Every night I fall asleep to the sound of the ocean. Not the real ocean, sadly, just recordings I can stream through YouTube, but it is enough that those recordings were the ocean once, washing gently across some distant shore. It’s either that or a (mild) tropical storm, because the distant rolls of thunder and lashing rain make me feel warm and cosy and far away. White noise in general makes me feel calm in a way that total silence never can. I never sit in totally silent rooms in libraries, for example, it’s just too disconcerting somehow. I like hustle and bustle to remind me there is life outside of my own mind and the object of its immediate focus.

Moments of calm, like deep and restful unmedicated sleep, often prove elusive to me, but their pursuit is a greater priority this New Year than dieting or rushing to the gym. Sleeplessness and anxiety are a vicious cycle because the one aggravates the other indefinitely. View Full Post

Chocolate Coconut Cookies | magpieandmaple.com

It’s been a rainy few days in London, and the only thing worth doing on a rainy afternoon is curling up with fresh cookies and a good book or film. Not to mention the new series of Bake Off is here — if, like me, you’re enviously eyeing the tasty treats on a Wednesday night and wishing you could reach through the screen and steal a slice, this recipe is for you. Using only a handful of wholesome ingredients, these come together in under 20 minutes and have the bonus of being good for you, too. Provided you don’t eat them all in one sitting, that is.

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I write this as I travel north, watching field after green field rush by, and trying to protect my tea from the lurches and throes of the train as it zooms unevenly onward. It is a journey I have made many times before, to stay with my aunt and uncle in Perthshire, and one that I always enjoy in spite of the six-hour train journey from London. I love watching farm animals or towns or woodland emerge momentarily by the side of the tracks and then disappear into the distance just as rapidly. Once north of the border, the tracks even run along the sea front for a while. I love to escape the metropolis and get a change of scene in greener pastures now and then, and, if only in my own imagination, the railway has a certain exciting, even romantic, quality to it.

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I thought I would take the opportunity to share the recipe for some cookies I made yesterday. I’m not a massive fan of white chocolate – I like it dark as it comes most of the time – but the exception to that is in baked goods. It lends a nice sweetness to cookies and muffins and cakes that dark chocolate does not, and this pairs nicely with the tartness of dried cranberries. These cookies are very quick and simple, and contain only wholesome ingredients. I hope you like them!

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Makes 10 small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 150g / 1.25 cups ground almonds
  • 3 tbsps coconut oil/nut butter/butter
  • 3 tbsps maple syrup/agave nectar
  • 25g finely chopped white chocolate/white chocolate chips
  • 25g dried cranberries
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C, and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. In a bowl mix together the ground almonds, oil or butter, maple syrup, vanilla and baking powder to form a dough.
  3. Stir in the cranberries and white chocolate
  4. Roll into around 10 small balls, lay them spaced out on a baking tray, and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon.
  5. Bake for 13-15 minutes depending on how crispy/soft you like them. Remember they will harden more as they cool so are likely to be soft when they first come out of the oven.

I’ve never actually given anything up for Lent, probably because none of my family or close friends ever really does, but also because my birthday always falls in Lent, which somehow, mentally, acts as a constraint. I’ve always liked and admired the idea of it though. I like the fact that people are moving away from standard traditional food based give-ups more and more, in favour of identifying the things in their lives that they are wrongly prioritising. Somehow that feels a little more meaningful and specific to the individual, although I still greatly admire people who go 40 days without chocolate! Some people I know are doing a “living simply” challenge, attempting to reduce their environmental impact, and last year some adopted Lent as a “kindness” season.

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I suspect that edible goods remain the most common thing to give up though, which isn’t surprising, and is definitely commendable. Whatever you may have given up though, I can almost guarantee it won’t be in these biscuits (as long as you haven’t given up biscuits in general, of course!) They’re made of a few simple, wholesome ingredients and can be whipped together in just a few minutes.  I should caution you though, if you don’t like marzipan, they may not be for you, as that’s exactly what they taste like. Personally, I adore marzipan, and any sweet almond-y taste, so I love them. But I’m aware not everyone is the same.

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As you can see, I enjoyed an entire plate of them while working the other day. And before you judge me, I’m pretty sure you would need the entire batch too if you had to spend all day reading about the history of eugenics. They are quite simple looking, so if you want to jazz them up a bit I’m sure a simple icing would go nicely on top. I stuffed a few of them with my favourite chocolate filling.

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Makes 12 biscuits: Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 TABLESPOON almond extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 160 fan. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined and dough like.
  3. Roll the mixture into 12 even sized balls (number will vary slightly depending on the size) and space evenly apart on the baking sheet. Press them down with the back of a spoon until thinn-ish and circular. They will not change much during baking so the shape and size you make them now is what they will look like in the end.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes until lightly golden and crunchy.

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