start throwing away all of your hair products, I do want to say that my new routine isn’t just me and my hair; I had to utilize a couple of things to keep my hair looking the way I wanted. The first, and most important, item was dry shampoo. My scalp produces a fair amount of oil naturally, and my baby fine hair just can’t stand up to it. I used the dry shampoo whenever I felt things were looking a little rough. A couple of sprays and a quick brush, and I was good to go. However, a person can not care for their hair with dry shampoo alone – there have been cases where people use too much, too often; their scalp ends up caked with powder, and their hair starts to fall out. To avoid this, I rinsed my hair with warm water once a week and scrubbed my scalp with my nails. Since my hair is purple, I would apply my purple Overtone to my hair the day of my weekly hair rinse and let it sit for 25 minutes before rinsing it out. I also was able to do my monthly root bleach and dye without an issues (I manage my own color maintenance at home).
All of that to say, this really worked, guys. Like REALLY worked. My hair looks better than it ever has, and with the exception of Andy teasing me that I am now one step closer to being a “dirty hippy” there hasn’t been a downside. I am going to look for a “better” dry shampoo. I’ve been using the Garnier Invisible Dry Sampoo in Mint Mojito, but I am using a lot of it and I’d like to find something that I could use less of for longer. But here I am, more than a month since my last real “hair wash”, and it is still the best choice I have ever made for my hair. I don’t know that I’ll ever go back.
As things swing into the middle of summer, I find myself thinking fondly of simpler times, where quickly melting freezer pops and floating around in the pool were the order of the day. Granted those days are a lot further away than I’d like to admit, but those deep seated memories I don’t think ever really go away. In response, I have been trying to figure out a new summer rhythm: something restful, but productive enough that I can keep myself from feeling too badly about a lazy afternoon or two. Here is what is going on in my life currently:
Listening – to audio-books. I finally jumped on the Audible band wagon, and while we had a bumpy start, I think I’ve finally found my rhythm. I was a little stingy with my monthly credits to begin with and I was listening to a lot of free content that was…maybe not of the highest quality, but I finally did some research and I am pleased to say that the last two books I have listened to have been pretty good. A friend of mine recommended A Court of Thorns & Roses, which I enjoyed, and now I am working my way through Loving Your Lady Landscape. Trying to find a balance between purely for entertainment and for personal growth ;).
Cooking – Summer Veggies. I really want to take advantage of all of the amazing seasonal produce this month. I have been bookmarking recipes, and I am going to try to talk Andy into cleaning off the grill. Worse comes worst, I do have a tiny little indoor grill that should be big enough to cook whatever I come up with for two.
Reading – The Insider, book two in Craig Schaefer’s series about a gritty former explosives expert Charlie McCabe. The first book, The Loot, was an interesting take on how strange it can be for someone fresh out of military service to be a civilian again – even more so when you arrive home to find your family in a situation that leads to good people doing questionable things for what they hope are the right reasons. It can be a slippery slope, and I am very interested in seeing what comes next.
Wearing – Shorts. Or I will be very soon. I have some body image issues, and nothing makes me more self conscious of my extra padding or my extreme paleness quite like summer time. Since I am usually indoors it hasn’t been a huge issue, but since I am spending more time outdoors, I have found myself intensely uncomfortable in my longer layers. A friend of mine finally asked me why I was making myself miserable, I relayed all of my insecurities and she said, “who gives a shit what a bunch of random people think about the way you look.” After a little reflection, I had to admit she had a point so I went home and ordered four pairs of shorts; they should be here by Wednesday.
Finishing – a lot of the projects I’ve started over the last few months. I, like many people, have been trying to make the most of my at my extra at home hours. However, since running out to the store to pick up additional supplies is not advisable, I’ve found myself stopping mid-project to order supplies and then never coming back to it. So this month I am making a concerted effort to wrap up as many of these half-done projects as possible. In preparation, I’ve been pulling out pieces and supplies and grouping them together on my work table so everything is ready once I get started. Here’s to a productive month!
As I am sure you have seen all over the internet, a lot of people are using the pandemic and the need to stay home as an opportunity to tackle all sorts of projects. My big project has been turning my junk room/craft room into a fully realized office/craft room (more on that in a later post) and one of the spaces I want to create in that space is a meditation nook/altar space.
I don’t really like getting into my personal beliefs these days as there are so many people giving religion a bad name, but I grew up in a Pentecostal church. It was loud and demonstrative, and the sense of community was incredible. I loved it, and I was very involved. Then I went to college and realized that I didn’t necessarily agree with all of the things the church taught. Love, forgiveness, generosity? 100%. Homophobia, condemnation, and belief in one “right” way to live? Hard pass. I bounced around to a few different more inclusive churches/denominations over the years, but then 2016 happened, and Andy and I decided that I was done with trying to find a “good” church and I was going to pursue ways to honor my beliefs in a way that felt meaningful to me. I still pray everyday, but I also enjoy my affirmation tarot deck, honoring nature and the elements and meditation to feel more connected to the universe. It’s a little mystical hippy woo woo, but it works for me.
As I was working on ideas for my altar/meditation space, I came across this article on How to Make a Mala Necklace That’ll Supercharge Your Meditation Practice. I have a friend who is a yoga instructor so I’d seen/heard about them before, but I’d never given them much thought. Mala necklaces are made up of 108 beads (like the Catholic rosary), and similar to a Catholic rosary, they are used to pray or recite mantras, one for each bead until a complete circuit has been made and you find yourself back at the beginning or guru bead. Traditionally malas were bestowed by one’s spiritual leader, but today they are widely available and no more than a mouse click and free two day shipping away.
If you want something a little more personal however, you can easily make your own mala necklace. Your mala can be made up of colors or gemstones that are meaningful to you on a spiritual level or even simply something you find visually appealing. I’ve always been interested in the metaphysical properties that have been attributed to different stones over the years so I picked my materials based on that. After a bit of research I landed on Flourite, a translucent purple and green stone that were supposed to promote things that I felt would be beneficial to my mental health and over all spiritual well-being:
Flourite – Enhances mental order and clarity and reduces instability. Helps bring about a wiser, more balanced view of life and improves decision making.
To round things out, I used all natural cotton cord and made a matching tassel and added a few silver touches for a little something extra. All in all, I was pretty pleased with the results.
Since I am not a yogi, I won’t be using my mala necklace for the traditional chants or prayers, but I will be using it for daily meditations, affirmations, or to pull my mind away from the frantic pointless panic that our current situation seems to be fostering in so many of us. I have visions of siting in my quiet space, breathing, re-centering, and calming myself while deepening my awareness of my own body and self and finding a way to move forward with understanding and grace. A tall order to be sure, but a girl can dream right?