Quinoa-Coconut Thumbprint Cookies

Gluten-Free, Vegan Quinoa Coconut Thumbprint Cookies | Delectably FreeIf it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — just tweak it! 

It seems that’s been my basic motto in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. I’m a restless cook — one who rarely makes the same exact thing the same way twice, unless, of course, I’m testing recipes to post here. But even then, once the recipe has been posted, after all the testing an tweaking that came before it, I’m still hard-wired to contemplate adjustments to that recipe that could make it even better. Or at least, something that could make it different.

The recipe for these thumbprint cookies is based on a previous recipe from 2011 for quinoa cookies — an oat-free oatmeal cookie alternative that has been a family favorite in recent years. If you compare the recipes side -by-side, you’ll notice they’re quite similar. But just a few tweaks to the original recipe has yielded a quite different cookie altogether. It’s like a coconut macaroon married with a thumbprint cookie and spiked with lemon zest for a fresh burst of flavor. It’s a bit of a departure from the oatmeal-like quinoa cookies upon which these were inspired.

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Soft & Chewy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

double chocolate chip cookiesIt’s been a little over a year since I’ve been “back” and blogging. In the year prior, I had spent my time resting a tired and weary body, one which was riddled with Tick-borne infection and needed a level of care that I wasn’t able to give without giving something up. Sadly, that something was maintaining this website. There were definite moments when I thought of giving it up entirely. In fact, during my year off, I operated with the assumption that my blogging days were over. I was too tired — too exhausted, really — to even think about getting back to a place where I could fathom putting in the work required to create recipes, take photos and write up posts.

But something compelled me to come back. The realist in me thinks it was just that I was feeling better and needed an outlet for my new-found — albeit sporadic and fleeting — bursts of energy. But the spiritualist in me knows that there was more to it than that. I missed what this blog meant for me on a deeper level. I missed having a voice that I believed resonated with those seeking a healthier, more fulfilled and compassionate existence through their food choices. At the time, I didn’t really know if what I was sharing resonated with anyone, or whether my voice was missed. But I did know that if what I believed and was compelled to share, through food, resonated in my own heart, it was bound to reach someone else as well. 

What I’ve never mentioned, or admitted, is that this blog has also become a personal tool for my spiritual growth. Selfishly, I know that no matter what, by sharing my words here, I am doing something important for me — which is, simply, “putting myself out there”. When I first had the idea to start a blog, I quickly brushed it off as a ridiculous notion. Who would really want to see what had to share, or what I had to say? Who was I, really? There are thousands of food bloggers on the planet, many with more beautiful photos or fancier web designs than my own. The idea of throwing myself into the pool, with the strong risk of facing rejection (read: no one giving a crap) scared the bejeebers out of me.

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Cranberry-Oatmeal Cookies

cranberry-oatmeal cookiesWell, just a few weeks after I proudly bragged about not getting sick in several years (and I was not including getting Lyme disease in that proclamation, just for the record), I’m stuck at home this weekend with a pounding headache, body aches and chills. That’s what I get for bragging, I guess.

Last night was the first time in my life that I walked out of a movie I actually liked. It was a girls night out. Dinner and a movie. Dinner was fine, though I was feeling pretty tired. And then there was the movie. Captain Phillips. I was excited to see what was supposed to be Tom Hanks’ best performance since Forrest Gump. But I didn’t get very far into the movie before my head began to pound and  I started to feel dizzy, sweaty, nauseous and just plain sick. So that was why I was forced to walk out of what seemed to be a decent movie, and one I think I would have been enjoying had the room not seemed like it was spinning as I watched.

Now that I’ve got enough medications in me to actually look at a screen without seeing double, I thought I’d take advantage of my day as a shut-in and actually post this cookie recipe I’ve been holding onto for too long. I made these cookies a few weeks ago and had to fight Gennaro off from eating all of them before I could take a picture. These are classical oatmeal cookies with a twist of tartness from the cranberries, which replace the more traditional raisins.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Because now, I go back to putting my head down and not thinking for awhile.

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Chewy, No-Bake Chocolate Cookies

My aunt gave me the idea for these chewy, almost-raw gluten free cookies from a recipe she uses. Hers incorporated melted chocolate chips, for a decadent yet easy vegan treat. I decided to use the extra coconut nibs that I had on hand instead of the chocolate chips (for some reason, I keep buying cocoa nibs yet fail to find viable everyday uses for them. Looks like I found a solution in these cookies).

These cookies can double as an after-school or midday snack. They’re sweetened with date and coconut nectar, which makes for a healthier, lower-glycemic treat. What I didn’t account for was the fact that both of these ingredients lend an ultra-chewy texture, evoking a decadence that belies the super healthy ingredient list.

I’ve also struggled as of late to come up with some dessert ideas that are simple enough to satisfy any dessert craving at a moment’s notice. When I was living in New York City, I had the luxury of a sugar-free, vegan ice cream shop in my neighborhood that also sold sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan baked goods. Therefore, on the off-chance that I wasn’t in the mood for any more baking — or cleaning the kitchen, for that matter — I could send my husband walk a few blocks and purchase something perfectly-suited to my diet nearly whenever a craving stuck (alas, there were some 2 a.m. cravings that could not be satisfied).

Living in the midwest again has fostered a new sort of creativity in the quick-fix dessert department. Although these should chill in the refrigerator for maximum firmness, I’ve never been one to not lick the spoon and bowl, which is just enough sweetness to get me through the hour, before the rest of the batch is ready to eat.

Yield: approximately 15 cookies

No Bake, Chewy Chocolate Cookies:

1 cup gluten-free quick-cooking rolled oats*

10 medjool dates, pitted

½ cup cocoa nibs

¼ cup coconut nectar**

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 tablespoons almond butter

Directions:

Place everything in food processor and process until clumps form and “batter” holds together. Form heaping tablespoons into a smooth sphere, then press into parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat for remaining cookies and chill in refrigerator for approximately an hour.

* As I always mention when I include oats in my recipes, even the purest of gluten-free oats cannot be tolerated by some people with Celiac Disease. Be sure you’re one of those people who can tolerate them before using. Alternately, if you are not gluten-intolerant, feel free to use regular quick-cooking rolled oats, as they tend to be cheaper.

** I’m sure brown rice syrup would work fine. Less sure about agave nectar but I would imagine it would yield a slightly sweeter, less chewy result.

 

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Gluten-Free Quinoa Cookies

I realize that in the world of Celiacs and those who are gluten intolerant, “oats” can often be a controversial subject. Between the cross-contamination issues and gluten-like properties, oats have a reputation for bringing on many of the symptoms that we in the allergy-free world try to avoid. Still, there are very few things I can think of that are quite so comforting as a warm, chewy oatmeal cookie. And I’ve been craving them recently. My craving for oats brought on some experimentation with what I thought might be a passable substitute: quinoa flakes. But when I made my first batch of quinoa cookies, I realized that I had thought wrong. Quinoa flakes were more than just passable; they might even be better.

Rich and chewy, with the slightest amount of crispness around the edges, these cookies have the unmistakable nuttiness of quinoa. My dad — ever the Top Chef judge at heart, even if he doesn’t know it —  referred to their flavor as “subtle yet complex.” I, for one, love the flavor, but also don’t mind the fact that quinoa packs a punch of protein in a way oats never could. It’s a great excuse to sneak these as a mid-afternoon snack.

Oh, and my apologies to anyone who has a coconut allergy. I realize I’ve been on a bit of a coconut streak lately — I’m admittedly craving it in pretty much everything I make. I will concentrate next week’s baking efforts on something that is coconut free.

Yield: 20-24 cookies per batch

Quinoa Cookies:

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

1 cup quinoa flakes*

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1/3 cup coconut oil, liquified

1/2 cup coconut nectar**

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup fruit-sweetened dried cranberries or raisins

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, quinoa flakes, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, xanthan gum and coconut. Add coconut oil, coconut nectar, applesauce and vanilla and stir gently to incorporate, then use hands to form ingredients into a cookie dough. Dough should be slightly sticky but workable. Add cranberries/raisins and fold in with hands.

3. Taking large tablespoonfuls of dough at a time, work dough with hands to form evenly-sized balls. Place on parchment or silpat-lined cookie sheet a few inches apart and slightly flatten with palm of your hand, creating evenly-shaped round cookies. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes (longer for a crispier edge), or until bottom of cookies are golden brown.

4. Gently remove cookies immediately to a wire rack to cool. Cookies will harden more as they cool, but should still remain soft and chewy. Enjoy!

* For those who can tolerate oats, 1 cup instant oats can be substituted for the quinoa flakes

** If you can’t find coconut nectar, you can TRY experimenting with other sweeteners. In my experience, substituting agave, at least, yields a drastically different texture. So experiment at your own risk! Lately, I have been finding coconut nectar at just about all of my local health food stores. I know it’s quite pricey, but it’s definitely the best choice for these cookies.

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Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

agave-sweetened cookies

The Cuisinart Food Processor giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered, and Congrats to our winner, Carolyn. But here’s the deal. It’s the season of giving, and as I mentioned before, I’m in a giving mood. I also realize that posting a vegan eggnog ice cream recipe was a tease for those who are without the tools to make it (i.e. an ice cream machine), which is why I’m following up my first-ever giveaway with another one: a Cuisiart Ice Cream Maker (from Sur La Table) in the color of your choosing. And just to whet your appetite, here are some vegan ice cream recipes  that you can look forward to making if you win. Actually, I wish I were Oprah and had the ability to give away one of these babies to all of my awesome readers. Because this really is one of my favorite things. But alas, I am not even currently employed, let alone a billionaire. Sigh…To enter, please leave a comment on this post. Specifically, I would love to hear your favorite holiday treat or memory, or just say hello! This giveaway will close on Tuesday December 21st at 4 p.m. While it will likely not arrive in time for holiday gift-giving, you will have a new kitchen tool to start your 2011 off on the right foot (if you’re resolutioning, you can just make this or this). As always, all winners will be chosen at random (I number all comments and choose a number randomly through random.org).

Anyways, onto the cookies. So, I know that Christmas is not too far away  and that around this time of year, if you’re going to be posting a cookie recipe, it better be one for the holidays. I guess you could say I was feeling rather uninspired (read: lazy) this year, because the best I could come up with was to take a chocolate chip cookie recipe and add some mint flavor. But to be fair, one of my earliest holiday season food memories was my mom’s obsession with peppermint ice cream — a seasonal, otherwise unavailable winter treat. Now as a result — despite the fact that my mom is now on a strict no sugar, no dairy diet and would probably deny that she was ever obsessed with an ice cream you can buy at a non-health food store (for the record, she was, along with Coldstone’s Cake Batter ice cream. Don’t tell her I told you) — I will always and forever associate the month of December with peppermint and ice cream. Hence, the mint in the cookies. Hence, the ice cream recipe in December (see: previous post).

Still, I know that mint in cookies is not everyone’s thing (though I can’t imagine why). As a result, I will tell you that you can make a perfectly regular, good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie (sans mint) by swapping in two teaspoons vanilla extract for the mint flavor.

For those looking for some cookies that scream “holiday,” I’ve compiled a rough list of some gluten-free, vegan cookies recipes from my fellow bloggers below. I’d love to see more, so if you have a holiday-ish cookie recipe on your blog, let me know and I’ll add it to the list! 

Holiday Cookie Recipes:

Scandanavian Thumbprint Cookies from The Spunky Coconut

Gingerbread Cookies from She Let Them Eat Cake

Gingersnap Star Cookies from Gluten Free Goddess

Chocolate Snow Balls from The Mommy Bowl

I made two versions of these cookies. One batch is sweetened with agave nectar and the other with yacon syrup. I prefer the yacon-sweetened cookies, as they got really thin and crisp and make the perfect vehicle for an ice cream sandwich (bonus! see below). But the agave-sweetened version is good, too, albeit a bit more thick. Given their thickness, you’d think they’d be of the soft and chewy variety. But alas, they are not. I did actually try undercooking one batch to see their potential for chewiness. They were decidedly not chewy in the traditional sense, but turned out more cakey and sort of stuck to the teeth in a weird way. When cooked fully, however, they turn into crisp little morsels that are totally yummy. So, I suggest you refrain from a foray into the undercooking territory.

yacon-sweetened cookies with eggnog ice cream

Full disclosure: I searched high and low for peppermint extract to use in these cookies and couldn’t find it anywhere. Therefore, I used mint flavor, which real foodies will probably tell you is not a viable substitution. Well, my cookies turned out just fine. And while I’m sure an extract would have yielded more concentrated flavor, I see no need for you to make yourself crazy looking for it like I did. If mint flavor is all you can find, it will work just fine.

Yacon-sweetened Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour

1 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Corn Flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup Spectrum Organic Shortening

2/3 cup yacon syrup

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 teaspoon mint flavor (add 1 1/4 teaspoon first, then adjust to taste), or half as much mint extract

1/2 cup gluten-free chocolate chips, stevia-sweetened chocolate chunks, or agave-sweetened chocolate chunks*

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Add flours, baking soda and salt to a food processor fitted with a sharp blade. Run through processor for about 10 seconds, or until flour mixture is very fine. Add shortening, yacon syrup and mint flavor and pulse until mixture roughly comes together in a loose ball.

3. Remove to a bowl and fold in chocolate chips until incorporated. Roll tablespoon-sized balls of cookie dough into a smooth sphere with your hands. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, a few inches apart, and lightly press down with the palm of your hand.

4. Bake in preheated oven for about 12 minutes, or until cookies are evenly browned around the edges. Cool on cookie sheet for about a minute before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

* as you can see from the picture, I got lazy and used actual chocolate chips (I ran out of cocoa powder and coconut oil for my homemade versions and didn’t feel like going to the store). I actually used Sunspire grain-sweetened chocolate chips, which are not gluten-free, but which I can tolerate because I am not sensitive to barley (note: I have a wheat — not gluten — sensitivity). Please, please check with your doctor and read all labels before using any chocolate chips, and do not use any grain-sweetened chips if you are gluten-free. If you can tolerate barley (and corn), and if you’re not on a strict candida diet at the moment (I should be, but am getting a little lax with the holiday season), these might be a good option for those who don’t feel like taking the time or spending the money to make their own chocolate chips.

To make these cookies using agave, make the following changes:

1. Add 1/4 cup almond flour to the dry ingredients.

2. Use 1/2 cup agave in place of the yacon syrup.

3. Add a few more tablespoons of chocolate chips.

4. Lay cookies flat on an unlined, ungreased baking sheet (still flattening slightly with the palm of your hand).

Baking time should be the same, but you can add another minute for extra crisp and browned cookies.

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Crispy Gingersnaps

To say that I’m a homebody is something of an understatement. I’ve said before that my favorite part of a night out is coming home to my pajamas — and I much prefer a night in at that. I spent most of the summer — against all advice to the contrary — studying for the bar exam in my apartment, watching the lectures online and taking practice exams in my sweats. With the exception of the occasional trip to my favorite coffee shop, I was content (as content as you can be studying for the bar) with this staying at home approach.  Maybe it’s just me, but spending half an hour (or more) to get ready and pack my books and snacks, then another 20 minutes to walk to the library where I would inevitably search for a good spot away from distraction, freeze in the air conditioning, and get hungry at some point and have to go out to buy some lunch just seems to add more stress than is necessary to the already stressful process of studying.

The same reasoning applies when I cook. If I can make something with what I have at home, I’d rather put off a hectic trip to the store, waiting in long lines and braving the cold. So even though I’ve had this recent obsession with making some sort of a chocolate-orange bread this week, I ran out of oranges this afternoon and decided against running out for more, which left little else but some pantry items and a few randomly purchased limes. I’ve been oggling Elana’s Ginger Cookie recipe for quite some time, and figured my recent purchase of ground ginger was a sign that I finally needed to tackle my own version of this classic treat…

I used yacon syrup in these cookies for the molasses-like color and taste, but without the high-glycemic index and with an added prebiotic boost. Yacon is one of those ingredients I’m hesitant to experiment with — at over $13 a (small) bottle, it’s a bit of a risk. It’s also hard to find around here, so I order mine online. So basically, if I screw up a recipe using yacon, not only am I out 13 bucks, but I need to go online and order some more. Not cool. Still, my (online) friend (sadly, I’ve never actually met her) and anti-candida diet baking pro Ricki Heller tells me that yacon is safe on a candida diet. Plus, its unparalleled unique flavor makes it hard to resist entirely.

Well, I guess I got lucky this time around. Not only were these cookies a success , but they might actually be my favorite thing I’ve baked to date. They’re not too sweet (yacon yields a sort of understated sweetness), quite gingery and spicy (beware gingerphobes, this one’s not for you!), and perfectly crisp. They’re also a great gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan holiday cookie option, both for parties and for gifts. I used lime zest here because, well, I had no other “zests” available. And while I actually thought the lime worked really nicely with the other flavors here, I’m pretty sure lemon or orange zest would be good as well.

Yield: about 14 cookies

Crispy Gingersnaps:

Note that almond flours can vary significantly among brands. So if you’re using another brand of almond flour, be aware that results may vary , and that you may need to increase the amount of shortening or liquid to compensate (in my experience, other almond flours tend to be less “wet” than Bob’s Red Mill).

½ cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour

1 cup + 2 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill Corn Flour (not cornmeal)

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons ground ginger

5 tablespoons Spectrum organic shortening

½ cup yacon syrup

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

zest of 1 lime

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, run flours, baking soda, salt and ginger through for about 10 seconds, or until flours are fine and ingredients are combined. Add remaining ingredients and process until dough comes together into a ball. Dough should hold together loosely, and will seem slightly more “wet” than a typical cookie dough.

3. Roll tablespoon-sized pieces of dough with palms into even spheres. Lay on parchement-lined baking sheet, a couple inches apart, and slightly flatten with the palm of your hand. Bake in preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, or until cookies are browned around the edges and golden brown on top. Let cool for a few minutes on the parchment before removing to a wire rack to cool completely (note: cookies will harden as they cool).

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Chocolate Chunk Cookies

There was a period of time that I thought I would never enjoy chocolate chip cookies again. The vegan chocolate chips contained sugar. The sugar-free chips contained dairy. The grain sweetened chips contained gluten and just about every chocolate bar contained sugar or was sweetened with something that hurt my stomach. So I gave up on the idea of chocolate chip cookies.

Then one day I started brainstorming. What if I turned the chocolate coating I like to use on cookies into chocolate chunks to bake inside the cookies. The first few batches turned into melty messes, but I think I finally got a good recipe down. And even though, unlike regular chocolate chip cookies, you actually have to make the chocolate chunks yourself, these cookies are surprisingly easy to make.

chocolate chunk cookies

Since it’s just the two of us here (plus Woodley, who can’t really eat chocolate), I tend to write cookie recipes that don’t yield 5 dozen cookies. It’s not that we would have any trouble finishing them off, it’s that we would likely have little trouble, and don’t really need the temptation. But, if you’re looking to make a large batch, you can easily double or triple the recipe as you see fit. The chocolate chunks are bittersweet — reminiscent of semi-sweet chocolate chips or a dark chocolate bar. Feel free to add nuts or dried fruit to the batter as you wish.

Note: This batter will seem much more thin that a normal cookie batter — this is the way you want it! Don’t refrigerate batter. You want to prepare it just prior to baking these cookies. For a less cakey, crispier, slightly more naughty cookie, omit the coconut milk and increase the shortening to 1/2 cup, the agave to 2/3 cup, and xanthan gum to 1/2 teaspoon. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown on the edges. Cookies will firm up as they cool — remove to a cooling rack when still somewhat soft.

I tend to like to find ways to reduce the fat in my baked goods. But sometimes, you just gotta let loose a little. I understand.

Yield: about a dozen cookies

Agave Sweetened Chocolate “Chip” Recipe:

1/3 cup coconut oil, liquified (warm jar in a bowl of hot water if oil is solid)

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup agave nectar

Directions:

1. Using a double boiler (or a small saucepan, filled about 1″ with water, using a glass bowl over it), melt coconut oil, cocoa powder and agave together, whisking until chocolate is shiny and smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Pour chocolate into a small dish or baking dish lined with wax paper. You can either leave chocolate thick, or spread, depending on how large you would like your chocolate chunks. Cover with lid and freeze until set, about 1 1/2 hours. When ready to use, strip wax paper from chocolate and cut chocolate block into chunks.

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/4 cup sorghum flour

1/3 cup potato starch

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup Spectrum Organic Shortening

1/2 cup agave nectar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup light coconut milk

1 recipe chocolate chunks (above)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flours, potato starch, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat toghether agave, shortening and vanilla until smooth. Slowly add flours and beat on a low speed. Add coconut milk and beat until smooth. Fold in chocolate chunks.

4. Drop batter by rounded tablespoon onto a large, ungreased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes (depending on whether you like your cookies more chewy or more crisp) or until slightly golden brown around the edges. Let cookies sit on baking sheet for a few minutes after removing from the oven before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Chocolate Espresso Cookies with Banana and Walnut

I’m off to Puerto Rico this weekend for a wedding, so this will be my last post for a few days (I know, poor me). Unfortunately, I haven’t done my bikini body any favors by deciding to test several batches of cookies prior to leaving. I’m pretty darn sure it was all worth it, though, because these may be the best flavored cookies I have ever had. Ever. Ok, maybe I’m just a little amped from the caffeine kick (there’s 1 tablespoon of ground coffee per batch), which is perfectly fine with me because I need to stay up to pack!

I like to use Spectrum Organic Shortening when baking cookies, but for some reason I’ve been having the darndest time finding it anywhere! Even my neighborhood health food store — a usually reliable shortening source — has been out of it for about a month. Has anyone else been having this problem? Please tell me this isn’t going to be a permanent thing. Anyways, I went with my second go-to: Earth Balance Buttery Spread. It’s vegan and there are several varieties, soy-free and organic options included.

I’m confident that everyone will enjoy these cookies as much as I did. They are kinda cakey in texture, but also gooey, chewy, and crisp — all the things that cookies are supposed to be. It’s essential that you toast the walnuts beforehand, because that is where the depth of the flavor comes from. The diced bananas add a nice contrast of texture and are sort of reminiscent of melted chocolate chips in texture. Oh, I just love these cookies!

Yield: about 15 cookies

Gluten Free Espresso Cookies with Banana and Walnut:

1 cup sorghum flour

1/3 cup potato starch

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon ground coffee (your favorite roast)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (room temperature)

2/3 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped (see below for directions on toasting)

2/3 cup diced banana (about 1 small banana)

Directions:

1. Toast nuts: preheat oven to 350. Lay chopped nuts flat on a baking sheet. Bake nuts in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, or until fragrant and browned. Watch closely to make sure the nuts don’t burn. Remove nuts to cool. Leave oven temperature at 350.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together buttery spread, agave and vanilla until smooth and there are no lumps. Slowly add dry mixture and beat on low until incorporated. Fold in banana and toasted nuts.

3. Drop batter onto a pre-greased baking sheet in rounded tablespoon-sized drops. Leave a little space between each cookie. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes (give or take about a minute depending on whether you like them gooey or more firm). Let cookies sit on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cranberry, Walnut and Chocolate Morsels

What is it about fresh baked cookies and a glass of milk — or soy milk — that is so enticingly comforting? I’m willing to bet that no other smell quite matches that of fresh baked cookies in eliciting warm, nostalgic memories from children and adults alike. To tell you the truth, I don’t particularly remember my mom baking many cookies when I was younger. While my mom was a wonderful baker, pies seemed — and still seem — to be her real speciality. And yet, it’s when I bake cookies — not pie — that I think of home and my childhood. Maybe it’s because no matter how hard I try, I will never bake a pie that comes close to those my mom can make, and therefore no pie I make reminds me in any way of the ones I remember my mom baking when I was a kid. Whatever the reason, during my 1000+ attempts at making these cookies, I kept getting a comforting feeling as they baked in the oven, slowly filling my apartment with sweet, chocolately wafts of air.

But unlike the cookies you likely enjoyed as a kid, these gluten free, sugar free and vegan cookies have some redeemable qualities. First, you won’t experience the ever-so-familiar sugar rush — then crash — that can be associated with too much of a good (sugary) thing. Plus, the omega-packed walnuts and antioxidant-packed cranberries are actually good for you. If you don’t do sugar and can’t find fruit-sweetened cranberries in stores (I find them at Whole Foods and at my local health food store), try ordering them here, a source recommended by Elana of Elana’s Pantry. So go ahead, enjoy more than one of these wonderful, little chocolate morsels. Your body will thank you.

Yield: about 15 small cookies

For Glaze (optional): Make chocolate coating from this recipe. When baked cookies have cooled to room temperature, lay flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and chill until sauce has hardened. Serve chilled.

Gluten Free, Sugar Free Chocolate, Cranberry and Walnut Cookies:

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup sorghum flour

1/4 cup potato starch

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon Spectrum organic shortening

1/3 cup agave nectar

1/3 cup light coconut milk, shaken

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup fruit sweetened dried cranberries

2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa, sorghum flour, potato starch, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt.

3. In a larger bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together agave nectar, shortening and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients and whisk but do not beat (using a whisker instead of electric blades to avoid flour flying everywhere).

4. Whisk in coconut milk until incorporated. Fold in cranberries and walnuts. Batter should be more thin than a typical cookie batter.

5. Using a tablespoon for measuring, place rounded tablespoon-sized amounts of batter on a lightly greased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.

6. Bake cookies in preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Tip: These cookies are quite good — I’m tempted to say even better — frozen and eaten straight from the freezer. Something about the cold concentrates the flavors and yields a nice, crisp crunch. Make a double batch and freeze half for quick treat that you can enjoy anytime.

For a Chocolate-Free Version: Use garbanzo bean flour in place of the cocoa powder and increase the amount of potato starch to 1/3 cup.

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