What a strange winter this has been. I live in Santa Cruz, not far from the beach. We’re used to having occasional sunny interludes between winter storms but this year we’ve had an occasional stormy interlude between sunny, warm days. When I say warm days I mean as warm as 70 degrees in December and January, our chilliest months of the year!
Even stranger, we had the foggiest summer in decades. The kind of damp weather that gets to your bones. And we had no spring whatsoever as it rained right up until the end of June when the fog started. Weird.
Of course I’m loving the sunny weather as I can walk to see Monterey Bay on my lunch breaks, poke around in the garden at home or just sit and let the warm rays soak into my skin. Also nice not to start or end the day driving to or from work in wild wind and pouring rain. The reality, however, is this coming summer we’ll be coming up short on water, on rationing and with a dead garden.
Despite the balmy days, as soon as the sun sets it gets chilly real fast. And while most of the country has had warmer weather than usual this year, it’s definitely not popsicle time! Live in Alaska? You wish we could help you by pulling the storms south. Believe me, some of us would if we could!
All this is to say, that this is the time of year when I most enjoy a cup of hot vanilla and a couple of cookies, whether I have the rare opportunity to sit on the couch and read the paper, or I’m snuggled under flannel sheets with a book.
Hot Vanilla! Or, should I say, Haute Vanilla? When we serve hot chocolate, it doesn’t mean a cup of melted chocolate. It’s made of cocoa or finely chopped bar chocolate with milk and maybe a marshmallow. So why is it that we don’t see hot vanilla on the menu at Starbucks or Peet’s Coffee?
Hot or haute, I love a cup of warm cow, soy or almond milk, richly flavored with vanilla extract or paste and with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s soothing, it doesn’t have the alkaloids of chocolate, no caffeine — just a smooth, slightly sweet and very delicious flavor to calm me down and warm me up. Like this, for instance.
Even though some of you may have made New Year resolutions to avoid sweets and you might still be adhering to your resolutions, there are a lot of us (okay, at least me) who think that it’s very civilized to have a couple of cookies along with a warm beverage.
My assistant Gina brought in some Almond-Oat Lace Cookies a couple of weeks ago. She had baked them as a gift for a friend and had two left so she kindly shared one with me. It was all I could do to keep from tackling her for the other one. Instead, I immediately took the butter out of the freezer and made a double batch of these seductive, delicate treats.
If you’ve every had Lacey’s you know how addictive these cookies are. But what’s interesting is that as much as I like chocolate, I prefer these cookies plain. The chocolate kind of overpowers them. Here’s the recipe.
I made the cookies with Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all purpose flour, but I didn’t add any xanthum or guar gum to them. As a result, they spread a lot, making them super-thin. If you want to make sandwich cookies with chocolate chocolate centers, and you use gluten-free flour, you’ll want to add a pinch of one of the gums.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll try some haute, hot vanilla. If you do, let me know what you think. And if you have any suggestions or improvements on the beverage, please do share!