Pretty Great Pumpkin Bread

I want to call this the best-ever pumpkin bread or maybe easy and perfect pumpkin bread but the reality is there are approximately 27,432 recipes for pumpkin bread out there and I would wager a bet that 90 percent of the recipes you stumble onto are pretty great.

So here’s another pretty great recipe to add to your list when you’re in the mood for something pumpkin and feeling all those fall vibes.

Me? I’m not feeling fall-ish yet, but I’m going for it anyway. I live in a town absolutely enveloped in smoke from wild fires surrounding us on all sides. It’s been hot (brutally hot actually) and the smoke is thick and choking. It makes your throat sore and your eyes burn and sometimes you see ash falling from the sky. The kids can’t go outside for recess and outdoor practices and games have been cancelled going on two weeks.

It doesn’t particularly feel like fall where I live but doesn’t feel like summer either…or any season really. Obviously all of this pales in comparison to very real tragedies and natural disasters happening all over the country/world in the last little bit. I was texting with my mother-in-law today and as she was telling me about a school shooting that happened today in the town I grew up in, we both agreed we feel helpless and defeated by so much hurt all around us. It’s a heavy, worrying, hard hard time for so many.

And pumpkin bread won’t change any of that terrible hurt but it might put a smile on your kid’s faces when they come home from a hard day at school. Or you could double this recipe and drop a loaf off for a friend as a surprise. And you could absolutely slice it thick and slather it in butter and enjoy it slowly with a cup of coffee and maybe those five minutes will recharge you in some small way.


This is one of those easy one-bowl recipes that are great for little people to jump in and ‘help’ with. The other great thing is that the recipe calls for one whole can of pumpkin, which is perfect since I hate wasting the last bit of pumpkin out of the can but I also never have any ideas how to use it up except to make more treats. One can. One loaf. Done.


Pretty Great Pumpkin Bread (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 heaping teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix
  • Two pinches of ground cloves
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a LARGE loaf pan, grease with butter and flour or a piece of parchment paper. 

In the bowl of a large mixing bowl beat pumpkin, coconut oil, eggs, vanilla and sugar until well-combined with no lumps. Using a wooden spoon or spatula stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all spices. When batter is just combined, scoop into loaf pan. 

In a small bowl combine one tablespoon raw sugar (regular white sugar is fine too) with one teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the bread. Bake for approximately one hour or until a toothpick  poked in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Prosciutto and Nectarine Pizza

Today feels a little bit special. Four years ago this month I published my first column in the Yakima Magazine.  I’ve poured my heart into developing recipes, learning how to take food photos (something I am very much still learning about) and sharing a few words here and there. This little blog is an off-shoot of my column, both of which I cherish very much. The first recipe I ever shared was pizza on the grill so it felt fitting to revisit a house staple and a recipe I’ve tweaked and streamlined over the last couple years. Hope you enjoy!

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The very first article I ever wrote for Yakima Magazine was the September 2014 edition. I knew former editor Robin Beckett through mutual friends and earlier in the summer we ran into each other at a barbecue. She loved the cookies I made for the party (you can find the recipe on yakimamagazine.com, just search chocolate chip cookies) and after chatting for a bit, she asked if I wanted to write something for the magazine. I was floored and excited and spent the rest of the summer planning out exactly what I wanted to feature.

After much deliberation, I decided to write about making pizza on the barbecue. When the day finally came to have photographs done for the article, I had worked myself into a complete frenzy. I had three different pizzas ready to be photographed, my house was clean top to bottom (even though we weren’t taking pictures inside) and I was sweaty, frazzled and very nervous. I vividly remember burning the first pizza, trying hard to laugh off my embarrassment, secretly grateful I had prepped extra pizzas.

Fast forward three years and I’m still here, cooking and baking, making messes and occasionally burning things in my kitchen. I’m so grateful to have Kitchen Captivated in Yakima Magazine to share what I love most, which is making food that brings families and friends to the table together.

It felt right on this ‘anniversary’ of sorts to revisit pizza on the grill. Pizza continues to be a staple around my house because it’s a dinner the whole family loves and gets involved with. But like this column, my pizza-making skills have evolved a bit over the last couple years. My dough recipe is simple and quick, all you need is five minutes to prep and a few hours to let the dough rise. We almost always make pizza on Sunday nights when I have a little extra time in the day. I make the dough in the late morning or early afternoon and leave it on the counter. You could also make dough the night before and store it in the fridge, just pull it out an hour or so before you want to use it.

The beautiful thing about pizza is that just about anything goes when it comes to toppings. This sweet nectarine and prosciutto pizza is a bit of summer goodness in each bite. And while we might be seeing small signs that fall is just around the corner, my local fruit stand is bursting with amazing fresh produce, just begging to be enjoyed. Sweet juicy nectarines (which easily could be swapped for peaches) and salty prosciutto combine with tangy goat cheese, ample fresh basil and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a pizza that is literally bursting with flavor.

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Prosciutto and Nectarine Pizza

  • 1 12-inch pizza dough, rolled out
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 package prosciutto
  • 1 nectarine (or peach), washed and thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt

Place prepared dough on a pizza pan sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Brush dough with olive oil. Start with the prosciutto, evenly placing it across the dough, leaving a 1-inch crust around the edges. Top with sliced nectarines then goat cheese and mozzarella. Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake or grill until desired doneness. As soon as the pizza comes off the heat sprinkle generously with chopped basil and balsamic vinegar.

This pizza dough recipe is a hybrid of several outstanding recipes including Mark Bittman’s Pizza Dough, and Yakima’s Essencia Bakery where I had the pleasure of attending a cooking class last year. I simply took the ingredients and techniques from each recipe and adapted them to what works in my kitchen.

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Homemade Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup tap water, plus more if needed

Using an electric mixer with a dough attachment or a food processor, place the flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and honey into the bowl. Turn the mixer or food processor on and mix a few times. Slowly add the water to the flour mixture until dough forms. If the mixture is very wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough is stretchy and moist but not gloppy or overly sticky. If the mixture is too dry and very stiff, add a tablespoon of water at a time until the mixture is just right.

Using well-floured hands, mold the dough into a round ball and place in a clean dry bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel and walk away. Let the dough rise for at least 2 hours or until it’s more than doubled in size.

When you are ready to make pizza, divide the dough in half and using well-floured hands and cutting board, work the dough a few times until it’s in a nice ball. Let the dough rest on the board under a towel for an additional 15 minutes. (use this time to shred cheese, pre-heat the oven, dice veggies, ect.) Preheat the oven to 450 degree.

Roll the dough out using a rolling pin to 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Lift the crust onto a pizza pan sprayed with cooking spray. Top with desired toppings and bake for 12-15 minutes.

To grill your pizza on the barbecue (which I highly recommend), simply heat your barbecue to medium high heat. If you have a thermometer, shoot for about 500 degrees. You can place your metal pizza pan directly on the barbecue or if you have a pizza stone, even better. Pizza on the grill usually cooks in about 8-10 minutes. When the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, your pizza is ready to come off the heat.

Raspberry and Almond Scones

IMG_8707.JPGJuly is my favorite month of the entire year. Growing up, July meant a few very specific things: berry picking, strawberry shortcake for dinner, boat rides and camping at the lake. To this day, I look forward to July all year. I’m sure having a birthday in July has something to do with it, especially considering my husband coined me the ‘birthday princess’ years ago.

Can I be honest? We’ve had a rocky start to the summer. Sickness has slowed us down and forced us to miss out on a lot of fun things in the last couple weeks. We came home from a weekend away and our precious kitty is missing. Living in the country you kind of have to expect this kind of thing from time to time but it doesn’t make it any easier.

All that to say, I’m ready to shake off the last few weeks and start fresh with our summer. We are finally (fingers crossed) healthy and ready to work through our summer-fun list.

At the top of the list is a Sunday stroll through the Yakima Farmers Market. I love slowly walking booth to booth, looking at everything. We buy a giant strawberry lemonade for our kids which they inevitably fight over and someone spills but somehow that’s part of the charm. We buy a loaf of bread from Buhrmaster Bakery and a plate of pad thai. We load up on fruits and vegetables for the week, whenever possible choosing something we wouldn’t typically find at the grocery store; a new variety of tomato, a purple bell pepper, sweet yellow carrots, or a big globe of daikon. If berries are in season, I buy a few pints, which my kids eat most of before we even get home. My last stop before we head home is the flower booth. I take my time choosing a bouquet knowing I’ll get to enjoy them all week on my kitchen island.

This week’s recipe is for fresh raspberry and almond scones. The tender sweet raspberries melt into the dough making pockets of perfectly sweet jammy bites. The hint of almond and crunch of raw sugar on top make these easy scones decadent and special. Perfect for a lazy Saturday morning or to bring to a party as a treat, you could easily turn these into dessert with a spoonful of fresh fruit and a dollop of whip cream.

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Raspberry Almond Cream Scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 ounces fresh raspberries
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using clean hands or two forks, mix the butter (breaking it up) into the dough until there are no butter lumps bigger than the size of a pea. Gently stir the raspberries into the flour mixture. In a small bowl whisk together the heavy whipping cream, egg and almond extract. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and gently stir together with a spatula. Using your hands press the dough into a ball. Sprinkle flour on your countertop and knead the dough until it has just barely come together. Shape the dough into a circle about 1 inch thick. Cut the circle into 8 wedges. Places the wedges on the baking sheet. Using a pastry brush or a spoon, brush the tops of the scones with melted butter. Sprinkle raw sugar over the top of each scone. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until a pale golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Best served warm from the oven, preferably with hot coffee and the early morning sun warming your back as you enjoy Yakima’s perfect summer weather.

White Bean Artichoke Dip

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And just like that school is out for the summer. I officially have a third grader, first grader and pre-kindergartner. I told the kids they had this week to do whatever they wanted; watch too much t.v., live like sloths, whatever. But next week mom boot camp kicks in.

I’m not sure quite how to say it nicely, but I would say we are lacking in the personal responsibility and independence department around here. I find a lot of shoes, I hang up towels, I remind children to put dishes away and I watch the clock to make sure no one misses the bus. And that’s just from 8:15am to 8:30am every morning.

It’s time. Time for kids to grow up a little bit and mom to take a step back. Which is going to take a little boot camp for all of us. I’ve gotten into the rhythm of just doing it all because I KNOW where the shoes are and I can do those dishes quickly and easily and sometimes I shrug my shoulders and think…well…I am a stay-at-home mom…this is what you do.

But I’m finding myself feeling a little resentful and frustrated that I’m doing everything for everyone. I’m so busy doing all the things that I don’t slow down long enough to teach my kids the tasks they need to learn to be helpful.

It’s a funny feeling to catch yourself in routines or habits without ever making the conscious decision to do so. When it comes time to reteach or retrain yourself into new habits the first little bit of time feels so overwhelming and hard (that’s where I’m at; staring down the barrel of summer, telling myself ‘I think I can, I think I can!). But anyway, those are just my rambling thoughts on the first day of summer.

I would love any ideas you might have on systems/chores/personal responsibility/summer goals. I don’t want the summer to be a painful push and pull of frustration but at the same time I want to take advantage of a summer of togetherness to build new habits we can take into the school year come fall.

And in the spirit of changing things up, I’ve been in the midst of an experiment the last month or so. In an effort to see if I can eliminate a few (minor but annoying) health concerns I’ve had for years and years, I’ve really endeavored to clean up my diet. I temporarily eliminated dairy which has been…interesting.

I made this easy white bean and artichoke dip on Sunday night and we dipped carrots and cucumbers (and tortilla chips too) as a little appetizer for everyone while we waited for pizzas to come off the grill. I ended up using it as a sauce on my pizza with chicken sausage, bell peppers and Kalamata olives and it was delicious (fake cheese not so much). I stored the leftover dip in the fridge and have snacked on it all week.

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White Bean Artichoke Dip

  • 1 14oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 marinated in olive oil artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil reserved from artichoke jar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • sea salt and black pepper

Put all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth. If necessary, add an additional teaspoon of olive oil if the dip is thick. Scoop into a bowl and drizzle lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Dip chips and veggies, bread sticks or spread on toast or pizza dough. Store extras in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars

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I’ve had some sort of garden since I’ve moved to Yakima (11 years now…woah!). It started with a ‘salsa’ planter, essentially a pot with a tomato, cilantro and jalapeno plants, my mother-in-law gave me the first spring we owned our first house (2006…I think). I was 23, knew absolutely nothing about plants or gardening and dutifully watered that pot every time I remembered (which wasn’t often).

My mother is an incredible gardener. She can and does grow everything. Her yard has every type of flower you can imagine and for a few years she tended a huge almost 1-acre vegetable garden growing so much produce she would drop off laundry baskets full of produce at the homeless shelter almost every week.

And then there’s me. Sometimes the apple falls a little farther away from the tree. I’ve had some good years. I remember picking raspberries into October at my old house (although I’m not sure I can take any credit for that, I didn’t actually plant those raspberries). Some years go better than others. I love plants and flowers and I do love to garden but I would say my gardening has more fails than successes most years. Weeds and bugs and moles seem to win out.

This year I really threw some effort into it though. I asked (pleaded and begged) Aaron to build me some garden boxes. I researched companion planting and mapped out what would go into each box. I was envisioning a Better Homes and Gardens Magazine garden spread with overflowing boxes and sweet little paths in between.

The reality is Aaron cut his hand and needed 9 stitches while building the boxes. And even though we filled the boxes with very-high quality soil, our plants are unhappy and turning yellow, lacking the necessary nutrients to grow. Oh and did I mention the weeds? So many weeds.

But I’m not giving up just yet. I’m out there weeding like crazy and we fertilized and changed our watering schedule. If nothing else, I should have stronger arms by the end of the summer from the weeding alone. I keep telling myself it’s good to work a problem.

My friend gifted me literally an armful of rhubarb last week. Her garden is mature and lovely and everything grows like crazy. I was only a tiny bit jealous when she showed me. But anyway, I had to do something with all that rhubarb. I decided on strawberry rhubarb crisp bars from Smitten Kitchen. This recipe was a bit like my garden…it’s good to work a problem. Be smarter than me and really follow the directions. I had to make these twice because I didn’t read the directions carefully enough and the bars ended up soggy and mushy. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the prepared fruit and make sure to store the bars in the fridge. This is an easy recipe, and the bars are sweet and tangy and absolutely delicious, with a buttery oat filled crust.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars

1 cup (80 grams) rolled oats
3/4 cup (95 grams) plus up to 2 tablespoons (15 grams) extra all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (95 grams) light brown sugar
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional, but helps firm up the filling)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (125 grams) small-diced rhubarb (from about 1 1/2 medium stalks)
1 cup (155 grams) small-diced strawberries
Powdered sugar, for decoration, if desired

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. For easy removal, line bottom and two sides of 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. No need to bother (and no greasing needed) if you plan to serve them right in the pan, as I did.

Place oats, 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar and salt in bottom of baking pan and mix. Pour melted butter over, and stir until clumps form. If the clumps feel soft or look overly damp, add the remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture. Press the rest of the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.

Spread half the fruit over the crust. Sprinkle it evenly with cornstarch, then lemon juice, and 1/2 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Spread remaining fruit over this, and top with second 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Scatter reserved crumbs over fruit and bake bars for 30 to 40 minutes (firmer fruits will take longer), until fruit is bubbly and crisp portion is golden and smells toasty and amazing.

Let cool in pan; I do this in the fridge, where they become crisp once chilled (less so at room temperature). Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. Store leftovers in fridge.

I am ‘That’ Mom and Other Embarrassing Moments my Kids will Relive in Therapy Someday

Come to find out I am an obnoxious sports fan. Never much of an athlete myself, this revelation has come as a bit of a surprise.

I like to wear the jersey. Sometimes I yell at the TV (I come by this genetically). I cheer until I lose my voice and every once in a while during really special events (like the Olympics) I might even get a little tear in my eye if a game/event doesn’t work out for the team/athlete I’m cheering for.

A couple years ago, on a trip to Whistler, we happened to be there during an Ironman race. We even knew one of the racers so on the morning of the race we got up early to watch. We sipped coffee from the deck of our house and watched the swim, yelling and cheering as the contenders raced out of the chilly mountain water. Then we walked down the road to watch the bike race portion and I’m not joking, even a little bit, when I say that in less than an hour I was completely hoarse from cheering on the bikers. I probably screamed enough for at least 10 people.

So imagine how out-of-control I can be watching my own kid. Oh my gosh. It’s not pretty people, I have zero chill. This weekend was a fun relay race our town hosts called Gap2Gap. Kids form teams of 2 to 4 and compete in a relay that involves running, biking, kayaking (if you’re old enough) and a couple of obstacle courses.

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Jackson and his good buddy prepped for this race all month. They bought matching t-shirts and set up their own obstacle course in the backyard, practicing jumping over picnic benches and crawling under deck chairs. Saturday morning the boys were nervous and excited waiting for their age group to start. When it was finally time, the boys took off, determined to try and win, giving it their all.

I was running between each leg of the event hauling water bottles and taking pictures, yelling and cheering like crazy. The boys finished the event and it appeared like they had come in first place for their age group. They were so excited! We were so excited for them! Lots of celebrating all around.

As the awards ceremony started, the boys excitedly moved to the front of the crowd. As their age group was announced Jackson’s team wasn’t called. They didn’t place at all. And I was ‘that’ mom. You know the one. My cheeks are still red when I think about it.

The boys initially were pretty surprised and bummed out but shrugged off their disappointment in record time. We, of course, talked about how the important thing was that they had fun and did their best and that was what was important.

The next morning the paper ran the times and placements of each team and to our surprise, our hunch was right, the boys DID come in first. We’re not sure where the glitch was, but that’s beside the fact. It doesn’t really matter because the lesson for them and even more for ME, is that sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t. Mistakes happen, sometimes from your own doing and other times because of an accidental oversight or a miscommunication or who-knows-why; it just happens. And it matters so much more how you respond in those moments. You know I’m talking to myself right? Oh man, I have some work to do in this area.

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I’ve been thinking all weekend about the way Jack showed good sportsmanship and an even better attitude. He was already coming up with a new team name for next year and he told us in complete seriousness he didn’t even really want the trophy anyway because you had to give it back the following year.

Motherhood never ceases to surprise me in all the big and little ways it teaches and molds me, sometimes throwing the door wide open on places in myself I need to change and evolve. I want to be more like my kid, able to accept disappointment (no matter how big or little) and still feel proud of myself whether people notice or not.

I don’t think I could stop being a crazed cheerleader-type even if I wanted to. I actually kind of like that part of myself, but surely I can reign it in, especially when things don’t quite go as planned.

Coconut Oil No-Bake Cookies

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Littered across my desk are camp registrations and vacation bible school fliers, a daily reading log and half finished math homework the second grader forgot about. But what keeps catching my eye as I sit here is the framed photo of my three kiddos from when Scarlet was a newborn. Luke was two and had white blonde shaggy hair and the sweetest little smile. Jackson, barely four, is laughing in the picture, making his dimples that much more noticeable and if you really look at him, you can see where he probably had cut his hair at some point. Scarlet is all baby cheeks and deliciously round, staring seriously at the camera. It’s one of my favorite pictures and such a good little nudge as I sit here among the chaos that these kiddos might not be the sweet babes from a few years ago but to slow down and enjoy them because time is a slippery thing.

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t really feeling it this morning when one of my darling children accidentally upended the five-pound bag of coffee grounds in the freezer looking for an ice pack for his lunch. I swallowed the desire to remind him that I never had an ice pack in my lunch when I was a kid, I was forced to eat many a slimy turkey sandwiches without complaint. But I didn’t. I took a deep breath and cleaned it up. And then when I got home later I cleaned it up again because coffee grounds have a way of spreading and floating to every nook and cranny of your entire kitchen. It’s a mystery how that works but I can attest to it being a real phenomenon.

Needless to say I was REALLY pleased to treat myself to another cup of coffee and one of these cookies when the clean-up was finally done. These cookies were sort of an accidental surprise based on ingredients I had on hand and adapted from a recipe I found online. The batch made about 16 medium-ish cookies which is perfect as a treat this week for our family but if you’re feeding a crowd, you might consider doubling the batch.

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Coconut Oil No-Bake Cookies

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. almond milk (could use regular milk too)
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • pinch of salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Bring sugar, almond milk, coconut oil and cocoa powder to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in shredded coconut, oats and peanut butter and salt. If the mixture seems a little dry, add a splash of almond milk. Using a spoon, scoop batter onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle with shredded coconut or crushed peanuts if you’re fancy. Allow the cookies to set, either at room temperature or put them in the fridge. Store extras in the fridge.