Labneh with Zaatar & Olives

Labne olives zaatar

Beautiful silky strained thick yogurt … That’s all it is ! Total revelation the first time you try it. Like a homemade cream cheese.

It all starts with these beauties… 🙂 Jessica the super farmer and her Jersey cows. Don’t panic, keep reading ! This is how I do it, but Labneh can be made much more simply using shop bought whole milk yogurt. If you live in the south west of France, don’t miss Jessica’s mom Véronique at the local markets. The butter will change your life 🙂

Jessica & the Girls

In the spring the milk is extra rich with all the new green grass they are eating. The amount of creamy milk fat floating on the top of the is crazy.

Raw Milk

Then my lovely husband makes delicious yogurt.

Next step is to stir a bit of good salt into your yogurt. The fun begins finding the best way to strain it using a cheese cloth. If your fridge shelves are racks you can tie the cheese cloth onto the rack over a bowl. I place my cheese cloth over a large canning jar and shut the lid to hold the yogurt suspended in the jar. Empty out the whey after a few hours (my chickens get that 😉 ) so the ball of soon to be labneh is not sitting in liquid. The idea here is to get most of the liquid out of the yogurt leaving you with a thick spreadable yogurt “cheese”.



  • 600g whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Cheese cloth or étamine

Stir the yogurt with salt and place it into the center of your cloth. Leave to strain over a bowl or large jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours. Check from time to time to make sure it is not dipping in its own liquid. Once well strained you are done ! The labneh can be stored for almost a week in the fridge.

Then what ?

  • Sprinkle with olive oil, Zaatar and olives to make a dip or spread
  • Top with roasted veg such as leeks or asparagus
  • Play around with replacing cheesecake in a recipe
  • On toast with smashed peas or broad beans
  • Top with good olive oil and eat with a spoon 😉

Bon Appetît !

Low sugar Blueberry muffins


I always try to have low sugar snacks in the freezer for an afternoon bit of delight with a cuppa tea.  I have a rotating list of favourites such as my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins, but THIS, my friends is my current CHOSEN ONE !  Extremely moist, absolutely sweet enough and have a delightful squidgy yet fluffy texture.  You know what I mean 😉

I usually use locally produced flour made from an ancient wheat variety but in my last batch I used half organic Chestnut flour.  EVEN BETTER !  Chestnut flour is full of loads of vitamins and minerals and tons of fiber. I enjoy playing around with different flours, and this recipe has, so far, been very forgiving.

If you have access to a blueberry farm, they freeze well, popped directly into a bag and back into the freezer.  I always have a stock for baking, porridge and smoothies.

Low Sugar Blueberry Muffins

  • 1 3/4 (219g) cups whole wheat flour (used half chestnut flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or another spice that you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup (45g) olive oil (or Ghee)
  • 1/2 cup (150g) maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup 250g plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (170g) blueberries (fresh or frozen)

In a large bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup and mix well using a whisk. Add the eggs and mix well, then the yogurt and vanilla.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas 4 or 350°F). Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin, greasing if needed.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix using a wooden spoon (a few lumps are ok). Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. The mixture will be quite thick.

Divide the batter between the 12 cups (I use a soup spoon). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the muffins are golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave to cool before removing them from the tin.

These keep well for 2 days at room temperature in a airtight container. They also freeze really well.

Bon Appetit !

Low Sugar Oatmeal Chocolate Muffins


It’s HOT HOT HOT outside, but I need to fill my freezer with “not too nasty” snacks to keep me and the kids happy with our afternoon tea.

What’s a girl to do ?  Get out my solar oven !


Baking in a solar oven can be a bit limited, but when the oven temp gets up to around 150°C I have a few favourite recipes that seem to work well (this Berry Clafouti is nice too).

These delicious muffins freeze really well (to then be quickly defrosted in the …….  SOLAR OVEN 😉 ) They have hardly any sugar (the dark chocolate helps though) and lots of oats to add structure and fiber.  They are practically good for you 😉

This is a forgiving recipe.  Any milk will do and I sometimes play around with the flours.  I had some beautiful Farro flour that a friend brought me from Provence.  So here I used half of the whole wheat flour I can get locally and half Farro flour.

I make my own vanilla extract by soaking sliced open vanilla pods in vodka for about a month.  WAY better than the shop bought stuff and dead easy !

Chocolate Oatmeal Muffins - low sugar

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup milk (whatever you have, I used fresh Jersey cow milk)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or any other spice you fancy with chocolate)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate

Prehead your oven to 180°C (350°F) if you are not using a solar oven 😉 . Line or grease a muffin tin.

Mix your oats with the milk and set aside to soften while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a large bowl whisk the egg and sugar until smooth.  Add vanilla and melted butter or oil.  Add flour, oat-milk mixture, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Stir until well combined but don’t over mix (muffin rules !).

Fold in the chocolate  and distribute the batter between the 12 muffin tins.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.  In my solar oven at 150°C they took less than an hour.

Bon Appetît !

**Directly inspired by the Family Food on the Table blog



My BEST chocolate chip oatmeal cookies



I’m treading dangerously here (and of course generalizing 😉 ), but the French don’t make the best cookies, and don’t even get me started on Brownies !  I wouldn’t bother to make most of the beautiful classic French pastries that I can get down in the village, but for cookies, nothing beats North American style and home made !

I’m sure that I’ll never stop trying new cookie recipes, but this has been my favourite for a while now (I should say, my kids favourite).  Its very forgiving, and I change the “additives” depending on what I have on hand.

My dear mother always kept the “cookie jar” full when I was growing up and I’m doing the same for my kids.  To avoid buying industrially made snacks, I always have on hand a big bagful of frozen cookies or frozen dough, ready to be baked.  Keeping them in the freezer helps “just a little” to avoid eating the whole batch when they come out of the oven 😉


Oats and chocolate are always present and I then add nuts or seeds, depending on what I have on hand.  I’ve even left the latter out, and the recipe worked just fine.

Walnuts are delicious but you could add almost any type of nut or seed….  pumpkin or sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, almonds or even pistachios.


Its important to use a good sticky brown sugar, not easy to find in France, for the chewy cookie effect.  I find mine through “fair trade associations” here that import delicious organic unrefined Moscovado sugar from the Philippines.  Be careful that your brown sugar is actually the real deal as many are just white sugar with added beetroot juice or caramel colouring….


Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

  • 200g salty butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (such as Moscovado)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour (whole wheat works well)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt (up to you as you already have the salty butter !)
  • 1 cup nuts or seeds (or both), lightly crushed
  • 1 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 2 cups oats

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla  and mix for another few minutes.  Add the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed just until incorporated.  By the time you get to the nuts, chocolate and oats you will probably have to do this by hand with a wooden spoon.

Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  Roll the dough into golf ball size balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  You could freeze the balls on the sheet and then pop them into a freezer bag to bake later if you wish.

When you are ready, heat the oven to 180°C and bake the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes, turning the sheets halfway through.

Bon appetit !






Cabbage Kimchi


I kick myself when thinking about Korean food and it’s recent popularity.  I was in Korea almost 30 years ago (gulp) and I just couldn’t find my food groove.   I don’t remember seeing Bibimbap on the menu, or Bulgogi, and the best “Korean BBQ” I’d had was in Japan ! I remember not really liking anything…  other than …  KIMCHI 🙂  I have great memories of the stuff and that it made everything else taste better ….

To be fair, I think it was just a language problem and I surely missed out on a lot of great food.  But Kimchi remains a solid memory.

Kimchi (or Korean Sauerkraut if you like) is a wonderful spicy traditional lacto-fermented side dish or condiment made using many different vegetables, the most popular being Cabbage.


As with other lacto-fermented products, Kimchi is rich in anti-oxidants and has some great health benefits including aiding digestion, improving your intestinal flora, regulating cholesterol levels… the list goes on and on.


I’ve tried a few different combos of veg in the past, but really like this mix.  I used a both Napa Cabbage and Savoy Cabbage (mostly Napa) and instead of the traditional Korean Gochugaru dried pepper flakes, I used a local “Piment d’Espelette” which is not quite so hot but very flavorful.  I always use whatever radishes are in season if I can’t find Daikon.  I also like adding the umami flavours of fish sauce and/or shrimp paste.


Use filtered water if possible and good quality salt.


Don’t be afraid to get your hands “dirty” !  Use gloves if you use a hot hot pepper powder.  Massaging the veg is important, so don’t just stir with a spoon.


MAKE SURE you read the instructions carefully and don’t forget to check your fermenting Kimchi everyday until it goes in the fridge, so it doesn’t. . . explode out of its jar.

Careful, this stuff is ADDICTIVE !  Its great alongside so many dishes, on of my favorites is Korean Pancakes.


  • Servings: Approx. 1 liter jar
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  • 1 kg approx. napa cabbage (savoy works to but gives off less brine)
  • 1 medium carrot, julienned
  • 1 daikon radish (or other radish), julienned
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • Water (filtered)
  • 1 Tablespoon grated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unrefined brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon dried shrimp paste (or more fish sauce)
  • 1 to 5 Tablespoons Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) or Espelette Pepper to taste
  • 4 spring onions cut into 1 inch pieces

Slice the cabbage, a bit wider than if you were making coleslaw, place in a large bowl and add the salt.  Using your hands, massage the salt into the leaves.  Cover with water and weigh down the cabbage by placing a plate in the bowl with something heavy like a bottle of water to hold the plate down.  Let stand for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, make the paste by combining the garlic, ginger, sugar, fish sauce and shrimp paste (if using) in a small bowl to make a smooth paste.  Add the pepper flakes and mix well (the quantity depends on how hot you want your kimchi, I use 3 to 4 Tablespoons).

Rinse the cabbage a few times and drain in a colander for 15 minutes.  Rinse and dry the large bowl and set aside.

Squeeze the cabbage, using your hands and put it into your large bowl with the other veg and your spice paste.  Mix thoroughly using your hands (gloves not a bad idea) working the paste into the veg until well covered.  It should now have a nice fresh kimchi smell.

Pack the kimchi into a clean 1 Liter or Quart jar and press down using your hand or a wooden spoon to release some of the natural juices (instant brine)  Leave at least a few cm of head space and seal the jar.  If your kimchi is not giving off enough water to cover the veg you can make a brine using 1T of sea salt for 1 cup of water and add a bit of this.

Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1 to 5 days (1 usually leave mine 4 or 5). Open the jar once a day and squish everything down using a wooden spoon.  This will also release any built up bubbles created by the fermentation process.  Place your jar on a plate or bowl in case it does seep out.  Taste your kimchi every day and when it is to your liking, into the fridge it goes where it should keep for months.  Its ok to eat right away but will get better with age.

Bon appetit !

*** Adapted from the blog TheKitchn



“cornichons” / cucumber pickles (lacto-fermented)

DSC_0664I came home from being away for 3 weeks in Canada to a very advanced veggie garden !  Good news, right ?  Well, except for the apparent cucumber plant, one of many “surprise” varieties of plants that my dear friend Carol Reid-Gaillard gave me.  I found myself with some plants that turned out to be a “pickling cuke” variety.  If you have every grown these you will know that the fruit pop out every other day like little firecrackers.  If you miss the perfect size you have BIG bitter cucumbers.

DSC_0668So in my jet-lagged state, I was ready to throw in the towel until I thought of the lovely Marie who has many pickling ideas up her sleeve.  I proceeded to leave little parcels on her doorstep and she has successfully pickled the little bumpy creatures.

I am know rested, with a bit more time and head space, so ready to give this a go myself ….  I’ve decided to go the “lacto-fermentation” route for the added health benefits (Kathleen Garnett writes an interesting article about this).  I believe that the original Jewish Dill Pickle was made this way.

Well it couldn’t have been easier !

DSC_0674You will need:

  • pickling or small cucumbers (scrubbed well if prickly)
  • a brine made using 2 Tablespoons of sea salt to 1 liter of water
  • fresh grape, horseradish or oak leaves (I used grape and horseradish), which help keep the cukes crisp
  • a mixture of herbs and spices that you think sound good for pickles !  I used mustard seeds, fresh garlic cloves, fresh ginger slices, black peppercorns, fresh dill seeds and flowers and cracked coriander seeds.
  • a mason jar and lid.
  • something that just fits inside the mason jar, like a little plate, to keep the fruit submerged in the brine.  A perfect fit for me was a “anti-remonte lait” which is a little glass disc used to place in a pan of milk to avoid overflowing when it comes to a boil !  A genius invention that we use when making yoghurt.

DSC_0671So cut up those cukes however you fancy.  Mine where all different sizes so I didn’t even try to stand them all up beautifully in the jar.  Add your spices and herbs to the bottom of the jar, pack in the cucumbers with the grape / horseradish leaves tucked in (maybe 3 or 4 per jar).  Pour over your brine to cover the fruit and weigh them down to keep them under the liquid.  Close the lid tightly and place in a cool place (inferior to 26° C is good) for at least 3 or 4 days.

DSC_0676Check on your jars everyday, squashing down the fruit a bit.  After a few days, you could try tasting the pickles and when they are to your liking, pop them in the fridge and they are ready to eat.

I am absolutely no expert on this method, and will let you know how they turn out 😉  For some really in-depth information on the fermentation of vegetable and fruit Sandor Katz is your man…..

DSC_0677Feeling pretty happy with my little jar of pickles today 🙂

UPDATE 30 July 2015 : Happy to announce that 4 days later this pickles are REALLY GOOD and going into the fridge (where I suspect they will not last long).  Everyone in the family loves them, my “not so sure at first” kids included.  They smell and taste like great quality NYC Deli style pickles….  Wow, I’m off to the garden to pick more little cucumbers to make a few more jars ….

UPDATE 31 July 2015:  2nd batch …..  I changed the spices a bit to fresh dill flowers, fresh garlic and ginger, cracked black peppercorns and coriander seeds, yellow mustard seeds, Sichuan peppercorns and fennel seeds.

Bon appetît !

“Super Quick” Korean Pancakes


Today was one of those days that I was to cook lunch for just my son and I (then get him back to school) all within an hour.  Its rare that I don’t plan every meal at least the day before but this is a great one for a last minute healthy meal.

I think between preparing and cooking, I was done in less than 15 or 20 MINUTES ! Not bad, I say 😉

I used brown rice flour this time but I have access to great quality organic “fresh stone ground” flour so have used that too.

This is the base recipe but so many things could be added.  Today it was, leftover cooked rice, braised fennel and spring onions served with a bit of home made Kimchi and a green salad on the side.  Would be nice with red cabbage coleslaw too.

Quick Korean Pancakes

  • Servings: 2 as a light meal or 4 as a starter
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  • Vegetable oil for the pan
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used brown rice, but a mix of all purpose and rice works well)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped STUFF (green beans, spring onion, grated carrots ar nice) and/or chopped leftover meat or seafood.
  • Fresh coriander to finish if you have it

Dipping Sauce

  • 3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Soya Sauce (or Tamari)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • Pinch of chili flakes (optional)

Fill a pitcher with some ice and at least 1/2 cup water and set aside.  Place a small frying pan over medium heat with a touch of oil.  In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until frothy.  Add flour and salt and combine.  Add Veg/Meat and 1/2 cup ice-water, mix well.  Using the same 1/2 cup measuring cup or a ladle, pour the batter into the hot pan and cook for about 2 minutes per side or until crispy.  Serve hot or at room temperature with the dipping sauce.

Some nice things to add to these pancakes:

Any leftover meat, shredded or chopped

Leftover vegetables

Spring onions

Fresh herbs

Chopped cooked (or raw for that matter) fish or seafood

Green beans, carrots, courgettes, peas etc…..

Kimchi (added to the batter)

THE POSSIBILITES are endless 😉

Careful, these are VERY moorish 🙂

Bon Appetît !

Make your own Paneer (Indian cheese)


This DIY project has become a regular in my household (and a quick and easy one it is !).  Inspired, once again, by having access to incredible raw milk direct from the farm yet another “impossible to find in rural France” item can be made by ME 🙂


Haven’t heard of Paneer ?  You will find a recipe that uses it in most Indian Cookbooks.  My favourite is “Matar Paneer” which is crispy cubes of Paneer with Peas in a fragrant tomato sauce (I’ll share my favourite recipe for that soon 😉 ).

I believe that Paneer must be one of the simplest cheeses to make at home. Heat the milk, separate the curds using an acid and press into a block.  You can then cut the cheese into cubes and use it in many yummy recipes !  You can also just pan fry the cubes, sprinkle them with sea salt and hot pepper flakes to be served with drinks….

The milk I used was just beautiful !  If you look closely, you’ll see a few inches of cream floating on the top ….  Mmmmmm



paneer curds



Paneer Cheese

  • Servings: makes enough for a curry for 6
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  • 2 litres of fresh whole milk
  • a small pot of yoghurt (stirred)
  • 5 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • glass of cold water

Heat the milk slowly to boiling point in a heavy bottomed pan, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Meanwhile place a colander in a large pan (big enough to hold 2 litres) and place a cheese cloth in the colander.

As it reaches a boil, turn the heat right down and add the yoghurt and continue stirring.  Pour the lemon juice in slowly and once the curds start to separate (this will happen very quickly and will be quite obvious) remove the pan from the heat.  Add the cold water and pour the whole lot into the cheese cloth lined colander.

A this point, don’t leave it cool but squeeze out the excess liquid right away or the curds will dry and you won’t get a nice smooth block of cheese.  Place your ball of cheese, still in the cloth, on a baking tray and place a cutting board on top and press down to squeeze even more liquid out.  I then place something heavy on the board like a cast iron pan or a pan filled with water.

Leave it like that for about 20 minutes.  You can then unwrap your cheese.  If you don’t use it right away, place it in a container and cover it with water and salt.  It can be kept in the fridge like this for several days.

Bon Appetît !

Crème de Polenta


Since being in rural France I have discovered the wonders of Polenta !  Not because cornmeal is very popular in French cuisine (I tend to think more of Italy).  Its a wonderful Producer, Jon Harlouchet who grows an old variety of RED CORN called Grand Roux, common in the Basque country many moons before the big seed companies took control of what we are to grow and eat.  This corn is just perfect for making Polenta !  You can read more about it on my friend Carol Reid’s BLOG.  More recently the Grand Roux variety of corn has been the given the SLOW FOOD ARK OF TASTE status, which helps protect biodiversity in traditional foods.


For a change, this is a great way to use Polenta as a simple, lightly sweetened snack or dessert.  Good quality milk makes all the difference, if you can get it.  Here I used fresh raw milk from Jersey Cows also produced in the Basque Country.


crème de polenta

  • Servings: 9 or 10 125ml pots
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  • 85g sugar (I used unrefined and organic)
  • 85g polenta
  • 1 litre fresh milk
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons rum, according to taste (this is optional)

Bring the sugar, polenta and milk gently to the boiling point (pouring the polenta into the milk in a slow stream to avoid lumps).  Turn the heat right down and cook over a very low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes to thicken the mixture.  Stirring often with a wooden spoon.  It will still be quite liquid.  Add the rum, stir well and pour into one big bowl or individual glasses.  Once cooled, off they go into the fridge to set for at least a few hours or overnight.

(adapted from our dear friend Marie’s delicious version) 🙂

Bon appetît !

Sesame chocolate chunk cookies

cookies sesame

There is pretty much ALWAYS a homeade cookie in my house.  Just as my mom always kept the cookie jar well stocked while I was growing up.  Its become quite an obsession and I feel like a bad mother when I don’t have something I’ve made myself for my kids when they get home from school.  The danger is for the adults in the house (hmmmm ME ).  I find that immediately freezing them after having eaten a reasonable TWO cookies right out of the oven helps me “forget” that they are there (though I have become partial to the taste of a frozen cookie 😉 ).

The freezing bit allows me to be “organised” and not be making cookies every few days ….

This recipe really appealed to me.  My son is unimpressed with me if I present him with anything that doesn’t contain chocolate in a cookie at the moment, so this seemed like a great change to my usual Chocolate Chip Oatmeal.  The soya sauce adds a certain depth to the flavour and the salt sprinkled on the top is just a MUST !  Enjoy, this one is a keeper for me ….

Sesame and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

  • Servings: enough to freeze some
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  • 2 1/4 cups (250 g) good quality flour (I use a partially whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the seeds from a vanilla bean
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon soy sauce (I too was intrigued)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (Joy used black, which gives a dramatic effect)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chopped into smallish pieces
  • Sesame seeds for rolling and sea salt or fleur de sel for sprinkling on top

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugars until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula from time to time.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat until mixture gets its fluff back.   Beat in the vanilla and soy sauce.  Add the dry ingredients, all at once to the butter mixture.  Beat until just combined.  Add the sesame seeds and chocolate, and fold together with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Cover the dough and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.   This is the moment you could also freeze the dough in a couple of balls to be taken out when you would like a nice fresh batch of cookies, hot out of the oven !

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.

Place about 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a small bowl.

Make little balls of dough using a tablespoon and your hands before tossing the balls in the sesame seeds.   Place on prepared baking sheets.  Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool.  Store cookies in an airtight container for a couple days or place them in a big bag or container and freeze (if you haven’t eaten them all already)

Directly inspired by Joy the Baker

Bon appetît !