Sunday, June 20, 2010

Walnut Raisin Cookies

My poor Mama has ben laid up in bed since having foot surgery last week. As I was putting together a care package for her, I started reflecting on what truly gives us comfort. What exactly is it that invokes that warm fuzzy feeling in our chest? Sometimes it is being reminded that someone else cares: thoughtful words, surprise flowers, unexpected notes. And many times it is a sensory experience: warm baths, falling raindrops, steaming mugs of hot tea, ooey gooey morsels. Being so far away from Vermont, my mind immediately jumped to homemade sweets and treats, but I want to make sure I am nourishing her body at the same time as warming her heart.

These cookies are the perfect solution.... sweet and salty with a delicate texture of earthy nuts and dried fruit. They are a breeze to put together (I actually had every single ingredient waiting in my pantry), and pack a powerful nutrient punch while pleasing the lips. The main ingredient, and only source of fat, is freshly ground walnuts, which is balanced by a generous kiss of local honey and dose of Himalayan salt. Besides being vegan, they are also gluten-free and are enhanced by the addition of ground flax seed, which acts to bind the cookies together (ground flax is often used to replace eggs in vegan baking) as well as provide anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. The version pictured above uses honey and raisins, although you could replace the honey with maple syrup or agave and the raisins with chocolate chips, dried cranberries or chunks of carob for an interesting twist. I honestly don’t believe you can screw up this recipe, just make sure the ingredients are top-notch and freshly ground.

It’s OK to have dessert for dinner once in awhile right???

Walnut Raisin Cookies
Adapted from Elise Dubois
Makes about 24 cookies

2 1/2 cups raw walnuts
2/3 cups brown rice flour
1 tsp. good salt
1/3 cup flax seed, freshly ground
1/3 cup raisins (or chocolate chips etc.)
1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup, agave)
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind walnuts in a food processor until they make a fine meal. Mix with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Drop spoonfuls of dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

These are one of the few cookies that I really do believe taste better after they have cooled, although I will let you be the judge on that one.

A few notes about the ingredients:
I buy whole golden flax seeds (or regular brown ones) and store them in my freezer, as they go rancid easily, especially after they are ground. I grind them in small batch as needed, using a old coffee grinder. This will give you a freshly ground, flavorful meal that offers up a variety of healthy benefits, largely due to the Omega-3 fatty acids. This amazing lipid fights inflammation, protects against heart disease and fuels our brain. Flax seeds also offer an impressive amount of fiber, 6 grams in just 2 tablespoons. However, they are a small seed containing volatile oils, and it is important to grind them freshly as you use them, or the nutritional benefits decrease significantly. I know it seems like a lot of work, but grinding them is imperative as they will pass directly through your body if you consume them whole, which doesn’t do you a whole lot of good.

The recipe does call for brown rice flour, but I have experimented with other gluten-free flours when I didn’t have that on hand, and many others work as well (sorghum, quinoa, millet etc.). Although one time I accidently added masa harina (corn flour) when I grabbed the wrong bag, and that is not one I would recommend :)

I hope you are inspired this week to nurture your bodies and minds by taking the time to seek out comfort. And by the thought of homemade cookies tantalizing your taste buds....

Relax. Eat Well.

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