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Those cute Passover confections are not my creations. They were born in the kitchen of a friend whose creativity and active spiritual questioning manifest in her culinary arts.  I’m often trying to lure her into “guest blogging” here on KitchenCounterCulture, but this time I asked if I could do a post-from-afar in lieu of anything Pesach-related of my own… So here we have Macaroons for Passover in her unique but inspirational style of “Intuitive Cooking,” from which I have much to learn.  …And want to share with readers as well.  Thank you Jess!

As a child I loved the cloyingly sweet coconut macaroons my mother would buy for Passover.  If I were going to try to replicate those chewy morsels, this Martha Stewart recipe would be a close guide.  But I took an interest when Jess posted the photo above.  She lives in Portland, Oregon, one of the heart-centres of sophisticated, international food culture based on local, luscious and healthful foodie awakening.  (She makes intriguing live-cultured vegan nut cheeses, for instance, and is a creative fermenter and gluten-free baker.)  Jess is also an artist and an art therapist, a healer, a dancer and a brave, experimental, sensual soul.

So I asked her to tell me about her macaroons.

“The texture was much softer than the Manishewitz ones of my childhood, but yummy none-the-less,” she wrote. “Next time, I’d put the mixture or just the coconut in the food processor and get it smaller, almost minced, and leave out the coconut flour.” These are her ingredients, the non-traditional macaroon elements added to promote health and balance as well as amazing taste. She strives for “a balance of fat-fiber-protein” in all her treats:

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And of course her process is also something very interesting to contemplate:

“In a pot on medium low, stir together coconut that you’ve food processed to mince finer. Add coconut oil, and when that’s melted, add coconut milk and your alternative sweeteners and vanilla and salt. I’d totally leave out the coconut flour, which made them weird. Stir until everything’s combined and melted, about 3-5 minutes. Take off heat and add ground hemp seeds, maca root powder (optional). They should be firm enough to hold their shape. If not, add more coconut; if too firm, add a touch more coconut milk.: Portion out into smaller bowls if you’re making more than 1 flavour. Add green tea, or cacao powder, or fruit or other flavourings. Either use a pastry bag with a large star shape, or scoop into mounds on parchment paper. You can flatten them or form into other shapes as desired, and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until light brown on bottom. Cool baking sheet on wire rack for 10 min before removing, as they will be rather fragile until completely cooled.”

Recently I wrote about the importance of developing approaches to cooking that are not recipe-oriented. Strengthening a sense of inner freedom and confidence to cook (especially baking!) without recipes is part of this, and I’d heard Jess use the phrase “Intuitive Cooking” before.  So I asked her:

“Intuitive Cooking—how to describe? It’s feeling into your food, connecting with the spirit of the dish and each component….sensing what wants to happen…It’s being fully present, but not fearful of mistakes or tentative, it’s freedom to make mistakes and disasters, it’s letting go of outcome, or being open to a variety of outcomes. It’s noticing what happens when a certain combination of food stuffs come together. It does have a skill component that can be learned– this how to be with food, and maybe (not sure) also partly a gift that can’t be learnt. Regardless, everyone can become more intuitive with their cooking. Start by cultivating Presence with the ingredients and be in relationship with them (at least) while you are working with them. What does being Present and being in Relationship with the stuff mean? That is your first lesson— to discover what those qualities mean to you… [Of course] intuition works with an already existing base of knowledge, e.g. you need to know to use somewhere around 1 tsp. of vanilla, not a whole bottle, and you need to know where to intuit (subbing flavors or grains) and where to follow directions (proportions). This recipe is an anomaly because it will taste good no matter how much you put in of each ingredient, so it’s a good one to begin with. “

Several days later, there was more of this inspiring, inspired, intuitive cooking on her Facebook:

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“Orange Blossom cookies,” writes Jess. “Gluten Free, egg free, grain free, dairy free, refined sugar free, low-glycemic, high fiber, vegan, protein filled, delicious. Next time I will definitely add pistachios. This is a riff off my macaroons from last week. These are comprised of: finely pulverized dried coconut, cashew pulp, ground hemp seeds, maca root powder, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut nectar, brown rice syrup, orange blossom water, vanilla extract, orange peel, salt. Bake on parchment lined cookie sheet at 350F for about 15 min.” Let us all hope, when and if the time is right, Jess will revive her blog of the past. If she does, I will definitely let you all know.  I feel I have so much to learn from her as a cook, so many ways to be stretched, educated and inspired…