Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

After starting a new (short-term) job last week, I've been spending a little less time in the kitchen. But when I saw this recipe for raspberry thumbprint cookies from one of my favorite bloggers over at Oh She Glows, I knew I had to carve out some time with my mixing bowls.

Luckily these cookies take only a few minutes to pull together, but the result is absolutely delicious. The sweetness of the raspberry jam and the the richness of the almond butter blend together into a perfect nibble of a dessert.

The only changes I made to these were to use vanilla extract instead of almond extract and not to use coconut on the outside - both just because of what I had in the house.

I'd say that they're surprisingly delicious for being vegan and gluten- and sugar-free, but I'm rarely surprised by the yumminess of alternative baking.
Be careful, though.

You might end up eating four in the span of a few minutes.

Just a possibility, of course.

 *Can't wait to get my camera back. These camera phone pictures leave a little to be desired.

"Free" Pumpkin Moon Pies

The weather these last few weeks has been wildly random.  One day I'm wearing boots, long sleeves, and a puffy vest.  The next day I'm in a t-shirt and flip-flops.  It's not that I don't like variety.  I'm just a sucker for the fall, and I'm delighted by the signs that autumn is finally getting ready to join us here in DC.  

The cooler, crisper weather just screams PUMPKIN! to me, and combined with a hankering for moon pies, I came up with this recipe (with the help of The Spunky Coconut).  

These are rich and super hearty, and the creamy filling tastes so delicious that  it just seems wrong!  You'll ask yourself - can this moon pie really be gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan?  I'm here to tell you - Yes, it is!   

I will definitely be making these again.  Maybe this weekend - they're goin' like hotcakes!  Next time I'll flatten the cookies out a bit more before baking so I have a slimmer moon pie with a bit more filling.  

A note on coconut milk:  If you haven't worked with coconut milk before, it can be exceptional for making fillings and frostings if you refrigerate the can and separate out the cream from the water.  We have found that Thai Kitchen's coconut milk has the highest cream content and works best for these types of recipes.  If you live in the DC area, you might have seen me in the grocery store shaking cans of coconut milk to find the ones that seem to have the least liquid. Thai Kitchen wins.  When you take the can out of the refrigerator and open it, gently scoop out the creamy top until you get down to the water.  You can use the water in smoothies or curries - yum!  If all of this sounds confusing, just buy yourself a can of coconut milk, put it in the refrigerator, and check out the results.  

On to the recipe!

"Free Pumpkin Moon Pies"

1 cup almond meal flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder (I used gluten-free)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger (I used powdered)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)
3 tablespoons flax seed meal
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
12 drops liquid stevia (I used NuNaturals)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup xylitol
1/4 cup coconut oil, liquified

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Mix together the first seven ingredients and set aside.
3.  Mix together the rest of the ingredients with an electric mixer.
4.  Pour the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and mix until just combined.  The mixture will be slightly crumbly.
5.  Start using your hands!  Roll the dough into balls and flatten - they will not spread or flatten while baking.  Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Bake for about 12 minutes.
6.  Allow the cookies to cool.

On to the filling!!

One can coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5 drops liquid stevia

1.  As described above, scoop the separated coconut milk cream into a bowl.  
2.  Add in the vanilla and stevia and stir until completely combined.  The stirring motion will have heated the cream, and you should have a mixture that's about the consistency of yogurt.  
3.  Place a dollop of filling on a cooled cookie and place another on top to create a sandwich.
4.  Refrigerate the moon pies for at least an hour before serving.  The filling will stiffen up again, allowing the moon pies to hold their shape. 



100% Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies

My sister was the chef when we were growing up.  She loved putzing around the kitchen trying out all sorts of concoctions.  If she was in control of the remote, it was on Food Network.  She's still deliciously creative with a spatula.  I, on the other hand, made the occasional dish.  I helped put together a salad or prepared the pecan pie for a Thanksgiving meal - though I will likely never live down the year I put 2 cups of flour into the pecan pie instead of 2 tablespoons.  It makes a really big difference - who knew? 

For me, cooking that was about more than following a simple recipe happened once I was out on my own trying to make healthy meals.  But it really exploded when I started dating Navah, who had some eating restrictions.  I loved playing the mad scientist with a recipe - figuring out what I could substitute and what I couldn't, trying to come up with a dish or a cookie or a cracker that tasted edible. In the beginning, it really was just that - edible.  There were some failures.  An almond meal pound cake comes to mind - the earth balance just sank to the bottom and made this gross gelatinous layer.  Blegh.  But over time, I started making things that were actually good.  

These chocolate cookies are the result of dozens of batches made over the last few years.  In the beginning, Navah couldn't eat whole wheat, and I was making them completely with spelt flour.  We didn't know about the amazing grain-sweetened chocolate chips that we now use, so I made my own sugar-free chocolate chunks by melting unsweetened dark chocolate, adding stevia, refrigerating it until it was hard, and then breaking it up into little chunks with a knife.  It was very labor intensive.  But over time, I've developed a whole grain, sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate chip recipe that I think is pretty darn good.  If you have other eating restrictions, I encourage you to play around with the recipe a bit and see if it can work for you.

100% Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup earth balance at room temperature 
1 1/2 cup xylitol
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup shaved coconut
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup sunspire chocolate chips

1.  Beat earth balance with a mixer until creamy, about 30 seconds.  Slowly add in the xylitol, making sure that it is thoroughly incorporated into the earth balance.  Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla extract mix. 
2.  In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients (minus the sugar, which you already added in).  
3.  Slowly add the flour mixture into the wet mixture, beating as you go.  Once everything is incorporated, fold in the chocolate chips.  
4.  Place the mixture in the refrigerator to cool for about 30 minutes to an hour.
5.  Take the cookie mixture out of the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  
6.  Drop the batter in spoonfuls 1-2 inches apart onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes.
7.  Remove the cookies and place on a cooling rack.  Enjoy!