black and white

March is almost over. It’s been a long month of being coaxed back into the woods for walks after weeks of waiting for the inches of snow to melt enough for easy long distance walking. We had a week of this freedom, the beauty of a forest letting go of winter.

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And then boom, the blizzard of 2017 hit, depositing another two feet of snow where there had just been none. No easing into spring here, just the black and white world of swinging from one extreme to another.

I’ve had to adjust to how Yogi manages his time in these extremes. He is just a year old, still very much a puppy, still trying to sort out what he can manage on his own, where he is restricted, and where he will push a boundary. Most significantly, he has learned how to get up on his hind legs and with a deft paw, push down on the lever hardware that will open the glass storm door to let himself out. It didn’t take long for him to figure out that this is the way he can let himself in as well. He has trained me to just let him do it because otherwise, he will just continue to deepen the grooves he likes to make in the wood door and frame. All I need to do is train him to close the door behind him.

But in the meantime, I need to be ever vigilant of his desire to be outside. Some days, he will stay out for hours, making beds for himself in the snow. Other days, in and out, in and out. It’s actually a blessing here on the homefront when there are many feet of snow. He can play and dig to his heart’s content without breaking into the frozen ground.

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But oh, just a little thaw and the dark wet earth starts flying. When I feel my blood pressure rise, I let myself fantasize about the one extreme of life without these nuisances, without him in my life, or the other extreme of getting the chickens and goats I dream about, not waiting till next year, so as to give him some work right now, to guard the animals he is bred to do.

Or, I could go to make another batch of my new favorite chocolate cookies.

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It is a cookie so dark and crunchy chocolate and so easy to make, it is impossible not to feel the balm of seratonin that follows. I had noticed the bag of (Organic Traditions) cocoa nibs I bought to use for Christmas cookies sitting unopened in the cabinet. You can imagine the plethora of recipes that could be found by googling cookies with cocoa nibs. “Dark Chocolate Cocoa Nib Shortbread Cookies” had no competition. I made some adaptations, polished off the first batch in less than a week, and immediately tested the recipe again a second time.** The cocoa nibs add a perfect little crunch. They aren’t tea cookies. They need the strength of coffee to manage the strength of dark chocolate lusciousness.

I remember much needed moderation when these cookies are in the house. What better way to remind myself of the middle way when dancing with extremes.

Yogi has done a good job so far of guarding the homestead as he tries to find his place here. He has his perch at the front and another overlooking the woods and meadow and will bark at the sound of  truck ambling by a mile away. He is a good dog. A gentle soul. And oh so beautiful. I simply have not been able to stop taking pictures of him. The camera loves him, and he seems to know just how to move to let the light move across his lush white fur, or turn to look at me with an expression that always seems to say “I know exactly what to give you right now to make up for that hole I made over there”

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In the end, if I can’t find him a job guarding animals, there is always a career in modeling.

**Dark Chocolate Cocoa Nib Shortbread Cookies (adapted from recipe by Traci York, Vanilla and Bean)

3/4 cup all purpose flour (I used organic unbleached white flour)
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour (I used my cashew flour/whole wheat pastry flour mix)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (good quality dutch process kind really makes a difference)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) butter at room temperature
1 cup turbinado sugar, (processed in small food processor to white granulated sugar consistency)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
Powdered sugar

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silpat (I used a silat)

Whisk or sift together flours, cocoa powder, salt & baking soda. Set aside.

Beat sugar, butter and vanilla until smooth and creamy. (I might use a stand mixer here if I had one, but by hand works great too….)

Add dry ingredients in two batches. If too dry and crumbly, add up to a tablespoon water    (or leftover coffee)

Mix in cocoa nibs until evenly distributed.

Dump dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, lightly drape over dough, and press dough into a 1/2” thick rectangle. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to two days.

On a floured work surface roll out dough to 1/4” thick, maintaining rectangular shape as much as possible. With a sharp wet knife, cut dough into 4 x 6 grid, approx. 24 rectangles. Place cookies on pan with metal spatula, separated by at least 1/2”.

Put baking sheet with dough in refrigerator for another 20 minutes while pre-heating oven to 350 degrees.

Bake chilled cookies for 22-24 minutes, check for done (almost firm to touch) after 20 minutes. Allow to cool on sheet. Sift with powdered sugar.

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