It's always fun to visit new places, and the past few days we've been in
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Charleston, South Carolina
My husband presenting at a technical conference, and me tagging along. In the mornings while he grabs a suit coat and gets excited to talk with colleagues about things like crack depths(!) I've been putting on my flip-flops and finding downtown coffee shop windows to sit in
In the evenings we've been beach walking, checking out a few of the historical sites, going for walks on very cool bridges, drinking local beers, and discovering neighborhood pubs with great soup and sandwiches (I love listening to everyone with their southern drawls)
I admit being a little homesick for all of our puppies and kitties. There's something wonderful about waking up to purring on my pillow and snoring from the puppies in their bed on the floor beside ours. Maybe we should go away more often; it always makes me so appreciative of the life we have.
The night before we left, I made a few snacks to take with us on the plane. These cookies were one
I've been thinking a lot about the label of healthy, especially when uttered in the same sentences as desserts and snacks. A few years ago, I would have approached a recipe such as this with the slightest of sighs in my spirit, a resigned nod given for the willingness to settle. The author waxing poetic about how this cookie, ice cream .. <fill in the blank> .. tasted just like the traditional sweets I enjoyed so much.
The eternal optimist in me would begin with high hopes only to realize, no matter what they wrote, no matter the prettiest of pictures they posted, utopia didn't exist. The revised version was often falling short when compared to what I'd had before.
You see, in previous lives, I'd eaten (many) cakes from box mixes, whose ingredients were questionable (at best). I eased into my thirties baking indulgent bread puddings and fourteen-layered chocolate cakes, not to mention batches and batches of the only recipe I keep close to the vest (oatmeal raisin cookies)
What a disappointment for someone to suggest substituting applesauce for butter, when the only place it truly seemed appropriate was an apple cake. So when I revamped my diet, regardless of the many things I was avoiding, I needed to make peace with the remnant that still remains. A rebel that's an ardent evangelist for full-fat baking. After all, what's Thanksgiving without a real pumpkin pie?
Maybe I should say it differently. I still believe there's a place for baking beautifully, but only if chased with the notion of consuming mindfully. We're not talking everyday mind you, but a life with a few bites of my Mom's rice pudding for a birthday, or baking someone I love his favorite gingerbread without guilt, seems just a little bit sweeter.
Funny thing I've noticed, I don't hover like I used to. Since my diet consists of whole and nourishing foods 80-85% of the time, I'm surprisingly satisfied with just one cookie, a few spoonfuls of gelato, or a couple of bites from the top of a muffin at the coffee shop.
As with everything in life, it's been a journey. When I consciously shifted my diet, baking initially fell out of favor. A cast-iron pan on the stovetop became my new best friend, rather than a baking dish in the oven. I found myself neglecting many of the new flours and ingredients I'd carefully filled the pantry with. Slowly but surely, as my confidence grew, a delicate balance was struck between discovering new ways of baking, and finding new flavors in old favorites.
Take the humble chocolate cookie. Over the years I've baked through more cookie recipes than I can count and initially regarded this one with great skepticism. However, when they came out of the oven, my husband and I leaned against the kitchen counter and took a bite. Surprisingly, I didn't find myself comparing it to a buttery Tollhouse. Instead, there was a sense of an encounter with something new altogether.
It was richer, smokier, heartier, and if given an honest choice, I just might prefer this version over what I've had previously. It's not a pared-down version of the original, or variation on a single theme.
Looking back, this shift in thinking didn't come as a eureka moment. Instead, it's been more subtle.
Somewhere along the line, I've become much less interested in re-creating than creating. I've become convinced I don't need a slew of sugary, buttery ingredients to inch me closer to where I was because at some point the only thing they offer is a reminder of what I can't have, and most importantly, where I don't want to be
I wonder if instead of focusing on the long list of cant's, we developed a different paradigm; a context centered on abundance instead of loss. A newfound excitement for flavor combinations we CAN have. New recipes we can experiment with. How good we'll feel when we take all of the processed junk out of our diets. How good it will feel to feed those we love food that is nourishing
Food for thought
~ Adapted from Wheatsfield
Hemp, Oat and Chocolate Chip Cookies
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted but not hot
- ½ cup peanut butter
- ¾ cup natural sugar (Sugar in the Raw or Turbinado)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup nut milk
- 2 ¼ cups spelt flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
- ¼ cup hulled hemp hearts
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate shaved (or chocolate chips)
- Preheat oven to 350° F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
- In the bowl of your standing mixer, blend the coconut oil, nut butter, and sugar until well combined. Add the vanilla, and nut milk. Beat until combined
- Add the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon and mix until the dough forms.
- Stir in the oats, hemp seeds, and chocolate shavings, until well combined.
- Form tablespoon-sized balls onto the prepared cookie sheets, and then flatten them slightly. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until slightly browned.
- Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.